Welcome to Positive Life Principles. I’m Karol Ladd, and I want this website to be a source of inspiration and strength to you as you serve and love the people around you. You will find resources to refresh you and help you use your gifts and talents to reach out and touch the lives of others. Sign up for my blog below in order to stay connected and receive an uplifting weekly message from me.  

5 Ways to Stay Focused in Conversations

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When is the last time you enjoyed an undistracted conversation with another person? Whether we are talking with an important client, a close friend or a favorite family member, most of us struggle with staying focused in our interactions. What makes it so difficult to experience a good, healthy dialogue in today’s world? The answer may seem obvious. Certainly with the increase in technology, we have become comfortable with texts, tweets and quick emails rather than enjoying real-life connections. And as much as we love our smart phones, they may be one of the biggest culprits in keeping us disengaged.

Interestingly, a study by the University of Essex revealed that simply having a cell phone visibly present in the room made people less likely to develop empathy or intimacy during meaningful conversations. Even if no one checked their phone – just having it visibly in the room lowered the level of engagement!* Isn’t it amazing to think of the power that little device has in our lives and especially over our ability to listen and focus with others? So what is the key to staying sincerely connected to the person with whom we are talking? Here are a few tips to help you stay mentally focused as you communicate with others.

Reduce Environmental Distractions. Put the phone away and out of site. The texts, notices and emails can wait until you are finished with your conversation. Additional distractions may be noise or other people in the room. Recently I met a friend for lunch at our neighborhood grill, and my chair faced toward the door. Bad idea! I knew half the people coming into the restaurant and felt an obligation to say hello to each of them. You can imagine the depth of engagement I had with my friend as we talked together. The better bet for me is to sit at the back of the restaurant or at least sit in a direction that doesn’t face the door. If there is a television in the room, turn it off or move to a place where it is not going to pull your attention away from the other person.

Reduce Mental Distractions. If you have an important email, phone call or task looming over you, take care of it before you enter into a conversation. Even if you need to ask the person to meet a little later. The less urgent things you have floating around in your mind, the better you will be able to tune into the other person. If at all possible schedule your day so that you take care of the more difficult tasks earlier in the day, then you will be able to focus on the one-on-one meetings you have with people later in the day.

Create a Focal Point.  Last week, I mentioned the importance of eye contact when you are interacting with another person. Now, you don’t want to overdo it, but studying the other person’s eyes can help you pay closer attention. Sometimes I will challenge myself to remember the person’s eye color when I am finished with a conversation. Eyes are the window to the soul, so if you can stay generally focused on the eyes, you may be surprised how much you will learn.

Ask Questions.  Asking questions (and then of course listening to the answers) will encourage deeper understanding and will help you maintain focus in your conversations. Ask questions like: How did that make you feel? How did you accomplish that? What is your secret? When did this happen? Most people love to talk about themselves or their experience, and asking good questions shows that you care about them and what they are saying.

Write it Down. There are times we become mentally distracted because a thought pops into our mind and we want to share it. Instead of interrupting or allowing your mind to wander with what you want to say, pull out a pen and quickly jot down a word or two to help you remember that thought, so you can bring it up later. I’ve been known to use shopping receipts or paper napkins or placemats to put my thought on to paper and out of my head. This little trick can help you maintain your interest in what the other person is saying without forgetting your thought.

The truth is, the deepest cry of every person’s heart is to be understood. True connection comes through listening well to others, going beyond superficial words and diving deep into the heart. May we sincerely see and hear the people God puts in our path. In a distracted culture, let’s make a deliberate effort to practice focused engagement with each person we encounter.

To love you as I love myself

 is to seek to hear you as I want to be heard

and understand you as I long to be understood.

David Augsburger

For books to inspire you Click Here.

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* http://www.digitalresponsibility.org/digital-distraction-to-the-detriment-of-in-person-relationships/

