THANK YOU SeeSee. Florence “SeeSee” Rigney, RN is the oldest working nurse…!


Florence “SeeSee” Rigney is the oldest working nurse in the United States. Last May, a video of her 90th birthday celebration went viral. The recording captures her in blue scrubs and a bedazzled “happy birthday” tiara holding back tears among her cheering colleagues. For 70 years she’s worked on and off as an operating room nurse at Tacoma General Hospital. When she first started, she got paid $115 a month. These days, she gets a ton of attention for being a high-energy compassionate nurse who still moves down the halls of the surgical unit faster than women a third her age. In 2015, Rigney was on The Dr. Oz Show and nominated for a March of Dimes Nurse of the Year award. Her birthday video was shared by The Huffington Post, The Today Show and BuzzFeed. She admits she feels a bit like a local celebrity even though she’s bashful about all the publicity. “I feel very honored to think that all of this has happened to me just because I turned 90, and I’m still here!”

Highlights from the 2016 OR Today Magazine Convention’s Key Note Presentation: An Interview with Phyllis

Original Article Featured in OR Today Magazine, November 2016 Edition


Do you believe that workplace bullying and incivility are the same?

No. Workplace incivility can best be defined as low-intensity unpleasant behavior that is rude, impolite, or inconsiderate. While the target can feel insulted or angry; an actual desire or intent to harm the other person is ambiguous. Anyone has the potential to behave inappropriately towards a coworker given the right circumstances coupled with a lack of self-management.

Workplace bullying however, is ongoing, offensive, abusive, intimidating or insulting behavior or actions directed at a person(s), causing the target to feel threatened, abused, humiliated or vulnerable. The person experiencing prolonged bullying can feel a range of psychological and physiological symptoms. The research supports that, those who bully, are very aware of their behavior and its effect on the others; even though they may deny that there is intent. Fortunately, there is only a very small percentage of the workforce that is capable of such sustained disregard for another individual.

So these behaviors are very different. Should the management be different as well?  

Yes, they should and I want to be clear as to why. The two keys here are insight and sustainability. The person who behaves in an uncivil manner has the ability to self-reflect on that indiscretion, feel remorse or regret and make the active choice to work on their self-management skills and achieve personal growth. A bully does not have this ability.

It is vital that we understand and accept that a nurse bully is a narcissist with a license. A narcissist lacks the capacity for empathy. The ability to reflect empathically on the consequence that one’s poor behavior has on another is vital for driving the desire to change. Bullies (narcissists) are incapable of this.

An uncivil staff member can gain insight though coaching and training. Positive, sustained changes in behavior can be noted within six to twelve weeks of working a clear emotional intelligence improvement action plan. A narcissist typically reacts in one of two ways to someone attempting to hold them accountable. They may escalate their behavior and retaliate or they will tell you what you want to hear and vow to reform. However, they cannot sustain any improvement because they lack a connection with the need to improve.

So why is managing bullying behavior in nursing so challenging?

This is a complex issue but one reason is that nurses are professional caregivers. Nursing leaders have a good deal of difficulty coming to terms with the fact that a bully/narcissist cannot be fixed. It is not a part of our caregiver DNA to “give-up” on someone. We talk ourselves into believing that if we just try a little harder that this individual will have an epiphany and the problem will be resolved.

The bully/narcissist is hoping that you will react exactly in this manner. They are experts at taking your wonderful qualities of empathy, patience and the need to heal and use them against you to achieve their goal of never being held accountable to sustained improvement. Essentially, we need to get out of our own way in order to take charge of this situation. Nurse leaders must try to accept that once someone shows you their true colors, you need to resist repainting them.

The only performance improvement plan for a bully/narcissist is a collaborative effort put forth by administration, human resources and the nurse leader that is time sensitive and rich with mandatory training. The documentation should discuss the need for improvement to be demonstrated within three to six months then sustained for six months as well.

Most bully/narcissists will not be able to withstand this type of scrutiny and may decide to move on. The others may stay but will find it very challenging to sustain the improvement. Should termination be the only option left, you can have the peace of mind that a sincere effort was made on your part; and twelve months’ worth of documentation to support your action.





