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.

 

 

Ginger and the Matrix

The ginger example Ginger

Odd encounters … visiting a relative recently, I discovered a foot high pile of large fresh ginger roots sitting on the kitchen counter.

‘Why such an enormous quantity of ginger?’ I asked.

‘Mmm, yes, er, internet mistake …’ came the slightly embarrassed reply.

I didn’t even know you could order ginger on the internet. My curiosity was rewarded with a gift, and I went home with a lovely plump root, keen to try it in some Thai cooking. What resulted was the best Thai dish I have ever tasted. I mean the best. I always use root ginger, but I had no idea that good quality fresh ginger could make such a difference. I mean, I don’t want to overstress the point, but I would have continued for the next thirty years to adjust the flavours of my oriental cooking seeking for better flavour without once realising that just because something is called ginger doesn’t mean that it’s the same as that something I used to call ginger.

… or that we always know what we are talking about when we use a word to talk about it. I’m referring to our tendency to stay inside the Matrix or system and a restricted way of thinking about things. As if that were all there were.

The news example

Take the Matrix called ‘the news’ for example: the journalist in the matrix knows that in their version of ‘the news’ the economy has a label called ‘problem’.

Being a problem, someone must be to blame, so he asks an economist whose fault it is.

That – even with its strong slant – being much too large a question for an 8 second sound bite, the economist replies that bonuses are too high.

Within a few days, there’s what Chris Mullin used to call a ‘feeding frenzy’ over bonuses, ‘symbolic’ stripping of knighthoods and the whole shebang -and we’re nowhere nearer to improving the economic situation.

We’re inside the Matrix – where ‘the news’ means problem and ‘problem’ means there must be a culprit, and ‘culprit’ for some reason is the main interest of the exercise.

The 17 camels example

Take the camels story as another example, do you know it? A man leaves 17 camels to his 3 sons. He leaves half his camels to his first-born, a third of his camels to his second son and one ninth of his camels to his third son. The sons are nonplussed, for the number seventeen doesn’t divide by 2, 3 or 9, and they can’t bring themselves to divide a live camel in pieces. They are stuck inside the dilemma.

But they step outside the dilemma and consult a wise old woman.

‘I can’t solve this for you’, she says, ‘But I could lend you one of my camels if you like.’

With 18 camels, the first son takes half – 9 camels, the second takes a third – 6 camels, and the third takes a ninth – 2 camels. That adds up to 17. There is one camel left over. So they give the old woman her camel back and everyone is happy.

Inside the Matrix of a particular way of thinking, it’s impossible. Step outside, or add something else to the mix, and it does become possible. It used to be called lateral thinking.

The problem person example

And finally a people example. I once had a real problem with a colleague. He was just difficult. I thought of many different ways to tackle the problem and improve my relationship with this person but nothing worked. I didn’t really expect it to because I was in a box which contained me and a ‘difficult person’.

That summer I went to America for a whole month, and broadened and changed my outlook in many ways. I had a wonderful time, and didn’t think once about my difficult colleague.

But on my return, he had changed without my doing anything. I wasn’t the person in that Matrix any more, and therefore he wasn’t the person of that Matrix any more.

In the NLP Diploma

One of the many things we examine in the NLP Diploma is systems theory -aka ‘escaping the Matrix’ – which enables you to debunk some current thinking around cause and effect and problem solving, for example:

  • Other people can make you feel bad – not true.
  • Trying harder is the key way to overcome lack of success – very often not.
  • Your problems are what they are irrespective of you – incorrect, you are affecting your problem by your relationship to it.
  • If you tackle a cause C, you can achieve an effect E. True, but you won’t do that without also causing possible negative side effects X, Y and Z, so it would be a good idea to discover what these might be before going ahead.

I sometimes ask myself when I encounter a problem, ‘If I were outside this matrix, what might it look like?’ You might like to try it if you get frustrated at some point later this week!

NLP Diploma

The NLP Diploma starts on 1 March with the first module, Communication & Relationships. The other modules are on 29-30 March (Leadership & Influence), and 17-18 April (Coaching & Change). You will pick up a load of useful leadership, management and relationship skills, plus invaluable personal gains including increased self knowledge and purpose, and a sense of ease and confidence in your everyday life. These are great tools for succeeding in whatever you dream of achieving in life.

Anyone who has done a good NLP course raves about it, and with good reason. It feels like common sense – but that commodity is not quite so common as we might think!

Voice of Influence Workshop

This is my well-known course for confidence, speaking and presentation skills. You could just get onto the 9-10 February workshop if you apply today. The following one is on 17-18 May.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms:

25 Sure-Fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence

I’ve just sent off the final edits and checked the final illustrations. I believe it’s going to be an invaluable little book which you’ll want to keep by you every time you have to speak or present. Order yours today here on Amazon. It will be available on Kindle too – as is my first book, Voice of Influence.

