Category Archives: Difficult Conversations

Just go to bed.

 Decide what works for you and then, politely go.

Have you ever said “Yes OK” when you know you mean “No way”? Well, I know I have and now, I rarely do.

Listening to a group of experienced, professional and successful women recently, the discussion was around how to go off to bed, go off and exercise, go off and be quiet, go off and sleep when you want to when you’re away on business. If you’re out either socialising or out at a work-related engagement, the question was how to manage your time and energy with other people pulling you in a direction and telling you what you ‘should’ do.

If this sounds familiar to you well firstly, you’re not alone and secondly you owe it to yourself and your precious life energy to learn how to decide what works best for you and then politely, assertively tell others that’s what’s happening. Not apologising or squirming in any way. Just assertively put a boundary around the time you need using your energy and a few key words.

You may be someone who is always up for one more drink, one more conversation, another game of cards, one more – whatever. That’s great and I really admire it, on one level. I find though, I get to a stage, especially when I’m travelling away from home, when I need to go off. Enough is enough and I’m ready for bed, for a rest, for a swim, to make a call, to be quiet.

I’m sure you know what I mean and then there’s the pull from others.

  • “Oh come on, stay and have another X” or
  • “Don’t be a party pooper, let’s go and have a Y” or – worse –
  • “Oh you’re so boring, we’re just getting going and you’ll miss all the fun”

Well, I know and use a few choice words, an energetic stance and then you can quietly – and assertively – go. I do.

Try these on for size if you imagine being at a conference, an event, a party and you’re told you must stay when you know it’s time to go:

  • “Thank you so much Amanda, I know you’ll have a brilliant time and I’m off to my bed so I can be on the ball in the morning. Have a great time” as you start to move, hold your hand out, smile and then, literally go.
  • “You have a drink for me Amanda and I’m going to go for a swim now so I can enjoy dinner together this evening. See you at the bar at 7pm” as you pack up your things, stand up and start to head away intentionally.
  • “I’d love to and thanks for asking me Amanda – I’m going to make a few calls first and then I may join you later” as you smile and move without apologising or feeling awkward.

What’s interesting in moments like these is how much better you feel being firm about what you want or need and not being told what you’ll do. You’ll also often find others wish they’d said the same thing as you but felt compelled to go along instead.

As a professional woman who knows building relationships is a key part of your success, you also need to know what you need. If it’s peace, space, rest, sleep then, it’s yours for the taking.

Going the extra mile when all you want it quiet is self-defeating and sometimes, as Walt Disney said “you have to leave them wanting more”.

7 Career Success Traits Learned from Bollydog

The lessons are everywhere. Just notice.

Dear Bolly may have passed on 3 years ago this month and it may sound whimsical or indulgent to share with you career success traits which I’ve learned from our hound but, I am. On a number of levels, I realise how many lessons we’ve learned having been owned by a dog for over 16 years and also realise what novices we were when we first rescued Bolly (or did he rescue us?) in 2002.

You can see on the day we took him into our home how we all had fewer grey hairs and laughter lines but what a lot of life we would live together.

Lurchers are intensively fit and eager creatures. They’re fast and yet they love nothing more than lazing about after a long walk. What came to me is how they operate on so many levels which have similarity in being successful in your career. At the same time, these traits map into our personal lives too. Success in one without success in the other is a life half lived, in my view.

Let me show you the 7 success traits I learned from Bolly – and all the other hounds following in his paws – and how they map across into your career:

1. It’s a marathon not a sprint. After intense periods of exercise and activity, take time to rest. Give yourself a break. Don’t just bounce on to the next task or list. Enjoy the satisfaction and reflection of what you’ve achieved or done and drop a gear for a while. Find a sofa.

2. Notice what you notice. Even though we go to the same park most days, as a hound there’s a curiosity and delight in being there each day. Never oh ‘here we go again’ which we can consider being ‘another day at the office’. A hound is always ‘Yay, we’re here. What’s going on I can explore?’ It’s easy to become cynical with a sense of having seen it all before. You haven’t. The landscape’s always changing. Are you noticing what’s going on and moving with the times?

