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For Nora, Tim and Lena

Atilla Vuran
Nina Harbers

COMMUNICATING

MEANS FAILING

Emotional Receptiveness
and Authorization

Workbook

External links were checked up to the time this book went to press. The publisher has no control over any changes made at a later date. The publisher therefore accepts no liability.

Bibliographic information of the German National Library

ISBN 978-3-7664-9964-6

Translation: Lars Czerwonka, Hagen; Nina Harbers, Feldkirchen

© 2021 by Atilla Vuran and Nina Harbers

CONTENTS

1Introduction

1.1Why We Wrote This Workbook

1.2How This Workbook Is Structured and How Best to Use It

2Emotional Receptiveness – An Overview

2.1What Is Emotional Receptiveness?

2.2What Contributes to Emotional Receptiveness?

2.3How Can I Recognize Emotional Receptiveness?

3Emotional Receptiveness – Specifics

3.1Individual Filters

3.2Social Filters

3.3Physiological Filters

4Digital Communication

Closing Words

1Introduction

1.1Why We Wrote This Workbook

This workbook is intended to help you translate the contents of the book “Communicating Means Failing” into practice. It can be read in addition to the book or even independently. Metaphorically speaking, this workbook is intended to train your ability to build bridges of emotional receptiveness and to guide you step by step towards a “subconscious competence,” with the goal of communicating (even more) successfully in the future and failing less in communication – and, in case you fail, to understand why.

This workbook should serve as a document for participants of workshops on the topic of “Communicating Means Failing” – as well as a supplement to the book if you want to develop the content independently. You can use this workbook parallel to reading the book “Communicating Means Failing” and complete the tasks in order, or you can read the book first and then decide which content you want to deepen and practice.

1.2How This Workbook Is Structured and How Best to Use It

After a short theoretical introduction to the concept of “emotional receptiveness” in chapter 2.1, the first practical part of this workbook (chapter 2.2 – 2.4) serves to promote and develop your skills for building a bridge of emotional receptiveness in general, such as increasing your empathy or attention. In each subchapter you will find a short introduction as well as a reference to the related content in the book “Communicating Means Failing.” If necessary, read the relevant contents in the book again before you start with the exercises.

The practical exercises are intended for you to train and practice the contents; either by yourself, and/or with conversation partners. In each exercise the goal of the exercise and the procedure is briefly described, and then followed by a space to write down your insights. The questions for self-reflection are designed to make you think and help you to question and understand experiences from your own life.

The second practical part of this workbook (chapter 3) is designed to help you increase your ability to build a bridge of emotional receptiveness between you and a specific person. For each filter of emotional receptiveness (corresponds to the subchapters of chapter 3 in the book “Communicating Means Failing”) there is a short theoretical introduction and a facts and application section, which describes WHAT makes people become emotionally receptive and HOW and WHEN you can use the described content in a practical way to create emotional receptiveness. This is followed by an overview page which can be used, for example, as a checklist before or during a conversation. Afterwards, you will find practical exercises to help you learn to recognize and employ the particular filter. Here, the goal of the exercise and the process are first briefly described, and again followed by a space to write down your insights. Finally, there are questions for self-reflection. The questions are divided into two perspectives: “from others towards me” and “from me towards others.” You can use these to internalize and understand situations from your own life more clearly. If you do not have any (own) experience, you can think of situations in which you would like to use the content in your life.

Finally, in the third practical part (chapter 4) you will find exercises for the employment of the content in the context of digital media.

Not every exercise will arouse your interest to the same extent. There may even be some exercises that do not make sense or do not appeal to you. Whether the exercise in question could be a development step for you, you decide for yourself. In order to reach the level of “subconscious competence,” it is certainly not enough to perform the exercises described here once. It rather requires a continuous engagement with the content (both in theory and in practice). So please understand our questions for self-reflection and exercises as suggestions, and as a small excerpt from a wealth of possible practical exercises. At the end of each chapter you will find references to literature, where you can find more information and exercises.

2Emotional Receptiveness – An Overview

2.1What Is Emotional Receptiveness?

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RELATED CONTENTS IN THE BOOK COMMUNICATING MEANS FAILING

Chapter 2.1 “What Is Emotional Receptiveness?”

