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Eating Lunch at the Office is Complicated — Where and How to Eat When You Bring Your Own Lunch

Eating Lunch at the Office is Complicated -- Where and How to Eat When You Bring Your Own Lunch


Eating lunch is an important part of any professional’s day. It is not only necessary to keep healthy but it guarantees you have enough energy to remain productive for the rest of the afternoon. According to a 2017 survey by Tork, it also increases how much a person loves their job, especially among Canadians.

Still, many people, including IT contractors, get sucked into a project and completely lose track of time. Before you know it, it’s almost time to go home and you haven’t eaten anything since breakfast.

One way around skipping lunch is to bring your own mid-day meal. When you do suddenly bring your head-up from your computer and realize it’s time to eat, you aren’t burdened with the time it takes to leave the office, order your food, wait for it to be ready, eat and come back. On top of the time you save, eating lunch at the office is often a healthier diet choice and will also save you money. It seems, nothing is simple today, though, and bringing your own lunch leaves you with more considerations.

Eating Lunch at Your Desk

Whether you work from a home office or a client site, there are multiple options where you might choose to eat it. A lunchroom, a cafeteria, or outside are all stress-free, neutral environments. However, many of us stick with eating at our desk so we can continue to work, ignoring the many studies and experts advising against it for both health and productivity reasons.

Continual sitting is bad for your health, whereas moving around, socializing and getting sunshine are all proven to be good for your mental and physical health. Moreover, productivity experts will tell you that multi-tasking does not increase productivity (but actually reduces it) and taking time to relax does increase your productivity. Even if you’re not “working” while eating at your desk, just being present is a pass for clients and colleagues to interrupt your break and take away from that important relaxation time. Independent contractors have another dilemma when they mix lunch breaks and work — how will you bill? Because you’re eating, your client is not getting 100% of your time and will not appreciate being asked to pay for it.

For more tips on this topic, check out this article about how IT contractors can take better breaks.

Etiquette of Eating in the Office

When you bring your own lunch to the office, should you choose to eat at your desk or somewhere else, there remains etiquette to be followed.  At a minimum, follow the same rules you were taught by your parents — don’t chew loudly, slurp your drinks, or eat food that falls on the floor. There are also some codes of conduct that are unique to office settings:

  • Don’t hog resources. It is inconsiderate to take up excessive amounts of fridge space and if your meal requires 10 minutes to heat up in the microwave, prepare it during off-peak hours.
  • Speaking of off-peak hours, if you do decide to eat at a time when most others are working, be respectful and minimize distractions. Be extra quiet while preparing, eating and cleaning up after yourself.
  • That’s right, you must clean up after yourself. That includes inside the microwave after an explosion or the fridge after a spill, to avoid messes from getting old and smelly.
  • Smells are a controversial debate around many offices. This Monster article advises you stick with plain foods with few spices and avoid the common offenders such as onion, garlic, tuna and sardines. However, in this Kitchn post, etiquette expert Kirsten Schofield says you should eat what you want. Everything smells bad to somebody so don’t fret too much.
  • In that same post from The Kitchn, Schofield also warns against judging or commenting on people’s food choices at any level. “It’s irrelevant, it’s mean, and you can rapidly get into class/religion/ethnicity/gender/medical history stuff and hit a professional third rail,” she says.

Are we over-thinking something as simple as eating lunch at work… maybe. But you can be certain that if we found this much information on the topic, clients, contractors and employees you work with will also find it relevant. What problems have you run into while eating lunch at the office?

IT Industry News for October 2019

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee, Co-Founder of Eagle

This post first appeared on the Eagle Blog on November 6th, 2019

Tech News HeaderThis is my 30,000-foot look at events in the ICT industry for October 2019. What you see here is a précis of the monthly report I produce, which will be available in more detail at the News section of the Eagle website, where you will also find back issues.

A Little History of October in previous years …

Five years ago, in October 2014, we saw a new trend, with two public companies both choosing to split into smaller entities.  HP announced it was creating a business service-HP logofocused Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and personal computing & printer company HP Inc.  Symantec also chose to split into two independent public companies, one focused on business and consumer security products, the other on its information management portfolio.  Other interesting news saw IBM pay $1.5 billion to GlobalFoundries so it would take away its money losing semiconductor manufacturing business.  NEST bought competitor Revolv; EMC bought three cloud companies: The Cloudscaling Group, Maginatics and Spanning Cloud Apps; and in Korea, Kakao and Daum merged to form a $2.9 billion internet entity.

