Why You Need Good Listening Skills

Dog listening

The Importance of Having Good Listening Skills

Dog listeningWe often think we are communicating effectively and of course, we want people to take action on what we say. So it can be frustrating when we talk and share a message and NOTHING happens.  Crickets…. Most likely, you were doing only half of what needs to be done to effectively communicate- the talking part. Listening is the other half – perhaps the better half – of all communication. Unfortunately, most people rarely receive any formal training for how to do it properly. Improving your listening skills can enhance your professional and personal life. Follow these practical steps towards becoming a better listener, even in challenging situations where it’s most important.

5 Tips for Better Listening

1. Ignore distractions:

Give the speaker your full attention by looking him/her in the eye. Don’t be looking at your phone or anything else.   Let the speaker know you’re interested. Having an appreciative audience makes it easier for people to express themselves. It will also help you stay alert.
 If you notice your mind wandering, bring it back to the subject at hand.

2. Listen for the main points:

It’s usually more effective to focus on understanding the key points that someone is making, rather than trying to etch each word into your memory. Listen as though you were taking notes even if you’re not.

3. Hear people out.

Let people present what they have to say without being interrupted. Concentrate on what they’re saying rather than formulating your own response. Don’t just wait by patiently until you can have the next word.  Listen for understanding.

4. Encourage people to express themselves: 

Sometimes people are hesitant to approach a sensitive topic. Use open-ended questions and patient pauses to enable a more complete discussion.
Verify the message. With complex or emotionally charged material, it’s important to listen attentively and verify what the other person is saying. You can repeat back a brief summary of the message to be sure you’re both on the same page.

5. Listening with empathy:

One of the best ways to understand what a person is really saying is to put yourself in their shoes. Try to understand their thinking and feelings.
 Manage your own emotions. When you’re listening to something that evokes a strong emotion, you may need to detach yourself temporarily from your feelings. It’s critical to distinguish between what is actually being said and your own assumptions and emotions.

Remember, God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. Becoming a better listener can enhance your own life and help you make a more positive contribution to the lives of others. Enjoy the many benefits of improving your listening skills.

Tips for Solopreneurs – Get the Blogging Weight off Your Shoulders

Helpful Blogging Tips

Tips for Solopreneurs – Get Blogging Weight off Your Shoulders

Helpful Blogging Tips“Yikes!”  “I don’t have enough time.” or “I don’t know what I will write about!” is what I often hear when people talk about blogging on a regular basis. .  There’s no question about it – blogging takes time. If you’re a solopreneur with a daily to-do list as long as your arm, you may feel like you don’t have the time to update your blog. However, it might be your day’s most important task, so don’t skip it. Here are some tips for taking the blogging weight off your shoulders and making blogging what it should be – fun, energizing, and creative.

 

Find Your Best Time to Write Your Blog Posts

Everybody has certain times of the day when they feel more inspired than others. For example, you might have your best ideas in the mornings just after you wake up. Set aside some time each day during these periods for working on blog posts. Make it part of your schedule and it will become a habit and ideas will flow and when they do, write away.

Load Them Up

Now even though you have created a schedule and are getting into the habit, sometimes things happen and you have to change your schedule.  So, let’s be prepared for that.   Set aside some special time to write for a longer period of time.  Perhaps you can devote a morning or afternoon (or maybe a whole day) to writing and loading up your blog with draft posts.  You never know what could happen to impact your ability to write. However, if you write a number of posts at one time, when you’re on a roll, you can create enough for several days or weeks. Just upload it to your site in draft form. Then, review and hit publish whenever you’re ready for another post.

Keep a Blogging Idea List

Any time you get an idea for a post, write it down (or jot it in your audio notes.) It could be while you’re at work, out walking around somewhere, or even going to sleep at night. Start an ‘Ideas’ file and just keep adding to it. Whenever you’re feeling uninspired or have writer’s block, refer to this file and pick one that strikes your fancy. You might also set aside some time for brainstorming topics. Let the ideas fly and don’t judge whether they’re ‘good’ or not. An idea you think is off-the-wall now may be a winner later.

