The Resplendent Quetzal

“The Resplendent Quetzal” … sounds like the title of a cautionary tale like “The Pobble Who Has No Toes” … But this is about national symbols. They tell you something, don’t they?

Britain has the lion – powerful king of the jungle; England also favours the bulldog – determined and unbudgeable; the United States has the mighty eagle – lord of all it surveys; the French rooster rules the roost; and many other countries signify their strength through animals such as the lion, the eagle and other predators.

The national symbol of the Indian people in Guatemala is a bird, the quetzal. It’s extraordinarily beautiful with iridescent green-gold and blue-violet feathers, and a long long tail. To see the resplendent quetzal in flight with its tail undulating behind is to understand how the bird signifies freedom to the people of Guatemala. In fact, if you try to keep a quetzal in a cage, it dies. It cannot survive in captivity. It has to be free. What a symbol.

Glorious freedom… We’ve just returned from a break in the northern Pennines, where I appreciated the freedom of space and quiet, the lonely fells and flower meadows – places where oyster catchers nest in peace and wild orchids proliferate undisturbed; and where we were free to drive without traffic jams, to walk across fields of sheep from stile to stile without hindrance and discover spectacular waterfalls without entry restrictions or queues.

Well, of course, it wasn’t the crowded south east of England. But it got me thinking about freedom, how we care or don’t care about it, and whether or not we’re losing it. I used to think of freedom – as on my holiday – in terms of escape, running away almost – days off work, riding up into the hills. But now, I often think about that essential freedom to be yourself – to be true to your own spirit – the kind of freedom that allows you to be free inside whatever circumstances you find yourself in.

That kind of freedom seems almost the opposite of escape. And takes courage – sometimes huge courage for the stakes can be high.

Well, courage can be symbolised by the fierce animals like the brave lion, but I like the image of the quetzal, insisting on living in freedom, and symbolising freedom for all.

The quetzal is in danger of extinction. Maybe human beings are also in danger of losing that freedom to be who we truly are – the global pressures to fit the mould and toe the line are beyond question powerful. But if we lose that freedom to be ourselves, we lose our spontaneous energy, joy and flexibility and over the years become rigid caricatures of who we pretend to be. No wonder old politicians so often end up looking like cartoons of themselves!

What to do in those moments when you fear to be yourself? My simplest and best strategy so far is to remember to breathe. Instead of using your legs to run away – which they’d probably like to do! – rather, take a long slow breath in through your nose and breathe the airl out again, to let frozen tension fall away and allow your deeper wisdom to flow.

Birds make great sky-circles of their freedom. How do they learn it? They fall and falling, they’re given wings. Rumi

In letting fear fall away and being able to act and and say our truth, we’re truly free.

NEWS

VOICE OF INFLUENCE Workshop – 14-15 July – act now!

This month I still have space on the workshop on 14-15 July, so email me as soon as possible if you’re interested. The course has much in common with the subject of this newsletter. When you find your freedom to be authentic and speak with your own voice, you liberate the best of you, and become an engaging, even powerful, public speaker. I’ve watched it happen again and again in the two days of this workshop – some amazing transformations. Don’t worry if you feel daunted or scared now – that’s an okay place to start. I offer discounts at times to those who would struggle to pay the full fee.

BYRON KATIE: Who Would You Be Without Your Story?

Byron Katie’s personal change work has the appearance of utmost simplicity, but it can work brilliantly. She’s running a workshop on July 5 in London. Apply here.

Her workshop is one of many talks and workshops run by Alternatives in central London. Have you discovered them? They get some fabulous speakers, and charge very reasonable entrance fees for their talks.

Connect via Facebook and Twitter

I post voice and speaking ideas and tips – and generally good stuff! – most days.

My books – available in print and e-versions

The Art of Conversation      Whether you’re shy and don’t know what to say or feel you blabber on – or want to make deeper more meaningful connections with people, you’ll find lots of helpful material. It’s an easy read too. The book is going to be produced also in audio form through Audible.com, Amazon and iTunes – I’ll let you know when that format is available.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms       If you want to overcome performance nerves, this reader-friendly book offers 25 different strategies for speaking and presenting with confidence – and they work!

