Back to the Communication Blogs – Feedback is a Gift!!!

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A few brave people in our lives will provide tough feedback that appears to attack the core of who we are.  Most times, the feedback will come at a point when we are already feeling pretty low. The reason for the timing isn’t happenstance – it’s because the things we are doing at that moment are the source of the stresses that are causing our own demise. We are affecting others negatively, and they in turn react negatively toward us. 

In my life, there are two people in particular who cared enough about me and my success that they were brutally honest with me about how I was coming across to others. Though I didn’t agree with everything they said, it gave me a new perspective on how my communication style could be creating perceptions that were very different than what I thought.  During the feedback sessions, they told me of others whom I had hurt, or who had a low perception of me. After licking my wounds, I took the opportunity to meet with those other persons to apologize and talk through the negative perceptions. In most cases (but not all) I was able to clear things up, enabling the relationships to move forward.

As those brave souls were talking and providing feedback, I wrote things down. To this day, I refer to my notes to ensure I’m not falling back into old habits.  If I had not acknowledged the issues and my failings, the distrust would have continued and my future actions would just have continued to reinforce the negative story.

(continuing thoughts from a former co-worker Kathryn to a family member)

Another good article on this subject is from Careerealism titled When to Accept (or Reject) Critical Feedback 

I have to admit, there is some feedback I received ages ago and took to heart.  I realized years later that the person in question felt threatened by me and was looking for ways to tear me down and fill me with self-doubt.  I’m still paying for believing him instead of the people who told me I was in a toxic situation.

 

Another email from Iloilo (but he’s living in Ajuy)

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Actually I am online this week. Turns out President thinks this emailing home thing is really important, so he’s instructed us to come down to Iloilo every Monday to do it. Most of this week was just going around delivering relief goods and helping people work on rebuilding their lives. Very enjoyable, very satisfying, but not something I can really rant about for a long time… Things are actually rebuilding in Ajuy really fast. Many of the people here really know how to hit the ground running it seems. Power is still going to be out for quite some time, but much of the running water is back on and many people already have /relatively/ nice shanty homes they’ve built to live in until they can really build their new ones again. I’m actually really impressed by most of the people I’ve seen.

Cooking without power is easy, given that we have a gas stove powered via propane tank. Still no on the laundry, but we asked the Estancia Elders to see if they could try. We’ve been giving relief goods from the Church to members. We try to leave a message with everyone after doing some service for them. And many people appreciate the excuse for a 10 minute break from working after the missionaries have been helping them. We dug out 2 Ne 2, Helaman 5:12, and 3 Ne 13 for a lot of our lessons just after the Typhoon. Lots of stuff in there about withstanding storms and enduring trials to have happiness and stuff.

So yes. That was my week.

And yeah, I’d hold off on mailing for a while yet, because while I’m sure the postal system can get it to Iloilo alright, imagine how much worse the mail looting is right now compared to how it used to be… We haven’t had a problem yet, but right now seems like a dangerous time. People are a bit more desperate than usual.

Mom: So we hear that many sisters have been evacuated. Did they evacuate sisters from Iloilo?

Not that I’ve heard. The south half of the mission wasn’t hit bad at all. There are a few areas that missionaries have been pulled out of, but nobody has been evacuated out of the mission. Actually, a /lot/ of Tacloban missionaries have been relocated to Manilla until they can fix up the area a bit more, and then they’ll be sent back to Tacloban.

Dad: Anything else you need like a multi-tool (leather man)? Or will still need in a month? Water purification? Other camping stuff?

We’re okay on water purification. A leather man could come in handy though. Nothing else I can really think of right now. Usually when we help someone they have enough tools for us to contribute. Right now we’ve hit an awkward lull where many have little temporary homes they need, but don’t have money for the supplies to build their ‘new’ home yet. So until they get supplies there’s not much we can do for many of them…

Mom: So, losing your laundry? Do you need any white shirts or ties? Any other clothes you need from stateside?

