Self-Confidence: How It’s Revealed In Your Relationships

Sandra Dillon: February 9, 2018


While conducting one of my Building Better Relationships workshops, an attendee asked me, “How can I give my girlfriend the self-confidence she needs?” Depression or mental illness was not a factor—just low self-confidence, which had supposedly manifested in her not expressing what she wanted, arguments, silent treatment when she didn’t get her way, a general feeling of discontent, and lack of action toward going for what she wanted in life. My reply was, “You can’t give your girlfriend self-confidence. She has to earn it for herself.” *

Self Confidence3

What is Self-Confidence?

Self-confidence is the realistic, positive belief that you can influence your world—that you have the abilities, personal power, and judgment to overcome obstacles and get what you want in life. You trust yourself and what you can do!

Self-confidence can only be developed from within a person. No amount of participation trophies, positive words, or kind gestures can build self-confidence, because these are only externally applied props. Although these supports are enjoyable rewards, they are only cheer-leading tools, and for some, these tools are meaningless and have no value.

You can’t ask, beg, or pay any one any amount of money to do the hard work that it takes to build your self-confidence. What spouses, partners, friends, and family can do is be supportive by providing encouragement, brainstorming, and feedback which is akin to helping a person help himself. You have likely heard the expression—do with and not for.

When does Self-Confidence Start?

Building self-confidence starts in infancy when parents decide to what degree they will respond to their crying baby. Crying is an infant’s only tool to influence his world and get what he wants. Assuming his physical needs are met, how much should parents coddle their infant and when should they allow him to self-sooth.

Self-confidence continues to grow when a toddler ventures out to explore the world away from the view of his parents. Although children need to know they can run back to their parents as a place of security, they also need their parents to challenge them and let them make and learn from their mistakes. Children who believe they have some mastery of their world tend to have the highest self-confidence. Some kids break the mold and seem to have a genetic contributor that gives them resiliency. Even adults who didn’t have an idyllic childhood can grow their self-confidence.

How to Grow Self-Confidence

The only times I’ve seen self-confidence grow in adults is when they attacked adversity head-on, worked hard, worked smart, and never gave up on improving themselves and their situations. When they hit a wall, instead of turning around and giving up, they instead figured out a plan of approach to get to the other side. They found a way of either digging under it, blasting through it, crawling over it, or stepping around it.

When you get to the other side of the wall, look over your shoulder, and can honestly say to yourself, “I did that,” that is the point when your self-confidence climbs another rung on the ladder. Self-confidence increases when you believe if you put your heart, mind, and soul towards something you can accomplish it, and you proved it to yourself when you got to the other side of the wall.

Role of Family and Friends in Building Self-Confidence

When spouses, parents, and friends do for you what you should be doing for yourself, they are robbing you of the opportunity to grow your self-confidence. When they rescue you from the consequences of your decisions or actions, they are again robbing you of a teaching opportunity that can grow you. They may not be stealing a piece of you, but they are starving you of what it means to be a fully functioning, resilient, and ultimately happy individual.

The next time someone wants to bail you out or do something you know you should be doing, I would suggest you say, “No thanks. I can do it, but I sure wish you’d keep checking in on me. I may need your support, and this is what support looks like…”

*Note: Men suffer as well as women from poor self-confidence.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and premarital/marriage coaching.  She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossingsministry.com.

Trust: Do You Have It and How to Build It

Sandra Dillon: February 5, 2018


Trust 2During premarital/marriage coaching, I frequently discover that the topic a couple is arguing about is not the root issue that needs to be resolved. What they need to repair is the distrust that has either slowly crept or jumped into the relationship. Most couples identify violations of trust with the “big stuff” such as having an affair, drug addiction or alcohol problems, and hiding or secretly spending money. By all accounts, these behaviors are clearly violations of trust. However, what most couples may not realize is that the “small stuff” over time has the same ability to create distrust and insidiously undermine the relationship or marriage.

Without trust you can’t build anything of sustainable value. Trust is the foundation on which strong relationships are set and a critical element in any committed relationship. People can tell you whether they trust someone based on their feelings, but they may not necessarily be able to define the characteristics and behaviors that build trust.