The Power of What You Don’t Say

Businesswomen have a break

What if I told you the secret to effective communication is not about what you say, but rather what you don’t say? Now, don’t get me wrong – our words matter, but that’s not all that matters when it comes to getting our message across to others. Research shows that 55% of our communication is non-verbal. Yes, our body language conveys more than our words when it comes to engaging with people. Whether we are trying to build a positive connection with clients, customers, students or friends, our non-verbal communication should work for us and not against us. Here are three powerful keys to unlock the door to productive communication:
1. The Power of a Smile. It may seem simplistic, but it’s not! A smile speaks a thousand words. It says, “I care about you. I believe in you. I’m listening.” It welcomes others and makes them feel comfortable around us. It speaks confidence, openness and understanding. Even in phone conversations, evidence reveals that a smile makes a difference in attitude and perception. Now you may be thinking, but I don’t feel like smiling. Remember, a smile is not for you, it is a gift you give to other people. When we smile, it actually raises the serotonin level in our brain (that’s the happy hormone). So smiling can actually make us happier people! People carry around too many of their own challenges to be burdened with our frown. Give the gift of a smile to uplift others. Practice smiling with your eyes, and your lips will surely follow.
2. Essential Eye Contact. Just as our eyes are an endearing part of our smile, they are also play a vital role in strengthening the message we want to communicate. It’s easy for all of us to get distracted by other people or things (like our phones), but deliberate focus takes discipline and determination. It means that we are going to demonstrate with our eyes that the person we are talking to is the most important person in the room. In a highly distractible culture, we can learn to ignore the temptation to look at all the diversions swirling around us. How do you do it? As with anything in life, practice, practice, practice. Begin to build the skill of focusing, by concentrating in conversation with at least one person each day, even if the only person you see is the checkout person at the grocery store. Make yourself a sticky note and put it on your mirror to remind yourself to smile and focus each day. You will see a vast improvement in your relationships with family, friends and customers as you let your eyes do more of the talking.
3. Positional Impact. Recently at a restaurant, my husband sat down at our table and promptly turned his chair to face away from me. No, he wasn’t mad at me. He was experiencing sciatic nerve pain, so it was more comfortable for him to point in the other direction – at least that’s what he told me! After a few minutes, I moved around to the other side of the table in order for him to be positioned toward me and not away from me. It made a difference! I went from feeling ignored, to feeling seen and heard. Body language and position expresses how interested we are in the other person. A waitress who faces each customer is speaking volumes by her stance. A teacher who turns toward her students and pays attention to them, gets her message across with greater impact than a teacher who sits at her desk or hides behind a podium. Pay attention to what you are saying through your position and direction. Think about how it would feel if you were on the receiving end. Are you inviting others into your world or are you saying, “I could care less about you?” Parents, let’s think about the way we engage with our children and demonstrate love through not only our smile and eye contact, but the way we stoop down and listen to our little ones.
Take these three keys and use them to strengthen your connections with the people around you. Practice giving the people around you the gift of your smile. Concentrate on eye contact with at least one person each day, and turn your body toward the people with whom you are communicating. Never underestimate the power of what you don’t say.

 

Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive: Passionately Living the Life You Didn’t Plan

7 Keys to Strengthen Your Connections

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It’s almost humorous how attached we are to our smart phones. In fact, psychologists have coined the term nomophobic (no-mobile phone phobia) for those who have a fear of being without their phones. Oddly, with all this attachment, it’s easy to feel detached when it comes to connecting with those who matter most to us. Whether we are engaging with customers, clients, friends or family, there is always room for improvement in relating well with others. How do we increase engagement and understanding? What are the tools to help us introduce real and meaningful conversations between us? Here are seven positive keys to strengthen the connectedness within your business, your community and your personal life.
1. Perception – Body language and tone of voice can say more than you may think. Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, conducted several studies on nonverbal communication and found that only 7% of any message is conveyed through words. 38% is communicated through vocal elements like voice tone and inflection, and 55% are communicated through nonverbal elements such as body language. That means that 93% is non-verbal! In a culture that connects through texts and emails, a vast majority of our message is being missed. There are two takeaways that I think are elementary here. First we must recognize the power of our non-verbal cues when we are talking with someone whether over the phone or face to face. Secondly, if we want to understand others or be understood, the most effective communication is done in person.
2. Presence – Focus on the person you are in conversation with at the time. Be there. Be present through eye contact, body language and interaction. There are times when we must say to ourselves, “I’m not going to look at texts right now or think about all the other things I need to do. I’m going to listen and concentrate on the person who is talking with me right now. I’m going to see them and hear them.”
3. Power – Recognize the power of your words. Words have the ability to build up, or to destroy. They have the power to open up conversation or shut it down. Let’s use the power of our words for good; to inspire and encourage rather than to complain or argue. Our words have the ability to build bridges, yet in the heat of emotions often they become destructive. Let’s determine to use the power of our words for positive and proactive purposes, and never to tear down another person.
4. Perspective – Get to know the other person’s story. Often when we look beyond the façade, we find that there is a reason someone is acting in a particular way. What is their story? What have they been through in life? What have they experienced that is much different than our own experience? Each of us have different backgrounds and personality types, and so we view our circumstances in different ways. When we take the time to consider the other person’s viewpoint, we often build a connectedness and understanding, rather than condemnation and judgement.
5. Potential – No matter who we encounter, we must first see that person as a creation of God, and therefore as a person with value and worth. More than that, we must recognize that he or she has certain unique gifts, talents and abilities. I like to say that everyone is a treasure, and it is our job to do a treasure hunt to bring out the gems hidden within his or her heart. We can choose to see each person through the eyes of hope, recognizing their potential and seeing them as a gift to this world.
6. Practice – Connectedness doesn’t just happen. We must be willing to intentionally engage with others. We encounter people all the time, but how often do we stop to really see them, hear them and understand their story? When my husband was in the hospital, we came to know the nurses by asking about their lives and their families. We encouraged them and cared about them and listened to their story. They commented that coming into our room was like a breath of fresh air, because most patients were demanding and didn’t really see them as people. Practice connecting as you go through your day with the variety of people in your path.
7. Personal – The more balanced you are in life, the more positive your relationships tend to be. We have all been in those conversations with people who simply talk about themselves the entire time. It makes it tough to build a connection when the conversation is simply one-sided. Or what about someone who is consumed with anger or hatred or criticism? If we are to connect well with others, we must first consider our own emotional, mental, physical and spiritual well-being. Happy people are more likely to have healthy communication. Examine your life and consider if there are some changes or growth that needs to take place in yourself. Find your source of strength and comfort from God.