Originally published in the AORN Periop Insider Weekly Newsletter  July 28, 2016.      Authored by Carina Stanton

The term “bully” is often used incorrectly to classify both bullies and those expressing incivility. Understanding the distinction between the two can help to put structure around communication and action in attempts to weed out bad behavior in perioperative nursing care, according to nursing Career Coach Phyllis Quinlan, PhD, RN-BC.

“The 10% of nurses who are true bullies have a personality defect,” Quinlan says. “Knowing the distinction is key to protecting your staff and deciding whether to develop a plan of remediation or to get rid of a toxic staff member.”

Understanding Incivility vs. Bullying

Quinlan describes bullying as a threatening behavior based in intimidation that stems from the bully’s issue with personal power. “For a bully, their personal power is far more important than the other person’s needs—if the other person needs to feel supported, a bully says ‘tough.’”

A person who indulges in bullying is very egocentric and has far more limited opportunity for personal growth, introspection and a commitment to change.

In the practice setting, a bully will intimate to someone that “you are on your own, if you don’t do what I want I have the power to isolate you,” Quinlan explains. She says bullying is not distinct to one professional level because this bad behavior knows no direction. It can be top down (leadership to staff), down up (staff to leadership) or lateral (peer to peer).

Although incivility is also bad behavior, it stems more from not being fully respectful of the other person’s perspective. Incivility is commonly seen by Quinlan during patient hand-offs or when a patient is transferred to a different area of care, such as from the OR to PACU. “As the nurse is explaining the patient’s state and previous care, an uncivil reaction by the nurse listening is to act as though they are being inconvenienced or worse to provide negative judgment about the previous care, making the nurse handing off the patient feel as though they must justify themselves and their actions.

With 80% of communication being non-verbal, much uncivil behavior is expressed with a less-than-polite facial expression or a toe-tapping type of stance indicating the nurse talking should speed it up and finish what they are saying.

Seeing Bad Behavior as Neurotic Need

One common thread between incivility and bullying is denial of wrongdoing. “If you ask an uncivil or bullying nurse to assess their behavior, they will report they were unaware of wrong doing and may say the nurse who reported their behavior was ‘too sensitive’ or ‘took it the wrong way.’”

Yet research indicates that both uncivil and bullying nurses essentially know exactly what they are doing because it fills a neurotic need.

Quinlan recalls the words of Abraham Lincoln, in which he suggested you can see the character of a person when you give them power. “Someone with good character will take a role in power and be collegial, find common ground and be generous enough to give praise for a job well done. On the flip side, someone with problematic character will use a power role to offer criticism and make remarks that are self-serving.”

Catching It Early

For new employees, Quinlan recommends a set time frame for a probationary period in which the hire is observed for both clinical and behavioral performance. Quinlan says nurses who are good clinically but lacking in collegial behavior are often kept on staff to work on the behavior piece, what she hears nurses refer to as the “soft stuff.”

“Nonsense, behavior is the tough stuff and should be viewed as equally important to clinical skills,” Quinlan stresses. She advises a strong collaboration between nursing, hospital administration and human resources to establish strict behavioral boundaries that are reviewed wisely through the probationary period to measure knowledge, skills and behavioral benchmarks that are demonstrative of culture.

“Make sure everyone is on same sheet of music with clear descriptives of bullying and incivility weaved into your code of conduct and stand behind a zero-tolerance approach to toxic behavior,” she suggests. “If a true bully is identified, cut your losses quickly, otherwise you will lose good staff members.”

For Managers

Register now to attend “Bringing Shadow Behavior into the Light of Day: Understanding and Addressing Incivility and Bullying Behavior,” AORN’s Nurse Executive Leadership Seminar with Phyllis Quinlan, and get the skills to build your own zero-tolerance policies and practices against bullying and incivility.

6 Ways to Restore Your Nursing Resilience: An Interview with Phyllis

Image of a tired nurse

Publish Date: July 20, 2016 in Periop Insider by AORN written by Carina Stanton

Nursing in the twenty-first century requires a new set of tools to go the distance, according to nursing Career Coach Phyllis Quinlan, PhD, RN-BC. “To have the vitality and resilience to practice nursing today, we need to pay attention so our insides match our outsides.”

