It's the last week of 2015, which means it's time to start looking ahead to next year. What will you accomplish? How much money will you make? Who will you impress? Those are good questions to ask, but the best way to start the year is by looking in the mirror and evaluate who you've become as a person and how you need to change. I'm not talking about a diet or a new exercise program. As you enter 2016, consider developing more character and empathy. Here's how.
1. Listen more intently
In conversations with friends, family, and co-workers, make an extra effort to set your phone down, look people in the eyes, and listen. Society has changed dramatically over the last ten years, and everyone is now punching on their devices at dinner meetings and on the bus. It also means everyone is "phubbing" (or half-listening). Break that trend.
Why it creates a better you: Listening is an act of submission; it shows you have empathy and know how to express concern. It also shows you are open to ideas, which is almost impossible to do when you are talking or checking the BuzzFeed app. It helps you re-define "better" as someone who listens, communicates, and shows an interest in others.
2. Stop dominating every conversation
Non-stop talking is a way to control conversations and push people away. It means you have a really hard time letting anyone else guide the conversation. Become more of an includer. Pause long enough in your conversations to let others have a voice.
Why it creates a better you: You might learn something if you let others speak. Even more importantly, you stop long enough in your one-way dialog to see that others can help you, guide you, and instruct you. A less domineering version of you will be one that has more friends, colleagues, investors, and business partners who can help you succeed.
3. Admit your mistakes
What does a better you look like? Someone who is less defensive. It sends people a message not to give you any advice or even bother with feedback because they know you will just jump in and defend yourself. That means you are stuck with that version of you.
Why it creates a better you: Feedback chisels away the rough parts of our personalities, skills, and behaviors. When you admit mistakes, you are playing a part in the chiseling process. Those who never admit mistakes don't actually improve. They can't see the parts that need help.
4. Give unedited feedback
There's an incredible power in giving people unedited (but still constructive, kind, and accurate) feedback. Make sure you feedback is actionable--the recipient should be able to do something about it. Make sure it is also measurable (e.g., you need to hit this number of sales leads by Friday) so you can discuss the outcome. If you give only a portion of the truth when you provide feedback, you do the recipient a disservice; that person can't act on your advice.
Why it creates a better you: It's interesting how the gift of feedback is something that gives back. You are correcting and adjusting; that helps you in the end. That sales manager who needs to come up with X number of sales leads and decides to take you up on the challenge will help you and the company succeed. Feedback is a tool for your own self-improvement.
5. Drop the "anger vibe"
Anger always creates a problem in the office. When you lose it and stomp around, it spawns other people who do the same thing. They model your behavior. Worse, they model your vibe. You create little anger clones that act like mirrors, reflecting back your own anger.
Why it creates a better you: You want to be someone who generates a positive vibe partly for the people in your office. They'll be much easier to be around. Honestly, it's even more important for you. Anger uses up a ton of energy; put that effort into more worthwhile activities.
6. Give responsibility
You can do it. Giving is the best way to develop character because it teaches you to have gratitude. Those who just hide their money away and horde it all for themselves just don't reap the true rewards of character, such as having friends who are committed to helping you and a deep sense of purpose.
Why it creates a better you: Giving creates a better version of you. Did you know that? It creates a sense of well-being. You have purpose and value beyond the number of zeroes in your bank account totals. By helping others, you suddenly become richer.