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389: Recharging Your Career with Beth Benatti Kennedy

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Coach Beth Benatti Kennedy shares actionable ways to recharge your career and beat burnout.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The five focus areas for recharging your career
  2. How to use a Purpose Mind Map
  3. A more exciting way to introduce yourself

About Beth

Beth Benatti Kennedy, MS LMFT brings more than twenty years of experience to her role as a leadership and executive coach, resiliency-training expert, and speaker. With an extensive background in career development, she coaches high-potential individuals on how to use their influence strategically, collaborate effectively, and focus on innovation. Her clients include Gillette Company, Nike, Converse, and many others. Her new book, Career Recharge: Five Strategies to boost Resilience and Beat Burnout, was published in October.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Beth Benatti Kennedy Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Beth, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Thank you for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to hear your story. I want to start when you were eight years old working at the family moving company. Were you hauling some furniture? What were you doing at eight years old there?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I was one of these kids growing up, my dad came from an entrepreneur family, Steinway Movers. As a little girl I would always – I was always very interested in like whenever the truck would come to our house and asking him a lot of questions and what are you doing Saturday morning because he was definitely a workaholic.

I used to get to on Saturdays go to some of his big jobs. He used to – it’s in New York, so he used to move really big companies. One of them is Pan American airlines when they used to be around, which was one of my favorites. I used to go with him.

He would always bring breakfast for all of the workers, so they would get these fresh New York rolls and soft butter. I would be in charge of making sure they were cut in half because he didn’t want the guys being messy when they’re touching the equipment etcetera, etcetera.

Pete Mockaitis

That is attention to detail.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
No crumbs on the client’s goods.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Exactly, exactly. His trucks were so clean; you could have a picnic on the floor. He is the word passion till – he’s passed away – but was the work passion 100% plus, plus, plus for his career. Anyway, I got to see – that was my job. I’d go around make sure everyone if they needed coffee, would have their coffee and get their rolls.

But I got to do a lot of observing and I got to see a big piece of my model – the Benatti Resiliency model – is connection. A lot of that came from him because he had this gift of connecting with everyone whether it was the gentleman driving the elevator or whether it was the person in the hallway cleaning the garbage. He connected with everyone. It didn’t matter what level you were. I think that was a big, huge part of the success of his business.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. Well, just taking the time to provide the rolls and the coffee is pretty cool. At the times, we’ve had movers just two or three people showed up. It’s like, okay, I guess it’s on. Yeah, a little extra touch.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
These were like giant, giant moves, where they had just like five trucks and lots of men, lots of different directions, so it was super exciting for me.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, so I want to hear a little bit about this model and your book, Career ReCharge. What’s sort of the main thesis here?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I’ve been a leadership coach for 20-something years. I started off as a career coach for the first 10 years. One of the things that I learned being – mostly doing corporate work was that people could – they so wanted to move on with their career or do something different, but what I found was many people were just completely exhausted or burnt out or bored. I had to recharge them so that they had the enthusiasm and the energy to really make that career change.

It’s a model that has developed over the years. That’s where the book came out was actually about four years ago I had a few clients that said you have to share this. I hesitated because it’s really hard being self-employed writing a book.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I hesitated the first year and then the second year I really got involved in a very committed program. It was so exciting to share my clients’ stories who really were even fine with me using their name because they really wanted to share the success of the model.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool. Well, could you give us a success story right now?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Sure, sure. One of my favorites is a gentleman named Eliot, who was an engineer and I coached him many, many years ago. He was – actually designed razorblades. I was in this company in Boston coaching a lot of employees. Again, a lot of my internal coaching was just helping them be more successful in their job.

At the time he really liked what he was doing. It was exciting, cutting edge company. They get bought by another company. He gets moved to another department. At that point, I actually am not coaching him anymore. I get a call from him. He’s in this new position for about two years and just miserable, not using his strengths. He says to me, “I need to meet with you again. I need to start up coaching again.”

We start up coaching and I realize he is completely burnt out. It was amazing for me to see this gentleman who used to be so – like one of the top in the company as it’s called a modeling simulation engineer, so he could actually design the razorblades – seeing someone who used to be so phenomenal just completely affect flat and just exhausted. Basically he really wanted to start the whole process.

It begins by this five areas. The first one is I zero in on their wellbeing, taking a look at physically, emotionally what’s going on and then starting to offer some – having them actually figure out some good strategies that will work for them.

Then we go into self-awareness, which is really getting clear on what their purpose is, how is their mindset, because we all know if you have that awful mindset, it’s not going to really help you if you’re trying to do a career change. Then one of the my expertise is personality types, so really looking at how is your type showing up and do you need to do any tweaking. We started with those two areas.

One of the things we found when we did his purpose was he was really ready for a change, but it’s scary. He wasn’t even 50 and he’s like, “Am I crazy to leave the golden Hancocks?” With my support and with working through the rest of the model, getting – which the next piece is brand, so we figured out when he did my brand exercises that he could take this amazing skillset he has and market it as a consultant.

The exciting part of the story is he did leave this Fortune 100 Company and now has his own consulting business. He’s actually – one of the organizations that he consults for is the US Olympic Skating Committee. He used his-

Pete Mockaitis
How clever.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yeah, he used his passion of ice skating to now he was actually able to predict what pairs in the Olympics – what country was going to have a better chance of winning from analyzing their strokes on the ice.

Pete Mockaitis
Huh?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yup.

Pete Mockaitis
So once you know who has a better chance of winning, what do you do with that?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Basically what the US Olympic Skating Committee is doing with his kind of research is to be able to say, “Okay, let’s figure out who are the skaters we really want to work on for next year? What are the things – why is this particular country doing so well? Oh, we need to – the ice skaters need to work on this to really make it to that first or second or third place.”

Pete Mockaitis
It’s so fascinating, when you said ice skating, I was like, okay, I can see the carryover, like the blade going to the skates, but no, you went in a totally different direction.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
He went a totally – his doctorate degree was in this – now it’s a big thing, this modeling simulation, I guess like baseball players. He could actually if he wanted to work for like a professional football team or a professional baseball team, where they do this modeling simulation and they can predict “Okay, you’re holding a bat this way, this is what will happen.”

It was really exciting because till this – I still coach him and he weekly goes through the five areas. The two areas that I didn’t get to talk about – the fourth one is called connection. That’s why I have all my clients every week really take a look at are you proactively connecting with people that nourish you, excite you, enrich you.

This was a huge piece of him being able to make this transition to a whole new career field. He just surrounded himself – I call it ‘who’s in your boat’ – getting really great people to support you. One of them was back to working with a coach because sometimes you can’t do a huge – that is such a huge change he made, you just can’t do it by yourself, even with the most supportive partner.

Then the fifth one is innovation. That’s when you challenge yourself to kind of really just learn and do different things. This is – the innovation for him was he actually had to go back to Northeastern University and take some more courses on some of this technical modeling stuff, I couldn’t even explain to you because I don’t even understand it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s intriguing. It’s called the Resiliency model, but it seems like it’s bigger than just being able to weather the difficulties that come your way.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yes, yeah, yeah. My definition of resiliency is a little bit different. I think a lot of people think of resiliency as just bouncing back, but my – I really see resiliency also as being proactive in your career because I think a big issue right now is people – we get kind of set in our ways and we forget that we can’t just start working on career development once we hate our job. We have to proactively be doing things for our career on a weekly basis, even little tiny things.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’d love to hear, what are some of those little tiny things that make a real big difference?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Basically what I’ve done in my book, I have these little boosters at the end of every chapter, so I’ll just share some of them from brand. Brand, when I think about brand, my definition of brand is what are your strengths, what are your attributes, what do you bring to that position or that company, what’s the impact you’re making and what’s your reputation.

A little tiny thing you could do once a week is spend five minutes on LinkedIn. Take a look at your profile. When’s the last time you updated your profile? What about connecting? Is there someone you just had a meeting with two days ago? Did you connect with them?

Because I think what happens, again, LinkedIn for many people they think that’s a job searching tool. It’s really a pro-active career development tool. It’s one of the – a great way to kind of stay up to date in your career. That’s a little example of a tip.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, I’d love to hear a few more of these.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Why don’t we start in the realm of wellbeing? What are some of the things that make a world of difference?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I’ll share a few for each booster. The first for wellbeing one of them is how important it is to make sure you’re not doing everything yourself, so having the gift of time. Another one is thinking about – with all the stress going on at work – what are the things you can control and what are the things you can’t control and making sure you’re focusing on things that you can control because it’s so easy to get stressed out  by everything.

Pete Mockaitis
When it comes to not doing everything yourself, what are some of the top things that people find that, “Hey, sure enough I can get some help with this,” or “I can outsource this,” or “automate this.”

Beth Benatti Kennedy
You’re going to crack up, but I would say probably once a month I will say to someone, “Have you ever considered getting your apartment or your house cleaned?” Now these are people with big jobs like this audience that’s listening and they’ll say, “No, I just can’t do it.” Then I’ll say, “Okay, just try it for three months.” They’ll say, “That was the best thing.”

Even if they have someone come every – like once every three weeks, they fit it into their budget, they’re like, “That is the best thing I’ve ever done,” because now they have more time and energy to do the things that they need to do for their wellbeing like get to the gym for 20 minutes or 30 minutes or go for a walk. That’s – believe it or not, that’s a big one that people really like.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I like that a lot. What’s cool there is that doesn’t just mean that you’re cranking out another hour of work, but rather that is sort of precious home time – I guess the time you spend in cleaning is sort of a privileged category of time because you’re outside of work and you’re not doing sort of immediate family responsibilities because in a way, cleaning isn’t super urgent. We’ve got a little bit of leeway with it.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
When you get to it, it’s kind of coming at the expense of maybe any number of rejuvenating things from seeing a friend or going for a walk or exercise or massage or whatever that might be for a boost.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Right, exactly. Exactly. Then in the area of self-awareness, for self-awareness, kind of the vibe words I call them, are knowing your purpose, getting aware of your mindset, like I mentioned, your type.

Some of the boosters that I have for that is I have my clients really think about what are there values and are they living them personally and professionally. Sometimes individuals will say, “I cannot get my values in my job or my career. It’s just – this is – I went to school to become a lawyer and I’m in a really tough practice. I’m not living my values.”

Then I will say, “Okay, let’s figure out a way that you can get them personally. Maybe you want to get involved in a non-profit or maybe you want to get involved in another volunteer organization. It’s amazing how that’s instant recharge for your career when you can get your values at somewhere in your life.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you give us examples of values that folks often come up with that really resonate and are meaningful to them and yet also are frequently not being met in the workplace?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Sure. It’s interesting because I just did this this morning with someone. Some of her values were family, friends, innovation, learning, making a difference. She had problem solving. She had career satisfaction. She had financial security. Those are values that are really, really important to her. She was presently working at a consulting – a really, really competitive consulting company. Through our work now she has decided that she’s actually going back to nursing school.

Part of the reason she’s making this change is to get more of these values in her career, but when she was working at the consulting firm, I was sharing with her, there’s ways – like the one making a difference, maybe it’s that one person, that junior person in your organization that you can mentor. That’s a great way to make a difference even if you’re in a competitive environment.

Pete Mockaitis
I guess when we talk about values there’s a number of ways we could define them. I’d love to get your sense for how do you know you’ve really hit upon one that’s like, yup, ding, ding, ding, that’s a big one. That is resonantly important. Because as you brainstormed or shared those lists there, I guess I might be able to generate dozens upon dozens of such things that would be meaningful. I guess it’s kind of tricky with regard to time, money, attention, energy prioritizing and zeroing in on the biggies.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yeah. That’s such a good question. I always – I actually when I teach I have a full day class, corporate class, that goes with the book. When I do the class I actually have cards, value cards. I let them select 8 cards. They often say, “Oh my gosh, I want to have like 20.”

What I say to them is what are – if you thought of your life like a compass and these cards were going to direct your life and your career in a certain way, which of the cards or which of the values are like your compass? How do you want them? That really helps people because you’re right, you could say, “Oh my gosh, all of these are important to me.” But if you only could have eight, which are the ones that are really calling to you.

This is something else that I also have to clarify is that sometimes people will say, “Is it work or is it life?” It’s an overlap. I think that any coach that says your values do not hit on both, it’s incorrect. You’re really – our values are shaping our entire life. We have to look at career slash life when we’re thinking about our values.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m curious. They chose eight. How big is the deck of cards they’re choosing out of?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Believe it or not, it’s so funny, I had to just order a ton more of them. There’s like 52 cards. … huge.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, yeah, just like a deck of cards. You say you ordered them, is this from a product one can purchase or how do you get them?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yes, yes. I have – I’m just grabbing it because I have a few different – I’ve been reviewing a bunch of different vendors. Dick Knowdell is the vendor that makes these.
K-N-O-W-D-E-L-L.
They’re called the Knowdell Card Sort Career Values.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
They’re really designed for career coaches, but I find – people like them so much I often – I give them away at my classes because they’re like, “Oh, I want to do this when I get home with my partner.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that is cool. I’m curious in terms of the hard thinking, in terms of which eight get selected – I’m sure you’ve seen this process many times, what are some of the thought processes like when they choose one over another? What sorts of things do you hear? It’s like, “Well, I’ve got,” we’ll just say, “adventure and I’ve got problem solving,” how do they get there?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
It’s funny too because people will often say to me, “Oh, I have to be practical.” I’m like, “No, this is your time. This class is called career recharge, so this is a time for you to recharge your life and your career. You don’t have to be practical. What are the eight cards that you – what are the eight values that you really want to have?” It’s really funny. It’s almost like people, especially in corporate America, really need permission to say, “Oh, so I can say-“

I was just trying to think of one – there’s one that often people say, “Oh, I can select this one?” It’s like, “Yeah, this is your life. That’s – it’s like I decided 27 years ago to be self-employed. That’s a strong value for me. What are the values that are calling to you?”

Sometimes – then this is an important piece of the exercise is then I have the individuals look at those eight cards and put a plus sign if they have it and put a negative sign if they don’t have it in their career or their life. Then if I have a class of say 30 people, I’ll say, “Okay, who has more than five negative signs?” Sometimes it’s one-third the class.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
How can we recharge? How can people really be engaged in their work and really do their best if all the – there’s lots of research that shows people that are following their purpose are happier and healthier and more engaged at work.

Pete Mockaitis
When you say purpose are those sort of – what’s the relationship between purpose and values here? Is the purpose consisting of values or are you thinking of these separately?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yeah. I’ve designed an exercise. I call it the Purpose Mind Map. This also helps people with their branding. What I have individuals do is the first step is figure out what your values are. Then when I think about purpose, what I want people to think about is what is the contribution you want to make in your career. What’s the difference you want to make in the world?

Sometimes it could be – let’s just say you’re an accountant that my purpose is I want to work at this top accounting firm in New York City and I want to be a partner in ten years. For that person, that’s their purpose. But for someone else it might be totally different.

It might be I want to make – I did a lot of consulting for Bright Horizons, which is a daycare company. For those individuals, a lot of times their purpose is I just want to – I want to have an organization that makes the best difference for children and for their providers. It’s so interesting when you think about purpose, it’s really – it goes back to, again, that legacy question. What’s the difference – when you retire someday, what’s that difference you want to make?
It’s a little bit messy because it’s not like a math equation where someone can have an easy answer. It’s something you really have to do all these little steps.

Pete Mockaitis
Indeed. I want to get your take on when someone says this is their purpose, I think about the accounting firm example, how do you know that it’s the real deal as opposed to, “No, no, no, no, think harder?”

Beth Benatti Kennedy
That is a – that’s a great question. One of the – that actually – something that I will ask that person is “What’s the impact you’re making?” or “What’s the impact you want to make?” and “What’s the reputation you want to have?”

One of the things that happened to me was my first career I was a school counselor in the Boston Public Schools. Our purposes change. At that point I was right out of graduate school and I wanted to just change the world. That was my purpose. I wanted to go in there and I wanted to get these kids going to college.

But after seven or eight years, it was like hitting my wall against a brick because I couldn’t get any impact. I was running programs for parents, no one was showing up. It led me to get burned out because I had this purpose, but I couldn’t make the impact.

Then I was really fortunate. I – by, again, my – I write about this in the book, the connection piece of my model. In graduate school I was sitting next to the training manager of the Gillette Company who gave me a little opportunity to do a little gig at the Gillette Company and do some career counseling.

All of the sudden the light bulb went off. I was like wow, I want to make a difference in people’s lives. It’s not working in the schools right now because this was 27 years ago. I could probably make it in organizations, helping people figure out – making them more satisfied in their careers.

I didn’t even know what outplacement was then, but I was lucky enough to find a graduate degree program in human resource counseling. That was where I got trained as a career counselor. I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is exactly what I want to be doing.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a really great distinction there because you’ve got the purpose and you’ve got the impact because some people might say, “Well, shucks, this is what I’ve always wanted to do and I’m doing it, so what’s the missing link?” It’s like, “Oh well, it’s not going anywhere.”

This kind of reminds me of Stephen Covey with begin with the end in mind and thinking about your funeral and what you’d like people to say about you and that kind of hits it there in terms of the contribution and the impact and what you’re about and what you’re like. That’s good stuff.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I’m not sure if you’re familiar with – you probably are – Dan Buettner. He has this study; it’s called Blue Zones.

Pete Mockaitis
About the people who live longer.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yes, yes. His – that study is just fascinating because he – it consisted of 73,000 Japanese men and women. This was in 2009. What he found was the individuals that had a strong connection to purpose and I think the word is hysterical because I always have to catch myself if I’m saying it right, but it’s I-K-I-G-A-I, ikigai. What he found was those individuals with a sense of purpose, live longer. Then if you look at the other research that’s part of that, he also talks about how important connection is, being with a community.

