Honey I shrunk the kids

mindfulness leafAs humans, we exist to be in relationship with one another and yet here’s the rub. Every day I hear about good friends falling out. On a granular level if you are parent, how often do you find yourself shouting at your kids and regretting it? One of my friends was telling me recently that her daughter keeps quoting the NSPCC’s Childline number to her and threatening to call them! Shows great initiative and it made me smile and yet why are our relationships with our children not optimal? In this article, I explore what lies behind miscommunication in families and offer a way through that is based on research. Whilst this is about parenting, you can see the same things happening in business which is why companies employ consultants like us to come in work with their people and turn them into high performing teams. People laugh at all the behaviours that they see on the Apprentice and of course they are exaggerated to increase the entertainment value for the Public; AND these kinds of things go on all the time.

Change can happen instantly and in other areas, it is very slow. A great example of this comes from a study of the seasons. Currently in the UK we are experiencing a very mild autumn; the first signs of winter are only just beginning to come. It is November and yet the sun is shining and many trees still have their beautiful russet gold leaves. Every morning I appreciate that even though the car windscreen is misty, it is not yet frozen solid with ice. That means we can leave about 5 minutes later and still get to school on time.

Two factors that cause miscommunication

  • Busyitis

How often are you in a hurry? If you have children how busy is their schedule each week? One client told me recently about her week and I really did not know how she got through it. She works full-time and then helps out with at least two of the organisations where children do after school clubs. On one day she has about 15 minutes to fit dinner in.  This is madness.  One thing we do is have a busy morning before school so that we can adopt a more relaxed pace after school when the girls are more tired.

Of course it is good to expose your children to a range of different activities. You want them to find out what they love doing; to excel at something or at least enjoy an activity, as it is a great way to build their confidence. AND yet everybody needs those “scratch your bottom” moments. Otherwise you will get exhausted with the constant round of ferrying, as will your kids and then there will be conflict. You are not a machine, you are a human being. If you are always rushing around it is hard to be present and in the now.

  • Guilt

As a parent how often do you feel guilty about how you have treated your children? After shouting at them, you feel a range of conflicting emotions, your energy levels are at an all time low and there’s that voice in your head that starts telling you off.  That internal voice may even sound like your Mum.  You feel waves of shame at how you behaved. This kind of emotion is so debilitating: it can be crippling.  When you feel like that, what do you do? Do you withdraw because you feel so uncomfortable or do you go on the warpath to distract yourself from how you really feel?

It is through sharing emotions that we build connections with others. Good communication is only possible when we are aware of our own emotions. That only happens when you give yourself time to self-reflect and build that awareness.

So often with clients, I find that they try to rationalise their feelings. If you break down that word, rationalise, you get its real meaning: rational lies. It is so important to get out of your head and tune into how your body feels about whatever’s happening. As Bob Samples (1976) quoting Einstein wrote:

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.

As a parent the more can communicate the rich inner world of your feelings to your children, the stronger the attachment you will have with them and the better they will be at developing close, intimate relationships during their lifetime. This sounds easy and yet many find intimacy challenging and scary at first.

I encourage you to read Philip Wade’s beautiful post about Intimacy as he explains why years of conditioning are what makes intimacy so challenging. His definition of intimacy is so powerful in to me see. The eyes are windows onto the soul. So the first exercise I am going to encourage you to do is to look deeply into the eyes of another. See how long you can hold their gaze and notice everything you experience.  How difficult was that?

Every time you resonate with your child’s emotions, your child experiences herself as “good.” Siegel and Hartzell describe emotion as “the process of integration that brings self-organisation to the mind….integration may be at the heart of a sense of well-being, within ourselves and in our relationships with our children and others.”

In can be really hard to relate emotionally to your children because it requires mindful mindfulness photoawareness of your own internal state as well as being open to understanding and respecting your child’s state of mind. That requires a huge amount of awareness. You become more aware of your own internal state when you pause and reflect on it; just acknowledge what’s going on and journal about it too.  Below are seven steps to better communication with your children:

  1. Pay attention to your emotional field: notice your feelings, your physiology and other nonverbal signals
  2. Alignment: allow your own state of mind to align with that of another
  3. Empathy: be open to another’s point of view and experience by remembering that everyone is right but only partially
  4. Verbalising: allow your inner world expression outwardly in a respectful way
  5. Participation: Join in the give and take of communication so there is balance of sharing and listening
  6. Curiosity: we all use words in different ways so be sure to check what the other person means by asking questions
  7. Diversity: Remember there is joy in the uniqueness of each individual’s form of expression – infinite diversity in infinite combinations

Remember children only model what they see. To be a conscious parent you need to practise great self-care. There are a couple of places on my forthcoming mindfulness retreat weekend, 21 and 22 November, where we will be really getting into this space of conscious communication.  Afterwards you will feel more at ease with intimacy and you will be able to build greater intimacy with others including yourself.  You can find more details here and get in touch to book your place.

