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Op/Ed

How to sound smart when you feel dumb

Oh, the things we do to save face. In all kinds of situations, but especially at work, we often avoid asking for help or advice for fear of seeming stupid. But a new study gives us some surprising advice that makes you look smart.

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Oh, the things we do to save face. In all kinds of situations, but especially at work, we often avoid asking for help or advice for fear of seeming stupid. If you are new to a job, you may be very cautious about making a bad impression or seeming under-qualified. If you’re the boss, you may be attached to presenting yourself as all-knowing, and as someone who doesn’t need help.

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Your fear is a time waster

Fear of sounding dumb can cause us to waste time trying to figure something out when we don’t have enough information or knowledge. Or, we make mistakes because we try to complete a task that we don’t really know how to do.

In the long run, this is going to make us look even dumber, as well as costing us valuable time and money. All because we were afraid of looking dumb in the first place.

About the study

Luckily, our fears may be unfounded. New York Magazine’s Science of Us series just released a video (below) about what happens when we ask for advice. Scientists posed an experiment where 1000 participants were given a test of challenging brain teasers.

Participants were given the option to ask the advice of a partner who had already taken the test. Some participants were told that they could ask for advice without any repercussions, while others were told that their grade would be lowered if their partner thought they were stupid.

Only one third of the participants who had to worry that their partner might judge them poorly were willing to ask for advice. When the partner’s opinion was of no consequence, three-quarters of participants asked for advice.

“Cycle of circular ego-boosting”

This part of the study reveals what we already suspected – that fear of appearing stupid is a major obstacle to asking for advice.

In another part of the study, test-takers received a message from their partner before the test. Half of the time, the partner simply wished the participant good luck. The rest of the partners asked the test-taker for their advice.

Subjects were then asked to rate their partners.

Partners who had asked for advice were rated as more competent than those who didn’t.

Scientists believe that, when someone asks us for advice, it causes us to feel more intelligent, and that confidence boost makes us judge the person who asked for our advice more favorably, creating a “cycle of circular ego-boosting.”

Get respect (and help)

In other words, when you ask for advice, it doesn’t make you sound stupid. On the contrary, it makes it more likely that the person you are asking will find you to be even more intelligent.

So next time you feel clueless, ask for advice! Your coworkers will respect you all the more.

#SoundSmartWhenYouFeelDumb

Ellen Vessels is a Staff Writer at The Real Daily, and is respected for her wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when she's not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

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Op/Ed

1 in 5 agents on your team are at risk of burnout – how to retain them

(EDITORIAL) When your productive team members are at risk of burnout, you may lose them to another brokerage or another industry altogether.

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A recent Gallup poll shows that seven out of 10 employees feel unengaged with their work. And while researchers and HR departments have put a lot of energy into figuring out how to increase employee engagement, less attention has been focused on how to best support those employees who are already engaged. You may think being a broker or team leader is different than a Fortune 500 CEO, but in the sense of employee engagement, it’s the same.

Workers who are less engaged are actually less likely to quit (or switch brokers) than those who are engaged, but are stressed out about it. These losses are also harder for companies to bear, as highly engaged workers are generally the most productive and valuable to the team.

A study by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence surveyed over 1,000 U.S. employees to learn about engagement as it relates to burnout – burnout being, of course, the point of no return when an employee or team member is so stressed and exhausted that they can’t take it anymore.

Burnout has both physical and emotional symptoms and can lead to sleep problems and depression. Once an employee is burned out, they may need a lot of time to recover to previous levels of productivity, or worse, may give up and quit altogether. They may float to a different broker, franchise, or even another industry.

The study found that two out of five employees are highly engaged, but with low levels of burnout stress. These employees, categorized by the researchers as “optimally engaged,” had positive emotional health and contributed positively to the company. Unfortunately, one in five workers had high levels of engagement, but were at high risk for burnout. These workers represent the “engaged-exhausted” group,” and while they were very interested in their work, they were also very frustrated and stressed. This group had much higher turnover than even unengaged employees.

This means that all brands are at risk of losing some of their very best employees because they are overworked (and unsupported).

While some companies have helped their employees to reduce stress through wellness programs that encourage exercise, good nutrition, and mindfulness practices, the Yale researchers say that these programs may not do enough for highly-engaged workers.

Highly-engaged workers (or agents), across the board, reported having access to crucial resources such as supervisor support, rewards such as good pay, and recognition for their work. The biggest difference between optimally engaged workers and exhausted-engaged workers was the demands of the work itself.

In a nutshell – workers at risk for burnout simply had too much on their plates.

So while a company can expect to increase engagement, or reduce stress for engaged workers, by being supportive and offering resources and fair pay (or a better percentage), the make-or-break-it factor when it comes to burnout is the sheer volume of work.