Know Where to Get Blogging Ideas

Bookmark some good sites for getting new ideas when you run out. You can find interesting ideas absolutely anywhere online, but some of the best places include forums, question and answer sites, article directories, social media sites, or other blogs. Read what people are talking about. Take each question you see asked online and write a blog post that answers it.

Outsource and Edit

Hire someone to write your blog posts for you and then edit the work they deliver so that it’s ‘you’ and in your blog voice.  (see post on having your own blog voice) One great way to save money doing this is to hire people to write short articles (300 words or less) to use as skeletons that you’ll flesh out. As you edit, expand on the points they make and add your own ideas. This is cheap and it saves you a considerable amount of time. If you find a good writer, you can also let them come up with post ideas for you.

When the Inspiration Dies…

Whenever you don’t feel like blogging, stop. If you push it and write when you’re not feeling inspired, it’ll show. You need to give your readers nothing less than your best. And if you’re feeling uninspired, remember that there are simply days when the writing doesn’t flow. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, maybe shooting a video will be more fun or a quiz or  sharing a quote that inspires you and that will inspire your readers.  Blog posts do not always have to be written articles.  Change it up and have fun with your blog.  And always, share who YOU are with your audience.

Create Your Blog Voice for Your Business

How to Create the Blog Voice for Your Business

Find Your Blog VoiceMany businesses start blogs without a real plan. After all, it’s easy to do and you just need to start writing. But actually, there’s some serious planning involved and one of the major decisions to make is  your blog voice. Just like you need consistent, clear messaging in the rest of your business, a good blog has a clear and consistent voice that is communicated on every page. Consistency helps you create a brand and this is what builds trust with your audience. More importantly, you need a blog that is not a copy of anyone else but a true reflection of you and how you want to show up to your audience.

The Elements of a Blog Voice

What does ‘blog voice’ mean? It sounds simple but it’s made up of a number of different elements including personality, beliefs, tone, style, and type of content. Some questions to ask include:

  • Is your blog going to be strictly factual or opinionated? (are you going to be a technician or thought-leader)
  • What values will it speak to?
  • Is the tone going to be casual and friendly or more professional?
  • Are you going to focus on recent news items, write reviews or offer how-to information?

Personality is an especially important consideration because your blog can’t be dull and formal. The human aspect has to come through. It needs to be engaging and speak to emotions as well as simply giving the reader information.

Your Ideal Reader

Just like any other time you are communicating your message, the best way to determine all the elements of your voice is to picture your perfect reader. Who do you want to become a fan of your blog? If you can imagine this person clearly, you can write posts to them that resonate perfectly. It may take a bit of market research. Find out which demographics are important parts of your niche. Find out what they like and dislike. Learn about how they feel, what they want out of life, and how they see themselves. Some people even draw a physical picture of their ideal reader and look at it whenever they write!  I even recommend going further and naming this person so you can really connect to them as if s/he was sitting next to you.

Your Blog’s Image

Now that you’ve got a clear image of your blog readers in mind, the next step is to create an image for your blog that appeals to them. Consider not only your readers but also your business’s unique selling proposition. The key question to ask yourself here is – ‘How is my blog different than other similar blogs in my industry?’

The answer to this question lies in the specific niche you choose for your blog. One of the biggest mistakes bloggers make is trying to be everything to everyone. The truth is that no niche is too specific (unless it’s a market of one person). You need to carve out a unique place for yourself in the blogosphere that will set your blog apart.

Finding Your Voice

Finding a voice for your writing is something all writers must do. If you’re going to blog, you’ve got to consider yourself a writer, even if you don’t have the training, experience or writing chops. Take some time to read different blogs to see how each person’s voice differs. Some write in a very personal style, some are humorous or slightly outrageous, some write posts that are short and to the point. Find your own way of writing that you enjoy and that resonates with your readers.

So, I would love to hear what your voice is…. Share in the comments.

 

How Personal Is Too Personal for Social Media?

How Personal Is Too Personal for Social Media?

Sharing Social Media informationEveryone says that you should show your personal side, even if you’re using social media for your business. Personalizing your content and interactions puts a human face on your business. This is how you build real, authentic relationships. But there are cases where you can be too personal, and you need to steer clear of these or the results could be disastrous.

