3 Ways a “STAY CURIOUS” Mantra Will Help You Stay Calm

zen-2819215_1920PixabayDo you know people who react defensively or erupt with anger when you try to tell them something?

Or maybe you have a friend or colleague who cuts you off and never seems to hear what you’re saying.

Or maybe that person is you.

That defensive (and sometimes interrupting) person used to be me.

But, it’s not anymore.

So, what did I do to overcome these not-so-great traits?

I read books, attended workshops, practiced listening, focused on not interrupting, and learned how to ask open-ended questions.

All of that helped…a bit.

Mostly I was learning what NOT to do. Don’t talk too much. Don’t make it about myself. Don’t blame others. Don’t get defensive.

I wasn’t learning what TO DO.

Until I began my coaching training. My mentors suggested I stay curious when listening to a client and hold off responding too quickly.

Just hearing those two words, STAY CURIOUS, gave me an instantaneous, aha, kind of insight.

STAY CURIOUS became my new mantra. If I were into tattoos I’d have it inscribed on my wrist.

When my brain was working on staying curious, I found that it couldn’t do all those other things I was trying so hard to stop doing.

It’s simple:

Do more of what you want and there will be less space for what you’re trying to stop.

Almost magically STAY CURIOUS helped me to put my thoughts on the back burner so there was space for me to stay calm in the face of hard to hear views.

Here are three ways that adopting a STAY CURIOUS mantra might help you:

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Better Than Resolutions: Start Your Gratitude Basket Now

Gratitude Basket 2017When my dear friend Nancy gave me a beautiful West African basket a few years back I decided to use it in a special way.

Starting on January 1st, I toss mementos for the year into the basket.

Then, late in December I empty the contents onto my office rug and savor them once again.

My heart sings as I recall Broadway shows and concerts (Come From Away and James Taylor top this year’s list).

There are ticket stubs from fun outings and trips: Legoland with my Magical Mystery Tourgranddaughters and travel to Scotland, England and Charleston. (Tops: The Magical Mystery Tour in Liverpool!)

Booklets and note cards highlight professional success: an ATHENA award nomination and coaching inspiring clients and TEDx speakers.

Sadly, the memories aren’t all happy. Photos of dear friends whose lives came to an abrupt end were also in my basket (missing you: Janie, Michelle and Ree).

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Stop Holiday Stress Before it Starts

christmas-2973900_1280PixabayI pull up to the ATM, lower my window and can’t quite reach the slot for my debit card. Instead of unbuckling my seat belt, I reach—and then reach a tiny bit further. And that’s when I feel something pop down the right side of my body.

I bet you’ve done this too. Maybe you’ve strained your back moving a sofa or suffered shin splints from over-training for a race.

We all do it. We overextend and end up hurting our bodies.

We overextend in other ways too, especially during the holiday season.

We “have to” buy too may gifts, say “yes” to too many invitations, or incur credit card debt that takes the rest of the year to pay off.

There’s a cascading effect from all of these “yeses.”

It goes like this:

We overextend We get overwhelmed → We feel stressed → We lose joy.

Sound familiar?

Well, now that Thanksgiving has passed, some might say we’re entering the season of joy.

But are we? Are you?

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Don’t Dismiss Employee Grumbling Without Doing This 1 Thing

IMG_1335On a recent trip to Scotland I was reminded of the importance of not dismissing employee grumbling too quickly.

So, here’s my wee tale from The Waterfront Restaurant in Inverness…

Our party of five dined in a Scottish pub. We made careful selections and sipped local beer as we awaited our food.

Our entrees arrived with quite an unusual presentation.

Picture this (or better yet, look at the above photo): White plates of food were arranged on thick particle board trays, with unfinished rough edges.

Our waitress, Natasha, could barely manage to set each tray on the table without losing control of the whole set-up and serving the meal into our laps.

She grimaced and groaned, “We hate these heavy boards. The plates are sliding about and we’re constantly getting splinters. But the chef won’t give them up no matter what we say.”

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Two Choices for Handling Unsolicited Feedback

feedback-1793116_1920PixabayFeedback has a way of finding us. Even when we don’t want it.

People tell us some pretty awful stuff, both at work and in our personal lives.

It’s one thing when we’ve asked for feedback and something else when it’s uninvited.

Here’s how I define unsolicited feedback:

Unsolicited feedback is any information we get from others—about ourselves—without asking for it.

It can feel like a punch to the stomach (or even a lift to our spirit, when it’s positive.)

Here are some examples:

Comments like these (and their possible hidden meanings):

  • Oh, you got a haircut. (with a flat expression, leaving out whether or not they like it)
  • I never would have guessed you were on Medicare. (hinting that it’s not ok to look like we’re of Medicare-age)
  • Just cut off that relationship. (telling us how to handle conflict in our lives)
  • You look tired. (letting you know you’re not so looking great)
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What Toxic Situation or Person Do You Need to Escape?

