Connections – United we stand…

Connections build a united culture… (Connections Part 2)

hand-1030565_960_720Pixabay – Geralt

United we stand, divided we fall … the leadership choices that you make today shape the culture you live in tomorrow.

If you want to increase the effectiveness of your team and achieve goals you thought were out of reach, it begins by creating a culture in which people not only feel safe, they feel valued.

In “Leaders Eat Last,” Simon Sinek (2014) introduced us to the Circle of Safety.   Knowing that you are part of the circle of safety frees up people’s minds to focus on the team’s goals.  When a leader creates a culture where you “trust that the people to the left…[and] to the right of us have our backs, the better equipped we are to face the constant threats from outside together” (p. 22). Sinek wrote that you can feel it.  You can feel when you are surrounded by the circle of safety.  We feel valued and cared for by our colleagues and superiors.  We feel like we belong and our confidence grows along with our connections.  All of the group’s energy is directed towards the greater good (p. 24).

group-157841_960_720Pixabay OpenClipart-Vectors

When the circle begins to falter, we become suspicious of those around us and our brains go into survival mode. Our energy is redirected into watching for the dangers all around us instead of trusting our team (Leaders Eat Last, p. 22).  When trust goes down, speed goes down and costs go up (Speed of Trust, 2006, p. 13).  Trust, as Covey (2006) pointed out, is one of the most highly valued competencies of the new global economy (p. 21).

Daniel, Schwier and McCalla (2003) pointed out that “in almost every discussion of social capital, trust is treated as a central variable” (p. 6). While the development of social capital isn’t as simple as a direct cause and effect relationship with trust, Daniel et. al. noted that opportunities for positive social interactions do build trust.  Over time, increased trust is an integral part of growing social capital within a community (p. 6).

trust-1418901_960_720Pixabay – lcaroselli

In recent body language and confidence workshops and coaching sessions, Carla Gradin (2015-16) shared building connections is all about building on your know, like and trust factors.  As soon as you meet someone their brain automatically starts to process their first impression of you. Keep in mind first impressions happen in 2-3 seconds, likely before you’ve actually said anything (Gradin, 2015, p. 9). She reminded that our primitive brains immediately sort people into 4 categories:

  1. Friend
  2. Foe
  3. Sexual Partner
  4. Indifferent
    (page 8)

So if you want to build positive connections with people not only does what you say matter, how you say it has more impact than you think. Gradin reinforced Sinek’s 2009 TED Talk comment

“that people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it”
(minute 4:00).

In order to believe your why, people need to make a connection with you.  Gradin noted that people first notice your hands.  If I can’t see your hands or more specifically the palms of your hands, my primitive brain becomes quite concerned with what you are hiding and if you are a threat (p. 8).  Even palms facing down tells my brain that you could be hiding a weapon and I need to be on alert.  The story people’s body language tells is often more honest than what people actually say.

So how can you help build connections?

Touch, builds connection.  As Sinek (2014) explained in Leaders Eat Last, it’s all about the hormones.  Oxytocin in the right balance can enhance positive, trusting connections. Gradin (2015) explained that when we touch people, it has the potential to release oxytocin, “which can evoke the same feeling of connection equal to 3 hours of talk time” (p.10).  In Super Better, Jane McGonigal (2015) explained “touch and gratitude are two of the most effective” (p. 17) ways to increase your social resilience.  In particular, McGonigal noted that 6 seconds of holding hands or touching someone not only increased your oxytocin level but theirs as well.  The more oxytocin you release the more likely you are to help and protect that person which deepens your connection (p. 18).  Gradin added that when shaking someone’s hand making eye contact also enhances oxytocin release (p. 10).

Interestingly, McGonigal highlighted research by Dr. Robert Emmons & Cheryl A. Crumpler along with Sara B. Algoe, Jonathan Haidt and Shelly L. Gable when she wrote:

“gratitude is the single most important relationship-strengthening emotion because, as researchers explain, ‘it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people'” (p. 18).

It turns out that expressing your appreciation is one of the best ways to build positive connections with others (McGonigal, p. 18), which is why Gradin highlighted the significance of the handshake.  When done well, it’s a socially accepted greeting that can enhance how people see your agreeableness (you appear more extroverted), your open mindedness and your emotional stability (p. 10).  Wonder what a great handshake is – check out our video on the handshake.

Interested in learning specific behaviours that can increase your trust factor?  Check out our next post on Covey’s Recommended Trust Building Behaviours.

 


 Resources Referenced:

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Who’s TED and Why would you want to talk like him?