For some people their purpose could be – it could be something like “I want to make the world the better place by introducing-“ like I work with a lot of doctors trying to cure cancer so that’s their big purpose. Even though 80% of cancer molecules don’t work; it’s still for them so exciting because they are every day trying to make an impact on their purpose, if that makes sense.

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm. That’s good. I want to make sure we get to touch on the mindset a bit. What are the habits of thinking that are really helpful and not so helpful?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
For the boosters for mindset, one of the – what most people find most helpful is paying attention in the morning and giving themselves a daily intention. For example, it might be – like with this crazy – when things are crazy with the holidays or with it being a new year, it might be I’m going to start my morning off and stay relaxed and focused. They give themselves that morning intention. Some of my executives that get really anxious, they give themselves the intention in the morning of calm and confidence.

Mindset, that’s probably the number one booster is giving that morning intention. Then you can do it throughout the day.

The other booster that people find helpful is what I call the pause breath. Sometimes when you’re just having one of those days where it just feels like everything is going wrong, everything you touch, you just feel this – you can feel the stress through your body, I recommend just take two seconds, do a nice inhale, do a nice exhale. I call it the pause breath.

Do that even before you send a charged email because that’s the other thing that starts to happen with mindset is the negatives start outweighing the positives and all of the sudden we’re emailing someone and we’re saying, “Oh my gosh, what are we doing?”

Carol Dweck has out her book, Growth Mindset. She really talks about how important it is to really – in today’s day and age, we have to be so adaptable to change. What her research shows is the more we’re open to being adaptable, having what she calls this growth mindset, we have greater success at work, greater productivity, greater impact if we’re a manager.

I can notice – it’s interesting, when I interview a client before they start coaching with me, I can tell sometimes they’ve had so many negative things happen that they’re just like – they’re just done. Sometimes that can be the beginning of burnout, that mindset just gets really negative.

It’s not that we can’t have negative feelings, but it’s kind of that 80/20 rule. When 80% of your day is just awful, then you really have to worry about it. But you’re going to have – we all have a Monday or a day where it’s just a horrible meeting or a challenge.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Well, tell me Beth, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Let me see. Did you want to hear the – I think the brand boosters. But just to emphasize another one that people like is that when you think about branding, like when you’re at a networking event and I know people don’t really like the word networking. I talk about that in my book to call it connection and think about building relationships.

When you meet someone instead of me just saying, “Oh, I’m Beth Kennedy. I’m a leadership coach.” Think about how can you tell a little bit of your story. I might say, “Hi, I’m Beth. I’m a coach, but I really focus on resiliency and preventing burnout in employees in organizations. That’s my passion. I also really encourage people to figure out what they can do so that they’re more motivated, excited and driven in their career.” Isn’t that a lot more excited than saying, “Hi, I’m Beth and I’m a leadership coach?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah and it sort of lets the conversation go into some interesting places, like, “Oh man, I remember when I was burnt out a few years ago I could have used you. I was-“ and then you go. You’re somewhere as opposed to, “Oh, you’re a leadership coach. Okay cool. Well, I am an accountant.”

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s sort of – it’s less of a connecting conversation.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I think for – sometimes attorneys will say to me or engineers will say, “Oh my God, what am I going to – there’s just no way to say that.” There’s always a little tiny story you can share even if you say something about your organization, so “I’m an engineer at this company. One of our specialties is this,” just to add a little bit to it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. I think engineers often have some fascinating things to say. All sorts of engineers like, “Oh yeah, I work on manufacturing equipment for a Skittles plant.” Okay. I’m all ears. Let’s talk about Skittles.

Or even if it seems maybe less interesting like logistics, like moving stuff around, I can get fascinated by that. It’s like, “Man, that’s a lot of stuff you move around. How do you do that? I find it challenging just to answer all the questions FedEx has for me before I send out a package.”

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Right. Exactly. It’s so nice to hear you say that because I think most – I think the clients that have the most difficult time with that are scientists, engineers and attorneys because that’s what they say they are. It’s like just bring a little bit of that story into it.

Pete Mockaitis
Attorneys have such good stories. Someone is getting sued for something, whether it’s criminal or civil, I think it’s really juicy.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Yeah, even if you’re a corporate attorney, again, some people think, “Oh, that’s just so boring,” well, no it’s not. There’s something about that organization that will just make people learn a little bit more about you.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
So that’s just an example of another brand booster.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Sure. It’s so interesting because I love quotes, but I think one of my favorite one is by Thoreau and “It’s go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.”

Pete Mockaitis
….

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I just think that gosh, with life being short that – I love that it ends with “live the life you’ve imagined” because whatever some of those dreams are, whether it’s career or travel or whatever it is to just keep plugging along. I feel like too that’s to me what resiliency is about is about moving forward even when you – for some-

I share in the book many years ago I applied for a doctorate psychology degree program and I didn’t get in. I thought my world was over. Then now I have this career that I couldn’t imagine doing anything better. I couldn’t imagine sitting in an office every day listening to people’s problems. I just think that we just want to – we have these little challenges come, but somewhere there’s a spark of wonderful thing that’s going to keep coming.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
It’s interesting because one of my favorite research studies is – I don’t know if you’ve heard of him. His name is George Vaillant.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
What he shares – he was a Harvard psychiatrist. He did the Harvard Grant Study from 1972 to 2004. He found strong relationships to be the strongest predictor of life and career satisfaction. What was interesting is his research showed that feeling connected to one’s work was far more important than making money or achieving traditional success.

I have seen that a lot in doing 25 years of coaching is that when people feel really connected to their work, they are just – you can just see this level of energy and happiness.

Sometimes I’ll meet with people that are making incredible amounts of money and I’ll say to them “What is your career satisfaction out of a ten?” and they’ll say a two. I’ll say, “What is your life satisfaction out of a ten?” and they’ll say like a four.

The other thing that happens when – and there’s lots of research that’s been going on about this is as we connect with others we get the – they call them the feel-good chemicals. The dopamine and the oxytocin and that’s the other reason why connection is so important, cultivating relationships.

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm. How about a favorite book?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I was so happy to hear your quote because my favorite book is 7 Habits of Being Highly Effective by Steven Covey. I have to say I quote him every time I train a class I’m always bringing something in from his class. It’s one of those oldies but goodies.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite tool?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
It’s interesting. My favorite tool I would say is a meditation app, which is called Calm.com. As part of my career recharge class I piloted five different meditation apps myself. Then I had about 30 clients just try different ones. I learned with meditation apps, it’s so interesting. People – it depends on the person’s voice.

One of the things I love about Calm is it’s ten minutes long, which is perfect amount of time for me. Some of my other clients like Headspace. There’s so many out there right now. 10% Happier. But for me, that’s probably – that is something I use five or six days a week.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
My favorite habit is what’s part of actually my resiliency model. It’s called the Friday Five. In my phone every Friday I have a little thing that pops up and it says recharge. I spend five minutes to think about what I’m going to focus on for the next week.

What is that one thing I’m going to add, whether it’s I need to watch that podcast or whether it’s I need to call a good friend that I’ve been out of touch with, but – and I teach that to all my clients that if you can’t find five minutes to nourish your life, then we have to really start to worry. I call it my Friday Five process.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with your clients?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I think the nugget that people seem to really like is I have this little saying. I call it spark success. What I mean by that is to start really small to pick something you want to work on and drive it down to the smallest possible doable activity.

For example, a lot of my clients are trying to figure out before the new year begins, okay, how can I regularly exercise. I’ll say to them, “Okay, what’s the smallest thing that you can do?” Maybe it’s getting off the train and walking to work.

It’s really – they really like that idea of I’m about – we’re not looking for perfectionism. We’re just – what’s a small habit that you can start. Then all of the sudden you like it so much it turns into 15 minutes, 20 minutes, going to the gym, doing yoga classes, but starting really small.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I would point them to my website, which is BethKennedy.com. I’m also on Twitter, which is CoachBKennedy. If you’re on LinkedIn, again, you can see I’m a big LinkedIn person, connect with me on LinkedIn. I have a lot of great stuff going on. There’s been some really awesome posts about some of the exciting things that have been going on with the book.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Beth Benatti Kennedy
I would say the call to action is the importance of connection, so to really think about that who is that person, who is the friend or who is the colleague that really supports you and making sure you have time with them together on a regular basis because recharge, it can be so isolating in today’s – everyone’s working so hard and it’s so important to have people on your boat that nourish you and that aren’t toxic.

My call to action is today think of that person you’ve been out of touch with and give them a call or set up a time to meet them for a drink or lunch or dinner. It’s just amazing, it’s amazing what relationships can do for our career and for our productivity.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Beth, thanks so much for sharing the good stuff. Good luck with the book and all your adventures.

Beth Benatti Kennedy
Thank you. Very nice to meet you.

387: Becoming Comfortable with Uncertainty with Julie Benezet

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Julie Benezet discusses the importance of taking risks and being comfortable with the discomfort of outcome uncertainty—and how you can achieve that comfort.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How discomfort brings out your best game
  2. The four steps to becoming comfortable with discomfort
  3. Four self-sabotaging behaviors and how to stop them in their tracks

About Julie

Julie Benezet has devoted her professional life to exploring the new, building businesses and helping others do the same. She currently works as an executive consultant, coach and teacher, following 25 years in business and law. She is the founder of The Journey of Not Knowing®, a leadership development program that teaches its executives how to navigate the new.

Julie spent four years as a member of the Amazon.com leadership team that brought the company from the early steep ramp up phase to its emergence as an established business. As its Vice President, Corporate Resources and Director of Global Real Estate, she is credited with leading the delivery of over 7,000,000 square feet worldwide with the supporting corporate infrastructure in just two years.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Julie Benezet Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Julie, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Julie Benezet
Nice to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think we’re going to have a lot of interesting discussions, but I want to start by hearing some fun tales from your time working at Amazon.com way back in 1999.

Julie Benezet
I think I could any story and it would be deemed insane. Amazon was a complete adventure. Here it was a new company, new industry, new organization, reorg by the hour and no strategy, no capital budget. We were supposed to roll out the worldwide platform of real estate somehow.

The first big pursuit we went on was the pursuit of finding a distribution center in Nevada. We had to work by dark of night. In 1998 when the initiative first started, everybody wanted to know what Amazon was up to because they figured every move they made was going to be a great indicator of its strategy from which they could learn and compete.

I had to travel into Reno, Nevada with a fake name, which when you fly in and meet a broker there, you think that having a fake name is a nothing, but you have to come into a part of the airport so they can’t tell what plane you got off. When they ask you, “Oh, what time did you leave this morning,” you have to make up the numbers so that they can’t back into where you might have flown out of. It goes from there.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow.

Julie Benezet
We looked around. I thought that was tensest part of the journey. We looked around and 500,000 square foot distribution centers aren’t just lying around waiting for you, but we finally came up one that was an occupied on in a place called Fernley, Nevada. It was about to be emptied of a large corporation there that wasn’t doing so well, so we were going to take it over.

We proceeded to negotiate it with a developer who was going to buy it and then rent it back to us, but the key to the thing was we couldn’t disclose to them who we really were. They knew who the broker was, so she had credibility. That allowed them to talk to us, but beyond that they had no idea who we were. Somehow we had to convince them and they had to convince their banker that this is going to be a deal worth doing. Everything was done, again, under cloak of darkness.

We go through this and we get to the point where we’ve got all the deal points made. We’re standing out at the distribution center and my boss, who was the chief logistics officer – he was formally at Wal-Mart – he had a large retinue of people who could come in and figure out how to create a throughput system that was the first of its kind, that could process four million SKUs of product to individual customers. Never been done before.

He invited 24 of his closest friends, who were all the rock stars of the logistics community. But the deal was, again, nobody could know who we were. Anybody was in logistics, including the people who were the managers of that plant, absolutely would have recognized these people. We had to separate them out from our guys, who came in without the benefit of a lease, to sit down and have a day of brainstorming to figure out how to create a throughput system.

My job was to make sure the workers stayed at a distance from the room so they couldn’t overhear names and disclose them to their bosses and keep the bosses out of the building. This is not what I went to college to do. We sweated our way through this.

The last minute the big boss decided he was going to fly into Reno to come out and say hi. We said, “No, you can’t do that,” because he definitely would have known these people. We had to dash into Reno, meet him there, because he wouldn’t have known me, dash back, arrive back, and finally we got our final deal point and it’s time for the big reveal.

The big reveal is when we’re going to send a non-disclosure fax to this developer to say who we were so they could turn around and tell their bank and everybody could decide if they were going to do this deal or not. We get the fax ready, walk over to this fax machine and all of the connectivity in the building went down. Everything. This state of the art place that we’re supposed to be leasing has no connectivity.

I’m sitting there thinking, “Oh my, oh my.” I’m staring at across this 7,000 person town, which is a farming community and there’s not a lot of fax machines hanging around there much less anything else. I finally spot a Best Western Motel. I thought, well, they’ve got those ugly old fax machines, the things with the thick piece of paper that puts out about a page a minute.

I grabbed the broker and said, “We’re going to the Best Western.” We fly down half a mile to the Best Western and sure enough they have a fax machine with the thick paper and one page per minute. The woman was nodding and smiling. She says, “Well, of course, of course.” We’re sitting there and eight pages, each takes a minute to go, so you kind of do the math there or each page took eight minutes to process.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh wow, eight minutes per one page.

Julie Benezet
Yeah and we have an eight-page fax. I’m sitting there thinking about what I can do in my next life. I’m watching the hotel manager humming. She’s this woman and she’s putting up Christmas decorations and she’s offering – her friends would wander in and she’d offer them blueberry muffins. I’m watching her thinking, “Oh wow, that looks so nice, so calm.”

Meantime, the eight pages get through and the broker goes outside to talk to the developer. She gives the name of who it is. They said, “Oh, okay,” and that was it. I’m a puddle by this time. She comes back and says, “We’re good.” I’ve just had my first heart attack.

I go up to pay for the fax and all this time I’ve been thinking, “Where did I go wrong? How did I choose a life that’s insane like this, that challenges my heart rate, that has all this craziness?” I’m watching this woman decorating her lobby and feeding her friends with blueberry muffins and she seems so calm and happy. Where did I go wrong?

I’m paying for the fax and I’m just chitchatting with her, asking where she’s from. Well, she’s from Claremont, California. In fact, she and I went to junior high school together.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh wow.

Julie Benezet
I’m looking at this and thinking, “Oh, it’s a small world.” But it was very much consistent with the journey of not knowing. You never knew what you were going to come up against. It was a challenge every step of the way, but you had to know that you loved doing this stuff because the insanity was liberally applied.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that is quite a story.  Thank you for really taking us there and painting a picture. Yeah, let’s talk about this book and the accompanying journal. We’ve got The Journey of Not Knowing and The Journal of Not Knowing. It sounds like you learned a thing or two about not knowing and into that. How would you articulate sort of the main point of the book?

Julie Benezet
The Journey of Not Knowing is about pursuing what it is you don’t know, which is a scary place, in order to put in motion something better, a bigger idea. That we lived in the 21st century, where change is the order of the day, that we have to constantly come up with new ideas, whether it is for our team, our community, our family, our career, something that has to meet the needs of an evolving market around us.

The Journey of Not Knowing is how you deal with the fact that you have to be comfortable with the discomfort of not knowing what’s going to happen and accept that discomfort as part of the deal of getting to something better.

We spend a lot of time running away from scariness and say it’s a bad thing and trying to de-stress and say that there’s no value, but in fact what I discovered – and Amazon was very much an example of this – is when you go towards things you don’t know to try something new, it brings up your best game and you really pay attention to what the possibilities are. If you stay with it, you can get to new places that can be pretty compelling.

Pete Mockaitis
What I like the way you’re describing this because it sounds so fun and adventurous and exciting as opposed to just terrifying and nerve racking.

Julie Benezet
Well, it is terrifying and nerve racking, but that’s okay. When I came upon the concept was when I was at Amazon and that I’ve always had an affection for the new. Even as a kid who was afraid of other people, I was always trying to turn things upside down and go a different place. Amazon was this whole concept grown large.

But when we finished that Fernley deal, I came back and literally the next night I’m sitting in my office trying to enjoy – in corporate America the amount of time between ‘Job well done,’ and ‘What have you done for me lately?’ is about a nanosecond.

I’m sitting there enjoying my nanosecond and I get this phone call saying, “Julie,” this was the right hand of the chief logistics officer, basically he says, “Julie, we need you to go to Germany and get another 500,000 square foot warehouse.” I’ll spare you that story, but the key to that was as I’m thinking about this is okay. Of course there’s no parameters. Of course they want it in three months. Of course these things are not just lying around.

I thought of all the impossibilities that we attach to it. Treasury is going to tell me, “No, you can’t get last minute travel.” HR is going to say, “You can’t move your people more than 30 miles from where they are now,” because then we’d have to do a social plan and they’re expensive. Legal is going to say, “Oh, those German lawyers are a nightmare.” IT is going to say, “No way we can get the right infrastructure.” Etcetera, etcetera.

I’m just ticking off in my mind all these totally frightening things and wondering how I’m going to do this, but that’s when it hit me. That’s when I realized that no matter how scary it was and how impossible this could be, no part of me didn’t believe we wouldn’t pull it off.

That’s when I came up with the concept of the journey of not knowing is being comfortable with discomfort of not knowing and realizing that that just goes with the territory, but it will challenge you and it will challenge other people, but it’s worth the adventure, again, whether it’s your career, your home life, your community, your team, whatever.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that sounds like a pretty cool place to be in terms of “Boy, there’s going to be a bunch of challenges. Have no idea how we’re going to resolve them all, but I’m certain that we will.” That’s a pretty cool spot. I’m wondering for those who don’t have that level of confidence and certainty when they’re entering into such endeavors, how do you get to that place?

