Thursday, November 14, 2019

Month in a Minute

Speaking at Tenable

It’s hard to believe the holidays are upon us, wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving. October included some great opportunities to network with some wonderful women across the country. I first had the pleasure of speaking at the Arizona Women’s Leadership Forum. This was my first year attending and I will definitely go again next year, the speakers were excellent and the attendees were an impressive group of businesswomen across the greater Phoenix area. I then went across the country to be part of the Women@Tenable event to share the key principles of SheQ – ways to leverage emotional intelligence for women. A timely article was published last month as well: Where Women Fall Behind at Work: The First Step Into Management. I think we have all been focused on improving the numbers of women at the top and achieving that is a slow process. This article highlights the value of doing something very achievable – promote as many women as men as first-time leaders. The article says that alone could create gender parity in the executive suite within one generation.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Great Divide: Our Inter-Generational Workplace

I remember watching the Superbowl one year with my daughter Annie. At the time she was 7-years-old, and after a few minutes she said to me, "They are just playing for fun, right?" and I said, "No, they are playing for real. They want to win." And she said, "But it's just a game so it doesn't matter who wins, right?" She was a soccer player on our town's recreational team, her team didn't keep score and everyone received a trophy at the end of the season; thus she thought all games were played that way.

This is a common mindset that we see in the generation who will be replacing the Baby Boomers. They are called Gen Y, Millenials or Trophy Kids.  The “everyone wins” philosophy poses some challenges in terms of how to best integrate younger talent with colleagues of other generations who see things very differently. 
Managing an Inter-Generational Workforce

We live during a unique time in workplace history. Walk into any business, and you might find three - sometimes four - generations working side by side: Millenials (born 1980-2000, also called Gen Y), Generation X (1965-1979), Baby Boomers (1943-1964), and Veterans or Silent Generation(pre-1942).

Research indicates that the generation in which an individual grew up influences his or her behaviors, motivators, expectations, and mindset about work. Consider the following vastly different factors.

And between generations, the outcome of those influences on an individual's work may be very different!

So how do you handle these differences in the workplace?

  • Focus on different benefits and aspects of the company in recruiting. When recruiting Boomers, focus on the company benefits and career paths. For Gen Xers focus on short term perks like gym memberships, flex time, monthly or quarterly bonuses, and cash incentives. Millenials care about the organization's commitment to being green, social networks available, community service opportunities, and the various places in the company in which they can work and learn.
  • Use a slightly different coaching approach for each generation. Offer formal training programs (including topics like flexibility, technology, and interpersonal skills) for Boomers. When coaching Gen Xers, discuss development ideas as peers, and then give them independence and empowerment to try new things. When coaching Millenials, allow them to work in teams, and give them specific and timely feedback on their performance.
  • Understand that different generations are motivated by different rewards. When possible, tailor your rewards to the individual who will receive it. For example, a Baby Boomer may prefer a small bonus or gift card, while a Millenial prefers an email thank you with a new, challenging assignment.
Remember that all employees, despite their generation, want to be treated fairly, managed with respect, and given an opportunity to grow.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Thanks for Being a Star. Now I Will Ignore You.

Thank goodness for our "A" players, the ones we count on and those who have stepped up in these lean times to go above and beyond. They are the "easy" ones because they are low maintenance (unlike those pesky low performers that are always setting fires that need to be extinguished). We don't need to babysit them, we don't need to micro-manage them. They know what they need to do and they do it so we can just leave them alone. Right?

Not so fast. In fact, a study done by LeadershipIQ revealed that 47% of high performers were actively looking for another job. Guess how many low performers were actively looking for another job? 17%!

What leadership behaviors unintentionally drive our high performers away? Check this list:

High performers are rewarded by being left alone.

It's a sign of praise and respect to leave someone alone, isn't it?  To tell someone, "I never have to worry about you" is a compliment, right?  Yes, but overused it turns into neglect and everyone, even high performers, want to know that their efforts are being seen and appreciated. Too often we bias our performance dialogue and coaching time to the low performers. Work to touch base with your superstars on a weekly basis.

High performers are given the toughest projects.