Coaching Groups

Someone asked me about coaching groups. Three that I always find excellent when I attend are:

London Coaching Group www.londoncoachinggroup.co.uk
Next event 28 Feb.

Guildford Coaches Group http://guildfordcoaches.org
Next event 23 March.

Soul of Coaching Group www.alternatives.org.uk/Site/CoachingCircle
Next event 22 Feb.

Go well!

Tone Deaf?

Tone DearOnce, when I was teaching solo singing in a school for a while, I was sent a new pupil with a quiet warning: ‘Maddie desperately wants to sing, but we know she’s tone deaf – just see what you can do.’

So I met Maddie. We started our lessons and I did indeed find that she was unable to pitch notes that I played her on the piano. She would attempt to sing something and sound really bad. I’d suggest something to help her; she would attempt that and it was just as bad. On one second attempt, just to encourage her, I said, ‘Yes, that’s the idea.’

And then it happened – she caught my eye for a fraction of a second, and in that lightning glance far too short for words her eyes said, ‘You’re lying.’

She was right, I was.

But the glance, discomforting as it was, was also the message. I suddenly realised that if Maddie knew that the second attempt was no better than the first, she could hear that it wasn’t. So, what did we mean by ‘tone deaf’?

That did it. We set out again and several things were different.

  • Without anything ever being said we both knew that she’d seen through my deception, and from that point there was a complete honesty between us.
  • I now believed that she wasn’t tone deaf – that there was a way for her to learn to sing if we could find it together. So I believed in her possibility.
  • I realised I was in uncharted waters, so I was willing to try something new.
  • And what I did was take the lead from her.

She sang me a note, and we discovered it on the piano, and then little by little we explored together the territory around her note. The exploration eventually blossomed into a song with limited range, ‘Day by Day’. After that there was no holding her back, and at the end of the year she sang a solo in a school concert for which she was warmly applauded.

I wonder where you are now Maddie, I hope you are still enjoying singing. I was the learner that day.

I learned from you that truth is paramount.

I learned from you the importance of believing in someone.

I learned from you to go into the unknown.

And I learned that I’m not in charge of your learning; you are.

Coaching came into vogue several years later, but there are the fundamentals, picked up in a glance into someone’s eyes.

So I find myself writing this with two curiosities:

I wonder what you might notice today if you don’t know the answer before you begin.

I wonder too how an uncomfortable moment for you might be the very key to unlocking something that was stuck before.

I once asked the NLP pioneer Robert Dilts who his mentors had been in getting to where he is now. He looked a bit puzzled for a moment. Then he replied that though there had been some obvious teachers in his early years – like Gregory Bateson for instance – his main observation was that he learned most from students and people he met every day.

Just so.

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

My new book, comes out at last at the end of February – ways for you to beat fear of speaking even if you have always suffered intolerably from performance nerves. 25 ways to choose from – one especially targeted at you! Order it now on Amazon.

NLP Conference last week

It was a brilliant conference, the best yet, with several speakers I had never heard before and will now follow avidly. Book for next year if you can!

Voice of Influence Workshop

The 1-2 December one is full. The next is not till 17-18 May … unless someone twists my arm! Find your speaking voice – and your confidence.

NLP Diploma

The first module, Communication and Relationships is on 1-2 March. Book up now. I know this kind of training works for people because they tell me so … straight after the training and also months and years afterwards. It’s where they discover their inner confidence, and find the means to make important changes in life and career. I can’t really describe it – you just have to find out.

I’m away for a good chunk of the next month and a half, so contact me initially by email if you want to speak to me.

Be well,

The old words are best …

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

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

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

‘He’s kind.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s on the next few weeks

Voice of Influence Workshop

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

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

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

Coaching the Human Spirit

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

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

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms:

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

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

NLP Conference

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

Go well!

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

Perspectives

Perspective colour pictureOur daughter is travelling in New Zealand and but for a sudden change of mind would have been in Christchurch yesterday when the powerful earthquake erupted. On hearing of the quake we experienced a short period of sharp worry, then a happy release when we heard she was okay. Life looked very different for that short period of not knowing.

“That certainly puts things in perspective!” we sighed with relief as we marvelled at her fortunate change of plan. And it did; our perspective changed utterly during those moments of uncertainty – what really mattered stood out with new prominence – it was like redrawing our map of the world.

Once we have genuinely different perspectives we are much better equipped to respond usefully to situations. We cannot trust just our own perspective – as is illustrated in yet another of my favourite visual illusions here.