Julie Benezet
Well, I talk about something in the book called the core four. The core four are four ways of milepost to get you on the way through the journey through the unknown.

The first one is to first of all know what your dreams are. What is it you want to achieve? If it’s a career ambition, you want to change disciplines or you want to move up and be a senior vice president, you want to do something different with your life, then it’s important first to label what your dream is and say okay. Often your dream is something that you’ve been avoiding because it’s too scary to you, but that is the one that probably has the most power.

You want to create a different system of team selection, where the teams choose their own members rather than the manager doing it and giving much more power to the team members and you don’t know what that’s going to look like, but you think that could be pretty compelling for people and a great recruiting tool.

The first is your dream. Once you have a dream within that, then you have to say, “Who is this going to benefit?” In the journey of not knowing, your job is to work through the uncertainty to find out what you can learn about what you don’t know.

In anything there are things we know, like I know your name is Pete and I know that you’re on the other end of a phone. I know you have a show. But I don’t know what you’re wearing, but I could ask you. I don’t know what you’re thinking right now, but I can ask you and you can tell me or you won’t.

Then there are things that you can’t know either because the other person doesn’t want to tell me. I may sound like a girlfriend you had ten years ago and you just hate even hearing my voice and you certainly don’t want to share that or it’s something that you’re not aware of and I have to be comfortable with that.

When you’re trying to figure out your dream and learning about the people who would benefit, then you have to go after those things that you don’t know, but you can find out. One of the things you need to find out is what are those people, like if it’s your team now, what do you need to learn about them to pull this thing off because you’ve got to get their buy in?

That’s step one. That will also inform more about what that dream is going to look like.

Step two is to get comfortable with the scariness of risk, you’ve heard me talk about this, and accept it as part of the game. The thing that scariness can do for you is it doesn’t have to disable, but it can raise your attention. It says, “Okay, I’m nervous because I don’t know what was going to happen. I don’t know the consequences. I don’t know if people are going to like it or hate it. But I really would like to try this. I have to be okay with that worry.”

That’s an important thing. In fact there’s research coming out now in the area of mindfulness that mindfulness is very good for applying yourself to a task you already know, but it’s not so good when you apply it to something that’s new, that you don’t have enough edge going for you. That certainly is what I’ve witnessed in my career and the careers of others.

Pete Mockaitis
You don’t have enough edge going for you, you said?

Julie Benezet
Yeah, you don’t have enough – are you going to reach and stretch into a place that makes you a little nervous, but you’re willing to try. Because if it’s something that you feel really calm about, you’ve probably done it before and so have other people, so it’s probably not a new enough idea. It’s maybe not fixing the problem.

There’s a lot of these things, these new ideas are to fix old problems that people don’t want to talk about, don’t want to face or there’s some person standing in the way that nobody wants to stare down. But that allows you to go into those places where it’s not going to be easy, but it will be worth it. That’s why it’s important to go towards not away from discomfort and recognize that is an empowering thing rather than a disempowering thing.

The third is to watch out for self-sabotaging behaviors. These things are your defensive behaviors that I call hooks. Everybody has defensive behaviors.

Defenses are just to take away discomfort, that if I’m in a situation where I find the people are condescending and make me feel little and upset and yet they might be people that I really need to help me with my project, but if I find that I’m reacting that way, one defensive behavior is just to disengage, just check out or tell myself I don’t need them. I’ll figure it out some other way. I’ll walk away from it.

A very common one is micromanagement, that micromanagement is about trying to take control of things. Instead of waiting to see how something or whether something is going to turn out, instead you want that instant feedback.

When you micromanage, “Well, Pete, can you move your paper over three inches? Could you please call so-and-so and tell them thus-and-thus? Would you put the stapler to the side?” I do this micromanagement role play with people and they just love it because everybody – if you don’t know what micromanagement is, you’ve never worked.

But what it does is when you get into it, it gives you near-term comfort and gives you this sense of control, but it takes you off the pathway to something bigger.

Personalizing is a big one. Personalizing is if I hear someone has criticized an event as a reflection on me, instead of hearing what the value is to the broader picture, it will get me. I will spend my time worrying about my own self-esteem rather than what’s going to be valuable to the organization.

For example, if somebody says, “Julie, that was a horrible presentation,” if I have a personalizing thing, I’ll go into unknown territory saying, “Oh, I’m just a screw-up. I’m terrible. I know I should have, would have, could have.”

Instead of stepping back and saying, “Well, let’s see. What went wrong there? Maybe they have already heard that topic before or maybe it’s hitting a nerve ending that they’ve tried to address before and it didn’t go so well and they’d rather not think about it or maybe they just heard that there are going to be layoffs and they weren’t even paying attention.”

What I need to do is get past that hook of personalizing, worrying about how I look and look at how the situation looks. Again, you have to go and figure out what it is you don’t know. Personalizing is particular common among women, but men do it too. It’s very common as I said, but it is one to catch yourself, “Uh oh, get over yourself. Let look out here and see what’s going on.”

The final thing, and this is where the juice is, you need to find drivers to fuel your way through the unknown and the discomfort of finding out new ideas.

Drivers are anything from, “I so dislike the guy who I’m competing against for this bid that there’s no way on this earth that I’m going to let him win. I am going to go deal with the scary analytics department, who always make me feel like a moron because I know they can put together a bid that will be winning so that will help me push through all the discomfort that’s going to take to get me there.”

Or more important are core drivers. Core drivers are about who you are, what are your values, what do you care about, what are your dreams, and what are your life stories. There are a lot of them. Did anybody doubt that when Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream,” did they ever doubt that he really meant it? That gave him a lot of fuel to go through a lot of scary places in the name of civil rights.

In my coaching practice I run up against this depressingly often, particularly women whose mother when they were children told them they would fail, which is incredible. You and I could probably talk for a long time about the dynamics of mothers and daughters and woman and mothers with their own issues.

But it’s a very powerful motivator when I’ve seen woman after woman go out there and say “I am going to go after that promotion as terrified as I am about what it’s going to take to get there, all the speeches I’m going to have to make, all the reports I’m going to have to write, all the people I’m going to have to prove myself to, so I can show my mother that I will not fail.” That’s a core driver and it’s very powerful.

Those are the four steps that get you on the journey through that discomfort towards something bigger.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, thank you. Well, there’s much I’d love to dig into here. I’ll go in reverse order. These drivers, it’s interesting in that the notion that “I’m going to prove to my mother that I can do it and I’m awesome,” or “I want to stick it to this competitor because I don’t like them at all.”

Julie Benezet
It doesn’t have to be laudable, Pete. It just has to .

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well that’s what I was intrigued is that – I guess I’ve been there too with regard to sort of quote/unquote noble drivers and maybe less so. Is there any downside to tapping into a less laudable driver?

Julie Benezet
That’s a good question. A downside. Well, you don’t use it as your press clips.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure.

Julie Benezet
You don’t say, “Okay, we’re going to go get the guys.” Although Ford made a whole – its whole vision for a long time was “We want to beat Chevy,” and that did rather well for them, so it’s not always a bad thing to do.

I don’t think so. Unless you let it consume you in a negative way. If you just say, “This is what I’m using for,” and then use it for the positive of the endpoint you want, then I think it’s very useful. If you use to basically revisit and wallow in past slights from somebody, that’s not so good.

All of these involve leadership in some way, whether it’s for your personal career, for your team. Leadership is simply about having an idea to make things better and bringing other people along to help support you in it.

When you want to get help with your idea, you want to be able – it’s really a sales job. You need to motivate other people to come into the tent to join you here. Having a negative driver is not something, as I say, you translate into your motivational speech. A different way is what if you win this bid, the group will win for itself and how life will be better as a result of this.

You need to make a division between what inside is making you go versus what it is that you need to use on the outside to socialize it and get all those people to help you come along on it.

Pete Mockaitis
Now you also mentioned back to the self-sabotaging behaviors that you’ll note that these are just sort of responses to natural defensiveness that’s popping up. You offered a couple kind of particular prescriptions, like if you start the personalizing, here’s what to do instead.

I’d love to get your take on are there any sort of universal tips that you’d suggest in terms of if you find defensiveness is bubbling up and you’re starting to go down whatever your particular unique self-sabotaging flavor may be, are there any kind of universal things that can help get you back on track.

Julie Benezet
Yeah, there’s something I call the hook cycle. The hook cycle begins with you being triggered by something. I’ll give you a quick story to demonstrate it so you get the pieces.

Cheryl was a senior project manager at a company. She really wanted to be promoted to director. She made a point of really going the extra mile with the client to dazzle them, so she would do well with them, then finally get promoted.

Well, one day Cheryl heard via the grapevine that Michael, who worked for her, had told her boss that the client was unhappy about their services. Well, this was the first Cheryl had heard about that. She went into this great angry place and she tended to personalize. She had parents who were shamers and blamers because we all carry our life history with us. You have to pay attention to that.

But she went into this place of, “Oh no, this should never have happened.” Instead of thinking about what the client really was saying and why Michael spoke to her boss, she went into this reactive mode. She was hooked by personalizing. The first part of the hook cycle is when you are hooked by something that triggers you.

What can happen in a negative hook cycle is if you don’t catch yourself, then you go into this reactive place, which she did. She went into this reactive place and what she did was she goes storming to her boss and says, “I can’t believe Michael came and said that to you. How dare he? He’s just playing the male chauvinist pig card.”

Her manager is listening to this. He reacts to her reaction. He’s thinking, “Whoa, she can’t manage her people. I couldn’t possibly promote her.” The result is that she is not promoted.

Well, the trick of getting to a better place is to catch yourself when you catch yourself being hooked and stop and to form a new cycle. The new cycle is when you catch yourself – and it can occur in different ways. You suddenly get almost a stabbing feeling, you get really nervous, sometimes if it’s like micromanagement, you get dead calm. Something tips you off that you’re going into a defensive place.

At that point, literally stop and shift to what I call pause and reflect. Even if you are quiet for 30 whole seconds, it will stop the speeding train of reactivity. What it does is it allows you to start to detach from all that emotionalizing and start to shift to a place of looking at it differently.

Then the second part and you build a new cycle and a more productive one. In that new cycle first thing is to give yourself compassion. We all are human. We all have things that cause us to react. That’s okay. We can forgive ourselves for that and acknowledge it. But then say, “But this isn’t going to work. Me going storming into my boss’s office and complaining about Michael, not so hot. I need to come up with a new strategy.”

Then in looking at a new strategy, that’s when it’s like opening the aperture of a camera. As the more you detach and breathe deep or whatever helps to bring in some calm, you literally can see more what’s happening. You look around and say, “Okay, what do I need to learn here.” It goes back to that not knowing thing. “What is it do I not know?”

One of the things that Cheryl did not know was why Michael talked to her boss first. Well, it turns out, so she went and talked to Michael. She learned that well, it wasn’t a planned event. He just happened to be standing in the coffee room next to the boss and he had just heard this information. He just thought he was being helpful as they’re both pouring their coffee.

But he had also worked for himself for 17 years and this chain of command thing was brand new. He had never heard of anything like that. The last thing that had occurred to him was to be undercutting her. She realized that she needed to understand Michael a whole lot better to get a more constructive working relationship. The next step is to work on that relationship.

Another piece of it obviously, they have to go solve for the client problem, which they did. This actually comes from a real life event. I happened to have been the coach for both the big boss and Cheryl, so these are not their real names. But they did go and rehabilitate it, both with Michael and Cheryl. They also had to rehabilitate the issue with the client. Six months later she was promoted to director.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. That’s nice to see how that unfolds there and makes it all the more real. Along with making it real, you mentioned a couple of those behaviors. I’d love to hear a few more so that listeners might recognize themselves in them.

I think one of my defensive behaviors is I just sort of – I start the argument without the other person. I’m like, “I can’t believe he would say that. After this and this and this. Well, he might thing this, but I’d say that. Then he might say this and I’d say that.”

It’s like I’ve already got the whole script. The whole script is playing out before me and I’m getting kind of riled up about an argument that has not happened and very well probably won’t happen. I sort of notice that in myself, so I try to take a breath in those situations. What are some other patterns that show up again and again there?

Julie Benezet
Look at our political environment right now. Nobody is listening to anybody because everybody is going around basically … each other because it’s a very anxious, anxiety provoked thing. It’s not terrible. It’s very human. But what it does is, again, it’s like something that person said to you, you took off – triggered you. How could you recognize that in yourself and then be able to pull up long enough to say, “Well, how do you get there?”

Most of my experience has been and I’ve watched this in negotiation training is the winners tend to be the ones who are quieter and ask more questions. I’m not saying you never can correct, but something to consider is what is it that I can do here to learn more about what I don’t know about this person’s position and why it is we’re not on the same page.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a handy one. Thank you. Any other patterns associated with when the defensiveness is starting to bubble up?

Julie Benezet
Perfectionism is a big one. There are ten hooks. Perfectionism is of course a rabid fear of failure. The perfectionist thinks if they just keep doing it until they get it right, they’ll be okay. It’s almost like a safety thing. It’s a great way of spinning because there’s no end point to it. There’s no such thing as something that’s perfect.

But a lot of people get into perfectionism. For example, if they’re going to go out and sit down and do a customer survey with a customer who they know might not be happy, they might find themselves spending a long time getting the wording just right on this survey rather than picking up the phone, calling up the customer and saying, “Hey, I need to come see you and learn some things here.”

It’s perseverative behavior. It’s round and around. What it can do is while you’re trying to get the perfect product, you’re avoiding making a decision. It can be a real career ender. You see a lot of perfectionists in a number two seat, not a number one seat because they’ll just keep trying to make it nicer and better and cleaner.

You see this in finance a lot. You see it among engineers. We’ve all got pieces of this. I was a lawyer for years, believe me, they’ve got perfectionism down. But what it does is if you don’t make a decision, then you’re not accountable. If you’re not accountable for something, you can’t fail at it. That’s the myth, but that’s what keeps a lot of people in that trough.

Getting out of perfectionism, again, is to first catch yourself when you’re doing it. When you’re adjusting the font for the 14th time on this proposal, you might step back and ask yourself “Am I picking on this font because the font really needs to be fixed or am I failing to look at whether this proposal is really answering the question that the potential client is asking? Is this really going to win the deal?”

Particularly if it involves things that you feel stretched in trying, but may be important to do so. Perfectionism is another big one.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. Julie, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Julie Benezet
Oh, I could mention a lot of things. When I wrote The Journey, I wrote it as a story because it’s full of people that are familiar. All of these things are very typical and yet the final goal is to pursue something better, the adventure of improving things and making a difference. I think that’s worth all the sweat along the way.

{Sponsor: Babbel. If you’d like to pursue an adventure into a foreign country…or just into your own mental development, check out our sponsor, Babbel, the language learning app that will get you speaking a new language with confidence. I’ve long wanted to learn how to speak spanish and even purchased some software to help me get there, but I had a hard time finding the time to sit down at the computer and make it happen. With Babbel, you can take learning anywhere using their app or online platform. Progress is synced across all devices. Their lessons are quick and convenient, in only 10 minutes. The app is beautiful and they have fun little sounds that make me feel rewarded as I’m making progress. You can try the #1 selling language learning app in the world for free by visiting Babbel.com or downloading the appl. That’s Babbel, BABBEL dot com, or download the app to try for free. So thanks to Babbel for sponsoring the show, and helping people speak a new language with confidence}

Pete Mockaitis

Thank you. Now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Julie Benezet

Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself; everyone else is taken.”

Pete Mockaitis

How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Julie Benezet

Well, I tend to look at biographies as telling important stories. I look at research too. But a couple books for example that are very illustrative of what I’m talking about is Shoe Dog, which is Phil Knight’s biography of how Nike was formed. You spend the whole time wondering how it is possible that this company ever succeeded to make a dime much less a billion dollars.

There is a study, it has an important moral. It’s for people who love animals like I do. It’s not a great one to read, but it’s Martin Seligman’s Learned Helplessness. It’s all about how people can get into situations where they feel like they have no control over the end, so they just quit trying. You see that in lots of different ways.

But it was done in the early ‘50s. It remains true today. It has powerful implications. The moral of that one is to find out what it is you can control and to go towards that.

Pete Mockaitis

How about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Julie Benezet

One is free writing. Free writing is something where you don’t sit and organize it. You just sit down and you just start writing. Handwriting is better than typing because it’s kinetic. It actually slows you down, so you think better. It improves the memory that comes out of that work, but it also tends to personalize it more.

Free writing is you say, “I just wish I could go down there and tell them what I think. The reason they’re bugging me about this.” It can sound like a word salad, but by dumping it out of your head and putting it on a piece of paper, you start to see things bubble to the surface. “What are the themes, the patterns here that are showing up for me? Oh, I see. These are all instances where somebody treated me like a little thing and put me down and that makes me crazy.”

Another one is white boarding is that people are very visual and whether you’re one person, two or a roomful, there’s something very powerful to going up to the wall and drawing shapes, words, colors, lines, whatever, to talk about what you’re thinking about. I find it’s less structured and, again, it surfaces patterns and thinking and can be very powerful to getting to a better place.

Pete Mockaitis

How about a favorite habit?

Julie Benezet

Well, if you knew me, you’d think this would be strange, but sitting still. Because I like to be very active, strong bias for action, you might have figured that out, when I really want to sit down and figure something out, the idea of being still makes me shift into a different gear and quit distracting myself with other stuff. It makes it impossible for me to run anyplace else.

I just sit, feel, breathe, and let my head drift. I don’t do it for very long. I do it for at most five minutes, but it’s re-energizing and it can be very clarifying because when you have a little meeting with yourself like that, it’s amazing what shows up on the agenda.

