MINDFUL TIPS TO KEEP THE PEACE DURING POLITICAL DISCUSSIONS
Kerry Wekelo, Chief Operating Officer, Actualize Consulting
Two contentious subjects to broach in conversation are politics and religion – unless both parties are in total agreement, discussions can get heated. We are taught that in order to preserve relationships, both personal and professional, we should stay quiet about our political and religious leanings. However, after the divisive 2020 election, it is only natural (and human nature) that political discussions and the like are showing up at work and at your holiday dinner table.
This makes for an interesting dilemma – where do we draw the line to choose how and with whom to have our political discussions? For work, the reasons to avoid such a controversial topic are clear: legal concerns, workplace distraction, team division, and an uncomfortable working environment should all be considered. At home and with family, that line is a bit less clear… but it is important to set the boundaries needed for your personal health. Here are 8 ways to stay mindful in stressful or divisive discussions.
1) Pivot the conversation:
At work: Shift to a work-related topic. For example, if someone raises the topic, you might say, “I hear you. It’s a different time than many of us have experienced before.” Pause. “I wanted to talk to you about our upcoming deadline and what we need to do to complete everything in time.” Or “Yes, I understand. I’m sorry to interrupt you...I have a task I need to complete and focus on right now.”
At home: Shift back to positive family matters. “I see what you’re saying.” Pause. “Did you hear about *insert family member and their accomplishment.*
2) Acknowledge tensions as they arise: If a heated political discussion begins, interrupt and say, “Uh oh, things are getting a little tense here. How about we take a break from politics for a while?”
3) Limit conversation engagement. When a conversation turns to politics, excuse yourself to use the restroom, grab some water, or walk around the office.
4) Relate. Stick to neutral observations and impartial comments. “We can agree this scenario is difficult to comprehend on both sides.” Or “I think we can agree this topic is debatable.” These phrases help the other person feel heard without you personally stating your opinion or political preferences.
5) Smile and nod. Saying nothing and listening -- genuinely, with curiosity -- is a sure way to stay in a safe conversation space. After a few minutes, you can politely excuse yourself by lightly saying, “Ok, time for me to get back to work/other task.”
6) Honor your own boundaries. Set the intention to not engage in political discussions; simply say “I’ve decided not to have political conversations right now. Let’s give ourselves a break to focus on something else for a while.”
7) Show respect. Even if you disagree, be respectful. Never attack someone’s opposing views – we each have a unique life experience that shapes our perspective. Being kind is much more important than trying to convince someone you are right. If, at home and with close friends or family (not the workplace), you do wish to share your views, do so in a gentle, non-attacking manner.
8) Pause and Take a Breath: We’ve all been in situations where we start to tense up – our heart races, our chest tightens, and fight-or-flight kicks in. Instead of biting back, try to center yourself in the moment. Take a deep breath to physically feel a difference.
To limit the impact of the current political landscape’s negativity, try to focus on the areas that matter most to you, and choose carefully when and where you step into the political sea. It’s probably best to keep debatable subjects to a close group of friends instead, especially if you know things may turn ugly.
An old fable to call upon is the one that encourages us to ask ourselves three important questions before we speak: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Let’s all take that filter to our political conversations at work and beyond.
In this session Kerry Wekelo, Chief Operating Officer at Actualize Consulting shares her six guiding principles on managing a remote workforce including the use of technology, effective communication, engaging remote workers and work/life balance strategies. These tried-and-true principles will help you and your team thrive personally and professionally. Watch the Webinar here.
Theresa Santoro, Director of Operations & Human Resources, Actualize Consulting
Remote working is now an essential part of doing business, and many companies are seeing that it can be a productive and viable option. According to an SHRM survey, 71% of employers are adjusting to remote work. A Flex Jobs survey states 66% of employees would prefer to continue working remotely full time, and 33% are hoping for an in-office and remote working combination. We at Actualize Consulting recognize the difficulty of adjusting to less face-face interaction and the importance of wellness. As part of our wellness focus, we share tips for staying healthy both physically and emotionally while working from home.
Here are some of the tips we have shared:
About Actualize Consulting: Our advisors assess the current state of your financial functions and provide future state transformation. Our strength is our global experience, execution, modernization, and dedication to your success story. If you are interested in joining our team, please visit our careers page.
