Acting Outside Your Comfort Zone

How many times have you heard from friends, teachers, parents, colleagues, or bosses, telling you to get out of your comfort zone? How many times have you told yourself to do so?

On 15th January, 2020, 23 Greenwich students from Faculty of Business, Faculty of Education and Health, and Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences got out of their comfort zone by attending the Cultural Insight workshop 4. Together, they identified common challenges among students in areas of university, work, and personal life. These include

Students brainstormed situations where they wanted to get out of the comfort zone
DomainChallenging situation
·      Deliver public speaking (or a presentation), especially when English is not my native language;
·      Go on stage/ talk in front of the class
·      Understand the UK Higher Education and its expectations towards students
·      Work in a group and communicate well with other group members
·      Share my ideas more and speak up in group project
Do something I am not good at (e.g. academic writing) or I haven’t done before (e.g. make international friends)
• Attend extra-curriculum activities
• Talk to people I do not know at a networking event
• Get involved in workshops that can improve our employability skills, e.g. BSEO workshops
Work ·      Get a degree-related job
·      Attend a job interview in a non-traditional format, e.g. phone or video interview
·      Begin a new job in an unfamiliar environment
·      Take on a new job role (e.g. group leader, project manager)
·      Promote myself to my boss
·      Ask for promotion or pay rise
·      Speak to colleagues with a higher rank (e.g. managers)
·     Deal with difficult colleagues
Personal ·      Ask someone for a date or just to go out
·      Do something that I don’t used to do, e.g. going out at night, speak to a stranger, stop using mobile phone/ take a break from social media, be alone
·      Be more self-disciplined, e.g. go to the gym, do exercise 5 times a week
·      Ask for help
·      Eat alone in public
·      Travel to a country where people do not speak my mother tongue or English
·      Learn a different language
·      Explain my culture/language to someone who knows little about it
·      Make new friends
·      Tell someone something he/she might not aware (e.g. loose zip or tissue under their shoes)
·      Refuse a gift
·      Give negative feedback
·      Make important life decisions
·     Stand firmly for my own rights and onions
Students presented challenging situations by different life domains

Based on Dr Andy Molinsky’s work <<Reach: How To Build Confidence And Step Outside Your Comfort Zone>> , there are five psychological challenges that stop people from taking a move to go outside their comfort zone. These challenges often lead to negative emotions, which further drive us to use different avoidance strategies, such as procrastination, full on avoidance, doing the task partway, or passing the buck.

Psychological challenge Common thinking Associated emotions
Authenticity“This isn’t me at all.”Exhaustion
Confidence“I am not good at this behaviour, and it’s obvious to others.”Embarrassment
Likability “Doing this will make people not like me” or “ I worry how people may look at me” Anxiety
Resentment  “I shouldn’t have to be doing this behaviour in the first place.” Frustration
Morality “This behaviour isn’t something ‘I should be doing’” Anxiety

Through self-assessments and group discussions, workshop participants identified their own primary psychological challenges and shared tips that they’ve used to take a leap based on Dr Molinksy’s three strategies, personal conviction, customisation of behaviour, and clarity development. For example,

Strategy 1: Conviction– A deep belief in the purpose of what you’re doing. It can be improving your own lot in life or helping others.

Strategy 2: Customise one’s behaviour– putting your own personal touch or spin on behaviours you’re trying to master. Tools can be used include acting, customising the words you use, customising your body langue, customising the timing, using props, and customising the context.

Strategy 3: Clarity development– the ability to “normalise” your reactions and perceptions of a situation so that distorted thinking doesn’t sabotage your behaviour. You can achieve clarity by stepping away, referring to yourself in the third person, practising self-reflection, and finding clarity through someone else’s eyes.

Students self-assessed psychological challenges of getting outside comfort zone

Extended Learning

  1. Procrastination: Tim Urban- Inside The Mind Of A Master Procrastinator
  2. Acting to customise your behaviour: Amy Cuddy- Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are
  3. Seeking clarity in own situation: Dale Carnegie- How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

Author: Dr Crystal Tsay

When communication at Greenwich is not just effective, but also poetic…

When I watched the new movie “Frozen II” last weekend, I most enjoyed Olaf Gets Poetic Scene.

Image result for frozen 2 poetic"

Anna: Enjoying your new permafrost, Olaf?
Olaf: I’m just living the dream, Anna. Oh, how I’d wish this could last forever.
Anna: Hm.
Olaf: And yet change mocks us with her beauty.
Anna: What’s that?
Olaf: Forgive me. Maturity is making me poetic.

