Tag - Marla Tomazin

Better listening skills can help your relationships

If you were asked, “Are you a good listener?” chances are you’d answer “yes.” Maybe you pride yourself on your ability to stay quiet even when you really want to interject, or maybe you believe that you give sound advice after hearing another person’s problem or dilemma. But according to Marla Tomazin, you might not be listening as well as you think. To illustrate what she means, Tomazin references an exercise she participated in during a mindfulness course.

“The exercise required each participant and a partner to take turns telling one another a story. The catch was that the listener couldn’t react at all. No smiling, nodding, changes in facial expression, hand gestures, verbal responses, etc.,” recalls Tomazin, who has been an image consultant for over 20 years after earlier experience in the fashion industry. She emphasizes holistic mind-body-spirit wellness when helping clients create a distinctive image.

“I was surprised by the impact this exercise had on me,” Tomazin continues. “I really felt heard, that my words were being fully considered but not judged. Not having to ‘play’ to the other person was incredibly freeing! The truth is, there’s a lot more to listening than ‘just’ letting people talk. Listening is actually a powerful skill that must be mindfully developed.”

Tomazin points out that when you truly listen to others, you give them the valuable gifts of respect, compassion, and acknowledgment. Becoming a good listener is an enhancement for your life, too—both personally and professionally.

“True listening strengthens your relationships, helps you to learn more, keeps you in the moment, and shows others how to effectively listen to you, too,” she says.

Here, Tomazin offers eight tips to help you cultivate the art of listening:

Eliminate distractions. Your physical environment can play a large role in how well you’re able to listen to other people. For instance, the hustle and bustle of a crowded restaurant might impact your focus and even your ability to hear your companion clearly.

“It’s not always possible, of course, but if you know that a conversation is important, be proactive about removing anything that might distract you from being totally present,” Tomazin advises. “Go to a quiet place, mute your cell phone, and turn off the television.”

Turn off your mental track. Try to turn off the constant chatter in your head while the other person speaks. Don’t think ahead to formulate a response or try to figure out how to “fix” his problem, as this will distract you from being in the moment. Just listen.

“This will take some practice, since it probably goes against your habits and instincts!” Tomazin points out. “Whenever you notice your own thoughts racing ahead or getting off topic, consciously switch your attention to what your companion is saying. Try to engage not only your ears, but also your heart and mind, in fully understanding what is being said. Remember, a conversation in which you are primarily a listener is not about your own needs and desires, but the other person’s.”

Be still. We are all familiar with the concept of an “animated speaker.” Most of us don’t think about animated listeners, but they exist too! Over the course of your next few conversations, pay attention to the other person’s body language as you talk: arm movements, facial expressions, shifting positions, etc. These things aren’t always, but can be, distracting.

“Especially when the conversation is serious or important, try to keep your nonverbal reactions to a minimum,” Tomazin recommends. “You may find it helpful to clasp your hands in your lap and keep your eyes focused on a particular spot, such as the speaker’s face.”

Restate what you heard. Especially when something important is being discussed, make sure that you understood (as opposed to simply heard) what was said. Even if you have been doing your best to keep your ego out of the way, it’s still possible that you’ve misunderstood.

“Once the other person has stopped speaking, confirm that you are both on the same page,” Tomazin says. “For example, you might say, ‘So, what you’re telling me is that you think your boss has been avoiding you and you’re afraid you might be laid off, correct?’ Or, ‘You aren’t sure how to resolve the argument you’re having with your spouse and you would like to hear my insights, is that right?’”

Save your stories. When someone tells you a story, it’s human nature to want to fire back with your own. You know how it goes: “That’s so funny, because the same thing happened to my cousin one time…” Or, “I know exactly what you mean, because I was in a similar situation several years ago at my former job…”

“Suppress the impulse to respond this way, because it swings the conversation back to you,” Tomazin points out. “You may think you are connecting by finding common ground, but from the other person’s perspective, you’re downplaying the issues or concerns she has just laid on the table. Instead, stay focused on the point your companion is trying to make or the problem she is experiencing.”