I have 3 socks. Not three pairs, three. But it’s okay, I’ll buy a couple of pairs of crappy ones to last until the gold toes can arrive. I’ll leave it up to you guys. If you just wait a month before mailing it or whatever I’ll still be fine. Do what feels right. *shrugs* Shirts, I lost a couple, but I’ve had a couple sitting in my luggage unused because I had this grand idea to go halfway through my mission before digging them out so I could have some fresh ones, so I’m still good. And I’ll gladly accept more ties but I do have plenty. Oh! I can’t remember if I told you to thank Grandma for the soups and stuff she sent, but they were very appreciated. You should tell her that. Foreign food is nice.

Dad says if he starts sending socks he will number them. So Monday is the Grant reunion- any message for the family?

I’m actually probably going to go here in just a sec … Love you all!

Best Letter in the World…

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Subject: Look, I’m not dead!!!!

Are you peeps online? Maybe? It’s the wrong day, but maybe you’re on? Or something?

Right now I’m in Iloilo because we have some sort of Mission Tour thing tomorrow. I’ll go back to Ajuy tomorrow. Living the wild life, man. Estimates put us at no power for a month. So I have no idea how emailing is going to work for the next couple weeks. I think later president will tell us how all that will go down. I’ve heard rumor that tonight they’re going to put us in a nice hotel with a hot shower tonight before the mission conference to make us feel better about living without power for the next month.

For the typhoon No evacuation, we were in Ajuy. I have some limited pictures and video. My camera was almost dead and who knows when I’ll be able to charge its battery again, so I’m being careful with pictures and stuff. And I don’t want to take /too/ many pictures of destruction because I don’t want to look like “some punk cano taking pictures while all the people are suffering” y’know? but yeah, I showered in Yolanda. So…. I bathed in the falling rain of the strongest typhoon of recorded history. And not just a quick soap, I’m talking Soap, Shampoo, /and/ Conditioner. It was pretty early on in the storm, but it was far enough in that our fence was gone and the tree in our front yard had split in half and fallen down. So, yeah… Basically I’m amazing. The shower was pretty chilly though.

Actually, our house is in fantastic shape. One small corner of our roof bent up. That’s it. All the houses next to us were hit /way/ worse than we were. Basically all of our members here lost their houses. One month of no power…. Those are basically my statistics from here. I think the biggest reason Ajuy isn’t a /total/ disaster area is that, fundamentally, Ajuy is still a pretty small place. There’s just not enough people there for there to be huge fields of rubble.

76 hours after Yolanda started the APs showed up at our apartment and realized we weren’t dead. Like, during that time we’d been out working and helping people but there was no cell signal and transportation was still crazy, so we were basically just helping out the members in Ajuy and assuming that someone would come to check on us or that we’d just go to District Meeting on Tuesday. Don’t have the yellow vests yet, just working in dirty T-shirts. So yeah, basically, when that email from Uncle David was sent saying all missionaries were okay and accounted for, my entire District was still off the grid. Maybe our Mission President just guessed we were okay and reported that? Or got special revelation telling him not to worry about it? =P I’m glad it comforted you all and such.

The biggest casualty of my personal property is the fact that I had a lot of laundry in Estancia at a little laundromat and I have /no/ idea if I’ll ever get that back. It was mostly P-day clothes, so don’t worry about it too much or anything. Oh, but I freaking need some new socks. Send me those Gold-Toes, please? I should be able to buy new P-day stuff. I was actually going to ask if I can pull some cash out ($300-400) as soon as there’s a working ATM. For now I think I have enough withdrawn that I should be okay. Don’t worry about sending me t-shirts or anything.

And I haven’t seen Estancia, yet but we guessed Estancia would be really bad. They have stronger buildings than us, a lot more concrete than is anywhere in Ajuy, but they’re also closer to the coast. I mean, Ajuy is way close, but the Estancia Banwa can spit into the ocean. And I /might/ still have that laundry. I have no idea. We’re going to ask the Estancia Elders when we see them. If we’re lucky, Elder Gardiner picked ours up when he picked his up, and it’s just sitting in their apartment. Which is probably fine, because they have a /really/ nice apartment on pretty high ground.

