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27 Jan

The 1 Vital Key To Positive Personal Change.

At the beginning of every year, so many people set “resolutions” for the year ahead, hoping to create some, or massive personal change.

In a very insightful article by Ray Williams (published in Psychology Today), he mentioned that by the month of February, most people have started to backslide from their new year’s resolution.

He also quotes Professor Timothy Pychyl, who says that resolutions are a form of “cultural procrastination.”

This may not surprise you, in western society, we could easily say that weight loss is the number one new year’s resolution.

Whether your goal is to lose weight, or to get a new job, or to improve your relationships, or to quit smoking, there is one vital key that can massively boost your chances of productive and positive change.

Here it is….

Get an Accountability Buddy. 

An accountability buddy is someone who will hold you accountable to take positive and productive action.

As a coach and mentor, I have seen first hand what an accountability buddy can do when it comes to creating productive and positive personal change.

Now, some people might take positive and productive action just to keep their accountability buddy happy. That is okay. As long as the work gets done.

Please allow me to share a personal example with you. I had a coaching client who was a Sales Executive, and was desperate to get back into reading books on sales. She used to read every day, and had dropped that habit. Now, her new goal was to read 15 pages from whichever book she was reading at the time, every morning before work.

My role was to hold her accountable.

Initially, my suggestion to her was “Send me an SMS (text message) after you have done your reading every morning”.

Then I realised, that may not cut it. Why? She may skim through 15 pages, just for her satisfaction, and then send an SMS.

So, I resorted to another technique which would hold her more accountable – “Call me every morning for a 2 minute chat, after you have read the 15 pages, and enlighten me on what you have learnt in those 15 pages”.

The shock on her face was obvious when she heard that. The very next day, she called, and did as I had requested.

Each day, she did the same thing until our coaching sessions ceased.

A friend of mine who is also a coach had a client who lived near a beach, and her goal was to go for a run at the beach each morning.

The coach requested “Call me when you get to the beach each morning”.

She was amazed at this request, and tried to make excuses – “Oh, I plan to go to the beach at 6:00 am. That may be too early to disturb you. You might be sleeping at the time”.

The coach responded with “I wake up at 5:00 am, and will be at the gym at 6:00 am. So, we will be exercising at the same time. I look forward to your phone call at 6:00 am tomorrow”.

Did she go for a run and call her coach in the mornings? You bet she did!

Let’s take it one step further – creating productive and positive personal change is of little use if it is not sustained.

Ask your accountability buddy to hold you accountable until that positive and productive personal change becomes part of your being. It enables you to become who you are, and others can see it in you!

You may have heard of someone who went on a weight loss program, lost a certain amount of weight, and was very pleased with the result. A few months later, they pack on the weight they had lost, and are back to square one.

This is not an uncommon occurrence.

Sustaining the personal change is as important as creating it.

In an article on entrepreneur.com, Stephanie Vozza mentioned “An Accountability Buddy Is Your Secret Weapon for Faster Growth”.

Although she is referencing that quote in a business sense, it is very pertinent to anyone in their personal life too.

My humble suggestion to you is to find an accountability partner who will be disciplined enough in holding you accountable to create positive and productive changes.

Right now, you might be thinking “Does he practise what he preaches?”  You bet I do! I have fellow mentors and coaches whom I reach out to when I need to get something major accomplished. Two months ago, a fellow coach was my accountability partner when I was working on the new website for my anti-bullying charity (www.beatbullyingwithconfidence.com)

Quote: “An accountability partner is able to perceive what you can’t see when blind spots and weaknesses block your vision. Charles Stanley

I sincerely hope that you have gained a simple insight into how you can utilise an accountability partner in order to create and sustain productive and positive personal changes in your life.

Also, please reach out and be an accountability buddy to others around you! As the legendary Ghandi said “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Influencing you to your excellence,


PS: My Anti-Bullying Charity’s latest short video addresses a deeply serious issue (Adult Post Bullying Syndrome) – https://youtu.be/yl9FL47dVwI

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29 Dec

The Difference Between Empathy And Sympathy.

Do you know the meaning of Empathy? How about the meaning of Sympathy?

Quite often Empathy and Sympathy are confused, or taken to have the same meaning.

Let’s discuss in detail what each word means. More importantly, we will explore how each word and its meaning can help you in communicating effectively with your loved ones, your colleagues, and your friends.

The Oxford dictionary defines sympathy as “Feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.” It comes from the Greek word “sumpatheia”.

Sympathy is acknowledging, not necessarily understanding the situation of the other person.

The same dictionary defines empathy as “The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” It also comes from the Greek word “empatheia.”

Empathy is putting yourself in the other person’s position/place, and understanding/seeing what they are going through at the time.

Why is it important to understand the difference between sympathy and empathy?

Both are important in being able to relate to others effectively and in supporting others when they need guidance, help, understanding etc.

Let’s have a look at a real-life scenario in which you will benefit from understanding the difference between empathy and sympathy:

You have a friend who is being bullied at work. They tell you in detail all that they have endured. The feelings of frustration, sadness, and anger are obvious to you. Your friend has not specifically asked for any support or input. They are just expressing their feelings to you, and re-telling you their story of being bullied.

