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Authors Posts by Shari Goldsmith

Shari Goldsmith

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Columnist - After graduating from Ohio State University with a B.A. in Organizational Communications, Shari spent 10 years working in Business Operations with progressive responsibility. She was an integral part of the company’s growth from 2 to 50 store operations. After leaving this position, she worked in the fields of Education and Social Services, where she became the “go-to” person for change. Her problem-solving, leadership, and people skills enabled her to take an idea and develop it into a full-fledged program. Shari then decided to fulfill a life-long dream and received her Mental Health/Counseling Degree. In 2010, Shari created Shari Goldsmith Coaching, to support and empower professional women to define their goals, go after their dreams, and ultimately change their lives. A few years later, Shari created Workplace Resilience to give individuals and executive teams the tools to not only survive, but thrive in this fast changing marketplace. Shari is the current President of the local Ellevate Chapter, part of a global network of 34,000 professional women. Contact her at sharigoldsmith@fuse.net.

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Life’s biggest dilemmas often have small and simple solutions. Our life coach columnist explains how to find them.

 

Our disagreement is always about the temperature in the house. I’m always cold and he’s always warm. Now, the rule in the house is that once it’s become warm out and there is an urgent need to turn on the air, the heat is officially turned off for the season. That means if the air-conditioning is turned on on April 15 because it’s 80 degrees out, you are not to turn the heat on the next week when it plummets to 45.

In case you were wondering, I didn’t make this rule.

I try to weather (no pun intended) this as best as I can, but sometimes it’s just ridiculous.  Last night was one of those nights. I came home and noticed that the house was quite cool. I complained and complained about it and of course, nothing happened.  This morning, I woke up and immediately felt that the room was freezing. All the animals were smashed up against me trying to stay alive in the frigid temps. I went downstairs to eat breakfast, feeling the same frustration welling up inside of me, muttering to myself how tired I am of this whole situation.

I considered waking him up to have the same familiar fight and then it dawned on me.  Why was I so miserable when there was an obvious solution? Why did I continue to complain when there was another, better, alternative?  I walked over to the thermostat and turned the heat back on in the house.  

It was that easy.

Have you ever noticed that some of the stuff that drives us crazy doesn’t really have to drive us crazy? There are obvious solutions to our problems, but we are so intent on our negative swirling that we forget we don’t have to be quite so unhappy. We play out the same pattern over and over and we lose sight of reality: the situation is really not that hard to resolve. We really have more control to change our lives than we think.

I know you are thinking that I was pretty silly to not see the obvious— that all I had to do was walk over to the thermostat and change the setting to heat. However, It never occurred to me. I will bet that something like this is playing out right now in your own personal or professional life.  Maybe it involves a co-worker that is driving you crazy, a boss that makes you lose your patience or a friend who has overstayed their welcome. Whatever the situation, it’s possible that you have become so emotionally involved in “the fight” that you can no longer see the “forest through the trees.”  There’s a chance that the pattern is set, and you might find some strange comfort with the negative interaction. You continue to stay where you are because you no longer can see the choices you have to make your life better.

So take a step back and try to get a birds-eye view of the situation. There’s a good chance that you can break out of the pattern and find a positive solution.

And in case you were wondering about my dilemma, he has yet to say anything to me.

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Our life coach columnist shares the four questions you should ask yourself when pondering whether to speak up about an issue.

 

Should I say something or should I just keep quiet? (How many times have you considered this while at work?)

Well, I remember working for a boss that loved to boast about the companies’ “open culture” where everyone could share their ideas and thoughts. I took him at his word. Once in a meeting, I diplomatically shared an issue that every employee was struggling to accept. I did this because behind the scenes, everyone was complaining, whining and basically wasting time expounding on this issue. However, no one had the courage to bring up the issue and discuss it with the boss.

When I began the conversation that day, everyone sighed with relief. Finally, it would be brought out into the daylight and dealt with in a productive manner.  When shared, the boss handled the discussion well and treated me with respect for bringing it to the table.

However, a couple days later, things began to fall apart. I was called into a meeting and aggressively attacked. He made it clear that the issue with me was not the information that I had shared that day.  The issue with me was the many weaknesses that I possessed (although I had received glowing accolades up until that point).

