Reduce Stress With Present Moment Awareness

It’s happening again; tension in your shoulders squeezing you, stomach clenching, and that familiar vice grip of pressure in your head. Here comes the stress and overwhelm, visiting you with the same familiar list of stressful thoughts.

Great teachers like Buddha, or in our day Eckhart Tolle, offer present moment awareness as a way to reduce stress, release anger and improve health. We’ve all heard how wonderfully healing it is to be in present moment awareness with its seemingly illusive calm, so how do we get there?

Our mind unceasingly interprets the never-ending flow of information pouring into our brain. Every day, we experience upwards of 10,000 of these interpretations as thoughts, many of them running like a newsreel ticker, repeating the same stressful stories.

To fully experience the present moment we must find a way hush those thoughts, even for just a minute.

A quick, easy way to release the grip of stressful thoughts is with a gratitude practice. Gratitude instantly shifts the focus out of our head full of thoughts, and gets us back into the present moment.

Most of us weren’t taught a gratitude habit, instead we’re encouraged to consume a daily diet of bad news; things going wrong, diseases we could develop, and dangerous conflicts. We’re conditioned to stress by an unrelenting flow of information telling us to worry.

The primitive part of our brain that insured our survival kept us focused on danger; ignoring a rustle in the grass could result in becoming another predator’s next meal! Today, that part of our brain still functions, but instead of the tiger in the grass, we react to the stories stalking us; the tanking economy, the deteriorating environment, or the personal conflict we keep replaying in our mind. When we can’t turn it off, that fear brain overwhelms us with chronic stress.

The good news is that fear and gratitude can not occur together! It’s impossible for the mind to think stressful, fearful thoughts and be grateful at the same time! Gratitude quiets the fear brain and snaps us back into the peace of the present moment.

Gratitude Formula

First, find one thing that fills you with thankfulness. It can be the smallest of things; your brain will respond positively without caring about the size or value of your choice. Dwell for a few moments on why you are grateful for this thing, then let the why settle to the background of your gratefulness, like the blue sky on a softly clouded summer’s day.

Now, make a statement of gratitude: I am grateful for ____________.

For a few minutes repeat your gratefulness statement to yourself. Remember there is a subtle difference between thinking about gratitude and practicing gratitude. Let yourself feel grateful.

You can change your wording, such as; I am so thankful for______, or thank you so much for______, but stay with a simple phrase.You can thank yourself, your higher power, God, Gods or Goddess, it doesn’t matter as long as you feel grateful.

Are you so stressed you can’t come up with something? If you are reading this you are probably in the top percentage of the world population that has clean running water, food, and a bed. Are you able to take a breath? Focus on being thankful for your breath, softly repeating the word yes on your in-breath, and thank you on your out-breath.

After practicing your gratitude statement for a few minutes, notice how you feel. Are you more relaxed and calm? Did your muscles relax, even slightly, and your mind slow down? When practicing gratitude, your brain floods with specific neurotransmitters, the good stuff that creates pleasant feelings and counteracts stress!

When you feel stressful thoughts taking you out of the present moment, use this gratitude practice to bring yourself back. Keep a gratitude journal. Practice gratitude statements every day. Besides bringing you back to the present moment, reducing stress and increasing positive brain chemicals, you may find there is an abundance of things to be grateful for in your life, coloring your world with joy and peace!

When you Negotiate, Check Emotions (Automomy)

When people negotiate, they want to experience autonomy. In essence, they want to feel like they’re in control throughout the negotiation. As such, they don’t want to be brow beaten or set upon, when they offer suggestions and potential solutions during the negotiation process.

You can allow your negotiation partner to experience autonomy by acquiescing to her demands, agreeing to the direction in which she moves the negotiation and by giving her the level of control she seeks throughout the negotiation. The question you’re probably asking yourself is, if I allow my negotiation partner to experience control to that degree, why should I bother to negotiate? Won’t I put myself at a great disadvantage by doing so? To which I reply yes and no.

Yes, you may give the appearance of being a weak negotiator and depending upon the person you’re negotiating with, he or she may try to exploit their perceived advantage. If that occurs, you will gain additional insight into the mental makeup of the person and what they might do if you give them too much control. In essence, its a balancing act. The thought that comes to mind is, you can give them enough rope to hang themselves, but not so much that they hang you.

While putting yourself at a perceived disadvantage you do so for the time it takes to make the person you’re negotiating with feel comfortable, or guilty enough to give back to you that which you seek from the negotiation. You accomplish your goals by making those goals your partners goals.

You allow your negotiation partner to experience autonomy and still reach your goals by planning the direction you’d like the negotiation to go in during your planning stage. In the planning stage, you need to assess where there might be overlay between the goals you share with your negotiation partner and create a path that the negotiations can travel to take advantage of that overlay.

Remember, control is perceptional. To the degree that someone feels they are in control, in any situation, in their mind, they are in control. Thus, it behooves you to convey the submissiveness they seek from you in order to project the feeling they need to experience in order to feel empowered. If they feel empowered to set the pace of the negotiation and thus set the negotiations direction, they will also have the degree of control they need to help you reach the goal of the negotiation.

