5 Ways to Skillfully Handle Criticism With a Smile Instead of a Frown

GettyImages-663360750.jpg“This work is sloppy and does not meet the needs of the company. You’ll have to completely rework it.”

“Is this all you’ve gotten done for today? You’re going to have to step up your pace.”

“Why didn’t you follow the instructions I gave you? This is terrible work.”

“I liked your old hairstyle better.”

Criticism, no matter how delicately someone gives it to you, hurts.

Being criticized makes us feel worthless, painfully vulnerable to our own negative thoughts and unsure of our abilities. Some inexperienced managers think criticizing their employees will incentivize them to work faster and harder but, of course, we know this tactic is the absolutely wrong way to motivate employees.

Scientists speculate there is something instinctual, or innate, about our adverse reaction to even mild criticism. Just like the human body is hard-wired to instantly move into a “fight or flight” state when confronted by danger, our psychological self (psyche) reacts to criticism defensively. In other words, being physically struck closely parallels being verbally “struck.” Our heart and breathing rate increases and we may start perspiring as our internal temperature rises. Depending on the type and level of criticism we hear about ourselves, some people tremble, feel extremely anxious, and may even start crying.

How to Give Criticism Positively

Before you criticize a family member, friend or fellow worker, stop and think about how you could rephrase what you are going to say to sound more like constructive criticism.

Examples of constructive criticism include:

  • (When someone fails to complete a project on time): Next time we have a project to work on, we’ll make sure there are enough resources and time for you to finish it as planned. In fact, perhaps we can schedule the project in advance so you are not inundated with work?
  • (When someone has been “slacking” in their work): You’ve done a great job reaching several goals lately. Nobody can achieve every goal they set for themselves so don’t let this affect your sense of accomplishment. Maybe your goals are a little too aggressive?
  • (When someone isn’t contributing to a group effort): I’ve noticed you haven’t wanted to take an initiative lately. I would really like to see you take a leadership position because I think you have the talent and skills to be successful.

5 Ways to Handle Criticism Positively

  1. Objectify Yourself

As soon as you realize you are being criticized unconstructively, step away from your emotions by imagining yourself as a life-size cardboard cutout.

Wait until the person criticizing you leaves before allowing yourself to think about what they said. Consider who criticized, what they criticized you about, and whether it was actually warranted. Remember that people who are criticized are usually doing something new, different, and possibly daring.

  1. Don’t Cross Your Arms

Adopting a defensive posture may provoke the criticizer into extending their critique of you.

Simply stand with your arms at your sides, nod, and show that you are listening.

  1. Learn from Criticism

Is there a grain of truth in the criticism you received?

Don’t let strong emotions cloud your ability to judge truths about yourself. Many of us say or do things that are not in our best interest but fail to realize our error.

  1. Get Feedback from a Friend

Tell a trusted friend about the criticism you received.

Getting another opinion can help mitigate the negative feelings you experience from a criticism.

  1. You Control Your Emotions and Thoughts

Nobody is in control of what you think or feel.

The way you think and feel about criticism is all up to you, not the person who criticized you.

“Criticism is something you can avoid by saying nothing,
being nothing, and doing nothing.”
~Aristotle

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How to Mobilize People Through Powerful Writing

Businessman Writing in Planner at Cafe Window“Darkest Hour,” a 2017 war drama film, devotes its narrative to the early days of British prime minister Winston Churchill, who rallied a nation against the merciless Nazi onslaught of World War II.

The film chronicles Churchill’s authentic, soul-stirring speeches and the Shakespearean gusto with which he delivered words like these: “Let us, therefore, brace ourselves to our duty, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.'”

Though the world still heralds Churchill’s heroic statements, few people knew that Churchill overcame a lisp in his childhood by practicing his enunciation. Churchill understood the power of words early in life, and historians estimated that he spent one hour working on each individual minute of a speech he gave! Churchill sought to portray England’s struggle in a larger historical context: good outlasting evil, hope to overshadow the impossible, and perseverance overcoming persecution.

The result?

The entire fate of world history shifted through the hearts and hands of the people he inspired. President John F. Kennedy summed up Churchill’s influence like this: “In the dark days and darker nights when England stood alone — and most men… despaired of England’s life — he mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.”

Writing: The Building Block of Success

What can we learn from Winston Churchill?

While not all of us have oratory giftings, be encouraged that Churchill was also a student of language, and he overcame his limitations with study, practice, and passion!

Would you like to be more successful in your personal and professional impact?