Quinlan says nurses need to realize that technical skills and knowledge are not enough to truly meet the needs of patients without their well of nursing compassion running dry. “We have done an excellent job of getting technical certifications, championing evidence-based practices and collaborating under shared governance, but this is all outside of the individual nurse.”

Looking Inward

Quinlan says it’s time for nurses to do more introspective soul searching so they can build skills such as emotional intelligence to strengthen positive interactions with patients and positive relationships with coworkers. This emotional intelligence can also be a powerful tool to keep workplace incivility in check.

“Ask yourself how well you are developing relationships with colleagues—are you trying to do everything yourself or are you holding your colleagues accountable to do their fair share?” she asks. “We need to work on our ability to be patient enough to hold our ground and fight the temptation to be an enabler. In the name of good patient care, safety and time management, we tend to dip our toe into enabling behaviors that can sabotage collegial relationships and build our own frustration and resentment toward others we work with.”

Assessing Physical and Emotional Health

Quinlan describes nurses as professional doers for whom caring is deeply intertwined into their energetic makeup. “When you are constantly in a caring or doing mode, it can be depleting, yet nurses may not take the time to realize that their well of compassion gets a little bit lower if they don’t take time to renew themselves,” Quinlan suggests. “Before you know it, you find yourself giving from fumes of a compassionate nature as opposed to giving from a full heart.”

Nurses don’t always honor the fact that we are not made up of a renewable energy source, that we need to check in with ourselves even if we would rather put time into caring for others, she adds. Part of this self-care is recognizing habitual behaviors nurses have developed to endure when they are depleted and acknowledging how these behaviors can harm instead of help.

“Pay more attention in your downtime for more personally renewing activities,” Quinlan advises. “Resist the urge to give too much free time to friends, neighbors or family members if a little ‘me-time’ is needed.”

Building Resilience

Learning how to say “no” to others and “yes” to yourself can be a challenge for nurses who have spent a lifetime putting others first. That’s why Quinlan recommends nurses build personal time into their daily life and monthly calendar of appointments to renew mind, body and spirit in order to maintain a resilient attitude in professional and personal life. Here are her top five “me-time” activities to put on the schedule.

1. Sleep

Caregivers need more sleep than others to process the emotional strains of their day and give their bodies time to physically renew from expended energy. Make a commitment to get a set amount of sleep every day and shift activities that could jeopardize this rest and recovery.

2. Massage

This is as important as getting your flu vaccine and it should be something you make time for monthly. If you get your nails done, pay a little extra to get a 10-minute massage, even just a few minutes of massage is powerfully renewing for the body.

3. Nutrition

Make the healthy food choices you advocate for your patients to make. Look carefully at the way you nourish your body and look for ways to up the nutritional value to keep you from feeling run down, especially with sugars and carbohydrates that can leave you crashing when you need to be at your best for your patients.

4. Attire

Think about how you “tool-up” for the day. Make sure you are mindful of supporting your physical well-being for the demands of your job. If you are on your feet for long periods of time, find supportive stockings for circulation and footwear to support posture. Consider wearing a supportive belt to reduce the risk of secondary injury if you lift or position patients on a regular basis. Think about ergonomics and proper lifting techniques, but also be proactive about reducing the risk of injury before there is a chance for it to occur.

5. Attitude

Recognize the power of a positive attitude in which you are aware of the good things to be grateful for on a daily basis because this can help keep you renewed and maintain an even perspective. Maybe it’s sunny outside and you take a few minutes to soak it up; maybe your favorite co-worker is on your shift today; maybe you got a great parking spot. Positivity can be hard to maintain when you are tired and powering through in endurance mode. When this happens you are not in a state of resilience and you can feel like the world is coming down on you.

6. Emotional Intelligence

Take time to build your knowledge and skills for areas within nursing practice such as emotional intelligence that also support you in your individual growth and well-being. Reading up on strategies and tools for emotional intelligence should be part of developing professional nursing practice, as it’s beneficial in nursing interactions with patients, families, and co-workers.

Start Small

“You can start small with making time in the day for yourself—perhaps you take 10 minutes to read a book or listen to soothing music through your headphones while on break,” Quinlan suggests. “Make a plan at the beginning of each day to schedule at least one activity that is only for you.”

