Category Archives: Difficult Conversations

Detox your relationships

Now here’s a 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 recently 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, thatbecause 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.

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.

What State Are You In?

Understand how emotions shift in us all day long and how to best navigate them

It was the start of a meeting with a potential new client. As 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, said something along the lines of ‘well, we’ve brought you in because it’s probably all about the touchy, feely stuff and Kay, 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.’ How’s that for direct? How’s that for an opinion? It’s mine and I know it to my core. Two choices – as ever – take it or leave it but it’s true.

When someone explained to me once that our emotions 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. It can be like being on a roller coaster.

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’s emotional states – and so much more about your own.

Here’s a typical scenario that plays out every day, everywhere for someone, somewhere – us included. I’ve put the ‘state’ in italics.

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 that affects us, and those around us, the more we can start to take notice of where we are in our emotional journey.

Ideas for you to start working with today:

  • Notice – really notice – how you’re feeling. Try to tell yourself which emotion you’re feeling as you go through your day. Does this emotion serve you best for what’s going on?
  • Knowing now how we ‘drive’ our own emotions, moment by moment, start to drive your own more. Decide, ‘am I going to allow this situation to make me feel angry?’ or ‘if I were only to feel happy about this, what would I have to think about instead?’
  • Notice how others reacting/responding to things and – crucially here – notice how they make you feel (or how you allow them to make you feel). Towards the end of your day today, run through which emotions came up for you and what was happening when they did? As you navigate the choppy waters of corporate working life, remember that everyone’s in an ‘emotional state’ all the time and it’s worth considering your own as you approach people. They have to control their own states – whether they know it or even try but you can always choose how you respond. Always remember that. I do.

Let’s not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives and we obey them without realising it.’ ~ Vincent Van Gogh

Slow Things Down and Save Time

Respond rather than react (and save precious time, money and energy)

Slow down to speed things up. Yes, I know – it’s a dichotomy (I had to look it up – a polar opposite, a contrariety) to say you have to slow down to speed things up. Well it’s true.

So often we think we have to decide on the spot; say “yes” or “no” in the moment and know all the answers to the questions we’re asked. Well, we’re actually making things harder for ourselves and harder on ourselves if we believe that to be true. Hitting things back like a tennis ball over the net isn’t a strategy – it’s more like survival and it wears you down.

I’ve learned we think faster than we think. It’s worth saying again to remind us both – we think faster than we think. Our brain processes the question; the decision; the issue in front of us quickly.

What we do is assume that we have to always be thinking on the spot and just because we’re asked a question we have to know the answer; respond straight away or act immediately. Well, we don’t. Even if we do know the answer, we don’t have to commit ourselves straight away. We can buy ourselves time and find subtle ways to make the other person wait – even if it’s for just a few seconds.

Clients say, particularly women, one of the big struggles they have when they’re promoted or as they take on more responsibility is the feeling of fear of having to know all the answers; of “making the right decision on the spot”. Well, “hello”- firstly who does know all the answers? Secondly, who knows what the right decision is? Only time tells us that. We make decisions taking into account what’s going on at the time; the information, insight and instinct we have and then, we wait to find out how it pans out.

It’s liberating – certainly it is for me – to know that you don’t have to know all the answers and you don’t have to do everything or decide everything “now” – even if it would suit others if you did.

People waste so much time, money and energy – our three most precious resources – by rushing into decisions; responding to emails in “shooting from the fingertip” mode; being asked questions and blurting out the first thing that comes to mind.kay white

Clearing up or back-tracking from rushed decisions or responses just slows us down.

Here’s just 3 of the many ways to slow things down to speed things up for yourself when you’re asked a question:

    1. Repeat the question. Say it back to the person in a way that sounds thoughtful (it is) so you and your brain can process it. It also has the added bonus of making sure the person asking the question is actually asking what they want. (This is a great tip for interviews by the way).
    2. Ask the person asking what they think first. You can literally say “hmm, now before I tell you what I think, what do you think?” This is especially powerful for someone working or reporting to you – why not make them do the thinking first?
    3. Ask another question. It sounds so elementary doesn’t it? Rather than answer what you’ve been asked; ask a few more questions about the background to the question to get clearer and, again, to buy you and your brain a few more seconds before – and if – you decide to answer. Pause.