3. Have half and ear and eye open. Always. It’s easy to assume everything’s as it seems. A hound has always got half an ear cocked. We can become complacent and assume all’s well and as it should be. In your career you need to keep an eye on the competition, your colleagues, the market and be part of the conversation rather than closed off. It’s where opportunity and career agility is to be found.

4. Live in the moment more. Seeing the joy from a hound when we come back into a room having only been out for a moment, when the lead comes out or we arrive at a new place is a great reminder of how easy it is for us to be focussing elsewhere and miss the moments happening right now. Being more present at work and at home as your colleagues and family share things with you is so key to connecting. Giving someone the gift of your presence is often hard with so many gizmos available to distract us. We tend to live in the tomorrow rather than the now and we miss so much as a result.

5. Have adventures but know your way home. Going off and chasing a squirrel isn’t necessarily what I mean but as a hound, that’s often what they do. In our careers, playing by the rules, always walking the path and saying the ‘right’ things isn’t where adventure and entrepreneurship is found. I’ve learned by pushing boundaries – your own and other people’s – you grow and expand and find more opportunity. Always, however, know where home is. Where your bread’s buttered. Where you’re loved.

6. Read energy, not only the words. As a hound, you don’t really understand words, they’re sounds which is why you can read your shopping list to a hound in a loving, fun voice and they get all excited. At work – and at home – it’s easy to miss what’s going on because you don’t pay attention to the energy people have as they speak. We’re often caught up in words and miss the message of a person’s energy, their body language, their handshake, eye contact. Hounds don’t. They watch you like a hawk and read your energy like a book. At work you can ask yourself “what’s this person’s energy telling me which they’re not saying?” and clues will be there for you to notice.

7. Remain curious and playful. Being up for things, being curious and sometimes silly is both infectious and good for the soul. Yours and the souls of those around you. Asking about people, what’s going on with them, how something’s working, what you can do to help – curiosity is a natural state of learning and so is having fun. Bolly was still playing with his trusty old Meerkat toys and chasing a stick right up to the end of his life. We often forget to be playful and take ourselves far too seriously. You know I don’t mean to be the court jester at work but to loosen up, laugh at yourself, play – and not just to win, just to play.

So, what I realise as I finish writing this is how useful lessons and analogies are everywhere for us to notice. In this case, using the words of a well-known UK advert “Be More Dog” is my message, both to myself and to you.

 

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

Rolling the dice on your career moves

It is confidence in our bodies, minds, and spirits that allows us to keep looking for new adventures.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

The multi-million dollar question, as is said – should I stay or should I go? How do we ever know if what we’re doing is the right thing until we’ve done it and got going enough to find out? The question I would counter this particular enquiry with is this. “How will you feel if you are where you are in 12 months time and things are the same and you’re another year older?” You might counter this with “You know what, with all I’ve got going on, actually it will be alright for me. I just need to get more out of what I’m doing” or that kind of thinking and if that’s you, then I agree too.

I’m not an advocate of moving roles, organisations or industries for the sake of it or to prove the point that you can, it’s about what feels right for you. It’s about you knowing how you feel about what you’re doing, how long you can see yourself doing it for and your appetite to take a chance on yourself, to back yourself and to roll the dice on your career progress.

If you think of any big move you’ve made in your life – getting married, having a child, changing roles so far, buying a home, selling a home – all big moves which affect all areas of your life. These decisions were made with the same conscious and sub-conscious influences which you use to decide if or when you’ll make a career move. You’ve followed that guidance and then rolled the dice. See what I mean below, I know I look at things through these lenses.

  • What will this do for me?
  • How do I know I’m ready and feel right about it?
  • What are the benefits to doing this?
  • What are the risks and how will I handle them?
  • How will this decision affect others?
  • Can I see myself being happy with things as they are?
  • What would I tell someone else to do if they asked me for advice?

