Winning and Losing

Do you want the perfect formula for winning every time? I heard it from Tim Gallwey several years ago.

You want to win at tennis? he asks. Okay, here’s the thing. Never play anyone anywhere as good as you are. Preferably only play people under the age of 6 or over 90.

It is so easy to win!

His comment reminded me of a wobbly moment when our son was five. It was sports day at his infant school. The teachers lined up a few children at a time, and the fastest child in each race was awarded a winner’s rosette. In our son’s year, all the fastest liveliest children rushed forward to take part in the first race, he among them. He ran fast and came 3rd. The second race was much slower, but the winner still earned a rosette. The thought entered my mind – not my finest hour – “Why didn’t I keep him back for the second race? … he could have won!”

What is it about winning – and losing? It’s a competitive world out there, some say – you might as well get used to it; whatever you do, make sure you’re not a loser. Oh no, protest others, competition’s bad; everyone’s a winner.

But, as Gallwey pointed out back in the 80s, we love to win, but winning is pretty unsatisfying unless we value the contest. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi expressed the point eloquently a decade or so later in his book Flow. What we enjoy most, he says, is a good challenge at just the right level – stretching but non overwhelming – where we have a good chance of success. It’s a race all right – a really competitive one – but we’re actually racing to see if we can outdo ourselves.

If there’s no challenge, like in playing a 5 year old at tennis, winning holds no charms. On the other hand, to play tennis against Andy Murray and have every ball shoot past your racquet wouldn’t be much fun either. Csikszentmihalyi puts it like this:

The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen. For a child, it could be placing with trembling fingers the last block on a tower she has built, higher than any she has built so far; for a swimmer, it could be trying to beat his own record; for a violinist, mastering an intricate musical passage. For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves.”

It’s the stretching challenge – neither a walk-over nor out of reach – that is stimulating, exciting and fun. We WANT to have the challenge of testing ourselves, and we’ll create such opportunities if we can. Why climb Mount Everest? George Mallory was asked. “Because it’s there!”

Surveys have proved again and again that reward and punishment are not the biggest motivators for people at work or in society. We WANT to learn, and explore the edge. If you want your people to work their absolute best, give them satisfying, stretching but achievable, challenges – and, importantly, freedom to set about achieving them.

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort. Franklin D. Roosevelt

In any case, winning – to beat others, rather than to achieve – has big downsides. When the reward of winning becomes more important than the pleasure of achievement, things get skewed. People cheat for rewards. They never cheat to achieve a personally-satisfying best.

Not winning also has significant downsides. When winning depends on others being worse than you, you lose sense of your real value. Many people brand themselves a failure if they don’t succeed at interview. Yet they often have no idea whether they lost out to a superb candidate, or against feeble opposition, so winning and losing are poor benchmarks of ability. Attempting to re-enter the job market myself after having children, I definitely thought myself a winner of the first order when I was offered the job after interview. It was a year or so into the job that a colleague-friend told me, “Did you know that when you applied, there was only one other candidate, spectacularly unqualified for the job? It was you or nobody!” Some win!

What satisfying challenges are out there for you? You can recognise them in two ways:

  1. First, you get completely immersed in the activity, and time passes without your noticing.
  2. You experience a feeling of spontaneous joy or excitement while you are in the midst of the activity.

It’s funny isn’t it? You might call that hard work, but it’s just not, it’s fun. Joseph Campbell called this kind of work “following your bliss” and if you do,

You put yourself on a kind if track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. 

And, as that phenomenal woman Maya Angelou said, “You have nothing to prove to anybody.” Just yourself.

 

 

NEWS

Google CEO Eric Schmidte says we all need a coach

Read about the value of coaching from Google CEO Eric Schmidt in this youtube interview. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVfeezxmYcA&feature=youtu.be.

Next Voice of Influence Workshop coming up on 14-15 July

Book now on-line here. Or email me to register your interest.

It often happens that someone eventually comes to my workshop having built up the courage to come over months, even years. So, if you want a more powerful expressive voice, if you want to greatly increase your confidence and skill in public speaking, let me reassure you that this is a non-daunting fun workshop. And in spite of (or perhaps because of!) the lack of pain and wearisome effort, it works brilliantly, and people walk away with all and more than they came for.