We throw the most difficult challenges to our top talent on a continuous basis, often without commensurate reward or recognition. In the worst cases, we ask them to clean up or finish work that the underperformers do not complete, which can lead to resentment. Avoid using your high performers as a constant source of catching up for those not pulling their weight.
We have unrealistic expectations of our high performers.

They are not allowed to have a bad day, complain, miss a deadline or make a mistake. 

We put a tremendous amount of pressure on them that is unrealistic and unfair. Give your "A" players room to not always be perfect and appreciate them for the effort.

They work the longest hours with the highest stress.

Left alone, your high performers are intrinsically driven to achieve and often put in long hours to meet your and their expectations. Unchecked, this can lead to serious burnout and health issues from stress. Tune into them and note when irritability or fatigue is taking a toll. Encourage time off, vacation days or mental health breaks.

They suffer from a lack of coaching and targeted development.

It's easy to assume that since they are a high performer, what more coaching or development can they need? Plenty. Most high performers want to continually improve, learn new things and hate to get bored. Consider ways to expand their scope of responsibilities, use them as mentors, involve them in cross-training, or onboarding of new employees.

Make a conscious effort to not ignore those that make you look good every day, even though they quietly work behind the scenes.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Month in a Minute

Speaking for a new organization and client, Keynote at NASBA, Seattle skyline from the Space Needle, 
While in Boston we had the pleasure of seeing our buddy, Jim Kimberly
September included travel to Boston, Seattle, Indianapolis and Columbus for several events. In Indianapolis, I was a keynote at the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy. It was a great audience made up of learning and development professionals that support the accounting field and we discussed the best ways to engage learners by using emotional intelligence. The conference was held at The Conrad and you know how much we travel and how many hotels we visit: I can tell you that this property was a stand-out. The location was great, and the rooms were amazing but that isn’t what made the experience there so memorable. It was the staff and their level of engagement across the board. We arrived late in the evening and wanted to see the ballroom and was greeted by a friendly and welcoming employee who was setting up the foyer. He shared with us many details about the hotel, said he had worked there for over a decade and loved his job. It happened again the next day when we chatted with a bellman who also provided some interesting information with us and again shared how much he enjoyed his job. From the concierge to the front desk staff, employee engagement was evident. We will definitely return to The Conrad on any future visits to the area and highly recommend it to others. The management there definitely has it figured out – impressed!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

The 5 Best Interview Questions Ever

Our firm specializes in an intensive and advanced methodology for interviewing and hiring employee's with Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and we are often asked if we could only ask five interview questions, what would they be? We like to do a solid assessment of technical skills and experience first, then focus one or two interviews just on their EQ. There are several areas to choose from, including Self-Awareness, Self-Control, Empathy, Flexibility, and Optimism. No one question will reveal all these competencies, but often one question will reveal the presence or absence of several of these skills. And one more reminder: we always recommend that organizations use the behavior-based technique when phrasing questions.  Simply....instead of hypothetical "What if" or "How would you handle" questions....ask for concrete past realities..."Tell me about a time when..." or "How have you handled in the past when...."

Okay, here we go:

1. "Describe a time when you were unfairly criticized and tell me what the details were."  This question is designed to uncover two things: the candidate's Self-Awareness and their definition of criticism. Be sure to get a specific example from them. The word "unfairly" is important to include as you will be assessing how justified the feedback they received was against their actions. Would a reasonable person think it was fair or unfair criticism? You also want to understand how sensitive they are to receiving negative performance information. Does the example they share represent criticism or feedback? What does your company culture provide most often - criticism or feedback? 

2.  "Think of a time when you had to work with a headstrong co-worker and tell me how you handled it."
Many candidates are concerned about sharing a weakness or failure. Interpersonal communication and proper conflict management skills are vital for team members and interviewers must do an effective job of validating skill levels in these areas. The power of this question is that it asks about someone else, giving the candidate permission to share struggles due to other personalities. It also gives you a chance to glimpse their empathy/understanding of they offer an indication of trying to understand better or help the person or just a superficial judgment based on self-centered reactions? I love to ask this question after a candidate tells me they have "great people skills."  