Once you’ve sense-checked yourself and taken a good look at your responses to the above questions you’ll know if it’s time to roll the dice again and take that leap of faith.

It’s not always the time – in fact rarely ever – the perfect time. Most of the time though, it’s worth really closely considering.

(Extracted from Kay White’s 2nd Book – Title, TBA)

A moment in time AND confronting idea for you.

“To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose. To throw away what you no longer need is neither wasteful nor shameful. Let them go, with gratitude. Not only you, but your things as well, will feel clear and refreshed when you are done tidying.”

This quote is from the Marie Kondo’s super-popular book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’ which transformed my – and Snowy’s wardrobes and household cupboards a couple of years ago for the better.

The key question when you contemplate letting go of what you no longer need being “Does it spark joy?” – if not, let it go.

And it reminds me about letting people go too, if your relationship with them doesn’t spark joy. It’s cathartic and gives you precious time for those you do truly cherish…..

It’s easy to assume that just because you’re in touch with someone, that because you’ve been friends ‘forever’ that it has to – or should – stay that way. Well, it doesn’t.

When I left my corporate life 14 years ago I had loads of work friends. Loads. And yet, instinctively I knew I’d probably only keep in touch with, hmm, maybe 3 of them.

By in touch I mean really connected rather than “oh we must meet some time” friends (who only really have the old days to discuss with you).

In reality it’s actually only 2.

It can sound brutal to share with you this too. After 16 years of marriage, when we look at our guest list of 120 people, less than half of them would be invited if we were to do it all over again!

Some are no longer alive, some are no longer together, some have fallen off the radar and others have either let me/us go or we’ve let them go. Literally, let them go.

We’ve made tons of new friends in that time too. Friends we’d love to share that day with now. It’s not better. Just different. So are we. So are you.

It’s cathartic to tidy up, as Mari Kondo shares and I believe this is just as applicable to our social networks too. Some of your friends will be with you, and you with them, forever. You know it. Others are transient and that’s OK.

In my fifties with, as my friend Steve Cozart shared with me “more of your life behind you than in front of you” I’m fierce about who I choose to invest my precious life energy with.

I’ve learned you have:

– Friends for a reason – a difficult time, a shared interest, a lesson they have for you – you’re fond of them and yet the tides of your lives have changed. If it’s feeling an effort that’s onerous, the reason isn’t strong enough anymore

– Friends for a season – a spell which passes and your bond isn’t so strong so it fizzles, you let go or – as happened to me recently – they unceremoniously ‘fire’ you for their own reasons. They’re best let go of anyways Kay.

– Friends for life – people who you know you want to stick with, who want to stick with you and who you forgive (vs fire) if they trip up – or you do.

You don’t get time back. We must choose wisely how we invest it and with whom.

Do they deserve your precious, finite life energy? If so great. If not – you know what to do. It’s all good.

As Marie Kondo says, “when we reduce what we own and essentially ‘detox’ our house, it has a detox effect on our bodies as well.” As with our relationships as with our house.

 

Do you ride your emotions?

Or are you at their mercy?

It was the start of a meeting with a potential new client. We sat discussing what was going on with his team and why some of the key people were avoiding communicating with each other. Let’s call him John, he said something along the lines of ‘well, we’ve brought you in Kay because it’s probably all about the touchy, feely stuff and I don’t do that’.

‘You don’t do that?’ I said, risking, I suppose, being shown the door, ‘You don’t do that? Everyone does that John, everyone does that all the time, it’s what it’s all about.’ I thought to myself his words gave me a huge clue as to why there was such a disconnect in this team.

When someone explained to me once how emotion can be defined as ‘energy-in-motion’ it took on new meaning, one that really makes sense and, to all those ‘oh, I avoid the touchy-feely stuff’ out there, think about emotion like this – it’s ‘energy-in-motion’. Your energy, at any given moment, can change to another energy and you behave differently. Something else happens and, depending how you decide to react to it – notice I said ‘how you decide’ – then your emotional state changes again.