Trust in a relationship is akin to the foundation of a house. You’re building a home. You know a solid foundation is important to stabilize the structure and allow it to withstand severe weather conditions. After the concrete is poured, you take the foundation for granted. You focus your attention to the other features of the home such as the number of bedrooms and baths as well as the size of the kitchen. You expend a great deal of effort designing the small details and decorating the interior. Your money and energy are overwhelmingly poured into creating a warm and comfortable home, while you fail to appreciate that the foundation is protecting it all.

Fast forward several years, and a crack forms in the foundation. Your house is not in jeopardy yet, but unchecked, the first crack gets bigger, more cracks appear, and some settling occurs. Now the house has cracks in the floor tiles, walls, and ceiling. The house is looking worn and possibly unsafe to live.

In many cases, people choose not to fix the underlying problem but patch it so it doesn’t appear so obvious. In extreme cases, you may decide to sell the house—get out and start over, building the same house all over again on a different property. The TRUTH—you need to deal with the foundation—TRUST.

Trust has many components, any one of which can undermine or strengthen the relationship.  Brown (2017) has deconstructed trust into 7 major components that must be practiced and reciprocated over time to build trust which are:

  • Boundaries: Communicating and honoring clear expectations
  • Reliability: Doing what you say you will do again and again [Note: It’s important to understand your limitations and not over-commit]
  • Accountability: Making a mistake, owning it, apologizing, and making amends
  • Confidence: Not sharing with others what is shared in confidence
  • Integrity: Practicing, and not just professing values, in which you may have to choose courage over your comfort or right over fun, fast, and easy
  • Non-judgment: Helping when another falters and being vulnerable to ask for help when needed [Note: One-sided help sets the giver up to feel superior over time]
  • Generosity: Believing in good intentions when the behavior is a mistake

Which ones do you live out regularly, and which components do you need to practice and reciprocate over time to build more trust?  I would encourage all couples to get honest with themselves on which trust factors they struggle with and to share this revelation with their partner. You can then develop a specific action plan to improve in that area to build more trust.

Trust is not a black-or-white issue but one which is measured on a continuum. Where does your relationship ride on that continuum? What are you willing to do to move it in a more positive direction? Improving trust takes time, patience, and thoughtful words and actions. You must trust the process that will take you from where you stand today to a more trustworthy relationship in the future.

Reference

Brown, B. (2017). Super Soul Sessions Video: The Anatomy of Trust. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewngFnXcqao


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and premarital/marriage coaching.  She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossingsministry.com.

Change Your Relationship with Money and Change Your Life

Sandra Dillon: January 8, 2018


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Your Money Relationship

Money can be a difficult topic to discuss because of our emotionally complex relationship with it and how we use it to create meaning in our lives. We need money for the necessities of life such as food, water, clothing, and shelter, but we also use money to achieve status, security, enjoyment, and control over our world.  How would you describe your relationship with money?

We typically have dreams involving our lifestyle, career/job, relationships, community, and faith. These areas of life are all connected and usually supported by a financial plan that prioritizes and balances income, spending, and savings. Two big questions we should all be answering for ourselves are: (1) What budget do I need to implement to help me achieve my goals, and (2) What financially based behavioral changes do I need to make to create the life I want? If you haven’t seriously thought about these questions in the past, answering them could be an intimidating task.

What is Financial Coaching?

If you need help creating a financial path out of the woods, a coach can be the partner who helps you to see the forest through the trees. Financial coaching is a partnership where clients learn financial skills, increase financial savviness, set goals, shape a financial strategy, and execute an earning/spending plan that helps them achieve both their short- and long-goals. A coach and client co-create the plan and brainstorm ways a client can successfully execute it.

Coaches also support their clients by identifying and fostering behavioral changes that will result in sustainable performance. The client’s money habits and goals need to be aligned and working in concert. Financial coaches keep their clients focused on positive financial behaviors while making allowances for missteps as these new money habits take form.

How Can a Financial Coach Help Me?

You will likely find yourself sharing the financial details of your life under a confidentiality agreement. Your coach will need an accurate picture of your financial situation and an understanding of your current behaviors/thinking that will either support or undermine you from reaching your goals.  You will co-create strategies to address risks that may disrupt your plan.

Coaches monitor your progress, provide feedback, and make referrals as needed. Your financial coach will teach, encourage, support, and challenge you as you strengthen your financial stewardship.