A Review of
Talk Like TED:  The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds
By: Carmine Gallo


book Cover      It was one of those books that kept appearing in my amazon and audible suggested reading list.  I’m a avid consumer of TED Talks, TED radio hour and local TED X events.   I love learning and 18 minute TED Talks are just enough time to learn a little bit that will hook me into learning more.  I’ve listened to hundreds of TED Talks as I drive from one location to another or weed the garden.  And you know when you find the one TED Talk that changes your perspective or just makes you stop what you are doing and think.  Sometimes I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned with friends and colleagues.  I’ve often wondered why I can explain the concepts and tell the story of some TED Talks like I just listened to them, while others were interesting but I can’t remember them for very long.

In “Talk Like TED,” Carmine Gallo shared why some talks go viral and the ideas stick.  While a sticky idea is an important part of getting people to remember the information, it turns out great public speakers employ several key strategies.  Gallo explained that ideas are the currency of the 21st century and if they are delivered well, they can cause lasting change.

Based on his extensive analysis of TED Talks and presentation strategies, Gallo shared 9 key strategies that will change how you share information in a presentation.  Here’s a very quick overview as I highly recommend you listen to or read his book.  It’s filled with practical strategies.

  1. Unleash the Master within – Find what you love to talk about and share your inspiration.  Your audience will know if you don’t love what you are talking about.  Your passion shows not only in your voice but in your body language.
  2. Tell stories – Gallo noted brain research showed that stories better engage listeners.  They help you connect with your audience by sharing a piece of you.
  3. Practice – There’s no way around it.  Great TED Talks are the result of hundreds of revisions, test runs and practice.  They become a conversation not a lecture.
  4. Teach your audience something new – Humans love novelty and our brains will tune in to learn new things.  So teach them something they didn’t know before.
  5. Deliver jaw-dropping moments – This means sharing something that causes a strong emotional response.  We encode emotionally charged memories better and more accurately. So help your listeners make a connection.
  6. Use humour without telling jokes – It better connects you with your audience.
  7. Stick to about 18 minutes – Much longer and you overload people’s memories and they won’t remember what to share.
  8. Favor pictures over text – we are more likely to recall a picture that a text based bullet.
  9. Stay in your lane – Share your story and what you’ve learned.  People will connect with your authenticity.

Gallo shared personal experiences and numerous TED examples to explain the 9 strategies in a detailed and engaging way that not only makes you think about why some speakers are better able to draw you in, but how you too can share your ideas.

Leadership Connections:

  • Being a leader means sooner or later you are going to have to speak in front of other people in order to share your ideas.  Sharing ideas that connect with an audience requires more than making it up as you go along.  Keeping these 9 ideas in mind can help you shape and refine your presentation skills each time you speak to an audience.
  • Teachers address students each day.  Understanding how to share ideas not only increases the chance that students will remember but it also models presentation techniques.  Just think back to the teacher you remember the most.  I’d wager it’s not the content specifically you remember but how they delivered the content or engaged you in learning that sealed it in your memory.
  • Enhancing your ability to communicate increases the chances that your message is not only heard and understood but that it’s remembered.  Clearly communicating where you are going and how you are going to get there will move your followers forward.

 


Gallo, C. (2014). Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds. New York: St. Marin’s Press.

Image – Screenshot of the cover from Amazon.ca

 

What or Who causes ideas to tip?

A Review of
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
By: Malcom Gladwell


book coverJust as the title promised, Gladwell explained how it’s the little things over time that make the difference and in the end cause the change to tip.  Despite being written in 2006, the basic ideas still resonated strongly with me and added to my perspective of how change comes to be in the world around us. As leaders, The Tipping Point reminded us to appreciate the people in our network and value the the small changes because in the end it’s more often the combination of small consistent changes that have shaped the world around us than large sweeping initiatives.

Gladwell skillfully uses real life case studies and stories to engage the reader in an interesting journey through the evolution of an idea.   He compared an idea to that of an epidemic.  One moment or perhaps for years it’s just an idea or how things have always been and then it hits the tipping point and everything changes. He referenced New York City’s drop in crime and why Paul Revere’s ride changed history and the other guy’s didn’t.  Did you know there was another rider that tried to warn of the British invasion?  By encouraging us to reflect on the world around us, Gladwell opened our minds to the possibilities of change and helped us understand why some ideas spread. He also noted the factors that help ideas catch fire.

