Personal Psychology

Recipe for Mindfulness

There's been a lot of talk about mindfulness of late. Everyone knows it's important, especially those of us who work in the Safety realm. But what exactly is mindfulness and how to get there? 

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) modeled the science behind mindfulness and published their results in the October 25, 2012 issue of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

The researchers highlight six neuropsychological processes that are active mechanisms in the brain during mindfulness: 1) intention and motivation, 2) attention regulation, 3) emotion regulation, 4) extinction and reconsolidation, 5) pro-social behavior, and 6) non-attachment and de-centering.

In other words, these processes begin with an intention and motivation to want to attain mindfulness, followed by an awareness of one's bad habits. Once these are set, a person can begin taming him or herself to be less emotionally reactive and to recover faster from upsetting emotions. "Through continued practice, the person can develop a psychological

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distance from any negative thoughts and can inhibit natural impulses that constantly fuel bad habits," said David Vago, PhD, BWH Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, and lead study author.

Vago also states that continued practice can also increase empathy and eliminate our attachments to things we like and aversions to things we don't like. The result of practice is a new You with a new multidimensional skill set for reducing biases in one's internal and external experience and sustaining a healthy mind," said Vago.

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    Change your posture, change your life

    Mike and I have written a lot about body language and perception. Check out our book  Axis of Influence for lots of rich intel on this subject.

    While you're at it, check out Harvard Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy. Amy's research on body language reveals that we can change other people’s perceptions — and even our own body chemistry — simply by changing body positions.

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      The value of money – It’s not what you think

      For many years, Pam and I have been fascinated with personal values as behavioral motivators.  Since many of our clients are in the financial industry, we've done a lot of research into money as a motivational value.  Contrary to what many financial advisors think, money is not a top motivator. 

      The following comes from a survey carried out by Institute de Impresa in Spain and Manchester Business School.  They researched final year MBA students from 25 countries. One would think that MBA students are keenly laser-like in their focus on money.  One would be wrong:

      "Asked what factors would influence their choice of a career after graduation, respondents rated job satisfaction number one, followed by the opportunity to spend adequate time with their family and friends. Next most important was the corporate culture and the ethics of the organisation they worked for. Money ranked fourth on their priority list."

      That finding matches what we've uncovered in other studies and research.  So, what's important about money to you?  Not as much as you might think.

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        How conscious are your values and motivations?

        Ever hear anyone tell you their values?  "Oh, my values are honesty and family."  Really?  One of our favorite experts is Roger Dooley.  He says, "Our behavior as humans is influenced by many, many factors, most of which aren’t conscious or rational."

        According to Neuro-linguists, it IS possible to entice someone to name or describe his/her values.  But it can't be approach head-on.  It must be approached indirectly. 

        The reason – while we might name a few values, we likely can't then easily define them.  However, the real values are imbedded in our attempts to define the values we initially listed.  They peek out when we have gone inside our heads to extract out thoughts. 

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          How to Spot a Lie

          The key to spotting a lie is to get a "baseline" of the person's normal behavior and conversation style.  Then, you can more easily see deviations from that baseline.  Beyond that simple guideline, there are numerous specifics to watch for.  Then, when you see one of these "tells," you'll know there is at least some discomfort in the other person.  Your job is to determine if it's innocence or deceit.

          One of my favorite columists is Carol Kinsey Goman, who writes a wonderful blog on organization change and leadership.  One of her newest columns is "12 Ways to Spot a Liar at Work."  It's really good!  Here is the link:


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            Why is everyone always wrong?

            That headline is an example of an “absolute.”  It implies something that is 100% total and all-inclusive.  Everyone, every time, everywhere, all, none  –  those are some examples.  In business, we see them “everywhere.”  Sales people exaggerate the quality of their claims “all the time.”  Companies are “constantly” improving, and they value “each and every customer.”  Over the years that I’ve been researching credibility, I’ve noticed how people respond to absolutes.  It’s not good.  Here’s why.

            Absolutes are most likely impossible to achieve; therefore, when you claim them, you’re staking your reputation and integrity on something that has a very high probability of being false.  It sets up the expectation in the mind of the listener that you cannot be trusted.  Without trust, there is no credibility.  And, without credibility, trust is next to impossible.

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              I Tweet, therefore I am – a look at social media and personal identity

              I’ve often wondered about the differences in psychological makeup between those active in social media versus those who occasionally participate.  I’ve long made fun of friends and colleagues who feel the need to share their every thought or chronicle their movement through the day. Why in gods name would D think we need to know he’s just pulled up to xyz restaurant for a meeting with Bob or that he’s tired after a long day?

              Is the difference simply one of I versus E – Introvert vs Extrovert, with the E’s making up the greater portion of heavy participants?  Perhaps it’s a combination of psychological factors and simply time.  I can barely answer my email, much less think about composing a meaningful post to send out to the world.

              Perhaps the clue lies in the word meaningful. I’m not a casual poster or tweeter.  I’m discerning about what I think I have to offer the world.  Mostly because I think it’s a reflection on me and I want to come across as knowing my stuff or having something worthwhile to say.  I don’t want to be confused for just another social gadfly who likes to hear themselves talk.  This is different from being discerning about what other people might want to hear.  In other words, my discernment is internally focused versus externally focused.