Pete Mockaitis

Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks and they repeat it frequently?

Julie Benezet

One of the things that I hear a lot is about leadership. It’s not a job; it’s a mindset. It’s a state of being where you’re always looking for the bigger opportunity in whatever is going on. If something goes wrong in your job, don’t just fix the little thing, like the team didn’t put the paper in on time. What’s the bigger deal that’s going on?

Why is it that they didn’t come through on that? Did they not understand it? Did they realize that nobody is going to read it? Did they think that the data were flawed? What was sitting behind that stuff that stopped them from doing it because that’s what you go to fix. The mindset is always looking for that bigger opportunity.

Pete Mockaitis

If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Julie Benezet

On my website, JulieBenezet.com or there’s Author Central off of Amazon.

Pete Mockaitis

Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Julie Benezet

Dare to dream, face your fears, and go for it.

Pete Mockaitis

Beautiful. Well, Julie, this has been a ton of fun. I wish you lots of luck and more adventures and more unknowing places.

Julie Benezet

Guaranteed. Thank you very much.

377: How to Disarm the Energy Vampires at Work with Dr. Judith Orloff

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New York Times bestselling author and psychiatrist Dr. Judith Orloff shines on light on highly sensitive people, how to connect with them, and how to defend against forces that drain your energy.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The difference between ordinary empathy, highly sensitive people, and empaths
  2. Two ways to avoid absorbing the emotions of your environment
  3. The important skills the rest of us can learn from highly sensitive people

About Judith

Dr. Judith Orloff is a New York Times bestselling author who specializes in treating sensitive people in her Los Angeles based private practice. Dr. Orloff is on the psychiatric clinical faculty at UCLA. Her work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, PBS, and in USA Today and The Oprah Magazine, and the Los Angeles times.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Judith Orloff Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Dr. Orloff, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Judith Orloff
You’re very welcome.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into some of your wisdom and expertise here. Could you maybe tell us the story of your journey and how you came to understand the concept of sensitive people?

Judith Orloff
Well, I wrote The Empath Survival Guide because I’m a psychiatrist and an empath. Being an empath is being an emotional sponge. It’s being so sensitive that you literally can absorb the emotions and even the physical symptoms of other people into your own body.

I knew that I had this ability when I was a little girl. I couldn’t go into shopping malls or crowded places because I’d walk in feeling fine and walk out exhausted or with some ache or pain I didn’t have before. My mother who was a physician, my father also a physician – I have 25 physicians in my family – she would say, “Oh dear, you just don’t have a thick enough skin.”

I grew up believing there was something wrong with me in terms of my sensitivities rather than they’re a gift and they need to be managed in a positive way so that’s why I wanted to write the book was to give sensitive people and empath skills on how to be sensitive and open and caring without absorbing the stress of the world into your own body.

Now how do you do that? What skills do you need? As a little girl I knew that I had these abilities and then when I went through medical school, I went to USC. I went to UCLA. My empathic skills kind of went under. I became more immersed in the science of behavior and the science of the body and biological truths of what was going on. It wasn’t until I opened my private practice in psychiatry that I began to use them again.

In fact, I had a dream about a patient that she was going to – actually, it wasn’t a dream; it was a wakened intuition that she was going to be commit suicide. I didn’t see any evidence clinically for that, so I didn’t bring it up with her. I ignored the dream and she in fact overdosed on the pills that I prescribed for her and luckily she lived.

But that was my wakeup call as a physician that I had to listen to my sensitivities and my intuition because it could extremely affect my patients’ health and wellbeing if I didn’t. Since that point, which was a long time ago, I’ve really incorporated my own sensitivities and my empathy and my intuition into patient care and into my personal life.

[3:00]

Pete Mockaitis
Wow, that’s a powerful story. When it comes to the terminology, I just want to make sure we’re on the same page. When you say empath, I guess I’m thinking of Deanna Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation. You don’t mean that you can read people’s thoughts, but rather that you’re sensitive. Are these interchangeable terms, empath and a highly sensitive person, or how would you think about it?

Judith Orloff
They’re a little different. There’s a spectrum of empathy. Whereas, ordinary empathy, which is so beautiful is when your heart goes out to somebody and you feel what they’re feeling in joy or in pain. That’s kind of the middle of the spectrum.

Then if you go up a little bit on the spectrum you have highly sensitive people. These are people who are overwhelmed by sight, smells, sounds, noises, scratchy clothes, and like to be quiet. They’re usually introverts. They’re very sensorally sensitive.

Then if you go up one more notch on the empathy spectrum, you get the empath, who have all the sensory components of sensitivity to light and sound, etcetera, but their poor systems tend to absorb other people’s positive and negative emotions and other feelings into their own bodies and physical symptoms.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Now, I had heard in a previous conversation that the highly sensitive person has a different nervous system. It’s like biochemically structures are in fact different than that of a quote/unquote typical or non-highly sensitive person. Is the empath also have a nervous system that’s differentiatable from that of the highly sensitive person?

Judith Orloff
Well, I think empaths – interesting research on this that empaths have hyperactive mirror neuron systems, which means their compassion neurons are working overtime. They can see somebody they don’t even know who is in pain and they feel it in their own bodies. It’s too much. It’s overkill. It’s not healthy for the empath to do that. But it’s thought that the mirror neurons are hyperactive.

It’s thought in terms of the dopamine system in the body. Dopamine is a pleasure hormone that empaths need less of it to feel satisfied. That’s why they’re happy at home reading a book, whereas other people, extroverts require much more of a dopamine rush, so they love going to stadiums and big football games and parties and lots of dopamine there.

But it’s thought that empaths don’t need to have that dopamine rush because they’re satisfied with much less, which accounts for more of the quiet behavior.

[6:00]

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. All right, so if you find yourself in that situation, like you’re highly sensitive or an empath, what are some of your top tips in terms of just – you’ve got the book called The Empaths Survival Guide – surviving, not getting the illness or getting bogged down in feeling blue because of what you’re picking up around you?

Judith Orloff
Right, good question. The first thing that sensitive people need to do is conscious breath, where the minute you feel like you’re picking up something from somebody else, whether it’s their anger or their depression or their low energy, you have to begin breathing it out.

The breath is sacred prana. It’s a purification system in the body. The more you breathe, the more you can begin to circulate whatever it is that you picked up. That’s important because many empaths hold their breath. They get afraid and they get overwhelmed. They get on sensory overload, which is very common for empaths, and they just hold their breath. The first thing you do is breathe.

Then the second thing, I always teach my empathy patients, is to learn how to set healthy boundaries as you have to learn that no is a complete sentence and that you have to be ready to say, “No, I’m sorry. I can’t go out tonight,” or, “No, I’m sorry. I can’t take on that project, I’m too booked already,” something like that because empaths are people pleasers.

They wear an invisible sign around them that says, “I can help you,” so people flock to empaths from far and wide just to tell you their life story.

I could be sitting in an airport minding my own business in my little bubble and somebody will sit next to me and start up with the most intimate things, which I’m not really open to at that point. I’ve learned to set limits and say something like, “This is my time to be quiet and do my work on my computer, so I’m not really open to talking.”

But empaths are not used to speaking that way to people. They feel like it’s impolite. They feel like they’re going to sacrifice themselves just so the other person would be happy. Empaths need to set healthy boundaries. It’s often a process, where you just have to set a small one and then a bigger one and a bigger one, so you get used to it because an empath who doesn’t set boundaries is going to be exhausted.

That’s the downside of being an empath is you take on so much. You’re tired, exhausted, on sensory overload, too much is coming in too fast, you don’t know what to do with it. It affects your relationship. It affects your health. Empaths get fibromyalgia, adrenal fatigue because their stress response is going constantly because they’re always taking in stimuli.

[9:00]

That’s just not healthy, so the setting of the boundaries really helps to say no and narrow what you take in via your ears or your eyes or who you communicate with or how long you talk on the phone. You don’t talk for two hours; you talk for three minutes. You begin to understand and work with these very practical issues so that you can have a healthier life, where empaths can thrive.

Pete Mockaitis
We’ve got the breathing and the setting of boundaries. I’m also curious to get your take on if we don’t find ourselves in the categories of sensitive people or empaths, what are some of the potential ways that we can kind of tap into some of the wisdom or perspective or super power, if you will, that our counterparts have?

Judith Orloff
All right, well the first thing I teach my patients who are non-empaths is to listen to their intuition rather than just stay in their head because if you stay in your head and you’re analyzing and thinking all the time, that’s stopping you from empathizing and feeling.

It’s important if you want to empathize and develop that, to have good eye contact, not intrusive eye contact, but just really look at somebody in the eyes rather than having your eyes darting around or checking your texts or whatever to take you out of your sense of presence. Listen from your heart.

If somebody starts sharing a lot of emotions – this happens with a lot of couples that I work with, where one is an empath and one is an intellectual. The intellectual has to learn how to listen from his or her heart and not try and get in there and fix things too quickly. That’s very irritating for an empath to have somebody do that.

Pete Mockaitis
In practice, how does one listen with your heart well?

Judith Orloff
Well, I call it holding space, where you can hold a space for somebody without judging them, without having to say anything, without intervening, just having a very loving countenance and sending loving energy from your heart and wishing the person well basically and not getting in there and doing anything other than holding a very positive energy for somebody and a loving look in your eyes.

It’s really liberating to have someone do that when you’re going – as an empath, I’ll just speak for myself, if I’m going through some intense emotion or if I’m going through something where I really need to be listened to and held and contained in a certain way with safety, just to have somebody hold a space like that, lovingly, makes all the difference.

Instead of reacting to me, instead of trying to fix me, instead of trying to solve the issue, just holding that space in the beginning is really helpful and calming.

[12:00]

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so in a way it’s more about what you’re not doing than what you are doing it sounds like in terms of it’s not so much that we need to access some profound sense of connectedness to the particular emotions as it is just kind of keep your mouth shut and pleasantly smile and listen and allow the conversation to unfold without judgment or rushing to fix, analyze, solve something.

Judith Orloff
Well, that’s certainly a good beginning.

Pete Mockaitis
Great, okay. That’s good stuff. Then I want to get your take on, you have in particular, listed out, enumerated five emotional or energy vampires. Could you identify what those are and particularly how they might pop up in the workplace and how we should go about defending against them?

Judith Orloff
Yeah. Well, I hope I pick the five that you’re speaking of. There are a lot of different kinds of energy vampires.

But one of them is the victim or the ‘poor me’ person, who everything is not their fault. Everything is the world’s fault. Everything is falling apart. His mother doesn’t understand me. My boyfriend just broke up with me. My boss is not appreciating my work.

They keep you on the phone for two hours complaining and when you try and put in a solution, they say, “Yes, but-“ “Yes, you’re right, but-“ and then they start up again.

If you identify with having people like that in your life, the key is to set limits with the amount of time you talk to them. Don’t enable them because a lot times people enable these victims by saying, “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that,” and on, and on, and on. Then they call you the next night with the same story, and the next night, and then you’re screening your calls, and you don’t want to pick up the phone. It’s a vicious cycle.

You have to begin to speak up. It’s the victim is the first one. It’s very common in the workplace.

Also the drama queen, that’s another type of energy vampire. This is somebody who wears you out with off-the-chart dramas, where everything is a drama. The little spot on my arm is cancer. The world is falling apart. I’m going to be fired at any moment. This person-

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Or they invent like someone said something and they kind of infer from that all kinds of ill will and “Could you believe that they think that blah, blah, blah, blah.” It’s like, “Well, they never really said that. You just kind of made that up. It might be accurate, but it might very well not be.”

[15:00]

Judith Orloff
Yeah, no, exactly. That’s a drama queen or king. It’s both sexes when they get into it. Most importantly don’t ask this person how they’re doing at work. You don’t want to – you see them coming, you just want to smile and not ask them because then they’ll start up.

Then you want to use the I’m-not-interested body language, where you just kind of subtly point your body in a different direction rather than looking deeply into their eyes or pointing directly at them and looking intensely at them as if you’re interested, which you’re probably not because you have your own work to do and you have other things happening. You don’t want to – you don’t have the time to take to listen to all this.

When you don’t give them juice, they go on to another victim. If you say, “I’m so sorry this is happening to you and I’ve got to get back to my work. I’ll hold good thoughts for you,” and you say it in a very matter-of-fact tone.

Now this is hard for empaths because they want to fix everybody. Coming from an empath soul, you see somebody who is in pain and you want to make them feel better. You just want to. You just can’t live that way. You can’t make everybody feel better. You can’t fix everyone.

Those of you who are sensitive people or empaths out there, if you notice you’re caretaker or you’re a fixer, you want to fix people, that’s something to really work on in yourself because you sacrifice your vital energy if you do that. You can certainly help family members who are in need or somebody who’s close to you, but not everybody. Empaths want to help everybody and then they end up exhausted in bed.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. How about the next vampire?

Judith Orloff
The next vampire is a narcissist. The narcissist is someone who’s me, me, me. Everything is about them. They can be charming and seductive and intelligent, but the minute you don’t do something according to their program, they become cold, withholding, punishing, judgmental or give you the silent treatment. That’s what happens with some couples that I work with, who one is the narcissist and he or she just gives them the silent treatment for weeks as a punishment.

Narcissists have what’s called empathy deficient disorder. What that means is they’re not capable of empathy as we know it.

But there’s a toxic attraction between empaths and narcissists. I go into this in depth in The Empath Survival Guide because I want to warn people away from these relationships. They’re extremely toxic and dangerous to sensitive people. The narcissist, it doesn’t hurt them much because nothing much hurts them.

[18:00]

It’s so hard for empaths to grasp that because they think that everybody feels like they do in terms of caring. It’s so hard to grasp that there can be a human being who actually doesn’t feel things in that way. They’re wired neurologically differently than other people with regular empathy or being an empath.

They have to lower their expectations of narcissists, not confide in them, don’t get triggered by them in terms of asking them to understand deep parts of you that they don’t really care to understand, and just see them as being crippled in a certain sense in their hearts because they care about themselves and they’ll care about you as long as you’re doing something that pleases them, but the minute you go against them, they’ll wage war. This isn’t a good partnership possibility.

If you’re stuck with a boss who’s a narcissist, which is very common. I work in Los Angeles and work with a lot of people in the entertainment industry and it’s a real challenge to work with narcissistic bosses.

Pete Mockaitis
Are there a couple narcissists in the entertainment industry per chance?

Judith Orloff
Yeah, a little bit.

Pete Mockaitis
If you do have a boss, what are your key steps then?

Judith Orloff
Well, to lower your expectations. Go through the book and see the criteria for narcissists. The great thing is they fit the bill every time. They’re very easy to diagnose.

You have to be able to recognize them and not be prone to seduction because they can act like they have empathy, especially in romantic situations. They, “Oh, you’re so beautiful. Oh here, let’s go on a vacation. Let’s – you’re,” whatever they’re going to do to sweep you off your feet. But the minute they really have to be there in an intimate way, they’re not – it’s not possible. It’s a false front, which is so deceptive.

They do gaslighting when you’re in a relationship with them. Gaslighting is when they make you feel like you’re going crazy. Where you say, “Oh, the sky is so beautiful today. The blue is so pretty.” “What the sky is not blue. The sky’s magenta. What’s wrong with you?” That’s how they beat an empath’s self-esteem down in a relationship over many years.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. What’s the next vampire?

[21:00]

Judith Orloff
The next vampire is the judger or the blamer, the criticizer, where they cut you down by criticizing you and saying, “Oh, you’d be so beautiful if it wasn’t for your hair,” or, “You look like you’ve gained a little weight, haven’t you?” Those kinds of cutting comments. They put you down to raise themselves up.

Pete Mockaitis
If you’re dealing with that at work, how we respond?

Judith Orloff
Well, work is always the hardest thing, but it depends who it is also. If it’s somebody who is an equal and you can speak honestly with them, you can say, “That really hurt my feelings when you said that. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t comment about my shoes or my hair or my appearance.” That’s when you can be honest with somebody. You have to keep setting those kinds of limits too with people because they don’t learn all at once.

But if it’s let’s say a co-worker who’s criticizing you, number one, don’t be emotionally triggered by it. You have to work on your own self-esteem and shift the topic away from that to a solution. It just depends on how honest you can be with somebody.

There are people at work you just have to put up with. Your work is to work on your own self-esteem, to meditate, to center yourself. Don’t buy into it, whatever they’re saying about you because people have all kinds of opinions and as it is said, opinions are the lowest form of knowledge.

You have to really strengthen your own self esteem if you can’t honestly give people feedback. But if it’s family members, if it’s friends, you better give them feedback because that’s not acceptable in a friendship or in a loving relationship to be criticized all the time.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, how about the final vampire?

Judith Orloff
The final vampire would be the passive aggressive. This is connected to the rage-aholic and the anger addict. It’s the flip side of it. The rage-aholic is one energy vampire, who cuts you down with anger and rage and dumps anger on you, which to empaths feels toxic and painful.

I personally have a no yelling rule in my house or around me because it’s just – I’m sensitive to sound first of all, so a yelling voice and somebody who’s dumping toxic energy all over me  is just not acceptable. I set that limit for myself. I teach my patients to do that.

The way to deal with anger is to make an appointment to talk about it. Make a request. Say, “Is now a good time?” “No.” “How about tomorrow morning?” “Yes.” “All right.”

Then stick to one cause of the anger. It’s called venting versus dumping. You say, “I’m angry that you left me sitting in the restaurant.” You talk about that. You don’t bring in the kitchen sink with it and everything else you’re angry with. There’s a skill to dealing with an anger addict.