For us, emotional receptiveness is best explained by the image of a bridge: The bridge is the connection that is established between two conversation partners. This bridge is made up of many different boards, is individual for each person and depends on the context. The “boards” are the components of a successful communication. Some bridges are stable and invite trouble-free crossover, i.e. problem-free communication – here complete emotional receptiveness has been reached. This means that all prerequisites exist for a conversation partner to agree, not only rationally, but also emotionally, with an idea, content or argument of the other person. He is willing to receive and accept what he has heard, thereby leading to changing or implementing something.

Other bridges have rotten or even missing boards that make it difficult to cross, making communication complicated (and result in low emotional receptiveness) or even leading to failure of communication (no emotional receptiveness) if too many boards are damaged.

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Complete receptiveness

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Little receptiveness

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No receptiveness

But the boards of a solid bridge can also be damaged or destroyed by external influences (like choosing a wrong time for the conversation). They therefore require, as with a “real” bridge, care and maintenance, and possibly even a new construction.

Another possibility is that even with initially existing emotional receptiveness of both conversation partners, which should allow in itself an intact and stable bridge of communication, the two bridge parts can run past each other due to different personality structures.

This is because we usually assume that what we and our counterpart need the same conditions in order to be receptive. If that is the case, a stable bridge is created. However, if there are significant differences in the requirements for emotional receptiveness (for you, for example, details are important, but your conversation partner wants to understand the big picture) this can lead to the withdrawal of emotional receptiveness and even to the failure of communication.

Therefore, it is important to consider the topic of emotional receptiveness from three different point of views, as shown in the figure below (the circle represents you):

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In the following, we would like to consider which factors contribute to full emotional receptiveness.

2.2What Contributes to Emotional Receptiveness?

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RELATED CONTENTS IN THE BOOK COMMUNICATING MEANS FAILING

Chapter 2.2 “What Contributes to Emotional Receptiveness?”

As already explained, every human builds their bridge of emotional receptiveness from their individual boards or factors, and these can vary depending on the context. In sum, these boards decide on the stability of the bridge. Hereby, specific boards can be of different importance to everyone: in one case, a board only fills a small gap in the bridge and can be neglected without serious consequences, perhaps even left out; in the other, it is of fundamental significance.

Let’s take a closer look:

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Protagonists are you and your conversation partner. You both are ready to talk and start to build the bridge. Some boards are predefined in advance by the location of the bridge (i.e. by the context), others are introduced through your conversation partner individually and are installed gradually in the course of the conversation. The others come from you and you arrange them on the bridge yourself. The different factors that define the board selection are the following:

Emotional management, divided into trust and self-confidence, attitude and the here and now

Empathy

Communicative competence

Cognitive distortions

Perception filters

Context

Here you can see all factors in the overview and how they are related. In the following chapters we will look at these factors and practice them in depth:

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2.2.1Emotion Management

Trust and Self-Confidence

1 Emotion Management: Trust

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“Trust” in Chapter 2.2.1 “Emotion Management”

The emotional receptiveness of a conversation partner is significantly influenced by his trust in you. Your personal trustworthiness in each context is based on four levels that are intertwined like parts of a tree: integrity, intent, capabilities, and results. The first two levels are about character, the other two are about a person’s competence.

The “tree of trust” grows in a field of self-confidence and self-responsibility. The more self-confidence you have and the more responsibility you assume for yourself and your actions, the better the tree can thrive.

You can imagine the trust of your conversation partner in you as a trust account with an individual account balance, on which you make deposits and from which you make withdrawals by your behaviour.

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image PRACTICAL EXERCISES

Exercise 1: Trustworthiness (1)

Objective:Assessing your own current trustworthiness.

Procedure:Estimate for each of the following statements how developed you see them at the moment within you. Write a value of 1 to 5 in the box provided at the end of the statement. It’s best to decide quickly and intuitively. It’s all about your personal assessment which you do not have to justify to anyone.

5 = completely true // 4 = often true // 3 = true // 2 = hardly true // 1 = not at all

1I am always honest with others.

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2In the course of my work, I can use my talents very well and achieve great success this way.

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3I have already achieved success and can convincingly convey to others that I will live up to their expectations.

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4Other people and their well-being are very important to me.

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5I am aware of my motives and work on doing the right things for the right reasons.

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6I say and do what I really think and feel. My actions are consistent with my words and values.

