I was showering one day, and a bunch of ideas about the benefits of reading popped into my mind, which I thought would be useful to share. I’ve been a little neglectful in my reading this year (comparatively speaking), and as usual, I was starting to wonder what was the point of reading. Again, I was reflecting on the WHY.
Turns out there’s a lot more to reading than just telling people how much you’ve read. Your mental prowess is strengthened through the acquisition of knowledge (you get to learn sophisticated new words), your creativity expands profusely, and your ability to empathize is augmented.
Sounds cool right? Let’s get into it.
Acquisition of knowledge
This is arguably the most straightforward benefit and reason why people read. To acquire knowledge. Whether you’re reading from a textbook to prepare for an exam, reading an article on the Top 3 Benefits of Reading, reading an interesting post on Instagram, reading religious text for your spirituality or reading an ordinary non-fiction book, at the heart of it lies the acquisition of knowledge.
Whatever you read, whether you’re conscious of it or not, has an impact on your knowledge. Your mental prowess is arguably your greatest asset as well. You need to continuously invest in it so that it can continue to grow.
The remarkable thing is that the first Qur’anic verse or word revelated to the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) was “Read!”.
As I’m starting to remember that, the more motivated I’m becoming to continue reading. It can become less of a burden, and more of a priority.
Expansion of creativity
In addition to the knowledge that you gain, reading enhances your ability to think beyond your current mental limitations. The more you’re exposed to and engage with newer, abstract and unique concepts, the more creative you can become.
I always find it invigorating when I’m able to push my own boundaries because of something I read in a non-fiction book. When I read about self-development, what has been done by others or theories about the future, it enables me to also push beyond what I currently believe is possible within myself.
Additionally, unlike in a movies, fictional books also force you to use your imagination to picture the story you’re reading. I currently don’t put too much effort in being imaginative, but it’s definitely something I’m working on. The more you mentally engage with the stories, the more creative you can become in other aspects of your life as well.
Augmentation of empathy
The last aspect that I thought about was how it can develop your empathy. This is also more relevant to fictional books, as you have to take perspectives from different characters.
As with creativity, the more you read about stories from other people’s point of views, the more you’re able to feel what they’re feeling. As the characters develop, the deeper your understanding becomes of their own personality, how they relate to others, and what they want to accomplish.
The practice in this becomes how you put yourself in their shoes to make sense of the story. This can directly translate to your interpersonal relationships, as empathy is also a skill that can be worked on.
So when it comes to reading, my personal preference is to take a mix of fictional and non-fictional books. This gives me the right balance in acquiring new knowledge, expanding my creativity and augmenting my empathy.
The benefits of reading are definitely not limited to what I mentioned in this post. If you have any other important insights from your own reading experience, feel free to share it in the comments below! I’m also happy to engage more on this topic privately.
We hear it over and over again, how important it is to work in a team. Sometimes it can be frustrating, sometimes annoying, sometimes incredibly rewarding. So what differentiates a team that produces outstanding work, compared to those who just wish it was all over?
Let’s dive a little more into effective communication, empathy, trust and feedback. I’ve touched on these topics before, but it’s important to see how they connect to each other.
Why is this so critical? Because being able to clearly articulate your thoughts, feelings and expectations is paramount to successfully working in a team. Here are a few tips to practice when working in a team:
Start with why – have a set intention for the project.
Have consistent meetings and keep each other updated.
Make sure the goals are clear for each responsible party.
Have metrics in place to ensure that people are held accountable.
Be honest when you’re stuck or confused.
Give constructive feedback regularly.
It’s always valuable to have your intentions aligned at the very beginning of a project. This ensures that all members understand the purpose of working together and have a common objective.
The second point talks about having consistent meetings. This has been tremendously beneficial for me, especially working from home. Having a set routine for meetings, where the minutes are being taken, allows people to constantly stay up to date with what’s going on. It also means you can regularly discuss any ideas or setbacks that you’re facing.