Water, yesterday our running water came back on, but for a shorter period than usual and much less pressure. And then nothing this morning. But it’s a work in progress. As far as drinkable water… well, we found a place to get some that swears up and down the water is clean, but we’re thinking bleach, purifiers, and boiling are probably necessary measures. I imagine there will be some disease and stuff, because the flood waters are /not/ clean. At all.

Sunday I was helping a guy rip nails out of wood so he could reuse the wood and nails to build again, and I couldn’t help but think “Man, feels like I’m back at the houses again.” All that construction I did with Dad is coming in useful.

Well, out of time. Love you all! Bye!

When Global is close to home

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My son is in Ajuy, Philippines. This means as most Americans ignored brief mentions of Yolanda/Haiyan on the news, our family was rabidly searching the internet for any possible news. The satellite images showed the eye of the storm passing right over his city. We saw on the website from the church sponsoring him that all missionaries in his area were accounted for and safe and I got a great letter from my brother who had people on a different island with their report. Then on Sunday at church I found out that the families of others serving in the Philippines but different areas had letters from the leaders watching over their boys. I was back in worry mode. Then through a connection I found the area leader for Iloilo had sent out a letter but we weren’t included on the email list.
So long story short – my son is alive and safe and in an area with no communication or power. Knowing him, he is helping people to clear trees and clean out mud. He is in the Lord’s service and in His care.

More Human Lessons on communication…

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Mistakes Are a Necessary Part of Life; the Key is to Learn from them

I’ve read before – and truly believe it – that we learn much more from failure than we do from success.  No matter how large a success, it serves only to make us feel good about ourselves for a short time.  The accolades fade quickly and we move on to other business. Mistakes, however, stay with us – either as beauty from improved character or as dirt we never manage to wash off.

In the best scenario when making a mistake, we learn something new and move ourselves toward the path that leads to success. What was it that Edison said regarding his many attempts to invent the light bulb?  “I learned 999 ways not to make a light bulb,” or something like that. He didn’t beat himself up about his mistakes; rather, he embraced them, didn’t repeat them, and moved on.

In the worst scenario, we make the same mistake over and over. Typically, this happens because we refuse to admit we have made a mistake. Perhaps it is because of pride; we think others will think less of us if they know we erred or transgressed against another.

Some people think that admitting mistakes is a show of weakness. I completely disagree with that line of thinking.  The greatest strength of character comes from:

  1. Acknowledging our errors willingly and readily (before we are caught and then have no choice but to admit them)
  2. Apologizing to those whom we have hurt, yet not expecting anything in return now or in the future
  3. Demonstrating that we have learned from our mistake by changing our behavior going forward

The truly important thing here is to realize that people are not stupid; they know when we make mistakes, whether or not we admit them. Even when we are successful at hiding something we’ve done, the act of doing so damages our character.  And that my friend, is clearly visible to everyone, every day of our lives.

Kathryn

Now to add my comments on Kathryn’s thoughts:  Agile teaches us to fail early in the project so that the cost of failure will be lower.  Failing later is much more expensive.  The same is true of many things in life.  Suffering the consequences of failure as a child is generally less damaging than the consequences of the same mistake as an adult.  We harm our children when we don’t let them feel the pain of mistakes.  How will they improve if there is no failure?  How will they get stronger if they don’t know they made a mistake?  I think of the line in Wicked said about the Cowardly Lion – “If she had let him fight his own battles, he wouldn’t be a coward today.”

That isn’t to say we leave them alone to fight the same battle again and again.  Kathryn mentions the worst case being making the same mistake over and over.  Actually, the worst case is making the same mistake over and over and never realizing that is was a mistake.  

This is where the next lesson comes into play…

Human Lessons – Personal Space

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For the next installment on the human lessons, we have space – Kathryn explains it better than anyone else I’ve heard.