Some clients may be financially savvy on the mechanics and skills of budgeting and long-term planning but only lack discipline.  In this case, a financial coach can still provide value by helping the client: (1) determine underlying sabotaging practices and their causes, (2) identify positive long-term financial behaviors, (3) practice new behaviors until they become more comfortable.

Your Next Decision

No matter what stage of life or age, it’s never too late to pause and decide to live out a new financial plan that excites you and gives you long-term peace of mind.  As someone once shared with me, “It’s ok to be old, and it’s ok to be broke, but it’s a terrible thing to be both old and broke.”  Don’t let lack of financial planning have you regretting your earlier choices.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, life coaching, marriage, and finances.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help people be the best version of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her websites at www.shinecrossings.com and www.shinecrossingsministry.com

The Power of a Simple Thank You Letter

Sandra Dillon: July 22, 2017


pen and paper 1In December 2011, I started an annual tradition to select at least three people who had the most influence on my life that year and to write them a hand-written thank-you letter explaining why they had such an impact.  That year, one of my chosen few was Anthony Spagnoletti, who is the owner of an auto body repair shop in The Woodlands, Texas, who brought me to Christ.  On a Friday afternoon, in June 2011, Anthony changed my life by shooing away his employees and handing off his customers to spend two hours talking to be about God and providing answers to my questions about unexplainable events that were happening in my life.  When I left his office that day, all Anthony knew for sure was that he had sacrificed several hours of his valuable time to have serious conversation about God with a woman whom he had just met hours before.

I never had any contact with Anthony after I left his body shop until he received my letter in December.  Actually, I assumed he received it and hoped that I would hear from him again, even if it was just a thank you for the thank you.  No word!  In April 2012 while driving back home from a weekend in Austin, an email appeared on my iPhone which began with “This letter is long overdue…”  Anthony wanted to let me know that my thank-you letter had made an incredible impact on him and come just at the right time.  He was questioning God and his purpose, and my letter affirmed everything he knew God to be and why he was put on this earth.  I changed Anthony’s life that day with my simple thank-you note.

Wow!  I assumed Anthony would enjoy hearing that his two hours spent with me was worth the investment.  That long-ago Friday night, I thought about everything that we had talked about.  I then slept on it, and the next morning while lying in bed, I prayed “The Prayer” and asked Jesus to be my personal savior.  The Holy Spirit came in a way I cannot explain, and my life was changed forever.  I wanted to thank Anthony for giving me that gift.  What I could not have imagined was that I gave him an almost equal gift in return through the simple gesture of writing a hand-written thank-you note.

I wanted to share this story and encourage you to think about those people in your life who have made a difference.  Next, take the time to write and express your gratitude.  If they left an edible mark on your life, do they not deserve that little bit of your time to put your thanks on paper?  You never know what impact you might make on them in return!

There is a post-script to this story which shows how the impact can live on!  In July 2017, my husband, Darin, returned to Anthony’s body shop to get his rear bumper replaced. Over the course of some chit-chat, Anthony told Darin that my letter sits safely tucked in the Bible he reads every day.  He shared that this letter is the best gift he ever received. My note of thanks is not a one-hit wonder but a lasting legacy for one Godly man. Knowing that my letter continues to have a daily impact inspires me to continue writing those annual thank-you letters and encourage others to do the same.


Reclaim Your Life by Creating Healthy Boundaries

Create Healthy BoundariesDo you feel less joy these days?  Does it feel like everyone else owns a piece of you and there is nothing left?  Do you dream to have 15 minutes of uninterrupted time so you can reconnect with yourself?  Is your life a harried record of accomplishments and yet never-ending to-do lists? Would your personal profile be listed in the dictionary under the word “busyness”?  You may sadly chuckle and infer these questions are tongue-in-cheek, but the reality is that an answer of “yes” to any of these questions is a sobering reminder of how stressed and anxiety-ridden many are as they run, not walk, on the treadmill of American life.  Unfortunately, the solution is not as easy as advertised by the late 1980’s commercial “Calgon, take me away!” in which a woman, surrounded by a chaotic home, says these four words and is then transported to a relaxing bath in a quiet room.  If only the solution could be solved so simply by the purchase of a few bath products and an evening soaking in the tub.