I look back on that day and wonder about my choice to speak up.  Did I make the wrong decision?  Well, that depends.

According to the book Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler, you should ask yourself these four questions when pondering whether to speak up:

  1. Am I attempting to communicate the message passive-aggressively?
  2. Is my conscience nagging me?
  3. Am I telling myself that I am helpless?
  4. Am I choosing the safety of silence over the risk of speaking up?

If you answer yes to any of these, then you seriously have to consider whether staying quiet is the best solution for your situation.  

So, here’s what you have to lose if you decide to keep your mouth shut. Staying quiet means you give approval to your current situation. Staying quiet means that your workplace frustration over the situation could come through in passive-aggressive behavior. Lastly, staying quiet means that the frustration can hit a tipping point for you and your emotions will boil over.

You could explode and say things that you will really, really regret.

Now here’s the most important point to consider:

Choosing to stay mum automatically means that the current situation is not going to change.  Giving up control in the situation can lead to feelings of apathy, which then can lead to disengagement at work.

So let’s revisit my story about the boss that touted the open culture. Would I have made the same decision today?

Absolutely.

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On a day where nothing seemed to go right, our life coach columnist asked this one question to get things back on track.

 

I just returned home from attending a wonderful wedding weekend in Arizona with good friends. On my mind was the fact that I hadn’t really accomplished much for work and I would be playing “catch up” when I got back. Thankfully, I hadn’t scheduled too much for myself on my first day back so I could get serious at my desk. I got up early, worked out, and felt ready to tackle my day. There was only one problem— my Internet wasn’t working.

I tried a couple remedies that have worked in the past, but still no Internet. Frustrated, I called my son for suggestions. He patiently walked me through some steps to solve the problem, but no such luck— nothing worked. After going to a coffee shop to work for a while, I returned home to see if the situation had changed. That’s when my husband sent me the email informing me that my Internet provider was doing maintenance. According to the note, it was a temporary situation that would be remedied within 45 minutes. Eight hours later, I realized that my situation was anything but temporary.

To make a long, long story short, I spent at least two hours on the phone with various support people who walked me through possible solutions. Of course, nothing worked. Not even using my iPhone as a hotspot was working.

In the morning, I talked to three various supervisors about the issue and shared how waiting another 24 hours for a technician was unacceptable. Stressed with the situation, I ran out the door so I wouldn’t be late for my full day seminar. As I drove into the lot, I found it strange that there weren’t any cars around. I looked again in my calendar to make sure I had the right day.

I was off by a week. And if all this wasn’t bad enough, two “sure thing” proposals fell through later that day.

Suffice to say, I was having a really, really bad couple of days. I had a plan and things weren’t happening according to my plan. Have you been there? Have you lived a day where you feel like everything in the world is going wrong? A day when you wonder why you even try?

Well, when you do, be sure to ask yourself the following question:

What can I do to control my current situation?

In dire situations, you feel a loss of control. This feeling of having no sense of control makes you uncomfortable, to say the least. Although it may be hard to imagine in the moment, there are always aspects of the situation that you do have control over. Think about ways you can take control, no matter how small the change or impact. This action of focusing on what you can impact, instead of swirling out of control, will make you feel productive and in charge.

Full Disclosure:

I did swirl for a bit before I took control of the situation. That’s pretty normal. However, I didn’t stay there. I searched for ways to keep moving forward.

So, I’m asking you to become more resilient and work on having less “swirling time” and “more productive action time” when bad things happen. Because the truth is that we all have days like I just described.

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Our life coach columnist has a motivating message for all of you out there who are scared to move forward in life.

Last week, I went skiing in Colorado and had an exhausting, but great time.  Much of my energy was spent trying to stay upright and not trying to be too anxious about flying down the hills. Most of the time, my husband would ski ahead of me and then I would try to catch up, carefully and slowly, for fear of taking a big tumble.

As I was coming down the mountain, I caught a glimpse of a skier out of the corner of my eye. This skier was moving at a good pace down the mountain.  The second glimpse revealed two ski instructors working with him.  My first thought was how you must have money to burn to have two ski instructors working with you. (I think that we can all agree I just made another judgment).