She says nurses may be resistant to make time for themselves. “It can begin with one simple change in thinking, in recognizing a habitual behavior that no longer serves you, in being disciplined to complete one renewing activity per day for only you—the self satisfaction and joy you will feel on the other side is immeasurable.

Incivility & Bullying Within the Profession of Nursing: Is Peace In Our Time Possible?

wooden numbers forming the number 2016 and a heart-shaped chalkb
wooden numbers forming the number 2016 and a heart-shaped chalkboard with some wishes for the new year, such as peace, love and happiness, on a rustic wooden surface


I find it frustrating to acknowledge that despite all the work of recent years to implement initiatives aimed at creating healthy and safe workplace environments, that lateral and horizontal hostility still remains within the nursing profession. I think we all hoped that when the idea of Zero Tolerance bloomed into an actual Human Resource policy the darkest days were behind us. Disappointingly, this is not what I hear from my private coaching clients and other professional caregivers across the country. The elephant remains in the room and the reluctance to talk openly about it continues as well.

I do not feel the need to define bullying behavior or outline the toll such shadow behavior takes on individuals. You are all too familiar with it most likely because you have been on the receiving end of it. What I want to shed some light on is the nature and makeup of someone who engages in bullying tactics. Having insight into the mindset of the enemy goes a long way to taking the power away from them and empowering yourself.

First I want to point out that we often use the term Bully to describe a coworker or leader that exhibits uncivil conduct but is not a true bully. Unfortunately, we live in a time where uncivil behavior is celebrated. Just consider some of the popular reality TV programs currently enjoying high ratings let alone the antics demonstrated along the campaign trail of 2016. Engaging in uncivil behavior is the consequence of a low emotional intelligence and an unrefined ability to manage one’s emotions under stress in the workplace. Keep in mind that we are all capable of giving into the needier side of our neurotic selves under pressure.

People who are, at times, uncivil usually have the ability to step outside themselves and reflect on a disagreeable interpersonal exchange and take ownership of their behavior when they cool off or are held responsible and accountable by others. They are also capable of expressing genuine remorse and of taking steps to improve in the future. Bullies do not have that capacity.

Consider the following characteristics of an individual with the neurotic personality disorder known as narcissism. They include but are not limited to:

  • Authoritarian
  • Having a strong need for control
  • A desire to dominate people and situations
  • Perceiving themselves as a special, elite individuals that are deserving of VIP treatment
  • Lacking in empathy toward others
  • Having a tendency to be exploitative of others


Now think of someone you work with that is knowingly intimidating and/or cruel; someone who has no desire to consider how their words or behaviors affect others. That’s right! Bullies are narcissists. Investing time and efforts into trying to appeal to their higher nature and grow from coaching sessions or disciplinary actions will prove very frustrating. An individual must first be capable of acknowledging that there is an issue before they can buy into their responsibility to remedy the issue. Narcissists lack the ability to grow from insight and introspection.

Addressing both uncivil and bullying behavior requires a true collaboration between administration, the human resources department and in organizations with collective bargaining agreements, labor. All stakeholders must agree on a unified definition of bullying behavior and a unified approach to bullying conduct. The finish line for tolerating this type of misconduct must be fixed and unaffected by the manipulating skills of the bully.

Managing someone who is given to uncivil behavior is very different than addressing someone with a true bullying mentality. The person given to regular demonstrations of low emotional intelligence must understand that we are now in a time in the industry of healthcare and the profession of nursing when skills and knowledge are not enough to secure your professional future.

The literature demonstrates that the level of one’s emotional intelligence directly correlates with that person’s ability to demonstrate a consistent caring behavior to patients and families as well as own their responsibility to maintain a healthy work environment (McQueen 2004). If these individuals are not willing to grow from in-the-moment feedback, coaching and in-depth discussions during the performance evaluation process then; the conversation must move onto asking if they are in the right working environment.

Unfortunately, the personality of a narcissist does not make them amenable to demonstrating sustained improvement with conventional managerial interventions. In these instances, clear performance improvement plans must be crafted and immediate and sustained improvement demonstrated. The push-back will be relentless but there are very few options.