What’s the solution?

The solution is within your power to implement.  Personal boundaries!  They are the critical component in designing the life you want.  “Boundaries provide the structure to your character that will make everything else work” (Cloud, 2008).  Boundaries affect how we relate to others, how we feel emotionally, and how we perform at work.  When you understand the impact of boundaries and choose to define them for your life, you will reconnect with your identity, find more joy, and create a healthier and more satisfying life.  The necessity of personal boundaries has emerged as a counter force to the crisis that has developed from an increasingly structureless society that values the integration of work-life, despite the rhetoric that we need to have more of a work-life balance.  American culture and work have eroded the time and space boundaries we need to focus on the priorities we value most.

How did we get here?

So how did we get to this place of exhaustion and dissatisfaction?  Work structure has changed from the typical 9 to 5 hours of operation to one in which we are to be available 24-7, where working in the evenings is just an extension of the normal work day.  Work has penetrated our home space by either design or creep.  Bortolot (2015) states that the home office is now one of the most important residential amenities.  Even if one can physically separate his work environment within the home, he may not be able to mentally escape work.  How many of you have tried to relax in the evening, only to feel the nag of work penetrating your thoughts?  Do you compromise by opening up your laptop while watching your favorite TV sitcom?  Although society praises the multi-tasker, they are usually pulled in so many directions, they struggle to enjoy anything other than the satisfaction that comes from crossing off more items on their to-do list.  Keim (2012) showed that high multi-taskers performed poorly at filtering irrelevant from relevant information, had diminished ability to mentally organize, and experienced difficulty in switching between tasks.  Keim (2012) concluded if you do two things simultaneously, you will not do any of them at full capacity.

Although our lives have all benefited from technology, the tragedy is that it has also enabled the violation of our time and space boundaries.  Personal cell phones allow access to you at all times.  iPhones and computers give instant access to data and connectivity to work.  Email has expanded our network so strangers can now reach into our personal world.  Although email was initially described as a productivity enhancement, anyone with an email address is now accessible at any time by any one.  Email and voicemail can be blessings, but without personal boundaries, you may feel email is a curse because of the pressure to respond to communication, even if unsolicited.  By definition most people are losing control over their most precious resource—their time.  Money can be earned, won, spent and lost, but time is a finite resource.

TolerateBoundaries help us define who we are and form a structure in our lives that allows us to regain control (Cloud, 2008).  Boundaries protect your time, space, and relationships so that you can positively influence your world. Our society does not naturally provide the support that helps us to create and live out healthy boundaries.   Cloud (2008) asserts that “the irony is that most people are so caught up in trying to control the things they cannot control—other people, circumstances, or outcomes—that in the process they lose control of themselves” (p. 21).  The only thing you can control is yourself, so consider the decision to take control of you.

How do I reclaim my life?

  • Understand what a boundary is and what it does

A boundary is a demarcation of where you end and where someone or something else begins.  Boundaries define ownership and who controls what does and does not go on in that space.  More importantly boundaries define who is responsible for and accountable to protect that space.

  • Understand what boundaries provide and how they serve your needs

Boundaries provide the structure that helps to define our character and personality, because they describe who we are, what we want, and how we feel and think.  Clear boundaries provide security and benefit self and others, because they are not ambiguous, are predictable, and signal what we will and will not tolerate. They help to contain chaos, because one who is clear on boundaries will step in to make sure chaos is effectively dealt with.

  • Define what you feel, think, and desire

Boundaries differentiate us from others and teach us how we are unique individuals in feelings, attitudes, behaviors, limits, thoughts, and choices.  What are the things that you value most in life?  How would you ideally want to live your life?  What do you want to make a priority?  What are your vision, mission, and goals?

  • Identify the holes in your boundaries

Rebuilding boundaries is about reclaiming your power.  Power drains have numerous sources as described by Cloud (2008): need for security, need for approval, need to be perfect, need to have others see you as ideal, need to overidentify with other people’s problems, need to rescue, fear of being alone, fear of conflict, need for harmony, fear of differing opinions, fear of anger, fear of feeling inferior, fear of someone’s power, inability to say no, inability to hear no or accept limits, inability to tolerate failure of others, hero worship, lack of internal structure, and dependency to name a few.  You should identify the holes in your boundaries and address them.