It seems simple that good ideas will spread.  People get excited, they share their ideas and the effect ripples out.  It would be interesting to read an updated afterword by Gladwell based on the changes in social media in the last 10 years, but I imagine he’d say the same types of people still exist.  It’s just their medium and perhaps sphere of influence that has broadened.

“The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts” (p. 33).  That is the law of the few.  Gladwell explained that there are three key types of people in our world. Connectors, Maven and Salesmen.

Connectors are those in our networks that know lots of other people and their networks cross into many different types of social circles.  They enjoy bringing people together from different circles and introduce you.  Gladwell encouraged the reader to pause for a moment and think about your friends.  How did you meet them?  Who introduced you? More than likely, there’s one or two people that made those connections.   As an introvert, connectors are very important people to me.  They eliminate the need for small talk and connect you with people without requiring the extra energy it takes to meet strangers.  When you are brought together by a connector, you already have something in common to talk about.

Mavens are the “people we rely upon to connect us with new information” (p. 19) about specific topics. They are passionate about the topic they care about and you trust their advice. Just think about it.  Who’s your tech person?  Who recommends the best places to eat? Who do you ask when your car doesn’t work?  We all know mavens.  They want to share and they are often skilled communicators.

Lastly, Gladwell referred to the salesmen or those who are good at persuading.  Not only are they skilled verbal communicators, their body language seals the deal.  Interestingly, Gladwell mentioned the role of body language and the subtle ways these people exude persuasive body language.

Share your idea with one of these people and the chance of it spreading greatly increases, however, just sharing the idea won’t cause a word of mouth epidemic. He explained the message has to stick.  If people don’t remember it, they won’t share it.

What truly resonated with me, partially because the idea has come up in several other reads, was the power of context. People’s behaviour is reflective of the type of environment that’s been created.  It’s what he called the broken windows effect.  In short if we walk down a street with dilapidated old buildings, dark alleys, filled with garbage and lots of broken windows, we will act differently. The theory suggested that you will also see a higher violent crime rate.  Literally, clean up your streets and your crime rate will drop.

Filled with moving examples, Gladwell repeatedly draws the connections back to case studies and the complimentary research in a way that is sure to keep you turning the pages. It increases your awareness of the change happening around you and the next time something tips…maybe you’ll spot one of the reasons why.  Interestingly, Gladwell explained it’s not the huge changes that cause ideas to spread it’s the small, consistent actions that happen everyday that build into lasting change.

Leadership Connections:

  • What’s this have to do with being a leader?  Change is always happening.  As a leader, we are often asked to move change forward.  Understanding how change works and how you can tip change in a positive way, increases your chances at successfully reaching your goal.  Whether you want to improve your school or lead an effective team, understanding change will help you better support your team.
  • Do you know your people?  Can you spot the connectors, mavens and salespeople on your team?  The diversity of your team is an asset on which you can build the skills of everyone.
  • Understanding the value of the tipping point means that you don’t have to stand at the front and lecture people on what to do.  You need to come up with a sticky idea and shape the environment and then work with your team.
  • Gladwell offered interested readers the gateway to working on change. If you are ready, you have the opportunity to add more to your Leadership Toolbox.  Because you just never know when you might need to fix a broken window.

 


Gladwell, M. (2006). The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference . Little, Brown and Company.

~ Thanks to Eric Hufnagel, Superintendent of Learning NESD, for recommending this book. 

Image – Screenshot from Amazon.ca

As Dr. Henry Cloud says, Why not be ridiculously in charge?

A Review of
Boundaries for Leaders
Results, Relationships, and Being Ridiculously in Charge
By Dr. Henry Cloud


book screenshotI came across Boundaries for Leaders after listening to an Entre Leadership podcast on the importance of mentors. What really drew me into the book was the idea that learning to lead required us to better understand how the brain functions.  Dr. Henry Cloud explained that if you aren’t leading in a way that people’s brains can follow you are losing out on your most talented resource – the skills of the people on your team (p. 25).  Being ridiculously in charge means that you as a leader are in control and Cloud emphasized, “as a leader, you always get what you create and what you allow” (p. xvi). It’s your responsibility as a leader to set boundaries.  Essentially, you have to decide the positive boundaries and what negatives are off the table.  (Screenshot from Amazon.ca)

Cloud explained the importance of understanding the brain’s executive function.  In particular, he focused on attention, inhibition and working memory.  As a leader, we need to help people focus on specific goals, help them stay on the right track (inhibit distraction and toxicity) and retain and build on relevant information to create a repeatable pattern in our working memory (p. 27).  When you consciously lead with these in mind, you can unleash a whole other level of efficiency for your team.

