3 ways in which language influences us & undermines our competence

When we hear the words language and influence, we usually think of great speakers like Martin Luther King, Kevin Spacey or Tony Robins…. People who moved hearts, shifted mindsets and inspired millions of people to make a change. What we rarely realize though: the words we say to ourselves everyday – the inner voice – influences us even stronger and with a more lasting impact.

On average, we say 16.000 words per day (no significant difference between men and women, by the way). And that’s just a fraction of the vast amount of words that are living inside our heads.

The words we choose to say to ourselves and to others have two effects:

  1. The words we tell ourselves everyday influence our feelings, behavior and shape our personality
  2. By communicating with the outside world, we show our personality

You are what you tell yourself day in and day out

Language influences us from the very beginning of our lives. Our parents choose the language(s) we learn as a child. With our mother tongue, we inherit a huge catalog of cultural values and socially constructed norms. In addition, we let our experience and our feelings slip into our language – whether we want or not. Most of these things happen unconsciously – but it doesn’t mean we can’t change it!

The language we learn as a child even influences how we perceive the world. Example: In the Russian language, there are two distinct words for light blue and blue. Researchers could prove that native Russian speakers can distinguish the vast variety of blue shades more precisely than others.

The language as a therapist

Our language gives so much away about ourselves – and if we learn to listen and decode, we can understand ourselves better. Words are like a very skillful psychotherapist – they know your struggles and can direct you onto a better path.

Even though we may not be consciously focusing on our self-talk, our subconscious mind is listening to everything we say to ourselves!

The subconscious mind accepts all of our words as the truth without any filter! If you allow bad self-talk like “I’m a failure at xy” it equals junk-food that you ingest daily. Over a certain period of time you get sick!

These 3 tips will help you understand how your language impacts your life – and how others perceive you through it

Read the full article on my LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/3-ways-which-language-influences-us-undermines-our-marina-zayats

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You are a brand! Tell your story right in 5 steps!

For a very long time the word “brand” was only used in the context of companies. The goal of branding: create an image that identifies a product and distinguishes it from competitors. Over time, people associate this image with a level of quality, value and satisfaction. Once this image is manifested in people’s minds, it is hard to change. Therefore companies put millions in ads and creative agencies to build or change their image.

With the birth of social media and professional social networks like LinkedIn, we all became human brands! Even not being active on certain platforms tells something about you! Today we have an endless number of possibilities to build, strengthen or recreate our personal image. The question is not whether you want to be a brand, but whether you want to shape it yourself or let others do that for you!

Read the full article on my linkedIn page:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/you-brand-tell-your-story-right-5-steps-marina-zayats?trk=prof-post

5 steps to meaningful connections at work (and everywhere else)

We are social creatures, so connecting with others is a basic human need. If we feel unconnected, rejected or alone, we feel the pain in the same part of the brain as physical pain.

Some people seem to be born socializers. They look self-confident and relaxed while connecting with others easily – at networking events, at pool parties or in the office. But the fact is: everybody can learn how to be a people’s person. Emotional intelligence is the key and is, unlike many think, trainable.

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood.” -Ralph Nichols

Social thinking and analytical thinking happen in two different parts of the brain. When you think analytically, you’re social neural network shuts down. Once you’re finished with the analytical tasks, the social brain kicks in again – it’s our brain’s autopilot, our natural state!

As highly social creatures, we all should be perfect at socializing one might think. But our ability to connect with others is disturbed by shyness, pride, competitiveness, feelings of inferiority and self-criticism.

If you leave those disrupters out of the game, you can connect with anyone.

1. Look for the good in every person.

If your perspective changes, your world changes! Always try to approach people without initial judgement and expect the best from them. Usually people feel this and act accordingly. They feel “safe” and understood, which also helps them to open up and connect. It also prevents you from writing off great people too soon. Don’t burn bridges too soon.