You start thinking about your friend, and your initial approach is to sympathise with them (feel sorry for them). You might say something along the lines of “I really feel sorry for you. Can’t believe this is happening. You poor thing!”

That approach makes your friend feel heard. It is clear that you see their pain, anger, and frustration. Hence, you feel sorry for them.

If you were to project empathy toward your friend, you will have a different approach. You might say “I can totally understand and see what you are going through by putting myself in your shoes. Goodness, this is so hard!”

Now, I am not insinuating that empathy is better than sympathy. They both have their place when dealing with others.

The key is to know when to use empathy, and when to use sympathy.

In the above mentioned example, empathy would be the more effective approach. It makes your friend feel understood. Being understood is far more empowering than being felt sorry for. When you make someone feel understood, you are more likely to support them in a way that they would prefer to be supported.

When you just feel sorry for someone, you run the risk of making them have self-pity. Self-pity (in most cases) is very dangerous, as it has the tendency to create/maintain a victim mentality.

Empathy is a very powerful communication tool because it allows us to be more human.

Let’s look at another scenario. Imagine a close friend of yours has just lost their pet dog, and is grieving deeply.

In this case, sympathy could be the more impactful initial approach.

Why? Sympathy will allow you to share their grief. It is said that grief is lessened when it is shared. You could easily say “I really feel for you. Please accept my sympathy”.

Sure, you could use empathy as well, by putting yourself in their shoes. Then, you will be better placed to support them in overcoming their grief.

In this situation, sympathy could be used to initially share their grief, and empathy could be used to support them in overcoming their grief.

Your goal should be to ascertain which one is best suited to every unique scenario. You must tailor your approach based on what has happened to the other party, and what they need from you.

In a professional capacity, sympathy and empathy could also be utilised together effectively. If you are the manager of a team of staff, and one of your staff has an issue that is affecting their performance, you could use sympathy to show emotion toward them. Then you could use empathy to put yourself in their shoes, and gain better ideas to support them productively.

Quote: “Sympathy and empathy often lead to each other”.  Dr Neel Burton

I sincerely hope that you have gained a simple insight into how you can enhance your people skills by appropriately using empathy and sympathy.

Wishing you and your family a very safe and enjoyable Christmas!

Influencing you to your excellence,


PS: Here is my Anti-Bullying Charities latest short video (The Difference Between Bullying And Harassment) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42SsgdvTBLQ

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27 Nov

5 Life Lessons From A Remote Aboriginal Community.

Photo taken by the author, as he flew out of this remote Aboriginal community.

Photo taken by the author, as he flew out of this remote Aboriginal community.

In June this year, an opportunity presented itself for me to do volunteer work in a remote Aboriginal community. It was located in northern Australia (East Arnhem Land).

Most of us who live in big cities can only imagine what life is like in remote Aboriginal communities. Living there is an experience that cannot be fully defined in just words. One has to be there to fully immerse themself into the rich cultural and traditional understanding of such communities.

As someone who was previously looking from the outside in, my perspective, perception, and projection transitioned into one of empathy, admiration, and understanding once I arrived in that community.

The residents of this remote community are void of the many material possessions that most of us in capital cities have. Yet, their outlook on life is not even comparable to what we have.

Here are five life lessons learnt from living in a remote Aboriginal community:

  1. Collective resilience is strengthened through adversity – This particular community was hard hit by a cyclone about two years ago. A high percentage of the population lost many of their material belongings and their houses. Soon after the cyclone, multiple families had to live under one roof in houses that were suitable for just one family. Instead of feeling bottled in, the residents of this community felt more of a sense of belonging when families had to live together in such conditions. They banded together to help each other in re-building their lives. Speaking to one of the elders about the cyclone, he said “No disaster is strong enough to destroy our strength as one mob!”
  2. Meaning is how you define it – In western society, generally speaking, life’s meaning is to be “successful”. That word is very loosely used and defined. Success has different meanings to different beings. The residents in this remote Aboriginal community have a different approach to life, and give a unique meaning to what life means to them. They are more focussed on living through their culture, and upholding the customs that have been existent for more than 40,000 years. Respect plays a vital role in their lives. Relationships define how you would refer to a person eg. you will only refer to a person as a “brother, aunty, grandmother, nephew” etc. Referring to a person by their name is not part of their living. What became very apparent from the onset was that their approach is to be free in life. Free in the sense that they embrace/express freedom through the land, the sea, and the culture (dance, music, stories). They do things that create an expression of their true selves. Their meaning toward life is something that we, in capital cities may/will find a foreign concept.
  3. Family is more than everything – As the African proverb states, “It takes an entire village to raise a child”. Family is more than everything in this community. I did my very best to understand how empathic the focus on families is. It was still beyond my comprehension how family took precedence over everything and anything. If someone is in need, the immediate/extended family will provide any support needed. In capital cities, it is said that “Houses are getting bigger, and homes are getting smaller”. In this remote Aboriginal community, the home will always remain big. Children are taught from an early age that family is worth more than any material possession that they will come across. They pass that value to the next generation, and the cycle continues in sustaining solid family values.
  4. Less is more – Most people in this community have bare essentials that they are very content with. Men will wear shorts, t-shirts, and light footwear (flip flop slippers). You will barely see anyone with expensive watches, designer brand apparel, and the latest gadgets to keep up with technology. Children will run on the beach, play football without any boots, and spend most of the time outdoors (in the dry season). There are very few cars in the community, and the locals walk from point A to point B. Having less than the average westerner does not seem to make their life inferior in any sense of the word. They are more than content with their lifestyle.
  5. No one is a stranger – On my third day in this community, two elders called me for a chat under a gum tree. One of them pointed to the ground, and asked me to sit down. He explained that both of them had felt a strong connection with my spirit, and wanted to adopt me into their tribe. As part of that process, I was given a Spirit Totem, a Clan Name, a Skin Name, and was told that I now officially belong to that tribe (mob). It was way beyond my comprehension as to how an outsider could be accepted into this community after just three days! One of the elders explained “No one is a stranger here. You come here, you become part of us!” Can you imagine if we had that outlook/approach in every community or on every street on earth?