Yes, Maturity is making all of us poetic. In our 3rd Cultural Insight workshop, we have not just discussed psychological theories and communication skills in global context. We have shared poems by reading them aloud in our first language.

What insights have we gained out it? Hmmm… We thought we would learn this…

Yet, we actually learnt that when we try to communicate something so beautiful and so deep in its meanings, what we say made us put our nerve down and just enjoy the joy of communicating such a beautiful thing to others.

Here are some poem sharing videos and some poems shared by our lovely attendees.

This 3rd workshop and the blog are both created and delivered by our project team member Dr. Yang Yang

Positive attitude and the importance of relationships

One of the significant topics of the workshop was the importance of connection. This includes external relationships with other people, and the personal connection with oneself.

 “Embracing community helps us live longer and happier”

It is necessary to meet other people to sustain a strong social life, and this workshop helps to do this. It offers conversational starters for any situation and the opportunity to meet a range of new people.

The workshop highlights the importance of those around us in helping to manage stress, and how vital it is to discuss our struggles with others. There is a key focus on community and projecting our voice, to connect to others and develop our own emotional intelligence.

The activities presented in the workshop help students to improve not only their interpersonal skills and confidence, but also their intrapersonal skills. To develop confidence in their own abilities and interests is essential in understanding oneself. In order to be confident, we must not only accept our own strengths and weaknesses but also those of others. The workshop encourages teamwork rather than competition between students to maintain a positive attitude and fulfilling relationships.


Leanne Pitt  (BA English Literature, Year 2)

The Cultural Insight Workshop Event 25th October 2019.

The cultural insight workshop includes a range of fun and interactive activities for all students to engage with. Students can meet others from different backgrounds and countries, spanning from Germany to China!

Whether it is expanding your knowledge of different cultures, making friends, learning how to advance your interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, or developing your LinkedIn account, the lecture slides and teamwork activities are incredibly useful in providing the tools to expand your social development and knowledge of oneself.

Wesley – “I found the workshop very helpful in meeting new friends.”

Over the course of the workshop students can participate in various activities including:

  • Minion Hugging – wherein a number is called out and the students must quickly make a team of that amount.
  • Speed Friending – wherein students talk to three separate partners and get to know each other within five minutes.
  •  A competition to find the most commonalities with your peers in as short a time as possible.

Sisi said: “I loved it! My favourite activity was definitely the speed friending, where you can speak to others one-to-one. It was amazing to meet so many people from different cultures!”

Overall, the workshop is a welcoming experience, helpful and supportive, building confidence in students both socially and in their own abilities.  All these activities help to improve confidence and social skills, as well as being fun!


Leanne Pitt  (BA English Literature, Year 2)

Out and About: Explore Greenwich Global Village

On the 4th of October, 3 groups of Chinese international students from different subject areas (e.g. EIB and HPSS) walked around the Greenwich campus to investigate how vibrant and diverse our community is.  

On the campus, within 15 minutes, our Chinese student groups approached nearly twenty students and staff to interview them about their cultural backgrounds and life outside of the university.  

To develop a deeper insight of cultural diversity, our Chinese international students also asked questions about other students and staff’s views on how culturally diverse they think Greenwich community is and their views of the university of Greenwich. Note that University of Greenwich is ranked as one of the top two most culturally diverse universities in the world, according to Hotcourses Diversity Index in 2016

A key message drawn out of this outing is that we should all try to talk to people from different cultures and enjoy it. Here are some tips shared by one of our special attendants: 

The first workshop delivered by the Cultural Insight team “Student Life in the UK” is fun and thought-provoking. Our next workshop will be “Your Voice, Your Community” where you can join and enjoy making friends in a speed networking form:

2-5 pm, 16 October 2019Room 10_B006, Greenwich Campus
2-5pm , 23 October 2019G104, Avery Hill campus
10am – 1pm, 25 October 2019Room 10_B004, Greenwich Campus

Excellent results when Chinese international students got their cultural insight tested

More than 20 international students from China attended the first Cultural insight workshop. They had a fun discussion sharing their most embarrassing moments and their most satisfying moments in the UK so far.  

As a group, they identified and shared their own top 10 cultural differences experienced in the UK.

Referring to all the stories and experiences shared by students, Dr Tsay shared tips from research on how to avoid cultural faux: 

  • Interview those who have gone before you 
  • Take a step back and observe   
  • Befriend the locals 
  • Read a lot—especially body language and facial expressions  
  • Ask lots and lots of questions  

Interested in finding out “have you ever committed a cultural faux pas”?