Ensure that once you’ve delegated certain roles, the goals for each member are accurate. They know exactly what to prepare before the internal deadline. This doesn’t necessarily mean they know what to do from the get-go, but they need to know what they’re working towards.
Have metrics in place to ensure that those goals are being met. Whether it’s a page of the report, a programming code, a section of the simulation, anything really. When the metrics are known, they can be held accountable.
Getting frustrated or stuck is an evitable aspect of project work. What’s important here is to make sure you’re speaking to other people about what’s going on. Perhaps they could help you or refer you to someone who could. When all group members understand where the other person is (in terms of progress), it makes it easier for them to feel comfortable and confident in the work being done (or not). This requires a great deal of trust and empathy.
I’ll discuss feedback in a little more detail further below, but it’s an important part of communication too. You need to criticize well on a regular basis, to improve the quality of the overall work.
Empathy and listening
Ahh, emotional intelligence strikes again. Being empathetic is crucial to any important relationship you have in your life. When you can make the other person feel heard and understood, it opens up the door to vulnerability and honesty.
When you see that people aren’t delivering or struggling to meet internal deadlines, try and understand things from their perspective. Are there any problems going on behind the scenes? Are they feeling unusually stressed or anxious? Maybe they’re having issues at home?
Being a good listener plays a critical role here. You need to remain mindful, curious and nonjudgmental when holding the space for other people. I think this is a great leadership quality; allowing people to ask silly questions and truly speak to you about what’s on their mind.
This essentially builds on the previous topic. Trust is formed through active listening and being reliable. You need to commit to your word and show up when you promise to. Things are never going to be perfect, but you need to show other people that you are capable of delivering up to the expected quality.
Trust also involves a certain level of integrity. When you respect the team boundaries, when you don’t unnecessarily expose other people’s flaws, when people feel comfortable being vulnerable.
I need to trust you to deliver. I need to trust you not to share everything I bring up to you. I need to trust you to be there for me when I’m struggling. I need to trust you to give this your very best.
I’ve also spoken about this before on my post ‘The Psychology of Motivation‘. Delivering feedback and constructive criticism is an extremely important part of the development loop. You have to show people what’s working and what isn’t. You need to constantly update the expectations and ensure everyone is learning from their mistakes.
This is a really difficult process. For both, the person giving the feedback and for the person receiving it. However, if you’ve managed to successfully build trust, empathy and effective communication, it makes it a little more bearable.
Remember why feedback is important. It’s to help the other person develop and improve the quality of their work. When giving feedback, always bring up what’s working well first. Remind them of their strong points. Make the other person understand that you’re doing this to help them. Be as objective as possible. Offer support where you can to help them out too.
When you’re on the receiving end, keep an open mind. Watch out for your ego. Don’t see it as an attack or a source of demotivation. You can’t expect to be perfect every time. Absorb the wisdom given by your peers, they see things that might be in your blind spot.
Don’t take things personally.
To put it all together, you’re going to work in a team whether you like it or not. No one can do it on their own. Despite how independent or solo your work may seem, there are always people you will need help from. Integrating certain tools can help you work more effectively with people, especially if you’re striving to be a great leader.
Ensure that constant communication is in place. Hold the space for people to speak to you about what’s truly bothering them. Build the relationships on a foundation of trust and integrity. Give constant feedback so that everyone can improve.
“Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right”
Keep trying your best. If it’s challenging and difficult, it means you’re on the path to growth. You got this.
Just want to start by reminding myself and those of you who don’t know, why I started this blog. My aim with these posts is ‘Aspire to Inspire’. To gain a better understanding of the knowledge I’ve acquired, put it into use, and share it with as many people as possible.
If you find this useful, please subscribe using your email to get the posts regularly, like and share it with those who may also find it helpful.
The philosophy I’m trying to adhere to is that ‘The teacher learns the most’. So even if you just try and explain what you learn to other people, you’ll make so much more sense of it. I appreciate each and every one of you who have read and supported me through this; thank you for your time.
I was thinking of the best way to describe this topic, especially since it’s a domain I’m trying to work on quite rigorously. I’ll be going through quite a few aspects of leadership, the most important factor here being communication.
