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Coaching for Interaction Style Stress


Coaching for Interaction Style Stress

Knowing our personality Type preferences or our Interaction Style can help us better understand what triggers our stress, and how to move out of it quicker. 

For example, the In-Charge™ Interaction Style is driven by a need to accomplish. Shit needs to get done, or we get nervous. As the name implies, we like to be in control, and our energy tends to come across as determined and assertive. When things don't go our way, our first reaction might be to apply a little more pressure, to see if we can push through the resistance and get it done anyway. 

Meme from Pinterest

Meme from Pinterest

If sheer force can't will our goals into existence, we might get more and more demanding, eventually turning to point fingers and unloading a torrent of abuse at the next available person. (Or object. Many are the tables and chairs I've kicked in frustration.) Since this approach rarely works, our stressful situations of non-accomplishment usually end in a devastating anti-climax of pouty and petty "whatever"'s.

We don't really not care, we're just stressed and at a loss how to get it where it needs to be.

Remind you of anyone? Personality Type patterns that share this Interaction Style are ESTJ, ENTJ, ENFJ, and ESTP. 

Here's where we want to remember that the one thing we can always control is our response. Awareness of Interaction Style stress won't stop it from ever happening again, but you'll be able to come out of it quicker. Think about a small thing you can do, and go do it. Check something off your list. Even if it's not related to the project you're working on; you'll still need a sense of accomplishment. 

Be patient with yourself. Are you multi-tasking again? Trying to concentrate of various things at the same time is a good predictor for not getting anything done at all. Focus on one thing at a time, and figure out who can help you. We're all Extraverts in this scenario, talking it over with a trusted friend or colleague will help. 

And my favorite reminder comes straight out of

Seek a broader understanding

Just because you think nothing is happening doesn’t necessarily mean that nothing is happening. No matter what your role or perspective, you will not have visibility into every perspective. Seek to understand issues from different perspectives by asking questions and putting yourself “in others' shoes.”

I'm opening a coaching program specifically for people with ENFJ preferences next month. If you'd like to learn more about it, and get a demo of Matrix Insights, visit and sign up for the webinar. 

Interaction Styles™ are based on Linda Berens, PhD theory and part of her Berens CORE™ Approach. I've written about them before and recommend you buy her book or visit Linda's website

Image thanks to bottled_void on flickr, Creative Commons license


5 Ways to Conquer Procrastination


5 Ways to Conquer Procrastination

Yesterday we talked about procrastination and how doing what your mind tells you is important and actually influences your self-esteem. Here are some tips I picked up from the "simplify"-newsletter I'm subscribed to. The newsletter is originally in German, so here's my (slightly edited) translation:

When you are procrastinating, if it's

because you don't have time,

you can

Pic Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Pic Credit: Wikimedia Commons

  • get rid of tasks that block your project
  • prioritize your project over other responsibilities
  • plan your activities and allot time-slots in your calendar

because you don't like it,

you can

  • simplify, break down, shorten, or settle for good instead of perfect
  • delegate, or exchange tasks with someone who is willing
  • think what would happen if you dropped the project
  • find ways to only accept tasks you know you'll enjoy

because the sheer size of the project makes it seem insurmountable,

you can

  • break it down into small pieces
  • start with the smallest and easiest to build confidence

because you think you have no choice,

you can

  • ask yourself what's the worst that will happen if this doesn't get done
  • check whether your goals and attitudes have changed to make the project so cumbersome
  • check your expectations of yourself - who or what convinced you to take this on in the first place?

because you don't know how to handle it,

you can

  • ask for help, find a mentor, contact an expert
  • consider taking classes and participating in workshops to obtain the know-how

I know, sometimes we have to do things we don't want to or else (enter your dooms-day prediction here).

You know what? Maybe getting fired / losing the partner / gaining five pounds won't be the end of the world. There are very few things you absolutely will not be able to bounce back from. The important thing to remember is you always always always have a choice!

If you don't like the consequences of not doing something you have to, you may as well get it over with quickly. You will feel much better for it.

Don't believe me? Try it yourself: write down all the tasks you usually procrastinate on a piece of paper. Place them in a jar, and at the beginning of your day, pick one and do it, then and there. Take care of it, cross it off your list, and then try to tell me you're not proud of yourself.