October 2015 brought some big deals with the biggest seeing Dell offer $26 billion to buy storage company EMC.  Interestingly an EMC subsidiary, VMWare, was also out shopping, picking up a small email startup, Boxer.  In another deal involving “big bucks”, Western dell logoDigital paid $19 billion for storage competitor Sandisk.  IBM were also writing a big cheque, paying $2 billion in a big data/internet of things play for The Weather Network (minus the TV operations), and IBM also picked up a storage company, Cleversafe.  Cisco paid $522.5 million for cybersecurity firm Lancope; LogMeIn paid $110 million for LastPass; Trend Micro paid $350 million for next generation intrusion prevention systems company HP Tippingpoint; Red Hat picked up deployment task execution and automation company Ansible; Vasco Data Security paid $85 million for solution provider Silanis; and Apple bought a speech processing startup, VocalIQ.  As industries converge it was interesting to see Securitas pay $350 million for Diebold’s US Electronic Security business.

Three years ago, in October 2016, there was not a lot of M&A action but Qualcomm paid $47 billion for NXP Semiconductor.  The only other sizable deal saw Wipro pay $500 million for IT cloud consulting company Appirio.  Google picked up Toronto-based video marketing startup FameBit and Pivot Technology Solutions picked up Ottawa based Teramach.

Cisco logoIn October 2017, Cisco paid $1.9 billion for Broadsoft to improve Cisco’s software capabilities.  The only other significant deal saw Telus beef up its service provider capability with a $250 million purchase of Xavient.

Last year, October 2018 was an interesting month, with some significant M&A activity and the sad passing of yet another tech pioneer, Paul Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with Bill IBM logoGates.  On the M&A front, IBM paid $34 billion for Red Hat to increase its game in the cloud systems arena.  In the red hot cybersecurity space PE company, Thoma Bravo paid $2.1 billion for Imperva.  Twillio also shelled out $2 billion to acquire email company SendGrid rounding out their API offerings. Other deals saw Honeywell bolster its IoT offerings, paying $493 million for Transnorm; Palo Alto Networks is paying $173 million for security startup Redlock; Computacentre paid $70 million for FusionStorm to grow its consulting business in North America; GTT Communications paid $40 million for Access Point to add to its network; and Fortinet paid $18 million for ZoneFox to improve its threat analytics capability.  There was plenty more M&A activity with big names involved.  Some of them included: Google (chatbot company Onwards); Accenture (DAZ systems); DXC (agodesign); Samsung (Zhilabs); CapGemini (June 21); and NTT Data (Sierra Systems).

Which brings us back to the present …

There was plenty of activity in October 2019The economy, while slowing down some, is still quite robust in the US and employment figures around the world are generally positive.  Reports continue to suggest things will weaken in 2020 but the threat of a recession seems reduced, always bearing in mind that the ongoing trade wars are not helping.

There were numerous reports of the skills shortage, in the US and elsewhere in the world.  Couple that with a report suggesting that tech jobs are going to become even more in demand there is a need to guide more students towards tech.

On the M&A side, activity was brisk with the largest deal happening in the robust data Intel logocenter space, Digital Realty paying $8.4 billion for Interxion.  There was also a smaller data centre deal that saw Equinix pay $175 million for 3 data centres from Axtel; and another datacenter deal involving ServerFarm buying SNINES.  Another big dollar deal saw private equity company Thoma Bravo offer $3.4billion for security platform company Sophos.  Big name companies out shopping included Intel buying Pivotal’s Edge Computing platform; Accenture bought Bow & Arrow, a company that helps its clients find new markets;  Microsoft bought Mover, a  company that helps clients move to the cloud; and Telus is paying $700 million for ADT’s Canadian Security Services business.  Some other deals included network company Cienna buying performance and analytics form Centina; Sailpoint paying $37.5 million for two cloud security startups; Tech Data buying DLT Systems; and Trend Micro buying security company Cloud Conformity.

Microsoft logoOther companies making news include Microsoft, who are grappling with an activist employee base contesting their government work; HP Inc. who announced significant layoffs; and Oracle who are going to be on a hiring binge.