Leaving this remote Aboriginal community was challenging indeed. Not only did my outlook change, my understanding of how life can be defined in different ways took a turn for the better.

Here’s to sincerely hoping that some of these lessons can/will support you in reviewing what is important to you…

Influencing you to your excellence,

PS: Here is my Anti-Bullying Charities latest short video (The Difference Between Bullying and Teasing)- https://youtu.be/jhVjg3KxfxQ

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27 Oct

How To Replace An Unproductive Habit.

In the September,  I wrote about habits (how they are formed and how they can be replaced).

In that article, the emphasis was on the fact that a habit has to be replaced, not just removed.

In my coaching and mentoring career, there have been countless clients who wanted to give up an unproductive habit. My emphatic message to them was that they must look for ways to replace that habit.

If you are to get rid of a habit, please remember that a void will be formed.

The legendary Bob Proctor said “Nature abhors a vacuum. Once you give something up, something else will have to fill that void”.

This is so pertinent when it comes to replacing a habit.

Today, let’s discuss how you can replace a habit.

Here are four steps to replacing an unproductive habit:

  1. Come up with a productive habit – in an article in Psychology Today, Teri Goetz stated “Choose something to replace the unhealthy habit”. That could not be truer! If you are looking to drop a habit, you will be in a far better position to look for a new habit to replace the old habit with. Just getting rid of the old habit will not cut it. You have to come up with something new to replace the old habit. This is what I wrote in the previous article on habits – There was a Life Coaching client of mine whose goal was to quit smoking. He had a habit of having a cigarette every hour, on the hour while he was at work. He said that when he quits smoking, he will miss going outside his office like he used to when he smoked. I asked him how long it took him to smoke a cigarette. He replied “Four minutes approximately”. So, I asked him to go for a four minute walk around his office building, on the hour, every hour. His not so good habit had to be replaced.
  2. Look for the “spark” – what is it that causes you to engage in the unproductive habit? What sparks that action? Let me share a story with you. I had a coaching client in 2009, whose goal was to lose a number of kilograms in a number of months. He was on an appropriate diet, and was also engaging in regular exercise. At least twice a week, he would get side tracked, and do something that wasn’t congruent with his goal. He would walk past a bakery (on his way to work), and buy a rocky road slice! After consuming the rocky road slice, he would be consumed with regret. My suggestion to him was to identify that walking past the bakery “sparked” his action of buying and eating the rocky road slice. He decided to take another route, which didn’t have a bakery or a fast food shop. The same applies to productive habits. What sparks the actions of productive habits? I suggested to this client that if he gets prompted to buy food items from a shop that he walks past, he should purposely walk past a fruit and veggies shop. His goal was to increase his fruits and veggies intake. Identifying the spark is an integral part of the process.
  3. Find an accountability buddy – a study done at the University of Aberdeen found that people who found a new exercise partner were more likely to do more exercise. One of the most important lessons that I learnt while doing my coaching certification was that a coach should act as an accountability buddy to the client. You are more likely to respond productively if you are being held accountable for your actions. Find someone who will hold you accountable for your actions in dropping the unproductive habit, and in upholding the new/replacement habit. Ask this person to be firm (not harsh) in holding you accountable.
  4. Give yourself an appropriate reward – when you have sustained the new and productive habit, give yourself an appropriate reward. What does an appropriate reward mean? It is something that will be complimentary to, and/or congruent with your new productive habit. We often hear that people “reward” themselves after being disciplined for a set period of time eg. having a pizza and a can of soft drink for dinner after eating healthy all week. That is not what I am referring to. If you have been exercising hard and eating healthy all month, you could reward yourself with a fitness watch. The fitness watch will remind you of your goal, your hard work, and your progress. Celebrate your achievements, and reward yourself appropriately!

