Tag Archives: personal development

Chimpanzee with fingers in ears

It’s Okay, I’m Not Listening

Given that communicating well is so important for our happiness and well being, how much time and effort do you put into ensuring you are highly proficient in this with all your relationships?

Some of us have behavioural preferences that make it easy for us to talk about the task in hand without any warm up with social niceties (something that is an enigma to others who want to hear the personal stories). Others need space to ‘think as they talk’ or a slower pace that allows for them to be quiet and think, and then share their thoughts.

Do you recognise the importance of adapting your natural style to suit the needs of the person you are communicating with or do you plough on regardless?

We all know we should take it turns to listen, to ask questions, to speak – but how many of us fall foul of the following communication ‘no no’s’ in our relationships, at work or at home – without meaning to?

1.     We ask a question but instead of following up with more in depth questions that show we are interested and have been listening, we switch the conversation back to what we want to talk about.

2.     We listen to someone expressing their feelings about a situation but promptly offer solutions to the situation rather than acknowledge and validate their feelings.

3.     We interrupt; assuming we know what else that person is going to say, ready to show our quality of thinking rather than listening to help that person understand their own thinking.

Now I’m sure you’ve all done the above at one time or another, and experienced those conversations where you’re left feeling unsatisfied, that somehow you’ve failed the mark, not been heard properly or unknowingly, made things worse. So perhaps knowing whether we, and who we are in conversation with, are in terms of an ‘I, We, or It’ state can help bring more awareness  – and ultimately more satisfaction – into our conversations.

I, We, It ,Conversations

In the ‘Bodywork for Coaches’ training course I am currently doing with Mark Walsh, he highlights the importance of knowing what kind of state we are in.

When we are in an ‘I’ state, we want to go into ourselves and reflect on what is going on.  We’re more likely to bring things back round to us and our needs because that is where we are.

At other times we may be in a ‘we’ state, when we are ready, willing and able to be with another, to listen with an aim to understand the other person.

And then there are the ‘It’ states, when it’s all about the task and getting things done.  There is little space here for feelings, to recognise subtle undercurrents or meaning. In an ‘It’ state, we are best able to focus on the job in hand.

Problems in communication arise when people are in different states (or cross states) and are unaware of what state they are in. You will just not be able to give someone the quality of listening and engagement required if they are in an ‘I’ state but you are in an “It’ state for example.

So, moving forwards;

Firstly, spend time and effort to realise what your behavioural preferences are.

Secondly, consider how you can recognise when you are in your ‘I, We’ It’ states. How can you best then respond or instigate conversations that will ensure you aren’t in a cross-state with that other person?

Do you know how to say no?

Do You Know How to Say No?

Stop, Look, Listen – And Say No!

Is time slipping away for you? Hardly believe we’re 5 weeks away from Christmas and the holiday season? Yes I know – where did 2015 go?

If that sounds like you, perhaps the following can help.

Traffic lights

Project management systems will often apply a ‘traffic light’ approach to seeing whether things are on track or not. I think it offers a useful tool to help us prevent overwhelm and consciously choose how we spend our time and energy, helping us to say ‘no’!

RED – STOP! 

How is what you are about to do (or thinking of doing) really going to serve you? Be aware if you are committing yourself to actions that are linked to feelings of guilt or inadequacy. We don’t need to keep up with ‘The Jones Family’. The children honestly don’t care about homemade cakes!

AMBER – Pause, Reflect

What do I really need to do right now? (remembering that doing nothing is always an option). Listen to your heart. Give yourself time to reflect. We can’t make good decisions when we’re frazzled. Go for a walk, run, have a bath, switch off the phone. Just ‘be’. Breathe.

GREEN – Go, Consciously

Being aware of your focus, of the reality behind your decisions, move forwards with action that is in tune with the ‘real’ you.

We seriously don’t have to do everything we think we have to. 80% of our results come from 20% of our action – the key is to understand what are those productive 20%. Applying a traffic light system to your reactions just might help.

 

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Centre Yourself for Calm & Balance

shutterstock_140239432Are you always in your head, thinking things through, planning for the next thing, worrying how that recent conversation / meeting / decision / piece of work went?

How often do you really tune in to how your body is feeling instead?

When we bring our attention to our bodies we help ourselves break free from the tyranny of constantly thinking.

If we are constantly thinking and not ‘being’, we can easily become unbalanced and this shows up in our reactions and emotions. Having access to quick and simple tools that calm and balance us is vitally important to our health and well-being. In our fast paced and ever-changing world, proactively managing our state throughout the day is very beneficial to our health and well-being, our energy levels, mood and ultimately performance. Tuning into our body is an easy, accessible and fun way of doing this.