As you go through your day, start noticing your own emotions and, crucially too, others’ (they’re on display, you just have to notice them). As you become more and more aware that emotion is driving everything, and everyone, you’ll be able to understand so much more about other people and so much more about yourself.

Here’s a typical scenario that plays out every day, everywhere for someone, somewhere with the emotion in brackets.

Rushing to a meeting to avoid being late (excitement, fear) you arrive just as the meeting’s starting (anxiety, embarrassment). As you grab a coffee and your seat (relief, anticipation) you’re asked a question (surprise and fear again). Someone else chimes in to help you (relief and surprise) and you also gather your thoughts and add your opinion (relief and anticipation). The meeting carries on and you notice yourself relaxing (contentment and trust) and you’re asked to be involved in a new project (surprise and joy). You know it’ll be hard work with a lot riding on it and you say ‘yes, great’ (anticipation, fear, joy) and you all agree to meet again in two weeks to update everyone (anticipation, trust, anxiety). Off you go to your desk and pick up the phon e to tell your partner about this opportunity (excitement and surprise mixed with anxiety).

Can you ‘feel’ just from reading the above, how much energy-in-motion is going on for you, just in that meeting?

We are constantly shifting and changing gear with our emotions and the more we understand about how they affect us, and those around us, the more we can start to take notice of where we are in our emotional journey.

We’re all in an emotional state, all of the time. The trick is to notice which emotional state we’re in – relaxed, excited, angry, frustrated, sad, happy – and to know that we are moving in and out of these states all the time. We must then decide and find which state is the most helpful, appropriate and resourceful for us to be in, given what’s going on around us. We do have a choice though and when we accept that we can no longer say “Oh, he makes me so angry”. He doesn’t. You decide to be. Byron Katie, one of my spiritual mentors said, in context with minor irritations and day to day conflict “No one has the power to upset me. I do that.” Enough. Said.

Extracted from ‘E is for Emotion’ from The A to Z of Being Understood by Kay White.

Are You “Should-ing” All Over Everyone?

3 Easier Ways for People to Take On Your Advice

Now, what you should do is…” “Well, it’s obvious, you should do this, then you should do that and then you should tell them you’ve done it”.

Should do. What you should do and what you want to and actually do are often very different things. Even if the advice we’ve been given is spot on, the fact that we’ve been told we ‘should’ do it is often the very reason we don’t. So if that’s the reaction we have, it’s the reaction that others will have when we ‘should’ all over them. Hmmm.

There’s something innately irritating to be told we should be doing something. It implies – this is the subtle, savvy part to understand – it implies that we’re not doing something and that the other person is wiser that we are. It’s implicit that we’ve missed a trick and they haven’t. That they know better exactly what will work for us. Well, in reality, we know best – better than anyone – what works for us and as we all know, making a decision ourselves and then sticking to it is always more powerful than carrying out other people’s advice. We own the outcome and, as such, are responsible for the result. (Or, in this case, response-able).

One of the big pieces of being an influential communicator as you work is to put across your ideas, suggestions, or advice (still need to do this!) and, at the same time, allow the other person to decide for themselves how, and if, it will work for them. It then becomes their decision, their action. This principle applies just as effectively, if not more so, at home with our families and friends – and those trickiest of customers, your children.

So, how do you get across your idea, suggestion, advice without saying “what you should do is” or “I think you should…”?

Here are 3 quick and easy ways which work, for you to try out:

  • Start with “I’ve got an idea for you..” – this way you’re putting out that it’s only an idea and it’s for you to contemplate and understand if and how it will work. By saying “I’ve got” you’re telling the other person “OK, I’m ready with something that I think you’ll want but it’s up to you what you do with it”.

  • Say “I’m going to make a suggestion here” – again, you’re putting across that you have something to offer and you want to get their buy-in before you just throw it at them. 9 times out of 10, if you’ve read the situation and your relationship correctly, the other person will be more open.