  • Communicate who you are to others

Set limits consistent with your vision, mission, values, and goals and communicate them to others.  You empower others by allowing them to decide and live with the consequences defined by your boundaries.  By default, you will no longer try to control others’ decisions and actions, because you can live with the outcome of whatever decision they make. Communicating and living within your boundaries is a form of respecting others and also provides a healthy model for them to emulate.

  • Act on your boundaries

Live each day in accordance with your boundaries.  When you are in control of your boundaries, you become a more integrated person, gain greater respect for yourself, and become more respectful of other people’s boundaries.  Boundaries allow you to influence others’ behaviors toward you, which by default makes you feel whole and more in control.

What is the cost of boundaries?

Having boundaries comes comes with a personal cost.  In order to have full control, you need to have the freedom to control those aspects of your life where you have boundaries. You can only leverage them if you are not dependent on any single person or entity for survival, because the one to whom you are dependent may decide to invoke their boundaries and put you in an untenable position.  As you work on defining your personal boundaries and areas of weakness, you should also take inventory of your life to understand where you have weak capital.  Has poor financial stewardship put you in a position that you could not weather a job lose for several months should you decide to invoke your boundaries?  Would a work dismissal cause you undue hardship?  If so, you may need to save for an emergency fund to build that capital.  What about the young adult, still living rent-free with his parents, who does not like his imposed curfew?  He is not free to come and go as he pleases as a fully functioning adult, because he may be asked to pack up his belongings and move out.  His first step should be to build his financial capital so he can either re-negotiate rent for more freedom or secure other living arrangements.  Before invoking boundaries, you must end any dependency and be able to live with the boundaries that any other individual may choose to impose on you.

CAUTION:  Establishing boundaries for the first time may come with some emotionally charged responses from others in your life.  You may likely find that those people who have boundaries respect you more, and those people who do not live with boundaries will resort to behaviors that will test the strength of yours.  Think of the parent who has told his toddler no.  Toddlers use the word no to try to establish their boundaries.  When they do not get their way, they step up with more emotional persuasion.  Next may come yelling, screaming, and possibly throwing things to get their way.  They may fall on the floor in a full-blown tantrum.  They may say, “I hate you,” as a means of hurting you into giving in.  When you are firm on your boundaries for long enough, a toddler will eventually wear themselves out and move on.   You may have to repeat this cycle a few times; however, when a toddler knows his parent is firm on a boundary, compliance prevails in the long run.  This same principle also holds true for family, friends, or work relationships.

References

Bortolot, L. (2015). Four trends in home office design. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/248061

Cloud, H. (2008). The one-life solution: Reclaim your personal life while achieving greater professional success. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Keim, B. (2012).  Is multitasking bad for us? Nova Science. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/is-multitasking-bad.html


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a life, premarital/marriage, and business coach with an extensive background in business development and leadership.  She coaches others in how to develop and execute life plans, develop successful businesses, and build better relationships by identifying and living their personal values, enhancing skills and competencies, and being held accountable for executing their defined goals.

The Treasure Map in Navigating Business Cultures


How many times have you wondered whether the person you were talking with really grasped the meaning of your message as well as its intent? What was your response? Did you summarize your point again with the hope that this time they would get your message? Do you look for validation that you’ve been heard correctly? What does it mean when people just politely listen, say nothing, and gently nod their heads while you speak? The answer? It depends on the environment in which the person was culturized.

In this globally-based workforce with intertwined business relationships, the most effective and successful leaders will be culturally savvy. They will first understand their culture, the culture of those with whom they work, and adjust their style with specific strategies to bridge these cultural gaps. Although technology will continue to be an important element shaping the business landscape, those who understand how to successfully influence people across cultures will be valued and highly sought after by companies.

