How to challenge the Status Quo

“If you focus on results, you will never get change.If you focus on change, you will get results.” ― Jack Dixon

A good way to predict the direction of our life is to measure how much of our time we’re actually trying to enhance and improve it. Most of us claim that we want better life or want things to change. It is easier to wish than to face change and uncertainty. Sometimes, we imagine that when we make a change, the choice we select should be easy to accomplish. So we wait until that magical state arrives by expending a lot of mental energy only wishing, expecting, and worrying. In other words, much of our time is spent in just maintaining the Status Quo rather than working constructively in creating the change we desire to enhance our personal or professional life.

Many times people end up on not taking action that will take them to the next level and prefer staying with the Status Quo, that is “the way things are”, no matter how flawed that may be. This way, they often find themselves stuck in mediocrity trap that keeps them in an automatic loop of routine. This makes them complacent as they get used to the ‘norm’ and are not desperate enough to change. There are others who want to pursue a goal, but don’t feel it can be achieved. They want to change, but are afraid of failure. Some have clear objectives to achieve but unhappy in place where they are. They want their environment to change without them having to do anything about it. So they just are stuck to their status quo instead of finding ways to make fulfilling changes.

In today’s world, if you want to compete or stay ahead or want to create sustainable growth for yourself or for your organisation or business, you must constantly think about how you can adapt and change. But one of the biggest barrier to change is our Status Quo thinking. We resort to thinking “its how we’ve always done it..” or “ that’s just how we do things here.” and so on. we often like to doing the things in same way or keep things as they are and don’t want to shake things up or change.

So, What is Status Quo?

Status Quo is a Latin phrase that means “state in which”, the state in which your current outcomes or results happen or your current state of things. It is about doing what is comfortable and thinking inside the existing box. As creatures of habit, we always tend to move toward the familiar, known, and believe it into be safer than what is new and different. This creates a Status Quo bias or our preference for familiarity. Because of this, it is harder to accept change and we usually prefer the easier option of keeping things as they are as it takes less mental effort.

Downside of maintaining Status Quo

To maintain the status quo is to keep the things the way they presently are or being complacent with how things are. Sometimes things are done a certain way because it’s the best practice. Other times we do things without a thought to process improvement. Sticking to status quo in your present circumstance, habits, behaviour, or efficiency or your skill or how things are in your personal and professional life not only keeps you stuck, stagnant but also hinders your growth and progress. We get so comfortable and safe thinking inside the existing box that it makes us resistant towards change or to think outside the box or to take risks or to challenge ourselves or to move out of our comfort zone. We see something new as inherently risky while something familiar as safe.

Change is something every body wants and talks about but cannot make it happen in reality as many of us get stuck in our Status Quo mindset. We get caught up in daily routines and any change seems uncomfortable. We refuse to challenge our status Quo thinking and refuse to adopt to more positive outlook thereby creating an aversion to change. Adhering to status Quo and giving preference that things stay the same is problematic for your self-growth or professional growth.

For some reason, we find it difficult to challenge the status quo when dealing with peers, friends, superiors or others in our personal and professional life. There is a sense that the act of challenging is inappropriate and may lead to conflict. But it is important to understand that conflict is not necessarily a bad thing as it can lead to insightful learning and change by challenging a problem from different viewpoints.

Why is it important to challenge your status quo?

Challenging Status Quo means that you identify better ways of doing things in order to change for better or to improve yourself or to add value. This not only makes you feel more engaged, meaningful, creative,and content but also increase your productivity, leadership skills and helps in managing things more effectively. And you can find solutions to a problem through different perspectives and can think more creatively or you can set yourself some personal challenges to encourage personal growth.

To become more productive and improve, you need to shift your perspective to challenge what’s become “the norm.” Just because something has worked until now, it doesn’t mean that there’s no need for change or room for improvement. Also, If you don’t challenge your status quo bias and are not ready to address what’s keeping you from making a change to enhance your life or to get yourself out of the mediocrity trap, you really cannot get on the path to create change or growth that you actually desire for.

Trust your idea enough to know that it can challenge the status quo.”

― Arlyn Davich

How to challenge your status quo ?

When you have to challenge how things are, you need to modify behaviours to impact results. Just knowing does not equal change unless you take different actions than those that created your present state of affairs. Only when you really understand the relationship between your inputs and outcomes or state in which your current outcomes are generated by current inputs, you can find your status quo and challenge it successfully. One of the effective way to do so is by asking right questions.

