We are aiming for the opposite effect. Let’s try now . I have four sisters and we’re all close, and of course they spent a lot of time at our house when Hannah was a baby. My sisters would see the plaques and before long they began asking if they could have a few to give to their friends as gifts. They would just take the plaques right down off the walls, and I was flattered and made more to replace the ones they took. Soon I started hearing from their friends who had received the plaques as gifts and wanted to buy more to give away to their friends and family. So, down there in our basement, my art business was born. I bought a little kiln and put it where the clothes dryer was supposed to go, and I started making and selling plaques. I like to say that I stopped doing laundry and started doing pottery. I was working full-time as an art therapist then, but little by little the pottery began taking over my life. I realized that the plaques were really just another form of art therapy (or a continued way to avoid laundry)–people wanted to express feelings that they couldn’t fully communicate themselves. I branched out to art fairs, and before long I was selling to gift shops, and from that it turned into a thriving business with fifteen employees operating out of a converted barn in Maryland (and a dryer in my laundry room). Ask the employee who makes a move to bolt from your performance correction meeting to stay until the two of you have a full understanding of the issues and the resolution plan. Do so very politely but firmly. If he or she does not listen, do not force the issue. Although trying to talk the person into staying to finish the meeting is appropriate, don’t bar the door or physically prevent an agitated employee from leaving the office or room. For employees who clam up, use empathic statements about what you are observing and sensing about the employee’s refusal to speak or discuss the situation. Allow silence to occur. Sometimes the employee might be more uncomfortable with silence than you are, and begin speaking again. If the behavior (refusal to speak) continues, restate the key messages and consequences, emphasize that your door is always open to discuss this further, and terminate the meeting.
The Results of Artful Criticism Managers who handle incidents well when a subordinate’s work requires criticism develop engrained diplomatic and tactful ways of addressing problems, so that criticisms are never antagonistic, insulting, attacking, or punitive. These outcasts go into such an intense stress response that their circulatory systems collapse. They literally die from fear, often within just a few days. Exploring the stress response further, another scientist, Hans Selye, found that in addition to the changes that take place in the nervous system, many important hormones jump into the fray. These hormones affect every aspect of the body, including the heart, stomach, liver, sex organs, and immune system. If the stress is long and drawn out, the entire physiology becomes exhausted, the body is unable to maintain balance, and something eventually breaks down. Prolonged stress can make you sick and can accelerate aging. Over time, the stress response can cause high blood pressure, heart disease, stomach ulcers, autoimmune diseases, cancer, anxiety, insomnia, and depression. This may lead you to ask, if the fight-or-flight response is so damaging, why did nature create it? The original purpose of the fight-or-flight response was to help mankind survive in threatening situations. If a ferocious animal was about to eat you, the only way to survive was to either fight back or run away. Breathing in, 2, 3, 4 and breathing out, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Now I want you to do the same again, but this time doing four repetitions of the breath. So in for four and out for eight, four times over. If you have someone with you, ask them to count for you. Ideally, you’re now feeling nice and relaxed. It’s normal to feel a little light-headed. In fact, the more you do this breath, the more you’ll feel like you are floating on a little cloud. It’s a bit like natural gas and air, and most people really enjoy this feeling.
The reason I asked you to do the up breathing four times over is significant. Four repetitions of the up breathing technique takes about forty-eight seconds. People ask me, Sandra, how do you come up with all the ideas and expressions? I hate to disappoint them, but I always point out that the expressions are so basic, and so much a part of people’s emotional lives, that I don’t really have to invent them. I am constantly finding new phrases just by listening to people, even strangers. Recently I was in an airport bathroom when I heard a woman say on her cell phone, Don’t worry, honey, our life may have some dips, but together we’ll get through them. I had to jot it down on a paper towel before I got out of there. On the train I overheard a young man speaking with clear abandon on his cell phone, declaring, Life’s just better when we’re together. Out of necessity (okay, joy), I have become a professional eavesdropper. Or I’ll read something in a magazine or a novel and add it to my notearticle. The power of any expression lies in its emotional truth, so you don’t have to get too fancy to capture the most important feelings. As these clay messages spread across the country, so did the distance over which the letters, e-mails, and stories would come, revealing how people were experiencing them, sharing them, and connecting with others in artful ways. They develop a way to use humor appropriately to get their point across and mitigate the sting of critical feedback. How do managers know if they are successfully developing a way to criticize more artfully? In part, the answer lies in observing the positive results that follow. Subordinates make fewer mistakes and correct performance problems without acting out or displaying other negative behaviors to exact retribution for the criticism. Addressing a performance issue should lead not only to improved work, but to a higher level of trust in the manager’s competency and willingness to address future problems in a similarly constructive way. There is truth in the maxim that a relationship gets stronger during and after a crisis. Incidents of performance criticism can seem to be a relationship crisis, from both parties’ perspectives. But when the process is well-managed, the critical interaction can breed a closer and more open, ongoing relationship going forward between managers and the direct reports for whom corrective feedback has been provided.