Quote: “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”  Jim Ryun

I sincerely hope that you have gained a simple insight into how you can replace an unproductive habit with a productive one.

Influencing you to your excellence,

Ron Prasad (Author, Speaker, Corporate Trainer, Anti-Bullying Campaigner)

PS: Here is my Anti-Bullying Charities latest short video (Understand The Behaviour Of The Bully)- https://youtu.be/ePC9n2YnFT0

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27 Sep

Communication Intelligence.

The art of communicating intelligently is integral in any capacity, be it leadership, coaching, parenting, or teaching.
When our communication intelligence increases, we are in a better position to exchange ideas and information.

What is communication intelligence?

Have you heard of emotional intelligence?

According to Psychology Today, “Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.”

Communication intelligence is your capability to communicate effectively and diplomatically with others while considering their current state, their choice of words, and their intentions.

Now, this article will focus on one-on-one communication, rather than speaking to a group/audience.

During my Executive Coaching, Life Coaching, and Youth Mentoring career, the one invaluable lesson learnt was this – most people will respond according to the way you communicate with them. In other words, your communication patterns will impact their responses/reactions.

Here are 5 keys to Communication Intelligence:

  1. Curiosity – there is an old adage, “If you want to get to know others, get curious”. It is human nature – (most) people like to talk about themselves. If you are genuinely curious, you will be in a better position to communicate intelligently with others. Curiosity opens the door to the other person’s world. The better you know them, the better you can tailor your communication techniques for them. As a coach/mentor, I would ask questions and just listen quietly during the first half of the very first coaching/mentoring session. Getting to know the person better afforded me a two-step approach – first, understand them, and then, support them.
  2. Recognition – if a person stops conversing, or is uncomfortable at some point of the conversation, you must be able to recognise that there is something of concern. Let’s be clear – this is not insinuating that you need a degree in Psychology or Counselling in order to do this. Simple people skills will do the job. Ask the person simple questions like “What is on your mind right now?” ie. what are you thinking right now? Or, “What are your emotions telling you now?”  ie. how are you feeling now? These questions can lead to recognising their concern. While you may not be required to support the person in overcoming their concern, you will be in a better position to tailor your communication according to what they are thinking/feeling.
  3. Creative space – this is where the other party is afforded the time and space to think construct, and align their words. Silence is golden indeed when it comes to giving the person an opportunity to process the moment, and to respond accordingly. I have communicated with so many people who cannot stop talking. They do not provide that creative space to the other party. I used to be one of them! In my coaching/mentoring career, I learnt a technique that really helped. Here it is – when you feel/think that other party needs space, hold something (eg. a pen) in your hand, and remain silent. Once you know that it is time for you to speak, drop the pen. The pen in your hand is your cue to remain silent.
  4. Word selection – different words can mean different things to others. Tailor your words to make the other party comfortable. For example, a manager calling their subordinate for a “Performance Review” could be a bit daunting for the subordinate. If the manager used “Future Planning”, that could put the subordinate at ease. Words have the power to change people’s outlook. In your conversation, choose your words very wisely. Your words can decide the response from the other person. There is a quote from Joseph Telushkin –“Most people choose their clothes more carefully than they choose their words.”
  5. Context – where and when to say it are as important as how to say it. Speak in context, not out of it. Put things in perspective. For example, if you are speaking to your child about something they did today, keep it in today’s context. Refrain from bringing up something he/she did a month ago. When you keep things in context, the ability for the other party to process what is being said is made easier. Comprehend, not complicate should be your goal for the other party.

Quote: “To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” Tony Robbins

I sincerely hope that you have gained a simple insight into how you can utilise communication intelligence in making a positive impact in the lives of others.

Influencing you to your excellence,


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27 Aug

3 Common Mistakes When Providing Feedback.

In one of his recent articles, New York Times Best-Selling Author and Leadership Specialist, Dr Marshall Goldsmith spoke about feedback and feedforward.

I have considered Dr Goldsmith to be a virtual mentor for the past 6 years. His articles are always insightful. On a personal note, he has been very helpful to me whenever we have been in contact.

In that article, Dr Goldsmith mentioned that feedback is often necessary, while feedforward has to be forward-looking, positive, and non-judgmental.

In any managerial or coaching capacity, feedback is absolutely essential for growth. This is also pertinent to parents of children.

Here are 3 common feedback mistakes that can be made:

  1. Assuming that feedback has to be all negative.
  2. Telling the other party that constructive criticism will help them.
  3. Providing feedback based on the individual, not the behaviour.

Please ask yourself this question now – “Have I ever engaged in any of these while providing feedback in any capacity?”

I can put my hand on my heart, and say “Yes, I have”.

Let’s closely examine all 3 of the above so that we can create empowering, encouraging, and enlightening outcomes.

