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!

Festivals and Flying-Foxes

Sydney FestivalA few days ago I was reclining on the grass enjoying a picnic (along with 200,000 others) as enormous flying fox bats wheeled overhead and the sun went down on a summer day in Sydney. It was the first day of the Sydney Festival. As tickets sell out so fast for the festival, the city now puts on a special first day for free, so that the whole city – families, young and old – can enjoy international singers and bands at half a dozen open-air venues, with free bottles of water and buses running late to take people home.

Now I’m home to January frosts, and experiencing those moments every traveller recognises on return home, when things seem less obvious than before. Do I still drink tea in the morning? Do I still prefer the Guardian or was it the Telegraph? The daily gloom and doom seems less necessary. The countless routines of life no longer take place quite as unthinkingly as before.

Then gradually, daily life enfolds you again, and that foggy moment passes. You’re back with the familiar frames and filters … back in the matrix … But you’ve glimpsed something else – that brief moment when things are no longer obvious is the great gift of time away.

On my travels I’ve been reading ‘The Master and the Emissary’ by Iain Gilchrist (a fascinating book if you can cope with print the size of washing instructions on a shirt label). It explores the latest neuro-research into the left and right hemispheres of the brain. In a more complex way than previously thought, the left brain likes precision and categorisation with language to express it. The right brain holds the subtler bigger picture which is less easily pinned down by rules and language, and this hemisphere plays a far more major role than previously thought.

It’s the right hemisphere that enjoys moments when nothing is obvious; for these are moments out of which different kinds of insight can emerge. Think of historic instances of creative genius – the idea that just popped in as the bath overflowed or the apple fell on your head or you dreamed of riding sunbeams …

We can step out of our frame in various ways; one is to fly to the moon in your mind and look at your life from a distance; feeling your relative size when you are in mountains works in a similar way. Another (and a good antidote this to left brain New Year Resolutions that have you slogging to maintain some new routine …) is to do anything different from the norm just for the sake of it – take a different route home, eat a different food, read a different sort of book or paper, vary the order of your daily tasks … Every time we do things differently it gives us new insights – and brings pleasure at the same time.

I wonder what you might do differently – just for fun, just for the wonder of the thing? Gerald Manley Hopkins in the Windhover … (incidentally, did you know that the right hemisphere, though not till now associated with language, lights up for poetry?) … suggests that wonder is found in the plainest things, provided we lose our sense of knowing the obvious. The whole poem expresses it, but here are the last lines:

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

NLP Diploma

You’ll explore filters, frames and different perspectives in this course – and much more besides. This training is such a life changer – I’m constantly delighted with what people go on to achieve in living the lives they want (and only dreamed of before). First module, Communication and Relationships,  is on 1-2 March, 2nd module, Leadership and Influence, is on 29-30 March, and the final module, Coaching and Change, is on 26-27 April.

Voice of Influence Workshop

This popular course on speaking, presenting, and self confidence gives you the opportunity to learn and practise in a small group. Don’t remain unsure of yourself; becoming confident doesn’t mean changing who you are, it just requires you to learn new skills and approaches. It’s also absorbing and fun – as previous participants will tell you; all that is required is for you to register and turn up! Next workshop 9-10 February. The one after: 17-18 May.

All details on the website, www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk – also ask me about special offers if you do not have company funding.

New Books

I have two new books coming out this year. The first is Butterflies and Sweaty Palms: 25 Sure-Fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence published by Crown House. Out in February – available to pre-order on Amazon.

The second is due out in April – more information very soon!

And if you want the low-down on voice, you can find my book, Voice of Influence on Amazon too. It’s also out in Kindle. Or I can send you a signed copy.

Hope to meet you this year – at one of my courses, or at some other event. Come and say hello!

Warm good wishes,

Judy

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,

“… felt compelled to stop”

The location: Joshua Bell
Washington DC – a metro station

The spot:
the top of the escalator

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

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

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

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

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

How do we know this?

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

The violinist was Joshua Bell.

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

The actual results shocked them.

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

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

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

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

I don’t think that any more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NLP Practitioner, NLP Diploma

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

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

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

Voice of Influence Workshop

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

Sign up for these workshops now.

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

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

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

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

June already – height of summer!

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

Go well,

Gannets

In this newsletter

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

GannetsGannet

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

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

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

What grace and power! Completely awe inspiring to watch.

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

So three different views of a bird:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ICF Conference Speech 1999

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media are you listening?!

There’s always more …

Me and you – are you listening!

New funding for training

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

NLP Diploma

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

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

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

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

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

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

NLP Practitioner – register now

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

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

Voice of Influence Workshop

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

Books for Dummies

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

Happy summer days to all!

Go well,

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?

Leaders’ Debate

I’ve just been commenting on the voice and body language of our political leaders at an event for the First Pre-election Debate. Are you as amazed as I am at some of the presuppositions implied by the media in this period?

Good presentation in debate = a leader who will make good decisions (really?!)

Debating skill implies a leader who will make good things happen (how can we tell?!)

Scoring points in debate means a leader who will unite our people (there’s an interesting one!)

Of course we can learn much by observing and listening to people, but we also check our presuppositions as we go! No coach would let a client get away with such clumsy thinking!