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.

 

 

Laugh! This is serious!

In summer-time – even a rainy summer – family business sometimes takes place outside;  I’ve just  heard a frustrated parent across the back gardens shout: “Don’t laugh! This is serious!”

I’ve got into the habit, caught from Byron Katie and Nancy Klein (read their books if you haven’t already – they’re great!), of turning statements upside-down. So I experimented with this one, “Laugh! This is serious!”

 

Of course, LIFE, as understood in work, economics, politics, culture and religion, is serious. We live ever closer to the brink of disaster. The daily news brings doom and gloom. It was only recently that I noticed how much kinaesthetic language is employed in newspapers. That’s the language of touch, feeling, movement and weight (e.g. doom and gloom) – as opposed to visual language (vision, perspective, imagination etc.) and auditory language (sound, tell, tune etc.). Kinaesthetic words in news coverage outnumber visual and auditory by at least 4 to 1. Kinaesthetic battle language is especially popular.

From the latest news, I took just the kinaesthetic words from a short article about House of Lords reform in the Guardian (the red tops have perhaps even more K language):

“Angry confrontation … revolt … challenge … effective operation … rebellion … Prime Minister confronted … defy a three line whip … disgraceful … leading rebel … displeasure … anger … sought out … confronted … even more aggressive … damaged … resigned … sacked … thrown off course … whipping operation … withdrawal … join forces with the rebels to reject … failed to block … classic whipping operation … ran it with great discipline … risking … try to win … revive … get defeated again … object … damage … visceral issue … not budge … insisted … persuaded … win over … persuade … pressurized atmosphere … tempers may cool … raised the temperature … reject … remove … driving force … challenged  directly.”

Wow, does it make you feel tired? It does me!

Then I thought of popular phrases from politics, sport, health and religion:

Battle for hearts and minds; crush the opposition; fight the good fight; we will overcome; attack and defend the goal; love is war; crushing defeat; battle with cancer; fight for peace (I like that one!); battle of the sexes; battle of wills, a fighting chance.

I wonder what effect reading such kinaesthetic battle language day after day has on our perception of the world? You might think it encourages us to feel something, but it’s feeling that hangs heavily.

What if we found a different language, just in the spirit of turning things upside-down? For example, we could describe the political story in terms of sound for a change. The people involved would be discordant, and might shout, grumble or speak in a harsh tone … but they would express, pronounce, tell it as it is, and then they might tune-in, listen, hear, chime in, strike a chord, resonate and there would be dialogue, leading to a flow of discourse and eventual harmony, singing off the same hymn sheet

OK – games!  And I’m cheating a bit: I could have used more warlike sound language such as Bam! Kerpow! Splat! Bang! Bedoyng! Crash! Clap! Boom!  (this is easy, I’m writing in the middle of a thunder storm!)  But it’s still not the same, is it?

Maybe lightness itself is the missing piece?

Laugh! This is serious!

In coaching, laughter and tears are close bedfellows. Humour and laughter are often the elements that light the way into human darkness and allow you to see more clearly.  In a mire of heavy feeling, seeing clearly is just what’s wanted.

In these heavy-feeling times, the greatest leaders embrace the light touch – they avoid rigidity and dogma, move flexibly,  let go when necessary, and see things as they are,   People make a better decisions when they lighten up.

Remember Chesterton’s familiar quote, Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly .

Note especially the penultimate word. If you and I tread lightly today, what will be different?  How will we fly?

Voice & Speaking Skills For Dummies

Heading in large print, because my book is out! It’s full of good stuff, do dip into it. You can see the full contents and look inside on Amazon here.

Floating ahead to autumn …

… which will be here before we know it. It’s time to book for autumn events. The people who come to them make our workshops, and this year they achieved some amazing things, made individual break throughs, took important decisions, grew in confidence, capability and self-belief. You can read their own words on the website.

If you are tempted to dip your toe in the water, here’s a reminder of Autumn workshops and other events booking now.

Booking

To book any of the workshops below, go to www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk.  Or contact me at judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk.  I offer special rates for deserving self funding people, those who work for charities and others.

Voice of Influence: 18-19 October 2012

Find your authentic powerful voice, overcome performance anxiety, and speak with confidence and ease – however daunted you are at present. This workshop meets you where you are, and allows you to discover your individual way to be a powerful speaker.

NLP Diploma

– the best of NLP in a convenient, affordable format – individual workshops can be taken separately:

Communication & Relationships: 25-26 October 2012

The ability to connect naturally with people – to have better relationships with others and with yourself – is a key attribute shared by all successful leaders.  After this workshop you’ll know yourself better, understand more clearly what makes others tick, and be considerably more confident in all situations that rely on good communication.

Leadership & Influence: 15-16 November 2012

A large part of your influence is connected to your sense of presence and whether others see the leader in you. This course will contribute significantly to your inner and outer confidence. You’ll feel more comfortable in your skin and be more present in the moment and able to manage your state as a leader in every sphere of your life.