Writing is the foundation of modern education and fundamental to all business success. Whether you’re penning a quarterly report, crafting an in-house memo, giving a congratulatory speech, or even dashing a quick e-mail, here are some tips for writing in a professional, persuasive manner:

  1. Grab them early.
    Great writing doesn’t allow readers to look away! Use punchy headlines, riveting stories, or gripping questions to draw them in immediately.
  2. Get to the point.
    After you use that “luring” intro, don’t let them linger! Get to the point quickly and efficiently, without “burying the lead” too deep in the text. Eliminate unnecessary words and use language that is clear and efficient. An energetic, fast-paced tone will assure them that reading to the end is worth their time.
  3. Be convincing but not too clever. Persuade your readers with clarity but also with logic and facts. Providing evidence (or examples) for your premise will build momentum and increase authority. As you write, keep a personal tone that is warm but convincing. Ask yourself, “would this make sense if I was sharing it with a friend over coffee?” Phrases with an awkward, artificial ring should probably get the ax!
  4. Keep it moving. As you lead readers toward a closing statement or action step, take a broad glance at the entire piece. Does it flow smoothly with a directional movement that builds toward a thoughtful climax? Does it read well on the page with adequate breaks and subheadings? Consider adding skim layers or reducing the size of a document if you sense people will be bogged down in your thoughts.
  5. Add depth and dimension. As you seek to add that extravagant bow to your smartly wrapped package, review your piece and look for ways you can really make it “sing.” Consider colorful vocabulary, punchy alliteration, or rich rhythms as you vary the length of your paragraphs. As French writer Charles Baudelaire once said, “always be a poet, even in prose.”

Why Aesop Would Have Been More Successful Than Bill Gates Today

Tortoise and Hare Story Alternative VersionAn ancient Greek storyteller and fabulist, Aesop is thought to have been a slave who eventually acquired his freedom by reciting clever moral fables involving animals with human characteristics.

Insightful and astonishingly original even today, Aesop’s fables continue to delight and educate us with their startling observations of human failings and strengths.

We all know who Bill Gates is–only one of the wealthiest people in the world and founder of Microsoft.

Although Gates is the epitome of the successful businessman, Aesop would have given him a run for his money, so to speak. Aesop’s keen intuitiveness into the human psyche would have made him the ultimate inspirational and motivational manager or employee. In fact, Gates may have chosen to work for Aesop instead of running his own business!

Check out these three fables from Aesop and how you can apply their moral teachings to your own business:

The Donkey and the Mule

The owner of both a mule and a donkey loaded them with supplies before making a long and arduous journey. When they reached the hilly country, the donkey begged for help by asking the mule to take some of his load. The mule said no. “I’m carrying too much now as it is. You’ll just have to deal with it.”

Within days, the donkey stumbled from weariness and died. The owner had no choice but to put the donkey’s load on the mule’s back. Now the mule had to carry double the load he was once carrying.

What was Aesop trying to say with this fable?

When you help others, you are helping yourself.

In a real-world setting, this fable is about teamwork. Although we all have encountered problems when trying to accomplish projects as a team, trying to do something by yourself means you are stuck with only your skill sets, your ideas, and your extremely subjective perception of how satisfactory the project really is. Ultimately, refusing to help others limits your ability to help yourself.

The Cat and the Mice

An extended family of mice needed to develop a good plan to protect themselves from a devious cat. One of the younger mice spoke up and said: “I think we should tie a bell around the cat’s neck. That way, we’ll know when our enemy, the cat, is coming for us.”

An older, wiser mouse asked: “That is a great idea, but who is going to undertake the dangerous task of belling the cat?”

The mice fell silent, realizing this plan would not work.

Moral of this Aesop fable:

Successful ideas are ideas that can be fully implemented.

While it’s great to throw around ideas, only realistic, sound, and sustainable ideas are the ones that provide satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, and financial benefits. The next time you are involved in a strategy meeting, remember the importance of challenging everybody, but keep in mind Aesop’s catalyst for true achievements: can anybody bell the cat?

The Lion and the Oxen

A lion took to prowling a field where several oxen were grazing. The lion tried to attack the oxen many times but they always positioned themselves in a way that protected their vulnerable bodies. They met the lion with their horns instead of their tails. Eventually, the oxen started fighting with each other and went to separate areas of the field. Without the protection of their fellow oxen, each ox died a horrible death as the lion attacked them one by one.

Try this one on your own. How could you apply the moral of this story to your own business?

How to Chart Your New Future

Young African female entrepreneur dreaming up new business ideasIrene Obera is an 84-year-old southern California native who loves bowling, tennis, and educating others.

She also happens to be the fastest woman on earth for her age. Irene has been breaking records in Masters athletics for forty years, and her aging philosophies are captured in her own words:

“If you don’t move it, you lose it.”

And:

“A quitter never wins, and a winner never quits – and I want to be a winner.”