Now that’s something to think about, isn’t it?

As a strategic, savvy businesswoman, give yourself a bit more time and space to plan your reply. You know more than you think you know and sometimes, a few extra seconds to think about it gives you the chance to really show it.

Go off and do something else instead

Stimulate your creative flow with something different

That expression “busy doing something else” is where your ideas and inspiration often comes from. It gives you the sense of being absorbed, concentrating, focused on something so other thoughts are put aside or take a back seat. It’s something to be encouraged, especially when you’re scratching your head looking for the answer to a tricky issue or ticklish situation. Go off and do – or absorb yourself – in something else. It’s often where the answer lies for you.

Sometimes the full-on focus we give to something means we miss some of the subtleties of what’s actually really happening. I hear people saying things like “I feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall” or “I can’t stop thinking about ABC” or “I can’t leave it until I’ve sorted it, I’m like a dog with a bone”. Often that’s exactly the problem. Go off. Do something else instead. Leave it.

When you give yourself permission to leave it – and I do mean give yourself permission – because it’s an active, energetic decision (rather than a sign of defeat) – by saying “OK, let’s just park this for now, I’m going to go off and do something else” this is often where the ‘aha’ moment is waiting for you. You know I’m not suggesting you toss and turn inside a question for ages and use up time and energy fretting. Of course not.

Buy yourself some time and take yourself away from the thinking, just for a while. A day. Overnight. A week. You know your deadlines but it’s the action of parking it and staying open to what comes up in your thinking whilst you’re otherwise engage I’m talking about. Let me explain.

Waterskiing. I’ve skied for years and love it – the speed, the sensation, the ‘hey I might fall off’ feeling at times (sometimes, a lot of the time).

What I realise though, is how many similarities and insights there are when you compare improving ‘something else’ with building and expanding your business or your career.

Look and see these 5 quick lessons to learn about business and career success from being busy waterskiing:

  1. Keep flexible and relaxed as much as you can. There are forces at work, which you can’t see, and they’ll help you. You don’t have to force it, go with where you’re being pulled. Stay loose.
  2. Expect there will be bumps in the water and the current can pull you off course but keep your eyes on the water where you’re going. Stop watching and worrying about the bumps all the time; watch the water where you’re going instead.
  3. Let go when you have to. When you decide to – or have to – sometimes it’s best to just let go, have a face full of water for a moment and then get up again and get back on. Hanging on too tightly doesn’t do much for your style or your peace of mind.
  4. Listen to the advice of your mentor/instructor. Other people can often see what you can’t when you’re in action. It might be just a simple tweak and it’s too close to the end of your nose for you to see it. Study and listen for what the experts do and then model it. Make it a style of your own.
  5. Rest up and regroup. Remember it’s about the ride too and it’s more of a marathon than a sprint. Take breaks, limber up and enjoy the scenery along the way.

Ron, our ski instructor, uses a great expression, which is helpful to remember whilst you’re busy doing something else “keep your legs loose, your tush in and reeeelaaaax”.

To enjoy the creative ways your mind works when you’re busy doing something else, ask yourself these 3 quick questions to help you with your decision:

  1. What is it that most concerns me about this decision?
  2. How will I handle that and what skills will I need to bring into the mix to handle this?
  3. What lessons are there for me to use and then share with my colleagues, friends or clients, which could help the situation we’re scratching our heads with?

Interestingly, I sat for 48 hours with a decision on holiday. I knew I needed to land on a decision before moving forward on plans which affect my clients, my team and my lifestyle. Using the exact steps and the waterskiing as a distraction, I stayed loose, kept my tush in and landed on my decision. More about that soon.