  1. Assuming that feedback has to be all negative – The simple truth is that feedback can focus on certain aspects that were not positive. That said, if the receiver has to be more receptive of change, they must be encouraged, not demotivated. One of my corporate training programs is a full day workshop called “How To Master 360 Degree Feedback”. We teach the SMS (Strength, Modification, Strength) model. This model emphasises the importance of providing encouraging feedback first, making a suggestion second, and finishing off with another piece of encouraging feedback. Let’s say that you are the coach of a junior football team. One of your players, Jenny hasn’t scored any goals in her past 6 matches. During the previous season, she was the second highest goal scorer for your team. This is how you could utilise the SMS model – “Jenny, the whole team really appreciates that you are the first to arrive and the last to leave when we have training on Wednesday night. You set up, you pack up, and you always help me with organising fruits for our players. (That was the first Strength). Jenny, the whole team would love to see your name on the scoreboard. Let’s give them what they want. From now onward, we will focus more on your shooting. Every training session, you and I will spend 15 minutes in which you will practise shooting for goal. (That was the Modification). You are attacking well, you create so many opportunities, and you are so capable of scoring more goals.  (That was the second Strength). This model leaves the receiver with something positive that can be used for improvement.
  2. Telling the other party that constructive criticism will help them – What is the first thing that comes to mind when someone criticises you? I bet it is something negative, right? Constructive criticism is an oxymoron. The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes “Constructive” as “Promoting improvement or development”. It defines “Criticism” as “The act of criticising usually unfavourably”. So, how can Promoting improvement or development” and “criticising unfavourably” be used simultaneously? If you are providing feedback, please realise that “constructing and criticising” at the same time does not, and will not work. Providing the receiver with something to improve on doesn’t work well if you are criticising the receiver. So, please remove “Constructive Criticism” from your vocabulary. It is not practical. It will not work. Replace it with “Productive Suggestions” or “Behaviour Reflection” or coin your own description of providing feedback and feedforward that is just constructive, not critical.
  3. Providing feedback based on the individual, not the behaviour – There is an African proverb which says “Examine what is said, and not who speaks.”  Sometimes the provider of feedback gets so caught up in examining the person that the feedback becomes about the person, and not the behaviour. Learn to separate the behaviour from the person. Remember (in most cases), we can provide support in changing the behaviour, not the person. As a coach/mentor, I can vouch for that. It is quite common for the provider of feedback to get personal with the receiver. This can lead up to bringing up negative events/instances from the past. The goal of the provider is to be feedforward focussed. Bringing up negative events/instances from the past will not be productive to the provider and to the receiver. When we analyse the behaviour, we are more likely to come up with productive suggestions for the individual. Once again, separate the behaviour from the person because the behaviour is not the holistic person. The behaviour is one aspect of the person. Help improve that aspect.

Quote: “Feedback is a gift. Ideas are the currency of our next success. Let people see you value both feedback and ideas.” Jim Trinka

I sincerely hope that you have gained a simple insight into how you can provide feedback and feedforward that makes a productive impact on others.

Influencing you to your excellence,

Ron Prasad (Author, Speaker, Corporate Trainer, Anti-Bullying Campaigner)

PS: Here is my Anti-Bullying Charities latest short video (3 Tips For Empathic Listening) – https://youtu.be/q2_MAdVjEk4

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27 Jul

Empathic Listening – Here’s How You Can.

It is said that the number one skill required in being able to communicate effectively is the ability to listen.

As you might already realise, listening is different to hearing.

There is a lot of buzz about active listening – where your focus is entirely on the words that are coming out of the person you are listening to.

Active listening makes the person talking feel like they are being heard. Now, that is a good thing by any account.

If you wish to take it up a notch, then please practise empathic listening.
What is empathic listening?

According to an article in Educational Psychology Interactive, empathic listening is defined as “Paying attention to another person with empathy (emotional identification, compassion, feeling, insight)”.

In other words, putting yourself in the shoes of the other person, in an attempt to understand why they are saying, what they are saying. You are getting in touch with that person’s goal for speaking to you. It is taking your connection with that person to the next level.

If you have read my previous articles, you will realise that I am a big advocate of having more empathy. Empathy is a very powerful tool when dealing with others because it allows us to be more human.

Here are 4 tips on how to engage in empathic listening:

  1. Be present – this sounds so basic and simple. Yet, it can be overlooked very easily. I remember attending a job interview when I was working in the Financial Planning sector. The director of a boutique financial planning firm was asking me interview questions in his office. He at his computer screen and drafting a response to an email while I was responding to his questions. Whenever he started typing, I would stop talking. While typing, he kept saying “Keep going, I am listening”. Was he really listening? That is why you have to be fully present, without any distractions. Take three deep and slow breaths, sit straight, and look at the person who is talking. Turn your phone off, avoid looking at anything else in the room/building/place, and refrain from paying attention to any sounds or noise.
  2. Comprehend, not compose – your goal is to comprehend what the person is saying, instead of composing a response for them. It is very easy to start thinking about what to say while the other person is talking. If you do that, you will not be present. Your goal is to understand what that person is saying. Ask them questions or paraphrase what they have said in order to gain clarity on what they are saying. Once you are able to comprehend what is being said, you will be in a better position to respond and/or provide support. Being understanding is the key here. The person who is talking must be able to feel that you are understanding them.
  3. Avoid interrupting – as an empathic listener, your goal is to listen with undivided attention. If you start interrupting the person who is talking, you will do two things – 1.) Make that person feel that you are not listening to them. 2.) Prove that what you have to say is more important than what they have to say. Let them finish what they are saying. While they are talking, keep validating what they are saying with a nod or with a “Yes” or “Okay”. If you feel like you have to really say something, gain their permission first. In my coaching and mentoring career, empathic listening was the most important trait in every single session regardless of whether it was a CEO or a teenager sitting across the table from me. If there was a need to stop that person from speaking, (as a coach/mentor, that had to be done at times), I would gently ask “Can I please ask a question right now?” That made the person feel valued.
  4. Observe non-verbal communication – pay close attention to non-verbal communication. If the person you are listening to starts breathing heavily, and assures you that they are doing just fine, chances are that they are not. Observe their physiology. Is it congruent with their vocal messages? If their physiology is not congruent to their verbal communication, you can check in on them by asking open ended questions like “What would you like me to do now?” or “What is making you breathe heavily?” That will make them open up to you. Asking open ended questions will allow you to elevate and elongate the conversation if their verbal communication and their physiology is sending mixed messages.

Whether you are in management or are a stay at home parent, empathic listening will allow you to be more impactful when communicating with others.

There are many other keys to emphatic listening. Please research and study empathic listening, and practise it in detail.

Empathy can be learnt. It is well worth having more empathy.

Quote: “Empathic listening takes time, but it doesn’t take anywhere near as much time as it takes to back up and correct misunderstandings when you’re already miles down the road; to redo; to live with unexpressed and unsolved problems; to deal with the results of not giving people psychological air.” Stephen Covey

I sincerely hope that you have gained a simple insight into how you can use empathic listening to enhance your communication skills.

Influencing you to your excellence,

Ron Prasad (Author, Speaker, Corporate Trainer, Anti-Bullying Campaigner)
PS: Here is my Anti-Bullying Charities latest short video (What Is The Best Revenge?) – https://youtu.be/xB8gvV5nAb8

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27 Jun

A Powerful Consideration When Influencing Others.

During my days as a Youth Mentor, there were many young people who needed support in either getting their life back on track or in achieving something they desired.

Some of the youth were very challenging to deal with, let alone provide support to, in a professional capacity. The key was to engage with them using empathy and compassion so that they opened up.

The Youth Mentor’s role was to guide them in taking productive action. There were two types of actions that they would take:

  1. Retrospective – doing something about what has happened in the past or has been happening until the present moment eg. giving up drugs.
  2. Prospective – doing something regarding the future eg. enrolling in a new tertiary education course.

Whether the action that they were looking for was retrospective or prospective, I would ask a thought provoking question that would make them think. Here’s that question:

“What’s at stake?”

The goal of that question was to make them realise (in simple words) what they’re messing with, and what/who is affected.

That said, it wasn’t so simple.

The one thing I realised was that every young person had their own frame of focus.

Let me explain….

They all focussed on either of the two:

  1. External frame of focus – How their actions will affect things/people outside of them eg. “If I give up drugs, I will do my parents proud”.
  2. Internal frame of focus – How their actions will affect them eg. “I would feel like an achiever when I become a qualified electrician”.

Most of these young people concentrated on only one frame of focus, and some of them on both. However, there was never anyone who concentrated on both frames of focus, equally. Each had a bias toward one.

Even in my Executive/Life Coaching career, I was yet to find a person who concentrated on both frames of focus equally.

Here are two examples of two young people, using a different frame of focus each.

First, there was Emilia – a vibrant and bubbly young lady whose goal was to master the art of speaking before an audience. It was an honour to mentor her in achieving this goal. When questioned about the impetus behind her goal, she said “I want to help the less fortunate, spread awareness about social justice issues, and be the voice for those who cannot speak up for themselves”. Did you notice how all her reasons are pointing toward an external frame of focus?
On a side note, you may not be surprised to learn that today, she is a very high achieving young woman who holds a highly regarded government position in which she is being of stellar service to society!

Then, there was Jeremiah – shy young man who was very quiet at the best of times. His mission was to be more confident in himself. When questioned about the impetus behind his goal, he said “I wish to feel better about myself. I want to know that I can have confidence when I need it. I need to be comfortable in my own skin”. Did you notice how all his reasons are pointing toward an internal frame of focus?

Think about this – when you wish to do something (regardless of whether it is for something retrospective or prospective) which frame of focus do you normally tune in to?

If you are in the profession of helping others, or in management, please pay particular attention to the frame of focus that the people you deal with use more of.

Your role is to provide them with clarity on how they can take action, based on their chosen frame of focus.

Sometimes you could highlight the other frame of focus, and how actions based on that frame of focus will be beneficial. For example, you are in management, and one of your subordinates is uncertain about doing an online course. All his/her colleagues are doing this course in order to enhance their chances of career progression. He/she says “There is not enough time. My project deadlines will not be met if I do this online course. My family will not like this. They know that I am already busy”. Your subordinate has an external frame of focus when it comes to this online course. He/she is looking at things outside of them.