Don’t Violate Others’ Space

Just as listening is the quickest way to earn someone’s trust, violating someone’s space is the quickest way to kill it.  It is also a violation that will be remembered the longest, takes away points earned in other areas, and may never be fully forgiven. This one is so important, David, I would focus on this first and foremost.

“Space” has three main elements:

  • Personal space – The area directly around the person
  • Home space – Where the person lives or feels some sort of ownership
  • Time space – The time during which people need to themselves without interruption to work, to pursue some activity, or to be with their significant others

Unfortunately, the boundaries of “space” are hugely personal, and thus vary widely from person to person. A distance that feels comfortable to you can be well within the threat zone for someone else.  I have learned (again, oftentimes the hard way), that members of our family have smaller boundaries than most.  Perhaps it was because Mom was such an open person, or that Mom and Dad came from a much different generation and society has changed.  All I know is that what seemed normal to us growing up is not normal for most people I know.

Here are a few tips that will help keep you in the safe zone for space:

Personal Space

Some people refer to this as a “bubble.”  Usually, people who refer to it as a bubble have a pretty big one around them and want others – even family members and long time friends – to stay a good distance outside that bubble. Maintaining a space of four feet away is typically OK; it can be a bit less if sitting, but not by much.  (Tall people make others feel really uncomfortable in close quarters, so sitting reduces the height difference and a bit of the discomfort.)  Three feet of proximity starts the warning bells for many, and two feet or less is just way too close.

Given that you know we’re handicapped in regards to personal-space comfort, I suggest that you not even try to guess the distance of someone’s comfort zone. Rather, let others enter your space and let them stop where they feel comfortable.

Home Space

This is another type of space where we, as a family, differ from others.  Mom loved company and she didn’t care how she got it.  Someone could show up at her house in the middle of the night, unannounced, and she would welcome them in, make them feel completely at home, and try to get them to stay for three weeks.  This is totally not the norm.

People need to feel in control of their surroundings.  Just like a door-to-door salesman or a burglar, an unexpected visitor threatens that sense of control and feels like a violation.  Again, no matter who it is – family, friend or someone you have known for a short time – just showing up without prior arrangements will destroy trust quickly.

Time Space

This one is the hardest to predict, because you truly do not know what others’ schedules are and what they may or may not have planned already.

We all have times when something pops into our heads and we want to talk to that other person right away.  It’s OK to call people on the telephone, but it’s best not to call during times that you know they are at work or are participating in other activities, like church.  One may reason that, “If they are busy they won’t answer the phone.” However, you may end up embarrassing that person because he or she forgot to turn their ringer off and can’t get to their phone quickly enough to avoid disruption.  For most people, texting (or emailing, for those who don’t text) is a better solution; it allows you to get the thought out while it’s still in your head, yet allows the other person the luxury of deciding when they will answer you.

When you do call, verify it’s a convenient time for that other person to talk. Just because the other person picked up the phone, doesn’t mean that it is a good time for them to talk.  (We all have that niggling fear that someone is calling because it’s an emergency, so we pick up the phone even though we really don’t want to.)

Now you may ask, how can you verify it’s a convenient time to talk?  Simple:  Ask the other person, right after you say hello to each other.  Avoid the temptation to immediately start spilling out what’s in your head and getting to the point of why you called.

Think of it this way: If you launch immediately into the purpose of your call, you are forcing the other person to do one of two things:

  1. Cut you off midsentence so they can tell you that they can’t talk (thus making them feel like they have to be rude, which no one likes), or
  2. Listen until you are done talking at them (which they will only do grudgingly, unless they really do want to talk to you).

On the other hand, if you start the phone call with, “Is this is a good time to talk?” you are showing respect for the other person’s time and current activities and are giving him / her a choice to continue the conversation or not.

Keep in mind that although phone calls are less invasive than unannounced visits, they can still become burdensome.  If you are calling more than twice a week, three times tops, it’s probably too much.  Again, take your cues from others. If they want to seek you out, they will call you.   (And remember, if you are a good listener, others will want to talk to you and will go out of their way to call you.)