No “Big Talk”

The type of personal content we share on social media falls under the category of small talk, not “big talk.” You might mention a place you ate today and how it was. You may show a picture of your dog and share a milestone in his or her life. But you would avoid topics like romantic encounters, touchy political issues, or things that annoy you about certain people, unless those topics are a central part of your branding.  We have all seen how too much politics has made people cranky and frankly rude to one another- even leading to the “unfriending” behavior that is happening all too frequently.

Sharing (too many) Problems

Venting and complaining about your problems is more likely to annoy than engage. However, there is a right way to discuss problems that can actually boost engagement. The way to do it is to share a problem you faced that is also a common problem of your audience. Get them to discuss the problem with you. Even better, offer a solution to this common problem or ask your audience to share theirs.

Oops, I Shouldn’t Have Said That

Before posting anything personal, remember that this goes on your permanent record. Read back over it to make sure it isn’t something that might come back to haunt you later. Once you unleash it upon the world, it could be there forever.  

Data Collection

Keep in mind that any personal information you put out there could be accessed by data collectors for nefarious or otherwise malevolent reasons. If you publish something like your address or share pictures of your children, this could compromise your identity or safety.

That’s Not What I Meant

Before posting, always read your content to make sure that it won’t get taken the wrong way. Stories abound on the internet of people making a harmless joke that blew up in their faces and caused major damage to their brand image. Everyone may not be “in on it,” so make sure that your content won’t be misunderstood.

Think about Others

Finally, tread very carefully with the privacy of others. Don’t share personal details about other people unless these are things you know they are open about, themselves. You can always ask them to make sure before posting.

As you get more and more social, remember the goal is to be engaging and inviting so you can connect with more people.

Beyond Overwhelm and Busy to a Space of Intentional Calm

Stay out of overwhelm

slow down, relax, take it easy, keep calm and other motivational lifestyle reminders on colorful sticky notes

Sometime for you to consider this weekend…  In this rush, rush, busy, hurry up world of ours, it is easy to have a sense of overwhelm.  Sometimes it feels too hard to stop and spend some quiet time to relax, unwind and find your center.  And yet, this is crucial.  It is in creating that space that we allow ourselves to feel at peace.

Beyond Overwhelm and Busy to Relaxed and Focused

I am often called the “Queen of Busy” because I am Mom to 3 active kids, I am a business owner, and I also have another job teaching at the graduate level.  So how does the “Queen of Busy” stay out of overwhelm? I start my day by creating a space for peace.  I get up early and I start my day sitting in my hot tub.  Start my day relaxed and creating my thriving mindset by setting intentions,  I decide how I am going to experience my day.  We each get to CHOOSE every moment of every day and how we respond to what is happening to us.  I choose to respond in a positive way that allows me to stay connected and focused on how I was to feel and what I want to achieve.

Although the world is filled with negative influences, I avoid being distracted by them. I remain calm and composed because I embrace the influence of quiet time.  I have already created my focus for the day, even before it fully begins.

Listen to what your heart is telling you

When I stop and listen,  I am confident that I can handle whatever happens throughout my day and I am able to stay on course with my intentions.  I am confident to rise when I have challenging days or are confronted by difficult people. Calm energy envelops each circumstance and produces positivity.  Take the time to Listen to the sounds of your breath and you too will relax. Taking deep breaths in and out will calm your mind and your soul.

Deep breathing produces a quietness that betrays the noise around you. It creates a forcefield that will protects you and gives you a peaceful disposition that aptly tackles the toughest moments.

Be Aligned with your Purpose

Being one with my purpose is important to accepting what life throws your way. When you quietly accept who you are, there are very few things that will be able to rattle your nerves.  You will respond to people, projects, circumstances with an enthusiasm that you may not have known was even possible.  Let that out!  Let your purpose and your gifts shine on everyone around you.

Today, give yourself some  downtime to enjoy connecting with self, family and friends, your environment and NOTICE how you feel. You can connect to this sense of calm and ease whenever you choose.  Approach life from a place of peace and calm and you will experience how much easier and in the flow you can be even when you are very BUSY.