As usual, I’ll be reminding you of things I’ve mentioned in a previous post, namely the one about communication (I recommend you go over it considering how relevant it is to this topic, if you have the time to). The source of inspiration for this topic is from: Dare to lead, by Brene Brown.
We’ll start with why, and unravel the various reasons behind leadership, and how you first need to take ownership of yourself. We can then start seeing how communication plays a role in being an effective leader, through vulnerability, courage & empathy. Finally, we’ll dive into some tips on being a more effective leader and how the best way to lead, is by example.
“Daring leadership is ultimately about serving others, not ourselves. That’s why we choose courage.”
Start with why
Let’s start with a little curiosity, why should we even try to become better leaders? A lot of us (myself included) tend to have a misconception regarding who leaders are. We see leaders as those who take responsibility, run projects, captain sport teams, lead organizations or rule countries. But the truth is, we’re all leaders in some way, each and everyday. To our families, friends, colleagues, roommates and community. Whether or not we take ownership of it is up to us.
Being a better leader is therefore beneficial for every day interactions, forming more meaningful relationships, and serving those around you to your best ability.
When it comes to taking ownership, the first person we should think about is ourselves. Once we’re able to lead ourselves; by allowing ourselves to feel, make nonjudgmental decisions, and strive towards our goals in the face of hardship, can we then consider being leaders to others. That’s not to say that we always need to have our shit together to be great leaders. But better awareness, leads to better choices, which leads to better results.
So another pivotal point here, is having some sort of self-awareness. By forming a healthier relationship with yourself, you can ultimately form a healthier relationship with other people (I’ve emphasized that quite a lot by now). So first understand your own goals, reasons, values, and emotions. Understand what works best for you and what doesn’t, then build up your emotional confidence.
Once that’s established, ensure that you surround yourself with people who share your values, visions, and goals. I’m not saying that we should stick to our comfort zone and those we’ve always been acquainted with, but rather find those who are ambitious, hard working, and determined in the same direction. Once we have a solid reason, a why, we can move onto communicating that with other people.
Okay this is something I purposely chose to speak about again, because it serves as a reminder to myself and those of you who are reading. The biggest problem I notice whenever people are in a disagreement or have issues between each other, is lack of open communication. In the words of Brene Brown: Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.
Being clear is something that sounds so simple, yet we struggle so much with it. The issue with being clear, is that we need to lead into our vulnerability and courage. It’s so much easier to beat around the bush and just kind expect the other person to understand what we’re trying to say. But that’s why being vulnerable is so vital, it allows you to dive into how you truly feel and discuss that with another person.
Also important to note: You can’t give what you don’t have. So you can’t give other people love and compassion, if you don’t have it for yourself first (without it taking a toll on you).
I’m trying to bridge the understanding gap between myself and other people, through uncovering uncertainties and assumptions that I make with them. This can be done by figuring out where I leave others in a blind spot by assuming they know specific things about how I feel, what I’m going through or even about them.
Also, looking into where I lack clarity in truly conveying my feelings and how those affect my relationship with them. A critical aspect of communication therefore, requires more than just speaking; it requires us to be open listeners.
Listen! This is probably something we struggle even more with, if speaking wasn’t so hard already. But just listening to what people have to say will go such a long way in fostering a healthier relationship with them. Don’t formulate your response while they’re speaking.
Immerse yourself in the experience and fully understand where the other person is coming from. Stay present. This leads to the next point that I absolutely love speaking about; empathy.
Empathy is more than just connecting to an experience (putting yourself in another person’s shoes), it’s about connecting to the emotions underlying that experience. This means that it requires vulnerability, because you have to be willing to tap into your emotional reservoir and think about how you would feel in that particular situation.
Although certain people have challenges or experiences that we’ll never face, we can still find a situation that we’ve been through, that allowed us to feel a similar emotion. Herein are a few ways to help develop your empathy skills:
To be nonjudgmental
To understand other people’s feelings
To communicate your understanding of their feelings (and your own)
The most common skill that people understand when talking about empathy is the perspective taking. This requires us to be the learner, not the knower. Curiosity is a key factor here, and if you don’t understand where someone is coming from, be brave enough to ask.