Ask how you can help. Especially if you’re talking to a friend or loved one who is going through a difficult time, you may want to find a solution or lessen the other person’s pain. However, keep in mind that sometimes what people need most is to unload and be heard, not to be fixed. That’s why Tomazin recommends explicitly asking the other person what he wants from you after he has finished talking. If your companion asks for your help or advice, give it. But don’t be surprised if you hear, “I just needed someone to listen. Thank you.”

“Engaging with other people’s feedback, especially when you’re upset, worried, or emotional, is exhausting,” comments Tomazin. “In my personal life, I find that I’m most honest and transparent with friends who just listen.”

Be honest. From time to time, you may find yourself listening to someone who has the facts wrong or who is out of line. If this person asks for your feedback, how should you respond, knowing that she won’t like what you have to say?

“It’s not always easy, but part of being a good listener is being honest,” Tomazin confirms. “You can’t condone the other person’s bad behavior or lie to them just to keep the peace. Be gentle, but tell the truth. In most cases, the other person will ultimately respect you for your honesty.”

Keep it to yourself. Even if you think a conversation wasn’t important, be careful about whom you share it with. One of the most important aspects of listening is being trustworthy.

“This point may seem obvious, but the truth is, it’s often all too easy for your mouth to get ahead of your mind in conversations,” Tomazin states. “And once you’ve developed a reputation as a gossip, it’s hard to repair. That’s why it’s important to stay mindful even after you’ve finished speaking with a particular person. You need to demonstrate that your friends and loved ones can feel safe with you, that you won’t spread their concerns around your social circle or judge them.”

“Overall, keep in mind that the art of listening revolves around being interested, not interesting,” Tomazin concludes. “When another person is confiding in you, your primary role is not to be entertaining or even to offer solutions—it’s to show your companion consideration and respect.”

About Marla Tomazin:

Marla Tomazin, Certified Image Consultant, established her image consulting business in 1990 with the goal of helping clients identify an authentic image and develop its effective expression. From a successful career in the fashion industry, Marla gained expertise in retail buying, merchandising, sales, and marketing. She began with May Company in Denver after earning a B.S. in Marketing from the University of Denver. Marla moved to New York where she worked with several well-known Seventh Avenue design firms. As she developed her business skills, Marla made a serendipitous discovery—an innate sense of style and facility for working with fabrics and colors to maximum advantage.

The progression to Certified Image Consultant was a natural transition. Marla utilizes her abilities in evaluating body shape, movement, and coloring as well as synthesizing optimal cuts, lines, colors, and textures. This results in balance and proportion that accentuate attributes and conceal flaws. Because Marla believes that a positive image is conveyed through self-confidence and honoring oneself, she emphasizes holistic mind-body-spirit wellness throughout the process of creating each client’s distinctive image. Her clients include women, men, and corporations seeking external revitalization that mirrors their internal development.

Marla has appeared on numerous TV and radio stations and programs, including 12 on the Money, Telemundo, and Remarkable Woman, and recently presented at New York City’s Cosmopolitan Club.

For more information, please visit www.marlatomazin.com.

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7 Tips for Reducing Your Stress

Everyone goes through rough spots in life—it’s an unfortunate but unavoidable fact. You might feel worried about an upcoming move, overwhelmed as you try to deal with an illness in your family, or anxious about a looming project at work. Maybe you’re simply worn down by the never-ending stress and relentlessly hectic pace of modern life. If so, you’re not alone.

“I can sympathize—I went through a rough spot myself recently,” says Marla Tomazin, who has been an image consultant for twenty years after earlier experience in the fashion industry.

“Due to several different factors, I was extremely busy for several months,” she explains. “When I’m under pressure, I become stressed (no surprise there, I imagine!) and feel ‘wired,’ meaning that I go to sleep later at night and wake up early each morning. And, of course, because I’m perpetually tired, I tend to worry more about significant and insignificant things. Not a very healthy cycle to be caught in.”

After one particularly crazy day, Tomazin says, it occurred to her that she should take her own advice.