Irene is one of many “superagers,” a term for people in their 70s and 80s who have the mental or physical capability of their decades-younger counterparts. Irene serves as an inspiration, not only for the power of dedication but the promise of possibility when we harness our full potential. Living well is a goal we all desire and living fully alive is the essence of life. No matter what our strengths or sphere of influence, each of us has the potential for success and impact. This potential is a treasure that should be uncovered, protected, and stewarded!

Shake Off That Slump

Then what do you do when you’ve hit a slump? When complacency has settled like fog, or when you want to grow but feel stifled professionally (or personally) at almost every turn?

Maybe you’re satisfied, but not feeling sufficiently challenged in your daily tasks. What should you do?

Here’s the truth: small adjustments DO make an impact. But we tend to enjoy comfort and resist change, making it harder and harder to change gears.

So, how can we move forward in a positive way that will impact us for years to come?

It Starts with Education

An easy place to start is where many of us began: with education. Education is a gift! The opportunity to learn can unlock our potential, grow our social circle, reap financial rewards, and energize our mind, careers, and health! Consider this statistic:

The Rush Memory and Aging Project, conducted in 2012 in Chicago with more than 1,200 elders participating, showed that increased cognitive activity in older adults slowed their decline in cognitive function and decreased their risk of mild cognitive impairment. The study showed that cognitively active seniors, whose average age was 80, were 2.6 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia than seniors with less cognitive activity. Studies also show that educated people tend to enjoy better mental health, increased emotional well-being, and expanded opportunities.

Add Spring to Your Step

Whether you desire personal or professional development, growth of any kind has the potential to chart a new course for your future.

Ready to increase your mental capacity, improve your quality of life, and enrich your emotional health? In this two-part series, we’ll look at four avenues for gaining ground that will enrich your life and expand your opportunities.

  1. Stretch Yourself. 

The first step in continued growth is your own buy-in.

Take ownership over your desire to develop and look for new challenges, side projects, or free professional development opportunities offered in or outside your company. Seek out webinars and podcasts on a weekly basis or consider short online courses. Be curious about aspects of the workplace that don’t directly affect your job. Ask questions and get involved where you might not otherwise. When you show others that you are interested in learning, it communicates a proactive spirit and opens invisible doors to future opportunities.

Living fully engaged brings richness and reward. Join us for part two of this series, as we look at four more avenues for personal and professional development that can bring impact for decades to come!

5 Reasons Why Print Marketing Still Pops

GettyImages-695773692.jpgWith all the buzz around social media marketing, leveraging influencers, and digital retargeting ads, has print marketing lost its luster?

Smart marketers know that just as there are millions of individuals in the U.S., there are hundreds of ways to reach them. As more people flock to the internet to shop, do their taxes, and connect with friends and relatives, you may be surprised to know that the digital proliferation of messages has brought consumers’ attention back to a tried-and-true favorite: print marketing.

Here are five reasons why print marketing still pops for your next promotion.

1. Print is Surprising

Think about it. You may receive dozens or even hundreds of emails each day. How much time do you devote to considering each one?

An unexpected advertisement may receive a brief glance, or it may go directly to your spam folder if it is poorly written. Contrast that with the number of pieces of printed mail that you receive on a daily basis. If you’re like most people, you probably get less than ten pieces of written correspondence each day. That gives your message that much more of an opportunity to make an impact with a well-designed and colorful print piece.

2. Print is Memorable

Reading a newspaper or other longer-form printed media is considered “lean forward” reading — while skimming emails is something you’re likely to be multi-tasking and “leaning back,” or being less engaged.

Studies show that people are up to 70% more likely to recall businesses when they see their information in print versus online.

3. Print is Easy

The same study that tested customer recall also explored the effort required to process print materials versus digital materials.

The findings are unexpected: direct mail requires significantly less mental effort to process, by over 15 percentage points! Printed ads in newspapers or delivered via direct mail are more memorable because they’re often mostly visual instead of packed with words. According to a Temple University study, physical media wins out over print in nearly every category, including engagement, memory accuracy and speed, and desirability.

4. Print is Trusted

The recent outbreaks of viruses make online advertising a dicey proposition — at least in the mind of many Americans.

You don’t hear the news media touting the number of people who lost their personal information to a newspaper, right? This familiarity with printed media helps give messages received in this format a more comfortable and trusted feel than advertising that arrives in a digital package. This is especially true for demographics of a certain age, where printed mailers were the way to receive valuable information.

5. Print is Creative

Sure you can argue that digital advertising is incredibly creative and interactive.

However, print media allows you to effectively cross genres with your messaging, switching between print and digital with ease as long as you have an effective strategy in place for messaging. A truly cohesive experience from print to digital makes consumers feel unique and valued, but that conversation begins in the print space.

These are only a few of the many reasons why print marketing and advertising is still at the top of the heap. The additional mental space and recall, opportunities for creating a cohesive brand feel, and the ability to cross platforms from print to digital make postcards and other mailers a compelling proposition for businesses.