What kills community because it’s so corrosive?

 

I am not a hermit, however much there are times I long for that depth of silence. I live in a small village community and more than ever I recognise that my every action will either unite or divide that community.  More than that I am a member of many systems.  Some of them are healthy and a place where interdependence thrives; others are a challenge to be part of.  One of the most corrosive elements present in any system is gossip; it can kill the sense of community.

Impeccability

Impeccability

Here’s the rub, the other day I noticed that my impeccability bottle was leaking and I grew curious as to why that was so I reflected on that.  Here’s what I discovered. The pull of belonging as discussed in a previous post is so strong that at times we compromise our own values.  How often have you found yourself colluding in or endorsing behaviours that stick in your gullet in order to fit in?  What other factors are present when gossip is rife?  Have you ever considered why Gossip happens? How much have you participated in gossip at work or in the school playground?

What do I mean by gossip?  I was discussing these ideas with fellow spiritual coach Nancy Swisher and I just loved her definition which was talking about anyone who is not present in the conversation.  It is neat and simple and so clear.  All I would add is talking in a detrimental way about people who are not part of the conversation.  This is gossip because they have no opportunity to give a different perspective.  It is vital because there is no absolute truth as the saying goes we see the world as we are not as it is.  What this means is that we are always making up stories based on the data we have sifted out from the reams we receive through our filters.  These filters have developed from the experiences of life that we have had.

This is not a post condoning gossip: that said it’s too easy to take the moral high ground and start condemning others for not living up to our expectations.  Yes impeccability with our word is vital because as soon as you say something hurtful about another you have no idea where it may go or what it will lead to.  There’s an analogy that’s been used in films and plays that describes the impact of gossip brilliantly.  If you stand on top of a tall building and rip open a feather pillow and allow the content to be scattered in the wind; it would be virtually impossible to find all the feathers later on as they will have dispersed far and wide.

Similarly whenever you say something unpleasant about another, you cannot see the impact of your words and it is unlikely you ever will see it.  We know that actually spreading malicious stories can be more hurtful and can cause more damage to someone’s self-esteem than any stick or stone that is thrown.  It is also poisonous and contaminates the environment in such a way that people withdraw to protect themselves as they don’t want to be hurt.  This is so harmful too because one of our basic needs as human beings is connection.

Why does gossip happen?  I think about the 600 nurses and midwives whom I have worked with over the last year.  None of them wanted to work in a negative environment where they felt controlled and unable to speak their mind and yet many contribute to the negativity through participating in gossip or triangulation.  Triangulation is when you divide and conquer by having multiple side conversations with people to put across a particular view and manipulate the outcome.  These women and men were wonderful people so why is this happening?  So often it is because they feel a sense of injustice about a decision that’s been made that impacts adversely on them and they feel unable to influence change.

There then appears to be a sense of vindication through sharing their position with another and getting support for that.  It is not surprising that someone might feel justified in venting some of that frustration through gossiping with others.  This sort of behaviour appears when people feel powerless.  It doesn’t make it right; what would be better would be to take responsibility and go to the person who is causing concern and use open and transparent communication.  Easy to say and challenging to do especially if you feel you won’t be heard.

So how do you confront someone who is making your life difficult?  Rather than bitching about them behind their back, you arrange to speak to them.  I would recommend that you use a tool like COIN.  The ‘c’ stands for context; the o for observation; the i for impact and the n for next.  COIN helps you to remain neutral as you state what you observed in what context and then using ‘I” statements you say what the impact was on you and lastly what you would like to see next.  I would also place an emphasis on feed forward in other words the behavior that you would like to see in the future rather than focusing on what has already happened.

Be ready to be rebuffed.  Sometimes the other person is not ready to have that conversation with you.  Earlier this year I lost connection with someone that I cherished.  It was very painful as all my attempts to rebuild the relationship were refuted.  They would not talk to me and yet through things they shared with me in writing they did feel it was okay to talk to others about what had happened.  Over time I realised that the relationship had always been more important to me than it had been to them and I learnt to let go of any attachment.  Now when I think of them I send them love and kindness and wish them well.

For me the way to wholeness comes through mastering emotional self-control by increasing self-awareness.  More and more I making an active choice about who I spend time with and often prefer to be alone.  Having space is about giving myself time to reflect on what is happening so that I can grow from every experience and find a better way to be next time I am triggered.