“When I’m working with clients, I focus not just on outward appearance but on the whole mind-body-spirit connection,” she shares. “I always urge my clients to take care of and honor themselves in all situations, but especially when life is chaotic. If you don’t focus on your own well-being when times are tough, you won’t have the mental, emotional, or physical energy you need to change external circumstances for the better, either.”

Here, Tomazin shares a few taking-care-of-yourself strategies that have been helpful to her, and that you can put into practice to help you make it through the next rough spot in your life, too.

Realize things will get better. When you’re in the midst of a tough time, it’s easy to believe that things will never change. But sooner or later, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how you feel right now, the truth is that you won’t be stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed for the rest of your life.

“Think back on past obstacles you’ve overcome to give yourself motivation to press on and ask a trusted friend or family member to help you put your current struggle into perspective,” Tomazin suggests. “This last strategy is particularly effective because not only will sharing your burden help to lighten it; the other person might be able to help you think of solutions you were unable to see on your own.”

Hydrate. Drinking water might seem a little odd at first glance, but it’s actually one of the best things you can do to keep yourself looking and feeling good when you’re under stress. Staying hydrated helps you stay energized, ensures that your body operates optimally, and can even improve the appearance of your skin (a welcome gift when you’re worried and tired!).

“Personally, I drink a quart of water every morning, and I carry a bottle with me throughout the day,” Tomazin says. “I can tell that it makes a difference!”

Exercise. Working out is often the last thing you want to do when life is tough. (Flopping onto the couch probably sounds a lot more attractive!) But the truth is, even a little bit of physical activity can work wonders in terms of how you feel. Exercise makes you feel more capable mentally and physically. It can help you sleep better, reduce feelings of stress, and even relieve symptoms of depression as effectively as medication.

“In other words, a half-hour at the gym or a walk around the block is one of the best decisions you can make,” Tomazin asserts. “That’s why, no matter how busy or unmotivated I am, I commit to working out at least two days a week.”

Give yourself credit. When you’re upset or worried about one aspect of your life, those feelings can easily spill over into your general attitude and outlook. You start looking at your whole life through a negative lens, and you might start to focus on the mistakes you’ve made and the things you could have done better.

“If that sounds familiar, stop!” Tomazin urges. “Think of one, or two, or ten or twenty things you’ve done well in the recent past and give yourself credit for accomplishing them. Remember, nobody is even remotely close to perfect. Don’t make a tough situation even worse by remaining your own worst critic.”

Prioritize. Especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, it’s tempting to fixate on each shiny ball that rolls past instead of directing your energy and attention to the problem at hand. When your efforts are scattered, though, nothing gets done, and you end up feeling even more frazzled than you did at first. Remember, you can focus only on one or two big goals at a time, no matter how adept you are at multitasking.

“As you work through the next rough spot in your life, sit down and decide what is most important to you,” Tomazin recommends. “If spending time with your family is at the top of your list, for example, put them first and consciously make sure that other things remain on the back burner.”

Say no. Many of us have trouble saying no for a variety of reasons: We don’t want to let others down, we don’t want to be seen as weak, we’re afraid to refuse, etc. However, until you learn to say no when you need to, you’ll never be in the driver’s seat of your own life, and it will be more difficult to steer yourself out of draining, stressful situations.

“Realize that you don’t have to do it all—nor should you,” Tomazin points out. “You don’t have to make every decision, supervise every person’s schedule, chair every event, host every party, and come to the rescue every time something goes wrong. Again, decide ahead of time what’s most important to you and prioritize those things. Then you can feel okay about saying no to some of the rest and focus on working toward your own well-being.”

Take time for yourself. Whether the current demands on your energy and time are coming from your family, your job, your friends, your finances, or something else, it’s important to “get away” every so often—literally or at least metaphorically.

“To make sure that you don’t become too drained and burned out, do something for yourself,” Tomazin urges. “Maybe it’s sitting down to enjoy a cup of coffee in the midst of running errands, locking the bathroom door and taking a bubble bath, reading a motivational book during your lunch break, or going on a walk through the park. When you unwind and take a breather, your perspective will stay clearer and your stress will be more manageable.”