Coaching & Change: 6-7 December 2012

The power of a simple conversation! Discover how to go for the best, and how to get the best out of others with subtle yet powerful coaching skills. Becoming a skilled coach of others is an important part of your own personal development, and you will find your effectiveness and creativity blossom as you help people step into their true potential.

NLP Practitioner: Spring 2013

3 days plus  1-2-1 – follows on from the Diploma. Put it all together and go for the NLP Practitioner qualification, which opens the way to the Master Practitioner and beyond.

NLP Conference now booking

This popular annual event in London, 9-11 November, is a great way to listen to some of the most interesting NLP teachers and thinkers from all over the world. Go to www.nlpconference.com for further details.

Spirit of Coaching

The 11th Spirit of Coaching event, ‘Going for Gold’, took place last week in London – what inspiring meetings these are! The Spirit of Coaching Conference is on 22 September in London. Further details very shortly.

 

So summer, and rain  in the UK  (laugh, this is serious!) –  I hope you experience lightness and fun during your summer – and moments of clarity too!

Go well!

Judy

“… felt compelled to stop”

The location: Joshua Bell
Washington DC – a metro station

The spot:
the top of the escalator

The time:
7:51 am, Friday morning rush hour

The situation:
A man puts down his cap for money, gets out his violin and starts to play. He performs classical pieces for the next 43 minutes.

In that time, 1,097 people pass by, mostly on their way to work. Just about everyone walks straight past ignoring him. Of the people queuing at the lottery stand across the arcade not one person looks over at him.

The 64th passer-by is the first to turn his head towards the music, just for a second. After 4 minutes someone throws some money in the hat. After 6 minutes someone stops for a couple of minutes to listen, then walks on. After 10 minutes a 3-year old boy stops, but his mother pulls him along while he keeps turning around to look. In fact, every single time a child walks past it tries to stop and watch; and every single time, a parent scoots the kid away.

In 43 minutes, of the 1,097 passers-by in all 6 people stop to listen for a while. The man playing the violin collects $32.17 from his hat at the end.

How do we know this?

Because the event was being monitored by the Washington Post. A famous violinist had agreed with the newspaper to play in the underground as an experiment – would people respond in that setting, or not?

The violinist was Joshua Bell.

He is one of the finest classical musicians in the world. He’s in the news this week having just taken over as music director of the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields orchestra in London. On the occasion in the metro he was playing some of the greatest music ever written on a Stradivarius violin worth over 3 million dollars. He had played in Boston’s stately Symphony Hall three days previously to a packed house with people paying $100 plus per seat. Hundreds had crowded round the stage door afterwards for a glimpse of him. The newspaper in setting up this experiment was prepared for crowd problems, people flocking to the scene, traffic backing up …

The actual results shocked them.

To get feedback they took some people’s telephone numbers during the experiment telling them they were going to call later about the subject of commuting. They then followed up on 40 people the same evening. Most people hadn’t even noticed a violinist on their way to work. Only one person mentioned the violinist spontaneously: “It was a treat, just a brilliant, incredible way to start the day.” he said. One other had recognised him “It was the most astonishing thing I’ve ever seen in Washington,” she says. “Joshua Bell was standing there playing at rush hour, and people were not stopping, and not even looking.” Bell himself, watching a video of the event later found himself mystified less by people being in a hurry than by the fact that most people paid no attention at all as if he were invisible. “After all, I was making a lot of noise!” he said. Interestingly the children noticed – they were all affected by Bell’s violin playing.

One person who didn’t miss the treat was project manager at the Department of Energy, John Mortensen. He heard the music as he headed up the escalator on his way to work. He didn’t have more than a couple of minutes to spare. On the video you see him get off the escalator and look around. He sees the violinist, stops, walks away but then is drawn back. He checks the time on his mobile then settles against a wall to listen for a few minutes. He knows nothing at all about classical music but for the first time in his life he stops to listen to a street musician and gives him money. Asked about it afterwards he said he felt compelled to stop because the music made him feel at peace.

The thought springs to mind – if we miss one of the best musicians in the world playing some of the finest music ever written on one of the most beautiful instruments ever made … then what else might we be missing?

When in my teens I read W H Davies’ poem about having time to stand and stare, I used to think that noticing things was a matter of having enough time or indeed nothing better to do – okay if you’re a wanderer like Davies, you have all the time in the world, but not if you have a busy job.

I don’t think that any more.

I now think it’s not a time issue; it’s about being open to it – which means not just seeing and hearing but feeling too…

  • Like really hearing a blackbird one morning just for a few moments, the same blackbird you’ve heard countless times before, and thinking, wow, that’s truly amazing;
  • Like stopping for ten seconds to realise you are happy at a moment when you are happy
  • Like being with someone and suddenly feeling how great it is to have this person in your life just this moment now.
  • Like feeling the warmth of realising that this decision is the thing to do.

Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.
Albert Einstein

The trouble with busy-ness is not so much that it takes up time; it’s more that it hides something from us. In busy mode I feel so pleased with myself that I can do two things at once – use the internet while I’m travelling by train, text as I walk from the station or speak to someone on my mobile while I’m clearing kitchen surfaces, putting clothes away or even … don’t go there. But in busy mode I’m just that. Busy.

Maybe we don’t need more time; but just need a different way of looking – a way that opens us to the miraculous – and better judgement too.

“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”  William Blake

When I’m training, a great excitement is being there when a participant has an “ah-ha” moment. Suddenly they notice something that has always been there but not been seen before, and everything shifts. Coaching too is often about noticing things you haven’t noticed before. If someone can help you learn how to do that, go for it. It’ll transform your life and work and take you to some miraculous places.

The W. H. Davies poem? Here it is.

WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare

NLP Practitioner, NLP Diploma

I’ve just finished my new book on overcoming performance anxiety. Look out for it in the autumn. And that’s when my workshops start again. You have the opportunity this autumn to do the NLP Diploma and then continue to the full NLP Practitioner finishing in January.

Have a look at the website for dates and read the testimonials … people get a lot out of the short modules – if your experience so far is company training courses, think again – these workshop days are enlightening, confidence building, full of useful tools and good fun. People often say that life and work seem easier afterwards.

SPECIAL VOUCHER CODE for NLP Diploma- £850!
Book each of the 3 modules individually but at the same time. In the Voucher box, insert VOI SPECIAL. That will bring the price of all 3 workshops booked together to £850.

Voice of Influence Workshop

My Voice of Influence Workshops start again at the end of September. Learn how to connect confidently with an audience – and much more.

Sign up for these workshops now.

Special Free Event:
Finding Your Voice – The Power of Authenticity

19 June in London with Judy Apps, 2.00 – 5.30. Details here.

Also at www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk – some great articles and free e-courses on NLP, Overcoming Performance Anxiety, Speaking with Authority, Raising Your Profile and more, newsletter archive, my book Voice of Influence and information on coaching by Skype, telephone or face-to-face.

Do get in touch if you have any comments or questions or want to know more.

June already – height of summer!

If you have just one moment today, what will you notice I wonder? …

Go well,

Gannets

In this newsletter

  • A Gannet Story
  • New excellent funding stream for training
  • Book for autumn now – New NLP Practitioner opportunity!
  • Recommended books

GannetsGannet

Gannets are on my mind this week. Sometimes a bird just gets a bad press. Until a few days ago I thought I knew all I needed to know about the gannet; i.e.

gannet – ˈɡanɪt/ – greedy bird (what my own mother called me when I purloined chocolate cake) which breeds in overcrowded quarrelsome colonies of hundreds of thousands on remote island rocks off Scotland.

That was before I saw a film recently of gannets diving for fish. Suddenly I was witnessing something astonishing. A handsome bird with an almost 2 metre wingspan hovered a 100 feet in the air like a kite or an eagle and then performed a spectacular nosedive at 60 miles per hour into the sea, becoming streamlined like a torpedo just before entering the water. Somehow it then turned again from torpedo into bird to beat its way out of the water into the air again with a fish in its beak – Watch it here.

What grace and power! Completely awe inspiring to watch.

That wasn’t the end of my gannet week though. The next gannet event was ridiculous. I saw a clip of young gannet fledglings on the high rock where the birds breed. At some point the fluffy young bird had to summon up the courage to jump off the cliff. It was too heavy to fly, so it half fell, half fluttered, banged itself on rocks, miraculously got up again, fell again, hit rocks again and bounced, got up again, fell again, and eventually dropped into the sea hundreds of feet below. How it survived I have no idea. What a scene of tragic-comedy!

So three different views of a bird:

  • On its breeding cliff greedy and everyday-quarrelsome
  • Diving into the ocean – powerful and extraordinary
  • Jumping/falling off the cliff – vulnerable and absurd

By the way, re the last clip the bird commentator added the postscript that the young bird – afloat for the first time in its life – would now swim to Norway – swim to Norway? – and when eventually it had the strength to take off in flight (another new skill!) in a couple of weeks it would migrate thousands of miles south, even as far as West Africa…

It struck me reading the week-end papers at leisure last week-end how much we are presented with just one view at a time. A while ago we had pictures of a strong leader with statesman-like pose meeting other world leaders at an international event. This week-end the news is of an evil tyrant and every photo shows the man with an evil expression – same man, different moment, different view. It’s the stuff of soap operas of course, perfect for keeping a story going. We thought she was a ‘goody’; but oh no! she’s a ‘baddy’ after all!

People protesting in the streets wear identical face masks of a certain politician bearing the same fixed expression – just one view. There you are, you can see that he’s not to be trusted, he has the ‘not-to-be-trusted’ expression fixed and unchanging on his mask of a face!