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7I have acquired the knowledge and skills I need to do a really good job.

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8I am aware of my values and courageously stand up for them.

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9I focus my efforts on delivering results and am not distracted by unimportant activities.

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10I speak openly and appropriately with others about my achievements so far and thus inspire confidence in my abilities.

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11I am open to the opinions and ideas of others and also willing to rethink things.

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12With a few exceptions, I finish everything I’ve started.

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13I am looking for solutions that are a win for everyone involved.

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14I consistently expand my knowledge and skills in all important areas of life.

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15I know my strengths very well and concentrate fully on using them effectively.

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16My behaviour clearly shows that I am really striving for the good of others.

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17I can keep the promises I give myself or others.

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18I am honestly convinced that there is always more than enough for everyone.

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19I always achieve my results in a way that creates trust.

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20I know a lot about how to build, expand or restore trust. And I do my utmost to put this knowledge into practice in all areas of life.

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Please transfer the value of each question to the following evaluation key. Then calculate the total value of each five questions.

The higher your score, the more trustworthy you are on a level of the “tree of trust.” The lowest total value shows you where there is still a need for action.

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imageInsights:

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Exercise 2: Rules of trust (1)

Objective:Filling trust account; increasing trust.

Procedure:Think of a professional or private relationship where your trust account is at a fairly low level. Now carefully read the following table of trust rules and underline the rules that you are currently violating in the relationship.

The rules of trust are divided into three categories (character, competence, both – see “tree of trust”). In the next step, consider what you can change to fill the other’s trust account and put it into action. Keep in mind that you make particularly large withdrawals on the trust account if you break rules of trust associated with the person’s character.

CHARACTER

Trust rule

Violation/Feint

Being honest

You’re violating it if you …

 

lie

 

twist the facts

 

spread half-truths

 

You’re feigning it if you …

 

act two-faced

 

flatter someone (without truly meaning it)

Showing respect

You’re violating it if you …

 

disregard others

 

have no compassion

 

You’re feigning it if you …

 

respect only those who can do something for you

Being transparent

You’re violating it if you …

 

keep information to yourself

 

have secrets

 

You’re feigning it if you …

 

fool others

 

pretend

Making up for mistakes

You’re violating it if you …

 

do not admit mistakes

 

do not make up for mistakes

 

You’re feigning it if you …

 

cover up mistakes

Being loyal

You’re violating it if you …

 

do not stand up for others

 

claim all appreciation for yourself

 

You’re feigning it if you …

 

talk behind others’ backs

COMPETENCE

Trust rule

Violation/Feint

Delivering results

You’re violating it if you …

 

do not deliver the agreed results

 

You’re feigning it if you …

 

lose yourself in activities without showing results

Improving yourself

You’re violating it if you …

 

worsen

 

do not strive for improvements

 

You’re feigning it if you …

 

force every problem into your own solution strategy

Facing reality

You’re violating it if you …

 

bury your head in the sand

 

You’re feigning it if you …

 

pretend to be very busy while you hide from the real issues

Clarifying expectations

You’re violating it if you …

 

presuppose expectations or do not explain them exactly

 

You’re feigning it if you …

 

have only vague or changing expectations

Taking responsibility

You’re violating it if you …

 

do not take on responsibility

 

blame others

 

You’re feigning it if you …

 

do not hold others accountable for something

BOTH

Trust rule

Violation/Feint

Listening first

You’re violating it if you …

 

do not listen properly

 

speak first, then listen

 

You’re feigning it if you …

 

just pretend that you are listening

 

listen without trying to understand the other person

Keeping promises

You’re violating it if you …

 

break promises

 

do not comply with obligations

 

You’re feigning it if you …

 

make vague promises

 

make no commitments at all

Trusting others

You’re violating it if you …

 

do not give trust

 

mistrust

 

You’re feigning it if you …

 

just pretend trust, and monitor others

 

transfer responsibility, but do not hand over authority

imageInsights:

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More exercises and information can be found in

Stephen M. R. Covey: Speed of trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything. Simon & Schuster Ltd, 2008

Reinhard K. Sprenger: Trust: The Best Way To Manage, Frankfurt, Campus Verlag, 2002

image QUESTIONS FOR SELF-REFLECTION

imageHow trustworthy am I on the four levels of the trust tree?