Early in my career, I experienced firsthand being part of American business teams who left negotiations with Asian companies, either questioning how well the meeting went or being overly confident in the outcome based on their own cultural lenses. Only when we returned home did we learn we hadn’t made as much progress as we thought. How can a team or even an experienced business person successfully navigate these international waters?

culture-map-book-coverThe answer lies in reading the treasure map of cultural behaviors, which Erin Meyer spoke about at the 2016 Global Leadership Summit (GLS) at Willow Creek Church. Meyer (2014) has studied business cultures and seen “the sad truth…that the vast majority of managers who conduct business internationally have little understanding about how culture is impacting their work” (Meyer, 2014, p. 10). Meyer concludes that without cultural literacy your default position will be to judge or misjudge others through your own cultural lens and assume that differences, controversy, and misunderstandings are rooted in individual personalities.  The truth? Cultural patterns of belief and behavior frequently impact our perceptions, cognitions, and actions (Meyer, 2014).  In her book The Culture Map, Meyer defines the eight scales that map the world’s cultures and their location on the continuum.

  • Communicating: low-context vs. high-context
  • Evaluating: direct negative feedback vs. indirect negative feedback
  • Persuading: principles-first vs. application-first
  • Leading: egalitarian vs. hierarchical
  • Deciding: consensual vs. top-down
  • Trusting: task-based vs. relationship-based
  • Disagreeing: confrontational vs. avoids confrontation
  • Scheduling: linear-time vs. flexible time

Today we no longer fly to another country to experience different cultures, because diversity sits in the office next door. You may be an American supervisor of an ethnically diverse group whose style reflects the United States Culture Map. Believing in treating everyone equally, you may be left confused when trying to coach each of your team members who come from China, Japan, Asia, and Eurograph-us-culture-mappe. You may wonder whether your coaching is making any impact outside of your circle of American colleagues. Your coaching style is likely straightforward with specific concrete examples (low-context) to back up your feedback couched with soft qualifiers (slightly indirect feedback). You probably sandwich negative feedback between two positives. Your Dutch subordinate expects direct feedback, so he may likely misinterpret the degree and importance of your message as he expects you to be straight forward with any negative criticism. You may feel frustrated at his lack of effort and progress in affecting change. Perhaps, you may even start to stereotype Dutch behaviors based on repeated experiences with that ethnic culture. It’s not uncommon for people to routinely experience a clash or misunderstanding of cultures. If we learn about culture, suspend judgment, and build bridges between these cultures to facilitate trust, communication, and ideas, we would harness the potential of every team member.

Giving and receiving negative feedback is a necessary component of business but sometimes riddled with insecurity for both the giver and receiver. How should constructive criticism be given and taken? How should feedback be delivered to get the best result? How much feedback is lost in translation? How do the words absolutely, strongly, kind of, and sort of play out when delivering criticism? The answer depends on the culturalization of the giver and receiver. Certain phrases and qualifiers have different meanings. Take for example a British colleague providing feedback to his Dutch counterpart. He says, “Please think about that some more,” implying “That’s a bad idea.” A Dutch or German colleague, who expects and is comfortable with direct negative feedback, would likely interpret that as “It’s a good idea.  Keep developing it.”

culture-map-tableIn business etiquette classes, we are instructed on the ceremonies which demonstrate respect. In Japanese business culture, it’s customary to exchange small gifts with visitors and present a business card with both hands towards the receiver who respectfully reads it upon presentation versus immediately putting it into his portfolio. Americans easily embrace these cultural mannerisms but fail to realize how communication and language may be used differently.

Frequently in my coaching practice, I reference scales ranging from 1 to 10.  Regardless of the attribute measured, when an issue between two people is greater than 2 units apart anywhere on this scale, the two parties will need concentrated effort to resolve their differences. Meyer (2014) confirms my informal conclusion when she states that “what matters is not the absolute position of either culture on the scale but rather the relative position of the two cultures” (p. 22). Relative positioning determines how people will view each other.

Meyer’s (2014) first piece of advice when interacting with someone from another culture is to “listen before you speak and learn before you act” (p. 27). Understand how culture will impact the conversation.  For example, the United States is the lowest context culture with Japan having the highest context in its communication. In simplest terms, the people culturized in America tend to communicate literally and explicitly. They value clarity and place accountability of the intended message on the communicator to accurately convey the meaning of the message (Meyer, 2014). On the other extreme, Asian cultures often convey messages implicitly which requires the listener to read between the lines. Good communication is layered and subtle, and the responsibility of its accurate transmission is shared between the sender and receiver. The Japanese have been culturalized over many generations to become skilled at “reading the atmosphere.”

