The Big Breath

4b5e746ac1369668f22c8a6f199bda32--relaxation-quotes-relaxing-quotesI don’t think I’ve ever before understood so little of a book and yet been intrigued enough to carry on reading it nonetheless. I bought The Cosmic Hologram a couple of months ago after being captivated by a presentation given by the author, cosmologist Jude Currivan. Her story of our Universe ranges dizzyingly from cosmology to quantum mechanics, starting from the big bang.

Only, according to the latest cosmological evidence, it wasn’t big. And it wasn’t a bang. The evidence she cites suggests that our Universe is finite and that its original super-rapid expansion was exquisitely ordered and fine-tuned, more like a big breath than a big bang – which echoes nicely the ancient Vedic sages of India who envisaged the beginning of the Universe as an out-breath of the cosmic creator Brahma.

I like the image of the big breath. There’s a short poem by E E Cummings written during the 2nd World War whose image presages the scientific evidence too:

god decided to invent 
everything he took one 
breath bigger than a circustent 
and everything began

(Here’s the whole poem – the second verse pulls no punches.)

Everything starts with breath

If you’re curious about communication, expression, presence, connection or energy – any of these things – you can’t fail to be interested in breath. It’s the starting point of all our attempts to communicate with each other and indeed do almost anything. No work on voice projection and tone, body language or “getting your message across” bears any fruit without going back to fundamentals of breath – and not so much the physical act itself as the original impulse behind it.

Whenever you speak, before any sound comes from your mouth, your thought/emotion initiates a breath – not any old breath, but a breath whose energy and character exquisitely matches what you have to communicate and which is designed to create the particular sounds that express what you have to say.

You can hear this particularly clearly in the transparent communication of young children. However, as sound is so revealing of truth, most adults learn to interfere with the breath-to-sound connection, so that the resulting sound expresses habitual control and obfuscation (however much they paste expressiveness on top). But even then the breath tells the truth – in this case the truth of obfuscation.

If you want to communicate – genuinely communicate – everything leads back to how much you allow breathing to play its part.

Breath as a powerful support

Breath is your friend – it’s kept you alive till now! It’s especially your friend when you feel troubled or fearful. For instance:

  • An extended steady in-breath through the nose in its measured character invites steady expression, and thus gives you courage to speak or act.
  • A feeling of excitement energising your in-breath gives your expression a power that a fearful breath lacks, and brings to your sound a sense of commitment and positivity.
  • A huge in-breath – a breath “bigger than a circus-tent” – carries you over hurdles, such as making a statement that feels hard to say. If we took a breath that big, couldn’t you and I do anything?
  • The out-breath too – when you sigh, your whole respiratory system is able to release and reset. If you were tense, you release. If you were stubbornly holding on to something, you let go. If you weren’t able to think before, suddenly on the next breath you can.

Breathing carries you through anything – fear, anxiety, pain. When things are bad, breathe! When you are tense, breathe! When you feel awkward, breathe! When a conversation falters, breathe! When you want to feel – joy, love, peace – breathe! And things become easier. A breath gets you into motion again, and in motion life moves on to a better place. And if you want to breathe, breath out.

Breath and intuition

Speaking-skills coaches who talk about breath at all often concentrate on the muscles required for the in-breath. But, as I was newly reminded at a yoga class recently, if you direct your attention to a full outbreath, the consequent in-breath takes on the nature of a release or surrender. It’s a powerful surrender however – a gathering up of energy – and on that in-breath any accompanying yoga movement that in the normal way might be effortful becomes light and easy.

That surrender is much more than a physical release. Breath is physical and mental – emotional and spiritual too. That relaxed in-breath after an intentional out-breath opens the unconscious mind with a wonderful sense of liberation to new clarity and lateral thinking inaccessible to the logic of the conscious mind. It’s the moment when “don’t know” gives birth to sound intuition.

Just a single breath? Well, yes. I’ve found, when I inexpertly practise meditation, that if I remind myself that, rather than a clock-aware 20 minutes, one single breath – this breath – is enough, then that breath has the quality and depth to illuminate (whether or not I then continue for more minutes.)

Breathe, breathe, breathe

So today – in the interest of business success, leadership, creativity, focus and better relationships, not to mention health, wealth and personal wellbeing and whatever else matters to you – pay attention to your breath. Try any of the following:

  • Take a moment to to breathe right out and, with full awareness of the experience, allow the in-breath to be a complete letting go.
  • Sigh out at any odd moment of pleasure and catch the often missed joy of the in-breath that follows.
  • Breathe-sigh out especially at any moment of difficulty – be it exasperation, worry, envy or boredom – and then witness the release on the in-breath, watching for any minute seed of insight that might pop into your mind. You’ll have to be awake to catch it though – it could be light as gossamer.

Then notice how life flows more, how your mind works better, how relationships are easier – how the quantum-smallness of a single breath is connected with the cosmic-vastness of larger purpose in your own life as well as in the broader scope of the Universe.

Just before posting this today I cycled into town along a country track by a stream. Suddenly, a heron flew up from almost under my wheels and I gasped with the thrill of it. What a large elegant bird close up! We talk about moments that take your breath away, and this was one of those, but in fact (and I’d never quite noticed this before), it was a sudden sharp intake of air – a beautiful release.

Sometimes it’s the same moments that take your breath away that breathe purpose and love back into your life. Steve Maraboli

Go well,


What Else?

Lots about breath in my books

Dip in for help with communication, presenting and voice … life even …

The Art of Conversation
What an important topic! Conversational skill isn’t really about being articulate and having a fund of things to talk about – though that’s what most books on the subject would suggest. It’s more about being at ease with who you are and knowing how to connect with others – pure consciousness even! Only then do you have authentic and satisfying conversations.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms
This is a book about performance anxiety – offering 25 different strategies to perform with confidence. But it’s not just about presenting and performing – you’ll find its ideas useful for eliminating anxiety throughout your life.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies
The perfect resource to discover the power of your voice, understand how it works and use it like a professional, whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence
“The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.


Whether you already feel successful or are struggling with challenges, coaching can help you make the most of your potential. Email me or call on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you. Coaching can take place face-to-face or via Skype or phone.

Voice and Communication Coaching

It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.Do you realise what an amazing potential resource you have in your voice? How you come across depends on your voice and how you use your body AND your breath. Self consciousness is the grand saboteur. You’ll experience positive results after even a single coaching session. Email me or call me on 01306 886114.

Download any of my E-courses

(I never share your email with anyone):

10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety
How to Speak with More Authority
Understanding NLP
10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation



I’m Giving Up on Authenticity

Who are you?To spend a life time seeking for one’s authentic self, and then get second thoughts on the whole thing. How come?

I’m giving up on authenticity.

I know, I know – dear authenticity, you have been an aspiration of mine for quite some time. I’ve even sung your praises in print for goodness sake. It’s been a long time … right back to childhood even when my mother younger than I am now used to encourage me before an event, “Just be yourself, dear.”

I didn’t have the faintest idea how to fulfil her wish then, and I’ve been seeking how to ever since. It’s perhaps the quest of our times – find yourself, know who you really are. I’ve done the work like others have – the psychometrics, the MBTI, if you want the proof – and yes, I do know quite a lot about myself. I’m artistic – I know because I create things and people say they like them. I’m shy – because my whole family was shy. I’m quick – and that sometimes makes me ignore the odd detail. I’m kind, kind of, mostly…

But I’m not sure any more that focussing on what I already think I know about myself is helpful. When I say, “I’m that sort of person”, or more often, “I’m not that sort of person” I use it mostly as an excuse or a defence. As in, “I’m not the kind of person to sell myself” or “I’m not the kind of person to demand my rights,” for instance.