“In the end, you can’t avoid going through rough times in life, but you can decide how to respond to them,” Tomazin concludes. “Remember that your own health and sanity are paramount, and most of all, have confidence that the sun will emerge from behind the clouds soon!”

About Marla Tomazin:

Marla Tomazin, Certified Image Consultant, established her image consulting business in 1990 with the goal of helping clients identify an authentic image and develop its effective expression. From a successful career in the fashion industry, Marla gained expertise in retail buying, merchandising, sales, and marketing. She began with May Company in Denver after earning a B.S. in Marketing from the University of Denver. Marla moved to New York where she worked with several well-known Seventh Avenue design firms. As she developed her business skills, Marla made a serendipitous discovery—an innate sense of style and facility for working with fabrics and colors to maximum advantage.

The progression to Certified Image Consultant was a natural transition. Marla utilizes her abilities in evaluating body shape, movement, and coloring as well as synthesizing optimal cuts, lines, colors, and textures. This results in balance and proportion that accentuate attributes and conceal flaws. Her clients include women, men, and corporations seeking external revitalization that mirrors their internal development.

For more information, please visit www.marlatomazin.com.

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Do a Spring Cleaning on Your Body, Mind and Soul

As the temperatures rise and the flowers start to bloom, do you catch the spring cleaning bug? If so, you’re not alone. When the bright, warm rays of spring sunlight begin to finally stream through our windows, most of us feel the urge to make sure everything in our homes is fresh, shiny, and dirt-free. But this year, don’t stop with sponging the baseboards, dusting off the shelves, and washing your windows. Take this opportunity to clean out your life, too!

“Think about it this way: Just as it’s easy for dust and clutter to accumulate (relatively) unnoticed during the short, dark days of winter, it’s also easy for bad habits, poor outlooks, and unhealthy relationships to pile up in your life,” says Marla Tomazin, who has been an image consultant for twenty years after earlier experience in the fashion industry. “If you don’t make a conscious effort to detox, these things will continue to hold you back and weigh you down.”

Tomazin says that there’s no better time than during the renewal of spring to refresh your mind, body, and soul. Here, she shares six ways to breathe fresh springtime air into your life:

Clean your closet. A messy closet is a metaphor for a messy life. For many people, a reluctance to change something as simple as the contents of a closet is a symptom of a bigger problem. Maybe you’re afraid of change and what the future holds. Maybe you just ended a romantic relationship and are clinging to the past. Maybe you’re dissatisfied with your life overall and don’t feel ready to take the initiative to change it. Whatever the case may be, it’s time to stop procrastinating. Decluttering the spaces in your home will help declutter your life.

“I promise, there’s something really refreshing about walking into a clean, organized closet,” Tomazin comments. “It will make your mornings less stressful by cutting down on the time it takes to rifle through and find the perfect outfit for the day. And when you look good, you’ll feel good. First, get rid of any clothes that are old or worn, that don’t fit, that you never wear, or that don’t honor you and your lifestyle. Ask a friend for help if you want an outside perspective. Then, organize what’s left and treat yourself to a few new pieces that embody the blooming spirit of spring.

“This is also a good time not only to give your closet a good scrub down, but also to evaluate your wardrobe,” Tomazin adds. “Your winter coats, wool scarves, and other cold weather items should be packed away until the fall to make room for floral prints and pastels.”

Get some fresh air. Unless you’re fortunate enough to live in a location where it’s balmy all year round, you’ve probably been cooped up inside during the cold, icy winter months. Welcome the sunshine and springtime air by taking a walk (or run!) outside a few times a week.

“Not only will this help you clear your mind and make you feel more energized, it will also aid in shedding some of those unwanted pounds we all put on during the cold winter months,” Tomazin says. “And as a special bonus, if you’re anything like me, seeing the beautiful colors of blooming flowers and trees will put you in a great mood for the whole day.”

Do some weeding. You know how a few weeds can ruin the beauty and health of a flowerbed…and also how quickly they can spread. Well, people are the same way. Individuals who are critical, mean-spirited, jealous, or just plain negative can spoil your own happiness and even infect you with their poor outlooks. It won’t be easy or enjoyable, but it is important to evaluate the relationships in your life.