So my question becomes, if we are not willing to put an end to abusive conduct in the workplace now, when will we be willing? Let us resist getting caught up in finger pointing and complaining about how our inter-professional colleagues may mistreat us. Let us decisively address the issues in our own house first. We must commit now, not later, to peace in our time.


  • Bakr M, Safaan S (2012) Emotional intelligence: a key for nurses’ performance. Journal of American Science. 8, 11, 385-393.
  • Benson G, Martin L, Ploeg J et al (2012) Longitudinal study of emotional intelligence, leadership, and caring in undergraduate nursing students. Journal of Nursing Education. 51, 2, 95-101
  • Codier E, Codier D (2015) A model for emotional intelligence and patient safety. Asia Pacific Journal of Oncology Nursing. In Press
  • Codier E, Kooker B, Shoultz J (2008) Measuring the emotional intelligence of clinical staff nurses: an approach for improving the clinical care environment. Nursing Administration Quarterly. 32, 1, 8-14.
  • Holbery N (2015) Emotional intelligence: essential for trauma nursing. International Emergency Nursing. 23, 1, 13-16.
  • McQueen A.C.H. (2004) Emotional intelligence in nursing work: Journal of Advanced Nursing 47(1), 101–108


Quit Playing Games and Choose the Simple Option A Guest Post by Carthage Buckley

High Resonance Healing Words
Healer’s outstretched open hand surrounded by random wise healing words on a rustic stone effect background


Unhappiness comes from a set of beliefs that we learn and perpetuate. Therefore; isn’t it logical to you that we can become happier by challenging and changing those beliefs? We can make some basic decisions and implement them on a daily basis. At some point, we can even replace the old thinking with new thinking so that choosing the option for happiness becomes automatic. There will always be new challenges to our thinking, but we can meet those challenges successfully.

Happiness is not magic, and it’s not magical thinking. It doesn’t belong to a lucky few. Moving from a state where you experience a lot of negative emotions like anxiety and depression to happiness requires commitment and courage.

If you want to be happy, you have to entertain the possibility that you can be. Many people come to believe very early in life that life is a game they can’t win. They spend the rest of their lives collecting evidence to prove that they are incompetent, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Here are two facts that might surprise you

  • There are only two emotions: fear and love.
  • All fear is the fear of loss.

We start life free from fear. Our every need is met with loving care and we are at our happiest; a natural happiness. This is our natural state and a state which we can return to at any time; if we choose to do so.

Loss is a natural part of life and inevitably, we experience a series of losses during the ordinary events of growing up. Unfortunately, through our attachments, we take these losses personally and we come to fear loss. This fear of loss soon begins to affect our decision making.

Norman Cousins once said:

” The tragedy of life is not death, rather it is what we allow to die within us while we live.”

Quit playing games and choose to be happy

He’s right, you know. In the areas of your life that aren’t working, how much denial and avoidance of loss are you practicing? How many of these self-protective games have you played?

1. Quit before you start

If you don’t enter the game (that’s any aspect of life you’re avoiding), you can’t lose. Of course you can also never win if you do not enter the game and pursue your dreams.

By adolescence, some of us have become so afraid of loss that we no longer make our decisions based on what we can gain when we succeed in our ventures. Instead, we are more focused on what could be lost if things don’t go our way. It is easy to imagine the pitfalls and so we become paralyzed by fear and end up taking no action whatsoever to advance ourselves.

2. Quit in mid-stream

If you quit before the game is over, you might be a quitter, but you’ve saved yourself from being a “loser.”  Again, it is the fear of loss which drives your decision making. Loss and rejection instill so much fear that you are prepared to give up on your dreams to avoid experiencing them.

3. “That’s OK, I didn’t care anyway.”

You never committed to it anyway, so it doesn’t matter that you lost. You pretend that you didn’t really want something anyway to save face but although you may fool others; you can never really fool yourself.

In the short-term fear of loss and rejection may take a stranglehold on you but the reality is that in the long-term, there is nothing more painful than knowing that you failed to back yourself and pursue your dreams.