That’s what caught my eye over the last month.  The full edition will be available soon on the Eagle website.  Hope this was useful and I’ll be back with the November 2019 industry news in just about a month’s time.

Walk Fast and Smile

Is That Job Too Good to Be True?

Is That Job Too Good to Be True?


Scammers’ intelligence is growing exponentially and nobody is safe from their activities. While it’s common to hear about less tech-savvy people losing out, there are also plenty of examples of even the most cautious organizations being caught off-guard. In 2019 alone, multiple Canadian municipalities got stung. The City of Ottawa lost $128K, the City of Burlington was out $503K and Saskatoon lost $1 million!

Scams can have devasting effects, from losing lifesavings to having your entire identity stolen, and they come in multiple forms. As a job seeker, it’s especially important to remain vigilant when applying for jobs, as thieves can steal your personal information and destroy your world before you can blink. There are a number of these types of scams floating around the internet and, while fewer target IT contract job opportunities specifically, it’s still wise to recognize these warning signs:

  • A job posting or email looks extremely unprofessional, with too many errors or using a free email address (ex. Gmail or Yahoo).
  • You get contacted about a job to which you don’t remember ever applying, or even uploading your resume to where the recruiter claims they found it.
  • The recruiter asks for your personal information way too early in the job application process
  • You’re required to pay money up-front just to be considered.
  • The hiring manager offers you the job almost immediately, after just a few emails and a glance at your resume.
  • The job opportunity is too good to be true.

Many of these postings may still be legitimate. Recruiters have creative ways to find resumes of talented people, so it is not uncommon for them to contact you about a job, right out of the blue. It just means they’re impressed by your experience and want to learn more. In other cases, a job opportunity might appear to be unprofessional because the poster is inexperienced or in a rush (a sign that you can bring them value!)

When a job posting has too many red flags or your gut just isn’t feeling right about it, do not apply. But, if you are interested and believe it could be something great, here are some extra steps you can take:

  • Review the LinkedIn profile of the person or company who posted the job to see their experience and connections.
  • Check the URL of the job posting and confirm it is actually with the company the say they are. Look for weird spellings like “Gogle” instead of “Google” or somebody creating false subdomain like “eagleonline.supergreatjobs.co. Just because their logo is visible, it doesn’t make the website real.
  • Go directly to the organization’s website that you know is legitimate by typing in the URL directly or through a Google Search. Review that website to see if the job in question is actually posted and look for a physical address to cross-reference on a map.
  • Pick up the phone or show up at their office to speak to the recruiter directly. It’s too easy to be duped through email or instant messaging.

Canada’s Anti-Fraud Centre provides more information about common job scams, as well as all other types of fraudulent activities. For more information or to report a scam, that is a great place to start. Happy job hunting… be careful out there!

5 Ways Independent IT Contractors Can Reduce Their Carbon Footprint

5 Ways Independent IT Contractors Can Reduce Their Carbon FootprintAs climate change continues to dominate headlines as a leading cause of natural disasters, climate irregularities, and other concerning trends, people around the world are taking note and doing what they can to help slow it down. If you believe climate change is man-made and want to continue doing your part to minimize the effects, then you are probably already working to reduce your carbon footprint, or at least thinking about it.

A person’s carbon footprint is a measurement of how much carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere as a result of their own activities. By nature, IT contractors, and generally most people in the gig economy, have opportunities to significantly lower their carbon footprints. If you’re looking to do a little bit more, here are 5 ways an independent contractor can help the environment (you may find you’re already doing more than you realize):

1. Telecommute as Much as Possible

Riding a bike or public transportation are both responsible ways to lower a carbon footprint, but they are not always feasible depending on the distance between your home and client. Though your client may have some preferences about how much you’re at their site, independent contractors are not tied to specific office hours. Having a home office allows you minimize how much you’re in the car, only driving (and dealing with traffic) if you must be at the client’s building for important face-to-face meetings or to deal with items that cannot be taken offsite.

2. Schedule Meetings and Errands Efficiently

Of course, you can’t be a hermit and must leave the house some times. Planning efficiently will not only save you time but also reduce your carbon footprint with fewer trips. Try to coordinate recruiter interviews in the same area of town on the same day. If you must be in the client’s office, take care of other personal items while you’re in the area and avoid the trip on the weekend.