  • Think aloud – “hmmm, that’s tricky, now I wonder if…” – you can hear (and feel) that you’re firstly empathising that they have an issue or something tricky going on ie, they’re not an idiot – and saying “I wonder if” is a pensive, non-confrontational way of offering your thought or suggestion.

As with all of the 3 ideas above, avoiding the ‘should’ word once you start with these phrases is crucial. Remember, by offering your thoughts in a less fixed way, you leave the other person open to taking on what you think but without your judgement (intentional or otherwise) behind it.

So, I’m going to make a suggestion here %$firstname$%. Try these phrases on for size the next time you feel yourself about to say “well, you should” or “oh, it’s obvious, what you should do is…” You’ll notice the difference in how easily the other person/s take on what you think and if they ignore you then at least they know you contributed your thoughts.

As I always say at dinner time to my husband, “There are two choices for dinner. Take it. Or leave it.” I bet, like he does, they’ll take it more often than not.

Watch Your Pace When Speaking

It affects IF or HOW people listen to you.

Pace, what do I mean by that?

It’s about your rate and your speed of delivery. So many clients of mine race through their content, their ideas, their input and, the truth is, a lot of the time they’ll be tuned out by those who they need to listen to them most.

People lose interests, they can’t process the information quickly enough so lose your thread, they aren’t given enough time or interest to stay tuned in. It makes a big difference to if or how people listen to you if you take the time – choose to take the time – to vary your pace. Your speed. Your way of delivery.

Now when I’m speaking on stage, on group client calls, I’m very conscious of pacing myself, and in pace also comes your speed of response. Your speed of speaking, your speed of action, and deciding on a non-action. Just as well as how and if you decide to speak or respond.

Here are 5 quick and dirty scenarios and tips to help you pace yourself day-to-day both at work and at home:

1. When you’re asked a question, wherever you are, take a moment. Draw breath. Don’t just respond as if you’ve had a tennis ball fired at you. Choose what you’ll say. Buy time with “hmm, that’s a great question, in my opinion …” or “tell me more about what you want to know”. Pacing the other person at the same time. Aha!

2. When you’re telling a story, wherever you are. Pause, speed up with detail and then slow down with the point, the lesson. It adds impact and it gives you a chance to catch up with yourself.

3. When you’re on a conference call. Know the organiser’s name and use it as you jump in. “John, that’s a great point” not just “err can I just say something?”. Even better, “Hi there John, this is Kay White from London, this is how I think we should go” etc.

4. From the stage/a presentation. When you’re introduced, take a moment. 2 or 3 seconds to steady yourself, look at people, give them a sign which says, “I’ll start when I’m ready” and it’s amazing the difference it makes. An experienced musician, a pianist for example, sits, looks at the keys, moves on the seat, takes a breath, then starts. Not leaping on stage and starting straight away. The moment needs build up and the pianist knows the audience needs to settle too.

5. When you’re running a meeting. Rather than feel you have to know everything, ask questions around the table, use people’s names to hook attention and to keep people on track “with 10 minutes left, let’s move on to X” – pacing yourself and your colleagues at the same time.

There are a myriad of other scenarios and tactics you can use. You get the idea though.

Pacing yourself, slowing it down, positioning and settling yourself before you dive in with your thoughts is strategic. It gets and keeps attention and it helps you be more present to what’s actually happening. Now that really is strategic.

How to Embrace the Challenge of Change

Go with the flow of the opportunities.

It’s one of my go-to books. Each year I read ‘Who Moved My Cheese’ by Ken Blanchard which reminds me how to recognise change and expect it. Not to sit like a rabbit in the headlights and hold my head saying things aren’t fair.

Well, one of the only things you can rely on is that everything is shifting and changing all the time.

Relationships, market conditions, policies, who’s who, technology and why are we surprised?

When you consider what was important to you when you were 5, 15, 25, 35, 45 years old and so on – you can tell that for the most part, the key drivers for you have changed.