I find it humorous that education can further exacerbate the cultural divide, by moving people more towards the extreme version of their dominant culture. Highly educated Americans are taught and encouraged to communicate more effectively in writing and orally and to take more responsibility for the messages they send. American leaders are typically rewarded for having and implementing the answers within their organizations. On the other hand, Japanese leaders are listening more to what is meant as opposed to what is said.  In my informal survey of American and Japanese business people attending a meeting, I find that at least 75% of the words spoken are by the Americans and 25% by the Japanese. The Japanese typically spend more time reflecting and reading body language and other non-verbal clues. When they do speak it typically includes more clarifying questions. Many times, my American colleagues have misinterpreted the meaning of a nod, assuming their Japanese counterparts are in agreement. In truth, head nodding is more confirmation of being heard.

In decades past, businesses have been helped by having teams take the Myers Brigg Type Indicator (MBTI) (www.myersbriggs.org) and participate in team-building exercises to understand how team members prefer to communicate, process ideas, handle data, and make decisions. These business teams were more homogenized in culture, but today’s global business environment demands everyone to be equipped with a new set of skills that embrace diversity in the workplace. Meyer (2014) delves deeper into communication and evaluating than what I can do justice and also takes the reader through a journey to explore other important cultural attributes. Understanding, respecting, and working with the deep roots of various cultures will forge and strengthen relationships and performance. Culturally diverse teams will continue to populate the business landscape and every leader would benefit from learning more about cultural diversity and its impact on business success.

Reference

Meyer, E. (2014). The culture map: Breaking through the invisible boundaries of global business.   New York, NY: Published Affairs. ISBN: 978-1-61039-250-1.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a business and life coach with an extensive background in business development and leadership.  She partners with clients to help them develop and grow successful businesses.  She also works with individuals to create their life plans and build better relationships by identifying and living out their personal values, enhancing their skills and competencies, and holding them accountable to execute their defined goals.   Sandra welcomes comments, questions, and feedback at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com.

To Judge or Not to Judge?

cropped-shinecrossings_mainlogo.pngWho likes to judge or be the judge?  How often do you find yourself judging?  To whatever frequency you just admitted, I bet if you thoughtfully played back those daily rituals in your mind, you would surprise yourself in how much more judging you do than first thought.  You probably judge the taste of your cup of java (“ah, so good” or “ugh, that’s bitter”), your reflection back in the morning mirror (“yikes, look at those bags and dark circles under my eyes”), and those other drivers on the road (“pay attention, what an idiot”).  What are some of your thoughts when you arrive at work?  How about the casual assessment of your colleague’s work (“that sucks, he should have been fired a long time ago”), the choice of your coworker’s attire (“what was she thinking”), and how about the leadership of your boss (“I could do better with half a brain”).   Some of these judgments may be extreme, but you have to admit not uncommon.  As humans we are so quick to judge without much thought, as if our judgment is fed from our five senses fueling our emotions which override our thinking brain, and in some cases, just barely stops at the tip of our tongues.  How did it hear, look, taste, smell and feel?  Did our ability to make quick judgment stem from our humanistic need for survival—the ability to make a quick threat assessment and spring into action to protect ourselves and ensure our safety.  God made humans with this beautiful part of the brain called the “pre-frontal cortex” which gives us some incredible abilities that surpass all other living creatures on earth.  Our pre-frontal cortex gifts us with the ability not to act on impulse or innate reflexes but to use reason and logic in assessing our living situations.  So why don’t we seem use it more?  Why is it so easy for us to pass judgment with hardly giving it a second thought?  Could it be that we have not been burned badly enough by our quick conclusions to exert more cortex capacity?  Humans can be conditioned!

So what does it feel like to be judged?  When I ask this question, I am sure you can immediately conjure up a few examples that bring a twinge of pain even today after many years.  Are you having a bit of an emotional rise?  Unpleasant at best, maybe a bit angry at worst.   As you dwell on some of these painful memories, some thoughts you may have are “but I just didn’t have a choice,” “I was young, stupid and didn’t get any slack,” and “if only they could walk in my shoes they would understand why I did what I did.”  You may be right.  If I walked in your shoes at that moment, I may have done exactly what you did and have more compassion for you today.   You were judged, convicted and sentenced!  Welcome to prison!  You may not be incarcerated, but you are still a prisoner in your own mind.  You cannot erase that memory or pain of how you were judged.  Perhaps you feel you served your sentence by making amends, but why does it feel like the punishment is still life imprisonment?   Being on the receiving end of judgment can be painful and leave scars for a lifetime.  So if we can agree that being judged is unpleasant at best, why do we continue to give out what we hate to receive?