3. "Share with me the last time you went above and beyond the call of duty.   Tell me about the details and why you did it."
This question is designed to provide an understanding of what the candidate defines as extra effort. Is the example they share something you consider to be of substantial heroics or actions you would expect on a routine basis?  Knowing how recently it occurred will also reveal their level of engagement in the recent or distant past. Lastly, it will be critical to know what motivates this employee to work at peak performance. The hiring manager must ensure that the motivation drivers are present in the current workplace in order to match with the candidate, and not only that but it also reveals what will retain them in your company and whether they would be a fit for your leadership style (a biggy). See our blog - "Motivation Matching" for more on this. 

4. "When was the last time you had to act when there was no policy or formal procedure to do so?  Tell me what you did."
We always recommend that small companies ask this question, most of whom have little in the way of formalized policy and procedure manuals. This question helps you assess the candidate's comfort in "thinking on their feet" when they have come from a large organization or will be working in an environment with little direction or daily support.  Their response may indicate how much they will seek out and need direction from others versus working independently. In highly regulated or high-risk environments, the "right" answer may be a candidate who avoids working outside formal standards of conduct. 

5. "We have all had times when we unintentionally insulted or offended someone at work. Tell me about a time when this happened to you."
This is an excellent roll-up question because is reveals several EQ skills. Do they have the Self-Awareness to know when their behavior has a negative impact on someone else? Do they have the Empathy to see things from someone else's point of view? Do they have the Social Skill to work through conflict and maintain effective relationships? This question requires interviewer confidence and the tenacity to tough it out through uncomfortable silence or a candidate who tries to sidestep answering, but the benefit in doing so shows what you are made of and proves to the candidate who is really in control. 

This intensive interviewing approach is very different from most other interview classes you may have been to. Many of our participants have said that they always thought they knew how to interview but realize that they could be so much more effective for the first time.

Asking the right questions and a strategic approach can make hiring fun and no longer a nuisance to be avoided. We tend to enjoy what we're good at. Hiring is a skill that must be learned, so get out there and get what you need to do your very best and enjoy it along the way. If you are interested in more, we have a formal training workshop available on Strategic Interviewing for Emotional Intelligence, and a new webinar series with one entire session devoted to interviewing for emotional intelligence. Click here for more information on how to register for the webinars.

To learn more about Penumbra's interviewing and selection services, please visit our website at  

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Why Parents Should Be Concerned About Their Kids' "EQ," not Just IQ


This week we are sharing an article about an increasingly popular topic; EQ in children. Emotional intelligence is no different from any new skill, the earlier we begin to practice, the easier it is to deploy as an adult when the stakes are inevitably much higher.  This is a fantastic article James Paterson!   Thank you for exploring such an important topic.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Month in a Minute

Clockwise from top: Me and Steve at The Homestead Resort; View from Tetonia House, Idaho;  Our "fireplace chat"
August included two events that involved road trips in opposite parts of the country. Luckily, it was a lovely time of year so the road conditions were good and the scenery was beautiful. The first trip was to Hot Springs VA to work at The Homestead Resort which is the oldest hotel in America. It had a grand lobby with a high ceiling of wooden rafters and crown molding. It was a beautiful location in the mountains of western Virginia and provided a nice backdrop for a leadership retreat.

The other trip was to Eastern Idaho in the Grand Tetons, not far from Jackson Hole WY. As you can imagine, the views were breathtaking with the deep green valley and the snow-capped mountain tops. That was another great location for a small leadership retreat and we conducted a casual discussion next to a huge stone fireplace.

We also have an exciting announcement to make…
Introducing a new program, “The Emotional Intelligence Management Series for Senior Living." This is custom designed for busy managers in assisted living, skilled nursing, and senior care. If you are in the industry or know someone who is, we appreciate you checking it out!

Thursday, August 29, 2019

From Victim to Victor

A Franklin Covey study on productivity and effectiveness issues involving 11,045 U.S. workers, found that just 31% feel they can express themselves honestly and candidly at work and only 34% say they work together in a "win-win" atmosphere.  Overall, U.S. workers gave their organizations a score of 51 out of 100 for their lack of focus and execution on truly important goals.

Indeed, a sad statement for leadership at large.  But what is the message here about the employees themselves?  How many of these individual contributors made exerted efforts to impart change in their business culture or even in their immediate work environment?  Only 13% of those surveyed said they are extremely satisfied with the results of their work at the end of most weeks and only 30% take time to plan their work schedule every day.  