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies offers a comprehensive guide to voice and speaking – you can dip in anywhere and discover practical tips for developing a more robust and interesting voice.

Voice of Influence       Gets to the heart of voice – how to connect with other people and how to influence others through your voice. Lots of personal experiences and practical advice to make it a good read.

A poem

Some of the poets of 500 years ago really got the message. Here is Tukaram about speaking your truth:

I could not lie anymore so I started calling my dog “God.”
First he looked confused,
then he started smiling,
then he even danced.

I kept at it:
now he doesn’t even bite.

I am wondering if this might work
on people?

Have a wonderful July.

Go well,

Judy

 

 

 

 

 

Paying Attention

The cultural ecologist David Abram tells of meeting a man in the Pacific Northwest who could recognise the sounds of different trees. If you drove him, blindfolded, to any patch of coastal forest and sat him beneath any tree on a windy day – after a few moments he would tell you, by listening, whether the tree above him was a Douglas fir, a Sitka spruce or a western red cedar, or some different species. What attention …

The remarkable deaf professional percussionist Evelyn Glennie developed the ability to distinguish the smallest pitch difference in the sound of a drum through the vibration she felt coming up through the drumsticks into her hands and arms. Imagine that degree of sensitivity…

You’ll have your own examples of people using their senses exceptionally. To my mind they have something in common – they all share the ability to pay close attention without premature judgement – that is, they remain open to the experience for long enough to let insight steal up on them.

I’ve had a feast of the senses this month having seen the Matisse Cut Outs Exhibition at the Tate Modern twice. (If you haven’t seen it, go – it’s great!) Matisse started to work with paper shapes at the age of eighty when suffering from cancer and without the strength to use a paint brush. These late works are startling, original, energetic, and full of joy.

Matisse too remained open to his senses, and he had quite a bit to say on the subject of paying attention. Don’t think you know what a rose is, he says, just because you have seen roses before:

There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.

Look afresh and anew, he says.

I would like to recapture that freshness of vision which is characteristic of extreme youth when all the world is new to it.

And, he says, don’t imagine that being attentive is easy:

To look at something as though we had never seen it before requires great courage.

“To look at something …” to really look … At one period of my life, I often accompanied tourists who were on the London leg of a European tour around the British Museum and National Gallery. I noticed how some tourists looked down at their guidebooks, and would tick off a famous painting by reading its label and then move on without more than a quick glance at the actual picture: “Van Gogh’s Sunflowers – tick, Rembrandt self portrait – tick, Constable’s Hay Wain – tick. That’s London ticked off; Paris tomorrow!”

I had a certain pleasure in my tour-guiding period in ridiculing the tourists’ behaviour, but I’ve realised since that most of us do something similar all the time, measuring what we experience with our senses against an internal tick-list of stored information, values and beliefs. For example, if you hold a belief that city kids mean trouble, you only have to witness a teenager laughing loudly on a train to tick that mental belief box, “Trouble!” If you believe your partner is irresponsible, you only have to see an unopened letter from the bank addressed to them to instantly suspect the worst and tick your belief box with the thought, “Irresponsible!”

There’s a world of difference between clocking something in this way and absorbing something through the senses. I can recognise the sound of a bird and clock “thrush” – that’s an act of recognition. If I hear the bird’s song and am truly open to it with all my senses involved – ah, that’s something else entirely, and allows something new to enter my consciousness.

The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds. R. D. Laing

Paying real attention as we listen to someone requires us to absorb everything, take no short cuts, and refrain from certainty – even though our thinking brain is always looking for closure. This is partly for ourselves, so that we don’t jump to judgement, and it’s partly for the other person, as the quality and ease of our open listening helps them to think and communicate better.

It takes the whole of us to do that, not with any sense of effort, but in a gently absorbing way. Listening in this context consists of:

  • Hearing the nuances of voice tone beyond the actual sense of the words
  • Absorbing the nuances of facial expression, body language and breathing
  • Feeling the other person’s being empathetically – being touched by the other person
  • Allowing – letting things be as they are without seeking to interpret or change them.