You could support him/her with two separate approaches:

  1. Stay with the external frame of focus, and point out the positives eg. “Your immediate manager and your HR Manager will be very proud of you for completing this online course” or “If you ever decide to leave this organisation, this course will add more weight to your credentials, and potential employers will love that, won’t they?”
  2. Provide an internal frame of focus, and see how he/she responds. For example “How would you feel and how would you see yourself when you proudly hold that Certificate Of Completion in your hands?”

My suggestion to you is to play around with this concept, even for yourself. Give yourself both internal and external frames of focus when you are making a decision or looking at completing a task. Then, you will be better positioned to serve yourself and others.

Quote: “Shift your frame of reference. Realise that all you see around you, the reality we perceive, is a small stage upon which you act, and within it is an inner spaciousness that is infinite. Let’s now explore the infinite.” Alex Bennett

I sincerely hope that you have gained a simple insight into how you can productively use internal and external frames of focus to support others and to support yourself.

Influencing you to your excellence,


PS: Here is my Anti-Bullying Charities latest short video (3 Tips For Parents) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbNmLNbcJg4&t=3s

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27 May

Patience Makes Perfect.

An article in The Thrive Centre For Human Development stated that self control and patience predicted better performance and higher self-esteem.

In this day and age of technology and fast paced living, patience seems to be more and more challenging to practise.

Here’s a short story that will put patience in perspective:

On Monday and Tuesday nights, I help my mixed martial arts instructor when he teaches kids. There was one particular boy who was right handed/footed. He struggled with left kicks. The instructor asked me to hold a kick shield and let this boy practise a side kick with his left leg. After 2 rounds, I asked the instructor if the boy should switch to his right leg. The response was “Keep going with his left leg”.

Another 2 rounds went by, and the boy was getting a bit frustrated. My previous question to the instructor was repeated, and his response was the same. After another 2 rounds, the boy was losing interest in the side kick with his left leg. Instead of asking the instructor, I informed him that the boy had completed 6 rounds, practising the same kick with the same leg. The instructor replied “Keep going”. My response – “Master, he has been doing the same kick for 6 rounds. Let’s do something different”. In his usual calm demeanor, he replied “Keep going”.

At that point, I was feeling sorry for this boy. After one more round (his 7th round, practising the same kick with the same leg), the instructor asked the boy to close his eyes, and practise the side kick with his left leg. Now, this was the 8th round that the boy was doing the same kick. To my surprise, he hit the kick shield in the same spot with every kick, even with his eyes closed. At the end of that round, the instructor asked the boy to rest for one round, and slowly drink some water. He then turned to me and calmly said “Patience makes perfect”.

The one lesson that was obvious from that experience was that there are certain things that take time, regardless of how we may feel about it or how much we may wish to rush the process.

Please ask yourself this question – “Is there any area of my life in which I must exercise more patience?”

Followed by – “What will the by-product of patience be?”

Now, it is clear that for many people patience is a very challenging character trait.

A few weeks ago, I was at a road intersection while driving. Once it was clear for the driver ahead of me to go through, he looked left and right again, just to double check. The driver behind me started beeping his horn, and went into a tirade. All of this for what? Just the two seconds delay?

Here are 4 tips for you to practise more patience:

  • Take 3 deep and slow breaths – it has been said that deep breathing regulates your heart rate. It will also make you relaxed. If the person in front of you at the post office is taking too long at the counter, it can be easy to become impatient. Take 3 slow and deep breaths. This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to make you feel better when impatience seems to be taking over. If you feel that you are still tense, keep taking deep and slow breaths. In the previous article, it was mentioned that taking a few deep and slow breaths, followed by a smile (fake or real) will most likely put you in a more productive/positive state. Do that if you have to.
  • Switch your attention to something else and engage in productive self talk – if you are stuck in traffic and become impatient, switch your attention to something else. It could be something that is on your mind or something that will make you happy. For example, start planning your day or your night. Tell yourself what you will do that day or night –“Tonight will be a good night at the gym” or “I can’t wait to watch that movie on the weekend”. Use your physiology to express how you feel about the gym or the movie. Doing so will take your mind off the situation at hand, and you will be in a better state (mentally and emotionally).
  • Develop a “patience trigger” – when I was a Life Coach, many of my corporate clients were given an exercise – to develop a patience trigger. There was one lady who was the self-proclaimed princess of no patience. If she saw a line at the coffee shop, she would not get a coffee that morning. I asked her to develop or uncover a patience trigger – something that would keep impatience away. She thought back to when she (as a teenager) had a major argument with her younger sister because she took too long to shower. After that argument, they didn’t talk for almost a year! She regrets that argument to this day. I asked her to think about what that argument cost her, every time impatience crept in. Whenever she thought of that argument, she reminded herself to exercise more patience. The one thing that is crystal clear in my study of human behaviour is that pain is a very powerful deterrent!
  • Be outcome oriented, not process focused – if your goal (for example) is to lose weight or gain weight, become outcome oriented ie. know that the outcome is the bigger deal than the process. Yes, you will have to go through the process to get to the outcome. The process may/will test your patience. Patience will be needed to see small ongoing results, and to get you to the desired end result. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your ideal/desired physique be. This can be applied to anything medium or long term that you are working toward – learning a new language, learning to play a musical instrument, working on a new project etc.