Zip It And Assertively Wait

Stop shooting from the lip

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 Christmas time.

3 tips to take on and try

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 %$firstname$%.

This article is extracted from my number 1 best-selling book ‘The A to Z of Being Understood. Z is for Zip-It.

Move on when you’re ready

How to avoid being stuck in a conversation

We’ve all been there haven’t we? You’re at a social function, a networking event, a business conference and your intention is to circulate, meet new people, catch up with colleagues and friends – and then you get stuck. You feel you can’t move or it’s rude to and often you end up apologising for even wanting to.

What started off as an exchange of ideas can then turn into a one-way or dead end street where someone goes from being interesting and helpful, for example, to dull and droning on.

Maybe they don’t value their time; they certainly don’t value yours. It’s an interesting conundrum. If you know you’re ready to move on and it’s time to get going, how do you politely, assertively and intentionally wind up that conversation and move on to your next one?

Firstly I put to you, there’s the ‘mind’ piece. If you know your intention is to meet people, to find out how people are doing, to contribute where you can and to show up in a way that means people remember you were there, well then that’s the first thing to keep in mind. You can also assume other people will have a positive intention similar to that. No-one’s ever going to say to you “Oh no, I only came here to bang on about myself, to tell people how great I think I am, try and sell everyone something and then to leave having met as few people as possible” – they just won’t ever say that, even if it is their intention.

Unfortunately, some people, unconsciously or otherwise, do have that very intention and when you find yourself stuck it can be really tricky to move on without being rude or finding yourself apologising.

To respectfully and assertively steer yourself away – and this works just as well socially as it does professionally – you need to be able to say a couple of things really clearly. So, I’ve chosen for you, from my extensive ‘Treasure Chest’ of ways and words, phrases and angles, a simple example you can use straight away. Plus of course, the behind-the-curtain thinking in saying it.

It goes like this:

Well, it’s been great chatting with you Jane/John and I know you’ll be wanting to chat with other people too so I won’t monopolise you any more and ABC etc.

Behind-the-curtain thinking:

  • The word ‘Well’ immediately implies a change in rhythm or tempo is about to occur.
  • “It’s been great chatting with you” – you’re firmly putting it in the past tense i.e. it’s over.
  • “I know you’ll be wanting” tells the other person what you assume to be true and you’re presuming that their intention is to “chat with other people too”.
  • “I won’t monopolise you anymore” – this is where you take the responsibility for what could be happening but in reality, you’re ready to disengage. It’s both assertive and self-deprecating at the same time. A simple, savvy combination.
  • “and ABC…” is where you say what happens next – if anything. “and I’ll call you next week” or “and thanks for your advice” or “and enjoy the rest of your evening too”. Well, now we can just both move on. Bye for now.

Practice your pillow talk.

Engage as you explain

It’s so easy to lose your message, your audience, their attention, their trust by using ‘weasel’ words. By using ‘gobbledeegook’ if you will – and it’s everywhere, like an epidemic.

With the pace of information being shared, the cultures which must be crossed and included in our messages, and the turbulent times we’re navigating at the moment, the need to be as clear as possible is more vital than ever.

Think about it for a moment. When did you last say to your partner, as you were either in bed or getting ready for bed “we’re struggling to get our key performance indicators aligned so we can leverage all the strategic opportunities out there”? Well, I put it to you, in general, most partners would cross their eyes, turn over and wonder what language you’re suddenly speaking.

To use a lot of ‘corporate’ lingo, especially in times when people are concerned about what’s really going on, is a recipe for confusion, mistrust and – often – for being ignored. It’s ironic really, people tend to use this sort of language to try to sound more knowledgeable, more ‘clever’ if you will. The opposite happens though. People tune out, think about something else entirely, resent you for confusing them or making them feel ‘dumb’ – or are so busy trying to translate what’s being said they miss your point anyway.