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imageHow can I further improve my trustworthiness on the four levels?

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imageIn which contexts does my trustworthiness help me to establish emotional receptiveness with the person I am talking to?

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imageIn which contexts is it difficult for me to build up emotional receptiveness because I lack trust from my conversation partner?

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Now imagine a concrete situation from your past that you would like to reflect. Reflect:

imageWhat was the account balance of my trust account with my conversation partner?

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imageWhat led to deposits on and what to withdrawals from the trust account of my conversation partner?

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2 Emotion Management: Self-Confidence

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“Self-Confidence” in Chapter 2.2.1 “Emotion Management”

Self-confidence is the acquired, context-dependent and therefore fluctuating conviction that you possess the capability to do something. The self-confidence you bring into the conversation thus leads to the following cycle, which can be a cycle of increasing receptiveness, or a cycle of reducing receptiveness – depending on the state you are in when you commence.

If you are self-confident, you are more likely to give yourself authorization. This will be the basis on which your counterpart will also authorize you, which in turn is an important prerequisite for his emotional receptiveness. If you can establish emotional receptiveness, you will build self-confidence (in this context/in this type of conversation/towards this conversation partner), which subsequently helps you to give yourself authorization, etc.

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Self-confidence therefore is an important prerequisite for successful communication.

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Exercise 1: Success diary (adapted after (2))

Objective:Making yourself aware of your successes day by day and how you reached them in order to increase your self-confidence.

Procedure:Buy a blank book or notebook, which appeals to you visually. Dedicate this to your personal successes and write down at least three things that worked well on each day and how you have contributed to this success – preferably in the evenings, in bed before falling asleep. At the beginning it can be “small things.” You can, for example, ask the following questions:

What worked well today? / What was beautiful today?

How did I contribute to this?

What did I learn from this?

What will be my focus tomorrow?

Write down your insights from the exercise if you have kept the success diary for at least one week.

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Exercise 2: I like myself because … (3)

Objective:To become aware of your own positive sides in order to increase self-confidence.

Procedure:Retreat to a place where you are undisturbed. Think about what you like about yourself. What are your positive qualities, your strengths? The best way to do this is to use sentence beginnings, such as:

“I like myself because …”

“I especially like …”

“I’m good at …”

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Note: For people with low self-esteem, this exercise can be very challenging because the positive traits are often buried in self-doubt. In this case, allow someone to give you feedback.

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More exercises and information can be found in

Rolf Merkle: So gewinnen Sie mehr Selbstvertrauen. Freundschaft mit sich schließen, den inneren Kritiker zähmen. Mannheim, PAL Verlag, 2012

Burkhard Heidenberger: Mehr Selbstbewusstsein und Selbstsicherheit. 30 Übungen zur Steigerung des Selbstbewusstseins und der Selbstsicherheit. For download under: https://www.zeitblueten.com/mehr-selbstbewusstsein-selbstsicherheit-staerken/, access date 8.2.2021

Jens Corssen, Stephanie Ehrenschwender: Das Corssen-Prinzip. Die vier Werkzeuge für ein freudvolles Leben. München, Arkana Verlag, 2016

Martin Seligman: Wie wir aufblühen. Die fünf Säulen des persönlichen Wohlbefindens. München, Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, 2015

image QUESTIONS FOR SELF-REFLECTION

imageHow self-confident am I in different contexts/situations? On a scale from 1 (no self-confidence) to 10 (huge self-confidence)?

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imageIn which contexts/situations does my self-confidence help me to build emotional receptiveness with the person I am talking to?

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imageIn which contexts is it difficult for me to establish emotional receptiveness because I lack self-confidence?

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imageWhat can I do to increase my self-confidence in different contexts/situations?

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Emotion Management: Self-Esteem

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“Self-Esteem” in Chapter 2.2.1 “Emotion Management, Trust and Self-Confidence”

Self-esteem corresponds to the self-image, i.e. to the idea a person has of himself. This influences to a great extent whether and when a person is receptive to himself and others. In our analogy a high self-esteem is a solid and secure foundation for the bridge of emotional receptiveness and thus helps to establish and maintain a stable connection to the conversation partner. A person’s self-esteem may vary depending on the context and the area of life.