Great for soap operas and Mills and Boon; not so good for understanding people well.  When I’m coaching someone, sometimes they present to me an image of ‘vulnerable and absurd’ and tell me silently to believe it. But I don’t, because I know that hidden in them somewhere is also ‘powerful and extraordinary’; I believe in its existence even if they don’t themselves quite yet – and bit by bit, being seen, it finds the space to emerge.

I was inspired by the coach Tim Gallwey one year when he spoke about this very thing at the ICF Conference:

“The person is much bigger than what you see.  As a coach I believe in the existence of potential beyond what I see.  I see withdrawal, shutdownness, but I do not believe it.  You can’t do this just mentally. You’ve got to look for it, see it through the veils, through the acts people have on them to make us believe they are wonderful that’s covering their wonderfulness.  Good self images are the hard ones – an image is an image.  What about the thing being imaged.  You?”

ICF Conference Speech 1999

I like the last bit about images of being wonderful hiding a person’s wonderfulness – I know people who do that, don’t you?

I experience within myself too this limitation in viewing. One day I’m struggling with a fault on the computer and my overwhelming feeling is ‘vulnerable and absurd.’ I shout downstairs for assistance with helpless sighing and blue language…

The answer comes back up, “Just take it easy, I’m sure you can solve it.”

More blue language; more helpless sighing. ‘Vulnerable and absurd’ feels like the whole of me, I’m quite incapable of seeing beyond it.

And then – sometimes! – I look inside and discover ‘powerful’ and a whole new way of feeling and being. This allows me to take heart and proceed resolutely to resolve what is only a technical blip after all.

We are people of parts. There’s almost more – beyond what we believe to be there.

Wouldn’t it be great for the media in the 21st Century to mature into a greater appreciation of the multi-dimensionality of people – less of the cut-out 2D image, more of an exploration of the amazing amalgam we all are? They might think we’d hate it. I think we’d find it riveting.

Media are you listening?!

There’s always more …

Me and you – are you listening!

New funding for training

Check out this new funding stream if you are interested to apply for my NLP Diploma, Practitioner or the Voice of Influence course next autumn – it could save you considerably. The new Government Leadership and Management Advisory Service is offering funding for leadership and management skills for small businesses. Further details here.

NLP Diploma

The next NLP Diploma starts in October. Please see ‘Testimonials’ on my website for some of the comments of recent recipients of the award.

NLP is the great confidence builder – the Diploma offers six days of rich practical learning over a couple of months. People find it difficult to put NLP in a nutshell, but what you will certainly get out of the Diploma is the ability to be a more effective communicator and get on better with everyone, surer direction in your life, greater self awareness – including liking yourself better! – more influence and increased success at work and outside.  This makes it a great leadership course – a multi-dimensional package!

The price is again just £850 till September! To get this full 40%+ discount when booking on-line proceed as follows:

i. Book each of the 3 modules individually but at the same time (the discount only works if you book all three at once). Booking all three automatically triggers a 30% discount to start with.

ii. In the Voucher box, insert VOI SPECIAL. That will give the additional discount, bringing the price of all 3 workshops booked together to £850.

Alternatively, just fill in the booking form and email to me!

NLP Practitioner – register now

New opportunity! People have been asking me if they can continue on from the Diploma to the full NLP Practitioner and the answer – this year at least – is yes! If you already have my NLP Diploma or plan to take it this autumn, with three extra days of training in January 2012 plus a coaching session and individual study you can become a qualified NLP Practitioner through group coaching by February 2012. It’s an exciting course and probably the best value Practitioner you can do anywhere!

If you are interested please let me know immediately at judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk.  I will send you further details for your final decision very shortly.

Voice of Influence Workshop

Book early for the next one – 30 September to 1 October.  More details at www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk

Books for Dummies

Finally, I’d like to highly recommend two fascinating books in that great ‘Dummies’ series by friends of mine.

Happy summer days to all!

Go well,

A cat tied to a pole

Cat tied to a poleHave you seen the film “Eat, Pray, Love”? In the original book Elizabeth Gilbert tells a cautionary tale heard during her time in an Indian ashram.

The story tells of a great saint who was always surrounded by his followers, with whom he would meditate for hours everyday.  The saint had a young cat who used to bother them all during meditation by walking through the temple meowing and purring. So the saint came up with the practical solution of tying the cat to a pole for the duration of the meditation so that people would not be disturbed. Every time they meditated they would first tie the cat to the pole, and this became a firm habit, and no one thought of beginning to meditate without first tying up the cat. It began to seem part of the ritual. So when the cat died, the saint’s followers were panic-stricken and a major religious crisis erupted: how could they possibly meditate now without a cat to tie to a pole? How would they reach God now?