I’ll tell you where I find this hardest – with people I know really well. Do you too? And that’s the very place, I realise, where seeing with fresh eyes is particularly productive. It’s one thing to notice something new in a child as he grows and develops. But adults don’t remain the same either – every single cell in our bodies is replaced every 7 years. A friend has just sent me a photo of me 40 years ago – I can follow the thread from that time to this, but I’m not the same person, and wouldn’t want to be treated as such.

So adults deserve our fresh attention too. I do think Matisse is right: to look at something as though we have never seen it before does indeed require courage. But the very act of doing so with people, allows the other person to change shape in our presence, to become more of who they can be. That’s the miracle of it.

The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.  Henry Miller

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Voice of Influence Workshop

– Coming up on 14-15 July in London, and again in October. You can book directly online here, or email me for invoiced company bookings or special cases.

This two-day course will give you the skills and confidence to speak with ease and connect with your audience – even if you are seriously daunted now. And it’s an enjoyable experience too – people often comment with surprise on the fun they have in the workshop. Two days from your life – think how many scenarios will be different in future when you feel at ease …

To those who sign up this month for the workshop I’m offering a free copy of my new book:-

The Art of Conversation

– It’s just out. It’s to be promoted from 15 May to 4 June at Smiths in airports and train stations – let me know if you spot it – I’d like a photo! The book takes you from first principles of starting a conversation cold to the subtle art of creating deep connection – it’s been recommended for people on the autistic spectrum as much as for those who want to connect with others on an intimate – even spiritual – level. Writing the book has been fascinating –  we engage with each other all the time, and these connections matter to us – but how we do that is under-examined.

If you enjoy the book, I (and especially my publishers!) would greatly appreciate a short recommendation on Amazon. The same goes for my other books if you’d like to recommend them – just a sentence or two to guide other potential readers would be great.

Find all my books here.

I’m spending a day this week with Nancy Klein – author of Time to Think and More Time to Think – she is a great advocate of paying attention to what people say. Wonderful writer, great books.

Speaking tips and inspiration

Useful daily speaking tips and inspiration on my Facebook page here.

Tweets too here.

For more help with voice and speaking download my E-courses on Overcoming Performance Anxiety, Speaking with More Authority and Raising Your Profile.

Coaching

One-to-one coaching offers you the opportunity to make significant changes in important parts of your life. It’s a practical and effective way to grow into the kind of person and the sort of roles you can maybe only imagine now. The one-to-one approach enables you to develop exactly the areas that will be most meaningful and impactful to you. It’s open to anyone – you don’t have to be already sorted to seek help from a coach!

I run my coaching business here in Dorking. I can also visit your business. Contact me for more information.

That’s it! Have a good month.

Go well.

 

 

The old words are best …

‘I train and coach people in leadership …’  Cupcake
(just practising a spiel for the next
networking event …)

We all specialise in leadership these days – us corporate coaches and trainers. Management has slipped down the list, but leadership has more models of excellence than cup cakes have decorative designs (not that they aren’t slipping down the list too …).

Ever on the case, I asked a young friend who especially admired his boss, ‘What’s so good about his leadership?’

‘He’s kind.’

Kind?! What sort of a word is that? I glossed over it.

‘Yes right, but what about his vision, his ability to be ahead of the curve, his authority, strength of purpose, decision making …?’

‘Yes, I s’pose …’ said the young person indifferently, ‘But some of the others have that too. He’s different because … well, he’s kind.

I asked him to tell me more, and he explained that okay this leader saw the big picture, knew where he was taking the company, was indeed tough at times and had made hard decisions, but he didn’t do it from a distance.

He tried to make it clearer. ‘You know how warfare works now?’ he said. ‘The attacker, way up in a fighter plane, sees the target in the cross-hairs of his sight and presses a button. Then far away some buildings fall and people die. Well, he’s the opposite of that; he gets up close and messy, and we all believe that he cares. He knows exactly how people feel because he talks to us, so although he’s tough sometimes I think that it hurts him when he makes a decision that’s painful for people.’