Find your authentic voice; uncover your confidence. Learn to speak in public freely and easily. Whether you already have a good level of skill or whether you are seriously daunted (scared witless), you will transform your speaking skills in these two days – and have a really good time in the process (ask anyone who’s already done the workshop!). Small group workshop in London.

“I learned more about the voice from Judy in 2 days than in the last 8 years from countless sources.” Jenny C, Director, Member of Toastmasters, London

I offer discounts on occasion for worthy cases.

My book The Art of Conversation hits the shelves

My latest book has been on special promotion in Smiths Travel stores, and been talked about this month in the Daily Express, Red Magazine, City AM and other publications. (I say this to encourage you to have a look at a copy!) Whether you’re shy and don’t know what to say or feel you blabber on, or whether you want to make deeper more meaningful connections with people, you’ll find lots of helpful material. It’s an easy read too.

Browse my other books

If you want a stronger more expressive voice and better communication skills, have a look at Voice of Influence: How to Get People to Love to Listen to You, and Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies.

If you want to overcome performance nerves, have a look at Butterflies and Sweaty Palms: 25 Sure-Fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence.

Spirit of Coaching Event – Inspiring Leadership – 15 June

Inspiring speakers too – Neil Scotton, Jackee Holder and Gopi Patel. Sunday 15 June, 2-5.30 PM at Global Cooperation House in north London. Read more here. It’s free to attend, but you need to register before you come.

Go well this merry month of June.

Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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!

Pathways

Path through summer woods with personI took a familiar walk through the Surrey woods near my dad’s house the other day, but the usual path had disappeared.  You’d think those ancient woods would remain unchanged through the years. But they don’t. Each season when the bracken pushes through the pathways shift and alter, and change the route from road to lake and lake to hill top.

It set me thinking to how we tend to assume that we too are unchanging – same old nose (not quite the right shape), same old legs, same old thoughts, same old me …

Same old blood pressure written in stone by the reading  in the surgery … though I know someone whose blood pressure hits the roof the moment they meet the doctor and is different as soon as they reach home!

Same old eyes, as the optician recommends set lenses … though I know that they improve with muscle exercises and are in any case more effective when I’m not tired.

Same old genes … as assumed by genetic research which tells me that this and that is to be expected because my genes say so. I almost bought that one till I heard about genes that switch on and off!

Same old brain; just so many cells – even if they gradually die off as you get older (abandon hope all who enter here).

Ah, but now we are learning that the brain is more plastic than previously thought. Cortical remapping occurs in response to injury. People with  strokes, cerebral palsy, and mental illness can train other areas of their brains through repetitive mental and physical activities. Life experience changes both the physical structure and functional organisation of the brain. Musicians develop stronger neural pathways that support musicality and dexterity. The brain waves of professional jazz players become more synchronised as they jam together. World-class athletes develop stronger alpha waves to cope with the ever-changing mix of intricate challenges they face. There is no doubt now –

thinking changes the brain.

If we keep thinking similar thoughts we are carving out neural pathways that make it increasingly easy to pursue those same thoughts next time… and next time … So constant negativity carves out a negative pathway. And self-believing thoughts carve a positive can-do pathway.

(Incidentally, what are you thinking NOW…?)

I’ve just finishing reading Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice by the international table tennis champion, Matthew Syed. He tells how just one street, Silverdale Road in Reading where he lived, produced at least 10 international and national table tennis champions in the 1980s, more than the rest of the UK put together. How on earth did that come about?

Syed explains that the enthusiastic local primary school teacher was a top national table tennis coach and a senior figure in the English Table Tennis Association, and any local kids who showed potential were persuaded to take their skills forward at the local club, Omega – open 24 hours a day – where they were given plenty of time, excellent coaching and  self belief.  A combination of opportunity, enjoyment, purposeful teaching with productive feedback and many hours of practice produced champions from a relatively small pool of young people.

This all points to the conclusion that nothing is just made that way, nothing is fixed, nothing is ordained. On the contrary, everything is plastic, everything is changeable, anything is possible. As in Silverdale Road, even neural pathways can be changed and new ones developed – if we do the work of activity and repetition to make it happen.

So when that moment comes – perhaps after you have been to the gym a few times, or eaten healthily for a week or so, or meditated or done early morning yoga for a few sessions, or walked to the station instead of taking the car once or twice, or sent out a dozen CVs with no reply, or phoned a few potential clients with little response – when that moment comes – when something inside you says,

“There’s no point in this, I’m not the sort of person who succeeds at this stuff”,

then you can know that yes, you are that sort of person – you are currently and always in the making – and that every bit of purposeful practice is taking you in the direction you want to go and will take you to where you want to be if you continue.