Ask questions

Asking yourself ‘why’ can help you to quickly pinpoint the actions that are generating your current results and you can identify what needs to be changed or improved. By asking yourself what actions can lead to positive change, you can challenge the status quo and focus on finding solutions. At work, be open to new ideas brought in by your team or others. Consider all the variables to implement the idea and explore all avenues to make a positive change. asking questions like is there something that isn’t working? Or why isn’t it working? How can you arrive at a solution? What are the ways to improve? can give you the ability to turn negative outcomes into positive. Asking right questions can give you insights to why you need to challenge the status quo, what resistance you may face and potential strategies to improve.

Here are some more ways to challenge your status quo.

Take risks. We often resort to status quo to avoid risk or uncertainty. If you want real change, you must embrace risk as new normal. Understand the impact of doing nothing is rarely ‘nothing.’ You must learn to create to anticipate unexpected and should learn to perform under pressure and should be able to adapt yourself better to change.

Questions To Challenge Status Quo: What is the risk involved in doing the same things or doing the same work or keeping the same habits? What short or long-term risks do your status quo results pose? What is the risk involved if you were to challenge your status quo? What can you do differently to improve yourself?

Identify the emotions behind change. You must identify what fears or emotions may be keeping you from changing. Unhelpful emotions can hold you in a status quo state. Emotions like fear of failure, or unwillingness to move out of your comfort zone or fear of the consequences of an unsuccessful implementation can keep you in Status Quo. Sometimes the root cause may be fear of additional effort required to implement a change, or to invest in time, money or other resources. You need to emotionally commit to the desired change.

Questions To Challenge Status Quo : Which emotions have strong hold on you? Which emotions are holding you back? Which emotions drive you towards change? Are you willing to move out of your comfort zone to challenge yourself?

Take responsibility. We talk about change but we don’t include it in our thinking or actions or decisions. We expect and maintain the status quo and want others to work on existing framework and not challenge them. This happens when we don’t take responsibility for the problem. You must be willing to reach out to others and new ideas. Also sometimes you might not be thinking in the right boxes to recreate growth or it might be uncomfortable for you to think outside the box. By being accountable, you will be able to challenge the status quo of your actions and decisions.

Questions To Challenge Status Quo: Are you willing to take responsibility for your ideas or choices or decisions? What needs to be challenged? Is there something that needs to be changed? What can you do differently to improve your status quo?

Be growth seeking. When you lack growth mindset, you cannot break down status quo bias or open to new possibilities to learn and grow. To challenge status quo, you need to think long-term and explore new insights, perspectives and ways to improve things.

Questions To Challenge Status Quo: What is your obstacle to growth? What behaviours are causing you negative outcomes? If you want your outcomes to change, which actions or behaviour you need to change? Which new ideas and perspectives you should be open to?

Evaluate your core values. Lack of honest evaluation of your current conditions, values, results and actions keep you in status quo thinking. How you approach change depends on your core beliefs and in how you view learning and improving yourself and other values.

Questions To Challenge Status Quo : What are your core values? Are your core beliefs aligned with desired change? What values are taking you away from moving forward in new and better direction? What values you need to embrace to progress in the direction of change?

Prepare your approach. If you are challenging long-standing attitudes or processes, you cannot just challenge them in a knee-jerk manner. Being passionate about change is admirable, but not able to present your ideas in a positive manner may lead to failure. You might face resistance while challenging status quo, especially in a workplace environment from your coworkers or superiors. Some may resist your efforts and think you are accusing them of doing something wrong. Some may even take changes you proposed personally or perceive them as self-serving, or inappropriate and reject them. In such situations, clearly communicate your intentions as to why you are challenging the status quo.

Questions To Challenge Status Quo : Am I presenting my suggestions in a positive manner? Does the proposed change leads to improvement? What actions can lead to positive change or increase productivity, efficiency or morale right now?

Improve your social environment. Your social environment like friends, family and co-workers play an important role in challenging status quo in progress oriented way. Your social interactions and relationships may hold you back in implementing the changes whether intentionally or unintentionally. You need ensure you have supportive, challenging and mutually beneficial relationships in place to enable you to successfully challenge status quo. Gather right allies to wheel and support you in the cause and change.

Questions To Challenge Status Quo: Is your social environment supportive of you? Do the people around you facilitate change you want to make? Are people holding you back in challenging your status quo?

Conclusion

Challenging status quo is not pointing out every little flaw and error or being rebellious. It has got more to do in making a positive or creative contribution that can improve your present situation. It is about bringing change by trying something new be it in your work, or personal habits, or in setting a new routine, or to implement new ideas in your business or workplace.

