Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Do you swear to tell the truth?




Yesterday I picked up my son Sam from school.
When we came home and I unpacked his schoolbag, I noticed there was a toy in there that didn't belong to him but to the school.

When I asked him about it, he said he got it for Christmas.
When I probed him a bit more he said his teacher gave it to him as a present.
And when I asked him if his teacher would confirm that to me he admitted he liked the toy, secretly hid it in his bag and took it home...

Because my son is only 4 years old he's not very good at lying. Moral Development hasn't quite kicked in yet.
But by the time he is an adult, he will probably be a lot better at it. And he will still tell several lies a day.

Six, to be precise. According to research.

As adults we lie during presentations, during job interviews. We lie about purchases we made. We lie to friends and to strangers. We lie about how we feel.

Mostly with just one simple reason: to avoid confrontation.

So does the truth always set us free?
If we want to lie a little to get along or bail us out of awkward situation are we betraying our authentic self?

Here's my two cents.

Perhaps this is my Dutch Directness speaking, but I believe the answer is that the truth almost always sets us free. The key is to check in with our intentions first.

Do we wish to tell the truth because we are frustrated with the feelings of guilt building up?
Then of course it feels damn good to tell the truth. It's like taking a emotional poop (excuse the metaphor) which provides instant release from pressure.

But when you are just dumping your emotional turds on others (excuse the metaphor again, but I'm on a roll now..) you are flushing your relationship down the toilet.

Do you wish to tell the truth to connect closer to your colleague, client, partner, friend or boss?

Then the worst truth is always better than the best lie. 

At InterACT we give workshop participants the opportunity to practice these open and honest conversations with professional actors. And every single time the biggest eye opener is that no matter how badly they think someone will react when they tell the truth, the lie often causes more dismay that honesty.

This morning I dropped my son of at school.

I asked him if he wanted to tell his teacher what happened. He firmly shook his head and said he was afraid his teacher would get mad at him for stealing.

"It takes courage to tell the truth, Sam." I said.

And for a while we said nothing.

Suddenly he looked up at me and said he changed his mind.
And a few minutes later, with blushing cheeks, eyes down and squeezing my hand tightly, my little boy struggled through the words to tell his teacher the truth.

And his teacher?

She kneeled down and gave him a big hug.

"I know that must have been hard to tell me you took that toy. But I am so glad you chose to be honest about it..."



Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Smell to Boost Learning Power



Only true die hards have read the novel 'A la recherche du temps perdu' by French writer Marcel Proust, but one particular scene from that book is famous: The main character dips a cake called a Madelaine into a cup of chamomile tea, which evokes a torrent of memories from a forgotten childhood. 

Marcel Proust understood intuitively what science would only discover many years later: There is no sense that reaches more deeply and suddenly into our emotional center - right into our solar plexus - than the sense of smell. 

So if smells can take us back to various memories, can they help us remember facts?  

Science has already proven that smell can influence our behavior. Like the scent of citrus that makes us want to clean more. Or Auping, a large bedding retailer, who spreads the smell of freshly washed linen through their shops because it increases sales. And what to think of the Dutch Tax Authorities? In their offices the smell of orange circulates every afternoon to help employees through their midday slump. 

The correct term for this phenomenon is Subliminal Persuasion, which simply means influencing people at a level below their conscious recognition. 

The birth of Subliminal Persuasion dates back to 1957 when a market researcher named James Vicary inserted the words “Eat Popcorn” and “Drink Coca-Cola” into a movie. 

The words appeared for a single frame, allegedly long enough for the subconscious to pick up, but too short for the viewer to be aware of it. The subliminal ads supposedly created an 18.1% increase in Coke sales and a 57.8% increase in popcorn sales.

What does all of this mean for boosting learning power? 

Less research has gone into the idea of whether scents can help with improving performance, but so far there have been intriguing findings. 

For example psychologist Mark Moss, carried out a range of cognitive tests on subjects who were exposed to rosemary aroma's during lectures. Those in the rosemary group, memorized the content significantly better than the control group. 

And although lavender is know for its sedative qualities, scientist Sakamato found that during recess periods after intense and long lectures, it can prevent deterioration performance in subsequent work sessions. 

There's been more research that suggests that smells can have an impact on learning, performance and creativity, so perhaps the use of scent in the classroom can no longer be brushed of as pseudoscience. And even though a lot of aroma therapy marketing is full of false claims, I do believe we should consider fragrance as a tool to create a psychological state of mind for ultimate transfer of learning. 

While more scientific evidence is in the making, why not give it a try? 

At the very least they will produce a more pleasant learning environment for workshop participants. 




Sunday, 20 January 2019

The Fear of Feelings at Work


I remember it like it was yesterday... Monday April 11th 2011. 
I was about to present a Leadership Development Program to one of my biggest clients. However the night before my partner of 11 years had decided to end our relationship. He met someone else...
That morning I decided to suppress all my big feelings and 'stay professional'. I needed to lock in this deal. So I started my presentation. 

A few minutes in I suddenly felt tears welling up from down deep inside. I tried really hard to not to display my emotions and push them away, but the harder I tried the stronger it grew. And then it happened... I started to cry. 

In front of my client, in the middle of my presentation. 
Ashamed I tried to get out of the meeting room and hide in the toilets. But my client stopped me. He sat me down and asked me why I was upset. I told him what had happened the night before. And then he said something I will never forget. He said:

"Janine, showing your true emotions, does not make you less of a professional. It makes you human. Whatever you feel, it is welcomed here. So let's talk." 

Now this sounds simple enough, but it’s pretty difficult in practice. 

Because emotions have a bad rap in the workplace. If you’re a true professional, the thinking goes, you don't show emotions at work. Consequently, in many workplaces showing strong emotions, good or bad, can be career suicide. If you allow your frustration at a bad decision or your elation at a victory to shine through, you will be seen as volatile, untrustworthy and, of course, unprofessional.
There’s only one problem: Human beings don’t work that way.
We have emotions. We have them in our private lives, and it’s not like we can leave them in the car in the parking-lot at work. Whether we want them to or not, they’re coming to work with us.
The best workplaces, like my clients', know this, and leave room for both positive and negative emotions. As a result, people are happier at work, are more creative, function better in teams and are more productive and motivated.
On the other hand, companies that ignore emotions are setting themselves up for massive doses of conflict, frustration, disengagement and unhappiness at work.
So, should all business devolve into endless meetings where we can talk about our feelings? Should all meeting rooms be equipped with Kleenex in case someone starts crying? Should we express our tiniest emotions and go into full-on tantrums whenever we feel like it?
No.
But workplaces should:

1. Make room for the emotions that employees have. They’re there, might as well deal with it.

2. Learn how emotions influence business success factors like learning, creativity and teamwork.

3. Learn how to deal constructively – and even appreciatively – with displays of emotion – negative and positive.

And that’s how the best companies handle emotions. 

They ask questions like:

“So, how do you feel about this meeting/decision/project/whatever?”
“How are you doing?”
“I can tell you’re not happy with this decision. What’s your take?”

And then they shut up and listen!


What about you? Do you show how you feel at work? The good or the bad? How does your company receive displays of emotions? 

Write a comment, I’d really like to know.