And, after all, life is not fixed like a noun. It’s not “arrival”, “success” or “achievement”. It’s always a verb – doing, moving, achieving, succeeding, becoming, being…

… and the neural pathways growing, shifting, changing, and finding new ways to the top of the hill! (your particular hill …)

Happy walks in the woods!

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line – isn’t it?

wavy line illusionSome things are obvious.

It’s obvious that the lines on the right here are curved.  (they’re not – they are all straight and horizontal)

arrows illusion

It’s obvious that the horizontal green lines below are of different lengths.

(they’re not; they are all of precisely the same length.)

It’s obvious that when something is wrong it needs to be put right. That’s exactly what happened in the following three real life examples:

After a bomb was planted by the IRA in the Tower of London in 1974 action was taken to prevent the recurrence of such incidents. The solution was found. For the next 10 years visitors to the Tower were subjected to a search of their bags. I visited the Tower over 50 times in that period and the searching of bags was regular and thorough.

Nobodyeven if wearing a voluminous coat with pockets large as those of Fagin in Oliver Twist – nobody ever had their pockets searched.

When Lonhro took over The Observer newspaper in 1981, they suspected that money was being lost through some journalists exaggerating or cheating on their expenses (where have I heard that before?). The solution was found. Measures were taken to prevent this dishonesty. Journalists were requested to fill in expenses claims for every single item of expense, and unenthusiastically they complied.

What happened was that journalists who had previously been quite careless in claiming were forced to think about every item of expenditure. With such attention on the subject (and the lack of trust) even those who had been quite casual before began to register every expense and claims increased. Lonhro discovered that their costs, far from coming down, went up enormously.

After the costly Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 (where have I heard that before?!) a solution was found for the future. Many coastal states enacted laws to place unlimited liability on the tanker operators to ensure safer operation.

As a result, the huge Royal Dutch/Shell group began hiring independent ship companies to deliver oil to the United States. These tended to be fly-by-night tanker operators with leaky ships and iffy insurance, and thus the probability of spills increased and the likelihood of collecting damages decreased.

Beware of the obvious.  

Those of us that read our newspapers are given a daily training in black and white thinking: bad things need to be got rid of, people are good or bad; either it’s OK or it isn’t; the shortest distance between two points is always a straight line. All obvious.

Masters of the subtler martial arts tend not to use a straight block to an attack that’s the way people get hurt. Instead they employ circles that join the direction in which the opponent is already going and then continue in a circle until the direction is that which the master wants. When I met the elderly Maruyama Sensei, a famous master of the art, he sent a person flying across the room with the smallest of movements as his arm swept down in a circle. No effort, just gravity, the natural path of the circle and relaxation. Skill – that looks like pure magic. Watch 22 seconds here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VM_Guh5Mrs

systems circleI first explored in NLP the fascinating concept that for activities that involve humans the circle is usually more useful than the straight line. Any single action may have one obvious effect – A causes B – but that action in fact creates effects in many directions at once. These effects in turn have their own impact – often less obvious – on many other factors. This was illustrated to me by Robert Dilts as in this diagram.

The French economic journalist Frederic Bastiat back in the early 1800s wrote:  “There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.”

We need to explore the system. Success lies in recognising and taking note of all the connections including unintended consequences, payoffs and by-products.

NLP has many elegant processes for exploring systems and they allow for emotional and other human elements as well as logic. They are invaluable for designing strategies. They also work on the simplest interchanges:

  • I’m doing it this way, says A.Blocking diagram
  • No, (blocking) do it this way, instructs B (pushing straight back.)
  • Don’t want to, (resisting back) growls A, digging heels in.
  • I’m doing it this way, says A again.
  • That’s interesting, comments B. Show me how it goes (continuing round the circle).going with diagram
  • A shows, feeling listened to (going with the energy)
  • That’s great, says B. And if we veered then a bit this way with this result, how would that be? (They are already travelling in the same direction so it is easy for A to accept the steer.)
  • That’s interesting, says A. Let’s try it.

The concept of systems as explored in NLP is an important one for our present climate of drastic change – how many times is the baby thrown out with the bath water by straight line thinking?