One of the most joyous experiences in my life at the moment is spending time with Kath my business partner for Transformational Leaders Ltd.  Not just because we have loads of fun creating tools for client but also because we practise impeccability with our word all the time.  We consciously design how we want to be with each other and regularly check in to see that the relationship is working for both of us.  This takes effort which is why I feel so much connection with the hermit these days.

If you want help with how to manage a challenging conversation or more support to deal with conflict then I do have a couple of openings at the moment to work with one to one clients.  Get in touch for a 30 minute consultation to get clear on whether we are a match.  Let’s talk.

 

8 tips on how to handle conflict more effectively

A Sign Of ConflictThis weekend I experienced a profound shift and it was as if there were a number of light bulbs going off as the “aha” moments flooded in. The first thing I wanted to do was to get this post up so that I could share my thinking with you.  Things have been crystallising for me over the last  year whilst I have been sharing tools on how to deal with conflict with nurses and midwives.  In some ways the material I was working with just didn’t seem to go deep enough and I feel like I now have some of the missing pieces having started my ORSC training this weekend.  So I have consolidated my thinking for you below.

 

Before you even sense a potential conflict, notice in your body how you see conflict.  This kind of awareness will give you many clues to how well you manage it. If you are not sure then start by doing the following exercise:

  1. Say to yourself or write down conflict is and then fill in the blank.
  2. What did you find? How often was your internal response something like debilitating, draining or even to be avoided at all costs?
  3. To what extent did you come up with neutral thoughts like a difference of opinion or voicing distinct perspectives?
  4. Did you have any thoughts like conflict is a great way to clear the air?

This last response may feel unlikely but often if you can remain neutral or even positive in a difficult situation, you are likely to be more skilful in the way you handle the challenge. I used to actively relish confrontation because it was an opportunity to be very straight and direct with others. As I have grown older, I have become more conscious that this can be quite a high risk strategy especially in the UK where directness is not always appreciated. These days my intention is to remain calm and not be triggered by what is happening in front of me AND that is easier said than done.

Self care is absolutely vital. So if you feel emotionally flooded then it is probably sensible to say to the other party that you are not in the right place to have the conversation and take yourself off until you are in a place where you can share calmly what is going on for you.  Some may call this avoiding the issue but in fact it is a really mature way to approach situations when you feel strongly about what is happening and are finding it hard to practise emotional self-management.

Another entry point around conflict is to become super attuned to your own emotional state. As soon as you sense even a bit of discomfort or low level anxiety, check in with yourself and be curious about what is causing it. If you can catch yourself at this point you will be much better placed to handle the issue in a way that is effective.

An example of this for me recently was increased awareness about a business relationship in that I noticed that it wasn’t working for me. My first reaction was that the person was not delivering and that I would need to find a new person to do that work. Then I took a step back and reflected on the bigger picture.

I always like to have a personal relationship with those that work for me.  Taking a moment to pause, I found some compassion for the individual and became conscious that they were going through a major transition personally and so probably needed some slack. At that point I picked up the phone and we talked.

The first thing I did was to voice what I thought was going on for them and to ask if they had any unmet needs that I could help with at this time. This meant that they were able to relax because they knew I appreciated them for who they were. We then had a frank discussion around my expectations and found a way forward. Even with that part of the conversation, I did not just state the facts, the impact it was having on me and what I wanted to happen next. I started by acknowledging them and who they are. Everyone needs to feel seen.

 This whole process made me realise how much I liked working with this person because they are so direct and open in their communication style. We had another business call the following day and at the end of it, we had a further discussion. Previously they had said that they could not fit in a piece of work I had asked them to do. When I enquired further, we discovered it was because it felt too difficult to do alone. So I suggested that we could do it together and then we explored when we might be able to fit that in and came up with a workable solution. In other words, asking questions and being curious will give you much more to work with rather than making assumptions or even judgements based on your first impressions or even the initial response you receive.

Another of the key things that I have learnt is the value of communicating either face to face or over the phone. Don’t sort out challenging situations via email; it rarely works because it is so hard to really know the intention behind what someone has written. Something I learnt to my cost earlier this year when I was too slow to pick up the phone.

Finally when we look at relationships systematically there is one rule to hold on to and that is that everyone is partially right. Too often when triggered, you will look for ways to blame the other party or justify your own actions. If you can uphold the belief that there is some truth in every position, you will find it easier to discover a way through.

In my next post, I will start to explore what tends to happen in conflict and the best ways to resolve that.  I would love to hear your thoughts on all this as helping people to get better results from their communication is at the heart of the work that I do.  What are major sources of conflict in your life?  How helpful are these ideas with that?

