12 Resolutions for 2020
- Think about feelings. Watch others and process their feelings. Begin to be able to feel their feelings
Emotional intelligence begins with what is called self and social awareness, the ability to recognise emotions (and their impact) in both yourself and others.
This has to start with self-awareness. Are you aware that you point your finger at people when you talk (and that they hate this, so have stopped listening)?
Are you aware that you upset people and seem to not notice their upset?
Are you aware people avoid you because of your negative energy, whilst others attract them due to their positive energy?
Look inwardly at your body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and be precise and measured in your speech.
How you behave every second of the day is who you are. Who you are determines how the world and other people treat you.
People behave towards you because of you. Look at yourself and ask if you like the way people are towards you, the way patients are, their willingness to trust and invest in you. If you don’t like others’ manner to you, recognise and accept it’s almost entirely because of your behaviour.
The good news is their manner and disposition towards you can be upgraded by your behaviour too.
Start with you. Then move on to the rest of the world. Think hard on your body, face, voice and words. They matter. A lot. In fact, it’s all you are to everyone else. Your body, face, voice and words. These make up your actions.
Your awareness begins with reflection. Ask questions like:
- What are my emotional strengths? What are my weaknesses?
- How does my current mood affect my thoughts and decision making?
- What’s going on under the surface that influences what others say or do?
- How do I make other people feel when I engage with them? If you don’t know the answer to this question, or if for even a fleeting moment you think it doesn’t matter, then you have plenty of work ahead.
Pondering questions like these yield valuable insights that are the first path to emotional intelligence upgrades.
- Understand the energy you are putting out. Don’t be afraid to pause.
Do you induce calm and relaxation in others, or are they on edge and unsettled? Are they tolerating you rather than engaging with you?
The pause is as simple as taking a moment to stop and think before you speak or act. (Easy in theory, difficult in practice.) This can help save you from embarrassing moments or from making commitments too quickly.
In other words, pausing helps you refrain from making a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion. It gives a moment extra to anticipate the effect your next words/actions may have. It may give you time to realise your face and message are not congruent and so you seem inauthentic (this is a nice way of saying you are coming across as either weird or dishonest – you choose which…or don’t do it).
The fastest pathway specifically for emotional energy exchanges always has been and always will be via eye contact.
Eye to eye engagement is a form of interpersonal connection which supersedes all others. To intimidate you stare, to seduce you smoulder, to connect you look at, and to ensure your attention is being given as promised you offer eye contact. Eye contact is for active listening and for positive energy exchange. Commit to developing appropriate eye contact. This doesn’t mean staring like a lion hunting a baby impala. Don’t be scary, just be calm and don’t overthink it. Just look.
- Strive to control your thoughts.
You don’t have much control over the emotion you experience in a given moment. But you can control your reaction to those emotions – by focusing on your thoughts. (As it’s been said: You can’t prevent a bird from landing on your head, but you can keep it from building a nest.)
By striving to control your thoughts, you resist becoming a slave to your emotions, allowing yourself to live in a way that’s in harmony with your goals and values.
This is probably best described with examples. Imagine you are insecure and take slights to heart. The practice you work in has just had some investment and is shiny and new. A patient walks in and says, “Huh, that’s what my money buys is it– alright for you rich dentists!”
Now in reality you are not terribly well off. You still look forward to payday and this guy’s words have hurt you. Your emotions are anger, embarrassment, a sense of injustice and, due to the fact that you now need to also treat him… well, I expect you feel resentful.
You cannot help feeling these emotions. But now think. Was he trying to be funny? Was he trying to make conversation? I expect you are younger, better looking and have much better prospects. Guess what? His emotions of envy and shame made him scared, so he blurted out something infantile and vulgar. He did what you are now trying to not do.
How to respond? We ask our delegates to practise these conversations out loud. Practise the difficult, unexpected and challenging ones. Can I have a discount? Why are you so expensive? Is there someone more experienced I should see?
Answer these out loud. We do it with you. Your brain is so wonderfully neuroplastic, and every time you practise these conversations new pathways to your answers grow. You become more erudite, more articulate and calmer (calmer because you have already simulated the stress response in your head so its real-life impact is minimised). You should practise the difficult, horrible conversations as well as the positive.
We all accept in life that practice makes perfect but, bewilderingly, we want to learn how to speak and respond, and discuss things well, but put in precisely zero practice. Crazy. We will help with this, I promise!
Working out the patient’s emotions and feelings, and thence responding with well-thought-out answers will always be more productive than blurting out a you-hurt-me emotional response every time.