Even more important than the level of our self-esteem, however, is its stability. A stable self-esteem is largely independent from internal or external expectations, even in case of failure or rejection. Crucial for stable self-esteem is the ability to accept oneself. People who recognize that they have trouble with their self-acceptance are often focused on their own deficits, weaknesses and negative characteristics and try to correct them. However, this does neither lead to an increase in self-acceptance, nor a stabilization of their self-esteem. Fundamental to the development of sustainable self-acceptance and a high self-esteem is an awareness of the own strengths, a deep understanding of how they can be used to meet daily challenges, and the continuous development of the greatest strengths.

The level of self-esteem is determined by the fact that a person considers himself valuable, which means that he values himself as he is and accepts his own needs. Apart from that, self-esteem is about experiencing oneself as competent, i.e. as self-effective.

Self-esteem is especially formed in moments that threaten it, i.e. when a person makes mistakes. Dealing positively with the own mistakes and failures is therefore a basic prerequisite for developing a more stable self-esteem. Relating achieved successes and positive experiences to own’s one behaviour has likewise a positive influence on the level of self-esteem.

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Exercise 1: Accept bad sides (2)

Objective:Accepting your own “negative” sides to increase self-esteem.

Procedure:List what you consider to be the 10 most important characteristics and behaviours about yourself that you don’t like. You can also find clues by paying close attention to what you reject or admire in others. What do you dislike about certain people? In the presence of which persons do you feel particularly inferior or supressed? What do these people have that you don’t? What do you admire or envy about these persons?

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Now say proudly and confidently, “Even if I sometimes … (put here the point you have listed under 1.), I forgive myself for this. I’m loveable.” For instance: “Even though I’m sometimes unfair, I forgive myself for this. I’m loveable.”

Do this with all the points listed above. Repeat this exercise over the next few weeks until you feel that you really can forgive yourself for your bad qualities.

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Exercise 2: Develop self-compassion (according to Kristin Neff)

Objective:Increasing your self-esteem stability by training an attitude of self-compassion.

Procedure:Select a situation or area of life that is currently causing you problems.

What feelings do you experience? Perceive them without judging.

Imagine a friend who likes you and knows your strengths and weaknesses and accepts you as you are.

Now write a letter to yourself from the perspective of this friend, expressing his compassion, acceptance and friendliness towards you.

Write for about 10 - 20 minutes.

Put the letter aside for a few days. Then read it again consciously and attentively. Let the words work its effect on you.

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Exercise 3: My self in top form (according to Laura King)

Objective:Strengthening your self-esteem, change your negative thinking patterns, increase your goal orientation.

Procedure:Choose any time in the future and imagine your future self:

You managed to use your strengths,

to reach your goals,

to seize opportunities and chances whenever they arised.

Describe your future self for 20 minutes in the present tense: “I am …,” “I can …,” “I do …” Focus on a specific area of your life (e.g. job, family, hobby etc.).

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More exercises and information can be found in

Nathaniel Brandon: The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem. New York, Bantam Books, 1995

image QUESTIONS FOR SELF-REFLECTION

imageWhat challenges do you gladly accept?

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imageWhat do you think about yourself when you make a mistake?

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imageHow well can you reflect on your major or minor successes of the day?

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imageAre you fully aware of your strengths? What do you do to better understand your top strengths and to leverage them in new ways?

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Emotion Management: Attitude

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RELATED CONTENTS IN THE BOOK COMMUNICATING MEANS FAILING

“Attitude” in Chapter 2.2.1 “Emotion Management”

Whether you have an effective conversation or not is determined, among other things, by your inner attitude. Your thoughts and feelings are part of your inner attitude and influence your actions. This in turn dictates your behaviour. And your behaviour ultimately shapes your environment including the effect on your conversation partner. This effect arises from the messages of your body language and other subtle behaviours that are based on your inner attitude (4). Some aspects are listed in the picture:

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image PRACTICAL EXERCISES

Exercise 1: Pen in the mouth

Objective:Experiencing the interaction between your mind and body.

Procedure:Be aware of your body and feel how your mood is right now. Then assess it on a scale of 1 - 10 (1 = very bad to 10 = very good) intuitively. After that put a pen horizontally between your teeth and hold it there for 60 seconds. What do you feel now? What has changed? How would you rate your current mood?

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Exercise 2: Change of posture