              A case could be made that social media participation helps to make people more externally focused. For her coming book, “Alone Together,” MIT professor Sherry Turkle interviewed more than 400 children and parents about their use of social media and cellphones. Among young people especially she found that the self was increasingly becoming externally manufactured rather than internally developed: a series of profiles to be sculptured and refined in response to public opinion. “On Twitter or Facebook you’re trying to express something real about who you are,” she explained. “But because you’re also creating something for others’ consumption, you find yourself imagining and playing to your audience more and more. So those moments in which you’re supposed to be showing your true self become a performance. Your psychology becomes a performance.” Referring to “The Lonely Crowd,” the landmark description of the transformation of the American character from inner- to outer-directed, Turkle added, “Twitter is outer-directedness cubed.”

              I’m in favor of anything that gets people out of themselves and focused on other people, but it’s the performance part of this that makes me a little nervous. Does Turkle’s research suggest we ultimately become whoever we think the audience wants us to be?  Sounds a little dangerous, and particularly so, if the audience has questionable values and intentions.

              How might we help enable the good stuff – more external focus, but balance this out with a strong sense of self and ability to both add meaningful discourse and inspire that in others?

              I’m interested in what you think. Please add your comments.

              — Pam Holloway

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                Ethicability: The Moral Character Profile

                Check out  Roger Steare’s Moral Character Profile at:

                It measures 10 moral values as well as 3 moral philosophies and is backed by The Times (UK Times) and PwC (PriceWaterhouseCoopers). You get a 4 page PDF report and The Times will promote it world-wide in the next couple of weeks.

                Love Roger’s title: Corporate Philosopher in Residence and Professor of Organisational Ethics.  That sounds like a job for me!

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                  Lie to Me – reading the signs

                  The “Lie to Me” TV show is wonderful – if only because it has nudged people into (finally) paying attention to the behavior of the people they talk to. It’s the first introduction many people get to the idea that it’s possible to look at someone and read into his or her mind.

                  Here’s an example:  The guy in front of you is telling you by his actions whether he believes you or is even listening to you.  Can you recognize the signs?

                  • If he doesn’t believe you, he’ll curl a lip or suck on the inside of his lips to show contempt. He’ll also move his eyes downward and move them back and forth. When he does that, he’s talking to himself, then testing how he feels about it, then talking to himself some more and then retesting his feelings.
                  • If he has stopped listening, he’ll be non-responsive. His eyes will defocus. When people are not focused on anything specific, they tend to get diverted by something bright or anything that moves. So, the guy who is not listening to you will likely display that by looking away from you – watching a car go by or a bird fly past or he might just shift his gaze out a window.
                  • If he does believe you, his eyes will get a bit wider, his pupils will likely dilate, he’ll lean forward and his ears will recede.  He may smile slightly and nod his head as if saying yes.

                  The TV show make it seem like anyone who twists a wedding band is telling you a lie. That’s baloney. It is a sign of something, probably discomfort, could be gas. Then, it’s your job to figure out what is causing that discomfort.

                  The point is, pay attention, notice anything that moves on the person’s body or face and figure out what it means. Is it a good sign or a red flag.

                  At AboutPeople, we read personality types, values and communication style – all in faces. We can also read internal mental/emotional turmoil. Point is, so can you. Having trouble with a boss, co-worker or client? Got a boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse you can’t figure out? We can help.  First, you need to buy our book Face Values. It is the most important book you can find on reading people.

                  Got questions? Just get in touch:

                  — Michael Lovas

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                    How to make a deeper connection

                    The University of Missouri released a study called the "2006 Survey of the Elements of Communication That Affect Trust and Commitment in the Financial Planning Process."

                    It suggests that planners and advisors who best understand the core values and interests of clients are more likely to lead them toward truly rewarding investments. Nearly 83 percent of clients and 84 percent of advisors agreed that they must understand a client's values and priorities before they can give effective financial advice. (This is the idea that underlies the trend called "Life Planning.")

                    It should be obvious from that research that in order to move your client relationships to a deeper level, you need to discover what their values are. But you won't be able to do that until you learn HOW to read your prospects and clients. Here are three ways to learn that
                    Behaviors. Behaviors show you how the person acts out – how he brings his values to life. If a client claims a value but does not put it into action, then it's not really a value, so you would not build it into the work you do for him.


                    Ask. This is called the "criteria-elicitation question." There are a few variations of this question that have become popularized, but let's look at the structure of the question "What's important to you about ________" Fill in the blank with the appropriate situation. For example:
                    a. "What's important to you about leaving a legacy"
                    b. "What's important to you about your children's college education"
                    c. "What's important to you about retirement income"
                    * "Money" is rarely everlisted as a value.

                    Listen. In the course of a conversation, a person will express his values. Simply initiate a conversation about a specific topic, something of importance that the client wants to fund or save for. As he mentions values, just write them down.Why is this important to you Values are actually subconscious power sources. They serve to provide you with energy. So, you can think of values as the things in your mind that motivate your decisions and give you energy so you can perform the activities necessary to bring your values to life. Knowing this, doesn't it make sense that you would need to learn what your best clients' values are





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