A great little book was recommended to me this month. The Path, by Michael Puett and Christine Gros-Loh offers a new way of thinking about ancient Chinese wisdom. The first philosopher discussed, Confucius, was a believer in tiny acts – or rituals – where you practise “as if” – i.e. you act differently to your customary way, and thus gradually habituate yourself to new ways of being and acting in the world. One section headed “The Malleable Self”, sounded like the opposite of “The Authentic Self”, and its ideas resonated with me. It suggested that by sticking to your self-definition of your true self, acting with your usual patterns and self-labels, you might actually harden them, and thus limit yourself.

I’ve always liked the story in Tim Gallwey’s The Inner Game of Tennis about the tennis player with an inadequate volley stroke. Every time the player was at the net he reacted defensively and feebly. His coach asked him to demonstrate how he would like to be able to play at the net, without worrying whether he actually hit the ball or not. After an unsteady start, the player began to show some aggression in his play, and eventually hit a series of fine attacking shots one after the other. Speaking with Tim afterwards, the player said he wished he were able to play like that, but he wasn’t really that sort of person. i.e. The person who had played like that wished he could play like that! He couldn’t in his own map of reality because it wouldn’t have been true to who he was. Think about it.

Neuroscience agrees with the idea of a malleable self. We now know that genes can be switched on and off, and that it’s perfectly possible to create new neural pathways through the brain. We aren’t as fixed as we might like to think.

The idea of a malleable self turns our usual thinking on its head. Instead of a converging quest inwards to find the holy grail of the real genuine me, it suggests I might instead expand into the huge adventure of embracing every possibility of what I could be. What might I not do? Who might I not be!

Most of us are already different with different people (okay, I heard that protest, you may not be.) Have you ever found yourself talking to someone from one part of your life when someone from a completely different part of your life suddenly joins you, and you realise that your usual way of interacting with one is not the way you usually are with the other, and you find yourself nonplussed for a moment?

The ability to choose different ways to respond to people and circumstances is surely relevant to the job of the coach. (or leader, teacher, parent and human being). Our ability to enter the reality of the other person is a major element in connecting and building trust, and it requires us to be flexible – malleable. A coach needs a variety of qualities to be able to relate to and help different people at different times. At one moment the fierce volley shot is just right for a particular coachee; at another the high gentle lob is more successful. But we are only as different as we have the capacity to be, and like in tennis practice helps.

Two questions:

  1. Doesn’t being different things to different people mean you lose your identity.

Not at all. Doing what the occasion requires with flexibility strengthens you and gives you more influence. People feel even more strongly the core of you, which isn’t your behaviours, but the light of consciousness at your centre.

  1. How exactly do you create the possibility of acting differently?

By realising that you can learn to be any way you want to be. Every time you catch the thought, “People like me can’t do that” you can put forward a different thought, “If I want to and believe it’s the thing to do, I can do it.”

In the depth of winter I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. Albert Camus

The other thing you can do is to find counter examples. E.g. maybe you’re too impatient to find out what’s wrong with your computer; but you have huge patience in working out a complex pattern in sewing. So patience and you are already well acquainted. You may not speak up when something is wrong at work, but when your child suffered an injustice you did speak up, so you have done it and know how to.

So three cheers for the great ocean of possibility today.

Okay authenticity, I know there’s a different side to you too – the ability to be real, not fake, trustworthy not perfidious, and genuine and honest, not disingenuous. I just thought there for a moment you were trying to box me in – when I’m ready to fly.

But, Peter, how do we get to Never Land?

(says Wendy in Disney’s Peter Pan)

Fly, of course!
It’s easy! All you have to do is to is to is to
Huh That’s funny!
What’s the matter?
Don’t you know?
Oh sure, it’s, it’s just that I never thought about it before
Say, that’s it! You think of a wonderful thought!
Any happy little thought?

You just imagine you can do it.
Go well everyone,

What else?

Dip into my Books for help with communication, presenting and voice … life even …

The Art of Conversation
What an important topic! Conversational skill isn’t really about being articulate and having a fund of things to talk about – though that’s what most books on the subject would suggest. It’s more about being at ease with who you are and knowing how to connect with others – pure consciousness even! Only then do you have authentic and satisfying conversations.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms
This is a book about performance anxiety – offering 25 different strategies to perform with confidence. But it’s not just about presenting and performing – you’ll find its ideas useful for eliminating anxiety throughout your life.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies
The perfect resource to discover the power of your voice, understand how it works and use it like a professional, whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence
“The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.


If summer-time is a bit quieter at work for you, use the opportunity to get a coach for a month or two. Whether you already feel successful or are struggling with challenges, coaching can help you make the most of your potential.  Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you. Coaching can take place face-to-face or via Skype or phone.

Voice and Communication Coaching

It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. How you come across depends on your voice and how you use your body. Self consciousness is the grand saboteur. You’ll experience positive results after even a single coaching session. Email me or call me on 01306 886114.

Speak Easy: The essential guide to speaking in public

This book by my New Zealand friend, Maggie Eyre, gives you great tips on public speaking. Contact her if you’re down under and need help with public speaking – she has coached the best, including most notably former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Download any of my E-courses

(I never share your email with anyone):

10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety
How to Speak with More Authority
Understanding NLP
10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation


Let’s Talk of Dreams and Desire

Sea behind jpgBack in the day I appeared in a book. It happened when I was living in Rome in my twenties. Together with a great friend interested in such matters I attended a series of sessions given by the renowned and controversial Italian psychologist Massimo Fagioli, in a lecture room thick with cigarette smoke and jam-packed with university students and other hangers-on like myself. At one session in response to a question I recounted a dream, and it later appeared in Fagioli’s book La Marionetta e Il Burattino (The String Puppet and the Glove Puppet – the title suggesting how most humans struggle in their bid for freedom, held back by someone or something pulling their strings or directing them internally). It’s a fascinating book, republished in 2011 if you’re curious.

The dream? I dreamed that my parents were visiting me in Italy, and were complaining that the hotel I’d arranged for them was not near the sea. And in the dream I said to them with surprise, “But look behind you! The sea’s right there.” And to their astonishment, as they turned around, the sparkling sunny ocean was indeed there, right behind them.

All they had to do was turn around. Good metaphor, now I think of it. I sometimes think we live like trapped flies, forever pushing forwards to get through a pane of glass to freedom beyond, as if forwards were the only possible direction. And like flies, we can push till we die of pushing. Pushing for humans includes trying very hard, being super-conscientious, taking responsibility for everyone, obsessing over technique, working without a break, dissecting, analysing, rationalising, quantifying, over-thinking and much else besides.

So what to do when life’s not working for us, when it seems full of problems and stress, or flat and dull? Don’t we need to force ourselves into further effort and all the rest?

No, I don’t think we do – for lots of reasons. Here are just two:

  1. All this relentless pushing towards our future – working with effort, maintaining our position, feeling super-responsible – all these things take huge reserves of energy, leaving us drained and dreary.
  2. We cannot access our full intelligence by using force and effort of the kind that analyses, calculates and rationalises, nor can we produce a single creative thought in a state of tension and stress.

Of course, intelligence and creativity require knowledge and application, but they need ample space to daydream too. Archimedes shouted his Ureka while having a bath. Einstein concluded that the universe was finite and curved after fantasising he was travelling on a beam of sunlight. Marie Curie dreamed the solution to a mathematical problem that had eluded her for three years on the very night after she had decided to turn away from the problem. The idea how to build a laser suddenly popped into Gordon Gould’s head one Saturday night.

So take a moment to look the other way. For example, take one minute to watch your breath and quieten down. (Great one minute meditation here.) Feel the wind on your face at some point in the day. Look up and see the sky. Break your pattern; do something different. Do anything different.