4. Dumb game

If you decide that the game’s stupid, it doesn’t matter that you lost. I used to play this game the whole time. I used to convince myself that you could only succeed in life if you had the right background and the right connections. If you didn’t fit the bill; you couldn’t succeed. This was really just a way to pretend that my destiny lay outside of my own hands; thus sparing myself the efforts of trying to create the life that I really wanted.

Thankfully, I have learned to take responsibility for my own life and accept that the results I get in life are entirely of my own making. While I haven’t yet achieved all of my dreams I can certainly say that my quality of life has improved drastically.

5. Endless game

If you keep halfheartedly playing the game without ever coming to a place where you win or lose, then at least you haven’t lost.

This game can manifest itself in many ways but mainly shows as some form of procrastination. Maybe you keep putting off asking somebody out on a date or you claim that you will stand up to that bully when you feel more confident.

Whatever it is that you are putting off, you know you need to do it but you keep finding a reason to delay it. What you are really doing is pretending that you are staying in the game because you haven’t lost. In reality, you are not even in the game. You are sitting on the sidelines playing the role of a spectator in your own life.

Did you find yourself in one of these? Just about everyone does. If you saw yourself, good. Awareness is the first step to turn yourself around. That takes courage, but you can’t change what you can’t see.

The next step

The next step is to make a commitment; you need to commit yourself to changing both your attitude and your behavior. Spend some time looking at the areas of your life that you’re unhappy with – what are these areas and what negative thinking and avoidance behavior are you practicing in these areas? Now, let’s begin to discover how to confront this thinking.

In his excellent book, What Happy People Know, Dr. Dan Baker talks about fear and love:

“We need to be willing to charge headlong into the inferno of our most horrific fears – eyes open, intellect and spirit at the ready.… That takes courage, and that’s when courage is one of the prerequisites for happiness. But where does that ability come from? What power grants the strength to overcome the sick, shaky feeling of fear? Only one power is that strong: love. In the ultimate analysis, human beings have only two essential, primal feelings: fear and love. Fear compels us to survive, and love enables us to thrive.… For you to be happy, love must lead this dance.”

Dr. Baker goes on to talk about appreciation as the highest, purest form of love. It’s higher than romantic love, the love parents have for children, or the love children have for parents. It’s the strongest love there is, and it’s the only thing strong enough to be the antidote to fear.

An attitude of appreciation can help you survive all the difficulties in this world without being destroyed by them. It’s the type of love that allows you to enjoy an experience while being able to let go. This attitude can help you when you lose loved ones, when unfortunate things happen, and even with confronting your own death. You face the fact that these negative things happen and you’ve chosen to experience and enjoy the good things, including your own life, while you have them. Dr. Baker concludes that the constant fear of loss is what creates our unhappiness and that once we face and accept this, we will be able to be happy.

Much of our unhappiness is caused by anticipation of what may go wrong; rather than things that have actually gone wrong. Think about that for a minute; we become unhappy due to things that have not and may never happen i.e. they are figments of our imagination. When you realize that; you realize that much of our unhappiness is completely irrational.

Of course bad things will happen in life but you must not become obsessed by them. When you allow negative anticipation to control your decision making; you lose so much more than you will ever gain e.g. imagine how much better your life could be if the person you fancy agreed to a date or if you broke free from the bully. When you focus on what could be gained; you realize that risk of loss is minuscule in comparison.  Be true to who you are, believe in your inherent worth, and face things as they come.

6 Exercises To Strengthen Compassionate Leadership A Guest Post by Andrew Newberg M.D.

compassion word in wood type

When you use compassionate communication in your conversations, something quite surprising occurs: both your brain and the brain of the person you’re talking to begin to align themselves with each other. This special bond is a phenomenon referred to as “neural resonance,” and in this enhanced state of mutual attunement, two people can accomplish remarkable things together. Why? Because it eliminates the natural defensiveness that normally exists when people casually converse.

The capacity to deeply relate to others is a key to all forms of relational success—at work and at home. If you find yourself in the position of overseeing others—be they your employees or your children—remember this: leaders who give the least amount of positive guidance to their subordinates are less successful in achieving their organizations’ goals, and the employees are unhappier with their work. Indeed, by not taking an active role in dialogue and teamwork building, they generate more interpersonal conflicts within their groups. Here are 6 steps to work on to become a more compassionate leader.