- Learn to benefit from criticism.
Nobody enjoys negative feedback. But it is potentially very useful. The trouble is negative feedback, rather than being seen as a useful opportunity to learn and improve, is often perceived as an attack. What do you do when attacked?Obviously, you defend.
Your defence is unwarranted, bizarre and shuts down any opportunity you may have in the future for seeking feedback from this source. You may defend by actually attacking back, which is a sure way to shut down all lines of communication.
Don’t get me wrong. If you are being actually attacked, do actually defend yourself. But, become discerning about other people’s intents. Are they actually trying to help or is it just an attack? Process their intent before you react to the message. Criticism is a chance to learn, even if it’s not delivered in the best way. And even when it’s unfounded, it gives you a window into how others think. You can think on their motives and maybe even ask them.
Very sensitive and insecure people will often find normal conversational sound bites feel like an attack. Normal observations feel like an attack, so without thinking they defend themselves. This negative behaviour is incredibly exhausting to be around.
When you receive negative feedback, keep your emotions in check and ask yourself: How can this make me better? If it’s authentic, then this is an opportunity?
- Be authentic. Find the real you and be that person.
Authenticity doesn’t mean sharing everything about yourself, to everyone, all of the time. It does mean saying what you mean, meaning what you say, and sticking to your values and principles above all else.
Being true to yourself and not who you think you ought to be makes you real. People know where they are with you and find it much easier to trust you. Through micro facial expressions, body language and tone of voice, inauthentic messages show through. We feel uneasy and unsettled when the words don’t align with what our subconscious is telling us.
Don’t be the dentist who pays inauthentic lip service to patient care. Be in touch with your ‘true North’ and the real you. Settle into the real you and accept who you are. There may be parts you wish to upgrade – we will help with this, BTW (let me know if you want some testimonies on this) – but be the true you.
This isn’t carte blanche to be rude and hurtful, as that isn’t the real you. Be erudite, be honest, be authentic and be polite.
Not everyone will appreciate your sharing your thoughts and feelings. But the ones who matter will.
- Develop empathy.
Empathy doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with another person’s point of view. Rather, it’s about striving to understand – which allows you to build deeper, more connected relationships.
The ability to show empathy – which includes understanding others’ thoughts and feelings – helps you connect with others. Instead of judging or labelling others, you work hard to see things through their eyes.
There is so much to expand on with empathy that this Resolution slot wouldn’t do it justice. Just know that empathy is like all normally distributed assets. Some people sit at the far left of the curve and are so low in empathy that they can’t remotely understand the concept of feeling what others feel.
They cannot conceptualise how deep empathy works and it seems like magic. Opaque, inexplicable and out of reach. These people can learn, however. My professor at MIT has carried out incredible research which demonstrates this reproducibly. It staggers me.
At the other far end of the bell curve, are the truly deep empaths. They can be crippled by their innate sharing of other people’s pain.
Let’s come back to this another time.
- Praise others.
All humans crave acknowledgement and appreciation. It’s why you post selfies – your awards – your upgraded flights – your cars – your pouts – your meals – your hotels – your composites – your gym effort and, above all else, your charity work.
To be fair, none of us are immune to enjoying praise. In fact – confession time – it’s my language of love (Book Reference here). I don’t need flashy cars or people to wait on me. A few words of recognition from my wife, delegates taking the time to tell what a difference Aspire has truly made to them…that’s like nuclear-powered rocket fuel to the warp engines as I jump to light speed…to me.
So, accepting everybody loves positive inputs, when you commend others, you satisfy their craving and build trust in the dental process.
This all begins when you focus on the good in others. Then, by sharing specifically what you appreciate, you inspire them to be the best version of themselves. I do this all the time as I recognise how powerful this can be. The key is to mean it. Relating to Resolution 5 above, fake praise is awful and creepy, I actually think it smells. Like an actual smell.
Real, honest, authentic positive feedback is lovely and probably well-deserved. Give it and share the love!!
- Learn to give helpful feedback.
Become verbally adept enough and empathic enough to give negative feedback and criticism to others in a way that makes them energised and positive. You can ONLY learn to do this by practising out loud.
It needs no debate to realise that giving negative reports to others can be demotivating and demoralising for them. So, if you have to do it, you need to minimise that emotional response and get the best out of them. This is especially important if they are sensitive to such things.