It’s when we break the pattern and create a gap that we begin to notice a tiny tug of desire. Desire needs explaining – it’s had a bad press and become linked too closely with sex. Desire can be strong; it can also be the slightest yearning inside, a faint pull towards something – a bit like realising you’re thirsty. The hint of a thought emerges: “When did I ever see the sun rise? – What if I got up early tomorrow?” “I lost touch with my best friend, I wonder if I could trace him/her?” “What about this solution to my problem?” “I used to play Claire de Lune on the piano by heart – let me see if I still can.” The still small voice can dissolve again very quickly, so it has to be caught on the wing. Jack Canfield (in The Success Principles) suggests that recent research in neuroscience indicates that an intuitive insight or idea not captured within half a minute is likely never to be recalled again.

Desire … What about …? Could I …? It’s desire that gives the world colour again. Desire is the short cut to freedom. It lets you know when you’re on track in life by a slight pulsing within; when you’re not on track it disappears and the world seems dull and pointless. Desire doesn’t always seem relevant or make sense, but it’s what makes life flow again, what opens up new possibility, what leads you in the direction that gives you most satisfaction and happiness. And it energises. Suddenly you find that a small action taken as a result of desire leads to something else, and to something else again, and a way appears. You thought the challenge was about working ever harder, but it was about something entirely different.

When we stop bashing our heads against the glass like flies and turn around, look, there’s an open door. The sparkling sea is there behind us all the time. Why on earth didn’t we notice it before?

I know … you and me both?

Go well,


Judy Apps

What else?

You can find lots more in my books:

The Art of Conversation

My most popular book – change your life with confident communication. Learn how to connect better and enjoy successful conversation with people. Check out all my books on my Amazon page.

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies

All you need to know about speaking – in the familiar easy-learn format of this series.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms

Suffer no longer from paralysing fear – you too can speak confidently and surely. 25 sure-fire ways to speak and communicate with confidence. This book is highly practical and effective.

Voice of Influence

People jump to conclusions about you because of your voice. Get your voice working for you and see the amazing difference it makes in your life!


If you want to improve confidence, communication, speaking and presenting, or relationships, email me or give me a call. I have worked with people from many walks of life, from directors and senior managers to the self employed and those changing direction or who feel stuck. The work starts from where you currently are.

What might you get from coaching? You will think more clearly, move into action more easily, and gain solid inner confidence to serve you well in all situations. You’ll feel calmer, more in control and more able to meet whatever difficulties you may have to face in the future. You’ll feel lighter and energised.

You might want a coach for a good stretch of time; you might be looking for 3 or 4 sessions or even a single session – whatever your objective you’ll find it well worth your while. Contact me here or at 01306 886114 to talk it through.

E-courses to access now

10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety

Do you sometimes feel daunted when you have to get up and speak? TERRIFIED even?

Well you certainly not alone! Yet it’s a skill needed in so many contexts – not only the formal presentation, conference address or wedding speech.  You need to be able to communicate under pressure for meetings, interviews, key conversations, even ‘having it out’ with a colleague.  No wonder the effort, anxiety and sleepless nights!

What would it be like to know that it is possible for you to be an accomplished speaker? You will learn step by step how to stand up and feel confident and in control. Judy has for many years studied the secrets of the best performers and offers you some of the key skills for presenting with ease.

You will receive 2 secrets a day over the next 5 days. Practical, useful and illustrated with real examples of what to do.

Other Free E-Courses to Download

How to Speak with More Authority

10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation

How to Raise Your Profile

Understanding NLP

Blocking and Yielding

Business has SO much to learn from improvisation!

"Look ... bla bla bla"

“Look … bla bla bla”

When someone attacks you in the martial art of Aikido, you never meet the attack head on and block it (that’s painful!); instead you swiftly move to go with the line of the attack – travelling with the other person’s energy – and then, from moving together, you influence the outcome with minimal energy on your part.

That’s a principle method in the art of improvisation too. Business – and life – has so much to learn from impro. Keith Johnstone is a renowned teacher and author of books on the art of impro. He gives his students a basic rule to accept any offer made by another improviser – i.e. give their idea credibility – and then offer something in return; in this way they move the action on. Saying no on the other hand blocks the action, like meeting an Aikido attack head on – ouch! End of story.

That sounds good sense to me. But sometimes life drives you mad, doesn’t it? Last week, the day after re-reading parts of his book Impro I made a special effort to visit a relative who frustratingly was neither happy to see me nor in a good frame of mind.

Nobody visits me, the relative complained.

Well they do! I’m here aren’t I? – my defence was on my lips all ready to shoot out. But Johnstone’s recently read suggestion to accept and say “yes, and …” sprang to mind, and I went with it:

Nobody visits me, the relative complained.

Yes, and when nobody’s here you feel lonely? (going with)

Mmm – nodding. It is nice to see you.

Wow, my relative had started unconsciously to play the impro game with me. How cool and surprising was that?!

If you want to play too, here are the rules:

Go with what’s coming at you, then take it somewhere (perhaps with “and”).

ATTACK: “Why didn’t you remember to do it?!”

“It’s so strange that I didn’t remember to do it! And …”

Give something away

ATTACK: “This isn’t good enough!”

“I want it to be amazing! – Please tell me your ideas for improving it.”

Remember to match the energy of the attacking statement so that you’re moving at the same speed as your attacker at the start of your response (think of passing the baton in a relay).

Johnstone holds that saying yes takes you to interesting places, and that by our choices of whether to block or yield we create our own lives of adventure or tedium:

There are people who prefer to say ‘yes’ and there are people who prefer to say ‘no’. Those who say ‘yes’ are rewarded by the adventures they have. Those who say ‘no’ are rewarded by the safety they attain. … People with dull lives often think that their lives are dull by chance. In reality everyone chooses more or less what kind of events will happen to them by their conscious patterns of blocking and yielding.

‘Fear crouch’

“Blocking and yielding...” If you watch a politician being interviewed you sometimes catch a gesture when both hands come up, fingers up and spread, palms outwards, in self-protection – often in sync with that familiar truncated interrupt word, “Look …” bla bla bla. The uplifted hands raise and stiffen the shoulders and the upper body curls forward – it’s the ‘fear crouch’ position our caveman ancestor adopted to protect himself from a man-eating tiger (it never worked even then – end of story).

In such moments the politician is blocking. The result of course is self-defence and entrenchment. It goes nowhere; the politician is unchanged, the interviewer is unchanged, and the viewer/listener experiences irritation or tedium.

But say yes to life, move into what is, and the result is very different. It doesn’t mean giving way on your principles; it means regarding more closely the people you are dealing with and maybe letting go of some control, even permitting a degree of vulnerability. Then, there’s a genuine exchange. Keith Johnstone suggests that it’s good to be altered by the experience of human interchange. He wants others to have an impact on us and us to have an impact on others, rather than both parties to remain exactly the same. The exchange then goes somewhere; it’s more creative, more generative, and a whole lot more interesting.

NB, this is not about becoming a “yes-man”. “No” is good too, when it has something to offer back.The Aikidoist sometimes responds to an attack with a loud NOOO! – and then follows through into a further response. This is a proactive “no” that takes you somewhere, rather than a “no” that retreats inside and slams the door shut.

Cherub Posture

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 16.21.38In Johnstone’s thinking, the opposite of the ‘fear crouch’ is the ‘cherub posture’, which opens all the planes of the body, head turned to expose the neck, shoulders turned to expose the chest and spine arched to expose the belly – a sign of openness, vulnerability and tenderness.

What! Shall we all be cherubs now? Well, yes, that is what strong leaders do! The next time you feel that closing down blocking feeling, think cherub – soft, open and available – and allow a yielding. Dangerous? Not really, there’s no collapse, there’s no denial, no pause in breathing – just a going with what you’ve been offered and allowing yourself to be ‘touched’ by the exchange even as you play your active part.