So here is my last question to you?  

What  do you do to achieve  some quiet time when you are constantly on the go?

10 Things to Help You Be Your Best Self

Be Your Best Self

There are times in our lives when things “Happen” and we feel are out of our control which can lead to feelings of frustration, sadness and a general sense of being stuck.  I am all about moving forward so  here is a quick Top 10 list to living as your Best Self.  Feeling your best allows you to smile more, stay out of overwhelm and just plain Love your LIFE and Thrive!  This takes a little bit work (hey the payoffs are huge so a little work is not so bad.)

So here it is, The 10 Things Everyone Should Do to Be your Best Self:

 

  1. Manage your time:– everyone has the same 24 hours each day.  So learn to use yours most effectively so you can spend more of your time doing what makes your heart sing.
  2. Set goals: To set a goal, you need to know what you want.  That is half the battle.  Spend some time each week reflecting on what you really want and doing things that move you toward your goals.
  3. Listen: Do you listen to others or are you really just waiting to say something next? When you are thinking of what to say, you are not fully present with the other person.  Few people truly listen.  Be one of the unique who really do and you will see your conversations and relationships deepen.
  4.  How to have a conversation with someone new: Every person you know now was a stranger at some point in time.  Learn how to engage and chat with new people and your perspective on the world will change.
  5. Apologize:  Hey, we all make mistakes.  No one is perfect.  Learn to accept responsibility and apologize easily and your relationships will be much smoother.
  6. Back up your computer:  As someone who recently experienced a computer melt-down, I emphatically recommend that you do this on a regular basis.  You can not act as your best self is you don’t have the tools to support you and most of us use a computer to support us.  Just consider the havoc you would face if you computer died on your today.  Be proactive and back-up.
  7. Eat properly: Nothing impacts your health more than the food that you eat.  You can not be your best self if your health is not optimal.  Learn what are the best food choices and make them on a daily basis. Your energy, confidence and feeling of well-being will sky-rocket.
  8. Ask for help:  This may be the most important of all in order to living your best life.  You can’t do it alone!
  9. Receive: Not only do you need to ask, you must receive help graciously.  Whether it is help, money, advice or anything else, you won’t get much of it unless you are open to receiving it.  So ASK, then RECEIVE.
  10. Find your voice and use it: Everyone has a message to share and when you are sharing it, you are connecting to others in a powerful way.  Learn how to effectively deliver your message so you can reach more people.

 

So, as you look through the list, see where you are already and what you can improve to help you Be your Best Self and Live your Best Life.

Keep Moving Forward: Succeeding at your Goals

Tree blocking your pathIt is a beautiful day and you are talking a walk in the park.  You are following a path when all of sudden, there are large trees blocking your path.  You can see the clearing just beyond this massive grove of trees.  Then you notice the sign and it says, “Stay on the path and you will be successful in your journey.”  You take a step back and notice that the trees are in groups; fruit trees, evergreens and hardwoods and that if you could navigate the different groups, you can stay on the path and reach the clearing on the other side.

Your business (and your life)  can often feel like this park.  You know where you want to go in your business/life and yet there are so many things to accomplish that you can get “lost in the woods.”    However, if you take a step back and focus on what you need to accomplish, you will see that they can be grouped into different projects.   By completing each of these projects, you will feel less overwhelmed and reach your desired outcome.

There are three components to a successful project:

1)   Begin with the end in mind

2)   Set milestones to measure your progress

3)   Break it down into smaller pieces

Begin with the end in mind

Before jumping into your project, decide what you want as the outcome.  This becomes your target (I like targets so much better than goals but more on that another time.) Then set a deadline.  Deadlines can be used to your advantage and are proven to improve your success rate when trying to achieve your goals/targets.

A deadline is a time commitment by which your tasks must be achieved. They serve as a powerful reminder of not only what you are trying to achieve but that there is an end to the process. Project achievement is about setting a goal in a reasonable timeframe and building the plan to get you there.  If you do not set a deadline and you leave it open, human nature will allow you to believe that you have unlimited time to achieve the results you desire and procrastination will take over.