Keep demands realistic and goals moderate. “Stretch goals” tend to stress people out more than motivate them.

If you give someone extra assignments or put more on their plate, re-delegate some of their other work to someone else or provide more assistant support. Encourage breaks and lunch breaks if someone is spending too much time at their desk.

In corporate life, the takeaway is to not overwork your best employees. But in real estate, it takes an experienced team leader or broker to spot impending burnout and address it by offering better support so another brokerage with better support doesn’t swoop in and snatch your most productive team members.

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Op/Ed

Using filters to ignore contrary opinions creates dangerous echo chambers

(EDITORIAL) We limit our growth when we accidentally create echo chambers – and most of us are guilty as sin…

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facebook social media filter echo chamber

I don’t know if you remember the big to-do a couple of years ago when Lifeway Books removed Jen Hatmaker’s books from their inventory. Apparently, Lifeway Books decided that Hatmaker’s affirmation of same-sex relationships went against their doctrine.

I’m not here to argue the merits of Hatmaker or Lifeway’s decisions. At the time, I remember wondering why Lifeway was so scared of an alternative point-of-view. Lifeway is not the first company to ban a book because the ideas go against their own beliefs, it’s just the first company I could come up with as a starting point.

That brings us to today. I don’t know if you’ve seen some of the newest social media filters. You are now allowed to filter out unpopular topics or opinions on your social media feeds. Personally, I love this feature. I purposely turn off pages that say, “I bet I won’t get even 1 share.” I turn off other pages that always share very questionable news. I’ve even turned off some friends who have very different political philosophies than I do.

But in some ways, I worry that I might be living in an echo chamber. An echo chamber is defined as “a metaphorical description of a situation in which beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a closed system.”

Am I creating a system where I only hear people who don’t challenge my beliefs?

I especially worry about some of my friends who can’t see any way but their own. They won’t admit that they might be wrong or that someone else might have a solution. In our current political environment, there seems to be an attitude of not willing to give up an inch, just in case we lose our rights. With an attitude like that, neither side will be able to get anything done.

When did it become okay to stop listening to the other side?

Why are Americans (society?) so willing to only listen to ideas that are comfortable to them? We have become so polarized that no one wants to hear contrary opinions. Sometimes, it takes contrary opinions to find the media via, or middle road.

I encourage you to open your social media feed to people who think differently.

No, not your racist uncle or cousin who only posts fake news. But people who do talk about ideas and politics who may not be in your corner. I want to know what my representatives in Congress are thinking, even though I disagree with much of what they do. Let’s talk about our differences and try to find middle ground.

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Op/Ed

How calendars can stop your procrastination, boost productivity

(PRODUCTIVITY) As the old method of pen-to-paper planning comes back in style, see how its use can help with time management.

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My favorite part of writing for this publication, by far, is the fact that it always has me keeping my eyes and ears open for inspiration. The simplest comment from a friend can snowball into an idea that becomes beneficial to others.

Such was the case this past weekend when my best friend, Haley, stopped by to help me unpack my new house. Haley is a graduate student, pursuing a master’s in interpersonal communication, and is a much smarter version of myself.

We got to talking about what was on tap for Haley’s final semester and she told me about a workshop she’s creating for the graduate school on the topic of how using planners/calendars helps with time management. The girl has an affinity for pen-to-paper planners, and has created an organizational structure for her daily life through their use.

Naturally, I thought, “hey, sometimes I attempt to give people advice on time management and planning, let’s bounce some ideas off of each other.” Haley then gave me a rundown of the bullet points she’s planning on covering for her interactive workshop.

1) Take everything as it comes. As a new task pops up, put it down on your calendar (whether paper or electronic) so that you don’t forget to do it later.

2) With these tasks, schedule deadlines for yourself. It can be tough to be self-motivate and have tasks completed by your own assignment. However, putting them down in writing will help you stick to them.

Only work on something if you’re being productive. If you stop being productive, you should take a step back and work on something else for a while,” says Haley. “This is why my personal deadlines help because it makes me work harder but I still have my own time.”

3) Schedule out your week starting with events that you cannot change. Start by writing down your work schedule, then appointments, meetings, etc. Then schedule in tasks that have more flexibility in time.

4) After doing this, take all of these tasks and prioritize what must be completed first and assess how much time each task will take. Be sure to give yourself an appropriate amount of time for each task.

5) For bigger projects, considering breaking them down a bit. “For bigger projects I break it down into steps, normally using a concept map to understand the core aspects of my task and what needs to be accomplished within each of those to make it more digestible,” says Haley. “Once I have the pieces, I place the pieces into my weekly schedule of events I cannot change.”

All of the pieces of this puzzle come together to create a calendar that will help you juggle every aspect of your life and boost your productivity. By implementing these ideas in my own planning, it has definitely helped me to become more of a self-starter.

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