Funny thing is, people who embrace this yielding realise that this and not the other is the full expression of their power. It’s a great thing to witness.

Always say ‘yes’ to the present moment… Surrender to what is. Say ‘yes’ to life – and see how life starts suddenly to start working for you rather than against you. Eckhart Tolle

Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness. If it doesn’t feel vulnerable, the sharing is probably not constructive. Brene Brown



The best of NLP, in three themed 2-day modules

If you can recommend this training, please let your friends know about it – thanks!

Module 1: Communication & Relationships 19-20 Oct,
Module 2: Leadership & Influence 9-10 Nov,
Module 3: Coaching & Change 26-27 Nov.

One more time this autumn, an amazingly good offer of NLP training from a highly regarded, experienced, effective and intuitive trainer (yes, that’s me:-)) at unbeatable value.

Pay What You Can. Very modest registration on-line, followed by a voluntary donation (at least equal to the registration fee if you want to pay your way, but up to you). See more here.

Why do NLP? Anyone working or living with other people needs knowledge of self and of how others tick. Brilliant for confidence and leadership of self and others – for leaders, coaches, managers, parents …

NLP Practitioner Completion

Just had three awesome days with a brilliant group – you know who you are!

Voice of Influence Workshop

Next workshop in the New Year – worth the wait! 2016 dates will be announced shortly.

Spirit of Coaching International Retreat

If you are a coach, you may just be in time to secure one of the last places on this beautiful retreat in the Oxford countryside, Fri to Sun, 4-6 October.

Through a mixture of talks, coaching exercises, workshops, inner reflection and meditation, we will:

• Explore the synergy between spirituality and coaching
• Deepen our experience of the space within and between us
• Discover new ways of enhancing and applying our coaching skills for the benefit of ourselves and the world.

As with all events organised by the Brahma Kumaris, there’s no charge for the weekend. However, contributions towards costs are welcomed. Email me, or John McConnell if you are interested. See you there.


One of the most satisfying things about my work is to see coaching clients grow into larger confidence and bigger roles. If you’re in a rut, or struggling, or feel you may have more potential than you’re currently using, don’t hesitate to get a coach – a few sessions can make a huge difference to your self concept and confidence. It is truly worth it. Have a look at my thoughts on coaching, and email me, or give me a call (01306 886114) to have an informal chat about it.


My four published books, available in print, audio and Kindle, have helped many improve their communication and speaking skills and build their self confidence. Check the links below, and or look them up on my Amazon page.

The Art of Conversation: Change Your life with Confident Communication

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms: 25 Sure-Fire Ways to Speak and Communicate with Confidence

Voice of Influence: How to Get People to Love to Listen to You

Free E-Courses to Download

Current titles:
* How to Speak with More Authority
* How to Overcome Performance Anxiety
* How to Raise Your Profile
* Introduction to NLP.

Daily inspiration and ideas on Facebook and Twitter

Hope to talk to you there!


That’s it! Happy new academic year – new starts, new opportunities.

Go well,


It ain’t necessarily so …

“There is no scientific word for ‘miraculous.” The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski

If the measurements on a graph read 4,3,2, scientists would bet their life on the next number being 1. But a coach might murmur, ‘It ain’t necessarily so.’

A grandmother dies of a certain cancer, her daughter the same; her granddaughter is warned by professionals that the likely prognosis is that she’ll get it too. But the coach would whisper in her ear, ‘It ain’t necessarily so.’

An employee is cautioned for under-performing, and next month performs even worse. ‘He’s heading for dismissal,’ remarks the manager. But the coach suggests, ‘It ain’t necessarily so.’

Science looks for patterns, and patterns are popular with humans. The left-brain especially enjoys making elements fit a pattern to confirm a hypothesis. It will even adjust events to fit a pattern if necessary.

The Chicken Test

The neuro-scientist Ramachandran did an interesting experiment to show that the left brain, where it does not know the correct answer, will often invent just to make information fit, apparently without any awareness that it is making stuff up.

In Ramachandran’s test, each hemisphere of a subject’s brain was presented with a different picture and told to pick the object that relates to that picture (see illustration). His left hemisphere was shown a chicken claw, while the right viewed a snow scene. You can see that the patient is pointing to a chicken with his right hand (left hemisphere), and a shovel with his left hand (right hemisphere). After each hemisphere responded, the left hemisphere (which had no knowledge of the snow scene) was asked to explain the two choices. The subject responded, “I saw a claw and I picked the chicken, and you have to clean out the chicken shed with a shovel so that’s why I chose that.”

A similar response happened in trial after trial. Observers knew exactly that the shovel had been chosen because of the snow scene shown to the right hemisphere, but the left hemisphere (without knowing why) gave its false rationale with confidence as a statement of fact, with no doubt whatsoever. Our left-brain, with its urge to makes things fit even when they actually don’t, supplies or guesses at any missing parts in order to make meaning of a partial form.

Autobiographical consistency

We do this with our emotional life too. We like to make things ‘fit’, to provide ‘closure’, as otherwise we feel unease. It has been confirmed from study of autobiographical memory that people will alter, misremember, or inhibit awkward or unhappy bits of autobiographical knowledge to make them fit their self-image and protect their sense of self. And if that sense of self includes failure or another negative quality, they will make sure that all their experience – even significant success – fits that pattern of failure. This is the worst of human patterns – to repeat yesterday’s thoughts and interpretations tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. But listen to Einstein:

Knowledge of what is and what has been doesn’t tell what’s got to be. Albert Einstein.
(It only usually does).

Coaching is a pattern breaker par excellence. A coach feels no need to believe trends, prognoses or natural progressions, and by challenging them, can help the coachee perform miracles.

Nothing’s impossible – it just hasn’t happened yet

So what’s the miracle, the ‘step 2’ in the cartoon above? The miracle is to ignore the fact that 99% of today’s thoughts are the same as those of yesterday, and to know that nothing’s impossible – it just hasn’t happened yet.

If you heed other people, it’s easy to get discouraged. Listen to these confident views actually expressed by acknowledged experts from the past:

Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy.

 Heavier-than-air flying machines? Impossible.

X-rays? – a hoax.

Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?

Radio? Impossible! Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?

Television? Impossible! Who’s going to want to stare at a plywood box every night?

A computer in the home? That’s ridiculous!

Now listen instead to children’s poet, Shel Silverstein:

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child.
Listen to the DON’TS.
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS,
Listen to the NEVER HAVES,
then listen close to me…
Anything can happen, child.
ANYTHING can be.

The miracle of coaching is to discover that you don’t have to fit with your existing self-image. When you get tired of your left brain’s insistence on consistency, your right brain can introduce a new element into the complex equation that is your life, shift to an entirely new narrative, and transform the system.

(And if you don’t want to do it on your own, get a coach, or do a workshop. See below!)


Voice of Influence News

Voice of Influence Workshop – 19-20 September

If you don’t love public speaking, or feel nervous sometimes in meetings, or feel people don’t listen to you or suspect you’re not a very interesting speaker, PAUSE here. You can sort this once and for all, now, by booking the 2-day Voice of Influence Workshop in London this 19-20 September. The work applies to all speaking situations from presentations to meetings and interviews. You won’t be put on the spot, you’ll have fun in a small group, you’ll learn some of the most valuable skills of your life without suffering to attain them; and by the end, you’ll know yourself better too. Big promises, but you’ll find they’re true. Read some testimonials here – they are typical of what people write after every course.

I take small numbers on each workshop, so sign up soon! Book on-line here or email the booking form to me to reserve your place.