You may have to walk a fine line when allowing your negotiation partner to think he’s in control of the negotiation. As long as that person stays on the path that you set, you will be okay and everything will be right with the world.

The negotiation lessons are…

  • Always understand and apply the importance of autonomy during a negotiation. To the degree that you can allow your negotiation partner to experience autonomy, she’s more apt to stay engaged throughout the negotiation.
  • During the negotiation, seek opportunities to bond or break the bonding process based on the degree of autonomy you allow someone to perceive they have. In this way, you can use the experience of autonomy as a tactic or strategy.
  • Remember that control and thus autonomy is a matter of perception. To the degree that you allow others to experience autonomy, they will be more likely to grant you what you desire.

Cross Cultural Presentations

The international flavour of many people’s jobs naturally means that there is greater interaction between people from different cultures. Within the business environment, understanding and coping with intercultural differences between people is critical to ensuring that interpersonal communication is successful.

Intercultural awareness is necessary for two reasons. Firstly, it minimises the possibility of misunderstandings and/or the causing of offense through intercultural mishaps. Secondly, it is a means to maximising the potential of business relationships through the utilization of intercultural differences productively.

One area within the business environment in which intercultural awareness is a necessity is in the business presentation. Directors, managers, salespeople, consultants and business personnel are regularly required to deliver presentations. However, when one is asked to give a presentation to an audience from a different culture there are intercultural factors that can hinder the success of a presentation.

By way of illustrating some of the intercultural differences in presentations, these tips to effective cross cultural presentations are offered:

Language:

The language you use in a cross cultural presentation is important. Although the majority of the language that is used in a cross cultural presentation will be understood by an English speaking foreign audience, a speaker must be careful when it comes to slang, idioms or phrases.

If an Englishman were to talk of being “knocked for six” or “bowled over” he may very well be met with puzzled expressions. More subtly, when an American talks of a ‘billion’ he means a thousand million, whereas in the UK this would mean a million million. Try and keep language simple.

Body Language:

Pay attention to your body language in a cross cultural presentation. Some cultures are quite animated and will appreciate hand gestures and the expression of emotion through the body. Others expect speakers to remain calm and would find such behaviour over the top. Similarly pay attention to the use of gestures. The thumbs up may mean ‘good’ in the USA but it means something very different in Iran. Eye contact can also be a major intercultural difference. Some cultures consider strong eye contact a sign of sincerity, others find it overbearing and an invasion of privacy. Do your cross cultural homework before a presentation.

Time:

Be aware of different approaches to time across cultures. Some cultures prefer a structured, timetabled approach to conducting business affairs, others are more casual. In countries where a start time is considered a guide rather than a definite, allow time for networking or engage in some chit chat until others arrive. Oppositely, if you arrive late to a meeting in a punctual culture, expect some negative feedback. Always show the appropriate stiffness or flexibility depending on the culture.

Emotions:

Some cross cultural presentations may be in front of a small number of people and deal with sensitive issues in a pressured environment. In such intercultural situations one should always keep their emotions in check. In some cultures a certain amount of cross examination or scrutiny may occur. If this happens bear in mind the positive intentions behind such actions, i.e. the questions are only being posed to establish facts, not to undermine you. Never lose patience, show frustration or display anger. To do so will lead to a loss of credibility.

Style of Presentation:

Different cultures learn and take in information in varying ways. One should always try and tailor their presentation style to meet the needs of the target culture. Some cultures, such as Europeans, prefer information to be presented in detail and in a way that sets down foundations that act as the support to a final argument or point. In such a presentation the speaker should gradually lead the audience, using a logical succession of points, to a conclusion. On the other hand, some cultures, like the US, prefer a much faster paced presentation that is bottom-line orientated, meaning the presenter speaks from a point rather towards a point.

Use of Technology:

Power Point is not the default method of giving a presentation across the world. Some countries many not even have the technical capabilities to accommodate this so one would need to adapt to the resources at hand, whether it be an Over Head Projector or blackboard. Some cultures do not even like a visual element to presentations and find much more worth in words and personality.

Content:

In a cross cultural presentation, ensure you tailor the content of a presentation to the audience. Different cultures expect different things from a business presentation. Long term orientated cultures may be excited about future projections and figures, but others would rather learn more about the presenter’s credentials, accomplishments and experience. A presenter needs to ask whether the target culture will appreciate factual, statistical information presented visually, or a more personal oratory approach.

Audience Participation:

Audiences react in different ways across cultures. Some are very engaging and are willing to participate in exercises and Q&A sessions, others are the opposite. Audiences also show respect in many ways. A Japanese audience may close their eyes while listening; a US one may clap when a good point is made and a Saudi one may do nothing at all.

Although the number of areas where one could point to intercultural differences in presentations is vast, for the sake of brevity the above mentioned areas have been highlighted as a way of drawing attention to some of the major ones. It is hoped these can then act as a foundation to improving ones insight into the way intercultural differences manifest in the business environment.