The Greek philosopher Aristotle had a foolproof strategy to avoid criticism. The answer, he said, was “saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” None of us gets through life without being criticized, whether it’s by parents, teachers, friends, bosses, coworkers or spouses. Some differentiate criticism from feedback. They say criticism implies judgment, while feedback is about looking for a solution. A good distinction, but feedback often contains elements of criticism. And criticism can be delivered with the most caring intentions.
Human beings, like all animals in communities, are wired to feel what people around them are feeling. It’s an evolutionary trait: When a cave dweller anticipated a threat, the sooner other tribe members picked up on those perceptions, the safer they’d all be. It works much the same today, except the threats aren’t woolly mammoths. Our stresses come from being asked to do more with less. Information overload. Fear of mistakes. Tension with coworkers. Possible layoffs. It’s estimated up to 50 percent of employees view work as the main source of stress in their lives. That means you or the person working next to you is probably feeling overwhelmed. Inevitably one of you will start to feel it too.
Was that a stuffed fish flying through the air? Todd Wilkins couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Todd was in Children’s Memorial Hospital (now Lurie Children’s Hospital) in Chicago with his four-year-old son, Michael, who was being treated for neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer. Todd was watching Michael on the overnight shift. Usually a confident person, tonight he was feeling nervous and unprepared. As Michael slept, Todd left the room to ask the nurses a question. He turned the corner and saw a nurse toss a stuffed Pete the Perch to a coworker.
In last month’s blog, we kicked off our 20 Years of FISH! celebration with memorable quotes from people who have used the philosophy to improve their lives. This month we explore another great FISH! insight: “To change an organization, you’ve got to change yourself. As I work on myself I find I have a bigger impact on people than when I was trying to work on them.” Rob Gregory, owner, Rochester Ford Toyota It’s tempting, especially for leaders, to try to “fix” people—to “improve” them so they do more of what you like and less of what you don’t.
Time flies when you’re having fun! It’s been 20 years since our award-winning video, FISH!, introduced The FISH! Philosophy to the world. Over the next year, we’ll celebrate by sharing inspiring stories, tips and activities to help you continue to live the four practices. Be sure to look for special offers on our programs and workshops throughout the year. In this month’s blog, we kick off 20 Years of FISH! with 10 great quotes from people who have used The FISH! Philosophy to improve their work and lives:
Gratitude isn’t just for Thanksgiving anymore. Research shows people who regularly acknowledge and reflect on what they are thankful for are happier and healthier. In a study of 24 personality strengths, gratitude was one of the most influential in helping people enjoy their lives. But practicing gratitude isn’t always easy or automatic. It takes more than waiting for something good to happen, then casually noticing it. Your brain has a tendency to regulate itself, like an emotional thermostat. This is called hedonic adaptation. The more you’re exposed to something that stimulates your emotions—whether it’s a loving family, a job promotion, fun hobbies—the less your brain is stimulated by that emotion.
“Can we talk?” It’s a critical question in every workplace. Whatever the subject, how we communicate builds trust or tears it down. Sometimes, when we have territorial spats or personality clashes, it seems easier to just stop talking. But that doesn’t help. Think about it: Have you ever had a great relationship in which you didn’t talk to each other? When we stop communicating, we fill that gap with our own interpretations, insecurities and fears—in short, what we think is going on. That’s how you create silos and opposing camps. To improve your relationships, shift your conversations. Here are four FISH! Philosophy tips for conversations that strengthen relationships.
Surveys show 95 percent of us think we’re self-aware. Unfortunately, research shows only 10-15 percent of us really are. Self-awareness is the ability to see yourself accurately. It’s understanding your personality, feelings, strengths, weaknesses and behaviors. It’s recognizing how your actions impact others. Psychologists say self-awareness is a foundation to happiness and success. Seeing yourself clearly helps you build stronger relationships and communicate more effectively. You’ll make wiser decisions and be a better leader.
You can’t say the F-word at work. That’s right . . . fun. Psychologists say fun is a basic psychological need, as important as being loved. But many people believe fun and work don’t mix. Even at ChartHouse Learning, home of The FISH! Philosophy, we go to great lengths to emphasize Play is more than fun. We substitute words such as enjoyment, lightheartedness and positivity. We explain that Play is a mindset that stimulates fresh thinking and creativity. But wherever Play is happening, fun will show up too. Rather than avoid any mention of fun, why not try to understand what it actually looks like? A survey of 2,000-plus employees by Bright HR, a UK company, reveals how people see fun at work. The study also reinforces how The FISH! Philosophy builds a foundation for fun.
Listening makes real communication possible. In a workplace that values listening, people feel safer to suggest creative ideas and bring up problems that need to be addressed. Information is less likely to be distorted as it travels through the organization. People are more likely to feel supported and respected, improving teamwork and morale.