3. Ditch the Desktop Computer

Desktop computers certainly have their advantages, but they also require more energy to operate. Switching to a laptop, as well as using your cell phone when possible, minimizes the amount these larger power-suckers have to run. It’s also more convenient for you!

4. Avoid Paper Whenever Possible

We live in an electronic world and excessive use of paper is rarely necessary anymore. Rather than printing a document for somebody to review, could you email it or share it through the cloud? What about payments, invoicing and time tracking with your staffing agency? If any of that’s still happening by paper, ask how you can switch to electronic.

5. Watch What You Eat

Reducing paper waste is beneficial, but reducing all waste will have a greater impact on reducing your carbon footprint. Lunches at work are a major cause of unnecessary waste. If you bring your lunch, put it in re-usable containers instead of packaging that will end up in the garbage. If you prefer take-out, encourage your favourite restaurant to switch to more environmentally-friendly packaging. Some environmental enthusiasts also encourage ideas like “Meatless Mondays” which follow the concept that meat industries produce high amounts of carbon emissions.

There are a number of simple things everyone can do to help reduce their carbon footprint if they’re so inclined. How much or how little you decide to do is a personal decision. While it’s okay to encourage others to do their part, it’s also important to remember that a political discussion at the client’s office can have negative consequences on your contract. “Preaching” too much about what people should be doing may not be received well.

The Blurred Lines in Online Job Postings

The Blurred Lines in Online Job Postings

Our job application advice regularly states that you should not apply to jobs for which you aren’t the least bit qualified. Clients provide job descriptions with mandatory requirements and qualifications to perform the task for good reason — the successful IT contractor needs to do the work successfully and those requirements weed out the unqualified candidates. While job seekers should respect points that exclude them based on skill, there is no place for discriminatory exclusions within a job posting.

Generally, in Canada, it is illegal for any employer to post a job posting that discriminates against applicants. More specifically, in Ontario, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) says “Job ads and postings should not contain statements, qualifications or references that relate either directly or indirectly to race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, record of offences, age, marital status, family status or disability.” Although it’s rare today to see job postings with statements like “must be a strong man” or “good-looking women only”, subtle nuances can exist and it’s up to the employer or staffing agency to ensure they are following the law.

More controversial in the past year has not been the what of a job posting, but more the where. The same OHRC website also provides information about how employers should post jobs to avoid discrimination, suggesting they avoid simple word-of-mouth-referrals and personal networks, as well as advertising only in mainstream media. Each of these forms could exclude qualified candidates.

More interesting, though, is a CBC investigation published in April 2019 related to discrimination using Facebook ads. When a company posts a job to Facebook, it is visible and available to the entire user base; however, the lines blur when looking at paid ads for those job postings. A benefit to Facebook advertising is being able to drill down on the demographics of a target audience. CBC learned that employers — including at all levels of government — have targeted prospective employees based on age or gender. The text of the ads is non-discriminatory, but the targeting came into question. Facebook already announced that it would be disallowing this kind of job targeting in the United States. As of June 2019, the Canadian and Ontario human rights commissions had taken steps to see the same happen in Canada.

The action you decide to take when you come across a discriminating job posting depends your morals and ethics. Some might decide to do nothing or apply regardless, some might contact the posting organization letting them know (they may have been reckless or ignorant and will appreciate the feedback), and others will follow-up on their right to report it.

Before going a step further and engaging a lawyer, though, consider this. Molyneau Law wrote an informative post after the original CBC article that describes the Facebook ad situation, the implications, as well as some examples of past legal cases where discrimination in the hiring process was evident. While unethical job posters should be called out, the post warns that a full legal battle is rarely worth it. “Unfortunately for job applicants, it can be hard to prove discriminatory recruitment or hiring practices. You rarely know who else has applied or been interviewed for a position. And hiring is a pretty subjective practice at most employers. Even when job applicants are successful in proving discrimination, they often don’t see huge damage awards.”