Quote: “One minute of patience, ten years of peace.” Greek proverb

I sincerely hope that you have gained a simple insight into how you can productively practice patience.

Influencing you to your excellence,

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26 Apr

Negativity Always Wins. Here’s How To Change That.

Motivational speaking legend Les Brown speaks about a study conducted at M.I.T (Massachusetts Institute Of Technology). The study concluded that every time a person directs a negative statement toward you, it takes 17 positive statements just to neutralise the initial negative statement!

Think about that – one negative statement vs 17 positive statements, and then the impact on the individual becomes equal.

Please think back at a time when people complimented you and you were ecstatic. Then, just one person directed a negative remark or statement toward you. How did you feel after being on the receiving end of the negative remark?

Did it override all the compliments that you received earlier?

Were you consumed by the negative remark?

Did you feel like the negative remark was more impactful than all the compliments that you received earlier?

If the answers to the above mentioned questions is a “Yes”, then rest assured, you are not alone. Most people feel that way.

Today, I will give you four keys to being proactive when negative remarks override compliments. Here they are:

  • Remind yourself that it is only someone’s opinion – everyone has an opinion. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Most people believe that they have a right to freedom of speech. The message that I am driving home is that someone else’s opinion is not necessarily a reflection of your reality. You can choose to do whatever you feel necessary with that person’s opinion. When I was a kid, I heard a proverb – “A barking dog will not stop a moving carriage.” What that translates to is that if a carriage is moving and a dog is running after it while barking, the carriage will not stop because that dog is barking. Now, I love dogs, and always will. The point is – why let someone else’s behaviour (that you have no control over) stop you from being at your best? They are just projecting their opinion (which you don’t have to own).
  • Ask yourself “Do I respect and value this person?” – let me share an example with you. I used to work for a major financial services organisation in the central business district of my home city, Melbourne (Australia). One morning, as I was walking to work from the nearest train station, a drunk man (who had obviously been consuming alcohol for a long period) approached me. This was at around 7:00 am. He grabbed my left arm and said “Excuse me mate. Your suit jacket looks crap”. Then he let go of my arm, and walked off. A few people on the street stopped, looked at me, and were most likely expecting a reaction from me. I replied “Good morning to you too sir”, and walked away. The people watching this unfold started laughing. About an hour later, a colleague and I went back on that street to buy some fruits. Guess what? We witnessed the police speaking to that man, and he was in hand cuffs. I looked at my friend, told him what had transpired earlier, and we both laughed.
  • Learn to respond, not react – if you have been reading my articles, you will know that I am a massive advocate of learning about responding intellectually, instead of reacting emotionally. As an anti-bullying campaigner, I suggest an exercise to kids who are being bullied at school. Please do this exercise the next time someone is pushing your buttons or getting under your skin, and you are about to react negatively. Take a deep breath, in through your nose. Exhale out of your mouth, and pretend that there is a drinking straw in your mouth so that you exhale air in a straight line. Repeat this process. After exhaling the second time, smile for three seconds. This short exercise will be calming, and should allow you to maintain your composure. When we react emotionally, we might say/do things that will lead to foreseeable guilt and shame.
  • Learn to disown other people’s behaviour – recently, a very close friend of mine was discussing an issue that he was having with a colleague of his. This colleague was always very critical of everyone in her workplace, including my friend. She only knew how to criticise, not praise. My friend said that although he knew that he should take her remarks like a grain of salt, it sometimes impacted on him negatively. We both agreed that she may have internal issues that she needs to deal with, and that is beyond our control. What is within my friend’s control is this – he can disown her behaviour. Just because she chooses to be so critical and nasty toward others, my friend cannot control that. He later emphatically told her that her criticism is not impacting on him because he is not her behaviour. From that point, she stopped being critical to him. Sometimes critical people just want a reaction. Refuse to take part in that game.

Now, I am not asking you to become imperturbable. I personally do not know anyone who is. What I am suggesting is that you learn to productively deal with other people’s negativity, and take control of your emotions and thoughts.

In an article in Psychology Today, Dr Raj Raghunathan says “The most tenable option for dealing with negative people – in a nutshell, this option involves three elements: compassion for the negative person, taking responsibility for your own happiness despite the other person’s negativity, and maturity in how you interact with the negative person..”

Quote: “The difference between ordinary people and extraordinary people is simple. Extraordinary people choose to listen to their positivity more than they listen to other people’s negativity.” Ron Prasad

I sincerely hope that you have gained a simple insight into how you can productively deal with negative remarks and not let them overpower your emotions and thoughts.

Influencing you to your excellence,

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