It is proven that those who set deadlines (and meet those deadlines) were twice as effective at completing projects and meeting their goals as those who didn’t.  Deadlines demonstrate commitment, accountability and urgency.

Set milestones to measure your progress

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when trying to achieve a project is to just plow ahead with a grand idea without drilling down the steps you need to take every day to get there.  If you don’t set milestones along the way with strong deadlines, you will not accomplish what you set out to accomplish.

Milestones allow you to determine the beginning, middle and the end for your project.  Once you set mini-deadlines, you can gauge if you are on track with your desired outcome or if you need to make adjustments along the way.  Making adjustments, in a timely manner, allows you to meet your overall goal of completing a successful project.

Milestones also show where you are in relation to your final destination.  They keep you motivated to continue along your path.  Imagine you are driving on vacation to a place where you know you will have fun and relaxation; you just need to get there.  You see the sign that says, “15 miles to your desired location.”  You become excited and continue on knowing that you are almost to your destination.  Reaching each milestone for your project will keep you excited and motivated until you reach the end.  Plan to celebrate each milestone as this will keep you motivated to get to the next one.

Break it down into smaller pieces

So we have determined that the successful completion of a project begins with having the end in mind and setting a deadline.  Then you created your signposts to let you know you are on the right track and to keep you motivated.  Now, let’s get down to actually working through the project.

Creating a webinar is an example of a project you may want to accomplish.  Some of the milestones may include determining an audience and a topic, setting the date, creating the content, creating a landing page for the webinar, creating the follow-up email campaign, presenting the webinar and creating a follow-up strategy to name a few.

Now take your milestone of determining a topic that appeals and is needed by your target audience.    How do you know what they want and what topic will provide information that is needed and positions you as an expert?  Some of the tasks involved in determining a topic may include:

~      reviewing your emails or blogs for questions from your audience

~     researching what your target audience needs

~      creating a survey to determine what your customers want

By breaking the project down into smaller tasks, you create momentum.  When you complete a task you move closer to the completion of your project.  Momentum is important when you are working toward a goal.  It is important to have consistent “mini wins” to feel successful.  Success breeds success and keeps you from becoming overwhelmed by your project.

So the next time you feel that your path is blocked, take a step back and see where you are.  Look for the next step toward achieving what you want.  After all, it is by taking that one little step that you can often seeing your way “out of the woods.”  Keep moving forward and you will reach your destination faster and with greater ease.

So what projects are you working on?

Values are a Key to Success- What are Yours?

Values are a key component of how we think, what we believe and how we show up in the world.  When you create you life and business based on what you value, you experience greater connection and passion.

What is Important to you Changes on a Regular Basis

Interestingly, your values can also be a window into how you are feeling on a particular day and thus what is important to you right at this moment.  So for fun, take a look and share what are the first 3 words you see.  Are you surprised?  OR did they reinforce what you already know is going on for you right now.  Share what you see and your reaction to it.  Consider how you might use this as you move through your day.  ENJOY!

So what are the first 3 words YOU see?
Values

Thrive For Success Blog: The Heck With Balance, Let’s Thrive

sueblogpix2I  invite you to change your thinking about work/life balance because I think  it is an unattainable myth. Yep, that is right. Work/Life balance is a Myth. There I have said it. Yes, I know it is one of the most universal sought after ideals. It is not just in North America but it is listed as one of the most important issues around the world. Everyone is seeking work/life balance.

Ah, but does seeking something automatically mean it is attainable?

I say “No!” At least not the way most people are going about work/life balance; as a “to-do” item and another thing that needs to be accomplished. There must be some secret out there to achieving it and if I try a little harder, I will achieve it also. And the game begins trying to find the secret to work/life balance.

There are plenty of people trying to sell you the secret

Everywhere you look there is a magazine article or someone else telling you “The 7 Ways to Achieve Work/Life Balance.” Again another “to do” item and boy, does it feel stressful. Not balanced in the way I want you to feel. What if we looked at balance as a “to be” item and that balance meant feeling a sense of harmony? Now we are getting somewhere that feels a little bit better.