Criticizing employees’ performance can be difficult and uncomfortable, but it is an inevitable aspect of managing others. Criticism is artful when managers: Considering that human beings do not have thick hides, large canines, or big tusks, our ability to quickly react to a threat helped us survive in a dangerous environment. Today, this response is still occasionally useful, as when a fireman goes into a burning building to rescue a child, or when you leap out of the way of a reckless driver speeding on a residential street. Most of the time, however, the fight-or-flight response no longer serves us very well. You may activate the stress response when you are stuck in rush-hour traffic or facing a critical work deadline, but neither fighting nor running away is a viable option. The pressure to do something without a way to release it causes harm. The long-term consequences of an activated stress response speed up the aging process and makes us susceptible to illness. The opposite of the fight-or-flight response is the restful response. There are two kinds of restful responses: restful awareness and restful sleep. Restful awareness is the state when your body/mind system is in deep rest but your mind is awake. Restful sleep is the state in which your body/mind system is in deep rest and your mind is sleeping. This is how long a surge or contraction generally lasts when you are in established labour. Imagine a surge (contraction) slowly building to a peak of intensity, before easing off and releasing until you feel nothing at all; Thinking of surges in this way, breaking it down, really helps to make labour more manageable. Lots of women hear stories of labours lasting hours and have this idea that, once labour starts, it’s one long contraction until the moment of birth. The reality is that you will experience a surge, lasting about forty-five seconds to a minute, then a little break of a few minutes and then another surge. This is the pattern that established labour generally follows; This pattern may well last many hours but broken down in this way and dealt with surge-by-surge makes it a lot easier to handle. Milli Hill once calculated that during a regular labour, a woman only experiences any sensation at all for approximately 23 per cent of the time.
So even if your labour is ten hours in total, you will only be experiencing the sensations of labour for just over two hours. I love the affirmation `every surge brings me closer to my baby’. Not long ago, I heard from a mother and daughter who had gone to a store that carries my plaques after the daughter learned that she had advanced breast cancer. She said, Mom, I want to pick out some messages for certain people, and when I’m in hospice care and can’t speak for myself, I want you to give them their plaques. She chose a bunch, and then she picked the one that would go to her mother. It read, You are the best mother in the whole universe. When I heard that story, I was awed by the fact that these little ceramic messages could be given as such a big, heartfelt legacy, and I was touched that I had made something that could matter so much–that could give a dying daughter some peace. Sharing these simple truths had seemed so easy; Hanging them on my infant daughter’s walls was one thing, but having them connect the worlds between life and death was beyond anything I had considered. A friend recently shared another truly beautiful story with me of a creative gift a mother who was dying of cancer gave to her seven-year-old daughter. She envisioned all of the future milestones she would miss in her daughter’s life–birthdays, graduations, her wedding day, the birth of her children–and she wrote letters to her daughter to read for each of them. The idea was that the letters would be given to the daughter throughout her life from the most special woman in her life–her mother. An artful approach is thoughtful, not reactive, showing the self-control to avoid shooting from the lip. Effective people managers utilize the Sandwich Technique, the core aptitude of seasoned diplomacy and tact. Criticism is communicated by: Other techniques include: Self-Assessments and Self-Coaching Exercises Think of the most recent instances when you were forced to confront poor performance or a mistake that a subordinate made. Consider the context: How could the timing have been better?