MangoFallingSignHawaiiOn a recent trip to Hawaii I snapped a photo of a sign I spotted, as my sister and I strolled the Botanical Gardens. It read:

“Do not stand here: Falling Mangos”

That sign was pretty darn clear. Move away from the mango tree or you run the risk of getting thumped on the head.

This picture got me thinking of when else in life we get a thump on the head.

Something from my life, that had been metaphorically hitting me on the head and wearing me down, immediately came to mind.  This nudged me to make a big decision to move away from the matter.

And boy did that feel good.

I bet you can think of times in your life when you’ve moved away from something.

For elderly folks, knowing when to stop driving can be one of those situations. My mother, now 93 years old, chose to give up driving when she was 86. It was a gift to our family to not have to wrestle the keys away from her. So, what happened?

Her thump on the head came in the form of a minor fender bender on a wet Florida road and she said, “What do I need with all of this stress!”

What do you need to move away from?

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Best Tips to Prep a TEDx Talk (from a TEDx Speaker Coach)


Photo by Mary Fenton

Preparing a TEDx Talk is more challenging than most first-time TEDx speakers realize.

Even folks with vast public speaking experience find this TED Talk stuff to be a new animal.

I’ve been coaching speakers for TEDxAsburyPark (formerly TEDxNavesink) for the past few years and here are the best tips from the speakers I worked most closely with this year.

Their wisdom…in their own words…

After reading, click on each talk title to have a listen.

Search for a Deeper Truth: “Writing a talk (hopefully a good talk) requires practice, editing, openness, and a willing to throw it all out in search for a deeper truth. While any one of us might be subject experts, few of us probably have the expertise to make our subject digestible to a diverse audience. My coach helped me polish an idea into a talk that allowed my listeners to hear a very basic reality in a new way.” From Joe Primo, CEO of Good Grief


Joe Primo (and guest Izzy): Grief is Good (photo by Mary Fenton)

Own Your Talk: “It was really helpful when my coach made it very clear that it’s my talk to own, and that her guidance was not the holy grail. This allowed me to take ownership over my work and feel like it was authentically my message. I also found it helpful to be accountable to deadlines my coach and I set. This process taught me more about what I value in terms of my process and final product.” From Jasmin Singer, Memoirist (Always Too Much and Never Enough), Podcast Host (Our Hen House), Senior Editor of VegNews Magazine

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Best Ways to Up Your Happiness Output

The woman in the green jacket gets me thinking about happiness. I see her nearly every time I walk the boardwalk.

We make eye contact and she gives me a quick wave and warm smile.

One day I’m walking behind her for the first time. She appears a bit older than I am, from her veined legs and slightly hunched over posture. But she is super fast.

I’m curious to see the response her greeting gets from others so I jog to keep pace.

It turns out I’m not so special. She greets each person she passes. Every single one!

She rates a 10+ on my imaginary Happiness Output Scale.

It’s impossible for me to pass her by and not feel just a little bit happier.

What is your happiness output?

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Stop Doing These 5 Things to De-Stress Your Conversations

giraffes-627031_1920PixabaySomeone hurts you, annoys you, mistreats you, misinterprets your intentions or leaves you baffled.

You wonder, “Should I say something?”

If you choose to speak up, then what? What should you say? What’s the best way to say it?

All of this uncertainty can lead to a major build-up of stress as we become weighed down, not sure how to proceed.

Sometimes letting the issue go is the best option (and that’s fodder for another blog).

But, when we choose to have a conversation, what does it take to talk with someone without all the stress we may be feeling today?

Here are my best five ways to de-stress conversations.

#1 Stop Avoiding Conversations: I use the “shower rule.” If an issue repeatedly pops up when I’m in the shower (or during another mind-freeing moment) that’s my sign to have a conversation. Then I follow the “one week” rule and promise myself to find the right moment within the next week. Dragging this out longer only leads to more stress.

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Five Ways NOT to Respond When Someone Says “I Have Cancer”

Cancer PixabayI used to be tongue-tied and incredibly uncomfortable when someone said, “I’ve got some tough news to share.”

Compassion welled up inside of me but my words just sounded trite, awkward and maybe even insensitive.

It’s never easy to hear bad news. But as with most things in life, experience and practice help us grow.

I’ve had more practice than I would have liked at being both the receiver and sharer of bad news and it’s helped me to get better at being there for others.

Here’s why.

I’ve had cancer. Twice. Breast cancer in 2001 and melanoma (of my scalp) in 2014. Telling friends and family about my diagnoses was hard. I didn’t want pity. I didn’t want them to worry. And I especially didn’t want to hide my health situation from the people I most cared about.

My awareness was heightened each time I shared my news. When some reactions made me squirm, I was reminded that I haven’t always reacted in the best way either. This helped me have compassion when others’ words weren’t the ones I most needed to hear.

Here are five ways people responded to my cancer news.

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