NLP Diploma

We already have a great group signed up for the NLP Diploma in the autumn. On this NLP course, you make invaluable discoveries about yourself and others – you’re never told what to think. The workshops build your inner confidence like no other training I know, and give you tools that you will use in every context of your life from this time on. Like many others, I never looked back after embarking on NLP training. So many good things started then. Hard to describe in a blurb like this without resorting to hyperbole!

Details: The course consists of three 2-day modules that you can book individually if you prefer.

Communication & Relationships 17-18 October

Leadership & Influence 7-8 November

Coaching & Change 28-29 November

Discounted price for full Diploma – only £850. Book here. (Book each module separately and discount appears at the end).

I offer discounts on occasion to certain self-funding applicants, charities etc.


Coaching is a great way to move faster and more surely towards what you want (and indeed to find out what you want!). Even a very few sessions can transform your thinking on issues that matter to you. Coaching is for everyone – the great resource of our day. Contact me if you’re curious to know more! 01306 886114.

Other resources     My website is full of good stuff, including free E-courses on presenting, voice, NLP and more.

Facebook                  My Voice of Influence Facebook page has valuable speaking and voice tips and inspiration each day.

Twitter                       Good daily stuff on Twitter too – personal posts, not automated!

Voice of Influence (The book!) Find your voice and change your life.

Butterflies & Sweaty Palms – 25 Sure Fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence. My book on beating performance anxiety.

Voice & Speaking Skills For Dummies ­– my latest publication.

I’m busy writing another book this summer to be published next year – more information in the autumn.

I hope you’re enjoying your summer. See you in the autumn?

Go well,

I’m Sorry! (Not)

Stolen words

Yesterday, I overheard someone say in irritation, “Well, I’m sorry you took it that way.”

Hmm, not much sorrow there I thought! You hear such statements all the time in the news: “I’m truly sorry for the mistakes of my predecessor in 1892 …”, or (in the voice of a child’s forced apology), “I’d like to say sor-ree to Parliament …!”

It got me thinking about these verbs that express personal experience beginning with the pronoun ‘I’.

Trust, for example. I don’t hear much trust in,  “I trust you’re going to finish that by Friday,” or, “I trust you don’t expect me to wear that thing?!”

or feeling in, “I feel that the surest option is multiple redundancies,” or “I feel he’s taking a liberty.”

And I don’t detect much fear in, “I’m afraid I’m going to have to let you go,” and “I’m afraid I don’t hold with that sort of ridiculous behaviour.”

When the intellect appropriates experiencing words, it downgrades the world of inner experience/touch. In each of the sentences above, you could insert ‘that’ after the experiencing word, and – whether the ‘that’ is actually stated in the sentence or just understood – the sense of that word removes any genuine experience from the statement. “I feel (that) it’s time we had a heart to heart” is not an experience, it’s a comment.

When we say these experiencing words in their true meaning, we feel something in our body rather than in our head. They ‘touch’ us.

Try this

  1. Think of something you want to accomplish that will take you out of your comfort zone, and say to yourself, “I trust myself in this endeavour.” And in a visceral way sense what trusting is like for you.
  2. Then think of someone in whose integrity you have complete faith, and feel inside yourself, “I trust you.” Take your time to feel that trust.
  3. Now think of someone you’ve hurt in your life and would like to apologise to. Then feel inside yourself, ‘I’m sorry’. Take your time to experience it.

This may well be something you don’t usually do in everyday life. If someone says or does something that arouses a feeling in you – pleasure, sadness, betrayal, excitement, anger, whatever – you may tend to move rapidly to reaction, retaliation or reason-making, with very good intention. For example, in response to a hurtful comment, you may instantly button your lips and walk away, or make a hurtful comment back, or think, “I never liked that person; they are so spiteful.” If you’re quick enough in response, you might not register any hurt at all. But if you don’t experience the feeling, uncomfortable as it may be, you miss out on important information, and your response is only partial.

Most of us don’t like painful feelings, so our intellect is very quick to jump in. It takes time to really experience a situation. Feeling is actually a quicker response than thinking – if you can catch it on the wing. But if you miss that initial instant whisper of a body response and the intellect takes over, it takes much longer if you want to tune into the feeling again.

Experiencing is gold dust

The experienced response is gold dust. It puts you in direct touch with your values for a start. People with excellent intuition catch the lightning awareness of feeling in heart or gut and then back it up and support it with their thinking. It gives them a fuller picture and they are able to respond more appropriately and with greater wisdom.

Alexander Lowen described it in a paragraph I really like in his excellent book, Bioenergetics

All organisms move headfirst through life, as they come headfirst into life. The head with its ego functions as the spear point of the body. Imagine an arrow without an arrowhead and we have the picture of a body with its feelings but without a head to translate those feelings into effective action in the world. But let us not forget that an arrowhead without a shaft, or an ego without a body, is a relic of what was once a life force.”

How to do it? ‘Listen’ to yourself and build your awareness. We’re familiar with body gym and mind gym. Time for ‘heart gym’ perhaps? I suspect that’s true for me. You?

The only real valuable thing is intuition. Albert Einstein


Upcoming Courses

Lots of good things ..

NLP Diploma

It’s difficult to describe NLP Training. The words that people use most frequently after having done my Diploma are: ‘more confidence’, ‘clearer thinking’, ‘understanding other people better’, ‘making significant changes in my life’, ‘going for things and making them happen’ ‘finding myself’ … One thing’s for sure, if you do the NLP Diploma, you won’t look back.

The course is designed as three 2-day workshops which run over about 3 months.

Autumn Dates of Modules:

Communication & Relationships: 17-18 October

Leadership & Influence: 7-8 November

Coaching & Change: 28-29 November

We already have a great group for this autumn. Hope you can join us! Apply on-line here (you sign up for individual modules) or

Voice of Influence Workshop

Go beyond performance anxiety to powerful performance. Use your voice to influence with presence and connection – even if you are seriously daunted now! 2 fun-filled days that will make a profound difference to your confidence and authenticity and impact on every part of your life.

Dates to choose from:

19-20 September

12-13 December

The September course is already filling up, so apply now if you want to do that one!

Other Resources

THIS WEEK! Spirit of Coaching: Creating Self Confidence

4 July, evening, London. For all coaches and others interested in personal growth and development. The main speaker is Gael Lindenfield, well-known author and leading confidence and self-help expert.  This event is free, but you need to register in advance – you can do that here. I’m going – see you there?

My daily FaceBook tips and inspiration


Quite a choice of courses to download. Have you tried 10 Secrets to Overcoming Performance Anxiety for instance? – 5 days of valuable tips for speaking with confidence.


My second book Butterflies and Sweaty Palms was shortlisted for the Best Achievement Award at The People’s Book Prize Final. Thank you all so much for your votes – it was phenomenal! The judges said of it:

A true empowerment tool which should get into the hands of many. It really cuts to the chase. It’s a clear explanation of why things happen rather than self-help book. A new phenomenon.


People frequently get in touch for executive coaching or life coaching. If you are interested, just email me or give me a call. You might like to try a first session to appreciate how it can help you.

Have a browse around my website – lots of other good stuff!

Summer and Wimbledon this week! Go well.

Her Voice Was Soft and Gentle

Her voice was soft and gentle, rising lightly in question, “Hello, Judy, lovely June weather isn’t it? …”

Actually, I’m lying. What she actually said in her sweet tones was, “Have you removed your bags from the bagging area?”

Yes, I was at the supermarket self-check-out and it was an automated voice. I don’t know how you react to these recorded voices – I have to admit to a ‘not inconsiderable’ sense of rage. The tone is friendly, as if the voice knows you – but the emotion is false. Here again, travelling to London by train last Wednesday: “We are just arriving at Waterloo, this train’s final station stop …” in a voice so intimate in tone that I imagined it continuing,  “Thomas our good train engine has died; as we approach his final station stop, we will remember him …”

AND, oh dear, women’s voices tend to be favoured for these recorded messages.