As a consultant, I attend many meetings.  Cloud shared that it’s not necessarily less meetings that we need it’s better meetings. It’s your job as a leader to focus your team on the purpose of the meeting, prevent distractions and enable a flow of ideas so that meetings energize your team.  Cloud reminded that not only is positive or negative mood contagious, emotions will affect your team performance.  Take fear, for example.  There are different types.  Healthy fear or positive stress will help people to achieve clear goals or meet their deadlines.  Toxic fear, however, paralyzes people.  Their brains are physically unable to focus on what they need to do (p.65).  As Simon Sinek explained in Leaders Eat Last, their primal brain is taking over to promote survival over everything else.

Cloud shared a story of a young Olympic gold medal athlete whose performance had surpassed and surprized those around her.  She explained the conversation that her parents had with her when they noticed how her fear of failing affected her ability to do her best.  She noted how her parents had sat her down and said that it was okay to make mistakes and not win.  They would still love her just the same. She told the interviewer “knowing that failing was OK made her able to succeed” (p. 71).  Cloud highlighted that this freed her brain up to “use every mistake as a learning opportunity” (p.71).

What type of environment or culture do you help to create?  Brain research shows that a constant ongoing threat  invokes the flight or flight response rather than increasing self awareness so that we can learn from our experiences.  As leaders, it’s important for us to remember that for our team to learn from their mistakes, they have to be in a state where they know it’s okay to make mistakes.  If your followers live in fear of what you’ll do to them next, no one wins (p.74-75).

Leadership Connections: 

  • As an educator, it’s reminded me of the importance of consciously creating a positive collaborative learning culture.  Both students and teachers have to know that it’s safe to step outside their comfort zone because experience is how we learn.
  • Leadership in any style influences the lives of the followers.  Regardless of whether or you are a transformational servant leader or a strong transactional leader, the effectiveness of your team lies in understanding how what you do impacts and sets the tone for all other interactions.  After all you do get what you create.
  • My only challenge with this book is that Cloud referenced many research based concepts and while he credits specific people, studies or institutions in the context of the book, there isn’t a collection of references included in the edition that I had access too.  While I don’t doubt his scientific links, I’ve just appreciated the access to the specific research cited in other books that I have read.
  • Cloud also noted the value of clear communication including being aware of what your non-verbal body language is saying to your team.
  • Cloud offered practical strategies and reflective questions to help readers better understand how they can make a positive difference as a leader. He also acknowledged that change isn’t easy and there is no quick fix, but when you lead in ways that make sense to people’s brains they will follow.

It turns out that what you do today matters in the story that you write tomorrow… not just for yourself but those around you.


Cloud, D. (2013). Boundaries For Leaders Results, Relationships and Being Ridiculously in Charge. USA: Harper Collins.

 

 

 

 

Body Language- What you are really saying…

Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are ~ Amy Cuddy

TED Talk
Interactive Transcript

One of my favourite TED Talks, okay I have lots of favourite TED Talks.  It turns out what you can learn in 18 minutes truly change your life.  This one in fact has impacted my daily interactions and lead me to attend more workshops on non-verbal communication.  Did you know how you carry yourself and how you stand can change not only the way you think about yourself but the hormone levels in your body?  Strong leaders are able to clearly communicate their message and this includes the non-verbal aspects, as well. I do have to warn you, once you learn more about body language it has the potential to change the way you see the world.  Do you think two minutes of power posing can change how you feel? Are you ready?

Cuddy noted in her 2012 TED Talk that “we make sweeping judgement and inferences from body language” (time 2.04).  From deciding whether or not we like someone, to whether a physician is nice (turns out nice Doctors are sued less often) or if we will vote for a political candidate,  those seconds before you speak shape lasting impressions. As a social scientist, Cuddy wondered “do our nonverbals govern how we think and feel about ourselves?” (time 6:57). Can you fake till you make it?

By examining levels of “testosterone, which is the dominance hormone, and cortisol, which is the stress hormone” (time 7:57), Cuddy tracked hormone levels in both powerful and powerless people.  Research showed that “powerful and effective leaders also have high testosterone and low cortisol” (time 7:57). Based on her team’s experiments, Cuddy had people pose in high power and low power poses for two minutes prior to the testing of hormone levels and then in the second experiment an independent panel of body language experts evaluated them during an intense interview.  What she found was that 2 minutes of power posing (think wonder women) changes your hormone levels.  Power posing increases testosterone and decreases cortisol, whereas weaker poses like hunching over and checking your phone in the waiting room have the opposite effect (Time 11:44).