I always find that people are excited and amazed by NLP training – first by how much they discover that is new to them; and secondly by the sheer range of applications in their work and home life. If you decide to put your toe in the water I’m sure you will discover the same.

NLP Diploma

My next NLP Diploma starts very soon – on 17-18 February – in Hammersmith, London.

You can apply for the full Diploma – three 2-day modules between Feb and April – and the special offer of £850 for the whole Diploma continues this spring.

Or you can apply for individual modules – the first workshop, Communication and Relationships is on 17-18 February.

The Leadership and Influence module is on 17-18 March, and the Coaching and Change module is on 14-15 April.

More info at www.voiceofiinfluence.co.uk or from me – 07 515 717 611, judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk.
There are also generous terms for people in particular circumstances. If you are hesitating because of funding – just contact me.

Voice of Influence Workshop

We have just had the latest Voice of Influence Workshop where participants achieved some great results. Here are snippets of the written comments from last week to give you a flavour:

Undoubtedly 2 days of my life well spent…  truly inspirational!  … I had real trepidation about this course but ended up having a really fun time … a wealth of voice and NLP experience to help you to achieve real improvements in how your present yourself to the world … Keep doing what you’re good at, as you’re truly amazing!!! … it was so much better than I ever imagined … we all gelled and felt really comfortable … you have given me confidence … so exciting, and so uplifting … I thank you with all my heart …   I have felt a load been lifted …  It’s been really fantastic  … content was clear, well-paced …  safe environment to stretch and learn and do it in such a seemingly effortless way … I was initially terrified … Relaxed, fun, interesting and I think eve ryone ‘grew’ quickly …  come away really wanting to put my hands-up for speaking gigs … quite a turnaround in two days! …  master at this topic and generously imparts her knowledge … subtly inspiring great shifts in her clients’ confidence … the workshop had a great flow … very relevant with lots of practical exercises that were imaginative and fun to do … really helped get the subject into my “muscles” … really interesting and enjoyable … a very authentic, attentive and skilled trainer … great role model …  2 really worthwhile days that have given me more awareness, skills and confidence … I have learnt a lot … really enjoyed the structure of the course … Really enjoyed the course … you attract some very kind and positive people … that is a great testament to you …

There is one more Voice of Influence Workshop this spring – on 31 March –
1 April. It is almost full, but there are still a few spaces. You can apply directly on-line or contact me. Is this your moment for finding your voice and your confidence?!

Look at the website

As usual there are lots of valuable resources on my website – have a look for free e-courses, my book Voice of Influence, articles, information about one-to-one coaching (the best thing of the last 20 years!) and more.

And a famous word on inter-connectedness:

A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.  Albert Einstein

Warm good wishes

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!

Focusing on the extraordinary

Never underestimate…

bowerbirdHave you come across the bowerbird of Australia? It’s a dull-looking species, fawn-brown in colour. The male bowerbird builds a nest surrounded with a variety of brightly coloured objects he has collected which may include hundreds of shells, leaves, flowers, feathers, stones, berries, and even coins, nails or pieces of glass. But the most remarkable part of the construction is a grand avenue of sticks leading to the nest. The sticks are arranged with precise care so that those closest to the nest are the smallest and those farthest away are the tallest, which gives a false sense of perspective so that when the bowerbird stands at the entrance to his nest he looks enormous and impressive to the female. Researchers have tried interfering to change the order of the stick heights, but when that happens the bowerbird painstakingly over several days restores its original configuration. Does the bird understand perspective?!

Never underestimate nature!

Eileen NearneAnd humans? I read about Eileen Nearne who died at 89 this month. You’d never heard of her? Neither had I.

Eileen Nearne was just an old lady who lived alone in Torquay. The most that neighbours had to say about her was that she used to enjoy talking about her cat.

Yet after her death officials found in her flat an amazing treasure trove of war-time papers and medals, including the MBE and the Croix de Guerre. It turns out that she had an extraordinary history no one knew about.

In 1944, aged 23, as a member of Winston Churchill’s secret Special Operations Executive she was parachuted into occupied France, where she passed on intelligence and arranged arms drops as the only British agent with an operating transmitter in the Paris area. She operated during that crucial period until she was arrested by the Nazis in July 1944. She was tortured, then sent to the notorious Ravensbrück concentration camp where thousands were executed or died. But she managed to escape and was able with help from a French priest to stay in hiding until rescued by the advancing allies. Her bravery contributed importantly to the war effort. Not ‘just an old lady’ after all!