At 5 you probably wanted to have the newest popular toy, at 15 a boyfriend or girlfriend and good grades, at 25 more money to buy your own place, 35 a child or a partner (or a new partner) and so on. Your landscape changed, your desires changed or, as it says in the book, your cheese naturally moved.

When you take a look then at your workplace or industry these days, where companies have to be nimble and respond to market conditions to be able to stay in business, why would it be any different? One of the things I’ve learned is that there is no ‘job for life’ anymore and on some levels that’s a good thing.

Companies can’t offer the certainty of it and nor can we, or should we, rely on it. That, in itself, gives us walk-ability. The essence being keeping your eyes and ears open to what’s going on as well as your mind open to how it works for you. Not if, but how? If you don’t believe you want to make it work then that’s where your opportunities to move your cheese lie. They lie with you.

As it says in the book “Every company wants to survive in the future but also stay competitive. While in the past we may have wanted loyal employees, today we need flexible people who are not possessive about ‘the way we do things around here’”.

Here’s a simple set of incisive questions I ask myself and my clients when we see change (another) on the horizon:

  • Where are the opportunities in here for you?
  • What will you have to let go of to embrace the opportunities?
  • What will be the threats?
  • What’s the worst that can happen and how will you handle it?
  • What would you tell me to do if we swapped places?

We all know intuitively it’s an inside job. Change. It’s an inside job. How you think about it, approach it, what you make it mean, how you talk about it, how you embrace it and how you allow it to stretch you so you grow with the flow of it.

When you come up against yourself resisting the flow of change either inside of you or external to you, remind yourself of how much change you’ve encountered, handled and benefitted from. Then remind yourself to choose how to approach it. Choose to approach change. Always. All ways.

There’s a Native American quote I love which is “It is always best to ride the horse the direction it’s going.” Indeed.

 

What’s your “unfair” advantage (and do you even know about it)?

 Working with career women keen to raise their visibility and influence at work, this is one of the first places I start with them. “Let’s find your unfair advantage or your Secret Sauce” I say. I start with this question.

“What is it about you or what has happened in your life that you’ve struggled with?” The reason I ask this question is that it’s often exactly these sorts of things that actually make us who we are and – if we recognise them – become an “unfair” advantage to us.

StarWhen I asked myself question, I knew what my “unfair” advantage is.

Being 6ft tall since I was 14. Growing up I was often teased and asked “what’s the weather like up there Lurch?” and “is there enough oxygen up there for you?” oh, and one of the best ones can still be “Ooooh, aren’t you tall?” – I’d often (and still do) say “oh, thank you for telling me, I hadn’t noticed!” In my teens, I used to get to parties and immediately take my shoes off saying my feet hurt. In reality, I wanted to be smaller, to blend in more.

Now I recognise being tall means I’m noticed, I’m remembered and often when growing up, was assumed to be either older or wiser (or both) than I was. My height gives me a natural presence, which, in business just as in life, helps. I had no choice; I was – and still am – 6ft and the choice was always how I deal with it – what I make it mean to me.

It could have been easy to have slouched, to have tried to hide it by wearing flat shoes all the time but actually, I really like being tall and wear high heels as and when I want to – oh, and I’m married to someone a fair bit shorter than me. So what? It’s all about your perception and how you perceive your “unfair” advantage.

I’ve asked a few other people recently, just off the cuff, what they’ve struggled with and now could be their “unfair” advantage. They’ve all been able to tell me what theirs is.

  • One friend – “Being Scottish – I’m remembered, I’m different and people like my accent”.
  • Another – “My dyslexia’s made me be so much more creative”.
  • My husband, Snowy – “My dad dying when I was so young helped me know how to look after myself and appreciate how hard my Mum worked and the value of relationships”.

Think about your “unfair” advantage. What is it that’s shaped you and how do you allow it to positively influence your life? If it doesn’t, how could it? What could you make it mean?

PeopleA great way to find out if you don’t instinctively know is to ask 3 different people who know you well. Literally ask them “what do you think is my unfair advantage” and just stop and listen to what they say.