Measure your goals. Goals are nothing more than desired changes. You are choosing to maintain status quo if you don’t have concrete goals. To create the change you desire, you need to confront what has been simply accepted so far. Identity which areas of your life you are stuck in mediocrity and use the above strategies to challenge your status quo. The more you challenge the status quo, the more progress you will make towards your goals and objectives.

How to be an effective listener

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”– Dalai Lama

Being a good listener is one of the most important life-skill we all can have. In today’s fast paced and high-tech world, communication has become an important means of achieving our goals and objectives. Yet we devote very less time when it comes to listening to one another. When was the last time, you listened to what the other person is saying without any distraction? We often have a tendency to focus more on our words rather than others’ words. In a hurry to get our message across, we often neglect the important part of communication, which is listening, be it while listening to our peers, coworkers, friends or family members. If you fail to understand what is being expressed to you whether at work, or home or school, you will also fail in providing a meaningful response.

According to an ancient Chinese Proverb ‘To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well.’ Your true potential is always is directly linked to the quality of your listening skills. In this age of instant communication we are in a hurry to communicate what’s in our mind or focus more on replying than in good listening. We fail to realise, a lot can also be learned by means of listening from others in our day to day conversations.

We often confuse the physical act of hearing with listening. The basic difference being hearing is through ears, but listening is through mind. Hearing only involves perceiving sounds. On the contrary, listening is receiving the information, paying full attention to the words and sentences and understanding them. There is lot of importance given to ‘problem solving’, ‘goal setting’ and other skills to improve our potential or productivity, but very rarely we hear about the importance of active listening and how learning to master this art can improve our overall performance.

Are you a poor listener?

According to a research, we spend much of our waking hours communicating, and more than half is spent listening. Although listening is our primary activity, most of us are poor listeners. Studies show that we are able to comprehend and retain only one-quarter of what was said in about a ten-minute talk. This is mostly because many of us are either distracted by our own thought process or we get self-justifying or busy rehearsing our response that we miss out on what is being said. Sometimes, we tend to shut ourselves to listening when we disagree with the person’s views. Also because our listening speed is faster than the other person’s speaking speed, there is a void which we fill with our thoughts or perceptions. Not able to listen properly leads to arguments, conflicts, and various other challenges in your personal or professional lives. At workplaces, it leads to more errors and wastage of time. In personal life, it may lead to misunderstandings affecting your relationships.

Why listening is more important than speaking?

Effective listening involves ability to concentrate, understand, respond and then retain what is being said. How well we listen has a significant influence on our interpersonal relationships and work effectiveness. Developing good listening skills makes you less anxious, mindful and more self-aware. A great learner is often not the speaker, but the listener. Good listening improves your communication and interpersonal skills at workplaces where it helps you to fully concentrate and engage in a discussion. You will be able to grasp the purpose of your communication so as to put forth your ideas and objectives with more clarity. It helps you provide valuable feedback, to resolve conflicts and eliminate misunderstandings.

Great leaders are people who are intuitive listeners. They recognise that knowledge is gained by listening and not by talking. Good listeners are often perceived as people leaders as they acknowledge and listen to people’s issues and this makes them feel valued. They earn the trust and respect of people by listening, understanding and being supportive of them. By actively engaging yourself in listening to others’ concerns or issues helps you develop leadership quality where you can work efficiently towards coming up with better solutions to solve their problems. Being a good listener improves mutual understanding in your personal, professional or business relationships

What does it take to be a good listener?

Self-awareness is the key to become an effective listener. To be able to sincerely listen to others is not an easy task, it requires persistence, effort and should be able to set aside your views to listen to the other person without being judgmental and by being open minded. It is a mindset which you learn from people by hearing what they have to say by being genuinely curious and interested.

Listening is a dynamic process that involves receiving , understanding, retaining, evaluating and responding. All of these stages happen naturally in a short time during conversation. Here are some tips to improve each of these areas.

Receiving and absorbing the information is the first stage in listening process. Here are some tips to pay attention while receiving the information.

Avoid distractions. Put away your digital distractions, when you are engaged in a conversation. Try to maintain your eye contact with the speaker by keeping aside papers, books, or phones or any other gadgets. Mentally screen out distractions like background noise or activity. No matter how open-minded we can be , we all carry emotional baggage that distracts our listening ability. Words, phrases, tone, or person’s appearance can shut down our receptivity by triggering knee-jerk reactions. Practice identifying and overcoming the knee-jerk reflexes while listening. Each time your mind starts to wander, refocus your attention to what’s being said or to what you are listening rather than focusing on what you are going to say.

