Can you hear me?

Do you really listen or do you just hear?  Listening is crucial to success when selling your business, speaking to a customer or having good relationships with friends and family. 

A major part of my role as a therapist is the ability to listen closely and to really hear what the person is saying – also how they are saying what they are saying. 

Listening well is a skill which you can learn and develop.  Consider these tips:

  • When you really listen you show the other person respect by giving them your full attention.  Put your mobile phone away, don’t have it on the table – even if it is face down!  By doing this you send a silent message to the other person that they have your full attention and they are important.

Think about where your mobile is when you have a conversation with your employee, your customer or your child.  Change your behaviour and send a message that the other person is important to you at that moment.

  • By giving respect you are more likely to gain respect from the other and in turn they are more likely to listen to what you have to say.

  • Listening will provide you with knowledge about the other person, if you know them better, you may understand them better.  Think about the benefit of understanding your boss, or your customers’ needs or your spouse’s worries.  How would your customer feel if you remembered their birthday, their last holiday destination or their child’s name.  What if you could remember something your spouse said they wanted to do and you surprised them with it?

  • When you listen well you are more likely to be a better conversationalist.  You will find that you speak with more clarity which may prevent confusion or conflict.  Listening will force you to slow down and take time to hear, in turn you may think more before you speak.

  • When you listen, allow the person to finish what they are saying.  Sometimes being criticised or blamed can cause us to jump in and defend ourselves – we may not get the whole story.  The conversation can escalate into an argument with each person defending themselves.  It has to be a two-way street of course otherwise you may find yourself railroaded and not able to make your point.

There is a saying “You have two ears and one mouth, use them in proportion.” Not a bad thing to remember.

Be More Corrugated

Do you ever feel that your emotions go up and down in an extreme way? Are you like the Himalayas – really high and then really low?

A client and I discussed this today and she told me that she wanted to be more like corrugated iron. “How do I do that?”

How do you even out the highs and the lows, how do you maintain that gentle undulation which is, some would say, the up and down of ‘normal’ life?

When we hit a problem or have a ‘negative’ emotion we can often focus on it and see it as proof that our life is in a mess or just not going the way we want it to – ever! When we have a positive emotion we are so high on the feeling that we momentarily forget about the negative things in our lives, even though they are there.

Having a negative view prevents us from absorbing and really appreciating the positive things. We have a negative experience, we think about it, we have a resulting emotion which then reinforces our behaviour. So even though you may have had a great dinner with a friend, your car breaks down on the way home and your response is ‘Typical, you see when I let myself go and have fun, something happens to pull me back and prove to me that life’s a bitch.”

How do we be more corrugated iron? Gatefulness.

If we can let down our resistance and truly accept and absorb the good feelings, knowing they are there for what they are, and not see them as a trap, then we become more robust and able to deal with the negative things when they happen, rather than sinking into a hollow.

Having a regular gratefulness ritual is a good way to do this but at a very simple level it’s just about noticing the good things and letting them in. It’s similar to accepting a compliment.

We are more corrugated.

You look great today!

What is your reaction when you are paid a compliment?  Do you push it away by saying something negative, do you feel your whole body stiffen and find it hard to make eye contact.  Do you even hear it?

Often our responses to being complimented are because we have a negative self view.  As a nation, we find it hard to see ourselves positively and to own it at the risk of being seen as big-headed and arrogant and so we find it hard to acknowledge our own strengths, abilities, looks or intelligence.  We want to shrink and hide away instead of hearing the compliment and taking it in – and feeling good about ourselves.  I remember being like this through my teenage into my late twenties/early thirties.  I had to learn to firstly hear it, then accept it without pushing it away.

A compliment is like someone giving you a gift.  When you negate it or bat it away, you are pushing back the gift and saying you can’t accept it.  Think about how you feel when you tell someone something you appreciate about them – ‘You look lovely today’ or ‘I appreciate your time’ and they bat it back to you – does it feel good?  No.

When you give another person a compliment and they smile and say “Thank you, that makes me feel really good”, it feels good to you too doesn’t it?  It’s an exchange and you both feel a connection in that moment.

Celebrate National Compliment Day and when you notice something you like about someone, tell them.  If you receive a compliment today – breathe, pause, hear it, let it in and say “Thank you”.  It may be difficult at first – you don’t have to believe it, just hear it. Over time, the more you practice, the better at receiving you will become and the better you will feel about yourself.