“Only when diverse perspectives are included, respected and valued can we start to get a full picture of the world.”
To be nonjudgmental is absolutely critical when trying to deal with other people. This means that we need to be aware of where we are most vulnerable to our own struggles. We judge the most, when people are susceptible to shame and when they’re doing worse than us.
Emotional literacy or intelligence is necessary when trying to understand and communicate other people’s feelings, as well as your own. It’s an uncomfortable process that most of us seem to struggle with, and proves to be damaging in the majority of relationships. If we can’t articulate the emotion, we won’t be able to move through it. That’s why I think we need to actually spend time trying to learn the different emotions that we do experience, so that we can communicate it better with other people.
We also need to be able to show people that we do understand what they’re feeling, as that forms the basis of a connection. Albeit risky, we need to have the courage to ask them about their feelings if we don’t properly understand it.
To be mindful with emotions means that we don’t attach ourselves to them. As with life, everything we feel is temporary. This too shall pass. By paying attention to what’s happening in the conversation, what you and the other person are feeling, as well as the body language, we’ll be able to formulate a more empathetic approach to our responses.
Just a quick reminder that there’s a critical difference between empathy and sympathy. Empathy drives connection. Sympathy fuels disconnection.
I just wanted to discuss a few skills that I’m trying to implement, in being a better leader, through the form of questions and phrases that I can keep in mind. When dealing with issues within a group, bringing up and discussing the issue may sometimes be a roadblock. Here are a few points to follow to help overcome that:
Name the issue.
Prioritize being a curious leader.
Acknowledge and reward great questions.
Don’t be afraid to bring up the issue and talk about the problem. Remember: better awareness leads to better choices, which leads to better results. Stay curious and try to understand the source of the problem and how it can be overcome, together.
Use your empathy skills to further connect with the other group members and gain an understanding of why this might be an issue for them. The aim is to ‘get it right’, not ‘be right’. Another factor can be to encourage questions, which are sometimes even more important than just searching for answers. Don’t let your ego get in the way of asking for help, or admitting your faults. Being nonjudgmental with yourself is critical to being the same way with other people.
Reasons reap results, so don’t shy from asking.
A concept that I found incredibly helpful was to ask the question: “What does done look like?” This allows the person in charge to identify and clearly paint an image of what they expect to be done, and the objectives required to get there. Clear communication allows for more effective management. Here are a few more questions to ask as some rumble starters:
What problem are we trying to solve?
What are the assumptions you’ve made to get to your understanding?
What do you see as the goal of this meeting?
Engage in tough conversations, it’s the only way you and your team will grow.
Be motivated. Observe mindfully. Stay present.
Another important tip is to maintain boundaries. Show your level of self-respect through abiding with your values and don’t just let other people step over you. The same works for you, understand people’s boundaries better and learn to respect them. This works wonder for building up better trust and connecting more healthily.
The best way to lead?
By example. Practice what you preach. Walk the talk. I can’t emphasize this enough, people learn exceptionally through observation. I’ll use the example of parenting to further clarify this point.
When parents are found speaking contradictory to their actions, they wonder why their kids don’t listen to them. It’s simple, children learn the most through observational learning. The psychology behind that is absolutely phenomenal (to me at least), but that learning ranges from emotional reactivity, behavioral responses and habits. Not everyone follows that trend, but it’s a general concept we can mostly agree on.
You can’t just tell someone not to do something, when you’ve been doing it the whole time. I know we want the best for others, and for them to learn from our mistakes. But proving that requires action, determination, vulnerability and courage in the face of our short-comings.
When we can lead through vulnerability and being receptive to having braver conversations, we’ll find it a lot easier to create more meaningful interactions in our lives. It’ll open room for more honesty, creativity, productivity and even love.