Just imagine what it'll feel like when you look back over everything you've accomplished! You could even prepare a roster to put up on the fridge / cubicle wall and give yourself smiley stickers for every task you get done, if you're a visual person who gets motivated by smiley faces, that is.

Something that only very recently worked wonders for me was the concept of accountability. Who'd have thought that having a coach actually helps you get your act together and your ball rolling in the right direction?! But you get the idea - just do it, and I promise you'll be happier. Isn't that what we're here for, really?

Image by Kaos2, Flickr, Creative Commons License.


3 Tips to Maintain Your Self-Respect


3 Tips to Maintain Your Self-Respect

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (public domain picture)

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt
(public domain picture)


- Eleanor Roosevelt

Our brains are constantly at work, processing messages and releasing hormones based on often-unconscious cues. These hormones influence our moods and behaviors, and I invite you today to become a little more aware of how your levels of self-respect can trigger them.

Last week, I wrote about how people from different cultures allocate respect – some value achievement and believe personal effort can get you anywhere if you just work hard enough; and that is worthy of admiration. Society can shift and people make their own luck.

Others, probably based on historical socio-political circumstances and stronger class-systems, believe your own personal effort can only get you so far: what matters most is the family you’re born into, or the position you hold. Society is mostly stable and so are its people. 

We also mentioned how different personality types and Temperaments probably pay attention to different key items: for the Theorist™ (NT) that’s expertise, for the Catalyst™ (NF) that’s meaning, for the Stabilizer™ (SJ) that’s responsibility, and for the Improviser™ (SP) that’s freedom.

Now let me ask you:

How much do you respect yourself, and what is that opinion based on?

I think our measure of self-respect depends on at least two scales:

a) How do we compare to others, and
b) How do we compare to our own internal compass of values and morals.

Let’s briefly look at our own internal compass first.

It is probably calibrated during the first few years of our life, as we unconsciously mimic and take on our parents’ (and when in our teens, peers’) demonstrated behaviors as points of reference.

Yes, that’s demonstrated behaviors, not talked-about principles. If your Dad yells at you STOP SHOUTING, what are you going to remember? When it comes to impressionable children that we all once were, actions speak louder than words.

Of course, I don’t necessarily mean children will repeat their parents’ example; I think we all know that children also like to rebel and do the complete opposite of what they see at home. Either way, home sets the first frame of reference.

Your internal compass of values and morals, then, depends not only on the culture and time you grew up in, but also in what you saw demonstrated during your formative years, and how your innate psychological type preferences predisposed you to interpret and act on what you learned.

If you think of yourself as a conscientious person, you’ll feel like you let yourself down when you forget a friend’s birthday, for example. If you think of yourself as an expert, you’ll feel embarrassed when you don’t know the answer to a question, and so on. (If you want to pour yourself a cup of tea now and stroll down memory lane to see where your today’s values and self-respect may be rooted in, be my guest. I’ll wait here til you come back. :-))

Ready to move on? Good! Now then, since we’re social animals, I have to ask:

How do you compare yourself to others?

This scale is equally as interesting, and equally wrought with unconscious processes that some reflection will hopefully help us become more aware of.

Thanks to new technologies like fMRI and EEG scans helping to understand how our brain works, research into social inter-personal neuroscience is a lot easier now than it used to be – and we’re still only scratching the surface.

  • For example, did you know that feeling better about yourself activates the same reward-systems in your brain than if you won the lottery (Izuma et al 2008)?
  • You’ve probably heard about women of all sizes feeling bad after reading the (retouched!) glossy magazines (Hamilton et al 2007).
  • Or how about the one that shows being excluded from a group, aka experiencing ‘social pain’, lights up the same brain regions as actual physical pain (Eisenberger et al 2003)?

As far as I know, neither of these studies controlled for cultural or Type preferences. Still, all show indications that we are wired to co-exist and experience ourselves as part of a social system. Yes, we feel better when we’re aligned with our own values, but it’s also natural to compare ourselves to others. Hey, we even compare us to ourselves – just think of beating your time jogging around the park, or cleaning those candy jellies in 5 moves instead of 7.