HOW TO SHIFT YOUR MINDSET FROM NEGATIVE TO POSITIVE
Kerry Wekelo, COO, Actualize Consulting
Negative thoughts are inevitable – and if I were a betting person, I would imagine 2020 has also been an incredibly challenging time for you. For me, this year has been one for the records in challenging times. Even my beloved hometown of Staunton, VA flooded. I have been called many names while trying to maintain a positive outlook. Some people have referred to me as “hippie-dippy,” “lofty,” and “fluffy.” Instead of dwelling on others and their negative words, I have to say, “ouch,” and move on with a positive mindset. How do you go from negative to positive thoughts? Here are some things that may help you Pause to Pivot to the Positive.
1. Remember the Negativity Bias. “The negativity bias is our tendency not only to register negative stimuli more readily but also to dwell on these events. Also known as positive-negative asymmetry, this negativity bias means that we feel the sting of a rebuke more powerfully than we feel the joy of praise.” Simply stated, if you receive 9 compliments and 1 negative comment, you will focus on the negative comment.
2. Pause to Allow Your Feelings. In my 3P Method of Pause to Pivot to a Positive, I find this step the most important. If you sweep your feelings under a rug, they will fester to the surface. Sit with how you are feeling for as long as you need.
3. Find Gratitude. An easy practice is to ground yourself in gratitude for an occurrence in your day. For example, try an affirmation like, “I am healthy.” It can be that simple.
4. Lift Your Spirits. What are activities that you enjoy? Keep busy with those types of actions. When I am feeling negative emotion, taking a walk or run is the quickest way to shift my mindset. For others, it may be listening to your favorite song. Reflect on what you enjoy doing that you can add to your routine.
5. Avoid Triggers. Minimizing contact with negative people and media sources can aid your sanity.
6. Get Rest. Lack of sleep greatly affects your mood and could cause you to be more anxious or irritable.
7. Pivot. This is the most difficult step. How can you move to a positive resolution or what is the lesson learned? Employing this mindset enables you to more quickly shift to the positive.
8. Use Positive Self-Talk. When you are in the tunnel of negativity, it can be very hard to see the light on the other side. Use phrases like these to give yourself a pep talk and act as a flashlight:
a. “This is tough, but so am I.”
b. “Everything will be better sooner or later.”
c. “I can handle this!”
Learning how to re-train your brain to think more positively takes devotion. Using any of these tips will help save time and energy by focusing on moving forward - especially knowing that negative thoughts have more of an impact on the brain. Great things happen once you are able to shift your mindset.
Lori Lite, Manager of Marketing and Communications, Actualize Consulting
At Actualize Consulting, we are always trying our best to stay connected and healthy. Recently, we held a week-long wellness discussion on mindfulness. Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Most people think of being mindful through meditation or breathing, but you can be fully present during many activities we take for granted – like eating and walking.
Here are 5 ways you can tune into mindfulness:
How many times do you eat while you are doing another activity, like working on the computer? Being present can aid with digestion, helping break down food and absorb more nutrients. Today be fully present while you are eating - do not think of the past or future. Just focus all of your attention on your meal. How does it look, feel, and taste? Are you chewing quickly or slowly? Treat yourself to paying attention to what you are eating, and to heighten your awareness, watch this short visualization from Actualize COO Kerry Wekelo on nourishing our bodies.
2. Feeling the Wave:
Sometimes we think we are relaxing because our bodies are resting, but our minds are still working overtime. It is easier to replace your mental to-do list with an image than to empty your mind of all thoughts. Try this exercise to stop the brain chatter:
Consciously picture a gentle ocean wave rolling in from one side of your brain to the other, just as it does on a quiet day at the beach. This will clear your mind to experience relaxation. This same technique can be applied to your whole body. To heighten your relaxation experience, enjoy this video of soft waves from Corsican Plage de Villata Beach in the background.
3. Walking Meditation:
Many of us are increasing our walking and exercise during the pandemic, but are you fully present? On your next walk, instead of thinking of the destination or how fast you are going, put your focus on each step. Be aware of your foot as your heel first makes contact with the ground. Now, focus on how your foot rolls over the earth, ending with your toes stretching as they lift into the air behind you. Do this with each step. For your convenience, Berkeley University put together a PDF download on how to do a walking meditation.