So next time you ask someone: “How’s it going”? Don’t just wait for them to say: ‘good and you’?, with your response being “I’m good thanks.” Let’s leave the robotic cycle and aim to have deeper interactions on a more regular basis. Next time someone asks you how you’re doing, give yourself a second to actually think: “How am I actually feelings right now?” and then respond within the relevant boundaries. And when you’re asking them that question, listen attentively, notice their tone and the words their using. Show them that you care, and your relationships should start to flourish.
I’ve hopefully inspired you to take more initiative in your daily interactions and to strive to become a better leader, in whatever way you need to be. We should always start with why and have a clear sense of our objectives, as well as intentions and assumptions.
When we’re able to clearly communicate that with others, it’ll be easier for us to form a structured team. Being empathetic is a no-brainer for forming healthier and more trustworthy relationships, so it’s important to keep the different skills in mind: Perspective taking, being nonjudgmental, understanding and communicating people’s feelings, and being mindful. Some of the leadership tools include naming the issue, staying curious and rewarding good questions. Finally, leading by example through your actions, will always prove to be the most effective way to get those around you to improve.
The most recent book I’ve just read is called Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, thanks to a very special friend of mine. As part of my own learning, I decided to write a little about this topic so that the concepts can stay ingrained within me. Part of this post will cover the meaning of EQ, and how it can help us in our daily commutes. As well as other forms of beneficial concepts to aid us with understanding ourselves better & how to deal with other people.
What is Emotional intelligence?
Let’s start with a definition. From the research I’ve conducted, it’s the ability identify & acknowledge one’s own feelings (& emotions) as well as that of others. So this links back to what I talked about in The Journey I, being a better interpreter of your own emotions & learning how to accept them. What I loved so much about emotional intelligence is that it teaches you how to connect with people. Unlike the Intelligence Quotient (IQ), EQ emphasizes on more than just your own measure of intellignce; but rather how intelligent you are with dealing with yourself & others. In developing EQ, a key factor to consider is empathy.
What is the difference between empathy & sympathy?
Empathy: Is the ability to understand someone else from their point of reference (putting yourself in their shoes).
Sympathy: Is the understanding of what another person is feeling.
The short video I have posted here is a perfect way to understand these different terms. Empathy fuels connection, sympathy drives disconnection.
One of the most important traits you can have as part of your character is being empathetic. Understanding how to make yourself vulnerable in order to connect with other people & feel what they feel. When dealing with conflict or confrontations, the best & easiest approach for me would usually be: How do I want to be told this? This question shows how important it is to understand yourself, in order to understand others. When you know what works best for you in difficult situations, you’ll be prepared to figure out what works best for others too. Being emotionally intelligent allows you to make the best possible compromise when juggling with difficult emotions.
How much should you compromise for a relationship?
Discovering yourself is just as important when it comes to forming healthy relationships. The answer to that is a bit more complicated but there are a few tips that I’ve gained from a great monk that I’ve watched, Jay Shetty. “The problem is that we have a list for the person we want to be with, but we don’t have a list for who we need to become.” Before rushing into relationships you need to dig down and find out what you really want from a relationship. When you have that self-awareness, you’d know what you’re willing to change and what you’re not, in order to be with someone else.
Another point that I believe is crucial for this point is self-love. If you think of the love you have as a bar, like a health bar in video games, our instinctive behaviour would be to try and fill that up. If for example, you’ve only managed to fill that bar up halfway by yourself, you’d often seek the rest of the fulfillment from other people or relationships. When they aren’t able to complete it for you, that’s when a sort of lacking starts to appear and you feel like there’s something wrong or missing. If however, you’re able to fill up that bar completely by yourself, then everyone else in your life would just be adding to an already filled up bar. Allowing for an overflow of love and compassion.
To tie the laces, I’ve mentioned how important empathy is for genuine human connection, as well as differentiating it against sympathy. Why we need to be self-aware before jumping into relationships, & how important self-love is for that same task. I’ll leave with a lovely quote that I’ve found to be very true:
”The quality of your life is dependent on the quality of your relationships.”