How many daily rituals stem from forgotten and obsolete reasons? I have a sneaking feeling that probably an awful lot more than we realise …

 

I heard about someone who regularly used a delicious chicken recipe passed down in the family from her great-grandmother. One day she questioned her grandmother about it. “The chicken tastes so good,” she said. “The recipe says always to chop the chicken in two – is that the secret?” “Ah, no,” said the old woman; “my mother always did that because her cooking pot was too small to hold a whole chicken.” And everyone had just carried on doing it without question.

“Say please, say thank you,” I parroted to my children, or even, “What’s the magic word?” (pause while I cringe) as if that was the point. What I occasionally got instead was anger: “Thank YOU!! for giving back MY TOY!” when the original point behind the word was to feel and express gratitude. I saw a politician say “Sorreee!” in much the same way once … twice actually. It’s a bit like chopping the chicken in two; the word completely lost its original purpose.

Organisations spend considerable effort on “behavioural training,” such as the customer care instruction to say, “Have a nice day,” or “Enjoy your meal.” I would love to compile a video of the times those statements have been delivered with boredom or even resentment! But sound-bite ritual is satisfied: the cat has been tied to the pole.

I wonder how much of this behaviour without meaning stuff we could let go?

–        this week’s politically correct word for instance – I can’t keep up and surely it’s the attitude that counts?

–        parroting the ‘right’ words as if that’s alright then. Ditto when someone says the wrong thing and motivation isn’t taken into account – whatever the red-tops assert!

–        behaviour “management” – people can’t be “managed” into thoughtfulness or any real learning – they can only be motivated.

–        complex bureaucracy that has lost its original purpose

What would you let go of?

 

Monkey and banana experiment

Even our fear responses are behaviours with lost meaning if they belong to an outmoded story or someone else’s experience. Why take on inherited fears when we don’t even know what the cause was? Most of the “stuff” that sabotages us comes into this category.

Robert Dilts told me the story of the monkeys and the banana (taken from an experiment by G.R. Stephenson in 1967 I believe) which illustrates the point.

There are some monkeys in an experimental cage. The researcher hangs a banana on a string at the top of some stairs in the cage. Whenever a monkey climbs the stairs to get the banana he sets off a cold water hose which drenches all the monkeys in the cage. So, pretty soon, the monkeys prevent any single monkey from climbing the stairs and setting off the hose in an attempt to reach the banana.

The researcher turns off the water so that it is now safe to approach the banana. But the monkeys continue to stop each other from approaching the stairs.

One by one the monkeys are replaced by new monkeys. As each new monkey enters the cage it is attacked by the other monkeys when it attempts to climb the stairs, so it learns not to. Eventually, every monkey in the cage has been replaced, so no monkey now has ever experienced the soaking. But no monkey ever approaches the stairs again. That’s just the way things are. Another ‘religious’ ritual is born; another thought virus.

Achieving what we want is as much and more about letting go as about go-getting.

 

We’ve just had the latest two-day NLP training on Leadership and Influence. The distinction between behaviour and the values and beliefs that run that behaviour is a vital one. Yet the two are confounded constantly. I love the way NLP clarifies human action in so many ways and helps us get to the point. It stretches our ability to think and experience; participants love the challenge and grow in awareness and genuine confidence. It’s also wonderfully liberating to let go of stuff that gets in the way of success and happiness.

 “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” Lao Tzu
 

 Coaching and Change – 14-15 April 2011

My next 2-day NLP Workshop is Coaching and Change on 14-15 April.  Coaching – conversational change – is one of the best developments of the last twenty or so years. It is awe inspiring to witness the life changes that people achieve through coaching. Come and enjoy two days of some of the best coaching-learning. More information at www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk.

Voice of Influence – 31 March-1 April

And before that in the calendar, the next Voice of Influence Workshop is on 31 March – 1 April. This small-group-coaching course will take you from performance anxiety or a mild discomfort about presenting to inner confidence and assured delivery without notes – plus you’ll get excellent voice coaching. We already have a great group this month but there is still space for you, so look on the website for information. If you feel daunted, don’t let it put you off – you’ll find what you are looking for – and people who arrive scared always say they enjoy it.

If you are self-funding, work for a charity or are in genuinely difficult circumstances feel free to ask about special deals.

If you are looking at the website, take a glance at the testimonials. Most people come to these trainings through personal recommendation.

How to Raise Your Profile – NEW E-course on my website

to download at http://judyapps.co.uk/web/index.php/e-courses/how-to-raise-your-profile/.

Do you sometimes feel invisible and unappreciated? People don’t seem to listen to what you have to say? What seems to you the natural way to behave just doesn’t seem to be what is wanted around here? Or you’ve been told you need to raise your profile a bit more?… Whatever the reason, this e-course will show you that it is completely possible – for you – to be listened to, taken seriously, respected and remembered positively without changing the fundamentals of who you are.  Hope you enjoy  it!