Step 1: Stay Present

When you focus intently on your breathing and relaxation, you pull your attention into the present moment. When we become completely absorbed in something as simple as breathing or relaxing a specific part of our body, the inner speech of everyday consciousness stops, at least momentarily, and this allows us to become aware of the subtle things that are immediately happening around us. We hear sounds we rarely notice, we feel more sensations in our body, and if we bring this “presentness” into a conversation, we hear more clearly the subtle tones of voice that give emotional meaning to the speaker’s words.

Step 2: Cultivate Inner Silence

Most of us are only able to stay relaxed and in the present moment for brief periods of time. Soon it gets interrupted by our inner speech. Research shows that you can suppress those distracting feelings and thoughts, but you have to practice doing it over and over until you gain control.

The more you consciously think about not thinking—as a formal training exercise—the more you gain voluntary control over the brain’s spontaneous cascade of inner speech and cognition. We especially need to develop the skill to remain silent so that we can give our fullest attention to what other people say. Unconsciously they will know when we’re distracted by our inner speech, and the lack of interest they perceive will make them distance themselves from you. Thus in active communication, silence is not the enemy.

Step 3: Access a Pleasant Memory

It’s best to enter a conversation with an inviting expression that conveys kindness, compassion, and interest. But as we explained in the previous chapter, this facial expression cannot be faked. It can be elicited by tapping into a pleasant memory, particularly one that involves people you deeply love and respect. This memory softens the muscles around your eyes and evokes a gentle half smile on your face.

When another person sees this expression, it stimulates a feeling of trust in their brain. The recollection of pleasant memories will also release pleasure chemicals throughout your own body and brain, and this will take you into an even deeper state of relaxation. When you look directly into the other person’s eyes as you maintain this loving memory, they will want to engage you in a dialogue. Their facial expression will resonate with yours, and this will deepen the sense of contentment and satisfaction in both of you. As researchers at Loyola University Chicago demonstrated, contentment gives rise to mutually benevolent engagements.

Step 4: Observe Nonverbal Cues

“Keep your eyes on the ball.” It’s an expression used in sports and often applied to business, but when it comes to interpersonal relationships, it’s essential to keep your eyes on the individual you are conversing with in order to discern the many nonverbal messages we constantly send to others. However, this does not mean that you should gaze unceasingly at the other person—that could feel invasive—but if you maintain softness in your eyes, generated by a pleasant memory, the other person won’t want to take their eyes off you!

Eye contact stimulates the social-network circuits in your brain. It decreases the stress chemical cortisol, and it increases oxytocin, a neurochemical that enhances empathy, social cooperation, and positive communication.

Step 5: Speak Briefly

Compassionate communication has a basic rule: whenever possible, limit your speaking to thirty seconds or less. And if you need to communicate something essential to the listener, break your information into even smaller segments—a sentence or two—then wait for the person to acknowledge that they’ve understood you.

It’s a hard concept to embrace. Why? The best reason we know of is that our busy minds have not been able to clearly formulate the essence of what we want to convey, so we babble on, externalizing the flow of information generated by our inner speech.

Our conscious minds can only retain a tiny bit of information, and for thirty seconds or less. Then it’s booted out of working memory as a new set of information is uploaded. Our solution: honor the golden rule of consciousness and say only a sentence or two. Then pause and take a small deep breath, to relax. If the other person remains silent, say another sentence or two, and then pause again. This allows the other person to join in whenever they feel the need to respond or to ask for clarification. If you must speak for a longer period of time, forewarn the listener. This will encourage them to pay closer attention to you and to ignore their own intrusive inner speech.

Step 6: Listen Deeply

To listen deeply and fully, you must train your mind to stay focused on the person who is speaking: their words, tone, gestures, facial cues—everything. It’s a great gift to give to someone, since to be fully listened to and understood by others is the most commonly cited deep relationship or communication value.

When the other person pauses—and hopefully they’ll have enough self-awareness not to ramble on and on—you’ll need to respond specifically to what they just said. If you shift the conversation to what you were previously saying, or to a different topic, it will interrupt the neurological “coherence” between the two of you, and the flow of your dialogue will be broken.