Cuddy explained “that our bodies can change our minds and our minds can change our behaviour, and our behaviour can change our outcomes” (15:35). Anyone can be a leader but part of that is in our minds.  People respond to our non verbal communication, so paying attention to the signals you are sending makes a difference in the congruency of the messages you convey.  As Amy Cuddy says, “don’t fake it till you make it.   Fake it till you become it” (time 19:14).

Leadership Connections: 

The more I learn about body language the more I understand how  nonverbal communication impacts our daily interactions.  Many leadership theories talk about the charisma and other dominant characteristics of leaders, while only a few acknowledge body language directly.  It’s importance is embedded into every interaction a leader has with a follower.  In fact, Cuddy explains that if one person has bigger body language the other person doesn’t mirror it rather they do the opposite and become smaller (4:55). Learning how to read the nonverbal signals in the room isn’t easy and learning how to respond is even harder but in the end your conscious body language choices will become more automatic and you will change your relationships with those around you.

Now imagine yourself as a teacher or team leader that’s aware of  body language.  The ability to consciously share the strategies with those around you has the potential to change their self-confidence. It has the potential to transform your team.


TED Talk – Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are – Amy Cudy
Interactive Transcript

 

 

 

 

Social Media & Childhood – Smooth Sailing or the Perfect Storm

Attempted my first podcast version of my blog:

 

Are you ready for this week’s bus trip?  Debate number two of our ECI 830 class featured the controversial question,

Is Social Media ruining childhood?

girl-1328416_960_720Geralt at Pixabay CC0 Public Domain

Now here’s the power of a learning network and reflection… just when you think you know where you stand and that as a parent and an educator you are doing the best you can … you jump into a debate about social media.

Is it ruining childhood?
                  That seems to be a pretty extreme statement at first.

Is social media childhood?
                  It’s certainty part of it is…

I think we have to acknowledge as Rick Lavoie shared in a workshop I attended, that we need to recognize the childhood our students and children are experiencing is nothing like the childhood we experienced. He cautioned us to think about how we respond to students…

“I know what it’s like to be a kid”

boys-1149665_960_720
Unsplash @ Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

… he reminded us we don’t.  Our environment has changed significantly. Now I realize that statement begins to date me a bit and that’s okay.  For the majority of educators, I would venture a guess that we didn’t grow up with social media, mobile devices, the internet or computers.

In fact, I remember when our family got it’s first computer…. wait before that I remember commodore-528139_960_720the Commodore 64 computer that used to be wheeled around on a cart between the classrooms and when it was your turn you were allowed to play on it for a few minutes… concentration or maybe later on Oregon Trail. Our family computer featured a green monochrome monitor and a dot matrix printer that we could use to type up our school assignments.   Then later in my high school years it was the cell phone… it came in a bag… it was only for emergencies or to take with you in the tractor so you could call home when you had finished cultivating the field and needed to be picked up.  It cost a lot for the convenience of mobility.
(Image from Cstibi @Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain)

Social media involved stopping at the local Turbo gas station to check in with your friends so you could figure out where everyone was on a Friday night.  Photos generally only existed if people actually developed the film and there was a good chance the picture may not have turned out, the biggest risk there was in a small town … you had to drop off your film at a local store to be developed and someone’s Mom might work there.

Flash forward to today’s school… we appear to be more connected through all of our devices than ever before, but are we authentically connected?  Perhaps today’s bus trip is more of a boat ride in the social media stream.  Kudos to both teams for sharing thoughtful points on the impacts of social media.  It’s really made me think about the impacts of social media not just on our children but on adults as well.  After all, today’s adults are modelling the behavior for our children and buying them the devices.

As it seems each time we dig into a thoughtfully crafted ECI 830 debate statement, I find myself in the boat looking back and forth between the beautiful blue waters with the sunny shore in the distance and the dark grey waters of the open ocean where the waves exist but don’t always show themselves.

seaside-1149687_960_720   ocean-926261_960_720
Images from Unsplash & Stocksnap @ Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

Now I’m a fan of the rock the boat theory.  Yes sometimes when you work with people you have to go on a metaphorical boat trip (a real life rocking boat would stress me out way too much).  Sometimes you have to ask questions or suggest strategies that may rock the boat a bit because the only way to see the other side is to catch a wave that scares you but let’s you see what’s out there.

abstract-1233873_960_720
Image from geralt @ Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

I think the moral of this week’s debate is social media is not going away and we have to find a way to support our children and build their toolbox of strategies before they get to far out on the boat and drift away.