“Think especially about your friends: Are they supportive or snide?” Tomazin asks. “Do you feel energized when you spend time with them, or drained? Are compliments genuine or backhanded? If your friendship with a certain person isn’t enriching, back away. Choose to spend time with people whom you genuinely like and who make you feel good. Life is too short to spend time with people you don’t enjoy.”

Set healthy boundaries. Moving away from toxic people is a good start when it comes to filling your life with healthy relationships…but don’t stop there! With everyone in your life—even with people who make you feel good and who have your best interests at heart—it’s important to set healthy boundaries. In other words, you need to be clear about what you need and what you expect from others.

“Let people know what’s important to you; for instance, say, ‘My birthday is something I really look forward to, and it’s important to me that we celebrate it as a family,’” Tomazin says. “Learn how and when to say no. Don’t let yourself be bullied or guilted into overcommitting and overextending yourself. Lastly, stop making excuses for other people; for instance, I’ll overlook that comment—that’s just how she is. If you don’t set clear boundaries like these, even good relationships can turn sour and become weighed down by resentment. But when you’re up-front about what’s best for you—in a kind way, of course—you’ll enjoy more authentic, mutually beneficial relationships.”

Get rid of bad habits. Chances are, you can name several of your bad habits off the top of your head, and some focused thought would probably reveal a few more. Maybe you’re always running late, or you’ve been overspending lately. Perhaps you tend to procrastinate on big projects until the last minute, or you stuff yourself with junk food when you’re stressed. The truth is, we all have bad habits. And here’s the good news: You can change them! You can consciously improve your reactions, change your routines, and become healthier—mentally, emotionally, and physically.

“For this spring cleaning project, pick one bad habit—something that causes you a lot of stress would be a good choice,” Tomazin suggests. “Then design a game plan that will enable you to kick it once and for all. For instance, if you’re always dragging into work late, you might set out your clothes and pack your lunch the night before, wake up 15 minutes earlier, and refrain from turning on the TV until after you’re showered and dressed. You’ll probably find that in most instances, bad habits really aren’t that difficult to scrub out of your life. Summoning the motivation to change and taking that first step are the hardest parts!”

Plant yourself in something new! If you want a flower to bloom as beautifully as possible, you make sure it’s planted in nutrient-rich soil and placed in a spot with just the right amount of sunlight, warmth, and water. The same principle will hold true for you, too. You’ll blossom when you’re doing things that make you feel happy and fulfilled.

“As the days get longer, take this opportunity to finally sign up for that art class you’ve been dying to try, for example, or attend a hot yoga session with a friend,” Tomazin recommends.

“Overall, as you work to spring clean your life, I advise you to simply be aware,” Tomazin concludes. “Be aware of what feels good and what doesn’t, of what’s healthy and what isn’t, of what makes you happy and what makes you sad. Try to pay attention to areas of your life that you normally take for granted and ask yourself, Is this working? Does it honor the person I am right here and right now? You may be surprised by how much dead weight has been holding you back…and by how quickly you bloom when it’s gone!”

About Marla Tomazin:
Marla Tomazin, Certified Image Consultant, established her image consulting business in 1990 with the goal of helping clients identify an authentic image and develop its effective expression. From a successful career in the fashion industry, Marla gained expertise in retail buying, merchandising, sales, and marketing. She began with May Company in Denver after earning a B.S. in Marketing from the University of Denver. Marla moved to New York where she worked with several well-known Seventh Avenue design firms. As she developed her business skills, Marla made a serendipitous discovery—an innate sense of style and facility for working with fabrics and colors to maximum advantage.

The progression to Certified Image Consultant was a natural transition. Marla utilizes her abilities in evaluating body shape, movement, and coloring as well as synthesizing optimal cuts, lines, colors, and textures. This results in balance and proportion that accentuate attributes and conceal flaws. Her clients include women, men, and corporations seeking external revitalization that mirrors their internal development.

For more information, please visit www.marlatomazin.com.

Read more...