This subject opens an interesting discussion for Canadian IT contractors and all job seekers. Where do you think the line should be drawn in discrimination of job postings? Is it alright if a company chooses to promote its public ad towards a specific demographic, as per the Facebook example? Do you come across discrimination in job postings and how do you deal with them? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

How AI Will Transform Our Economy by 2030

As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to take the world by storm and blow our minds every day with new innovations, analysts and experts continue to wrap their minds around where our world will be by the end of the next decade. Combined, there are no doubt thousands of books, articles, TED Talks and videos committed to making those predictions.

Noodle.ai is an Enterprise AI company focusing on supply chain and manufacturing. They recently created an infographic bringing together a number of sources, including McKinsey, PWC, Bloomberg and more to summarize experts’ opinions about artificial intelligence by 2030.

The findings are exciting and not surprising. They show that by 2030, AI could bring $13 trillion to the global economy, with 70% of companies taking advantage of it. To answer the question on most people’s minds — will AI steal all of our jobs — the infographic does say that current occupations will be automated and possibly eliminated, but it also believes that 250 to 280 million jobs could be created! Repetitive jobs opportunities will likely decrease and non-repetitive jobs with high digital skills are predicted to rise by 10%. Those who choose to learn the new skills are those who will succeed the most.

Check out all the details, including three steps to ensure your (or your client’s) business is ready to capitalize on AI in the next 10 years.

How AI Will Transform Our Economy by 2030

IT Contracting Trends for the Final Stretch of 2019

Making the switch from a full-time tech employee to an independent contractor is a nerve-racking experience. You wonder if you’re making the right decision in giving up a steady pay cheque and definite work so you can have the freedom and benefits that come with IT contracting. Whether you’re just beginning that journey or are a seasoned veteran, it’s helpful to understand the current trends. If not for your own peace of mind, it helps with career planning.

MBO Partners recently released their State of Independence in America and, not surprisingly, the results are quite positive. Although it only surveys independent contractors in the USA, because of the close proximity and similar business cultures, it is safe to assume we are seeing the same trends in Canada.

Some political or business groups claim that independent workers are only in their positions because they have to be and would prefer, as well as be better off with, a traditional full-time job. According to the research, though, most independent workers in the US are in their positions by choice and are doing well financially. In fact, 81% choose to be full-time independent workers, up from 66% in 2012. There are also another 15 million occasional or side hustle independents in the US. In addition, MBO Partners’ Financial Well Being of Independent Workers explains that independent workers report similar levels of financial well-being to those with traditional jobs, with 77% reporting they are doing okay or living comfortably, compared to 78% of traditional workers.

With these numbers, it is no surprise that overall satisfaction as an independent is increasing. As shown in the chart below, in 2011, only 32% of independent workers in the US reported feeling more secure working independently than at a traditional job. That number rose to 53% this year. Furthermore, the report found that 82% are happier working on their own and 69% believe it has been better on their health.

Percent of Full-Time Independent Workers Who Report Feeling More Secure Working Independently
MBO Partners – Financial Well Being of Independent Workers

More Specifically: IT Contracting in Canada

We know that independent contracting in general can be a great career choice. Specifically, IT contractors in Canada can also take advantage of lucrative opportunities and interesting work, as proven by ITWorld Canada’s CanadianCIO Census 2019.

The report suggests new hiring could be cooling as only 37% of CIOs are planning on increasing headcount, while 44% are keeping it stable, 12% are in a hiring freeze and 4% plan to downsize their IT departments. An IT contractor might interpret this as meaning that new opportunities are on the rise. Because new employees are not being hired, when skills are inevitably needed for a project, the IT contractor gets the call.

Overall, CIOs says that the top skills they’re hiring for today are Big Data/BI/Analytics, Business Analysis and Enterprise Application Development. Of special note for IT contractors, their most difficult skills to contract or outsource (and most in-demand) are AI, Data Analytics, IoT, Mobile Development and Cloud Services.

Contractor Quick Poll Results: Do you have a personal website?

IT contractors need to use every tool at their disposal to get their skills and experience in front of recruiters, all while differentiating themselves from other talented IT contractors. The standard resume, job applications, networking events and LinkedIn connections are extremely important, as is having the right tools to complement them.

As noted, every independent contractor submits resumes to recruiters and hiring managers, and many also leave behind business cards. These all contain contact information, usually a link to a polished LinkedIn profile, and some distinguish themselves with a link to their own personal website.