Centring is a form of state management that works with the fight/flight/freeze response to optimise how we are. One simple technique is called ‘ABC’ and is taken from a field of bodywork called ‘embodiment’. Embodiment is the way we are. It is how we feel, relate and do. Our bodies reflect the set of habits that we call ourselves. This technique comes from the great work of embodiment  and I’m grateful to Mark Walsh for sharing this with me at a recent training event.

ABC – Simple Centring Technique

A – Aware

Become aware of yourself, your body. Be mindful of the present moment, using the 5 senses (touch, feel, sight, smell, hear) , especially feeling the body, ground (chair or feet) and your breath.

B – Balance

Place your feet firmly on the floor, make sure your weight is distributed evenly, not skewed to one side. Check this balance in your posture and attention. Have an expansive feeling extending up and out from your chest, your heart.

C – Core

Relax your mouth and stomach, breathe deeply into your body. Notice your breath moving your belly in and out. Breath deeply for a few breaths and enjoy the calm focus.

Practicing this technique outside of any challenging situations helps you get used to how your body feels and responses as you quickly move through the sequence. When a stressful or challenging situation occurs, you should be more able to slip into using ABC ‘in’ the moment. Notice how it slows down your ‘flight/fight/freeze’ response.

When you run through and practice this technique, ask yourself:

What personal insights come up?

How might you use this technique in your life?

Choose2Flourish

Are you always in your head, thinking things through, planning for the next thing, worrying how that recent conversation / meeting / decision / piece of work went? How often do you really tune in to how your body is feeling instead? When we bring our attention to our bodies we help ourselves break free [...]

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Written Down or Visualise – Which Way to Goal Success?

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We all know that having and achieving goals is an important aspect of living a fulfilling and meaningful life. It gives us confidence and motivation. It allows us to recognise accomplishments in our lives, something many of us can find hard to do. For many people, just giving ourselves permission to have goals can be a barrier. For others, trying to realise their dreams and ambitions brings them face to face to enemy number one, fear – of failure, of being judged, of being too successful – the list is endless.

Successful goal achievement is the one of the fundamental benefits of working with a coach. We help you identify not just any old goal but powerful, inspiring goals that are congruent to who you really are and what’s truly important to you. We enable you to work out where it is you want to go by getting your vision crystal clear and using that to work for you as a powerful motivator for action.

Once we’re proficient with setting congruent goals, the next important step is understanding how we should be using them to greatest effect.

For many, it’s writing them down that is the essential part. Whilst the popularly quoted study about Harvard students is a myth, a study undertaken at Dominican University does support the belief that those who write them down and create some accountability towards achieving them (either by sharing with a friend or coach), will be much more successful in accomplishing them.

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Many others put tremendous store in visualising goals, seeing the mental preparation in our minds eye as being a key part of attracting that into our field (think Law of Attraction). It’s also seen as a vital means of training our subconscious to align our decisions and actions with what it is we want to do. Visualisation, without doubt, is a very powerful tool that many highly successful Olympic athletes, speakers and business people use. But can you rely on visualisation alone?

One research study reported by Amy Brann in her acclaimed book ‘Make Your Brain Work‘, examined the improvements in finger muscle tone in groups of people who actually did the finger exercising compared to those who just visualised it happening. Amazingly enough, the later group of ‘visualizers’ saw a 22% increase in muscle tone over the study period compared to a 20% increase in muscle tone of those who actually did the exercising…

From seeing the success in the clients I work with, and from personal experience, I’d say if you were to combine the two techniques, you’re going to be flying – and getting real results.

Choose2Flourish Ltd

We all know that having and achieving goals is an important aspect of living a fulfilling and meaningful life. It gives us confidence and motivation. It allows us to recognise accomplishments in our lives, something many of us can find hard to do. For many people, just giving ourselves permission to have goals can be a barrier. For [...]

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BS8 4BQ Bristol

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Powerful executive, career and confidence coaching services for purpose-led professionals

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Be yourself; everyone else is already taken

Behaviours of Confident People

Confidence is one of the most admired traits in people. But how can we recognise the behaviours associated with confidence so that we can learn to behave in these ways as well?shutterstock_148055588

Consider the following behaviours that can mark a confident person. A confident person…

  • Believes in their own abilities, talents and strengths, and is not paralyzed by doubts. They have assurance in their own beliefs and are not looking for the approval of others, knowing it’s not needed.
  • Knows they have much to offer the world, and respect the value they bring to life. They treat others well and expect the same in return. They are not hesitant to safeguard their own rights.
  • Is certain, yet realistic, about the goals they will accomplish. They believe in their plans, and failure is regarded as a temporary setback or challenge. A confident person is comfortable in taking on challenges and acting even in the face of risk.
  • Identifies themselves with other confident people. They celebrate others’ successes and relish in the realization of people’s inherent potential.
  • Dreams big and acts on those dreams. They can picture themselves as successful in whatever they do.
  • Accepts the recognition of others and does not diminish or deflect such recognition as if they believe it can’t possibly be warranted.
  • Accepts themselves as they are, yet are open to feedback that will help them become better.
  • Is open to new ideas and is willing to entertain them.