Comparison happens. (Tweet this.)

And when it does, your brain sends out either happy-hormones (oxytocin) or stress-hormones (cortisol), depending on whether you see yourself better-than or less-than whatever or whomever you’re comparing yourself to.

Since lower levels of cortisol are linked to living longer and healthier lives, it’s in your best interest to have healthy levels of self-respect. Here’s how you can work on that:

1. Remember that you are valuable, just as you are.

Many of us grow up learning conditional love, like getting an extra hug when we cleaned up our room and being scolded when we traipsed muddy footsteps across the freshly mopped floor. You are no longer a child, you are an adult, and you are worthy of love and belonging. You are enough. Excellent resources I’d like to recommend here in case you need reminders are Brené Brown’s work on shame and vulnerability, and the 10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living.

2. Remember that it’s the 21st Century

You’re no longer a great ape in a herd who’s not getting fed if you mess up. Basically, that’s when these brain functions were established and where many of those stress levels come from. So, when you’re comparing yourself to someone else and feel like you’re coming up short, your brain will release cortisol, effectively shutting down your pre-frontal cortex (PFC). That’s the region that’s used for reasoning and all sorts of executive decision-making. In other words, every time you’re feeling less-than, you’re actually unable to talk yourself out of it, because that reasonable part of the brain isn’t getting enough oxygen or glucose to function properly. Your IQ literally drops a few points.

Take a deep breath to calm down. You won’t be able to in the very moment, but hopefully this awareness will help you get to that “oh wow, that conversation / person / situation really makes me feel inferior, I need to take a calm breath now”-moment faster. (Some studies also show a sugary drink might help boot up the PFC faster - but you might want to consider your teeth, wallet, and weight before you grab a coke.) You are an adult in the 21st Century, and you will be fine. Your survival is not threatened by an airbrushed size 2 teenager on the cover of a magazine at checkout. (Tweet this.)

3. Remember your power

How many times have you bragged about your achievements or talked down to someone else? It’s one thing to be proud of what you’ve worked for, and yes – you earned that. Celebrate it. Just remember whom you’re talking to. If your friend just got sacked, this may not be the right time to bring up your promotion. If your friend is 8 months pregnant, this may not be the right time to share your latest weight-loss and fitness tricks.

You’re not the only one comparing yourself to others, others also compare themselves to you. And I think we all know what it’s like when we’re just plain happy, share the happiness, and have our friends react defensively. It’s easy to think “gosh, they’re jealous; why can’t they just be happy for me?” and they probably are. But now you know, their brain is sending out stress hormones making them feel less-than-you

To sum up, how we think of ourselves actually influences our hormone-levels and consequently our mental and physical health. Many negative triggers are unconscious and challenging to get a handle on without the proper awareness. Hopefully, this article gave you at least one strategy to get yourself out of the less-than hole faster, namely love yourself, breathe, and have empathy for others.

In case of doubt, what would Eleanor Roosevelt do?  

Image by hehaden, Flickr, Creative Commons License.



An Expat's Worst Nightmare

Being the complex process that it is, expatriation is riddled with choices and challenges. Take the job or not take the job, what to pack or what to store, which friends to stay in touch with - because truthfully, you simply won’t have time for all of them. As challenging as fitting into a new team in a new culture while half your furniture got damaged in the move and you’re feeling desperately lonely is, getting a phone call about a critically ill friend or relative back in the old country is devastating.

The first rule of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy shall now take effect:

Don’t panic.

This is going to be an emotional situation where you’ll want to keep your head, so before you reach for your credit card to book flights, let’s think this through:

[box type="warning"] First of all: Is it safe for you to leave?[/box]

Depending on the stage of your immigration process, it might not be as easy to leave the country as you might think. Every visa, residency and work permit comes with rules and stipulations that you should be aware of, and leaving the country during the application process might delay or harm your chances of receiving your permanent documents. If you’re not yet permanent, check with your relocation lawyer first, or visit your and your new home’s embassy websites for more information.

[box type="warning"] Secondly, start thinking about logistics and timing. [/box] When you have kids and a job, “up and leave” turns into “plan and negotiate.”