And a whopping 46% of those employees reported that they have more creativity, resourcefulness, intelligence, and talent than their job requires or allows.  Requires?  Allows?  So has it now become someone else's responsibility to not just proactively develop us but also to ensure we are applying ourselves in our own lives? This trend of employee passivity seems to be creating a work culture filled with overgrown kids and leaders who feel more like parents.  Sounds like another outbreak of The Victim Virus.

Challenge Fault-Finding Thinking

A victim blames others for their circumstances, creating a comfortable insulation from any responsibility they may bear for creating or allowing the conditions or events that happen in their life.  According to Locus of Control theory, a psychological and sociological concept, there are two types of people - internals, who attribute events to their own control, and externals (or "victims"), who attribute events in their life to external circumstances.

Due to assigning control outside themselves, externals tend to feel they have little power over their fate.  They often communicate this belief (subtly or obviously, consciously or subconsciously) in day-to-day communication.  As leaders, our greatest opportunity to convert externals into internals is by challenging this fault-finding thinking, each and every time.

Listen closely for times when they describe others as being barriers or challenges to their success but stop short of explaining what they intend to do about it.  Practice making this a "time-out" opportunity for you to share what you have observed and how victim thinking increases Office stress, decreases job satisfaction, and undermines their present and future goals.  Help them see the payoff for making it personal.  Highlight their strengths to give them the energy to break through into new ways of thinking.   

The Million Dollar Questions

Victor Frankl survived the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz by discovering the ultimate freedom: "to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."  Frankl explained, "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."

The most effective way to help someone overcome the victim-hood stronghold is to help them take back the power they have willingly given away by taking responsibility for every action and circumstance in their life.  Often this requires showing them how.   To do this, practice asking the Million Dollar Questions any time you encounter victim thinking:
  • "What IS within your control?"
  • "Are you a part of the problem or the solution?  How so?
  • "What can you contribute to help solve the problem?
  • "What is your role in creating what you want to see happen?"
  • "What can you learn from this setback or challenge?"
  • "Are you holding yourself accountable to the same expectations you hold for others?  How so?
Settle for surface responses and that's exactly what you will get.  Help them objectively think through their problems and challenges and extract the lessons to be learned.  While this may be uncomfortable at first, it will require less of your involvement as you create a pattern of positive confrontation and condition your team to focus on individual accountability.  Also, keep in mind that this requires an environment of trust in which the leader consistently models ownership behavior.

Through consistent accountability and proper modeling, you can end the cycle of whining and cultivate a culture that lives by the motto - "Although I may not be able to control my circumstances, I can always control my response."  

Thursday, August 22, 2019

7 Fantastically Underrated Feelings and Where to Find Them

This article was written by Sarah Fielding for To see the original article click here. Thanks, Sarah!

There's no denying that self-care is the buzzword on the block. But take it from your bank account: In today's world, self-care is hardly ever free — and sometimes these pastimes don't help your inner voice grow stronger.

So, let's talk the no-cost option that really gets to the root of feeling balanced on the regular. Let's get to feeling our feelings.

In a world where CBD seems to pay off, slowly getting to know your feelings can seem anti-productive. But hear us out: Exploring your emotional intelligence might help you quickly kick stress to the curb.

"Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize our feelings, emotions, and moods to better identify what we are feeling and why," says Jen Shirkani, keynote speaker and author of "Ego vs.EQ" and "Choose Resilience."

Shirkani emphasizes the importance of reading yourself. "By (doing that), we can channel our emotions to respond in healthy, intelligent ways rather than allowing our emotions to take over and undermine us."

Ready to get emotional with us? Here are the seven feelings that we've found make or break our self-care techniques.

It's amazing how much taking stock of your life and what you have can do for your self-care. And gratitude is more than a thank-you note to your body.

According to Grace Suh, a licensed mental health counselor based in New York, practicing gratitude actually means being humble in your thanks. That means really seeing the bigger picture and even reaching out to the people who helped you get there.

"Humbleness is the key in gratitude, having different perspectives in life, and being able to see the source of generosity or unearned privileges," Suh says.

Suh recommends going out into nature and breathing in the beautiful scenery found on Earth. Bring a journal and use the time to reflect on what things truly make you feel gratitude.

And we'll say it: A cheap, local pizza place totally counts.