[24:00]

A passive aggressive is somebody who is angry but with a smile. They don’t have the angry affect, but they say these god-awful things to you that sting and feel like you’re being poked with a smile. It’s just the passive form of anger.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, tell me Dr. Orloff, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Judith Orloff
Just that if you’re a sensitive person, you can deal with these energy vampires. I look at them as teachers. How can they teach you to learn how to set clear boundaries? How can they teach you to develop your self-esteem if you’re being triggered by them? How are they going to teach you to improve your communication skills?

Instead of feeling victimized, try and see what you can learn from them and choose people who are positive and loving and creative and supportive to be around you in your circle. Don’t choose these energy vampires.

If you have a choice, which you don’t always because sometimes they’re family members, choose to have the positive, loving people around you so you can get all that love, and the positivity, and the connection, and the fun because empaths feel that to an extreme as well.

It’s extremely pleasurable to have a good friend that you can trust or to have that level of connection with people that is so gratifying and fulfilling. You want to have positive people around you as much as possible and … that.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Well now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Judith Orloff
Well, I love the Dalai Lama quote that “The most precious human quality is empathy.” It’s the most precious. Really think about that. The most – what is the most precious human quality is empathy.

Then also I love Emily Dickenson, “I am large. I contain multitudes,” just to remember how large we are and how multifaceted and vast our spirits are and how nothing can stop us and to feel that radiance in your spirit and the largeness of who you are and your connection to the universe. I’ve always loved that quote so much.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite study?

Judith Orloff
A favorite research study?

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Judith Orloff
I love the study that was done on making intuitive choices. When you make a choice where you’re about to make a big choice like buying a car, buying a house, that this study has found – and it was done in Sweden – that when you sleep on the subject, you get better information and make a better choice than when you just make impulsive decisions.

[27:00]

What that means to me is that the dreaming process and the replenishment process that goes on during sleep can help with decision making and that we need to depend on that more than just our waking minds or in addition, as a companion to the waking mind when we make our decisions.

I’m a big believer in dreaming and remembering your dreams, writing your dreams down and using that information for your life. I have dream journals that I’ve kept since I was a little girl. I write a lot about dreams. In fact, there’s a type of empath called a dream empath. A dream empath is somebody who’s very attuned to their dreams and can remember them and seeks guidance from them and lets the dream time help to guide their lives.

This study is an elegant way of pointing to that in terms of framing it around decision making. It’s a wonderful study.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite book?

Judith Orloff
My favorite book – I have a lot of favorite books, but my favorite book was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes.

Judith Orloff
I read that. That just saved me as a child because I’ve always been against conformity and I’ve always believed in the power of love, just – I don’t know if you saw the movie. Oprah actually made a movie out of it recently, where she was one of the magical female creatures that came to help the little boy find his father.

But anyways, they go to a planet where everything is censored basically. All the children have to bounce the ball at the same rate. Everybody has to look the same. Everybody has to do the same thing. That’s always terrified me. I always fought for originality and creativity. It’s a story about how you overcome that with the deep power of love and how you can reunite family and really create more love even when in the darkest of the dark situations. I love that book.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite tool?

Judith Orloff
A tool? You mean – what kind of a tool are you referring to?

Pete Mockaitis
Just something you use that helps you be awesome at your job.

Judith Orloff
A pen because I’m a writer.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular pen that you love?

Judith Orloff
I love the very thin Sharpies.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yes, me too.

[30:00]

Judith Orloff
Love the thin Sharpies. I take notes on everything, on napkins, on random pieces of paper. If I’m in the gym on the treadmill and I get an idea for my writing, I’ll stop and go get a piece of paper, write it, put it in my bra until later, and I’ll pull it out. I’m a big believer in writing, journaling, and having paper around and getting those dreams down, getting those ideas down.

I use the computer when I write. I use the computer way too much, but there’s something so elegant and wonderful about the written word and writing it with your hand, having a pen in hand. It‘s so archetypal. I would say those thin Sharpies. I have a bunch of them all over my house, and my office, and my car.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. How about a favorite habit?

Judith Orloff
Meditation. It’s a practice. I meditate first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening before I go to bed and hopefully during the day as well. It’s a way to center myself.

It’s a wonderful tool for empaths to decrease stimulation, to connect with your own heart, to quiet the stress response and all the adrenaline rushing through your system and to connect to a higher power, connect to spirit, however you want to define it by sitting and breathing and putting your hand on your heart and letting thoughts go by, not attaching to them.

As you reconnect to your heart, your breath, and your body, you can calm your whole system and you can begin to feel a sense of love that is sometimes hard when you’re just in your head, you’re thinking all the time. But you can feel a sense of love and connection, universal connection.

I have kind of an altar, which is very precious to me where I meditate. It has flowers and incense and fruit, candles, pictures of various spiritual teachers and Guan Yin, the goddess of compassion. It’s a place I love to go. I have cushions, so I sit and meditate. It’s very, very important to me, that ritual or habit as you call it.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect, resonate with folks and gets sort of quoted frequently about—from you?

Judith Orloff
Yeah, it’s a revelation to find out if you’re an empath. Ever since I’ve been discussing this I get so many emails and calls and workshop participants who are waking up to the fact that they are not crazy. There’s nothing wrong with them. They’re not being neurotic. They’re just sensitive. Empaths have a wide open sensibility and sensitivity, which is empowering. There’s nothing wrong with you.

[33:00]

I think that’s the nugget. There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s something right with you. If you can awaken your intuition and your empathy, the deep empathy for yourself and other people and begin to learn strategies, some of which we’ve talked about to protect your energy from getting exhausted, worn out or from energy vampires, I think that’s the nugget.

This is a particular personality type. If you fit in, then if you go into therapy, you don’t want to go on medication right away. There’s other strategies to dealing with this. It changes everything when it comes to freeing yourself from exhaustion and fear, negativity. You can then get stronger, energetically and emotionally so that you’re not absorbing so much angst from the world.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Dr. Orloff, if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Judith Orloff
You can go to my website. That’s www.DrJudithOrloff.com. I also have an Empath Survival Guide online course there that people can watch at their convenience. It’s a video course explaining different aspects of being an empath. I do videos for each lesson, which can be very helpful to explain how do you be an empath at work, how are you an empath in love relationships, empaths in health. There are different areas to really understand yourself in a much deeper level. That’s also at DrJudithOrloff.com.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have a final challenge or call – let’s just try that again. Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Judith Orloff
Dare to be empathic. Dare to care for people and not be self-absorbed with all of your own issues. Let your empathy and caring show. Tell someone, “You look great today,” just go out of your way for somebody else because everybody’s struggling with their own things. I can guarantee you that. When you just say a simple kind word to somebody or are empathic with them for just a moment, it can shift everything for them and it also, it gives back to you.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Dr. Orloff, this has been a lot of fun. Thanks so much for sharing the good word and good luck with all you’re up to.

Judith Orloff
Thank you very much.

353: Optimizing Your Mood and Productivity through “Sonic Vitamins” with Lyz Cooper

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Founder of the British Academy of Sound Therapy Lyz Cooper explains how different sounds—or sonic vitamins—can help you relax, get energized, and/or enter a flow state.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The types of music that energize and soothe
  2. Why it’s good to break up focused work with sound breaks
  3. How to manipulate sound to get into the zone

About Lyz

Award-winning entrepreneur and author Lyz Cooper has been working in the holistic health field for 33 years and with therapeutic sound since 1994. She has developed a range of techniques which have been shown to help improve health and well-being using therapeutic sound and music and is considered to be one of the thought leaders in the field of therapeutic sound today.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Lyz Cooper Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Lyz, thanks so much for joining me here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Lyz Cooper
Well thank you very much for having me, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, one fun thing I learned about you is that you keep not only chickens, but a rare breed of fluffy chickens. What’s the story here?

Lyz Cooper
Well, yes. To be honest, I didn’t actually know this about them before I chose them. I just loved the look of them. I decided I wanted to keep some pets at home. They are really just pets. They’re not chickens that we keep for the eggs because we eat a lot of eggs, but it’s because I just wanted to have some companions.

I just fell in love with these fluffy chickens when I was – I went to the chicken breeder. Then I found out about them later and that they were apparently discovered by Marco Polo on his adventures in China. They have black bones and blue skin.

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding.

Lyz Cooper
Yeah. They’re fluffy. They don’t – obviously it’s feathers, but it looks like fluff. They’re called Silkies. They’re very sweet. They’re very good – they don’t lay very big eggs. They’re only little bantam chickens. But they’re very, very sweet natured. They’re very funny.

When they all strike up a chorus of clucking, which they do several times a day – they like to celebrate when one of them’s laid an egg – they all get together in this chorus of clucking, which always makes me laugh. If I’ve had a heavy day at work or I’m in the middle of a very heady project or something, they’ll always bring some sonic sunshine to my day.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great fun. Thank you. It’s funny we’re about to talk about—you founded the British Academy of Sound Therapy. Who would have thought that the fluffy chickens would be a form of sound therapy for you? But there they are. What is this organization all about?

Lyz Cooper
Well, the British Academy of Sound Therapy was an organization that I founded back in the year 2000 actually, right on the millennium.  It was a combination of many years of looking into therapeutic sound. I got very ill in the early ‘90s. I was in a very sort of high-pressured job in advertising. I burnt out. I got very sick. I had chronic fatigue syndrome and so on.

I started listening to music and therapeutic sound. What I mean by that is tonal, sort of ancient music if you like, which focuses a lot on tone, which I’m sure we’ll get to talk about a bit later. Basically I couldn’t believe how much better I felt after I had listened to this music. I set about traveling the world and finding out how many indigenous people used sound of music for healing.

After many years of research, I then decided that I’d developed some techniques and I wanted to actually teach those to others, so the British Academy of Sound Therapy was formed.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. I do want to talk about tone and the impact music has on us in terms of health as an organism and particularly in the sort of mood or state and how it relates to productivity and being awesome at your job.

The way I discovered you was a variety of articles talking about the most relaxing song in the world. I thought whoa, that is fascinating. It wasn’t hype. There are actually studies in which they’ve pitted this song against others and it sort of came out on top, smoking Enya and then all the others that you might associate with supreme relaxation in a song with biochemical or maybe clinical I should say heart rate-type indicators.

I thought that was an amazing story. I won’t steal your thunder. Can you tell us how did the song Weightless by Marconi Union come about and what was your role in making it come to life?

Lyz Cooper
I was contacted by an advertising agency that was doing some work for Radox Spa. I don’t know that you have Radox there, but they’re a bath product company. They said that they were doing a campaign, which was all about creating the most relaxing environment in the home, so when you put your bubbles in your bath, you put on some lovely music and you can just drift away.

We had a very interesting meeting. They said that they would like to have a professional sound therapist consult and work in collaboration with Marconi Union, which we did.

I have something which I call my sonic vitamins, because of the way the brain has evolved over millions of years, we respond to different sounds in different ways. There’s a lot more research now that’s being done about this.

But basically that’s one of the things I do is compose music, which I call consciously designed music. It’s designed specifically to work on different areas of the mind, body, and emotions.

We worked, Marconi Union and I, worked together. I put the sonic vitamins into the piece and sort of – it’s a little bit like crafting clay in a way. If you imagine a piece of clay on a potter’s wheel, Marconi Union provided the music and then I shaped it into the Weightless, which was basically by saying, okay, well, we need to do this here and we need to put that in there. We need to have a heartbeat that slows down as we go throughout the piece.

It was tested, as you quite rightly said, against the other tracks and found to be a lot more relaxing. In fact, everybody was surprised at the results of the data.

Whenever I went – because the media got hold of it – and whenever I was invited to go on BBC radio or any international radio stations, they had to give a warning before they played it to say, “If you’re driving your car or operating heavy machinery, sort of pull over now or step away from what you’re doing.” I think to be honest, just for a minute’s clip, it wouldn’t have done anything, but certainly if you hear the whole piece, it will lull you into this lovely relaxed state.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s just great for publicity and brand and impact. It’s like I’ve heard there have been some legendary copywriting pieces associated with this “Warning: this may not be safe because it’s so intensely effective,” which is like “Whoa, you got my attention. Now I’m really intrigued. What’s this all about?” That’s pretty cool. I think that probably contributed to the success of it.

These sonic vitamins, as you say, what are some of the elements or ingredients that we might think about when it comes to the music we select and the impact that it has? You mentioned tone, you mentioned a couple particular things that you wove into the song Weightless, what are kind of some of the “if this, then that” cause and effect sound and body mood reactions that we can count on?

Lyz Cooper
Well, I call it sonic caffeine and sonic hot chocolate. There’s two sort of very simple ways that you can energize or relax yourself using tone or pieces of music and those sonic vitamins.

For example, I mentioned earlier that the brain has evolved over millennia to respond to certain sounds in certain ways. A lot of these are based on nature sounds really. For example, an animal call, a high-itched animal alarm call or will—or a shriek, a human shriek—will actually stimulate the release of adrenaline in the system. That’s exactly why our alarms, the alarm that may get you up in the morning or a car alarm is going to be a very high-pitched, sudden sound.

But it’s based on the fact that we need it to survive, so we needed to be able to one, hear these signals, these sounds over long distances, and two, be able to react to them very quickly. Any piece of music which has a high pitch or even if it’s an ascending pitch, so a fast ascending pitch, will be stimulating.

My sonic caffeine is to put on any piece of music, which has fairly high pitches in it or one of the things that I’m often found doing just before a meeting if I need to use the grey matter, is to actually sing a tone in a high pitch for a minute or two just to get the brain cells going. If you’re about to go into a meeting or an exam, it’s really good. A few minutes, you’ll be buzzing.

Pete Mockaitis
When you say you sing the tone in a high pitch, is it just constant or could you give us a demonstration?

Lyz Cooper
Oh goodness. You got me now. Basically – actually, we could do this together, Pete. Are you up for it?

Pete Mockaitis
All right, let’s do it.

Lyz Cooper
If you pop your hand on your head right now and if you would just to say eee, like an e sound.

Pete Mockaitis
Eee.

Lyz Cooper
Okay, can you feel your hand buzzing?

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, I can.

Lyz Cooper
Okay, if you’ll go ahh. Can you feel the difference?

Pete Mockaitis
Ahh, huh, it’s different but I don’t know how to say it. They’re both vibrating, but they’re vibrating differently.

Lyz Cooper
Yeah, the eee sound will vibrate your head more than the ahh sound. That’s because the way that the mouth and the tongue are placed when you sing – when you make that sound, actually literally stimulates that head.

That massage that you’re giving yourself coupled with the high sound actually helps to improve concentration. I’ll just do a demonstration. We didn’t use a very high-pitched note there. But so for example I will go eee. I’ll continue that for as long as I can in one breath. I’ll do that maybe for about a minute. That will really get you buzzing.

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding. That’s cool. I’m thinking that’s pretty cool that I sort of put this money into renovating the enclosed porch that’s my office with the sound proofing, so that others can’t hear as well.

I guess it might be a little trickier – is there a particular volume that you need to be at in order to be effective because I’m thinking folks are saying, “I can’t do this in my office. That’s nuts.” Maybe there’s a little room sort of like phone booth style, mini conference rooms that can be traded into. But is there a minimum threshold of volume to make it count?

Lyz Cooper
Not really. I mean obviously it’s got to be fairly audible. You couldn’t really do a silent – you couldn’t really do it without the sound. But why not get everybody in the boardroom doing it? How much fun would that be?

Pete Mockaitis
You know of all the things that motivational speakers have made me do, this is not the weirdest and it’s got some science behind it, so I can see that working in certain contexts. Sure. Cool.

That eee, one approach is that you’re singing that. Then alternatively, you could be listening to that sort of thing, the high-pitched sudden sound or fast ascending pitches, are providing that kind of adrenaline stimulus. Could you maybe give us some examples of popular tracks or songs that include some of these features?

Lyz Cooper
Yeah, a really good – any sort of dance music that has that ascending pitch and tempo is really important as well. It’s not just the pitch of the sound, it’s also the beat. You want to be looking at around about 120 beats per minute, which is about twice the resting heart rate.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so if it were like 180, that’s just like you can have too much of a good thing, but—

Lyz Cooper
Well you could – I think there’s always too much of a good thing, but I think that you can overdo it, but I don’t think – you’re not going to explode or anything. But, so it’s not dangerous.

But there’s a reason why modern dance music is so – really gets you going. It’s very hard not to sort of bob your head or tap or stamp your feet to a piece of rousing music. Anything that gets you going in terms of gets you moving, stimulates you, is a good track to use.

One of the tracks that I use when I’m training my students is Locked Out of Heaven by Bruno Mars. I don’t know whether you know that particular track, but it’s a really – it has – it rises and falls, so it encourages something called expectation. It’s like a little kind of massage for the senses.

If you ever need to wake up or stimulate your brain, anything that is like that where there is a pitch that rises up and up and up and up and then it might fall down, the pitch might fall down again, is good. I would say any dance music really will certainly do the trick.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s funny, as you mention that, I’m thinking now I was at a wedding recently, shout out to Lawrence and Katie Joy, congratulations guys. They – the playlist was superb in terms of they just picked things that got people going.

One song that kind of surprised me, because you don’t hear it on a lot of wedding playlists in my experience was by Celine Dion, I Drove All Night. I’m thinking, we’ve got that. We’ve got that up tempo and then even – I’m not going to sing it well, but “I drove all night,” right. She’s going high and kind of varying it a little bit there. Sure enough, even though this isn’t a super popular song these days as far as I’ve observed, it really did get the people going.

Lyz Cooper
Exactly. Exactly. That’s what – okay, it’s a different kind of thrill. Earlier when I used the example of car alarms and fire alarms to get the adrenaline going, it’s a different sort of thrill, but it’s still going to get – it’s going to arouse the system. It’s certainly not my sonic hot chocolate, which is completely the opposite, where we’re actually lulling the system into a more relaxed state.