The most powerful emotions we experience are those of self-identity. Its why if you call a lady a wimp it’s less of an insult than the same slur to a man. He probably wants to identify as someone strong. It’s why parents will often prioritise being a ‘good’ parent as their number-one role in life. How we perceive ourselves and, more importantly, how we want the world to perceive us is vital. So, when part of it openly states they perceive us as ‘not good enough’ it can be hurtful.
Instead create a projected vision of themselves, how they could be if they adopt a particular habit.
Example: For a periodontally susceptible patient who is apathetic about oral hygiene:
“Do you prefer to perceive yourself as someone who has natural teeth, or do you think of yourself as someone who has dentures, plastic teeth that come in and out? Because both versions of you can be possible, and I want to best support you as how you like to think of yourself. If you prefer to think of yourself as a person who has lovely strong teeth and gums, can eat in comfort and with confidence then I can show you what you need to do to be that person. You just need to remove this plaque here like this. If you prefer to not think of yourself that way, and don’t mind losing teeth and being that person who has gaps, then that’s okay too.”
“You don’t clean your teeth well enough; this can result in bad breath, make your teeth fall out, and you need to do better.”
To take advice from someone is to agree to be influenced by them. Sometimes when people don’t take advice, they’re rejecting the idea of being controlled by the advice-giver, more than anything.
People tend to go along with advice if it was costly to attain and the task is difficult (think: your accountant calculating your tax return). Advice is also more likely to be taken if the person offering counsel is more experienced and expresses extreme confidence in the quality of the advice (doctors recommending a treatment, for example). Emotion plays a role, too: Decision makers are more likely to disregard advice if they feel certain about what they’re going to do. An emotional response can easily trump a rational, reasoned decision.
Be precise in your words and make them sensitive to the recipient.
- You apologise.
It takes strength and courage to be able to say you’re sorry. But doing so demonstrates humility, a quality that will naturally draw others to you.
Emotional intelligence helps you realise that apologising doesn’t always mean you’re wrong. It does mean valuing your relationship more than your ego.
And please don’t cop out. Saying ‘I’d like to apologise’ is a half-arsed apology. Saying ‘For that, I am truly sorry’ contains the magic ‘S’ word, and said with conviction, authenticity, with eye to eye contact, takes strength but is incredibly important and powerful.
I apologise if I need to and I make sure the recipient knows I mean it. When someone says to me ‘I’d like to apologise’ I typically respond ‘Okay, mate, go ahead.’
- You are capable of forgiving and to consider forgetting.
Hanging on to resentment is like leaving a knife inside a wound. While the offending party moves on with their life, you never give yourself the chance to heal.
Actually, I think this resolution is a big one and taps into our ability to be the masters of our own destiny. If you are defined by your resentment or your victim status, it becomes all you are. It becomes you. Becomes how others think of you.
The most pernicious manifesto of this is learned helplessness. This occurs when an individual continuously faces a negative situation but stops trying to change their circumstances, even when they have the ability to do so.
For example, a smoker may repeatedly try and fail to quit. He may grow frustrated and come to believe that nothing he does will help and therefore stops trying altogether. Discovering the loss of control essentially elicits a passive response to the harmful situation. If your business didn’t succeed, it’s easier to blame the recession or other people’s bad buying choices instead of owning the failure as yours, and upgrading next time.
Learned helplessness typically manifests as a lack of self-esteem, low motivation and persistence, the conviction of being inept, and failure. People can push back against learned helplessness by practising independence and by cultivating resilience, self-worth, and self-compassion. Engaging in activities that restore self-control can also be valuable.
You can learn to become the master of your thoughts and choices. I’ll use myself as an example.
I have zealously removed, eliminated, and cut out anything and everything that I feel wastes a second of my life. I am often asked ‘How do you find the time? I don’t find time. No-one ever will. I just don’t waste any.
I wrote this whilst you were choosing your next box set to watch. I chose to create rather than consume.
I try to build freedom to do anything; I also have freedom to do nothing. Everything is purposeful, and what is not purposeful is purposefully pointless.
That is what I have worked to create for myself. It took me all of my life to date, and I put effort into it to maintain it.
I am not claiming I have luxuriant financial abundance. Far from it. I need to work, but it’s a choice I have intentionally made.
We all desire freedom. You want to be free to be who you want to be. You want to be free to do the things you want to do. You want to be free to be able to express yourself and create for yourself and not be constrained by outside forces, the UDA system, the principal, your mortgage and debts. We all want freedom.
You want to be released from people you’d rather not deal with, limits you wish you didn’t have to respect, obligations and contracts that you’d rather drop.