To be empathetic is to be able to understand and share the feelings someone else carries. This moment of separation can be incredibly cleansing, but it doesn't work for everyone.
If you're more of an introvert or someone who recharges by being alone, you might not want to tap into your inner empath. Becoming too invested in someone else's situation can cause added stress, even if it's a good exercise in boundaries.

"Pay attention when communicating to how you're reacting and why and how those reactions are affecting your behaviors," Shirkani says. Being aware of what makes you tick is key to stopping empathy overload.

But if empathy rejuvenates you, there are ways to do it without worrying about being a burden to others or accidentally falling into a rabbit hole of emotional labor. The trick? Reading!

Digesting a character's story, the good and the bad, allows your brain a release. As the tension melts in the story, you might just feel yours go away, too. And maybe you'll even get a new perspective on your situation.

If a book is too long, we're also fans of stressing and rejoicing with Claire Saffitz as she conquers old-school treats in the "Bon App├ętit" video series "Gourmet Makes."

Hope is both an incredibly powerful emotion and a terrifying one. It's easy to quickly cross off hope with the expectation that we'll be let down. But that's giving hope a bad name.
"Despite trying circumstances, belief that things can change can actually motivate you to change. Hope is empowerment," Suh says.

Anyone who has continually exercised hope can tell you it's far worse to forego hope before the finish line is even in sight.

Suh recommends allowing yourself to be inspired and actually anticipate a positive future.

So keep a goal journal and write down the wildest, most outlandish dreams you can think of. You'll be surprised how, when you admit what you want, you find the ambition to achieve it.

The worst-case scenario is too often something your brain creates to stop you from going after what you hope for. Tell it to get lost — hope is here.

It can be easy to feel the need to put off any kind of self-care that feels time-consuming. But the point of pursuing self-care is having compassion for yourself.

Many times, self-care starts with finding compassion for your mind and body. You wouldn't push a friend who was burned out to do more, so why not respect yourself in the same way?

Then there's compassion for others.

Suh stresses the importance of remembering that you're not in this alone. Exploring the idea of what we can do for each other, from the small to the big, allows for a better life for everyone.

"Even small gestures like a smile or an encouraging word or simply listening to someone's problem can help us to be an ally, not an enemy," Suh says.

Can you guess whose opinion of what you do matters the most? Look in the mirror if you need a clue. Giving yourself validation for difficult decisions you've made and times you gave it your best is just as important as celebrating those #winning moments.

We forget that validation is also looking back at your life and simply giving yourself permission to be human.

"At the end of the day, spend some time reflecting on both positive and negative interactions and ask yourself what made them feel good or bad," Shirkani says. Being aware of how individual situations made you feel allows you to grow and take care of yourself.

Of course, you'll also seek validation from others — it's only natural. Being aware of who you're seeking it from and why can help you be better cared for.

While validation from others is rarely turned away, finding wholehearted love for yourself can go a long way toward removing the need for that validation.

It's about "feeling that you are enough despite what others say about you, having no doubt that you are enough," Suh says.

Of course, there are times you'll have doubts — you're human after all! But it's about being able to access that self-love when the doubt pops up.

In Brene Brown's book "The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are," she writes, "Wholehearted living is about engaging with our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, 'No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.'"

Practice telling yourself this first thing in the morning to start your day from a place of encouragement.

"We spend too much (time) thinking about what we are not, comparing ourselves with others on a daily basis," Suh says.

When it comes down to it, you are with yourself at all times. Through finding wholeheartedness, you may not always like yourself, but you can always love yourself.

Finally, we've gotten to the epitome of self-care: peace. When you think of feeling relaxed or being 100 percent at peace, where does your mind go?

Finding relaxation is different for everyone, and the most important thing to remember about self-care is that you completely deserve to do it.

The best way to self-care is to remember what inspires gratitude, empathy, hope, compassion, validation, wholeheartedness, and peace within you. What can you do that helps you preserve those feelings?

Whether it's putting your phone in airplane mode (with a heads-up to friends and family!), going hiking or having quality time with friends, you can find the right ritual for you.

Being in tune with your emotions allows you to coexist with them instead of feeling out of control. It's also an important foundation for being truly productive with self-care.