How will we ever distinguish between truth and falsehood when the airwaves are full of voices pretending to contain emotion that is not actually felt? We are being unwittingly trained by the media to believe that the bright sounds of a studio host convey genuine excitement and happiness; that the robust tones of the politician are signs of conviction and confidence; that the public apology signifies true contrition. All too often, that is far from the truth! So, what to do about it?

How to tell a genuine voice

If you really listen, you can learn to hear features in a voice that provide clues to what is actually going on. Here are a few to start you off:

  1. A voice that is put-on often resonates only in the head and the throat. It may sound light and friendly, but the complete absence of any deeper tones reveals a blocking of genuine feeling. Remember listening to someone who sounds relentlessly pleasant even as they verbally assassinate a colleague?
  2. You may hear a voice that resonates strongly in the chest, but lacks variation. This is usually the sign of a ‘protective’ voice, protecting the speaker from betraying emotion. For instance, if the sound is deep and resonant, it remains doggedly rich and resonant whatever is being expressed. Such a voice becomes monotonous over time as it fails to communicate inner thoughts and feelings. Think of one or two current politicians with their ever-unruffled patrician voices …
  3. In a put-on voice, any expressiveness tends to be underwhelming. For instance, a speaker at a conference I attended recently told us that she was “very excited” about the day. She heroically put strong emphasis on the word “very” to express feeling, but the word scarcely rose in pitch and came out flat and self-conscious – certainly not excited.
  4. If emphasis is used deliberately to create artificial interest, it often comes out too strongly and sometimes on an inappropriate minor syllable; e.g. “There will be changes during this merger period.”

Such efforts sound crude in comparison with a voice that expresses the speaker’s truth. Listen to someone who is authentic, and you will hear a hundred subtle variations in the voice, conveying far more than the actual words – much more influential too.

The effect of feeling

Does genuine expression in the voice matter? I think it does.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou’s oft-quoted phrase rings so true.

I read last week about a man called Henry Molaison who lost his memory through a risky operation, in which the front half of his hippocampus and most of his amygdala were removed. Later in his life, he remembered only two events with great clarity. One was a highly exciting plane ride that he took as a reward after graduation from high school; the other was the occasion he stole a cigarette from his father that made him very sick and got him into serious trouble. A neuro-scientist who spent much time interviewing and testing Henry over 46 years, (every day a first meeting as far as Henry was concerned!), discovered that both these highly emotional events were stored across various different parts of Henry’s brain.

Emotional experiences are sticky – they get stored across different parts of the brain. And emotion is highly transferrable. When you listen to someone who is feeling what they say, you tend to feel emotion too as their sound waves vibrate in your body. Afterwards, you recall the emotional meaning even more than the literal sense of the words.

Emotion in life and business

Many people in organisations like to think that emotion in human affairs is not relevant or, at the least, a threat to effectiveness and control. But many of the human attributes most important for dealing with other people and for our own capacity to flourish have emotion at their core. Think of motivation, inspiration, caring, aspiration, happiness, empathy, connection …

The concept of emotional intelligence was given a high profile launch by Daniel Goleman almost 20 years ago, and many organisations still engage in measuring the emotional intelligence of their employees. But how to become more emotionally intelligent – ah, that’s not pursued with such vigour.

Simple awareness is one of the most useful tools for building emotional intelligence. Listening for instance. You might like to start by listening with great sensitivity to every nuance of people’s voices – you’ll soon begin to distinguish more confidently between authenticity and pretence.

We need more of this discriminating listening in our world today. Don’t you think?

NLP Diploma

If you want to build your emotional intelligence, I know of no better route than experiencing the best of NLP. My next NLP Diploma course starts this autumn, and represents excellent value for quality, time and money. The three modules are:

Communication & Relationships 17-18 October

Leadership & Influence 7 – 8 November

Coaching & Change 28 – 29 November

You can register directly on-line, or copy the booking form to send back to me.

Voice of Influence
– How to Get People to Love to Listen to You

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies

Today I wrote about voice, so here’s a reminder of my two books on voice – both full of practical tips you can use immediately to use your voice more skilfully to influence, connect, motivate and inspire. They both make a good read too!

By the way, there’s a new area called ‘Books’ on my website, that tells you more about my books and provides links to Amazon and other sites to buy them. Have a look.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms: 25 Sure-Fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence

A million thanks to all the people who voted for my book Butterflies and Sweaty Palms in the final of The People’s Book Prize. We had a great evening at the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers. The Non-Fiction prize was won by 92 year old Eileen Younghusband for her book One Woman’s War about her experiences in Bomber Command during World War II. My book was nominated for the Best Achievement Award – for books that are having a profound effect on the world, so that was good! (Overall winner, William Ayot’s poetry book: Email from the Soul). Thank you all.

Voice of Influence Workshop

The Voice of Influence is filling up as usual. If you want a place on one of the workshops – to find your voice and confidence in speaking to groups – book here or send me an email here. Next dates: 19-20 September; 12-13 December.

Go well!


True North

In the zone

I did really well! No, really, I was brilliant. I was speaking to a group and everything was flowing; they were listening and super-attentive and clearly enjoying what I had to say – you could almost hear the proverbial pin drop. They talk about ‘being in the zone’, don’t they? Well, there was I!

Afterwards I thought about how I’d achieved it. I analysed my performance, and considered each element of it – How had I been reasoning and thinking, what had I been doing with my voice, my body, my hands, my balance, what had I been aware of, how had I been feeling?

Not good! The next time I tried to replicate my success through thinking of the separate elements, I got self-conscious and confused and completely lost it.

I read a calendar quote this week: The less I think about doing something the faster I am able to get it done.

Is it true?

How to beat your opponent every time

Tim Gallwey in his brilliant first book, The Inner Game of Tennis, describes the perfect way to put an opponent off his stroke: you congratulate him on how well he’s playing and make him think about what exactly he’s doing.  He then begins to tell you as he performs about how he’s swinging the racquet and hitting the ball in front of him, and keeping his wrist firm and following through – all the separate elements … and before you know it he has lost his timing and flow and begins to fall apart.

The poet Rumi, writing about 800 years ago, said something very similar about doing and thinking:

The throbbing vein
Will take you further
Than any thinking.

…Do not theorize
about essence. All speculations
are just more layers of covering
Human beings love coverings.

‘Do not theorise about.’

But I can hear someone saying to themselves, “Okay that’s great, but so what? If I can’t examine my behaviour to learn from it, how do I learn?”

A great way to achieve success

I’m beginning to think that we’re a bit too keen on analytical method. It’s fine and useful in many activities, but in some cases it isn’t as effective as a more holistic approach, especially when we’re talking about human behaviour.

Rumi talks about a form of intelligence that is less static and analytical than reason:

        It’s fluid,
And it does not move from outside to inside
Through the conduits of plumbing-learning.
The second knowing is a fountainhead
From within you, moving out.

You’ll recognise such intelligence when for instance you suddenly go ‘aha!’ and capture something in its entirety, without building up the pieces bit by bit, and what you capture is more rich and subtle than the sum of the individual elements.

A great and pleasurable way to learn is through awareness in the moment without analysis. You aim to stay in the here and now, to do while staying present and aware, rather than reason about doing. This was Tim Gallwey’s tennis method which morphed into big-C Coaching. You just notice with subtle pleasure and gentle awareness the feeling of energy and movement when things are going well. That’s your true north.

And the quick way?