Your new job might not include as many holidays or sick days as you had in the old country.

  • Is there the option of unpaid leave or taking days in advance that you’ll make up for later?
  • What are your options if you don’t know anyone you can leave your kids with yet or can’t take them out of school?
  • Does the whole family need to go?
  • Can your partner manage for a few days on their own?

Depending on your friend’s or relative’s illness, does it make more sense to leave now vs. two weeks from now? Are there test results that need to come back first, or do you want to be there throughout the whole process?

Also not to be underestimated is the financial aspect – living abroad means you’re not around the corner. Is an unplanned trip back home including flights, possibly a rental car and hotel in the budget?

But the nightmare are not the logistics or the budget, it’s the feelings of helplessness and disconnection. Because you’re not part of the day-to-day anymore, people have to go out of their way to even keep you in the loop. In times of crises, this might mean that you’re the last to find out the news. Your family and friends don’t know how to tell you, and don’t want you to feel obligated so they might try and convince you not to come “because there’s nothing you can do, anyway.” Personally, I disagree with that statement. While you might not have a cure for cancer, there’s a lot you can do, like keeping them company, doing grocery runs, or manning the phone lines. It’s exactly these “little” things that you can only do when you’re there that can try and begin to appease that pesky feeling of helplessness.

If you can’t leave without jeopardizing your residency, job, children’s education, or budget, staying in touch virtually and managing your thoughts should come to the top of your priority list. Expats use iChat for Macs, Skype and Vonage or other Voice over IP devices to great effect. What I mean by managing your thoughts is to be aware of your feelings of helplessness and guilt. Life back home doesn’t stop while you’re on relocation, and neither does it on your side of the pond when someone gets sick. As much as you think you should be by that special someone’s side, circumstances beyond your control might get in the way. Give yourself permission to look at the big picture and take a long-term view: there is never only one right answer.

As with all my blog posts, this one also comes out of personal experience. When my beloved Grandfather fell ill in 2007, I let my folks convince me that flying home wouldn’t do any good as he wouldn’t recognize me anyway. When he passed in 2008, I couldn’t fly home for the funeral because we were in the middle of our Green Card application. In a very self-centered way, part of me still feels bad about choosing in favor of my residency here in the US, because I didn’t get to participate in that ceremony of closure and it still feels weird walking in their house and not see him sitting on the couch.

In November 2010, flexibly self-employed and childless permanent resident that I am, I was able fly back to Germany to be at my Dad’s bedside while he’s finding out more about how to fight cancer. I took the love and support of my friends with me and thank everyone for their well-wishes. Talk about feelings of helplessness above, it’s another very strange sentiment to try and find the line between being happy to see everyone again after a long time, but under these dire awful circumstances.

If you are or have gone through this nightmare, please leave a comment below. Your tips might just help alleviate someone else’s pain or help their decision-making process. Thank you, and all the best wishes to you and yours.



MBTI® for You

The power of self knowledge

The MBTI® instrument has many possible applications for individuals, teams, and in organizations. If you are unfamiliar with its background, please read these posts on Type Theory and MBTI(r) Background.

Why you should know your personality type

Millions of people world-wide use this greater self knowledge to support e.g. change processes like an international relocation or a career transition. Many also find it useful during the process of redefining their life's purpose and goals, clarifying their relationship needs, or working on their Emotional Intelligence skills.

For executives, the MBTI® instrument is often used in conjunction with 360 degree feedback and other tools to provide a framework for executive coaching and leadership development.

Does this sound like you?

  • I heard about the MBTI(r) instrument and want to find out what my Type is.
  • I’m entering / changing my career and wonder which job makes the best use of my skills.
  • I’ve been quite stressed lately and want to come back to my normal self.
  • I’ve been having some tough conversations and want to improve my relationships.
  • My company is offering Executive Coaching to develop my leadership skills. How can type help me with that?
When you're ready to go, choose Individual MBTI® or visit our Process & Samples page for next steps!




Last week we talked about stress and how too much of it can lead to a forced time-out. There are many stages leading from stress over frustration to an official burn out syndrome, and every person experiences them differently. These stages are not necessarily sequential, nor are they always experienced with the same intensity. Let's have a look at what those stages roughly translate to, and where you might be at right now.