Pete Mockaitis
I want to talk about that in a second. Any other sort of top recommendations? Locked Out of Heaven by Bruno Mars is one of them that’s doing it well. Anything else that is just killer when it comes to the stimulation?

Lyz Cooper
Oh goodness, you’ve got me now. Let me think. Now, what would I use? I tend to use – what was that one guy. There’s one by Prodigy actually, which is not everybody’s cup of tea, but it’s called Breathe.

Pete Mockaitis
Are you kidding me?

Lyz Cooper
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
What are the odds – here’s a crazy story. I thought you might say that because I think it’s the only song I can identify. I actually know Prodigy because when I was in college I did a modern dance class, which was kind of random, but filling out the credit hours to keep my scholarship. That was the song that we did in our final performance.

It’s funny I couldn’t put my finger on it, but just something about that song just kind of made me feel something. I was like, yeah. What are the ingredients there? I can’t – I think of that as being more kind of like percussion/bass-y in terms of what’s distinct about that one.

Lyz Cooper
It is. Now that’s an interesting one because you’ve got the bass that comes in very strongly, so you’re feeling that in the body, but you’ve also got this very high, it almost sounds like a whip crack sound, that goes on throughout the piece. It’s like a little hook.

Whilst you’ve got the bass that drives the body, so it’s very physical, the beat is actually quite fast as well. Then you’ve got this high-pitched sort of whip cracking sound that goes throughout the piece that’s very exciting to the system. Yeah.

But the thing is one of the things that I find really fascinating is whilst there is a rule of thumb – we know in music psychology and so on that there are general rules of thumb, there’s always going to be people that find their own pieces of music that are quite different.

Because of the way we’re programmed, we will respond to high-pitched sounds in a very – be aroused by them. Somebody might have a particular track they like which is quite deep in tone, but because of the association that they have with that piece, then it has the effect of actually stimulating if you see what I mean.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Like certain memories and such.

Lyz Cooper
That’s it. You can’t – this isn’t sort of something that is – it’s not mind-controlling or overriding if you know what I mean. It’s just based on the natural way our brains evolved. But you’ve also got to factor in your childhood you went to parties a lot and they played a particular track and everybody got up and danced around like mad things, but it wasn’t particularly high, it would probably still get you high as you liked.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. I’m wondering now – we had a previous guest, Dan McGinn, who wrote a book called Psyched Up. He was talking about sort of performance rituals and stuff or pre-performance rituals. He said when it comes to music, one of the most cited songs for the pump up is Eye of the Tiger from the Rocky theme.

Have you observed that in your research or do you think there’s anything sort of special about this tune that seems to do it or is it mostly just about associations, people love the Rocky movie and there it is?

Lyz Cooper
I think that’s a really good example. I haven’t used that particular piece in my research, but it’s still fairly high pitched—

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right. Possible.

Lyz Cooper
—for a man to sing. Exactly. And of course you’ve got that iconic scene in the Rocky movie, so anybody that’s seen that movie is immediately going to be there I think in their minds. So yeah, it’s fascinating, isn’t it, the sort of – the way we’re driven by music. It’s very – it’s an ancient primal thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Let’s talk about the hot chocolate here. If we’re, I guess, feeling anxious, overwhelmed, stressed, what are some of the key ingredients and examples of things that are soothing?

Lyz Cooper
Sonic hot chocolate is perfect for, as you quite rightly said, just calming the system down. It’s – I always think about – when I think about sonic hot chocolate, Tibetan monks sitting somewhere on a mountain in a temple singing Om.

If you think about that, you very rarely ever hear them singing Om. You’re not going to hear a high pitch. You’re going to hear a beautiful, low Om, this beautiful kind of silky sound that sort of cuddles you. That is because low tones relax the system. If there’s low and slow, so fast and high to stimulate, low and slow to relax. If you’re thinking about um, nice, sort of slow tempo tracks, anything that’s more tonal rather than rhythmic is also good.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you define that tonal rather than rhythmic? With rhythmic I’m thinking beats, drums, percussion.

Lyz Cooper
That’s it.

Pete Mockaitis
Tonal you just mean not that.

Lyz Cooper
Yeah, so more tonal than – when I – I think something that doesn’t have a driving rhythm. It’s a slightly more abstract rhythm-based or slightly more sort of swingy rather than boom, boom, boom. Your body is going to be driven by – you’re going to be held in a less relaxed state if you’re being driven by a very rhythmic piece.

So that’s where you’re sort of more Enya type pieces come in. They’re more drifty. They’re slightly more ethereal in nature. But it could even just be slow songs. Mrs. Jones, Me and Mrs. Jones, for example is that kind of thing if you want some nice gentle soul music.

Or even sound if you really want to – some people find sort of therapeutic sound tracks slightly boring to the ears, you know. So if you’re looking at just Himalayan bowls or monks chanting. I think it’s a lot more popular now than it certainly was when I started working in sound therapy. But some people find that difficult to listen to over periods of time.

Again, I would say just put a playlist together that really suits your palate, but bearing in mind … low, and long tonal sounds that don’t have a driving rhythm.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. For examples there we mentioned Enya. Now I’m thinking about – so monks chanting. I’ve got a couple monks chanting Latin tunes or – that’s fun. What else would you recommend in this category?

Lyz Cooper
Like I say, it depends on taste. If you were into sort of gentle Indian music, Asian music playing, maybe some gentle – something again, abstract and not too rhythmic in nature.

I’ve got a track actually, which you’re very welcome to tell your listeners about if they’re interested. It’s a brand new track that I’m working on right now, which is part of a consciously designed music program I’m working on called Life Sonics. I can give you the website if people want to download an example of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure, thanks. Yeah.

Lyz Cooper
Yeah? It’s www.LifeSonics.com. When you get onto that page, you’ll be given the – you can just click on and download the track. It’s actually a part of the piece called Cosmic. It has been designed specifically for relaxation. It’s kind of taking Weightless a step further because obviously Weightless was a collaboration between myself and Marconi Union. This is my own composition. I’d love to hear what people think of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh cool. Thank you. That’s good. Well so now I’m thinking – all right, we’ve talked a bit about when you want to pump up the energy or bring down the energy. I’m wondering now just about being in a pleasant mood. If you’re just kind of in a funk, it’s not like I’m tired. It’s not like I’m stressed, but it’s just like “Eh, this all sucks.” Just a little grumpy funk. What’s sort of the musical prescription for that situation?

Lyz Cooper
Okay, there’s again, two ways of approaching this. One way, something that I would do is one, think about association because we spoke a little bit about Rocky and association, so first of all think about all the good times that you’ve had and what music that you might use that draws on those good times because psychologically it’s good to have those memories.

Now if I was working with a client and I didn’t actually have that experience to draw on, then I might prescribe a piece of music that is quite lyrical in nature. Something that rises and falls in a – for example, you couldn’t get much better than Happy by Pharrell. I mean that is just the perfect thing.

Even if you take the lyrics away, which are kind of telling you to be happy really, but just the way that music is. You’ve got a really nice happy, skippy, trippy beat. It’s fairly high, but not high that it’s too sort of shrieky. It’s light. Anything that’s light and lyrical sounding is perfect for uplifting.

Pete Mockaitis
When you say lyrical, you mean it has words or what exactly does lyrical mean here?

Lyz Cooper
Lyrical musically can be literally lyrics, so the lyrics that are uplifting, that have a meaning to you. But also lyrical in the musical sense is almost like – the actual sort of quintessential definition of lyrical music would be Irish music for example. You’ve got that kind of da, da, da, diddly dee, de, diddly, diddly, de, kind of skippy, I’m skipping through the tulips and my day is lovely and everything is wonderful kind of music.

But some people are going to find that – again, you’ve got to bring your taste into it. I’m not suggesting that everybody listens to Irish music, unless you love it. But find that lyrical nature, the skippy nature within the sort of genre of music that you like particularly.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s nice. Can you speak to maybe another example or two beyond Happy and some of these Irish pieces?

Lyz Cooper
Goodness, let me think. I’m trying to think about what I might use for skipping. I might need a bit more time on that one to be honest, Pete. I’d love to have got some playlists together for you.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure. Hey, if you come up with them after the fact, we will totally link them with eager delight, so that would be appreciated.

Lyz Cooper
Yeah, is that okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, very much. Thank you. Yeah, what a treat.

Lyz Cooper
Yeah, well, I’ll put a couple together and think about it. I probably need a couple of minutes to reflect on the best more so contemporary pieces that people might know. But yeah, I’ll whiz you an email.

Pete Mockaitis
Great, thank you. Any thoughts when it comes to these assertions that hey, Mozart or whatever or classical music will make you smart? What’s that about and how can we use that to our advantage?

Lyz Cooper
Well, there has been a fair bit of research on the so-called Mozart effect. That research has actually been – maybe criticized is a strong word – I think all research is always up for scrutiny. But there is no evidence really, I think robust evidence, that classical music is necessarily going to make you smart. In fact, the best way to exercise your brain is actually to improvise.

Pete Mockaitis
You mean like scooby doo, bop, bop, like jazz improve? Like what do you mean?

Lyz Cooper
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh wow.

Lyz Cooper
Any kind of –

Pete Mockaitis
Because those people look dumb when they do it. No offense jazz musicians. We’re just teasing.

Lyz Cooper
When I studied music psychology, they actually drew – fairly often drew on jazz as an example because obviously jazz is the thing we think about when we think of improvisation.

But there’s been a fair amount of research where they’ve wired jazz musicians to EEG machines and it’s actually – you do, you use a lot of high complex processing in the brain, very wide processing in the brain when you improvise.

But it doesn’t have to be jazz. It can be – yeah, just scatting around your kitchen, shoo be doing everywhere. Or get together with a group of friends and if you play an instrument, get together and play. That will exercise more of your brain.

In fact, there’s a – talking of making you smarter – there are – Oliver Sacks actually was quoted saying that music is more widely distributed in the brain than any other activity we do.

A lot of research has been done with FMRI scans where they’ve put people, musicians and non-musicians into FMRI and asked them either to actually play an instrument or to visualize playing an instrument. It doesn’t even matter if you’re not actually playing the instrument, which is amazing, if you can just visualize playing.

They put keyboard players into the FMRI and there was very little difference in the areas of the brain that lit up when they were playing or just imagining that they were playing. But what they found is that there is so much of the brain that’s actually involved when somebody was playing an instrument that it was a really good workout for the brain.

It accounts for why people or explains why people who are even in the later stages of dementia, if they’ve played an instrument, they can still remember how to play it. That’s because there’s enough information stored in lots of little pockets of the brain to enable them to remember how to piece together how to play that instrument or perhaps remember a track from 50 years ago and yet not be able to remember the faces of their loved ones.

I would say improvise, play an instrument, imagine you’re playing an instrument and you’ll stay clever.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Speaking of staying clever, I would love to get your take on what’s some good music to listen to at work if you’re about to hunker down for a good hour/hour and a half focused crank out some smart work with your computer time. What would you recommend for the background musical ambiance in this context?

Lyz Cooper
Well, what I would recommend is actually a brain break. I noticed that there was an article that you sent me actually from a piece that was done by Jabra or on behalf of Jabra. I was in conversation with them a couple of years ago. We were looking at doing a piece based on productivity at work.

Basically the ideal cycle is about 90 minutes of productivity and about 10 to 20 minutes of brain break time. It’s almost like a screensaver for your brain. Rather than listening to music while you’re working, which of course you can do. A lot of people do, but I would have a timer set, if you’ve got a smart watch or whatever or a phone for 90 minutes.

Then after that 90 minutes is actually plug in something like the LifeSonic’s track or a relaxation track that’s designed to take you into a brain cycle mode. Weightless, for example, was written for that purpose. That is going to enable your brain to go into a kind of – almost like a refreshing mode. That will prevent burnout and it will prevent brain fatigue.

That’s more essential than actually playing – then trying to push through it if you like, by playing music that’s going to keep you going.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Using that music for relaxation for the brain break is a great move. I guess I’m thinking not so much about pushing through it or going longer, but it’s like if we are going to do 60 or 90 minutes of continuous work and you’d like something to help you, is there any kind of music that will help facilitate that flow state in terms of “All right, I’m in the groove. I’m just moving along. I’m not going to get caught up in email or a distraction or whatever.” Is there any kind of musical ingredients that can aid in making that happen?

Lyz Cooper
Do you mean sort of focused concentration or what – is it more about not being distracted from something else or what’s—?

Pete Mockaitis
I’m thinking focused concentration like in my dream world, and maybe I’m asking too much, but it’s like those moments in which you sit down to do some work and wow, it just poured out of your mind and fingertips into the keyboard and you are so impressed with how effortlessly you were able to produce this writing or document or PowerPoint deck or creative output from – because you were just in a real nice groove of kind of flow and making it happen.

I guess part of it has to do with not getting distracted by other things. It’s also I think kind of being in that place where you’re neither over stimulated and worried and anxious and freaking out about it and also neither under stimulated in terms of “I’m kind of sleepy, groggy, and bored.”

Lyz Cooper
This is interesting, isn’t it, because I think that there’s a couple of things here which I think is really important also coming to mind is the importance for silence. One of the things I’m often saying to my students is that silence is also really important. It’s something we very rarely allow ourselves the luxury of real silence. Some people find actually certain types of music quite distracting.

You can get noise cancelling headphones, for example, which if you find music distracting or music takes you away from flow, is you might want to try some silence.

Now, however, some people find that certain music helps with their concentration and gets them into a flow state. There is actually something called flow theory, which is where, as you quite rightly said, the brain just goes – you go into this almost no time zone. You’re just kind of off and the creativity is flowing. This is something that we work with at the British Academy of Sound Therapy. We also incorporate silence into it as well. It’s sound and silence.

What we do is we use the tonal sounds or if people don’t like tonal sounds, very ambient music. Again, it’s just in the background, but you’ll need to play with the volume so that it’s not too invasive. It will start to, after a while, it starts to put you into – it’s almost an altered state of consciousness, but it’s different from zoning out completely. You’re in a very – in that flow state.

But we also stop for a while when we’re playing. We’ll stop at the end of maybe a five- or a ten-minute sequence and it will just fade into silence and then the music comes back up gently out of that silence. It’s not pervading, it’s not invading your consciousness, but just allowing you to stay in that flow.

That might be something that people want to actually try is having some very sort of ambient background music and just to then feel when it’s at the right volume for them and just allow it to play almost in the background, almost imperceptibly. But also to try silence.

Pete Mockaitis
How can we access this ambient or tonal stuff that strategically comes in and out? Where do we find that?

Lyz Cooper
I can actually give you a sound bath recording if that would help.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. Yes, thank you.

Lyz Cooper
That is actually something that we’ve got at the Academy. I can – do I email that over to you as an mp3 or-?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure, yes, or we can link it on the show notes and that will be great. Thank you.

Lyz Cooper
No, you’ve very welcome. Again, I’d love to hear what people think of it. It’s going to be – it’s pure sound therapy. There’s not much music in this particular example. But it will give people a feel for that actual process of going into that flow state.

I think that some people can go fairly deep with that. It’s a little bit like Weightless. Some people have said to me that they go very deep almost into a deep meditation with it. Again, it’s one of those things that if you are – I wouldn’t particularly listen to it while you were driving or something like that. It really is for when you’re grounded and not out and about.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, cool. Lyz, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Lyz Cooper
Goodness, what else? Obviously people will be directed to the website. I’ve got a book called What is Sound Healing, which talks a little bit more about the science behind therapeutic sound. There’s lots of sort of little tips and things and things that people can try at home as well to bring some sound into their lives.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. All right, well now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Lyz Cooper
My favorite quote is, “The universe is cosmic music resonating throughout hyperspace.”

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you.

Lyz Cooper
It’s actually by a quantum physicist called Michio Kaku. It was relating to string theory, but it was the opening quote for his book and it really inspired me, the thought of these strings of energy that are sort of almost like cosmic music, just stretching through space.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Lyz Cooper
My favorite bit of research or study, goodness. I’m going to give myself a bit of a pat on the back there.

My favorite bit of research at the moment is one that I’m very excited about that’s looking at sound induced altered states of consciousness. It is basically a piece that we’ve been doing in conjunction with the University of Roehampton. It’s using a specific therapeutic sound program to help to take people into a very deep meditative state.

I remember, I actually went to my local university, University of Portsmouth, when I was crunching the data. We were putting the algorithms into the computer. I needed help with doing it. Out the first sort of result came. It sort of spat it out and said – the number was statistically significant. I thought okay, right. The next one statistically significant and so on and so on.

We actually got to the point where we thought perhaps we’d put the wrong algorithm into the computer, but we checked and it was – we had so much statistical significance with it. Not being a great statistician – there’s a word that’s difficult to say half past eight at night – that I said to the doctor who was helping me, I said, “What does this mean?” He said, “Go home and crack open a bottle of champagne.” I was completely blown away.

That particular piece has taken me to international conferences around the world talking about my work. It has sort of far-reaching implications when it comes to taking therapeutic sound into the mainstream, so using it in hospitals and sort of mainstream healthcare settings. Yeah, that’s the first – that was just an amazing moment for me really. I hope I’m allowed to give myself a pat on the back.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure thing. What is the title of the article? We’ll link to the full text journal citation.

Lyz Cooper
It is called Sound Affects.

Pete Mockaitis
Clever.

Lyz Cooper
I can give you the link actually. I’ll email you that. People can have a look at it.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, thank you. How about a favorite book?