I know that time space was an issue I had at work.  If I needed information I would interrupt people to get it.  I finally realized one day that what other people were working on may be as important or more important to the business than what I was doing.  Also, my failure to gather information earlier was not their emergency.  I started using means other than getting in people’s faces for info and I planned ahead leaving time to followup.  If using email, I would let them know in the subject line that I need decisions or information or an action.  It helps things run smoother.  
As for people calling me – lets just say I’m a believer that my phone must only work one way because no one calls me.  Hmm, I probably still need work on my listening.

 

Human Lessons series – great conversation requires listening

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“The art of conversation lies in listening.” ~Malcolm Forbes

As I promised yesterday, I’ll be sharing pieces from a fantastic letter my people mentor from my last job shared with her brother.  I received a Malcolm Forbes quote today which goes along with this topic.  Usually when the universe hands me the same message in more than one format – it’s important that I self evaluate and see if I know the reason for repeating messages.
 

Listening is Far more Important Than Sharing Our Own Thoughts and Opinions

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about people over the years, it’s that they love to talk. Particularly, they love to talk about themselves and their own experiences, because those are the topics they know best.  Talking is therapeutic for us, gives us a sense of connectedness and – sometimes –  helps us feel like others are better off because they have heard something from us that could change their lives.

Now, let’s talk about what’s really going on:
When we tell our stories or share our opinions about life, we aren’t doing it for the people with whom we are communicating. Rather, we are doing it for ourselves.  What we say to others reinforces the thoughts that are already in our heads, often coalescing concepts and bringing clarity where fuzziness existed before.  (Why do you think psychologists and psychiatrists are popular?)

If we really want to make a difference in others’ lives, all we need to do is listen and ask questions that get others to open up and tell us more. By default, that means that we must close our mouths and resist the temptation to share our own philosophies and life stories, no matter how much that story or hilarious joke is screaming inside us and wants to come out.

It’s amazing how much a person will come to trust and appreciate you, simply by the act of you listening.  I remember reading about Dale Carnegie, who has been called one of the greatest philanthropists and communicators of all time.  Before he was famous, he attended a party where no one knew him.  Throughout the evening, Carnegie started conversations with most of the guests. He asked them questions, encouraged them to talk about themselves, and listened. Not once did he talk about himself, not even to share his name. For weeks after the party was over, the guests gushed about what a wonderful conversationalist he was and hoped that he would be invited to future events.

Our life stories and philosophies are important, but the importance is mostly for our own personal growth.  Those we encounter learn more from us through examples of how we live our lives, than they ever will learn from what we tell them or how much we make them laugh.  When people are ready to listen and want to know about you, they will ask you about yourself.

Kathryn

Over the years, I’ve learned that people expect active listening.  I am a marvelous multi-tasker.  My hyperactivity makes it easier for me to listen while doing something repetitive like match three games (Bejeweled, Candy Crush Saga). I’ve learned though that other people do not understand because they cannot do the same thing.  They expect me to look at them when they talk.  For the longest time, I thought this a colossal waste of time since my mind was racing in different directions while they were speaking and I really didn’t hear a word they said.  I’ve since learned to work on memorizing what they say as if it were a top secret missive which would destruct when they left.  As my memory starts to deteriorate from its once “spooky scary” photographic state, I find that these focused conversations stay with me longer than ones where I was not such an active listener.
Also, if I’m working on formulating a question to ask instead of letting people talk, I may miss a nuance or a chance word.   I remember a motivational speaker saying the worst thing to occur in a conversation is to be formulating your response when you should be listening to the other person’s body language.
 
 

Thoughts to feast on…Developing human skills.

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When I started at Zions Management, I was feeling concerned about my ability to manage relationships.  After all, I had just completed two jobs where my supervisors’ boss told me I “severely lacked the ability to read body language” and in the other case “did not possess the decorum for the amount of money we pay you.”

Shortly after I started, I met an incredible woman who had all the people skills I lacked. I would go to her for feedback and soon began to realize that I did have people skills, I just needed to use them and think about others more than about what others thought of me.