I am not against balance per se but I think there is something much better

I just don’t think that being in balance is good enough. Once you get the seesaw of life “in balance”, something comes along to push you back out of balance. This kind of balance is static. It is a tenuous place to exist and people often are in a place of striving when trying “to balance it all”. So, I invite you to say, “the heck with balance, let’s thrive!” Now thriving in work and life is exciting and allows you experience your work and life in a way that is dynamic.

What exactly does thriving mean?

Thriving is a term we hear a lot about these days.  Thriving according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary means “To grow vigorously and/or to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances.” “Despite ofor “because of circumstances”; isn’t that another way of saying “life”. So thriving allows us to do our best work and experience our best life.   For years I have talked about Thriving and I like to add that when you are thriving, you are able to take risks; you are able to make mistakes and have “do-overs” so you don’t need to be perfect.

Thriving allows you to think and grow from a place of abundance and possibility. Sometimes thriving means slowing down and nourishing yourself as a plant often does in winter. Thriving is a way of Being instead of a way of Doing and it allows room for peace and harmony to co-exist with mistakes and messiness. All the while supporting you in moving forward toward your goals.  And by first “being” you can be more successful at taking action and “doing”.

How do I start to thrive?

If you are ready to thrive, I invite you to visit me here again at The Thriving Revolution, a community devoted to creating  businesses and lives that truly thrive.   I will be sharing (and inviting you to share) tips, resources, and ideas to support you and each other in this journey. Together we can accomplish so much more than we can alone.  Please add your comments below and join us at the Thriving Revolution Community Calls held on Tuesdays at 1 PM EDT beginning again in November 2016.

So, back to our myth that work/life balance is attainable. I hope you have decided that work/balance as another “to-do” item is no longer something you desire. I invite you to go beyond seeking balance so that your work and your life will both truly thrive.

Cross-Linking Blog Posts for More Interaction from your Readers

cross-link social media posts

What is Cross-linking?

As your blog starts to grow and you’re adding more and more posts, chances are readers won’t see every single post you write. Why not make it easy for them to find related content by cross-linking where appropriate.  You can even do this across social media platforms.

Here’s what I mean. Let’s say you blog about social media marketing and a particular post talks about using images effectively on Facebook. You could link within that post to an older post where you talk about using images on Twitter, or a more specific post where you explained how to fix things when Facebook doesn’t pull up the right image from your site. Do you see how this works?

The Power of Leveragecross-link social media posts

Let’s look at another example. Let’s say you’re writing a recipe blog and you’re sharing a new recipe for an amazing BLT tomato salad. You could link to an older post where you shared how to cook bacon in the oven. This is pretty easy stuff, right?  Or you can link to/from a post you did on Pinterest or Instagram or LinkedIn.  What about a video you posted on Youtube?  Sure, link them as well!   The more ways you can connect your content, the better.

This strategy serves a few different purposes. You’re engaging your readers more with your content. This gives them a chance to get to know you and your blog a little better. It also means you’re getting more exposure  and your visitor numbers will start to look better. It also helps you with search engines, believe it or not. They keep track of how long readers stay on your site and if they click around to read more. This is an indication of the quality of your content and your blog. In other words, if you can get readers to stick around longer, it will help your blog rank higher in the search engines.

Be of Service

Let’s not forget about the positive influence this has on your readers. You’re going out of your way to be helpful and share all sorts of great information with them. Not only does this allow your readers to get to know you better, it also builds credibility and trust which is exactly what you want.

Last but not least, the more pages your readers  look at, the higher your chances that they’ll comment or share your links on social media. That, in turn, will help you broaden your reach and grow your audience.  So, let’s see some cross-linking.

Today is the last day I am writing a  “How to” type blog for the October challenge ( I will keep sharing blogging strategies, resources and tips with those in the October Blog-A-Day Challenge so you can sign up  to keep getting this information –  http://www.blogadaychallenge.com).  I would love to hear what you have found helpful so far. 

Starting tomorrow I will demonstrate other ways you can blog and create a relationship with your audience.