Lyz Cooper
My favorite book, one I’m reading at the moment is called Maps of Meaning. It is how – it’s basically how the strength of human belief throughout the years and how belief has literally led us well, through times of enlightenment, but also times of great difficulty. One of the sort of the elements of the work that I do is also to help people to reframe life-limiting beliefs in a more positive way through music.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful, thank you. How about a favorite tool?

Lyz Cooper
A favorite tool? Goodness, do you mean like a hammer or a chisel?

Pete Mockaitis
Could be, if that’s one of your favorites. It could be an intellectual tool as well.

Lyz Cooper
Okay. Goodness. Let me think. At the moment I’m having both challenge and – a positive challenge as well as a frustrating challenge with a new little mixing disk that I’ve got. I’m getting very geeky with my – with that at the moment and diving into all the different effects and things that it can do. At this moment that’s both my favorite and my most frustrating tool.

But if I was to absolutely pick a favorite, I would say that at the moment my iPad, if that’s allowed.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure. How about a favorite habit?

Lyz Cooper
I think my favorite habit is, catching myself out and listening to my inner voice when I have negative dialogue with myself, when I hear myself and catching myself out is something I like to do.

If I can make myself laugh by catching myself out and say, “Oh, there you go again. There you go again in giving yourself a hard time about something,” and trying to laugh through it. Because I think if you can just take some of your dark thoughts and look at them through a humorous lens, then you can get over anything in life.

That’s coming from the very dark times that I spoke about at the top of this interview. That’s been something that I’ve learnt to the point at which some of my friends say to me, “Are you sure you’re not mad at that? You should be. Shouldn’t you get mad at that?” I think to myself goodness, in life there’s a lot worse happening out there that I think if you can turn things around in your head and make that a habit, then that’s great.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, a particular thing that you say or share that seems to be quoted to you frequently, something you’re known for saying?

Lyz Cooper
Something I’m known for saying, “That’s interesting.” That’s exactly what people will say to me. I’ve got a habit of saying “That’s interesting.”

When one of my students says to me, “Lyz, I’m never going to be able to do this,” so if they’re struggling with playing an instrument or something and they’ll say, “Lyz, I’m never going to be able to do this,” is I’ll look at them and I’ll say, “That’s interesting,” because to me there’s a negative belief there. That’s interesting.

And the other thing is “Is that true?” Some of our beliefs, most of them actually that are negative and hold us back in life just are not true. Often people will say to me, “Oh, I’m useless.” “Is that true? Really? You’re really useless? What are you good at? You must be good at something.” “Well, yeah, well I can ride a bike.” “Well, there you go. You’re not useless, are you?” “I can bake a cake.” “Well, that’s two things that you’re not useless at.”

I think if we sometimes put ourselves in the dark in a way and make a case for ourselves, almost defend ourselves against ourselves, our negative beliefs, then you can change your life. You can really transform yourself. I hope that makes sense.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where should they go?

Lyz Cooper
Well, they can go to TheBritishAcademyOfSoundTherapy.com. That has more information about sound therapy and some of the research that we’re doing. They’re welcome to go to LifeSonics.com for the track. If you want to email me directly, you can email at info@LyzCooper.com. It’s Lyz with a Y.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeing to be awesome at their jobs?

Lyz Cooper
I would say stay in the moment. That sounds a bit cliché, I know, but everything is okay in the moment. If you’re racing ahead, it’s so easy to be in the future, so thinking about all of the things I should be doing, all the things I shouldn’t be doing, all the things that may happen to me. Being in the future makes us anxious because we cannot know what’s in the future, so you’re going to be in an anxious state.

If you’re in the past, you’re worrying about all of the things that have happened to you, all the things you’ve said or you’ve done or didn’t say or didn’t do. That sets up depression and anger and grief. When we’re in the moment and we’re really reaching inside for that still point, then we are at peace.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Lyz, this has been so much fun. Thanks so much for taking the time and sharing the goods and sharing all of the bonus, the tracks and music and goodies that we get to access. It’s been a whole lot of fun.

Lyz Cooper
Oh, I’m so glad, Pete. Thank you so much for having me on your show. It’s been amazing. I’ve had a lot of fun too.

341: Decoding Body Language with ex-FBI Special Agent Joe Navarro

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Joe Navarro shows how to get to the bottom of body language and why observing it can better your relationships at work and at home.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why it’s so hard to tell if someone’s actually lying
  2. Four key, reliable body language cues
  3. The one good mannered behavior everyone should know and use

 

About Joe

For 25 years, Joe Navarro worked as an FBI special agent in the area of counterintelligence and behavioral assessment. Today he is one of the world’s leading experts on nonverbal communications and lectures and consults with major corporations worldwide. He is an adjunct professor at Saint Leo University and frequently lectures at the Harvard Business School.

 

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Joe Navarro Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Joe, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Joe Navarro
It’s great to be here, Pete. It’s a long time coming.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah. Well, I’m super excited that I’ve been a fan of your work from afar for a good long time, so now here we are. But first I want to hear about how you got a pilot’s license when you were 17. Is that even legal or what’s the backstory here?

Joe Navarro
I don’t know how you dug that up, but not many people know that. That’s true. It was a funny thing. A lot of people make fun of our school systems, public schools in particular, but I was fortunate to go to a public school where the science class that was offered was aeronautics.

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding.

Joe Navarro
No, it was great. It was in Miami, Florida and you could study ground school, basic ground school. I took that when I was 16. Then once I turned 17 then I could begin to take flight lessons and I did, which you say, “Well, what do you do with that?” Well, interestingly enough, when the FBI came looking for me that was one of the things that set me apart.

Pete Mockaitis
Interesting, so during your time in the FBI did you do some piloting?

Joe Navarro
Yeah. In the Bureau, you wear a lot of hats. The first four or five years, it was pretty much about learning the business of being an FBI agent, working counter-intelligence, but along about the fifth or sixth year there was a real shortage of pilots. We used aircraft for surveillance. They knew I had a license, so I did. I got somewhere around 2,000 hours.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh cool.

Joe Navarro
Yeah, it was pretty nice.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is cool. I have very little piloting experience, but I had a buddy who had a little four-seater Cessna in San Francisco. I’ve only piloted for like five minutes, but part of it was over the Golden Gate Bridge. It seems like that would be hard to top. It was just breathtaking.

Joe Navarro
Oh, it’s just a lot of fun. Once you get up to altitude and you can relax, you’re not worried about other aircraft, it really does give you a different perspective on the world. I used to take the airplane over to Miami Beach and fly along the coastline. It was – you’re 17 years old and you say, “This is pretty good. This isn’t bad.” Yeah, it was fun. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. You’ve written 13 books now and were a special agent with the FBI and are quite an authority on body language. I want to get into some particulars of body language signals and how to read it, what to do with it.

But first, I’d love it if you could set the scene for us with some drama. We had Chris Voss on the show. I’m just going to go out on a limb and say FBI agents make great podcast guests. Two for two so far. I asked him if he could give us a dramatic tale to kick us off, so I’ll put you on the same spot.

Can you think of a time where, boy, a body language signal or insight just sort of changed the whole story for an interrogation or an investigation or something you were working with?

Joe Navarro
Yeah. One of the books that I wrote was Three Minutes to Doomsday. In that book, I talk about this individual who was willing to cooperate or seemed to want to cooperate with the FBI, but he was hiding a lot of information. When we asked him to come forward and tell us the truth because he didn’t really have all the access to classified material that we knew had been stolen, he said he wasn’t going to reveal their names.

One of the things that we decided to do since we understood body language was to basically not trick him into revealing it, but getting him to reveal it at a subconscious level. What we did was we wrote the names of everybody that could possibly be involved on a three-by-five card. As we showed him each three-by-five card, we said, “Will you tell us a little bit about what their personality was like?”

What he didn’t realize was that when you see something that can hurt you, your pupils squint. His pupils and his eyes squinted on two names of the 32 that we presented. Then we sent agents out with the army to two military bases, one in Alaska, one in Georgia. On the two names that he squinted, both of them confessed.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh wow. That’s good.

Joe Navarro
What’s interesting, Pete, is he wasn’t lying. He said, “Look, I’m not going to tell you anything.” What he didn’t know was how he was going to react.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Joe Navarro
We know from studies of babies, eight – nine months old, when they see somebody they don’t like or they see something that is not pleasing to them, oftentimes they will squint, turn away, or their pupils will actually constrict.

Pete Mockaitis
I’ve got a little seven-month-old at home. I hope he doesn’t do that to me shortly.

Joe Navarro
No, that will come when they’re 14.

Pete Mockaitis
Daddy, I’m tired of you.

Joe Navarro
Pete, you’ve got 14 years.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh cool. You’re latest here is called The Dictionary of Body Language. How would you frame or position this one in terms of kind of the main idea and how does it kind of fit into your opus and the catalogue of the other books?

Joe Navarro
Well, that’s a great question, Pete. It was one of these things where when I wrote What Everybody is Saying, which became the number one-selling body language book in the world years ago. It’s been at the top for the last eight years. There were only 140 behaviors in there.

Two years ago I was talking to my agent, Steve Ross, at Abrams. He said, “I’m looking at your book.” I said, “Well, I hope you’re learning something.” He said – he kind of said, “Is that all there is?” I said, “No, that’s not all there is.” He says, “Well, how many behaviors do you think are important and we should know about?” I said, “Well, the problem is, is how do we write it? There’s many behaviors.” I said, “Let me look through my notebook.”

I’ve been keeping notebooks on behavior for years and years and years. I went through and I said, “Well, I’ve got about 600 in here.” He said, “Well, let’s talk about it.” We talked about it and then we reduced it down to just over 400 because some of them replicate because they’re similar behaviors.

He said, “Have you ever thought about writing a book, but making it like a field guide, where you can quickly look something up and there’s a paragraph and it says, ‘if you see this, then you can interpret it this way?’” He liked the idea. He took it to Harper Collins and Harper Collins said this would be a great follow-on to go from 140 behaviors to over 400. That was – there is your opus, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. That’s cool. That’s cool. So good. I loved What Everybody is Saying. I’m looking to forward to getting into all the more depths of The Dictionary of Body Language. Thank you for writing it. It’s just fun.

I’ve got a ton of things I’d love to dig into. Maybe I’d like to hear your take on – so when it comes to sort of gauging people’s true intentions, and I know that’s one of the juiciest areas of the body language stuff, it’s like, “How do I know when someone’s lying?” That seems to be popular for your poker books as well as maybe sort of untrusting partners or any number of contexts.

Why don’t we go with that first? How do you get to the bottom of people’s true intentions and whether they’re being honest with you?

Joe Navarro
I knew you were going to hit me with this because you always ask profound questions.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh shucks.

Joe Navarro
Let’s divide it up because when we’re talking about intentions, for instance, you’re talking to somebody and they’re right foot begins to orient towards an exit. Usually we begin to communicate, ‘I have to leave’ with our feet. Before they even look at their watch, before they say anything, we show intentions by foot orientation.

We show intentions such as ‘I really like that cake’ by literally leaning towards it. You see that in courtship behaviors. I’ve certainly sat at enough cafes and bars studying individuals and you can tell when they’re interested in each other.

But the more profound question is, well, what about detecting deception. I have to say both as someone who has been intimately involved in all aspects of forensic interviewing and in doing research for the books and for teaching that as Dr. Mark Frank at University of Chicago says, there is no Pinocchio effect. There is really no single behavior indicative of deception and we need to get away from that because we do a disservice to ourselves and to others.

I think it’s been too easy to say, “Well, I think you’re lying.” “Well, why do you think that?” “Oh, because I asked you a question and you were touching your mouth.”

Well, the fact of the matter is, both the honest and the dishonest do it and we do it because maybe we don’t like the question, we thing the question is too intrusive, maybe we think that you are not entitled to ask that question because of social status or whatever.

There’s – what I found interesting in doing an article for Psychology Today is I looked at the 261 DNA exonerations. As I delved deep and I contacted the people that had done the research, looked at the case work of the police officers, every one of them thought that the suspects were guilty and lying when they said they didn’t do it.

What’s interesting is not one police officer could identify who was telling the truth, but they all thought they could identify somebody that was lying. What does that tell us? What it tells us is that as Paul Ekman found in 1986, humans are terrible at detecting deception. We really shouldn’t be in the business of detecting deception.

Now, so what is it that we’re looking for? What’s interesting is, is that humans are actually very good at detecting when something is wrong, when there’s an issue. The question is we don’t know why.

Babies are born communicating comfort and discomfort. We humans immediately reveal discomfort through our bodies, whether it’s a heightened heart rate, a pulsing vein, pacifying behaviors, but what we don’t know is the why.

If I can tell you an FBI story, I was at – I worked mostly counter-intelligence. We were short of personnel one time and I was asked to do an interview of a white-collar criminal. This woman is called in and usually we spend the first 20 – 30 minutes getting people to calm down because obviously when you get called in by the FBI, it’s pretty nerve racking.

But as I’m talking to this lady, she seems to be demonstrating more and more behaviors of nervousness and tension. She’s biting her lip, she’s grabbing her collar, she’s squeezing her hands together. Finally, I said, “Ma’am,” I’m thinking to myself Joe, you’re the Bureau’s expert on body language, surely you know what’s going on here, so I thought I’d cut to the chase. This is a lesson in humility.

I said, “Ma’am, you look like you need to get something off your chest.” She said, “Oh, thank God Mr. Navarro because when I parked downstairs I only had a quarter in the meter.” Here were all the behaviors of nervousness and tension and anxiety, but what was the cause? The cause was she didn’t want to get a ticket, didn’t want to have to pay a fine.

As it turns out somebody had stolen her identity and filed some bogus claims, insurance claims and that’s why she was being called in. It was a – it really taught me a lesson about humility and saying all we can really say is that I’m seeing behaviors, they’re indicative of psychological discomfort. The question is what’s driving that.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Then what’s interesting is some people can just be anxious in general I imagine. That is sort of who they are all the time and they’re just not that comfortable in their own skin or talking to other people or talking to strangers or talking to official people like judges and FBI agents.

Joe Navarro
Oh sure. Look, and not even nervousness, there’s people who don’t like to make eye contact, that really feel uncomfortable being questioned and so forth.

The investigator has to look at that and say, “All right, who am I dealing with? What are the baseline behaviors?” Then if they do notice behaviors – I mean if you ask somebody “Where were you last night?” and if a question like that causes them to look like they’re doing trigonometry, the question then becomes, why does a simple question cause so much mental turpitude? Why is there so much cognitive loading going on? But then that’s for the investigator to figure it out.

As an agent, I can tell you that no matter what people said, we always had to prove what they said. It was a matter of if I asked a question, how did they react to that question. No matter what their reaction was, I needed to pursue it anyway.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Although, what’s cool though is with those 32 names because you got an indicator you were able to really accelerate that hypothesis, like we have a good reason to suspect these are the two to go after rather than going through all 32.

Joe Navarro
Right, well, it’s because I understood that when an object or a name or something is a threat to you, that you react to it. Now, what was important was not to give any indication of – that anyone of these individuals was any more special than the others. It was just a matter of what can you tell me about their personalities and then watching for their reactions. We lucked out with that.

Now, if the two men hadn’t confessed, certainly we couldn’t go to court and say, “Well, Judge, we think they’re guilty because this guy blinked.” It doesn’t work that way.

In the same way that when a child comes home and – or a spouse comes home and they’re having some sort of difficulty. Maybe it doesn’t help to ask any more questions at that moment. Maybe it helps to delay it to another time so when they’re relaxed you get a better read to find out, “Oh, is somebody bullying you at work or at school or somewhere else?”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Okay, so that being established in terms of it’s hard to know whether someone’s lying or deception, but rather you just kind of get a sense for what’s causing discomfort. I’d love to hear out of the 400-ish behaviors, what are some of those that are kind of like the most reliable, like, “Pete, over 90% of the time when I see this behavior, it tends to mean that thing.”

I remember from What Everybody is Saying, you said some things to say about feet and how it’s absurd that in interrogation rooms there are opaque desks and they need to be transparent so that we can observe their feet.

It was like this is a guy who speaks from experience because I’ve never seen anyone or heard anyone go on a rant quite like that. I dug that. Tell me is it the feet or what are some of the most reliable tell-tale things to look toward?

Joe Navarro
Well, actually one of them you just did. You did what’s called eyelid flutter.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh boy, what’s it mean?

Joe Navarro
Eyelid flutter we do when we are emphasizing something, when we feel negative about something, when we’re flustered by something. You were channeling me there quite accurately.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you.

Joe Navarro
When I wrote about interviewing and how you’re a paid observer and here you’re sitting for an interview and the person’s hiding behind a desk and you cannot even see their feet or their hands or their torso. I was like I cannot believe that you as a professional cannot see the object of the interview and they’re hiding behaviors that are critical.

As you were channeling that, your eye – you did the eyelid flutter. Eyelid flutter is very accurate when we’re struggling with something.

But you mentioned the feet and I think this is one of the things that was astonishing. There’s a really good section in the new book, The Dictionary of Body Language, dealing with the feet because I got so many questions over the years after I wrote that of people saying, “Well, is there anything more about the feet?” I said, “The feet are very accurate because they reveal our emotions and we tend not to hide them.

In the same way that we might do a social smile, the feet, if they don’t like you or if you don’t like someone, your feet will move you away from that person. You will immediately rotate away. If you’re excited and happy to see someone, you can hide a smile, but try to hide the feet of a child.

I was just at the airport the other day and a little kid arrived with a family. They were going to Disney. Every time the mother mentioned Disney World, the child’s feet were jumping up and down. She had happy feet. You can’t hide that.

Even with adults, poker players soon found out that you can see the happy feet of a player that has a monster hand just by the shirt shaking. The feet certainly have a lot of information.

You were talking about what are some of the more accurate significant ones. There’s another one that you do, which is great. It’s the gravity defying behaviors of the eyebrows.