Warm good wishes,

 Judy

Prime Numbers and Incurable Deviants

Prime NumbersHere we are at the beginning of 2011 – a special year: 2011 is a prime number (divisible only by one and itself) – a ‘one off’ number.

According to the psychologist Steven Gilligan we are all ‘one offs’. He says that we are all “incurable deviants” -using the merry phrase to celebrate our individuality as people. However much we might attempt to fit in to an environment that may not suit us, he suggests that our health and happiness depend on our being able to express our individuality as the “incurable deviants” that we all are.

So one good New Year resolution might be to be more ourselves – in all our individual ‘one off’ness.

But thinking back to the Christmas holiday, I often didn’t feel like a ‘one off’ or one anything. It seemed that there were different parts of me that turned up to different occasions. I don’t know if you share this sensation of being different people with different colleagues, friends and family? A friend tells me that when she and her adult siblings meet with their parents back in the family home at Christmas they slip back into the way they used to relate as children. “It’s so weird,” she says. “Here I am – a middle-aged responsible professional, but back in that context I’m a child again with all the old competitive pressures and resentments.”

You may have noticed these different parts of yourself in other contexts – you are asked to present yourself to the head of your organisation, and suddenly you feel like a schoolboy summoned to the headmaster’s office and your voice becomes uncertain and your shoulders shrink. Or you are at a celebration where all are loudly and rowdily enjoying themselves and you suddenly feel like a stiff spare part with no sense of humour and not a single interesting thought funny or otherwise in your head.

“One man in his time plays many parts”, pronounces Shakespeare’s Jaques in As You Like It. Most of us are this way. I have occasionally met a person who can assert stoutly, “Take me the way you find me. I call a spade a spade. No nonsense about me, I never change;” but that’s usually because they have so perfected that role that they are unwilling to hazard any other. The rest of us find that particular contexts bring out specific parts of our make up – and not always the parts that would be most helpful. In one context we sparkle and feel interesting, in another we feel lumpish and inadequate.

One of the brilliant things I learned from NLP was that we have a choice in the matter. We can actually learn the skills to summon the parts of ourselves that are going to be most useful in a particular context. For instance, we can bottle our sparkling, interesting self to open at the very time we feel most inadequate.

– in the spirit of which, let me make some new year resolutions:

Use the following this year:

When next faced with a household disaster perpetrated by one of my elderly relatives, let go of the sarcastic crone within and access that part that used to laugh spontaneously at my 10 year old’s jokes. (Did I really? That’s amazing!) 

When next faced with a self-important professional using obfuscatory business language, abandon the attempt to look intelligent, and use the 20-year-old part of myself  that sweetly, smilingly failed to understand anything at all when shouted at by an Italian traffic policeman.

The next time something fails to work on my computer, instead of hurting my vocal cords with cries of frustration, tune into the part of myself that enjoys a 1000 piece jigsaw (even if only at Christmas!) and loves nothing more than a really slow challenge.

What follows from the discovery that you can choose which parts of yourself to employ in different contexts is the earth-shaking realisation that you can simply choose how to be

– and the limit is merely the limit of your imagination.

One-offs we certainly are, but we can also choose to be just the way we want to be. So prime year number, prime year of your life, what can you imagine for this year? How bold might you be?!

NLP DIPLOMA
confidence, composure and effectiveness

The ability to choose your response described above is one of the competences offered to you in the NLP Diploma. You will learn fundamental (not simplistic) skills of relationship and influence which will impact positively on all aspects of your life.  You’ll make a step change in your ability to make things happen and to steer your life in the direction of success and fulfilment. If you are looking for one self-development course that will enable you to step up to the next level, raise your profile and radically build your self confidence then this is the one.

Modules and dates – sign up today at www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk 

Communication & Relationships          17-18 Feb
Leadership & Influence               17-18 Mar
Coaching & Change                           14-15 Apr
– all at Hammersmith, London

VOICE OF INFLUENCE
– brighten up the room, delight your audience

The two-day Voice of Influence Workshop will give you the tools to give an accomplished formal public speech and beyond that the confidence to speak out spontaneously in any context of your life – whether in a meeting, a negotiation or a ‘difficult’ conversation with colleague or boss. If you look at any successful person in business you will find that they have excellent speaking skills, and you can have them too. It’s not about being someone different either – you will find the way to be powerful and authentic in your own way in this supportive small-group course.

Dates – sign up today at www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk.    

4-5 Feb 2011         – Hammersmith, London
30 Mar–1 Apr 2011 – Hammersmith, London

1 TO 1 COACHING 
– fast positive change

Skype, telephone, face-to-face – great for growing in your job and growing into the next one, wonderful for an emergency, brilliant for general self confidence, balance and control. Speak to me about it today – it’s a fast way to learn. Try one session at reasonable cost to experience its benefits at first hand

Lots more information on my website, www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk – or contact me for a chat.

Happy New Year 2011!

Warmly

Judy

Playing with words

Language shapes our thinking – can you only think what you have words for?