It’s a great way to translate some of the corporate gobbledegook you come across by asking yourself “What would I say to my partner/husband/wife about this?”

Clapping PeepsWhat you’ll find is that you naturally choose other words, more accessible, more everyday words. Try a bit of “Pillow Talk” with your team, with your marketing, when you’re making presentations or proposals.

You’ll be heard more easily and people will trust you and thank you for it.

3 ‘Quick & Dirty’ examples for you:

  1. “we’re struggling to get our key performance indicators aligned so we can leverage all the strategic opportunities out there” becomes “we’ve got to get everyone meeting their targets so we can make the best of what’s happening in the market”
  2. “by the end of the next quarter the upsurge in uptake will maximise our position” becomes “with all these buyers, by the end of December we should be in a great position”
  3. “so to keep optimising the market diffusion we must keep thinking outside of the box to leverage this” becomes “hey, there’s a lot activity in our market, let’s keep our minds open and meet as often as we can to make the most of it”

Sometimes, we all have to use the ‘gobbledeegook’ or the Corporate-sounding name of something or expressions being used around us. It’s a big part of being heard. I worked on a project in my own corporate career called GROPE. Enough said for a confusing, mixed message-style name which no one really understood!

So make sure you talk about it – you know you’re valuable and have value to add – well, talk truly is valuable too. If you choose.

What you can do as well to make sure you’re understood at the same time is to use these 3 simple and subtle expressions to make sure the point gets across and translates the ‘blah’ language into your Pillow Talk:

  1. “and by that I mean….”
  2. “or in other words….”
  3. “but you could also say….”

They’re simple, savvy, subtle and they work.

7 Career Success Traits (as learned from Bolly, our first hound)

The lessons are everywhere. Just notice.

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 13 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’ve learned from Bolly 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 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 peoples’ – you grow and expand and find more opportunity. Always, however, know where home is. Where your bread’s buttered.

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.

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.’

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 emotion 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 noticewhich 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.

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

 

The Power of an Intentional Pause

It’s underestimated and strategic

I don’t know about you but it’s easy to find yourself on a ‘gabbling to no-where’. That’s a phrase a client used recently and it’s spot on for what can happen when you don’t give yourself time to breathe and – most importantly – it gives the other person time to process and really hear – what you’re saying.

Pausing is a great way for you to calm down, to consider what you’re actually saying and – as I call it – to really land your message. The pause is so key in fact, instead of it being something you suddenly remember to do try to make a powerful, purposeful pause part of your conversations.

There are so many benefits to slowing down. We can find ourselves gabbling and thinking as we speak when we’re not prepared or when we’re nervous. When we’re in the workplace where we’re really trying to land a message and get our point across, the power of pause is multifunctional. Let me explain.

  • It makes you regulate your breathing, you stop – take a breath, look around – if you have to, count to say 3 and then keep going
  • It helps others keep up and – often – keep awake. It’s very easy to tune you out when everything merges together – giving your speech pauses and then, interspersing them with checking in phrases like “any questions so far?” or “what thoughts do you have so far Amanda?” which also help calm you and show you that you actually care about the other person’s experience and it buys you time. Time to consider the route the conversation is going, time to gather your thoughts and take on feedback AND time to slow you pace of speech down if you know you speak – as so may women do – too quickly.
  • Taking a deep breath or just a breath itself gives you so many benefits – more oxygen helps your brain be more nimble – it helps you regulate your tone. I often take a sip of water, for example, not because I’m thirsty but because it’s a pause, it slows me down, it allows me, as it will you, those all important few seconds to consider what comes next.

You see here’s the thing – when you pause and make pausing part of your conversation, you appear more in control, more considered, calmer, more certain and these are all traits which point to leadership and responsibility rather than just a list-ticker.

If you want to hear me share more on this subject, head over to Podcast 17 of my weekly Show Up; Sparkle & Be Heard podcast on either iTunes or my website.

Or put another way, “The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” – Mark Twain