Often they’ll all come up with the same thing, my friends all did. Others often see – and appreciate – things in us, or about us, that we don’t.

When you become clearer about this, recognising if and how you allow it to be your “secret sauce” is a BIG part of communicating who – and how – you are, everywhere, you are.

As we all know, how you put yourself across is a key part in how others connect and respond to you and what you’re noticed/known and remembered for. Instead of hiding your secret sauce, celebrate it, embrace it, own it and work it in a way which works for you. It gives you unshakeable confidence in yourself because only you really know the path you’ve walked and the lessons you’ve learned. Only. You.

Zip It And Assertively Wait

Masterful Inactivity Isn’t Passive….

How to zip-it and give yourself breathing space

This is a tricky one for so many of us. Wait. Pause. Think a bit. Choose if Moneyyou’re going to act; to respond. To ‘Zip it’ is such a useful little phrase and it’s easy to remember.

It’s so easy to assume we have to respond, to fire back after receiving a message, a phone call, and an email and just respond – straight away. Either ‘shooting from the lip’ or, when writing, ‘shooting from the fingertip’.Money

So, instead of the flaming arrow you might send which can end up costing a lot of time and money in confusion and back-tracking, why not try a bit of ‘Masterful inactivity’, which is zipping it in action, or really in chosen and considered inaction. One of my clients named it that and it’s perfect as a mindset. Masterful inactivity in action.

There’s a difference you see. Ignoring things has no energy to it. It’s passive. Whereas ‘Masterful inactivity’, has some energy about it. It’s a decision to wait; to pause; to Zip-It; sometimes to just wait and see how things pan out before responding or acting. Other times just to breathe or to sleep on it. Other times to just let it be and let the other person go or certainly let their ‘vibe’ quieten down.

Instead of responding to those flaming-arrow types of email or urgently urgent phone calls, wait. We have to recognise an emergency and act on it, of course, but most of the time others’ urgencies don’t have to become our emergencies, do they?

Often the person sending the message will either chase you up or – more often than not – call you to follow up or apologise. They often sort out the thing that they pounced on you to do and, if they don’t, then you now have a choice. By waiting, pausing – even if it’s just for 5 minutes – you also give yourself time to breathe. Take time to consider and you often take the energy, frustration and heat out of your own response.

shhhWhen someone says something to you and you feel the ‘arrrgghh’ of frustration rise up or, often worse, the sarcastic voice which is so easy to use for your response, instead of going with it, wait. Pause. Sometimes you don’t even have to comment and it’s often far more powerful if you don’t. You remember to breathe and you wait. It’s like letting the air go out of it!

If you decide in that moment that you will adopt a bit of ‘masterful inactivity’ then you’ve made a decision as opposed to reacted. Different. The other person will often be surprised by your silence. Also as their own heat dissipates, they may re-think their decision or opinion. You, on the other hand, decided to just park it for a while.

This works just as well in our social lives too. Think of all the opportunities you have to Zip it at home – especially at the heightened emotional, excitement of Christmas time.

3 tips to take on and try

  • Be on the lookout for opportunities to adopt masterful inactivity today. When you open an email, read it and then maybe put it into a file you create called ‘Masterful Inactivity’. You can then keep an easy eye on when and how you respond, and it’s easy to keep track of any you decide to file here.
  • Decide if you’re going to respond to someone or something. Notice how you decide. Are you thinking things through? Are you reacting to someone else’s crisis or demand at the price of your own concentration, your own flow? You may just decide to zip it. Stay quiet. Wait. Let go of having to always be involved.
  • Notice other people and how they react or respond. You’ll realise that a lot of people do zip it and watch, wait and see. Watch how they do it and, depending on how you feel, ask them about it.

Not a new idea I know but it’s one that works. Seneca, the Roman philosopher (5BC – 65AD) said “It is a great thing to know the season for speech and the season for silence.” “It is a great thing to know the season for speech and the season for silence.”

Enough said.