After our department at Zions was disbanded,  I stayed in touch with my “people mentor” and the other day she sent me a file which she had written to her brother about people skills and it’s too good not to pass on.  It’s really long so I’ll parcel it out and add comments in some sections.  It helped me to crystalize some of the skills I’ve learned from her.

Here is what we’ll be covering over the next little while – (it’s the intro to the file)

Here is a brain dump of things I’ve learned over the years. Some concepts you are already practicing and will resonate with you. Other concepts may make you uncomfortable or you may disagree with completely. Either way is fine – in the end, we must all decide what is right for us.

These are the concepts I find to be the most important in my life and relationships:

  1. Listening is far more important than sharing our own thoughts and opinions.
  2. Don’t violate others’ space.
  3. Mistakes are a necessary part of life; the key is to learn from them.
  4. Feedback is a gift.
  5. Everyone has strengths; make the most of yours and use them to your advantage.
  6. Everyone has weaknesses; identify them, admit them, then do something about them.
  7. We are responsible for recognizing and facing our own demons; trying to shield others from theirs robs them of their learning opportunities.
  8. Tread lightly on new relationships.
  9. Treat old relationships with respect.
  10. Decide: Are they “acts of kindness” or “acts of obligation”?
  11. Flattery doesn’t help anyone.

I wish I could say that I figured all these things out without pain to myself or others, but I cannot. More than I care to admit have been learned the hard way.  The rest of this letter provides details of what I have learned.

I often tell my kids that it pays to learn from others lessons, it saves you pain.  This is one of those times.  I’m looking forward to your comments and responses.

Garage sales as a hobby

My husband thinks the perfect way to spend a Saturday morning is hitting garage sales.  I don’t mind because I enjoy being with him and there are more expensive hobbies he could have than refurbishing old stereo equipment.  And every now and then I find some lovely things.

Take this week, at the Brighton Drill team yard sale, in the freebie box I saw this.

It reminded me of a dish I got from my grandmother, similar yellow drip glaze, similar weight but in a planter shape instead of a bowl.  After I got in the car, I checked it out and it’s a Jenkins Ceramics planter.  It’s worth about $15  on ebay.  The bowl from my grandma is a Judy of California yellow bowl and the fun thing is it’s just like the example of the Judy marks on the American Pottery Marks page.

A few weeks ago, I found a lead crystal candy dish for $2 and at the same house I got a really cool Dutch Masters style tin painting in a frame.  The lady said the painting had been in her mother’s house when she bought it in the 40’s and I would say that the 30’s or 40’s is the approximate age of the frame.  I really like the painting, it’s an illuminist at his desk.  My husband wants to spray it with a shellac for photographs to make the colors pop.  I want to check with someone before we do that.

I planted something this year…

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It’s been a few years since we planted a garden.  It’s one of the things that you stop doing when the soil is so unbalanced because of the pine needles dropping from the neighbors’ yards.  Anyway last year, C bought a potted tomato for the front porch and he cared for it and had some pretty decent tomatoes from it.

This year I wanted something easier than a tomato to care for on the front porch so I bought a zucchini because it’s impossible to kill a zucchini plant – right?  I put it in the pot where we had the tomato last year.

This is the zucchini in my front porch pot.
This is the zucchini in my front porch pot.

Well, my zucchini does not look that healthy.  It has lots of blossoms but no leaves.  I’m not sure what is wrong with it I would like suggestions.

This is the other backyard squash - I think it's a banana squash.
This is the other backyard squash – I think it’s a banana squash.

The plants I put under my stash room window are doing better than the one out front. I put crookneck squash and a banana squash in that spot. Both of them are looking better than the zucchini.

One of two squash plants in the back yard, I think this is the crookneck.
One of two squash plants in the back yard, I think this is the crookneck.

The only bad part of actually planting stuff though is I’m looking at the patch right under the kitchen window now and thinking – I could put in two tomatoes and a pepper plant…