At our Communication and Relationships workshop last week we did a familiar exercise on changing perspective. We looked at a relationship from our own point of view, from the other person’s point of view and from other perspectives as well. Afterwards – as often happens – someone commented that they thought they already knew what it was like from the other person’s point of view, but when they actually did the exercise their experience was wholly different and unexpected. What they thought they knew was not the case at all. We often imagine we are including other points of view in our thinking when we aren’t really. Have you ever said to yourself, “I know he thinks that I think that he thinks I’m a…?”!

Once we have genuinely different perspectives we are much better equipped to respond usefully to situations. We cannot trust just our own perspective – as is illustrated in yet another of my favourite visual illusions here.

Chequer board illusionObserve the small grey squares at the intersections of the larger black squares. Actually, they are not there! There are no small grey squares. Your eyes are creating the illusion. Funnily enough, each grey square is there until you really focus on it individually – as you change your perspective it dissolves.

(If you like visual illusions, try this moving pink dots one too, following the instructions below the picture: http://lightisreal.com/lightillusion.html.)

If you constantly trust only your own perspective you can get things so wrong! This was beautifully illustrated by the reaction of a BaMbuti pygmy called Kenge in the 1950s. The anthropologist Colin Turnbull describes what happened when he took Kenge out of the dense forest where he had lived his whole life without distant views and showed him the plains stretching far into the distance below:

“Kenge looked over the plains and down to where a herd of about a hundred buffalo were grazing some miles away. He asked me what kind of insects they were, and I told him they were buffalo, twice as big as the forest buffalo known to him. He laughed loudly and told me not to tell such stupid stories, and asked me again what kind of insects they were. He then talked to himself, for want of more intelligent company, and tried to liken the buffalo to the various beetles and ants with which he was familiar.” (Turnbull 1963)

sorry I shouted

NLP is all about redrawing our personal maps. Many (I would even say most) processes in NLP training are based on insights gained from a change of perspective. By perspective I do not refer just to looking but to evidence from the other senses as well. The kinaesthetic sense – feeling – is particularly important in this regard.

Sometimes in a course I will explain a concept and a participant will respond intellectually, “I get it.” Then they go off and have a practical experience of what we were talking about, and they come back and their physiology is different, their voice is different, the look in the eye is different; and they then say “I get it” from a completely different – deeper – place. That’s “getting it in the muscle.”

Feeling is often the crucial factor in being able to adopt a genuinely different perspective. It may happen that I’m able to see what you are going through; I can hear what’s going on for you. But when I step into your shoes and feel your perspective, ah, then I get it – in a much more settled way. And what I “get” is often very different from what I thought it would be – even oddly counter-intuitive at times. It doesn’t just add to my learning; it changes my learning.

           “Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.”  Arthur Schopenhauer

          “A penny will hide the biggest star in the Universe if you hold it close enough to your eye.”  Samuel Grafton

Voice of Influence Workshop – 31 March–1 April

Interesting stuff…

The Voice of Influence workshop is coming up again in a couple of weeks. If there were ever an area where understanding the theory and getting it in practice were different public speaking is it. You tell yourself that you don’t need to shake from fear and then you shake anyway – it can be so frustrating! Getting it in the muscle in this workshop is such a relief for people and so effective too. It’s great to witness the changes that are achieved.

Leadership & Influence Workshop – 17-18 March

This workshop – which contributes towards the Diploma in NLP –also explores differences between thinking and doing. You will learn how to walk the talk as a leader and thus build a strong inner sense of confidence. You will also learn some great models of leadership, including systems thinking (see my last newsletter on babies being thrown out with the bath water in organisational change).

The workshops are friendly, lively and strongly focused. If you want to make changes you will make them here. Look at www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk for more information or contact me directly – I’m always happy to talk about your ideas and aspirations.

Coaching

I am more and more convinced by the art of coaching as an effective means of fulfilling your life’s promise. We all get stuck at times, and coaching is the best un-sticker I know!  But it’s also a great tool for highly successful people to step into the exceptional.

Most coaching clients arrange a short series of sessions – perhaps 4 or 6 – to achieve a particular set of outcomes.

What might you use coaching for? All sorts of reasons! Maybe one of the following?

  • To find out what you want and move towards it, e.g. clarify a career direction
  • To sort out some relationship(s) and move forward; to create new relationships
  • To prepare yourself for promotion, an interview, a conference, a bid
  • To move through personal blocks that are holding you back
  • To improve your performance in terms of leadership, management, personal organisation, confidence, impact etc.
  • To dream of the impossible, make it possible, and achieve it.

Richmond NLP Group – http://www.richmondnlpgroup.org.uk/

Do you know about this popular group? – they get some great speakers and sessions are interactive (to persist with my theme of getting it in the muscle). Next month’s session on Thursday 24th March features Arielle Essex talking about The Paradigm Shift – Turning Problems into Gifts – should be good! Contact Henrietta@RichmondNLPGroup.org.uk to sign up and for further information.

Go well!

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!

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.