There is a deep need within each of us to be heard and understood. My hope is that these seven keys will spur you on to develop and deepen the relationships in your life, whether with family, friends or business associates. For the next several weeks I will expound on each key with stories, illustrations and practical applications. I hope you will join me. Let’s build bridges of connection together.

Click Here for more info on Karol’s new book, Positive Leadership Principles for Women.

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Look for the Possibilities

Great opportunities come to all, but many do not know they have met them. The only preparation to take advantage of them is simple fidelity to watch what each day brings.  Albert E. Dunning

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It seems a bit ironic that a visually impaired woman would encourage others to have focus and vision. Helen Keller didn’t let her challenges keep her from looking at the possibilities in her own life. Born in 1880, Helen became both blind and deaf at nineteen months of age due to a childhood illness, yet she was the first blind and deaf woman to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree and authored a dozen books and numerous other writings. In her book We Bereaved she wrote, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”

Where are you looking? Have you allowed your eyes to zoom in on the frustrations that are right in front of you, making them seem larger than life? Or are you looking at the bigger broader picture – the picture that includes possibilities and hope? There are always possibilities around the corner, but we need to be looking for them instead of dwelling on what we don’t have. I like to say that the “B” in Plan B stands for beautiful. Often we think our Plan A was the perfect plan and that Plan B is second rate. Have you ever considered that Plan B is God’s Plan A and He can do a great work despite our disappointments and even our mistakes?

It may be difficult to conceive in your mind that anything good could come from hurt, pain and loss whether it is a physical, financial or a family tragedy in your life. We must be honest and grieve through the sadness that life brings. We don’t want to ignore our disappointment and hurt in our heart, but we also don’t want to close our mind’s eye to the redemption God can bring in the toughest of situations.  It may take time and perseverance. Plan B may be difficult, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t doable. Perhaps the “B” in Plan B means “Be patient.” Allow God to do His work in His way, and do not despair for there is always hope.

Read more in Positive Life Principles for Women

I Love Celebrations!

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Hope you had a Happy Fourth with family and friends. This is a spectacular time of the year! I love the parades, the fireworks, the hot dogs and simply the good ole fun we experience each year! I’m proud to be an American, and Independence Day celebrations are a glorious way to show it. More than that, I’m thankful to be a Christian, and experience freedom in my soul as a result of the sacrifice Christ made for us.

Just as the fireworks light up the night sky, so should our love for the Lord and gratitude to Him shine brightly in this dark world.  As Christians, may we sparkle and shine every day of the year with a contagious enthusiasm from within our hearts. My hope is that a dark and dying world will see the sparkle and shine of believers and be drawn to Him.

Jesus said, “Let your light so shine among men that they may see your good works and glorify the Father.” The love, freedom and forgiveness we experience through faith in Christ can be a daily celebration as we joyfully live and love the people around us. Let’s let our love for Him explode in bursts of brightness as we reach out in kindness and good deeds to light the world with the love of Christ.

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Parents – if you are looking for fun ideas to do with your kids this summer, check out my series on Theme Weeks at www.positivemom.com  You will also find creative ideas in my book More Fun, Less Whining too! Click below.

90711X: A Positive Plan For Creating More Fun, Less Whining A Positive Plan For Creating More Fun, Less Whining

Do your kids sometimes come down with the “I’m bored” bug? Thousands of years ago, King Solomon prescribed a cure: “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” Proverbs 17:22. Now Karol Ladd offers positive encouragement and step-by-step, age-specific ideas to help you create a fun home atmosphere and build lasting memories! Paperback.