After we’d spoken, I reflected on his word, ‘kind’ and decided I liked its humanity. We are after all ‘humankind’ and ‘kind’ has its origins in ‘kin’ – family. Maybe if leaders got up close enough to be able to see their people breathing – see all their stakeholders breathing … After all, if results aren’t ultimately about people on the planet, what are they about?

I took a break from writing on Thursday and walked in a country park. Climbing up the hill to the summit I thought, ah yes, big picture – I don’t forget I’m climbing up to the top of the hill, but I also notice, look, a miraculous wild orchid – flowering impossibly in autumn just on my path – and I watch where I put my feet.

Maybe it’s time us English speakers took a fresh look at the words we use? I’m getting fond of our oldest words, those short ones like the one my young friend chose. Forget the lengthy words that belong to cross-hair vision – strategy, implementation, quantitative easing (‘shurely that used to be called something else?’ Ed.) or my favourite from an unfortunate political friendship this week, ‘income that is not dependent on any transactional behaviour’; I’m now raising a cheer for our ancient monosyllables like truth, like, fair, guts, peace and yes, kind.

What’s on the next few weeks

Voice of Influence Workshop

Learn how to speak with confidence and presence in any situation – 1-2 December.

The group is always small – 1 place left. More courses in 2012. The last workshop at the beginning of this month attracted this written feedback from the participants:

* Memorable experience! Enjoyable experience…
*Everything helped me (and others I am sure) to feel more confident and leave feeling we had gained something important. A great course! …
*I feel I have acquired a lot of tools to improve my public speaking and in addition am a lot more confident in myself…
*How happy your clients appear when they leave at the end of a course. They are invariably smiling …
*Every exercise had a purpose … It was useful for each to have their own feedback during tasks from the trainer. The course was set and planned in a way which made me very comfortable and interested in taking in more during each day.
*I am pleased to develop a more ‘can do’ attitude and not be afraid to get things wrong…
*Challenging but beneficial and rewarding… would recommend it highly. Was very nervous initially, but by the end felt more empowered. …
*I am very pleased about my growth in confidence… A refreshing break from the presentation skills course I have come to expect! … Great experience!

Coaching the Human Spirit

Brahma Kumaris, Spirit of Coaching residential weekend for coaches – Fri-Sun, 28-30 October near Oxford

This was a beautiful and inspiring event last year. It’s waiting list only for this year, but book early for next! www.globalretreatcentre.org

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms:

– 25 sure-fire ways to speak and present with confidence

My latest book, illustrated by Rosie Apps, comes out in January, a month later than I said in my last newsletter, but worth waiting for. You can still pre-book it for a Christmas present! It’s direct and practical – based on the best of what people discover in my courses and coaching – invaluable to keep beside you if you have to speak in public. Available to order on Amazon.

NLP Conference

I’m speaking at the Education Conference and the Main Conference on 18-20 November. This is a great event to find out more about NLP and hear an interesting variety of speakers from over the world. Hope to see you there! More details at www.nlpconference.co.uk.

Go well!

Travelling to a different emotional space …

walkaloneA story of walking out

I was feeling unappreciated and misunderstood. “I’m going out!” I announced with an air of finality like a teenager, and I stomped out.

Down the road, cut down the alley, across the main road and down towards the farm on the other side, then up the track that crosses the railway; finally up the steep hill through woods on the other side. I was puffing slightly when I reached the path along the downs at the top. I struck out further north, beyond our normal walking tracks into less-known territory, seeking to get as far away as possible. Soon I was a few miles from home, walking briskly along a woodland path through beech and chestnut. The signs around me of the dying year suited my frame of mind.

It was a beautiful autumn day, and I strode out, enjoying the rhythm of my steps and the energy of the exercise. I walked for a good hour and didn’t see a soul: surprising  how much space there is in the countryside – even in the south east! In the solitude I glimpsed a young deer which emerged from the trees up ahead, crossed the path calmly and disappeared into deep undergrowth. I felt pleased that it hadn’t panicked: silence, space, me and a deer.