There’s a neat shortcut: enjoyment. If you’re enjoying what you’re doing, you’re probably on track. Rumi’s ‘plumbing-learning’ can involve slog and effort; enjoyment doesn’t – and you learn faster and better. Enjoyment is never about what you do – rather it’s doing, enjoying, being, living: the zing of being in the moment. The more you acknowledge and enjoy what you are doing, the more you grow into and embody the skills involved.

Business case

The enjoyment factor is applicable to work too. If your people or team aren’t enjoying their work, beware – you are already losing ¾ of the full intelligence they have to offer. Enjoyment doesn’t mean relaxing – it can be a great workout, mentally, emotionally and physically – but it’s engaging and energising. We motivate people best through attraction towards enjoyment and fulfilment, not by whipping them. Then you get 100% – maybe even 110.

That’s flow, in my book.



The People’s Book Prize Shortlist – please help!

I’m excited! My book, Butterflies and Sweaty Palms has been short-listed for The People’s Book Prize Non-Fiction which is voted for by the public, and I’ve been invited to attend a grand dinner in the City when the overall winner will be announced.

Please will you vote for me? (if you like my book of course!). Voting for finalists is between 21 and 29 May at You can register on the website now and vote later. (NB registration is purely to ensure voting’s fair and doesn’t sign you up for unwanted emails). The website only allows you to vote for the final winner between May 21-29, so I might remind you again closer to the date!

Autumn Course Dates now available

Thinking about learning and enjoyment, here are some written comments all from the 11 participants on last Thursday and Friday’s Voice of Influence workshop. I include them here to encourage you if you are daunted or don’t really enjoy public speaking – it could be you next time!

The workshop was amazing. I think it was definitely the most useful two days of learning that I have ever attended in my career to date. I finally got over what seemed to be an insurmountable hurdle. Everyone who has ever worried about speaking in public should do this course! I will be recommending it to my colleagues, my boss and HR.

I’m so excited to report that on Monday … I leapt to my feet in front of 40 odd people …without a hint of nerves or self-consciousness!  All down to you, thank you.

An invaluable two days.  I wish I had done it years ago!

Nothing had ever helped me “get my head straight” or given me any techniques to manage my nerves or voice.  In just two days on Voice of Influence, I have overcome my performance anxiety, can manage my voice and am actually looking forward to my next opportunity to present formally! 

Really helped with my confidence. Fantastic course – would recommend it to a friend. FANTASTIC AND WORTHWHILE!!!

Such a breakthrough. Excellent +++ experience. 

I experienced a rise in confidence not just with my voice but my overall presence and the way I perceive myself when around other people. Overall, it was a wonderful experience.

I wanted to be at ease, bring humour and be more myself: I think I sort of did that. Great experience!

Totally engaging and credible. An experience I’m very pleased to have had – not a minute was wasted. I almost felt comfortable standing in front of people for the first time

One step closer to being in me more. You absolutely practice what you preach. I appreciate your honesty and directness too. I hope that many more people will get to benefit from what you have to give. Very positive and enjoyable.

Well … to achieve a stand-up speech in front of 12 people in 2 days! Considering the shut down I experience weekly. Can’t believe it! Challenging but supported completely every step. … Life changing experience.


One after that 12-13 Dec. Book for either workshop online here or email me to reserve a place. Is now the right time for you?


Many people who attend the Voice of Influence can’t wait to do more of this kind of learning. The NLP Diploma builds confidence and self-belief and gives you strong practical leadership and coaching skills, plus loads of valuable insights into yourself and other people. It makes a deep-down difference that impacts on everything you do. Attend these workshops and I promise you’ll never look back.

There are three 2-day modules, which you can take separately if you prefer. Book on-line (links below) or email me at Big reduction for booking all three.

Communication & Relationships 17-18 Oct

Leadership & Influence 7-8 Nov

Coaching & Change 28-29 Nov

I can sometimes offer a discount for people who genuinely cannot afford the fee.


Free Learning: E-courses on NLP, Confidence, Voice and more at

Books: Find my 3 books on voice and confidence at Judy Apps on Amazon

Free daily tips and inspiration: follow me on FaceBook and Twitter

Coaching: 1-to-1 coaching, face-to-face or by telephone/Skype. If you’re stuck or uncertain, in transition, or just want to be the best you can be, coaching works. Contact me at or on +44 1306 886114 to have a chat about it.

That’s it!  Go well, enjoy the sunshine!






Are the ‘best’ public speakers really the best?

In the past doctors did experiments on dead bodies and made inferences about the inner workings of live human beings.

Then they studied activity in a living brain and claimed to discover the immutable brain functions of the human being studied.

Now they study the ability of synapses in the brain to reform and develop to find out about man’s potential.

Are we always a step behind? What next?!

Small chunk approaches to communication

We dissect scientifically to discover the workings of humans and assume that the parts we discover add up to a whole. But they often don’t – take Albert Mehrabian and his oft-quoted statistic that 55% of the impact of a speaker is made by his/her body language, 37% the tone of voice and only 7% the actual words.

Mehrabian’s original 1967 study was pretty simplistic. Researchers spoke 9 single words out of context, already categorised as negative, neutral or positive (by the researchers!) in a positive or negative tone of voice (or so intended) and participants were asked to judge the feelings of the speaker. In a second study, a single neutral word was used – e.g. ‘maybe’. Participants listened to a recording of the word said in different tones (again, not in context, only intended) and at the same time were shown photos of different facial expressions – then asked the feelings of the speaker. In each case the sample of the population tested was tiny. Hardly proof of the effect of communication!

Body language is a broad-brush visible sign of subtle and ever-changing inner mental, emotional, energetic activity. We are certainly affected by body language; but we are affected more fundamentally (unconsciously as well as consciously) by the internal energy that creates both body language and tone of voice.

What happens inside us is complex. We wouldn’t just examine externals to discover how someone drives a car skilfully. Mental, emotional, spiritual and inner energy are all vital in our communication.

Body language and great speaking

The other day, I listened to a DVD of world champion speakers from one of the huge international speaking associations (you can find lots of clips on YouTube).

To my surprise I was not impressed. Why ever not? Most of the (proven!) individual elements of great speaking were there: well-planned material, excellent well-prepared choice of words; self-assured posture, expansive gesture, easy movement, approachable manner and passion in abundance; all the details of eye contact, pregnant pauses and extreme changes of voice tone, volume and pace …

What was I missing? They performed admirably – these were after all prize-winning speakers. They roused me and energised me; but they didn’t speak to me. They didn’t connect – not really. These were performances, not communications – and certainly not communications to touch my inner core.

As long as you are aware that a performance is a performance – however brilliant – there’s a gap in communication. You’re not quite there. Great actors know this truth. If you concentrate on learning performance skills alone, you learn to perform – but that’s not the whole story, you need to connect – to touch – as well.

Connection comes from a different place.

Now I’m not just talking about competitive speaking, this has general relevance too. It applies to most of our current batch of politicians; it applies to religious speakers; it applies to business leaders too. If today’s in-vogue public speaking style were to be compared to an artist’s work, it would have to be Roy Lichtenstein – Wham! – between the eyeballs, all bright colour, high contrast and gloss. But great art goes much beyond that. What about the delicate detail of Dürer, the powerful physical forms of Michelangelo, the subtle washes of Turner? – as many variations as there are artists – and they connect with us in different ways. Speaking can do that too.

So where does connection come from? It comes from a quieter inner place.

You don’t need to be a super-extrovert to communicate well. You just need to want to communicate with real people, and to want to communicate more than you want to perform brilliantly. Then connection takes place between your inner being and the inner being of your listeners. When you connect, you reach each member of your audience, and each responds positively to you. There are many different ways to do that.