When I really took a good look at the situation, I realized that the skier moving at a fast clip had a caution sign on his back that read, “Blind Skier”.

Yes, that’s right, that skier that was moving as fast, or faster than me, was blind. Can you believe it? That just blew my mind.  I couldn’t stop thinking about it as I made my way down the mountain.

We are capable of much more than we think we are.

Everyday, I talk to people that tell me what they can’t do or accomplish. They are very certain about WHY they can’t do things and have a whole rationalization in place to prove their point. They are terrified of change and of getting outside their comfort zone. Now imagine having the guts and courage to ski fast down a hill while not being able to see.  You need to trust yourself and dig down deep to find the confidence to take on such a feat.  You know that little step forward that you are struggling to make? Maybe it isn’t so overwhelming after all. Maybe it’s just getting bigger and bigger in your head, the more you think about it.  My suggestion to you is to stop thinking so much and just do it.  Break out of that pattern and take a chance. If this guy can do it, I’m sure you can do it too!

When we lose one strength, we can develop other strengths to help us through life. 

How did that guy navigate that mountain without his sight? I imagine that he had developed other senses to help him.  He heard the crunch of the snow beneath his skis and knew what each sound meant.  He felt the vibration of the skis and learned to trust his body’s reactions to each movement forward.  He didn’t have his sense of sight anymore, so he was compelled to develop other strengths to get him through the experience.  The same thing can be said for us. We can’t stop learning and growing.  As we grow, we may be no longer able to use certain strengths or skills. However, we must be creative in developing strategies to overcome these limitations. They are only limitations if we say that they are limitations.

I have a message for all of you out there who are scared to move forward in life— take a chance. If my friend the blind skier can do it, I’m pretty sure that you can find the courage to take a leap of faith.

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We’re hard-wired to quickly pass judgement to assess situations, but our life coach columnist explains how it can also hinder your happiness and success.

Recently, I was talking with a friend that had just lost her mother. She was telling me a little about her when I asked her if she had any other siblings in the area.

She told me that she had two siblings that lived in town and two that lived out of town. I did the computation in my head and realized that by today’s standards, she came from a large family.

Are you Catholic, I asked? You have a large family and there are so many of that faith that live in that subdivision.

She laughed and said no. She mentioned that she hears that a lot.

Can we all agree that I just made a JUDGMENT?

I realized it as soon as it came out of my mouth. Without being aware of what I was doing, I put all the available data together and made my assessment. My assessment was incorrect and was based on inconclusive evidence. However, my need to categorize and make sense of the situation was so strong that it drove my behavior.

Why do we do this? Our ancestors were instinctively hard wired for survival. Their ability to assess their environment and search for dangers and risks helped them stay alive. They had to make quick judgments about their environment for adaptation and survival purposes.

However, in today’s world, this skill can cause all kinds of trouble for you. Your need to categorize situations and people encourages judgment calls that can be way off base. When your brain doesn’t have all the necessary information, it automatically fills in the gaps. You have an innate need to quickly make sense of your surroundings.

That’s when your assessment turns out to be incorrect.

The reason I bring this point up is because I believe that making judgments can stand in your way of being happy, productive and successful in your life. You are asked to make judgments in your job, in your everyday life and at home. When you make decisions about people and situations based on your first thought and response, you can be missing out on some great people and outstanding experiences.

You can’t stop your brain from performing this task every time you encounter a situation. What you CAN do is recognize that first thought and assessment and decide whether you want to agree with it or not. Do you need more information? Is there more to this situation than it may seem at first glance?

You can push yourself to be mindful and think it through better before you open your mouth and take action. Now think about how this action can change your life. Maybe you will give that person you are interviewing a second look and not eliminate them based on their dress. Maybe they will turn out to be your absolute best employee ever. What about that guy you see at work that always talks to you? Why not give him a second chance? He doesn’t look or dress like you, but he’s really friendly. The list goes on and on.