Pay attention to non-verbal cues. If you only hear the words someone is saying, you may miss the important meaning being conveyed. Some people don’t overtly verbalise their disagreements but say as much with their actions, body language or physical gestures as they do with their verbal communication. Facial expression, tone if voice, eye contact, and posture all matter. Practice listening between the lines. For instance, someone who tells you that he like your idea while slouching and with his arms crossed against his chest, is actually saying two different things. Paying attention to these cues provides more clarity on the speaker’s emotional state and you can listen to something that they are communicating with their non-verbals.

Avoid interrupting. It is rude to interrupt but most often we model the opposite and tend to overlook our loud, aggressive behaviour. We tend to finish others’ sentences because we cannot slow our mental pace to listen effectively. Interrupting says that your opinion is of more importance than others’ or might imply that what you are saying is more accurate or relevant. It also might mean you don’t have time to listen or don’t really care about what’s being said. A conversation is not a contest which you are going to win. You can’t listen and talk at the same time. So, resist the urge to interrupt and let the other person say what he or she wants to say. When listening to someone talk about a problem or a difficulty, we tend to immediately suggest solutions using our own perspective to make him or her move in the direction we think is good. In most such cases, we respond to our needs rather than the needs of the other person. May be the person just wants to talk or share. Don’t impose your solutions. Before advising, ask whether they like to hear your suggestions or solutions.

Be empathetic. Sometimes all a person wants is an empathetic ear; all he or she needs is to talk it out. Just offering a listening ear and an understanding heart for his or her words can be comforting. Giving undivided attention by being compassionate helps you to be an effective listener. Put yourself in their shoes and listen and allow them to express their feelings and thoughts

“The most basic of all human needs is to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph Nichols

Avoid being judgmental or biased. Listen without judging or mentally criticising what is being said and without jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. Learn to separate fact from opinion. Don’t listen with an intent to have your opinions validated, but listen with an intent to learn something new. Many times we don’t pay much attention to those against whom we are biased or prejudiced. Don’t just listen to those who agree with you, but actively seek out different perspectives and listen to even those who confront and challenge you. Effective listening requires an open mind, you need to be open to new ideas, new perspectives and new possibilities. Even when you have strong views, suspend your judgment, hold your criticism, and avoid arguing or selling your point right away.

Understanding is the next stage in listening process. After you have received the information, you begin to process its meaning and gain more clarity, or asking questions or rephrasing parts of the message you heard to understand the key points.

Asking questions. Ask questions only to ensure understanding or about things that unclear. Asking open-ended questions provides the other person an opportunity to express their feelings and thoughts. For instance asking ‘how would you?’ rather than ‘can you?’ encourages them to expand their ideas. Restating key points as the conversation proceeds confirms that you understood their point of view and also confirms that two of you are on the same page. Sometimes your questions might lead the speaker astray, take responsibility and work your way back to the conversation. Not only asking questions provides clarity but also encourages to reflect on a thoughtful response and provides a different perspective furthering more communication. Paraphrasing the content of the message every now and then indicates that you understood the topic and improves your awareness within the conversation.

Remembering the key elements spoken is possible only by staying engaged or connected to what’s being said in a conversation. While listening for long stretches, concentrate on and remember key concepts or phrases. Make a mental model of what’s being communicated or arrange the small details or concepts into a central theme to easily grasp the incoming information.

Evaluating You can evaluate the information and prepare your response in this stage. Remember that while evaluating, you are still a listener and not a speaker. Relate to the main idea and sort the information based on facts or opinions. Look for any prejudices or biases. You can interpret as to whether any portions of the message, if any were exaggerated or what was their intent and accordingly you can come up with a response.

Responding is still a part of the listening process. After receiving, understanding, and evaluating of the listening process, you will be better prepared to address the important points with proper awareness of the context and with clear understanding of the speaker’s perspective. While responding, be clear of what part of the message you are addressing instead of repeating or completing their sentences. You can either share about a similar experience you had or you can introduce your ideas, suggestions or thoughts.

To conclude,

What do you do in a conversation? Are you more inclined to speak or listen? When you are listening, do you stay focused or does your mind wander? Do you ask questions with an intent to understand ? Can you keep yourself from interrupting or defending or saying anything for a while? Do you encourage others to express themselves or share their opinions freely?

In order to first speak, one must learn to listen. It is when you start to listen, you discover new possibilities. Each of the above stages take place naturally during our daily conversations in very short time. Even though listening is a simple process, it may take a while to become an effective listener, like any other skill, it takes time, patience and practice. Next time when you find yourself engaging in a conversation, use the above tips to improve your listening process and make yourself more conscious and aware of your moments in the conversation.