Imagine you're in a new job, just started a new position, of course you want to leave a great first impression with your employer, your colleagues, and not least of all yourself. You might even feel like you've got something to prove to your parents, your partner, or your former employers, so it's natural that you put in many hours in the first few weeks or months to find your footing. I've once been told that it's the actions of the first 100 days in any new position (or relationship, or city, or country) that count and set the pace for the long-term future. If you prove yourself during those first 100 days, you're good to go.

But what if you can't find a way to dial it down after that time? What if bosses and co-workers alike got used to having you there at all hours picking up the slack with a smile on your face? You can't start complaining or asking for a more detailed job description now, honey, after you've been doing such great work all these past weeks! Well, yes and no. Let's have a look at the burn out clock (modified from material I received during my first coaching):

The stages 1 through 12 are not meant to represent a certain time interval, although the first three months as described above might coincide with the three motivation and fun stages of "euphoria" as depicted above. So, how do you know that the fun part has stopped? Only you can answer that. Do you find yourself thinking about work all the time? Do you take your laptop home to get stuff done after dinner or on the weekends? Has your partner started complaining? Are you having trouble getting a good night's rest because you're worrying about work projects? Do you think that's normal? Do your colleagues have the same going on in their lives? In my humble opinion, just because it's happening to many other people you know doesn't make it right, and you always have a choice to change at any time you so decide.

If you feel overtired and overworked, a friendly chat with your neighborhood coach might be in order to see how they might help you prioritize, organize your time better, and strike a balance between all that is important to you. If you're actually starting to develop physical symptoms, suffer from ulcers, migrane headaches or heart palpitations, it's high time to see the physician of your confidence. Stress and burn-out might be sniggered at in your circle of colleagues as lah-di-dah complaints for the lazy and faint-of-heart, but they're certainly to be taken seriously. Prolonged periods of stress will wear your body and your mind out to the point where you will fall ill. With stress-related and burnt out patients, that illness is the bodies' desperate attempt to force them into relaxation. Why let it get so far, when a strategically timed hot bath, gossip session with the boys 'n girls, and trip to the movies/beach/spa of your choice can take the edge off and recharge your batteries quite effectively? Besides, you don't need me to tell you that your hand-held telecommunications device has an OFF-button, do you?

Writing this gave me ideas about more related subjects, like learning to say "no", psychosomatic illnesses, general balance exercises, and relaxation techniques. Which would you most like to read about? Let me know! For more information about stress and burn out, you can also refer to the American Institute of Stress and pages like Revolution Health.

Til next time!

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What are your thoughts on it? Have you experienced stress before? How do you define it? Is there a difference between stressful situations and actual physically manifested distress? How fast does your pulse come down after you've been feeling stressed? Where's the line to anxiety? These and many other questions are running through my mind as I look at the calendar and wonder where the past eight months have gone.

Time's not always a factor for stress though, at least it doesn't have to be. You know why Confucius said, "when in a hurry, take a detour"? Because you don't function well when you're in a hurry. Your mind is racing and you're not paying attention to the moment you're in, because you're preoccupied with how late you are or where you should already be by now. Before you know it, you've rear-ended the car in front, or watered your TV instead of your plants. I wish sometimes that there were more hours in one day so I could get everything done that's needing attention, and there'd be some spare to read a novel without feeling like there's something else I should be doing, something more productive. Alas, time's the same for everyone, last I checked nobody was able to freeze the moments or make them go faster at will. How come some people experience time as if there's plenty, and others as if there's never enough?

I guess in part it has to do with the "should"-ing I mentioned earlier, with expectations we have of ourselves, and expectations others have of us that we want to fulfil. "Early bird catches the worm" and other phrases like it almost make me feel bad for sleeping in even on the weekend, you know? The point for a well-balanced life, though, is to make time for relaxation, before too much stress takes its toll, and your body and mind experience a burn-out. This is when you'll be forced to take a break because you won't be able to do anything at all. Check back next week for more information on burn-out and its stages to see where you're at.