So what I’m asking you to do is have the conversation in your head. You will ALWAYS have that first thought, but try to replace it with some good questions and try to call yourself out on your quick judgments.

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Want to make big things happen in the New Year? Our life coach columnist shares the first step that’ll make all the difference.

I was at the gym waiting for a class to begin. I had arrived early since I knew the class was free this week. I secured a spot and went back out to do some cardio. I noticed a woman that kept walking back and forth and it appeared that she was contemplating taking the class. She went in the room for a while and then appeared before me, obviously upset.

She began to complain about the people in there and how she was told she had to secure a spot. She ranted that she didn’t like the vibe in the class and the way that she was being treated. She decided that she didn’t even want to take the class now, since it was so upsetting. I listened to her and tried to encourage her to change her mind. However, the more I did, the more she dug into her beliefs.

After the class was over, I saw her talking to the teacher. She was sharing her anger about the situation and how horrible the experience had been for her.

Now, here’s the truth about the situation. I believe she went into that class ambivalent about trying something new. Part of her wanted to try something new, but another piece of her was terrified to get outside her comfort zone. Instead of feeling bad about backing down to the new adventure, it was easier to blame someone else for the situation. In this way, she can still look in the mirror and feel good about herself.

She was able to be the victim in the story.

I have seen this play out in numerous situations in my life and work. Instead of being aware of your own feelings and fear, you blame the situation on someone else. That eases your pain in actually failing or letting yourself down. And let’s face it-this is so much easier on the ego.

This appears often in my leadership coaching. Instead of a leader taking on the needed responsibility in their position, they blame some sort of failure on another person or employee. It’s their fault, not mine.

The dog ate my homework.

Can I tell you how many times this played out with my kids growing up? You hope that your kids understand this concept before they spread their wings and go out into the world.

You want them to learn to do some soul searching and take responsibility for their own actions. You want them to learn to push through the pain of being uncomfortable and still do the right thing. They have to take responsibility and move forward.

However, some people get into a pattern of deflecting this truth. They are afraid to look inside and see who they really are— warts and all.

I challenge you to look inside and take responsibility for your own doubts, insecurities, failures, and mistakes, face them with courage and walk through that pain. It’s hard work becoming a better YOU.

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Are you a courageous leader? Our life coach columnist says the time to become one is now and explains how.

Last week I was in LA, celebrating Thanksgiving with my family. One of my favorite experiences with my husband and son was going on a great hike at Griffith Park. The weather was absolutely perfect and definitely beat Cincinnati weather.

As we started on the trail, I mentioned to my son that I think he misunderstood what I had in mind for the hike. You see, when we began, it was mostly smooth and flat. He reassured me that this was just the beginning and I would definitely get to have some real rigorous hiking time.

As we continued, I began to work a little harder getting up the hills. Up and down we went, as I felt my heart pounding hard to keep up with them. He had been right because I was definitely pushing myself. We didn’t have a time restriction so we just climbed wherever we wanted and marveled at the great views overlooking the city.

As we turned the corner, my son saw a trail that he thought we should try. I noticed that no one else was on this small trail. I brought up the rear and as I got further into the trek, I realized that this was quite the rigorous path. There I was, rock climbing and using my hands and feet to hold on to the dirt. I continued to climb, wondering if we should truly be doing this. As I grabbed the dirt to hold on, I looked up to see how much further I had to go.

It was ironic to go from feeling like I wasn’t going to be challenged to the point where I was hoping for this experience to be over. My son yelled at the top and I saw people standing up there on the wide cement path overlooking my climb. When I got to the top, I saw that our trail was blocked off and had a caution sign. I had to climb over all of this to get out of the trail. A number of people were staring at me as I jumped over the roped off area and turned around to read the sign.

“Caution: Rattlesnakes in This Area — Keep Out.”

No wonder they were staring at me. They were shocked that I was so brave to risk that climb up. They thought that I had great courage to attempt that feat— despite the warning.

Do you really think I would have climbed that trail if I knew the truth? I thought back to putting each hand in the dirt and rocks and taking my time up that hill. I was pretty freaked out.