 

  • Is willing to accept mistakes.
  • Is always ready to do their best.

 

Confidence is like a muscle – it has to be exercised to get strong. It requires plenty of preparation and practice, and can be achieved by anyone who has a desire to be more confident in their lives!

How are you exercising your ‘confidence muscle’?

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Are You Being Heard in Work?

You’re in a meeting and you get a great idea. You speak up and share your thoughts but it kind of gets passed over. Later on in the same meeting, a colleague pipes up with your suggestion but this time is does get heard and action is taken to implement your idea.

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If this does happen to you, chances are you are female and it’s likely that the colleague, who gets heard with your idea, is a man. He may or may not claim the idea to be his own and you may or may not remind the group that it was your idea in the first place. Whatever the follow up scenario, you’re likely to be left feeling unheard and wondering why you’re so ineffective in getting your ideas picked up. You may think it’s okay, at least the action is being taken, but in the long term, you run the risk of your value and contribution not being recognised or rewarded.

So what is going on here? Well what’s going on is the effect of the differences in men and women’s linguistic style.

Men and Women’s Linguistic Style

Linguistic style is your characteristic speaking pattern. It’s how direct or conversational you are, your rate of speech and length of pausing; it’s your tone of voice, your loudness. According to Deborah Tannen, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, Washington and author of 15 books, linguistic style is a set of culturally learned signals that communicate what we mean and how we interpret other people and evaluate one another. Women it seems, learn a different linguistic style from men, which places them at a disadvantage as it can make them seem less confident and self- assured that they really are.

Sheryl Sandberg’s current ‘ban bossy’ campaign touches on these differences between men and women. In childhood, girls focus on building rapport through conversations, they learn how to ‘save face’ for others and for many, they learn not to be too self-promoting as they believe they won’t be liked for it. In contrast, boys learn about asserting their status, about pushing for ‘top dog’ and ensuring they’re always in a ‘one up’ position. Even if you don’t agree this should be the case, think back on how assertive, self-promoting women have made you feel in the past and ask yourself, would you judge them differently if that linguistic style had come from a man?

So for a man, claiming “I do this’ is second nature; Women are far more likely to avoid using ‘I’ and go for a collaborative ‘we’ instead.  Asking questions may be very helpful in building consensus and for many women, is a natural managerial style but for many, especially men, this can be perceived as putting themselves in a ‘one down’ situation and to be avoided at all costs. Say goes for saying sorry. Fortunately the growth in awareness and application of emotional intelligence in managerial and leadership development has helped us see how collaborative and coaching styles have so much more to offer to teams and individuals than old style, dictatorial approaches, but childhood socialisation has a long-lived impact.

Taking Turns to Speak

Another aspect of linguistic style concerns how long a pause we leave or need after someone has stopped talking and we take our turn to speak. Gender differences have a real bearing here, along with culture, where you live and so on. For some, the pause is hardly discernible and they’re straight in, offering their thoughts. For others, the pause needs to be longer, they need to consider what was just said and they’re checking that the speaker has, indeed, finished. You can imagine what happens when, in a group of fast talkers who jump in before someone has really finished, you have someone who needs a longer pause before they feel ready to contribute. They never see the window they need to speak and so don’t or are unable. Women have a tendency to fall into this category of needing longer pauses, so you can see how that could be perceived as a lack of confidence and self-assurance in a situation when everyone else is cutting in.

Being Stroppy

Being a Welsh comprehensive educated girl, when I went up to Oxford University to start my Geography degree, one of the biggest shocks I had in my tutorials was the ‘jumping in’ of my all-male (mainly privately educated) peers. I couldn’t get a word in edgeways and when I did, I was often interrupted and cut short. I found it very upsetting and remember feeling angry and powerless about how to change the situation. I did learn to be more assertive and adjusted my own pacing to match that around me, but it wasn’t my natural style. How this did me some discredit I learned much later when attending the retirement lunch for one of my old tutors. “Ah yes Rhian, I remember you. You were always so stroppy”.  I obviously didn’t get the balance right between being authentic and flexing my style at that stage in my life!