Everything's important, there's always going to be something to do, people to call, letters to write, work to finish. Next time you know your mind is racing and you feel your blood pressure rise, take a deep breath and a moment to reflect on what the actual stressful element is. Maybe once you've identified it you can practice getting things done without rushing. Make the conscious decision not to feel rushed or stressed. Paying attention to the moment, to traffic, to whatever it is you're in the middle of doing. You know if you rush and you're not doing it right, you have to do it all over again anyway, and that'll take even more time. Besides, it really is ok to smell the roses once in a while.

For more information on stress, its symptoms, how to reduce it, how it relates to diseases like cancer, and much much more, check out the American Institute of Stress and pages like Revolution Health.

Til next time! Thanks to Joy Prescott for the image.

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Opportunity for change No. 3 - the work-life balance

Over time, you find that those after-work habits have taken their toll on your waistline, and one morning you wake up and that suit you put on is pinching you in the side. You vow to start eating better tonight and rush off to work. After that most embarrassing rip while you bent down to pick up the pen your customer has dropped, you make your way hurriedly and crimson-faced to the next department store, buying the trousers in one size bigger. Once again thinking, "tonight I'll get the salad instead of the deep-fried meal", which you've forgotten by the time the youngster asks you what your order is, because those new pants fit so well and they're even a bit loose, so what could it hurt... add a dessert, too.
Over the last fortnight we've concentrated on issues that may arise in a work setting. Time to get to that other part of you - your life! Although admittedly, it's hard to draw a clear line between the two, because they're really quite connected, aren't they.

I bet you never really got it when your grandparents were talking about the good old days until you became an adult. Just imagine what those old times must have been like! No computers, no faxes, no mobile phones, little or no airtravel - hard to imagine, isn't it? True, they didn't have the mod cons we have today, but I guess they didn't have the need for them either. What I'm trying to say, is that so many inventions were born out of the necessity to save time at home so you can spend more time at work.

So, in the old days, the world was turning a lot slower, but nonetheless it was turning. People were not reachable 100 % of the time, and still the work got done. People did not receive instantaneous replies to their inquiries, they had to wait for the mail to arrive, but they didn't die in anticipation and still the work got done. People did not used to travel as much, but somehow everybody knew each other and still the work got done. Yes, they all worked long hours and probably weekends, and surely there were a number of premature, stress-related heart attacks, but I'll wager there were less than today.

Enter the digital revolution. In my imagination, back then people were conscientious and hard-working, but they knew how to relax, too. The office was left at the office, because there was no blackberry to take it home with. Nowadays, with the fast-paced and ever-changing environment all the business magazines talk about, I think real breaks are more difficult to take. How many of us have felt guilty for leaving the office at 6 pm although that's the official end of the working day? How many of us take the laptop home over the weekend just to catch up on the emails we didn't get a chance to read during the week? And, well, while we're at it, we may as well prepare that presentation for next Wednesday? It's commendable to be so devoted to one's profession, but it is dangerous to forget about one's need to rest in the process.

"Mens sana in corpore sano" - a healthy mind lives in a healthy body. A body that works 60+ hours a week and whose diet consists of fast food, coffee, and - dare I say it - cigarettes and other drugs isn't healthy. No wonder the mind goes downhill too, then. You have to be healthy in order to function; painkillers can only take care of the symptoms for so long. Ask yourself what could be the reason, what's the cause, why is your body reacting the way it does? Are you experiencing frequent headaches or migraines? Is your digestive system on the temperamental side? Do you feel irritable, emotional, or tired more than you think is normal? How about bouts of anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia or depression? Could it be that you'd be happier if you worried less about the job or what other people thought of you and spent more time with your family or friends? What are your hobbies? When did you last laugh out loud?

As you can tell, this is a wide field indeed, and there are plenty of opportunities for change simply thinking about how to handle stress, how to manage your emotions, and how to treat your body. For starters, you could take a couple of deep breaths, get that oxygen into every last one of your cells, make an effort to blink more often when you sit in front of a computer screen for long periods, and try to get more water, fruit and veg in. And drop me a line if there's any specific area you'd like to change and find out more about. Requests for post-topics are also welcome.

Til next time!