Sarah Fielding is a New York City-based writer. She covers social justice, mental health, health, travel, relationships, entertainment, fashion, and food.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Trust Thing

It’s been said that trust is like money: it's tough to get and easy to lose. But what does trust 
look like and how can you tell if there’s trust within your leadership, your team and your organization? It’s much easier to discern its absence than its presence. When trust is low, morale and profits follow. Other telltale signs are higher turnover, an overactive rumor mill, less innovation, and risk-taking, followed by lost customers. By contrast, high trust pays. Watson Wyatt Worldwide found that companies with trusted top executives posted shareholder returns 42 percentage points higher than those where distrust was the rule.

Sadly, trust in leadership is not the rule. According to Aon’s Loyalty Institute, less than half of the employees trusts their organizations' leaders overall. The challenge can be easier to address once it is defined. One definition of trust is: “a positive expectation that another will not act opportunistically.” Another is: “Confidence in and reliance on good qualities, especially fairness, truth, honor or ability.” Trust requires a mutual understanding and expectation of values, roles, and behavior. Can you say with certainty that you and your team share the same expectation of your role in their immediate work-life and career? Building trust means looking for what you may not want to see and finding what you may not want to know. Can you really afford not to?

What can you do to rebuild lost trust with teams or customers?

● Seek feedback: Leaders are often baffled by the lack of trust in their organizations. Multi-rater feedback instruments, such as a validated 360-degree assessment, can offer a reliable window into areas for improvement.
● Zero in on the issue: Is it personal mistrust, such as lost credibility, reliability or overindulged self-interest, or organizational mistrust, caused by unfulfilled promises, organizational misalignment or the unintended effects of rapid change?
● Acknowledge and plan: Once identified, openly acknowledge the specific issues and create a plan to close trust gaps.
● Raise the bar and follow-through: Whatever the initial issue, repair comes over time with overt and consistent behavior. Create higher expectations for trustworthy behavior and follow through.
● Watch it: Monitor the effort closely, repeating assessments within six months.

Trust is priceless and can even be a competitive advantage. Don’t assume you deserve it. As in all things, be deliberate about earning and maintaining organizational and personal trust.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Month in a Minute

Clockwise from left: Steve and me at the Lincoln Memorial; Me with Farhan Khan Co-Founder and CEO, Nate Underwood Co-Founder and President, and Amy Birkel COO of Heritage Communities; Steve and me with Corniece Keen-Brown AOC

In our business, summer is a slow time. Most organizations avoid scheduling workshops or events as so many employees take vacations and the end of the year seems luxuriously far away: there is lots of time to spend the budget dollars or get the programs completed that have been committed to. So, we had some downtime in July but I was able to visit a client we worked with years ago. A company called Heritage Communities, an owner/operator of assisted living communities in Nebraska, Iowa, and Arizona. The team there is wonderful and it was fun to see them again and see how much they have grown and succeeded.

Another highlight of the month was working in Washington DC. A few months ago, I gave a talk to the senior leaders of the Architect of the Capitol and they asked us to come back and deliver several half-day workshops for the rest of the employees. Don’t let the name of the agency fool you, I have learned they do much more than just architecture. The AOC is also responsible for the operations and management of the Capitol Visitors Center which receives 3-5million visitors per year. They also manage the Capitol Grounds and Arboretum. Then, of course, they preserve the antique buildings and offices that make up the Capitol campus. Steve and I had a little free time to do some sightseeing and visit some of the museums and monuments. I have visited the Capitol many times in the past, but no matter, I am continually in awe of the beauty of our nation and its history and the access to our government we enjoy as citizens.

Some of you know that I am the daughter of an Iranian American. My father was born in Tehran and came to the US as a foreign exchange student in 1958; he later naturalized in 1976. As the situation in Iran declined through the 1970s and 1980s and with some of his family still there, we had an inside understanding of what life is like with an unstable government and lack of personal freedoms.  We were raised to understand that voting is a privilege, not a right. We were taught that very few citizens in the world enjoyed the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and legal protection against discrimination so none of it should be taken for granted or be underappreciated. As a female of middle eastern descent, I was keenly aware of how women were treated in other parts of the world. We may not like what is happening with politics today or think that we have a lot to change about our policies, but there is no question in my mind that this is the best country in the world.