Often, we think of self-care or nurturing a child, which is crucial because it is a basic human need to survive and thrive. But nurturing can go beyond hugging a child or treating yourself to massage. I challenge you to contemplate the “feeling” of nurturing and see how it can expand beyond your own needs and personal bubble. How can you approach a project, client, co-worker, or activity by being mindful of nurturing? How about writing a client, friend, or mentor a letter? This video is helpful and will guide you through the process of expanding nurturing.
Liming away the day is the Caribbean practice of just “being” instead of “doing.” Instead of being permanently busy, take a break by humming a song, reading something light, or watching the clouds go by. In other words, Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Start right now by listening and humming along with Bob Marley.
Mindfulness is one of the best ways to reduce stress and worry; when you are present, you cannot worry about the future or regret the past. By putting your focus on the here and now, you can more fully participate in your life as it unfolds. Instead of looking at being mindful as a chore, approach it as a game where you look for unusual moments to apply it. I’d love to know – how do you put your twist on mindfulness?
Maddie Yaskowski, Senior Consultant, Actualize Consulting
Have you ever seen or heard something for the first time, and suddenly you begin to see and hear it everywhere? Maybe you just learned a new word and suddenly it seems like everyone is using it. Maybe it’s a song that you heard in your Spotify discover playlist that now seems to be playing everywhere you go. It can seem uncanny, but it’s definitely no coincidence. Actually, it’s something called a frequency illusion or the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. Once you become aware of something, your brain tends to notice it more.
Arnold Swicky, Professor of Linguistics at Stanford University, cites that this phenomenon is a product of our selective attention and our confirmation bias. Once our brain knows to look for something, it will find it. So how can this help us in our life and career?
1. It can help you reach your goals: Setting clear intentions can help you find your path. If you have a clear end in mind, any move you make towards that goal will reinforce your vision. I recently have been challenging myself to come up with at least one new idea a week at work. At first, I found it really hard to come up with anything... But with practice, I trained myself to become aware of inspiration – and it’s everywhere. Now, it seems, I have new ideas every day.
2. It can help you stay positive: Have you ever had a bad experience and the whole day seems to go wrong from then on? This might be this phenomenon at play. As you focus in on the bad, suddenly that’s all you see. Strive to look for the positives and you will find that there’s a lot more than you initially thought. One 2017 study asked participants to write gratitude letters over the course of twelve weeks and found that the more participants wrote, the happier they were. Their overall mental health improved considerably by the end of the study, even when compared to the 4-week mark. As they looked for the good in their life, they found it!
3. It can change the way you look at marketing: Consumers can’t buy your service if they don’t know it exists. This phenomenon suggests that the most important part of marketing is grabbing your audience’s attention so that they are aware of your brand – and then they may begin to notice a need that you can fill. It’s true that there are other pieces to the marketing puzzle like building a brand identity, storytelling, and creating genuine, useful content. But above all, be sure to use key words and eye-catching language. At Actualize, we foster brand recognition by establishing ourselves as an expert in our field. We stay on top of the latest trends by sharing our knowledge through writing articles and leading discussions and webinar events, all of which help to get our name out there.
Have you noticed this phenomenon at play in your life? How else can it help you at work or at home?
LEADERSHIP AND GRATITUDE - INTERVIEW WITH KERRY WEKELO
Gratitude—real gratitude, not the saccharine “too blessed to be stressed” meme mantra—has the power to revolutionize your leadership and your influence. In this interview with Chief Operating Officer Kerry Wekelo, you’ll get practical ways you can cultivate gratitude in your own life, inspire your team, and even your customers. In the last segments, we get down to the grit of gratitude and how it can change your life and the lives you touch every day.
Listen to the podcast here
Connect with Kerry on LinkedIn
Get Kerry’s book: Gratitude Infusion
Steve chats with Kerry Wekelo, COO, Actualize Consulting the 9 steps to improve culture. They talk about how Kerry took on this project to help her own company and how then it turned into a program that Actualize Consulting uses to help other companies.
Watch podcast here
Connect with Kerry: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kerryelam/
Connect with Steve: https://www.linkedin.com/in/steve-watson-cpa/
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