Pete Mockaitis
I just did that before you – the first – we don’t have the video for the listeners. It’s fun that you started with the video. It should have occurred to me, of course he wants the video.

Joe Navarro
Yeah. Well, because it’s very instructive. You can see how excited you are about things because you arch your eyebrows and you go, “Well, what about this and what about that?”

Think about the times when you greet somebody and they arch their – they flash their eyebrows and they go, “Hey, how are you?” and compare that to other times when you greet someone but you don’t have those behaviors and you realize, “Oh, that just doesn’t feel the same. There’s something going on here.”

I often get this with – when – I’ve taught many clinicians over the years. They say, “A lot of times these couples come in and they say, ‘Well, I had no clue that she didn’t love me anymore or he didn’t love me anymore,’” I say stop right there. There were plenty of clues. You just didn’t see them. You just didn’t see them.

You didn’t see the eyes that never flash when they see you.  You never saw that two years ago she was touching you with her fingertips rather than with her full palm hand. You didn’t notice that rather than smiling at you, it was more of a little smirk and the corner of her mouth was pinched, which shows disdain and so forth. I said there’s always behaviors there. The question-

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so sad.

Joe Navarro
Well, it is, but the argument that I never saw it coming.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Joe Navarro
One of the important things I really believe Pete is that if we’re sensitive to other people’s body language, we make better friends and better mates because we early on can begin to sense “Oh, there’s an issue. Something is wrong.” To wait for something six months, two years on, is sometimes too late.

I think if you begin to sense that “Oh, my partner, she’s bored watching TV another night and when I mention going out, her eyes light up.” Well, that’s a clue.

In the same way that as parents we look at the baby for every single little sign of a smile, of any kind of discomfort because we transmit information fairly much in a binary fashion, comfort, discomfort. The same thing applies in real life. That’s part of having that social intelligence, but it’s also about equity, what we bring to the table as a partner and as a parent to ensure that those we love are cared for.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s powerful, yes. It’s funny, I’m thinking about my buddy Muhammed, who’s going to be on the show a little later. It’s exciting. That is one – I always feel very – I don’t know, I guess, welcomed or liked, appreciated when he greets me because his eyebrows really do do that. I guess I have not articulated or thought of that specifically until we really got precise about that fact just now. That’s intriguing.

We’ve got some feet. We’ve got the eyelid flutter. We’ve got the arching and lifting of eyebrows for excitement. What are some other big ones?

Joe Navarro
Let me give you – yeah. Let me give you one that is just a remarkable behavior. It really stands out with women. In part because oftentimes their necks are more exposed than men because we tend to wear shirts that have high collars or we wear a tie and a coat or – and so forth. Women have more of an open neck.

The behavior is covering of the lower neck area. There’s a little dimple there called the suprasternal notch. The suprasternal notch is just above the sternum and that’s why it’s called the suprasternal.

Pete Mockaitis
… Okay, yeah.

Joe Navarro
Invariably when someone is struggling with something, having difficulties, is insecure, there’s a little bit of fear, they will immediately bring their hand up and cover this very sensitive area of the neck. Men, we tend to mask it by grabbing our necks more robustly and grabbing our shirts. Women tend to just put their finger on it.

In fact, just the other day, in fact I think the day we talked or we emailed each other, there was an attack on a speech that was being given in Venezuela, on the President of Venezuela. It was a drone attack of some sort. While all the soldiers stood there at attention, being mindful of their duty, the First Lady, as soon as she sensed that something wrong, her hand immediately went to the suprasternal notch to cover it.

This is a very ancient behavior. This has to have been with us for tens and tens of thousands of years. Maybe even longer because it’s seen in every society. It’s been seen in every culture. Interestingly enough, it’s been seen even with children who are born blind, who have never seen the behavior and yet they perform this behavior when they feel threatened or scared.

I would say it’s one of those behaviors that it’s probably in the 95 to 96 percentile of communicating that something is wrong.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a good one.  That’s a good one. Any other sort of top, top probability items coming to mind?

Joe Navarro
Yeah. One of the ones that I talk about in the new book is – has to do with what is in essence a reserved behavior. Reserved behaviors are those behaviors that we really hold back until something is really stressing us and then they come out. We don’t tend to do them every day, but every once in a while when something is really bad.

One of those reserved behaviors is with the fingers. Now in the previous book I talked about steepling, that’s where you put your fingertips together and you straighten them up and it looks like a church steeple.

Pete Mockaitis
It makes me think of evil genius.

Joe Navarro
Right, like Mr. Burns.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent Joe.

Joe Navarro
But this behavior is very similar, except that the fingers are rigid straight and they interlace and the person sort of rubs them back and forth with very straight fingers. And I started to see this behavior probably in the ‘80s, with people in – who were going to be interviewed, people who were in trouble.

I also verified it by looking at these very old videos. They weren’t even videos; they were 35 millimeter movies from the 1950’s of couples in therapy. One of the things that I found was that when they were about ready to say, “Look, this relationship is over,” they would often do this behavior.

I call it teepee hands because when they interlace and the fingers are straight, if you were to hold it right in front of you, it looks like the top of teepee with the poles sticking out.

I tell parents, “Look if you’re talking to a child and they start to do this behavior, because they do it subconsciously, put your iPhone away and pay attention because something is significant here.” This is a reserve behavior.

We have another reserve behavior, which is kind of interesting. I hadn’t written about it before, but it’s in the new Dictionary of Body Language, and that’s called facial denting.

Facial denting is – you often see this at sporting events where the score is really close and you’ll see people squeeze their cheeks to the point where as you look at them you say, “Surely, that’s got to hurt. They’re going to pop a tooth.” They’re squeezing themselves so tight.

That’s one of those reserve behaviors for when we’re dealing with a lot of stress and we don’t know what the outcome is going to be.

Why we do that it hasn’t really been very well studied. I’m hoping – one of the things that I’m hoping – you were asking me earlier what are some of my hopes for this book. My hope is that researchers will look at it and say, “Okay, so here are things that this FBI guy over 40 years picked up by watching people. Let’s go and test it. Let’s go and verify it. Let’s go validate it.”

I hope they tear into it and they try to demonstrate that it’s universal or not universal, that it’s peculiar to this area of the world or that world or that it’s used when we’re stressed or unstressed or whatever. But I’m hoping that the average person can use it to learn, but I’m also hoping that the researchers will look at things that they’ve never looked at before.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s really cool. Just to note, that if you’re seeing the teepeeing or the facial denting that we’re dealing with something serious here.

Joe Navarro
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s funny. I can think of a buddy who everything was going wrong on his wedding day in terms of things coming together. So and so didn’t pick up his tux and this person’s late and he’s getting all these texts. It was a lot of stuff. He was sure doing some good squeezing there. That all makes sense that it was intensely troublesome for him, but it all worked out. They got married. They’re happy and it’s good.

But that’s cool. Well, I’d love to hear maybe precisely or more specifically when it comes to in the world of professionals in their day-to-day job/career lives, what do you think are some of the most helpful things to be on the lookout for in terms of what you’re observing or what you’re projecting.

I’m thinking about things like maybe someone is bored or thinks that idea is wrong and just a terrible – I think that happens a lot in meetings. Someone says something and someone thinks, “That is a terribly bad idea,” but they don’t say anything because they don’t want to stick their neck out. That’s the big boss. They don’t want to offend or insult. Are there any indicators along those lines or other helpful kind of career scenarios?

Joe Navarro
Well, I’m glad you asked that question because it’s really a good question. I would have to say number one, if you’re taking notes, write this one down. We are always transmitting information.

A lot of people think, “Oh, I’m in the parking lot. Nobody’s going to notice me,” or “I’m in the elevator. Nobody’s going to notice me,” or “I’m sitting outside for an interview. Nobody’s noticing me,” or “I’m at the end of the table. Nobody’s going to notice me.” Stop right there. Welcome back to Planet Earth. The fact of the matter is that you are being observed constantly. People are picking up on everything.

Let’s go through a few of the things that you probably never thought about. Good manners. Manners are non-verbals, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, thank you, sir.

Joe Navarro
If you see a piece of paper on the floor and you pick it up and you put it in the garbage can, that is a behavior. You don’t have to talk to do that one.

How you talk to people, your intonation, how quickly you respond, do you face them or do you roll your eyes before you answer them and so forth. Good manners is a non-verbal.

The fact of the matter is, is that we’re all being scrutinized. People look at us and they notice how well groomed we are. Walk into an office and change your haircut. People will – “You’ve got a different haircut.”

You probably have gone through your life thinking, “Nobody notices me.” No, everybody notices. They notice if you’re wearing glasses. They’re noticing if you wear new glasses, if you change your hairdo, your color, if you’re not well-groomed, if all of the sudden you’ve gone from really nice clothing to really tattered clothing. They notice-

Pete Mockaitis
They’re noticing the wrinkles in my Polo shirts, Joe? Do I have to start ironing these things?

Joe Navarro
Yeah. It makes you think. Shakespeare was right, life is theatre and we’re on stage.

For a lot of jobs, how we look may not matter, but the fact of the matter is that for a lot of jobs it does matter. It matters how we, as clinicians say, how we present. Are we on time? Are we eager? Are we leaning forward? Are we interested?

Something so simple. We were talking earlier about great behaviors. Here’s one behavior that you need to build into your repertoire.

That’s when people are talking to you that you tilt your head slightly because we know that from a very young age babies respond to this and it’s a behavior that says “I’m listening to you. I’m interested. I don’t have an agenda for the moment and I’m actively listening.” It’s a very easy behavior to emulate, especially with children and loved ones.

I live in a community not far from central command where there’s a lot of Navy SEALS. These guys have great bodies. They’re like world-class athletes. But I notice how they talk even to their spouses and they look like drill sergeants. It’s like they can’t stand down.

I think one of the things that enhances communication, especially with loved ones, is if we can stand down and relax and tilt that head and just say, “I’m listening and tell me about your day,” and not look like we’re looking for the next marching orders.

I have to say a lot of executives come home and do the same thing. They have that very stern, I’m in charge sort of look. We know that humans respond to that look of interest and kindness.

Pete Mockaitis
Interest, kindness, kind of letting go and not being in charge, tilting the head. Any other kind of indicators of “I’m listening. I’m interested. I’m not bored. I’m not formulating a response. I’m not getting my argument ready?”

Joe Navarro
Yeah. I’m on the road all the time and I’m giving presentations all over the world. You’re running – one day you’re in Germany, the next day you’re in Romania, then you’re back in Chicago, and then you’re on the West coast and you’re talking to people – and Beijing. You’re talking to people from all over the world. What’s interesting is is what seafarers found 400 – 500 years ago, that affability, having a smile.

One of the things that works really well and I encourage young business people to do this is don’t feel like you have to stand directly in front of another person. That in fact we tend to increase the amount of time we are with others if we will just slightly angle to them so that we’re not directly in front of them. We’re just at a slight angle to them. By angling, we increase what’s called face time. Obviously, for business, this is really critical is increasing face time.

I have found this works in every culture wherever I’ve been. Instead of just standing right in front of them, I – you greet them, you angle to the side and there’s a sense of harmony.

We have to remember that when the conquistadores arrived in the New World they saw the same behaviors here that they had seen in Queen Isabella’s court. The king had better clothing. He sat higher. He had an entourage. He couldn’t be touched, blah, blah, blah. Everything in Queen Isabella’s court.

These are universal things that are endearing, such as giving people the requisite amount of space. In fact, I just wrote an article about that for Psychology Today because I go around asking folks “How far away do you like people to stand near you?” It’s kind of shocking to listen to what they say. It’s always greater than where people are standing next to them.

They say, “You know three to four feet,” and some people want even more. Be sensitive to the spatial needs of other people, that some people just don’t like others to be too close.

Be yourself. Be natural. Not everybody’s going to be an alpha. There will always be omegas. There’s a place for everybody. But also, be mindful that if you have something important that you should be heard.

One of the things I notice a lot with, especially with young women coming into business is that often they sit rather demure at their seat. Then almost the meeting is over and they don’t have an opportunity to talk. Oftentimes, they’re not giving away the cues that say, “I have something important to say.”

Those things are instead of leaning back, leaning forward and in when you have something ready to say, making direct eye contact with the person that is either presently speaking or is the moderator to let them know, “Hey, I have something to say.”

The other one is not steepling. Steepling, and that’s where the fingertips are together, is the really the only universal sign that we have of confidence, that we’re confident about what we’re thinking or about to say. I think-

Pete Mockaitis
So we should not steeple?

Joe Navarro
No, we should when we have something important to say. You don’t want to do it all the time.

What I found in my studies was that oftentimes women will do it low on their lap or not very high. When in fact, they should do it so it’s visible so that it communicates to everybody this is important and I’m very confident at this moment.

Look at Angela Merkel, over in the UK – or in Germany, sorry. She steeples all the time, but then she is a – she has a doctorate in engineering and she is very confident. You see those behaviors. I used to see them also with Margaret Thatcher and others.

It’s a behavior you want to emulate. You want to use it at the right time and the right place, but you also need to communicate “I want to be heard.” Those are some I think good indicators there.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful, thank you. Now tell me, Joe, anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Joe Navarro
I think one of the important things about body language is that I continue to be a student of it. I’d like to one day be able to say yeah, I have the definitive expertise. I’m reluctant to do that because I’m learning things all the time. I’m observing things all the time.

I think it behooves us to learn this language that is so part of us as humans and it’s the primary way that we demonstrate love and empathy. That’s pretty important.

It’s also the way that we sense and detect danger. We’re at an ATM machine. We’re looking over our shoulder. It’s late at night. We’re looking for somebody sneaking up on us.

It’s the number one way that we choose our mates. We don’t ask for a resume. We look at them. We smell them. We touch them. We watch them and we make decisions based on nonverbal.

A lot of people think, “Well, is it really that important?” Well, I can’t think of anything more important than safety, child rearing, and mate selection. That pretty much hits it out of the park.

Pete Mockaitis
Well said. Thank you. Well, now can you share with us a favorite quote, something that you find inspiring?

Joe Navarro
Yeah, I think one of my favorite quotes, and I know a lot of people will hear this who have been to my seminars, it’s – I’m going to paraphrase, but it comes to us from Carl Sagan, Carl Sagan the cosmologist, absolutely brilliant, taken from us at too early of an age. He said, “We’re really not who we think we are. But if you were to ask what are we. We’re the sum total of our influence on others.”

I think it’s very true. You, yourself, with your podcast, sharing knowledge, sharing ideas, that’s influential. I look at the people that have influenced me in life and I think what was it that was great about it? Could they build something? Could they do this? Yeah, we love people that are skilled with a craft, but we’re mostly influenced by those that are influential and they do that by how they live their lives.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Thank you. How about a favorite study or experiment or a bit of research?

Joe Navarro
One of my favorite ones came out a few months ago. It just goes to show how sensitive we humans are to the smallest of little details.

They grabbed somebody and they put a green sweater on him. They said, “Go out and ask for favors.” They did. Then they took the same person and they – on the sweater, they put the logo of a high-end clothing manufacturer. It was only a half-an-inch logo.

They sent him out to go and ask people for favors, like, “Can I use your phone? Can I park here? Can I come inside?” and all this stuff. The times when he wore the logo 52 – 53% of the people agreed to help out. When he didn’t wear the logo, only 13% would help out.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh my gosh. Wow.

Joe Navarro
What does that tell – that tells social scientists – and I’ve done this experiment, interestingly enough, with people just wearing beach shoes, flip flops, ones that cost $1.99 and then ones that were from a famous manufacturer.

Pete Mockaitis
So they’re still flip flops, but just different – yeah.

Joe Navarro
They’re still … but different manufactures. Invariably in my non-scientific study, those that wore the nicer got better treatment.

What does that tell us that anthropologists and biologists would say look, we’re primates. We’re very sensitive to hierarchy and we’ll always be sensitive to hierarchy and the markers of well, who is the alpha, who’s the silverback and who is everybody else. We cannot escape that.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s powerful. Thank you. How about a favorite book?

Joe Navarro
My favorite writer is Steinbeck, so Grapes of Wrath.

But the one book that I return to over and over and over again is the Histories by Herodotus. It’s the only book that I’ve actually read six times. Here’s the father of history writing 2,500 years ago. He’s telling us about the world as it existed then. It’s just exquisite in its breadth.

Pete Mockaitis

How about a favorite habit?

Joe Navarro
Favorite habit, it has to be going out for a walk with my family at night. I love them dearly, my wife, my dog. I enjoy their company.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate? Folks retweet it. They quote it back to you often.

Joe Navarro
Yeah, there’s one in particular. I’m glad you asked that. I put it out there many, many years ago when I first started on Twitter. I didn’t know I would become that significant. It’s – someone told me that it may have been not necessarily borrowed, but it’s a variant of what somebody else had said. It probably is since there’s nothing new under the sun.

But basically what it says is that what we do in private when nobody is watching us is more important than when we’re in public and that when we help those who can do absolutely – can do nothing for us, that is the true measure of our humanity because there is no expectation of any kind of reward. For some reason that seemed to resonate with a lot of people.

Pete Mockaitis
And Joe, if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Joe Navarro
Very easily, my website, JNForensics.com. My books are at all the major retailers. Certainly they’re available on Amazon or they can come to your website.

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm, sure thing.
Do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d issue to folks who are seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Joe Navarro
I do. Become better observers and you’ll become better humans. You cannot attend to others if you can’t observe them. I think most of us know how to look, but very few of us know how to observe.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Well, Joe, this has been such a treat. Thank you for taking this time and good luck with The Dictionary of Body Language and all that you’re up to here.

Joe Navarro
Well, thank you Pete. It’s a pleasure and an honor to be on your show.