We all have things we wish we could do better, especially in the area of building and using better communication skills. Often, it’s easier to learn about what you need to do, than to actually do it.
How many times have you told yourself that you are going to listen more and talk less, but then sort of forget about it as soon as you have something to say?
Well, guess what? Change takes practice! It takes a commitment to work on areas that you want to work on and to hold yourself accountable.
One exercise I like to use in my workshops is to make a few daily promises to yourself. This exercise was inspired by Mary Anne Radmacher who wrote a beautiful book titled Promises to Myself .
Here’s how it works.
Take a few index cards and cut them in half.
Write down something on each card that you want to focus on changing or reinforcing in yourself — and just you! Remember, you can only change you, so don’t boss anyone else around in your card making.
To help you decide what to write down, you may want to brainstorm a list and then circle the behaviors you want to work on now.
Some of the promises I have written include: Listen, Focus on one thing at a time, Be thankful, Be still, Be patient, Practice gratitude, Focus on relationships, Appreciate others.
You can put down anything you want to promise yourself to work on. I usually suggest they include some of the communication challenges we have been working on, but you can focus on any area of your life.
You can use more cards if you want — but 3-5 is a good place to start. I started with 5 and every once and a while add a new one to the mix that I’ve thought of. Now, I regularly rotate about 10 cards.
Find a small box that isn’t serving a good purpose; I found a small painted wooden box that someone brought back from a vacation that was only serving as an ornament on a book shelf, and put the cards in that box. Put the box somewhere where you’ll see it first thing in the morning. I put mine in my bathroom.
Each morning pull one card and say “Today I will…” and read the card. Then focus on working on that promise all day. Carry the card with you – in your bag, your notebook, your pocket.
At the end of the day put the card back in the bottom of the pile. When you finish the stack of cards, reshuffle and start over.
This simple exercise can have a profound difference on how your day goes and you will find you make one great step towards better communication by following through with your daily promise. Pretty soon the promises become part of the change in you!
I have found that many times the exact card I need is the one that comes up that day. For example, after a late night and waking up tired, I pulled the card “Be patient”. It helped remind me to keep my tired crabbiness under control and actually enjoy the day. Another one of my favorite cards is “Pause before speaking” – it’s very empowering and you learn a lot about yourself and those you are listening to. My most recent addition “Eat healthy”.
My husband used to be able to tell me what my card said for the day by how how I acted that day. He’d say “is today listen?”…. or exercise, or be patient. Now, he will ask and not always get it right. That tells me I’m actually making some of these promises a habit!
What will your promise to yourself be today?
Please leave me a comment! I’d love to hear what your promise to yourself is!
Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home. She is also the director of Washington’s 529 Prepaid Tuition Program.To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit:
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