By the time I found myself walking towards home rather than away from it, two hours had passed and I was deeply absorbed with an idea in my mind for a new project. By the time I reached home I was all eagerness to write it down.

My earlier mood? I could remember the earlier spat, but was in an entirely different place mentally and quite happy about the way forward. Plus, there was that warm creative glow…

Sometimes, all that is needed is space to free up and think; and the mind frees up as the body frees up. Nancy Kline in her excellent book Time to Think suggests that we all function immeasurably better when we have time to think for ourselves. Independent thinking is a rare commodity in the workplace. You might say that you are thinking all the time, but being engaged on a problem and thinking for yourself are different. Thinking for yourself requires space and attention. You can give that attention to yourself or someone who knows how can hold that listening space for you. Time, space and attention are the sponsors of creativity.

At my courses, when I observe participants happily engaged in an exercise, I realise that an important element of this kind of training is the space it gives to minds freed up by enjoyment to think independently and creatively. The changes that are born in that thinking space are often transformational and extraordinary.

What better time for thinking and creating than these shortening days of late autumn as nature settles down for its quiet season? – Nature has its time off too to prepare for spring. Farmers wanting the best from the land leave fields fallow some years to restore nutrients. People need breaks to restore mental fertility and balance. I wonder what will come into fruition for you in this “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”?

… and what space you will give it to allow it to emerge? 

NLP Conference – London, 12-14 November 2010

The NLP Conference has an especially impressive line-up of speakers and topics this year. It’s always a great opportunity to hear some of the best NLP trainers and developers in one place.

My own session – “Hypnotic Voices” – strays into the area of psychotherapy. Successful  hypnotherapists use the voice with particular skill and provide excellent models of vocal magic. But their techniques will also be of great interest to coaches, teachers, public speakers and all who use language to ‘take people to a different emotional space’.

I talk about techniques – but it’s more than that. The spoken voice has a considerable effect on other people, more than we are aware of consciously. To make vocal connections on a subtle deeper level requires physical, emotional and holistic alignment. This is what makes the learning so fascinating and the ability so fulfilling.

Speak with power and influence

What makes a great voice? It’s about using your body as well as your head; it’s about breath; it’s about strong intention. Find out how you can develop your own voice to speak powerfully without years of training.

 

TigerTo communicate you use your voice … as well as gesture, posture, breathing and your general state. The sounds you make are infinitely subtle and communicate far more than the words you choose. So if you are interested in connecting with other people the voice is a highly important part of that communication.

The human has a big head and a big body with a narrowing in between – the neck! In that in-between area sits our voice box – the vocal cords. What mystery placed the vocal cords just there, mid-way between head and heart – mind and body? And what does it mean to us as communicating beings?

Many people assume that speaking is just a ‘head job’ – an intellectual process. They have the sensation of thinking in the head, taking air in through nose or mouth and speaking through the mouth, articulating the sound with lips, tongue and teeth. They are not aware of any other part of the body playing a part at all.

This is to miss major elements of the process however. First of all, the trigger to speak is an impulse in the body that is not the same as thinking. It’s an energetic call to action. This is the impulse which causes your body to get involved in taking in breath in a particular way and it begins the process of producing particular sounds. You speak because you are enthused, determined, angry, anxious, inspired or interested, because you have a desire to help, to impress, to convince, to charm, to motivate or reassure: that’s the impulse to speak.

Let’s say for example I am having a debate with you and you make a statement that I violently disagree with. In my eagerness to refute your statement I am quick to respond: I take a rapid breath which organises my body in such a way that the sound comes out resonating sharply again the breast plate and in the head.

Maybe, on another occasion I glance at someone beside me whom I love very much and am filled with a beautiful loving feeling which arouses the desire to say something. The slow breath I take, suffused with love, opens cavities around my heart and chest which resonate softly when I say my words of endearment.

It is the breath, affected by the trigger (desire, intention, emotion etc.), which moves the muscles of the body to open particular combinations of resonating cavities which then vibrate to make the particular quality of sound that expresses the intention accurately.

This is the miracle. Through this means you express in sound the intention in your being. People listening to you then catch your energy and intention and are influenced by your speaking. And what becomes possible then?…