 SnowmanWhat times we live in! I am struck by the contrasting ways in which human behaviour is described. That useful magazine “The Week” publishes extracts from newspapers of every complexion, and repeatedly you can find a single topic described in wildly different ways. “Hurray for openness!” says one commentator; “Terrible leaks!” wails another. “Personal responsibility”, states one; “savage cuts” complains another. “Freedom of self-determination” shouts one; “Terrorism!” proclaims another.

Abstract nouns! NLP has quite a bit to say about these. It calls them ‘nominalisations’ and nominalisations are famously slippery, elusive and vague.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things
.”�
                                                                                                     Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking Glass.

Well, you certainly can if you use abstractions!

“Love” is a particularly vague abstract noun as it makes do for such a cornucopia of different emotions: parental love, sexual love, love of chocolate brownies, love of taking long lunch-breaks in the pub … Two thousand years ago the Greeks gave us a wise lead by employing four different words for love –  agape–affection, eros-desire , philia-friendship  and storge–family love. But the English language did not go the way of the Greeks …

Nor of the Eskimos: the author Edward De Bono describes the rich vocabulary of love among the Inuit people who use subtle distinctions to manage relationships in the confinement of their long snowy winters. He refers to one of their words for love that translates as “I like you very much, but I would not go seal-hunting with you”. Now that might serve as a useful comeback at a party this Christmas!

One suggestion NLP makes to help unravel the meaning of abstract nouns is to turn them into verbs or “action words”. Our “love” then becomes the process of how we love each other, and our “relationship” becomes the process of how we relate to each other. It’s often easier to understand the meaning of a situation when an abstraction is turned into a process.

The linguist Benjamin Whorf argued that the fact that the Eskimos have 200 words for snow indicates that they have a much richer thinking on the subject.  So what about our more limited language for the idea of love – or indeed, given the season, love, joy and peace? Are we impoverished by having “one size fits all” for such concepts?

When we turn these abstract nouns of love, joy and peace into processes (noun into verb) we can see more clearly their limitations. It involves a bit more grammar but for a purpose!

Verbs are either transitive (which means they have an object; for example “I hit you”); or they can be intransitive (which means there is no object – for example “I sleep”; “I sleep you doesn’t make sense). An intransitive verb describes a state of being rather than something that is done to someone else.

So love, joy and peace

If we play a little with these words as processes, love is already a transitive verb:  “I love you. I love my fellow man.” But there is no intransitive equivalent to describe loving as a state of being – “I am loving” gets quite close to it, but a verb meaning “I am love-ful” would really good to add to our vocabulary.

What do you do, where do you go, what do you remember in order to enter the state of feeling “love-ful”?

For joy, we can “enjoy”, but it would be useful to have the more generative verb meaning “I am joy-ful”. And it would also be good to have a transitive verb “to joy” to express the concept of spreading or extending joy to someone.

I can “hurt you”. What would it mean for me to “joy” you?

With regard to peace, we can express a state of being in the three words “I am peace-ful”. But what about a transitive verb “to peace someone”, meaning to spread or extend peace? As of now I can “fight” “attack” “assault” “combat” or “assail” you, but I have no verb to affect you with “peace”. The media use battle words constantly: to fight terror, fear, poverty, injustice, extradition, apathy, disease …

(Who said “Whatever you fight, you strengthen, and what you resist persists”? Ah, that was Eckhart Tolle.)

If we use war-like words we are liable to see life as a battle.

What would it be like to have an active sense of “peacing” the people you spend time with?

If we are missing the language does it matter?

Does it matter that we don’t have words for things we might want to say? Yes, I believe it does, because language shapes the way we think just as much as the way we think shapes language.* If we haven’t got the words for it we are unable to think it.

So what about going about your business in the next couple of weeks and having fun with made-up words: use love in the intransitive – to love, be love-ful, and joy and peace in the transitive – to joy and peace each other.

Love-ful, I joy and peace you all!

* (If you are interested in the concept of language shaping our thought have a look at Lera Boroditsky’s article, “How does our language shape the way we think?” at http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/boroditsky09/boroditsky09_index.html)

E-zine Articles – a wealth of interesting short articles can be found at www.ezinearticles.com – you might like to type in “Judy Apps” for a few of mine!

What or why?

 
 
 

Stephen Fry

beautiful voice...?

A beautiful voice…

A friend told me the other day that he thought Stephen Fry had a beautiful voice. I pressed him to tell me more about it. “It just has a fantastic rich tone,” he replied, “It’s a great voice.”

On one level I agree. But his remark takes me back many years to a moment in a shabby room in Rome entirely dominated by a grand piano. I am with my maestro for my daily singing lesson and he is speaking forcefully: “What’s this with beauty?” he rants. “A voice doesn’t have to be beautiful; it has to express something! Why do you sing?! You have to know why you sing!”