Never underestimate people!

 Tim Gallwey, often called the ‘father of coaching’ by those in the profession, talks about his profound belief in the inner intelligence and wisdom in each one of us, in human life itself.  He says that a person is much bigger than what you see. As coaches we believe in the existence of potential beyond what presents itself.  We may see withdrawal or the sense of something shut down but we do not believe it. We manage to see through and beyond the acts that people put on either to seem less capable than they are or to make us believe they’re wonderful but which actually cover up their true ‘wonderfulness’. 

I have been surprised more often than I can say by how people can be unexpectedly extraordinary. And it tends to happen when you don’t criticise them internally or consider them small.

 The other side of this is:

Never underestimate yourself!

It is so easy to ignore and deny what is in us. We are capable of being exceptional. The skill lies in discovering how to allow that to happen …

“The whole point of being alive is to evolve into the complete person you were intended to be.” says Oprah Winfrey

Curiosity and playful experimentation are effective approaches. Criticism, self-labelling and a rigid outlook block it. The best place to learn is in interacting with people – which is why workshops where you have the freedom to interact, investigate and explore with others are so productive and energising. They are often the place that gives birth to the extraordinary in people.

Sometimes it just takes someone else to see the exceptional in us before we can see it ourselves. They ‘know’ it is there and that becomes our realisation of a truth. As the pianist Claudio Arrau once explained about his performances, “I don’t know what’s going to happen but I know it’s going to be something wonderful.”

So, what are you underestimating about yourself?

Your Voice Gives You Away!

Voice gives you awayYour voice is a powerful tool – but it can be a liability if you talk stridently or in a dull monotone. Learn how to speak with a voice that connects with your energy and feelings and see what an enormous difference it makes to how people want to listen to you.

Your voice can be a powerful tool when you know how to use it. Your voice reveals a lot to the world about you so you need it to tell the story you want! Yet it is a subject that has been under-investigated. Apart from noticing different accents most of us distinguish very little about the voice: high voice maybe, deep voice, squeaky voice, rich voice, strident voice … But we all know the difference in how a voice makes us feel. We are all influenced greatly by the sound of a person’s voice.

The sound of your voice in fact tells a detailed story about you, not only about your present state of mind but about your history. 

What are the signposts to what is going on?

A voice that never changes

Many people have only one voice. They talk nasally, or in a dull monotone, or in a tight constricted way or very high like a child. Whatever they say, however emotional the content might presume to be, the voice just comes out the same.

Why is that? At some time in their life they have separated emotion from vocal expression and become tense around shoulders, neck or jaw or all three. Tension in these places can be of the moment, but some tension they will have been carrying around since they were very young in response to early life experiences. Full expression of the whole range of human communication is blocked by this tightness. If you close your throat or grip your jaw you are cutting off the part of your body where feelings, emotions, natural impulses and much of what makes us truly human lies. 

The manufactured voice

Some people speak in a pleasant way but still have a voice that is basically cut off and fails to connect. It can be deep and imposing, rich and resounding or warm and pleasant. But the sound does not express what is going on – and it never varies its quality. The listener is deceived – and often the speaker is deceived as well! 

Why is that?  Someone who speaks in this way decided (sub-consciously probably) at some stage in their life not to reveal everything that was going on – in other words to put up a mask to hide emotions that didn’t seem acceptable. You will never get a spontaneous response from someone who speaks like this – there is always an infinitesimal pause before they react. Ask a spontaneous person about an exciting occasion and they will come back on the instant with warmth and excitement in the voice, “Oh, it was wonderful!”  Ask a one-voice person and you are more likely to get a constrained “Er, we had a great time, thank you.”

The free voice

The voice that is truly expressive and thus influential is relatively free of bodily tension.  If your voice is free the sound resonates in all parts of your body communicating every nuance of what you are saying. As you become excited your voice goes up in pitch for a moment; as you sound determined the voice resonates against your chest and as you express care or concern your voice tone comes from your heart.  The voice does this automatically, constantly varying, reflecting spontaneously the meaning of your communication. Hundreds of bones and muscles in your body are involved in conveying your meaning through resonance.

Your voice does not lie. It reveals much more about you than you would imagine. If you want to be an effective communicator you need to learn to use all parts of your voice and the learning can be fun. Once you are able to use all parts of your voice you will find your influence increases beyond measure.