Its ok to not be ok

I recently did a talk at an event where I shared my story of how I made a mistake and got myself into a very difficult personal relationship.  The mistake was that I had not listened to my higher self, my intuition, ie my feelings, and I had carried on, logically finding my way through the fog that uncertainty brings. The choice I needed to make in order to bring an end to this relationship was such that I knew others would be hurt.  I avoided making that choice for quite some time.

During this unahappy period of my life I had kept it a secret, I hadn’t spoken to anyone about it.  This was partly due to loyalty but a big part of it was feeling stupid, as in “I should have known … seen the signs … not let myself be x y or z”.

After the talk, I had a conversation with someone who had been in a similar situation and who also had found it difficult to speak to anyone about it.  “I didn’t even tell my Dad”.

It’s hard to admit that we are in emotional pain or in a situation which we perceive as our own fault sometimes.  When we do take courage and share ourselves with another, we can begin to come back to ourselves and clear the fog by identifying our feelings and our true selves..

Whether it is a close friend, a stranger or a professional, there is an incredible power in hearing ourselves speak of our circumstances, feelings or fears to another.

There is nothing unwell or wrong about asking for help.  The recent statements by our HRH The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry raising awareness of the issues around mental health have highlighted that it can be an issue for anyone, even the seemingly privileged.

Getting to therapy can be hard, picking up the phone and saying “I have a problem and I need help” is in some ways the hardest bit. People who do that are well in that they have admitted it to themselves, taken the brave step of sharing it with another and are on the first step to recovery.

It’s ok to not be ok.

How Women Measure Up

I have just returned from a fantastic five days in the beautiful Devon countryside where I followed one of my passions, dressmaking.  I was learning pattern cutting – a method by which you can design your own clothes and make a pattern to your own measurements, instead of making something from a bought pattern and then finding that it doesn’t fit properly.

One of the first things we had to do was strip down to our undergarments and measure each other in pairs.  The stripping down was reasonably ok because most women are used to being at the swimming pool or gym and seeing other women getting undressed, and actually when faced with the task we just got on with it. So, a bit daunting because we had only just met but not too scarimg_20170402_132327.jpgy.

Once we were measuring each other I noticed all the negative self-talk going around the room: “my boobs are too big” or “I have a saggy this that or the other”.  It was quite noticeable and continued throughout the remainder of the course as we made our patters and, ultimately, our bespoke dresses.

I have been aware of my own negative self-talk over the years but I found myself shocked by what I was hearing.  I guess it was because we were seven women, in a fairly confined space, looking at ourselves closely and it was relentless!

The facilitator of the course said that her son had been in a workshop previously and had noticed this too and had asked “Mum, do women do this all the time, ‘cos a room full of guys wouldn’t do that?”

Why ARE we so hard on ourselves.  Why DO we find it so hard to accept ourselves as we are?  It’s absolutely ok to want to improve ourselves, I have no problem with that, but why do we have to be so harsh on ourselves whilst we do it?

Are we critical of each other and therefore critical of ourselves.  Is the negative we see in others a projection of what we dislike about ourselves?

Let us women come together and say “I am OK, I am doing the best I can, I am enough right now and I am just unfinished.”  OR let’s really go for it and say “I am beautiful, gorgeous and talented.”- who are you not to be?

Hope

As I walked around the field in this cold and frosty Winter morning, I came across this gorse bush.  The yellow flowers are in bloom all year round and, if we look for them, even in Winter.

It made me think about the Bach Flower Remedy, Gorse, which is for hope in times of deep despair.  Dr Bach called it the sunshine remedy.

No matter how cold and bleak things may seem, there is always a way.  Hope helps you find it.

It breaks my heart

Today as my young client left, she took the band off her hair and let a glorious mane of waves fall to her sun kissed shoulders.  I was struck by her beauty.

We have been working on her inner confidence and self-esteem over the last few weeks and in those weeks I have seen a different girl  Still very beautiful but not shining.

Today she shone.  I told her how I saw her as a beautiful young woman.  She told me I was making her blush.  Work for next time I logged in my mind.

After she had gone, I thought to myself “it just breaks my heart when I see beautiful young women and they don’t see themselves …… yet”

Sometimes we are give what we need to learn in seeing it in others and I remembered the negative self talk I need to drop.  A life’s work.  Sometimes progress is slow and painful but it is always worth it.  As are we.  We are all worth it.  We are all good enough.