In “Social Media Affects Child Mental Health Through Increased Stress, Sleep Derpivation, Cyberbullying, Experts Say” George Bowden wrote about the risks of social media use by children.  There are many sharks in the waters for our children to face.  If they want to be connected for FOMO (fear of missing out), they are going to go out in a boat that’s ill equipped to support them during stormy times.  Bowden in fact warned of how ” a potent mix of cyberbullying, increased anxiety, stress and sleep deprivation are increasingly linked to mental illness in children.”

shark-892669_960_720Image from shahart @Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

Bowden shared the story of Rebecca who explained that not only was she bullied at school, it followed her home because of social media.  In our desire to be connected we continue to turn to the platform that helps us connect.  The problem arises when the ratio of positive to negative interaction tips into a extreme range and our face to face and online life reinforce the same negative attention.  It causes the mob mentality of a feeding frenzy.  Now your boat is really more like a shark cage and you are holding dinner.  No matter where you turn someone is rushing in to take a piece out of you. It’s exhausting and scary. Scary to think that even in the safety of our homes our children are still subject to attack.

In the Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell reflected on the broken windows effect. “If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge.” Gladwell explained in several examples how small changes in the environment can tip larger epidemics. If your boat trip drifts into some murkier waters and people treat each other negatively and that’s seen as okay, it certainly opens the flood gates for some larger predators to swim through. I would guess that he majority of online bystanders that join the bullying mob rationalize from the context that their behavior will help them fit in.  The individuals themselves would likely be able to distinguish right from wrong quite distinctly. It’s the context that causes the individual to tip.

In a Social Life, Kerith Lemon questioned whether or not our online life is “a carefully curated brand.

While it’s important to think before you post, just how much are we consciously branding our online persona into the life we think we should have versus the one we actually live.  It’s really about the balance. “This presents an unprecedented paradox. With all the powerful social technologies at our fingertips, we are more connected – and potentially more disconnected – than ever before” (Tardanico, 2012)

Susan Tardanico emphasized,

“As human beings, our only real method of connection is through authentic communication. Studies show that only 7% of communication is based on the written or verbal word. A whopping 93% is based on nonverbal body language. Indeed, it’s only when we can hear a tone of voice or look into someone’s eyes that we’re able to know when “I’m fine” doesn’t mean they’re fine at all…or when “I’m in” doesn’t mean they’re bought in at all.”

So just how do you increase the know, like and trust factor of online interactions when it’s a visual yet text based interaction?  It’s a conversation I’ve had with Carla Gradin, body language trainer, wardrobe stylist and creator of the Killer Confidence Course.  How you take pictures and frame the video matters. Body language truly does impact how we interact with others.  In fact, it affects your primal brain causing you to respond in ways you don’t even consciously think about.

Feel like you’re in a rubber dingy floating out to see as it’s getting dark?  Don’t fear, social media can also have a deeply positive effect on your emotional state. The UCLA Center Mental Health in Schools noted 6 explicit benefits of social networking for peer relationships including building a sense of community for those more isolated, creating closer bonds and building positive relationships.  Caroline Knorr explained social media can help provide genuine support, enable them to express themselves, while offering a sense of belonging (5 Reasons You Don’t Need to Worry About Kids and Social Media, 2015)

So perhaps we’re not alone in the boat, maybe we are part of a flotilla which is part of a larger fleet.  For as many sharks and predators that swim in the ocean there are billions of plankton that form the foundation of the food web.  Perhaps we are surrounded by the good we just have to be in the right context to see it?

social-media-1432937_960_720
Image from geralt @Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

As Jan Rezab explained Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are just platforms.  It’s the people that make the difference and what a difference one person can make in our connected world. Rezab shared the Arab springs example, along with how the Turkish government blocked Twitter and Facebook.  To that he added how in Turkey, more people posted to Twitter when it was banned than ever before. He reminded us how now more than ever individuals have a voice that can be heard and how together we can impact change at a government or organizational level.

The power of amplification.

What social media really did was give us the power to connect with others on a larger scale.  Think about events organized on Facebook and the ripple effect it has on the number of people involved.

Rezab asked instead of retweeting the famous Oscar Selfie,

ellen selfie
Screenshot from Twitter

why not retweet things that can change our world.  As Bowden  quoted, “We need to realize young people are on social media and that’s here to stay,” Russell says. “Now, it’s about giving them the skills to manage their online lives and the resilience to bounce back.”