Let me clarify one point that typically comes into the discussion on judgment.  Many people use discernment and judgment interchangeably, especially in the Christian world.  Aren’t those the same?  Not exactly.  Discernment assesses value and typically leads to action whereas judgment just labels.  Discernment is wisdom and understanding whereas judgment is an assessment of right or wrong, good versus bad.  You can have discernment that a situation is unsafe, then take appropriate action to ensure your safety.  Judgment would describe a situation as unsafe but not necessarily imply action.  As humans we need discernment, but judgment does not serve ourselves or others as well.  Remember that old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  Not true!  Hurtful, judgmental words cut deeper than any knife could, and many of those internal wounds may never heal.  How many kids on the playground may have shouted those words in return to judgmental statements such as “You can’t hit the ball.  I don’t want you on my team,” or  “You’re wearing flood pants, did you borrow them from your baby brother?” Yes, I was a victim then.  I now know that those cruel words left the mouth of babes because their immature pre-frontal cortex, yet you know, as  a teacher supervising that playground, you might have thought those same words.  Of course, you kept your mouth shut. If everyone understood the eternal, faithful love that God has for us, no one would be able to hurt us with words or actions, because we would understand that our identity and self-worth only reside in our loving God.  Unfortunately, we do not live in this perfect world; therefore, work, possessions and human relationships have a heavy influence on people’s sense of self-worth and ability to feel loved and valued.

I will stipulate that judgment and subsequent consequences are completely appropriate and necessary in our law system.  However, I will be honest that my heart breaks for those who have made mistakes, served their prison sentence, but have walls to climb in order to integrate back into community despite their deep desire to contribute to society.  In the best of circumstances, think about those adults who have been convicted of a minor “F”elony, never harmed another individual, and only served probation.  I have one of those friends who was convicted of drug possession, sentenced to probation for his first offense, but has to wear the “F” on his shirt like a scarlet letter.  With his felony status he cannot live in any apartment complex, has few job opportunities, and is constantly judged unworthy.  He is trying to do better but the system and community are both intentionally and unintentionally working against him.  Sometimes the difference between a felony is only one person getting caught and the other not.   We are all human, have weakness and possible addictions.  Maybe he had too much dependence on marijuana which got him into trouble. Addiction is addiction and can manifest itself differently with each individual.  Hoarding, alcohol, food, spending money, exercise and pornography can all become addictions if the behavior is taken to extreme, yet we typically judge people who have these additions differently.  Why?  Because those addictions happen to be legal, whereas in most states marijuana is still illegal.

Can we not have more compassion for those who are trying to help themselves in the moment?  Can we stop labeling people as good or bad and start labeling people as hurt and in need or healthy and blessed?  My heart hurts for those who are suffering under the heavy weight of judgment.  I cannot change the world, but I can call it out with the hope that people will have greater pause and hopefully more awareness of their judgment.  Instead of judging, why not lend a helping hand, or extend a kind word or gesture.  Lift a human brother or sister up with words of affirmation versus tearing them down.  But you may say, “I don’t say anything.  I keep my thoughts to myself.  My thoughts can’t hurt anyone.”  I would disagree; those negative thoughts are carried in your body language and manifest themselves in choices of behavior towards others whether you are conscious of it or not.

And for those of you who made it to this point and thought, “Isn’t she judging?”  My reply is, “Yes I am! I admit it. I’m judging with a purpose.”   Am I suggesting that as humans we will suspend all judgment?  Of course not, we all fall short of perfection.  As sinners we can only challenge ourselves to do better!  We should take the plank out of our own eye, before trying to remove the speck out of our brother’s, as our own sin blinds us to the truth of the situation.  My hope is you will be more thoughtful every time you catch yourself judging.   Might this be one of those times where you make a different assessment or choice and change a life with words of encouragement or actions of a loving hand up?  I pray that you do!  I leave you with this final thought:  Your judgment may say more about you than it does about the person you judge!