When practicing compassionate communication, there’s usually no need to interrupt. If the other person doesn’t stop talking, they may be giving you an important clue. Perhaps their mind is preoccupied, or perhaps they are deeply caught up in their own feelings and thoughts. If this is the case, it’s unlikely that they will be able to listen deeply to what you want to say.

7 Habits of Highly Resilient Women A Guest Post by Zaheen Nanji

Resilience sign with a road background
Resilience sign with a road background

In 2011, George S. Everly, executive director of Resiliency Sciences Institutes at the University of Maryland, was asked, “What’s the difference between those who choose to sink or swim in times of adversity?” He stated two factors:

a) A lack of perspective stemming from inadequate preparation and tenacity.

b) A negative attitude
He further explained that resilience can be taught and self-esteem can be earned through personal accomplishment in the face of a challenge. Resilient women are not brought down by challenges or setbacks; instead they thrive on them because it brings new learnings and new opportunities. Modeling these seven habits will create tenacity and build your resilience muscle.

1. They have a routine and plan ahead
There’s a formula known as the 2C’s – Commitment and Consistency. Commitment comes from being 100% responsible for any slip-ups, decisions or actions and knowing that you’ll give it all while still being in harmony with oneself. Consistency occurs when you’ve decided to create a daily, weekly or monthly practice that will help you along your journey. Without consistency, commitment can become lost and without commitment, consistency doesn’t follow through. Resilient women become successful by focusing on one or two goals a year and using this formula to achieve their goal.

2. They approach challenges with flexibility
When something doesn’t work, do you tend to give up after the first try and think you’ve failed? When you view a challenge and come up with several different ways to handle it, that demonstrates flexibility. Finding different methods to overcome a challenge keeps a person more in control of the situation. Having only one strategy is inadequate preparation.

3. They embrace failure as a setback and move on
When you focus on your failures, you dwell on the past and the problems you experienced, which in turn, drives the fear of failure even deeper. Resilient women do not view failure as failure; instead they view it as learned outcomes. Why? It has three purposes: First, it stops the fear of failure in its tracks; second, viewing it as learned outcome allows one to analyze the lessons from past experience; and third, putting the lesson to positive use later on leads to the creation of new possibilities and outcome.

4. They know what they are passionate about and make it their purpose
You can’t have passion without purpose, and you can’t have purpose without passion. Resilient women thrive on their passion and purpose, and never get tired of working on it. Your passion lights the fire in your belly while your purpose helps you channel that passion so you feel fulfilled.

5. They know how to let go
Embracing change and having realistic optimism is a resilient woman’s trademark because they understand that change is inevitable and what worked today may not work tomorrow. They will let go the old and bring in the new if it becomes necessary for their business or life. Therefore, understanding that life will bring sudden changes and obstacles is the first step, but facing these obstacles and knowing that you have the coping skills to continue moving forward is equally important.

6. They have a strong sense of appreciation while feeling challenged
Resilient women feel overwhelmed and worried too, but they have two streams of thought running through their minds: one is about finding solutions and the other is about all the things they appreciate in life. It’s as though there’s a subconscious REFRAME button they push whenever their thoughts and emotions turn to worry and fear, because after a short time, they’ve perked up and are more positive and appreciative about what they already have.

7. They have excellent communication skills
Think of a leader or manager whom you admire and notice how he or she interacts with you or with others at all levels in the company or when networking. You will notice that she’s listening to your words and your communication style and communicates back in your style. She’s looking for the underlying reason behind your communication so she can relate to you. Finally, she’s subconsciously picking up on your body language and tone of voice and mirrors it. These communication skills come naturally to resilient women because they want to create rapport with you.

Author’s Bio:

Zaheen Nanji is a resilience champion and a business owner in Alberta, Canada. Embracing change and fear is Zaheen’s trademark because she overcame her speech impediment, her struggles with weight and learned to live in a new country, at the age of 15, without her parents. Her book, The Resilience Reflex – 8 Keys to Transforming Barriers into Success in Life and Business, became an International Best-Seller on Amazon Kindle. Zaheen teaches people how to make resilience their first reflex using her 3-step system: Release, Re-program and Resolve. She can be reached at