And to that I would add it’s not just about giving our children the skills and tools to be resilient online it’s about helping us as parents learn how to help our children.  So when the boat trip gets a little rough, our children know that we are here to help. And when the time comes for them to leave the safe harbor and sail out into the ocean, we know they are prepared with the most resilient tool box possible and maybe a phone to call home.

Here’s a quick video that we shared with our students during our Social Media Cafes that really sums up the impact of cyberbullying.


Thanks to Logan, Amy and Carter for reminding us of the challenges of social media and to Ellen and Elizabeth who noted that there are many positives as well.

  •  This week Erin wrote, “Children who engage with social media are both consumers and producers of content.  They have the power to create and share words, and we know how powerful words can be.  We live in a world where everyone can create and consume media, do our students fully understand the power of our words in the absence of non-verbal communication. Words on their own are subject to many more misinterpretations that words said by an individual. Now this is just my observation, but words are the first choice of our very young internet users. Video is. Students know how to voice search before they can read.  Content comes in many forms.
  • Heather examined the topic through our nostalgic reflective eyes and questions just how true is our recollection of our childhood? I wonder how true out memories are… just how does our story affect how we remember the stories of our lives.   She also noted that we often hear more bad than good these days.  As now the news comes to us non stop.  In the past, you had to actually turn on the TV and watch the 6 o’clock news or stay up late enough to catch the nightly new with Lloyd Robertson or dare I say Knowlton Nash
  • “Is the box really just a box now, because there is no one left to play with it as we all sit on our devices trolling social media?” Lisa raises a very interesting point in her reflection on Social Media and Childhood.
  • Danielle does an excellent job of summarizing key things that we can all do to make a difference in our children’s social media experience.  Stand up and step into the conversation, the only people that can make the difference are the ones that engage in the conversation.
  • Kyle wrote – Social Meida Acceptance Necessary for Parents – it’s happening whether you like it or not and stepping into the conversation matters.

Tech-addict? Tech-Balanced? Is it really changing us or has it already?

Tech-addict? Tech-Balanced? Is it really changing us or has it already?

The Unhealthy habit? Are you aware of the choices you are making?

Tuesday also featured a lively debate on whether or not Technology is making our kids unhealthy…… is it making you unhealthy?

While Fitbits, health apps and Facebook groups may inspire us to build healthy habits, foster social connections and remind us to get moving, I can’t help but wonder just how much technology is affecting our lives.  Have you ever stopped to think how it’s shaping our daily habits and interactions?

wendy_brian_kidsIncluded with permission from © Eric Pickersgill
From Removed
Photographer, Eric Pickersgill, “has released a series of photos from everyday life with one minor adjustment: all electronic devices have been removed.” (Denicola, 2015, para. 3).
(You can view the series online at www.removed.social – it’s worth taking a look.  Is this how you want to be remembered?  What’s happening to our face to face connections?)

Thanks Eric Pickersgill for his suggestion to check out his TED Talk
Do Our Devices Divide Us?
He reflects on how it isn’t until we see ourselves with the devices
removed that the true impact hits us and has actually caused a change in behaviour.

I remember back to when I first started teaching in the fall of 1999 – cell phones, digital cameras and social media were not part of my daily habits.  The internet was alive and healthy in it’s information delivery form with interactive sharing restricted to the users that understood html, ftp and flash.  When I looked around my classroom the most distracting form of peer to peer interaction was whispering or the paper notes they quietly passed from one desk to another.  And when you ventured out into the halls at break or lunch, students were sitting next to each other talking.
25158194552_3a76a8b81cFlash forward to 2016 and when you walk down the halls of a school you will likely see students in close proximity to their cell phones.  Just think of how the mobile phone has evolved  – from the advent of texting to the immediacy of information – to students sitting next to one another staring at their phones and texting each other instead of talking.  Just to clarify this is not always the norm and I have to admit, you won’t find me far from my cell phone – it’s an integral part of how I document the interactions and stay connected to all of my schools no matter where I am in the pod. In fact, as a self admitted introvert, a device is a unique tool that connects me to selected social media connections when I want and in person it gives me a way to blend in.  Check out Why introverts love Social Media by Mack Collier for an interesting read especially for “Online extrovert[s], offline introvert[s]- it’s complicated.”

Photo Credit: BarnImages.com via Compfight cc

So we know technology has changed our lives, so much so that our brains even pick up on phantom vibrations. When’s the last time you thought your cell phone buzzed?  Did you need to check it?