2. Positioning

We know how first impressions can make or break a relationship. Seven seconds are usually enough for a person to make a snapshot. After that, people are looking for justifications of their first impression. Hereby, your body language plays a major role. If you’re aware of your facial expression, gestures etc., it is easier to get the result you want (i.e. positive, open body language if you want to draw people to you). Positive body language can entail an enthusiastic tone of voice, eye contact and a firm stand. Those things form an entire picture about your character and it’s by far more holistic than only WHAT you’re saying! An Israeli research team even created an app (moodies) that after recording and analyzing the pitch of your voice can tell what mood you’re currently in.

3. Leave the superficial island first!

Usually, we start conversations about very safe topics, like basics about ourselves, looking for common ground with the other person. If you really want to “click” with somebody, try to open up more. Show what you’re passionate about or even share some recent failures (as long as you still feel comfortable enough disclosing them). Vulnerability can be powerful and allow others to open up, too as people are naturally looking for (social) balance. I.e: if you share something personal, they will share something personal, too.

Once people open up to you, never criticize or judge! If you make people feel uncomfortable or even rejected, it’s quite likely that this relationship ends before it even started. Show respect, empathy and ask! I often learn more from people I don’t agree with – they bring in a new perspective which can be very eye-opening.

4. Master the art of questions

This brings me to point #4. Dare to ask questions that are deeper after you established some initial trust. Especially “substantial” questions that help you to understand what makes others tick. People who share thoughts on life philosophy or personal goals, connect faster and stronger. But it doesn’t have to be such global topics like life itself- you can also ask for an opinion in their field of expertise. This makes them feel valued and more connected to you instantly.

5. Switch off the inner voice

Listening is one of the most crucial skills when it comes to bonding with others. Many times though we catch ourselves drafting what we will say next or simply drifting away in our mind and thereby missing out on what the other person is saying. We hear the word, but the meaning is lost. Turning this inner voice off leads to deeper connections – not only because you listen more actively, but also because the other person can feel and see whether you are truly listening or just trying to make your point.

Conclusion

Sincere interest in others is already half the way. If you have that, you automatically listen, ask questions and approach the person with a positive attitude. Substantial questions and a good posture can be trained. Bringing everything together, you can create meaningful connections with everyone!

 

 

 

 

Body language at work: the neglected power

We all know how important our body language is – after all, about 80% of our communication is non-verbal. The crossed legs, our shoulders, the position of our chin – people need only 1/10th of a second to make a judgement, even before you open your mouth! And several studies have shown that we are very accurate in our judgements about other people – even if we have only facial expression and body language as our yard stick. But how much does body language account for who we actually are? And how does it influence our work life?

1. We can fake it!

When we meet poeple that communicate non-verbal power, we tend to rather make ourselves smaller than to mirror their dominant body language. This applies especially for women. But what if you’re just not the typical Alpha (fe)male? Can we fake dominance and power just through our gestures and posture? Amy Cuddy, a famous social psychologist, analyzed the effect our body language has on our awareness and confidence. She came to the following conclusion: Hormones play a major part! Two of them in particular- testosterone that is important for the feeling of confidence and cortisol that is in charge of our stress level. People with power have ideally both qualities: they are self-confident and stress resistent. Amy Cuddy instructed the study participants to take either a dominant pose or a low-power pose. Before and after the two minutes, she took saliva samples. It turned out that the participants who took the dominant pose had higher testosterone (more confident) and lower cortisol levels (less stressed) than before. So what can we take away from it?

Our body language is a two-way-street and by being aware of it, we are not only able to influence how we are perceived by others, but also to influence our own feeling.