These Two Things are the Keys to a Successful Business

The physical and emotional abuse began when she was five years old.

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By the time she was 13, she was homeless and relying on the kindness of strangers to feed and house her. At 14, she gave birth to a son who died in infancy. Shortly afterward, she was sent to live with an uncle in whom she later referred to as her “father.” Even though this teenager had suffered years of poverty and abuse, something fierce and fiery within her would not give up. She attended a Milwaukee high school and earned grades good enough to get her into the Upward Bound program, a federally funded program to help gifted students achieve academic success.

This determined, courageous young woman was later transferred to a suburban high school where she was picked on by her more affluent peers. After being caught stealing money to keep up with the lifestyle of her peers, she was once again sent to live with another relative in Nashville, TN. Here, she became an honors student and joined a speech/debate team that eventually took second place in a nation-wide dramatic interpretation contest.

After winning a college scholarship, working as a news reporter, and ultimately, landing her own TV show, Oprah Winfrey is now one of the world’s most famous, most beloved, and most successful women in history.

Attitude is Motivation and Motivation is Attitude

Imagine you are the owner of a bakery that was handed down to you by your parents and grandparents.

One of the traditions you continue to keep as the owner is wearing a large pin on your uniform that says “Business is Awesome!” While all business have down times, the idea behind the pin is that, no matter how the business is doing, your attitude remains the same.

What do you tell customers who ask you what’s so great about business? In most cases, people asking you this question are going through a rough time in their lives or may be coping with business problems themselves. You might tell them business is awesome because you love meeting new people every day or that business is great because you can work in an environment where everybody gets along and enjoys each other’s company.

At the heart of this story lies the power of embracing a positive attitude. When you anticipate the good things and refuse to become a victim of negative thinking, the motivation to continue naturally emerges, sustained by your sense of renewal, hope and expectations.

Falling Down 10 Times Means You Have to Get Up 10 Times

“I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. Many times I have been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I am not afraid to say that I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” — Michael Jordan

You have to keep “getting up” (as Oprah Winfrey did) to take those next steps toward meeting or exceeding your goals.

The motivation for getting up and getting back on track is more powerful and rewarding if it is for personal rather than material gain. Keep reminding yourself that the most significant accomplishments in world history all started because someone fell down and got right back up again without even giving it a second thought.

Print Made Digital: How Business Cards Are Still the Best Way to Connect

GettyImages-1003427474.jpgDigital communication and marketing tactics may be the hottest topics on everyone’s tongues, but there are still some serious limitations to connecting your physical and digital worlds.

There are ways that allow you to quickly trade contact information, but they can require both parties to download the same app and are difficult to coordinate in quick hallway conversations. Business professionals will tell you that you never know when you’re going to meet someone who can tie together the pieces of a particular project, so it pays to be prepared to capture contact information regardless of your physical location. That’s where business cards come in as one of the best ways to connect with people in person.

Boost Your Brand Recognition

Keeping your branding on point can be an ongoing challenge, especially as your business grows.

Marketers must be diligent to ensure that all marketing materials are consistent and cohesive with colors, fonts, styles images, and even the tone of language that is used — or your brand voice.

One particular printed item that often ties together all of your branding is a simple business card! Business cards are relatively inexpensive but can pack a big branding punch when they provide each prospect or contact with the look, feel and logo of your business.

Convenient Communication Tool

Business cards are one of the most convenient communication tools available because you can simply slide your hand into your pocket or purse and immediately be able to share your contact information with others.

If you’re in the middle of another conversation, there’s no need to break off topic and attempt to program a number into your cell phone; instead, you can simply pop a business card into someone’s hand! If you’re at a conference or trade show, business cards allow you to jot questions or topics of interest on the back, which can help jog your memory of the contact and how you need to follow up with them in the future.

Ideal for Direct Marketing

Sending emails and even text messages may be one of the most effective ways to reach a wide range of individuals, but an old-fashioned phone call packs an impact.

Including a handshake with your business card creates a personal connection that people will remember. If the person you’re speaking with isn’t the perfect contact for your business, the good news is that your business card can continue marketing to the next person who receives it, too! Digital marketing tactics such as QR codes add extra bang to your business card by providing your prospects with additional information that couldn’t fit within the space available on a small business card. Have a special offer that you’d like to share? Drop a discount code on your business card and you’ll be sure to create a lasting impression!

Print marketing tactics such as business cards are still one of the best ways to reach your target audience in a personal way that builds long-term relationships. Business today is still driven by relationships. Ensuring that you have personal knowledge of the people you are working with — and that connection — is best formed by creative printed materials that reinforce the look and feel of your brand.

The next time you’re shaking hands with someone, be sure you’re sliding a business card to them at the same time, and your message will be reinforced even after you are long gone!