Personal websites give you the opportunity to summarize your skills, display a personal side, and improve your overall branding. In last month’s contractor quick poll, we set-out to understand how many technology professionals are taking advantage of how easy is to create one. It turns out, only about 20% actually have a website while more than half of the respondents say they don’t have a need for a personal website. Where do you stand on the topic?

Contractor Quick Poll Results: Do you have a personal website?

Contractor Quick Poll: Will You Subscribe to Disney+?

For a couple years now, Disney has been teasing a streaming service that would rival all other services and give the leading Netflix a serious run for its money. Now, Disney+ is less than a month away and the hype around it is real. Disney is going all in, where for a lower monthly subscription than Netflix, viewers can get access to everything that is Star Wars franchise, the Marvel franchise, Disney classics and everything in between.

As we prepare for colder Winter months that typically include binge watching, we’re asking IT contractors what you think of Disney+ and, more specifically, if you’ll be subscribing. If you are, will you give up any of your current streaming or television services?

How Emotional Intelligence Makes You a Better IT Contractor

How Emotional Intelligence Makes You a Better IT Contractor

Emotional Intelligence (often referred to as EI or EQ) can be a fluffy term and not always simple to grasp. It refers to a person’s capacity to both identify and regulate emotions in themselves or others. Those with high EI are able to recognize, understand, manage and reason with emotions, which they can then leverage to manage their own behaviour and relationships. As Dr. Travis Bradberry has put it “Emotional intelligence is the ‘something’ in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions to achieve positive results.”

There is no shortage of documentation and articles advocating the importance of emotional intelligence in all areas of life, so we thought we’d investigate the benefits an IT contractor can reap with enhanced EI, specifically in the job search and while working.

How Emotional Intelligence Will Improve Your Job Search

Emotional intelligence becomes truly important for the IT contractor during the interview stage of your job search. Your skills and experience will help you sail through the technical evaluation, but EI is the piece that will help you build a connection with recruiters and non-technical hiring managers. These are the folks who, as much as they understand the value of your ability to do the job, are also ensuring you will fit into the team and work well with others.

Here are a few ways you can answer questions and describe past experiences in a job interview to highlight your emotional intelligence:

  • Show your ability to manage negative emotions by moving past bad experiences on past contracts. That means refraining from talking badly about previous clients or situations and focusing on the positive aspects.
  • Truly understand your strengths and weaknesses. Know how to communicate the areas you where excel and humbly accept the skills where you fall short.
  • Provide examples of times you accepted feedback and criticism and used it as a challenge to improve yourself.
  • Accept responsibility for areas that went wrong on a previous project without placing blame on other team members. Explain how you learned from your mistakes.
  • Take time to learn more about your interviewer and the position. Share their enthusiasm in what they do so you can build a connection with them.

How Emotional Intelligence Will Make You a Better IT Contractor

In 2012, a CareerBuilder survey showed that 71% of employers value emotional intelligence over IQ. Employers would rather hire people who have high EI than who are smart. Specifically, emotional intelligence is increasingly important for technology professionals for a myriad of reasons, some of them being:

  • It helps you get along with others. Tech workers regularly interact with non-technical people. The need to connect on a level where you can explain various concepts is crucial and emotional intelligence makes it happen.
  • It gives you job security. More and more we hear about how artificial intelligence and automation will steal our jobs. For the time being, these technologies still lack the human connection, including emotional intelligence.
  • It improves your decision making. By understanding others, and more importantly, yourself, you can push past biases and understand the emotions driving a situation to make decisions that are subjective and will be accepted by others.
  • It gets you through conflict. Your job as an IT contractor is to be the expert in an area. Naturally, with that turn comes conflict within your team and with your client’s employees. Emotional intelligence forms a sought-after leadership trait to work through conflict calmly and find solutions that work for everyone.
  • It means you can work well under pressure. The ability to control your emotions, listen and cooperate with others, all while understanding their emotions means you will be a prime candidate to lead a team through crisis and short timelines.

The great thing about EQ versus IQ is that emotional intelligence can be developed purposefully. There are a number of books and resources available that are worth researching if you’re seriously interested in improving yours. To get started, experts recommend reducing your stress levels as stress is known to mask your ability to tap into your emotions. From there, take some time to recognize your own emotions and learn more about your strengths and weaknesses, as well as read social cues to read into others’ nonverbal communications.