Posture autopilot

We all know about the power that our body language has and how folded hands for example are perceived in a discussion. Despite our knowledge, we rarely use our body language consciously in the work environment and therefore neglect a powerful tool. Most of us have tailored certain postures for different situations – which we take almost automatically and unconsciously – because its convenient. When we see our colleagues holding a presentation with hanging shoulders, we instantly think: he or she doesn’t look very self-confident or convincing – the boss won’t buy her idea! However, recognizing our own body language blind spots is more challenging! How do I walk, how do I stand and sit vis-a-vis other people? It’s worth the time to think about those questions! After all, colleagues, clients and your boss are just as quick to spot your body language signals. Why it matters and how you can train your awareness:

2. Observe to understand group dynamics

Observing the body language of colleagues interacting with each other, helps you to understand group dynamics – especially if you’re new in a team. You start to see which colleagues are dominant, which are less confident, which colleagues really like or dislike their job etc. It also tells you about the “inofficial” hierarchies in a team. It doesn’t mean that you have to “use” this information, but it certainly helps you to train your awareness and don’t step on somebody’s feet unconsciously.

3. Observe to understand yourself better (and improve relationships)

Observing yourself in certain situations throughout the work day, helps you to recognize situations in which you adopted “unconscious” body language patterns. Some of these patterns may not fit the situation. This allows you to change your posture pattern and take control back over how other people perceive you. Maybe you never realized that you look very tense when you talk to one particular colleague, giving him the signal, that you don’t like/trust him (even if that’s not the case). In turn, this colleague is pretty closed up in your company, because he thinks you don’t like him. Ask yourself why you look so tense in his company – maybe it’s only because of the way he talks or the dialect, which makes it necessary for you to concentrate very intensely. Once you know the reason for your uninviting posture, you can decide to change it and probably remove obstacles.

 

4. Body language is sometimes more important than knowledge

Several studies have shown how accurate we can predict outcomes just by looking at people’s body language and facial expression. In a study conducted by Alex Todorov from Princeton University, people had to decide within a second whether the shown politician will be elected for the US Senate. 70% of the estimated outcomes were correct. What does this say about your organization? To what part does management account it’s position to body language? Or the other way around? A former colleague of mine was smart and easily as knowledgeable as his superiors. Nevertheless, he was always left out in the yearly promotions – partly because of his hanging shoulders, shy look and lack of assertiveness.

What can we take away from these learning? Body language is a tool for:

  • influencing your own emotional state (fake it till you make it)
  • influencing how you are perceived by others
  • Analyzing how others feel and how groups work

USE THIS TOOL – IT’S A GIFT WE ALL HAVE EVERY SINCE WE WERE BORN!

What I learned from 15 years of journal writing

I started writing a journal when I was 12 (now I’m 25). I’ve always enjoyed writing and in the beginning it also served as a creativity outlet (very colorful journals with glitter, stickers etc!). With 16, I started to realize that these little treasures between two hardcovers had more to give than I initially thought. Going back 3 , 5 or even 10 years, allowed me to recall forgotten experiences and linking my present self to my past self by simply reading my thoughts when I was younger. It also turned out to be a very helpful tool to see patterns in my thoughts and my life in general — being aware of those patterns, was the first step to change them or develop them further.