This has been a bit of a theme this week. I gave a presentation on Hypnotic Voices at the NLP Conference a couple of days ago and as so often the subject of what and why came up. Many trainee hypnotherapists are taught what to do to produce a deep voice in order to connect better with the deep unconscious of the client. But the voice – even a deep one – is powerless on its own to connect – it’s the intention behind itthe why – that counts. We need to ask about the effect of our voice on the client – it’s about purpose and connection.

There’s a notable difference between the warm resonant statement of someone whose intention is to produce a warm resonant voice and the warm resonant statement of someone who feels warmth towards the listener and resonates in tune with them. The sound of the former – the person creating the ‘voice’ – has a slight stiffness as he or she manipulates the physical space inside for the ‘warm’ sound, whereas the sound of the latter is more flexible, has more overtones – and is infinitely more interesting to listen to.

It’s great if we can tell the difference. Beware the empty sound bite! 

How to speak with influence

The impact of a voice cannot be separated from its meaning. Now, the way to a voice that expresses meaning is different from the way to a beautiful-sounding voice – very different actually.  If we think in terms of producing a nice-sounding voice we will be interested in technique alone and ask the question, “What do we need to do to sound good? What’s the technique?”

The renowned hypnotherapist and teacher Stephen Gilligan says that his student hypnotherapists are always asking, “What do I do? What do I do? What do I do?”  They want the techniques, and fast. Trainee coaches are often on a similar quest regarding powerful questioning tools: “What do I ask? What do I ask? What do I ask? Give me the techniques!”

“What?” can only get you so far. The way to an expressive voice as to successful hypnotherapy or coaching goes on from “what to do” or even “how to do it” to “why”; it’s an exploration of the live relationship between me and you expressed in my intention – the meaning and identity I bring to it.

This what versus why turns up everywhere. When doctors wanted to understand living human beings they studied dead bodies. They began to tell us what happened when you ‘fell’ ill or “caught” a virus. But why you at this particular time in these particular circumstances should be susceptible to one of the millions of viruses in circulation, ah, that they could not tell us.

Orators studied discourse. They discovered the rhetorical question, the rule of three as in “friends, Romans, countrymen” and the three dynamics of persuasive dialogue. They taught these things and yet it didn’t add up on its own to profound oratory. The great speakers used these devices – so much was true – but using these devices did not on its own produce great speakers. We can see this in some politicians well-schooled in oratory today…

In my NLP Conference talk I referenced the work of the extraordinary hypnotherapist Milton Erickson. Erickson used his voice with great mastery but he didn’t put vocal expression into what he was doing; rather, his meaning produced expression in his voice – entirely the other way around. To produce mastery you can get only so far through recreating tone of voice, volume, pitch and so on. You have also to understand the why and introduce your intention into that connected trance space and let go with trust. If given freedom to do so the powerful authentic voice emerges naturally from that intention within. 

How do you do that? The means to the why is more likely to be discovered through light-hearted exploration than through dreary technical drill. The great news is that the discovery of this inner intention shortcuts the what – the techniqueand you find you have the skills anyhow.

This what/why question has wide application. The next time you are in the throes of “gotta do, gotta do, gotta do” maybe you’ll just step back for a moment and ask yourself “Why? – what meaning am I making of this? What’s this really about? What’s my intention here?” And find your answer in the silence.

Free copy of article on hypnotic voices

I have written a few-page article on Hypnotic Voices that you might find useful if you are interested in influencing people with your voice. Just drop me an email (judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk) if you’d like to read it and I’ll email you a copy – there’s no charge.

If you are interested in one-to-one coaching – face-to-face, by telephone or Skype – that’s also a great way to learn how to communicate powerfully so do contact me to discuss it.

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.

Cicely Berry – Voice Genius

Cicely Berry

the actors' coach

Isn’t Wikipedia wonderful? I check out Cicely Berry this morning and as usual it comes up trumps:

“Cicely Frances Berry CBE (born May 17, 1926) is the voice director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and is world-renowned in her work as a voice and text coach”

it tells me. She is indeed coach to the professionals and particularly adores working with Shakespeare. I love her work because she values authenticity highly and connects people with who they are. Browsing again recently through her book “Voice and the Actor” published in the seventies she has some wise words about communicating your inner self.

Your tensions and limitations as a speaker come from lack of trust in yourself, she says. Perhaps you are over-anxious to communicate or too keen to present an image. Perhaps you are trying to convince your audience of something about yourself. You may even be relying too much on what works for you and become too predictable … even if you have an interesting voice. All these approaches lack true freedom.

As Cicely says elsewhere, “We are drawn to a voice which vibrates and which has resonance.”  Freedom is having no preconceived idea of how to sound, no holding on to the voice you know, no unnecessary tension.

Wow, that’s a real letting go, but how we love to hear that in a speaker – the speaker is liberated and we experience the energy of that liberation. Worth aiming for, I think.