Now back to that COURAGE thing. I didn’t know that I was risking something when I started up that trail. So that doesn’t count for HAVING COURAGE. No, courage happens when you know all the possible risks before you start, you understand what you have to lose, and you have the guts to do it anyway.

You risk losing something that is valuable to you but you do it anyway. You do it because you know it’s the right thing to do. You get way out of your comfort zone and take a risk— despite all the warning signs.

Courage is an important trait to possess as a leader. The ability to look in the mirror and see your self clearly, warts and all, takes courage. The ability to deliver devastating news to someone, takes courage. The ability to listen to your gut when everyone disagrees with you, takes a whole lot of courage.

The ability to make a decision that comes with big risks, definitely takes COURAGE.

Give a thought to the last six months. Did you make decisions that were safe because you didn’t want to rock the boat? Did you put off that difficult conversation because it’s just easier that way? Did you stay where you are because you know what to expect there? Did you agree with everyone instead of saying what you truly feel is right?

Are you a courageous leader? The time to start becoming one is NOW.

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As politics stir up a mixed bag of emotions, our life coach columnist explains the three things you should do every day to improve relationships and communication, despite differences.

Empathy- the ability to emotionally understand what another person is feeling.

The last week has been tough. Wherever you look, people’s emotions are on edge due to the recent election. People have taken sides and each group is having difficulty understanding the motives and reactions of the other group. Some people are elated, while others are feeling a multitude of things: disappointment, fear, anger and grief.

Being trained in Mental Health, I spend every waking hour observing others. It’s just something that I do instinctively. I don’t necessarily engage in feelings— I just observe from afar and try to understand why and how people are responding.

Friday, I met with a connection that told me she had spent time guiding a company on how to handle a physical fight between two workers on opposite sides of the political argument. Yes, people are on edge everywhere you look and that emotion inevitably seeps into our workplace.

There is a lack of empathy in much of our communication. I observe individuals demonstrating their own personal values, beliefs and attitudes about life. The problem is that they also expect others to adhere to those same values, beliefs and world views. Following last week, there appears to be a lack of understanding— We have trouble making room for human differences and the inability to see that individuals don’t necessarily fit into neatly defined categories.

What I do see is a strong compelling need to demonstrate WHY I am right and I have the right way of thinking.

Nowhere is this more evident than on Social Media. Here, you see a total lack of empathy and a complete lack of the ability to imagine how others feel. You see individuals pushing their belief system on others while refusing to listen. You witness people expecting others to see things their way, and if they don’t, they are attacked. You observe people feeling the need to rationalize their beliefs and expecting others to support them— or else. Polarized thinking is rampant and stirs up anger, hate and decisiveness.

You see a whole lot of JUDGEMENT but very little empathy.

As humans, we are a complicated species. Each one of us has a worldview made up of values, attitudes and beliefs based on our many life experiences. You won’t understand me unless you actively listen, without judgment, to where I am coming from and what I feel. I won’t understand you unless I actively listen, without judgment, to where you are coming from and what you feel.

Until this happens, we won’t have successful communication and understanding.

So how do you ensure that EMPATHY is part of your leadership toolkit? You become more Empathetic by practicing these skills daily:

1. Use your energy to actively listen to others and understand how they are feeling.
2. Refrain from minimizing others’ feelings and rationalizing about your own feelings.
3. Hold yourself back from making judgments about others that think differently than you. Just meet them where they are.

Remember during this time that empathy is the ability to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Truly live up to this standard.

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While this election season has been downright ugly, our life coach columnist has an uplifting message you’ll enjoy no matter what your ballot says next week.

 
On my way home from grocery shopping, I received a desperate text that we were in dire need of kitty litter. I pulled into the pet store and finally located the overpriced brand that my cats seem to prefer. When I grabbed the huge 30 lb. bag, I noticed that the price was at least $7 more than I usually pay. I took it up to the counter and kindly asked if they could match the price. The sales clerk smiled and said they would call another store and check the current price.
 
This whole fiasco took at least 15 minutes. She helped other customers and continued to wait on hold with the other store. I figured that she was losing her patience. However, she showed no sign of anger about the situation and eventually sold it to me for $7 less, with a smile on her face.
 