fashion-legs-notebook-working

  1. Journal excerpt: “Now that I think about it while writing my application: I can’t offer the “hard tools” like a large network in that industry or 10 years of experience, but I have many tools in my tool box I can develop further … maybe that’s just as valuable?” Instead of acquiring resources only, focus on resourcefulness! Resources, like money, business partners, etc. can come and go and while its important to keep those in mind, too— don’t forget to cultivate your resourcefulness, too. Resourcefulness is about adopting to new situations, keeping an open mind and just be willing to experiment.
  2. Journal excerpt: “I’m pretty content with my journey so far, but every time I see someone in my network who have achieved way more than I do, I stop and think what I’ve done wrong..” If you feel the desire to track your “success”, don’t let the comparison with others be your ultimate yard stick. Some say “Comparison is the root of all unhappiness” — I felt this unwelcome feeling many times. School, university, hobbies and even advertisements-they all render very potent fields for comparison with others. While it motivated me to accomplish new goals and push forward, it also made me feel frustrated and sad when I was performing poorly comparing to others. When I realized that, I started focusing on my own growth only. This was not only more rewarding but also allowed me to see the next steps instead of feeling lost.
  3. Journal excerpt: “It took me some time to regain confidence in my own abilities and strengths.” Transitions often come with doubts. Sometimes it‘s a break-up, sometimes it’s as new work environment where you feel small and unexperienced, sometimes it’s a significant financial loss. Self-confidence (at least to me) came only through mastering tough situations. I really think of it as a muscle which we can train.
  4. Journal excerpt: “I felt insecure and not at the top of my game that day — I just got refused for a job I felt excited about and didn’t feel any motivation to continue sending applications”. Having a healthy self-confidence doesn’t mean you will always feel confident about yourself. There will always be moments where you feel insecure. It helped me to realize that this feeling comes and goes (just like most other feelings, too) and that I shouldn’t bother concentrating on it.
  5. This goes hand in hand with #1: Ego! Why do we want to compare ourselves with others, why do we want to be “better”? It’s because we have this drive in us to be and do something “special”. Our ego can be a pretty nasty thing — while it can be a motor in life, it can also lead to feelings of depression, frustration and anger (towards others and ourselves). Sometimes, we make stupid decision based on our ego. I studied finance major for 2 years in my bachelors because I wanted to work in investment banking, which I regarded as very prestigious at that time. Pretty soon I realized though that finance is not something that brings me joy. Today, I ask myself WHY do I want to start a new project? If I can’t see any benefit in it beside an ego stroke, I’m out.
  6. ASK many fucking questions! When I was younger, I was too afraid to ask questions. I was afraid at school and beyond to ask questions, out of fear I might be labeled as stupid. Especially the basic questions are crucial. If you don’t get the answers to those one, you are making your further learning pretty inefficient & unpleasant.
  7. Take care of yourself first. Although that may sound selfish , it is actually a prerequisite to help others. You know these security instructions on planes, right? First, you have to pull the oxygen mask over yourself before you help kids and other people in need. This is true for many other situations in life. Like many others, I have a desire to help people in need (not just with 2 Euros but on a larger scale like famous philanthropists) . The truth is though: You can’t help anyone unless you help yourself first (make sure you are in good health, financially stable, mentally healthy etc.).
  8. Journal excerpt: “If I’m honest with myself, I spend the entire evening worrying about the outcome of my Bachelor exams instead of enjoying my birthday party…such a waste!” If you can’t influence it, stop worrying about it! For me, this is the toughest one! Although I would consider myself an optimist, I would sometimes keep thinking about everything that might turn out “worse” than I want. It helps to ask yourself: “Can I do anything about it?” Being aware of the fact that you can’t influence a certain outcome, is the first step to a peaceful mind. Another possibility is to embrace the “worst” outcome and ask yourself, what is actually so “bad” about it. Maybe this outcome holds valuable possibilities to grow or start anew.
  9. Journal excerpt: “The entire room was crowded and everybody looked so sharp! Everybody was super dressed up — except for me! I started to feel slightly uncomfortable and thought about all the possibilities to get a nice dress somewhere near and sometime soon…”. Everybody is way too busy with themselves to care about you or your dress! Especially if it’s at a casual party…the only thing that counts is your own perception. How you feel is how you will look like.
  10. Journal excerpt: “And again I ask myself: what the hell am I doing here? It’s super expensive, many successful people haven’t even studied and my Bachelor maybe already enough to start the career I have in mind right now…” I think I can say I didn’t waste my time by getting a Masters degree. While you’re at it, the hype of the “unconventional” super kids might distract you and make you question your “lost” time on formal education. Our education system is not perfect by far but we are still living in a system, where formal education is required to get into many jobs…a proper degree just gives you more options and it’s worth the time. Plus, these “Wunderkinder”, who started coding at 6 and sold their first company at 16 are rare!