Everybody dreams of a life in which they live for themselves and in which they can be most true to themselves. This isn’t easy to achieve, but it is possible.
This principle that makes it possible is a mindset, and method, and most of all, a decision. This principle is sovereign over all others.
Everything that you are is Your Responsibility. This is the polar opposite to learned helplessness.
I write it harshly, as reality and truth can be harsh. When I internalised it, I was not just enjoying ownership of my victories but also I began accepting responsibility for my faults.
The only way to change your lingering doubts, your anger and resentment, your need to be the victim, is to believe that you can. That you are capable. Capability is the opposite of helplessness.
To accept and decide that I have power: Everything I do, everything I have, everything that I am, it is because of me…it is the best decision I ever made for myself.
If you are at fault for your life, you have the power to change it. You have the power to destroy, to create, to construct, to produce, to consume.
You are the God in your own world. You must believe that. You are not God of the world; but within your own reality, you are God-like. You decide the terms of reality.
If you want a life in which you are free, then you must make a decision.
Be Helpless or Be Capable
Am I in control of my life? Yes or no?
If you are, then you can have any kind of life you want.
If you are not, then you won’t.
That is how that goes.
Control is polar. You either possess it or you do not. And understand that in asserting your control over your life, that does not mean that you have control of everything that will ever come to pass through it. The essential tragedies of life will still occur, and one day our meeting will be our last…but not today.
You do not have control over other people. You can control your influence over them and the impact they have on you. You do not have absolute control over all forces. You do not have control over the minds and thoughts of others. You do not have control of the infinite elements outside your control.
But you possess absolute control within the boundary of yourself, your mind, your spirit, your soul, your body, your form, your thoughts, your feelings, your actions. That is what you have sovereignty over, and that is not insignificant. What will you do with it?
That question is the key to your future self. That mindset is the key to everything that you want. That way of being is how you create a life that is lived to your satisfaction.
So, you must make a decision.
If you are reading this and you are within the mindset of wanting to have a life that is free, if you are within the mindset of wanting to have control over your life, you must choose. Choose to let go of things outside of your control. To let your resentment go. Be free, be purposeful. Again, we will help you with this.
You must believe with absolute certainty, with undying faith, with a zero reservation, that you are in control. You are sovereign. Your life will be your responsibility, and gladly so.
If you believe that, then everything you believe has the power to change you for the better. Once you accept this, it is the most freeing and motivating source of enthusiasm for life you can imagine.
If you don’t believe that, then you will always be at the mercy of outside forces and, most of all, you will always be at the mercy of yourself.
I cannot make that choice for you; you make it for yourself.
Every action you take is a thread that weaves its way into your future, and that future will release you or bind you in equal measure.
When you forgive and forget, you prevent others from holding your emotions hostage, allowing you to move forward.
- You keep your commitments.
It’s common nowadays for people to break an agreement or commitment when they feel like it. Of course, bailing on an evening of Netflix with a friend will cause less harm than breaking a promise to your child or missing a major professional deadline.
But when you make a habit of keeping your word, in things big and small, you develop a strong reputation for reliability and trustworthiness. There is value in that. True value.
It doesn’t mean that if you are too tired to stand that you keep a social obligation. Anyone who values you would actually want you to decline and go to bed instead.
But it means you form good habits. You commit to being healthy and stick by it with daily habits. You commit to being honest and habitually resist the desire to ever be dishonest. You commit to become a better dentist every day by building systems that turn into habits for clinical practice and patient communication. There are people relying on you, patients, family children. You do all you can to not ever let them down.
- You help others and yourself.
One of the greatest ways to positively impact the emotions of others is to help them.
Most people don’t really care where you graduated from, or even about your previous accomplishments. But what about the tiny extra steps to make them feel at ease, to show your kindness and make their appointment painless? Your readiness to listen and to then understand.
Actions like these build trust and inspire others to follow your lead when it counts.
Also know that certain aspects of emotional intelligence have a riskier, dark side – such as when individuals attempt to manipulate others’ emotions to promote a personal agenda or for some other selfish cause.
And that’s why you continue to sharpen your own emotional intelligence – you also learn to protect yourself when you need to. If you are deeply empathic you are probably vulnerable to feeling the emotions of others too closely. They may use this to take all of your emotional energy, all of your time and attention. These people will steal your energy as you greet them in the surgery, they see you as an easy source. They leave the appointment feeling sated and fresh whilst you are a broken and empty husk getting ready to paint on the Joker smile and go again for the next one!
Be smart as well as empathic.
Have a wonderful year,
the Aspire Team.