I thought to myself— she didn’t have to do that.
 
I lugged the huge 30 lb. bag out to my car. I was struggling to hold on and open the door when a man came out of nowhere. He grabbed the bag from me and asked me where I wanted it. Somehow he showed up exactly when I needed a helping hand.
 
I thought to myself— he didn’t have to do that.
 
When I got home, I went outside to rake some of the leaves blanketing my front yard. Believe me, it was so overwhelming. My neighbor was out there, too. I worked for a while, raking together a huge pile that was going to take me forever to bag up. I went in to eat lunch and heard the doorbell ring. Standing there was the little boy next door with a smile on his face. He wanted to help me rake the leaves. We had fun working together and he made the time go so much faster.
 
I thought to myself— he didn’t have to do that.
 
All of us can agree that this election season has been downright ugly. Everywhere you go, that ugliness hangs in the air. I see it on Social Media, in stores, work and home. People are angry, desperate and some are feeling out of control. That anger and heaviness follows us throughout the day. It’s a burden that we carry into every conversation and every relationship— even at work. We might not bring up the topic but the ugliness and heaviness is still there.
 
It becomes “Us vs. Them.” How could she feel that way? How could he be so WRONG? How could people be so cruel and out of touch? And then we start generalizing and placing people into neat little categories. The thinking is black and white and you are either good or bad.
 
But here’s the truth about people. Those good Samaritans that helped me today don’t necessarily agree with me on politics. Yet, they were kind, helpful and went out of their way to support me. They went above and beyond and expected nothing in return.
 
People are complicated. Other’s views and perspectives can be difficult to understand especially from OUR PERSPECTIVE. 
 
So don’t lose faith during this time. Take a deep breath and try to give other people space for their own beliefs. We have much more in common than we realize.
 
Most people are good.

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Listen up! Our life coach columnist pinpoints where many leaders fail in their quest to be successful, and offers a simple tip to avoid the pitfall.

I was discussing an upcoming training with a client the other day when she informed me that one of the key employees wouldn’t be able to make it. If we didn’t present the training on our previously planned date, it would have to be postponed for some time. I immediately responded that we should postpone the training for a couple months until everyone can be present.

My client responded by disagreeing with me and insisting that we go ahead with the training. My first thought was that she just didn’t understand the whole situation. Surely, she could see how her thinking was wrong. However, as I continued to truly listen to her reasoning, I began to change my perspective. I actually began to see why her thinking made sense. She did understand what we were trying to accomplish and had already given the dilemma much thought.

I was speaking from my experience, my knowledge of the situation and from my vantage point. I was making my best judgment. However, she shared new information, and made the case as to why this was the right decision. After receiving additional information, I agreed to moving forward with her plan.

So remember when I said that I listened and realized that in light of some new compelling information, I might be incorrect? That’s where a lot of leaders fail in their quest to be successful. They are strong in the concept of making decisions and leading the team, but might not be making the BEST decision because they just won’t listen.

Here are a couple principles to think about next time you are in this situation:

Someone else might have a better idea and that’s O.K.
So here’s the truth: Sometimes it’s not easy for leaders and influencers to like other ideas better then their own. Leaders are confident in their actions. However, leaders can LEARN to step back and truly listen and respect other’s opinions and judgments. This skill can be developed with constant practice.

Focus on the best outcome, not on who had the best idea
Focus less on being right or wrong and more on what the best outcome is for the team. Drop the ego and ask yourself: Will this decision accomplish our goals? Will this decision get us to where we want to go? How will we see the results that we desire?

Truly listen to others when they share their opinion
If I had not actively listened to my client, I would have still been stuck on my original assessment. We would have postponed the training and it would have been the wrong decision for everyone. However, once I heard her additional information and put it in context for this situation, I realized that I didn’t have all the pieces of the puzzle. Actively listening means that I am able to get outside what going on in my own head and what my needs are in the situation. I am able to take a birds-eye view of the situation and see the objective facts.

Think about this the next time you have a discussion and there is a decision to be made. Consciously step back and truly listen to the reasoning. Don’t let emotion and ego get in the way of you reaching the best outcome.

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