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As Hatch (2011) noted while referencing Sherry Turkle, “naming technology as either good or bad will not solve the issue. “I’ve tried to get across that computers are not good or bad — they’re powerful…. I think we’re getting ourselves in a lot of trouble thinking there’s an Internet or a web that has an impact on children” (Hatch, 2011, p.4). It’s the daily habits and the way we choose to engage with technology that leaves room for our own creative interpretation – addictive or balanced.  It seems to be a common theme  – the search for Balance – using the tools around us, tech included, to help us lead a healthier life. Photo Credit: TEDxUIUC via Compfightcc

Facebook, Twitter or mobile devices for that matter don’t hurt people, it’s people that make choices on how they use the technology that truly impacts ourselves and others.

Just for a moment let’s agree that technology has the potential to connect us to many positive interactions and healthy choices in our lives. Now let’s pause and reflect on just how those devices have already shaped our lives and those of our children, so we can make informed choices not just rote, device guided interactions.
2977041097_920b2b3001Photo Credit: edmittance via Compfight cc

In the video, 5 Crazy Ways Social Media is Changing your Brain Right Now, Asap Science noted how increased device usage and instant feedback are decreasing the white matter in our brains and in fact rewiring our brains to crave that stimulation. In a 2014 Huff Post article, Lindsay Holmes explained “there is such a thing as technology addiction … [and] research from Swansea and Milan Universities also found that heavy Internet users suffered withdrawal similar to those experienced  by drug users when they went offline” (p.4).

Now if you’re like me you are probably saying, for sure that’s true but that’s definitely not me.  In Super Better, Jane McGonigal, noted that gaming up to 21 hours a week resulted in positive benefits. Over that and the positive benefits of gaming were lost. Everything has a balance. We need to listen to our own bodies and find ways to use tech to enhance rather than in inhibit our health.51ohurxogil-_sx327_bo1204203200_

If you haven’t listened to one of Jane McGonigal’s TED Talks or checked out her book Super Better, I would highly recommend it.  As she shared it’s a revolutionary approach to getting stronger, happier, braver and more resilient all powered by the science of games (it’s on the cover). It’s significantly changed my perspective on how applying the psychology of gaming can positively change our lives by building up our physical, social, mental and emotional resilience. She addressed the need for balance and shares the science behind it – in fact there’s an entire website devoted to the science behind the Super Better game.  That’s right it’s also a game – you can play.  There are so many educational applications here that it needs it’s own post,         Image from Amazon.ca
but here’s what I will say.  My daughter and I are using the strategies and I’ve recommended them to teachers to help deal with all things from behavior to learning how to read.

Holmes also identified eye strain, headaches and reduced sleep as fallout from spending extended time with our beloved devices; moreover, she highlighted staring at our phones changes our posture adding to the health costs.

23172149944_d29d8b52201During the past year I’ve been working with Carla Gradin, a body language trainer and wardrobe stylist (also a former high school math teacher). During our training sessions, she’s shared how first impressions take less than 2-3 seconds to form a lasting perspective and how power posing can change your brain chemistry. But what’s really interesting is how technology, in particular, staring at your phone closes your body language.  Just think about it, you look down at your device, your shoulders roll in and your eyes are focused on the cyber world.  What impression are you giving to those around you and how is your body position influencing your brain.

Photo Credit: FotoGrazio via Compfight cc

Check out Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk on how your body language shapes who you are.  How you position your body affects the hormones released in your body.  So maybe think twice before you pull out that cell phone at your next gathering.

One of my favourite parts of my online graduate classes is learning from the stories of my fellow students and each week I’m amazed at how much I learn from everyone’s perspectives.  Life truly is about perspective.  This week Nicole’s post the Pursuit of Health in a Modern World, resonated with me.  Our health is dependent upon the choices that we make and the practices that we as teachers and parents model for our children. It’s about choosing to actively find balance.  I appreciate Nicole’s description of life with a conscious decision to choose when tech adds value.  She shared…

We haul our kids outside about 360 days a year. We crush books, and we cook, and we break toys and make rather large messes and spend a lot of face to face time with them because we find that when technology isn’t in the moment, we do actually have lot of time to be face to face. – Nicole

And so as my daughter fell asleep watching Netflix on the couch while I worked on this post I understand first hand the challenges and advantages of parenting in our device connected world.  While I know life is about consciously making healthy choices, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy.  We are surrounded by technology that has the potential to heal or harm depending how we use it.  What I hope you take from this post is an awareness of how technology influences our health and as Oprah shared (in the video below) it’s about asking ourselves, “What’s the next right move?”  and then the next right move.  Find your balance and enjoy the journey along the way:)


Interesting Articles I encountered while writing this blog post:

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