It’s as simple as that really. It can be flamboyant, exciting, calm, peaceful, colourful, tender, strong – any or all of these things. Your way of doing it is fine. And with your desire for meaning and communication you and the listener come together with transparent connection – often at a level deeper than you might imagine.

As Carl Jung said:

Learn your theories and techniques well, then be prepared to set them aside when you meet the miracle of the living soul before you.

Here are some of the public speakers that have moved and influenced me and changed my thinking:

Edward De Bono, who made no effort to ‘present’ in any public sense but I had the impression he was speaking to me personally, one to one.

A man from a mental health support group who was completely terrified but spoke from his heart and reached mine.

Tim Gallwey, who during his presentation took time to find the words he wanted to say to that particular audience, and in so doing created something new.

The quiet Indian speaker whose stillness and soft voice slid under the wire and caught me unawares with her strength.

Who are yours?

And how might you communicate the best of you?

Voice of Influence Workshop, 25-26 April and again in the autumn

If you want to find your voice and your inner confidence and speak in every situation with skill and ease, then go to and book your place on this 2-day course now.

The courses are in London. You can book online, or download a booking form to send to me. More details on the website too, or contact me if you want to talk through your situation with me.

People’s Book Prize finalists – last chance to vote, 21-29 May!

My book, Butterflies and Sweaty Palms: 25 Sure-Fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence, has been selected as a finalist in The People’s Book Prize Non-Fiction Category – the winners will be announced at a TPBP Prestigious 4th Award Ceremony on the 29th of May. You have a chance to vote among the finalists in a narrow window from 21-29 May – I’d love you to vote for me, so will send you a reminder when I get voting details in May. You can see the other finalists here:

Look here to buy my other books on Amazon – either soft back or Kindle editions.

Spirit of Coaching: How to Be Happy in Challenging Times

This Sunday afternoon, 14 April, 2 – 5.30. Register at Robert Holden will be speaking. These events are free but you need to register. See you there?

Happiness is a spiritual path. The more you learn about true happiness, the more you discover the truth of who you are, what is important, and what your life is for.  Robert Holden

Daily Speaking Tips & Inspiration

You can learn loads about speaking and confidence for free on my FaceBook page – Have you had a look yet?  Please ‘like’ the page if you pay a visit!

I offer lots of useful tips on Twitter too.

E-Courses to download free from

  • 10 Secrets of Overcoming Performance Anxiety
  • How to Speak with More Authority
  • How to Raise Your Profile
  • An Introduction to NLP
That’s it!
Do get in touch with me with questions and comments about voice, public speaking and communication in general.
Go well,


PS If  you have friends who might be interested, please feel free to forward this newsletter to them.


I Can’t Dance Because …

Claire fell off the swing at school and hurt her knee, so she set off home to tell her mum all about it. On the way she met her friend Abigail. ‘Look at my bad knee,’ said Claire. ‘How did you do it,’ asked Abigail.

Well,’ said Claire, ‘There was a very big bad wolf, and it came sneaking up behind me and it …  Then Claire met her friend Paul. ‘Look at my bad knee,’ said Claire. ‘How did you do it,’ asked Paul.

Well,’ said Claire, ‘there was a vast flying saucer and it came zooming out of the sky and …  Next Claire met Jonathan. ‘How did you do your bad knee,’ he asked.

Well,’ said Claire, ‘there was a ghastly ghost, and it came gliding out of a gloomy graveyard and …

Snippets from Jill Murphy’s On the Way Home – a great bedtime story…

As humans we are very good at finding reasons. And finding reasons is not child’s stuff – far from it. Such forensic activity has been elevated to the topmost position in life and work. People believe that if they can discover the ‘because’, they then know what action to take.  ‘Why did that happen?!’ we ask all the time. ‘It happened because … ‘

It’s a useful process – but more limited than we might think.

We now know that this process of finding a rationale is something the left brain does – and does whether it has evidence or not. In stroke patients with only left brain function or in experiments when only the right eye (left hemisphere) is allowed to see an object, the left brain even invents a rationale when none exists. The left hemisphere, without the balance of the right, is so set on making sense – making a pattern – that it will do it anyhow.

The trouble sometimes with finding reasons is that they suggest the relation between event and reason is a simple process of cause and effect, when the relationship is often more complex than that. In the case of chicken and egg for example, you could say that the egg is there because of the chicken, but the chicken is also there because of the egg.

You might say, as an old boy friend did once, ‘I can’t ski because my ankles are too weak.’ But what about, ‘My ankles are weak because I don’t ski.’ Might that be true too? Where’s the cause here?

And what about:

‘I can’t dance because I’m too old.’
What if:
I’m old because I don’t dance?
(And if I began to dance, what then …?)

And with relevance to the work I do on confidence:

‘I don’t speak up because I’m scared.’
But also:
I’m scared because I don’t speak up.
(And if I dipped my toe in the water and had a gentle go at speaking up, what then…?)

It’s especially crucial to question the cause/effect relationship in human relations :

‘I don’t like him because he doesn’t like me.’
What if:
He doesn’t like me because I don’t like him?
(And if I began to like him, what then …?)

Or even:

‘I don’t like him because he doesn’t like me.’
What if:
He doesn’t like me because I don’t like me?
(And if I began to like myself, what then …?)

You can connect this to Byron Katie’s work with turning statements upside down – for example in her book Loving What Is (surely her name is upside down too …).

Try playing such games with some of the statements you come across today – one or two might stop you in your tracks!

This is a significant process. On a world scale a country can say, ‘We need them to feel our power because we don’t feel safe.’ when the corollary is just as true: ‘We don’t feel safe because they feel our power.’ Apply this to some of the truly vital issues of our world such as peace and equality, and you begin to realise that finding reasons has such serious limitations that the very future of our planet depend on a shift in our thinking.

Voice of Influence – What’s Going On

Daily Voice and Confidence Tips on FaceBook

Have you seen my colourful new Voice of Influence FaceBook page? It’s full of inspirational daily hints and tips from my books and courses – on voice, public speaking, overcoming butterflies and nerves and becoming a powerful communicator.

Have a quick glance HERE.

I’m pleased with it and hope you like it too, and find it genuinely useful. Please press ‘LIKE’ on the page if you do!

NLP Diploma – 26-27 October

Try the first of the 3 Diploma modules – Communication & Relationships –on 25-26 October. This NLP Diploma has so much going for it – the most up-to-date material, NLP at its most elegant and effective – all out-dated complexities and jargon pared away; comfortable low numbers for your best work; the highest standards of ethics, and individual attention for your maximum personal benefit. It is truly one of the best – and most reasonable – courses around. Go the website Booking page to reserve your place and for info on the other modules – also how to continue on to the NLP Practitioner in 2013.

Voice of Influence Workshop on 18-19 October is full

Next available workshop in the New Year. I’m about to publish dates for 2013.

Booking and Costs

Book directly on-line, or use the on-line booking form and email it to me. If you are in particular circumstances don’t hesitate to let me know – I offer some places at generous discounts for those in genuine need.

Books on Voice and Confidence

Want a little book with 25 gems in it? Then have a look at Butterflies and Sweaty Palms: 25 Sure-Fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence.

Want a practical comprehensive book to dip into again and again. Then go for Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies.

My most personal book on understanding how to influence others with your voice: Voice of Influence: How to Get People to Love to Listen to You.

Other news

Joseph O’Connor was an inspiration at the Spirit of Coaching Conference. Look out for these events, they are brilliant – and free.


If you are stuck, or uncertain about which way to go, or are in any sort of transition phase, coaching will most certainly be invaluable to you – if you find the right coach for you. Talk to me, or send me an email for further information on face-to-face or telephone/Skype coaching. Or have a look at the list of Professional Certified Coaches on the International Coach Federation website.

That’s it!  Warm good wishes,