So What To Do?

Nancy Klein in her book ‘A Time to Think’ calls for organisations to adopt principles that promote a proper ‘thinking environment’.  Her ten components to doing that recognise the importance of listening to each other, of asking incisive questions that help people ‘speak and think’.  Creating the right environment where all individuals can be encouraged to contribute is key, with awareness that team meetings tend to bring out the best in men, but not necessarily women.

As women, we should allow ourselves to use “I’ rather than ‘we’ on more occasions. Being aware of the linguistic culture of our organisations and teams may also help work out why we’re not being heard. Cultivating a flexible style of communication to reflect the preferences of who you are speaking with can be very useful.  Facilitating and encouraging better listening is beneficial for both men and women.

You don’t need to shout, push in or get ‘stroppy’ to be heard. The impression and impact we create is not just about the words we use – it’s our tone of voice and our body language. Research has shown that 55% of our impact on others comes from our body language, the ‘dance’, 38% from our tone of voice, ‘the music’ and only 7% from our words. Develop insights on the impact you are having through self-reflection and ask for feedback from a trusted source. Being heard is a question of appreciating your ‘words, music and dance’ and how to get them working for you.

Focus on your strengths – It will make you happier and more effective: Part 2

SO, WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS? shutterstock_81178216

How do you know what your strengths are? You are probably aware of some, but identifying your strengths can be tricky. This is due partly to our innate ‘tuning into’ the negative about ourselves or situation, and the difficulty we all have in recognising what we are truly good at!

One way is to ask yourself what strengths you have just used when you have done something you feel good about.  You could also try asking a friend or trusted colleague who you feel can give you honest feedback (itself a real skill).

Research shows there are 24 character strengths recognised across cultures as being inherently desirable human traits.  Martin Seligman has used these as the basis for his ‘VIA Character Strengths Tests’ questionnaire which is available, for free, on his website http://www.authentichappiness.org You need to register and the questionnaire will take about 40 minutes to fill in. That time is well spent however, as the results can be truly illuminating.

“OH, THAT WAS NOTHING!”

If you do ask for feedback on your strengths, it’s worth noting how hard it can sometimes be to actually hear a strength being identified in you, or indeed for others to hear it said of themselves.  How many times have you heard, or said yourself, “Oh it was nothing” or “the others did it, I did very little” when being praised for something done well, whether it be at work or in your personal life. Giving and receiving positive feedback is a skill, and given that it can be so powerful in shaping many things, not just our ability to identify strengths, it’s good to know that we can all learn to give and receive it.

TOP TIP: USE EVIDENCE BASED, POSITIVE FEEDBACK

Here’s where providing evidence for the strength is so valuable. Next time you listen to a friend or colleague talk about something that went well, identify a strength they used in order to achieve what they did. Identify specifically what they did so when you then feed their use of that strength back to them, you can provide the evidence.  See and feel how different things appear by trying it out when you don’t use the evidence.  For me, it carries far more impact when my husband tells me I’m good with people when he also refers back to the specifics of the situation he has perhaps just seen me in, letting me see the strengths of kindness, patience and empathy, for example.  Collecting your evidence of where and when you have used your strengths is a great activity for building up your self-confidence and self-belief in your abilities.

RE-CRAFT YOUR WORK / LIFE AROUND USING YOUR STRENGTHS

The next, essential step, is to actively use your strengths in different ways across your day. Remember, using your strengths builds positive emotion, opening you up to new ideas and alternative ways of thinking. You’ll feel good and will be more likely to ‘get into flow’ at work or whatever activity you need to focus on, when you are applying your strengths. (Go back to Part 1 of this blog series if you’ve forgotten why it matters).

As a mum, I’m aware how powerful this all is for my children. I help them recognise the things they have done well and encourage them to reflect back on things they feel good about. Being a coach I find it fairly natural to bring into use all those great empowering questions with them, such as “How did that make you feel?”, “What did you learn from that?” And “How could you use (insert strength) with (new challenge or difficulty)? I actively help them identify their strengths, celebrate their use and encourage them to think of where they can apply their ‘good skills’ to tackle their problems.

I’m still not brilliant at doing it for myself though. So, time to apply a bit more positive psychology on me I think, and here’s an immediate opportunity: how can I use my ‘optimism, zest and energy for life’ to work out an approach to cooking dinner for the children when much of it is likely to be immediately scraped back into the compost bin…

Still optimistic that the next day's dinner will be eaten...

Still optimistic that the next day’s dinner will be eaten…