How do wholeness, belonging and connection relate to business?

Being whole is incredibly challenging because it requires you to accept all of who you are not just the bits that you believe others will like or the parts of your life that appear to be successful.  So often we can get lost in a process and forget how it is to be of service to us.  In recent times there has been huge emphasis on the value of appreciation in terms of raising the vibration in your life: I often teach about its importance in my mindfulness-based programmes.   However, if in following this practice, you forget to be real and acknowledge all of your feelings then there is a degree of misalignment.  This is very challenging especially for business owners because there is a belief that people only buy from those who are doing well so in that scenario being too transparent could jeopardise your sales.  And at the end of the day, there is no magic formula.  It requires discernment and listening to your body wisdom to determine how much of yourself you are going to reveal.

When I unveiled this insight, unexpected things happened.  I understand that the recent eclipse brought up many deep things for people and had a momentous impact so if that was your experience know that it is part of what has been in the energy of late.  For me, a relationship that I thought was really solid started unravelling and my attempts to minister to it were inept I now realise.  I thought I was being open hearted and creating a loving space.  I managed it for four days until I was triggered and then I went into shut down.  It was hugely painful and one of the most challenging pieces was being with that and feeling unable to share my feelings because I felt as if I was being watched, scrutinised and judged.

Healing has come in unexpected ways.  Here’s the first part of the learning if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got.  Last Wednesday I did a biodanza class for the first time.  I have been meaning to give it a go for ages but it meant taking a whole day off to attend because I wanted to incorporate lunch with a client who’s becoming a friend.  It was an incredible experience.  The whole focus of the class was on connection so what synchronicity.  What struck me most was that friendship is like a dance, it starts almost by inviting another into our world and sharing some of our special things with them and admiring some of their insights and wisdom.  This is the forming stage of the relationship which is beautiful and is about invitation.  Some time down the line there will be an element of conflict otherwise known as storming and if the relationship manages to weather the storm you come through that to norming and performing.  Together you weave some of your story before it is time to go your separate ways.

There was something very subtle about the whole experience.  It was also very moving and intimate.  When you look deep into someone else’s eyes you catch a glimpse of their soul.  This can be incredibly scary and often quite emotional.  For me there were moments during the experience when I wanted to run for the hills and yet I stayed and got in touch with the rawness and the depth of the feeling.  As a spiritual being I have recognised that the path to wholeness comes through allowing my body to feel and process my emotions.  This can only happen when you give yourself space to do this and when you feel safe.

You will feel safe when you feel loved rather than judged.  You will need space and grace to love unconditionally and to bring all of who you are into a relationship rather than feeling only certain ways of being are allowed in that space.  Silence is a valuable component and gentleness is balm for the soul.  For me the deer represents many of these qualities.  In a difficult situation, it is vital that you speak from your heart with love and kindness as that gives you the most opportunity that your message will be heard.  And perhaps the most valuable tools of all are the use of clean language and questions.  The former because it is then less likely that you will trigger the other person and questions like What do you need right now?  This last element is vital as without it, as I learnt to my cost, you are more likely to be making assumptions about the other person’s state and it will be harder for them to feel safe in your presence.  Conflict is an opportunity for you to step into your power by being clear about your boundaries whilst being compassionate and communicating mindfully.

As I discovered yesterday when tasting some constellation work, a theme that underpins all this is belonging.  I have often felt torn in this regard as I pride myself on being my own person and so celebrate my otherness, my maverick nature.  And yet the cost of that are constant reminders that I don’t belong when I really want to feel a deep level of connection.  If you look you too may hold this tension.  A question to ask yourself is how much do you compromise your own values in order to feel a sense of belonging in a system?  That system could be your family, your friends, work or any community to which you belong like the Mums in the playground.  The profound insight received from this work was that everything in our lives serves belonging.  You may wish to contemplate that yourself and see how true it is for you.

Finding connection, belonging even,  with others through friendship is a beautiful gift and is one of the things that gives meaning to life.  However it can be fragile and become all encompassing at times.  So as the packages say handle it with care.  Lastly remember that you are part of a myriad of systems that started with your family and so it is important to heal those that are not functioning in an optimal way.  Most of our issues start with how we experienced our place in the family and disconnecting may feel easier but in fact it consumes much more energy.  So whether you choose colour therapy, constellation work or another form of healing, invest in yourself.  The path to wholeness can be tough and yet it is also rewarding as it enables you to experience much more lightness of being.

Following some time with the lovely Anya Pearse I have changed the way that I write my blogs.  I would love to have some feedback on that…does this new style work better for you or not?

Anger: a short-term release, unsustainable long-term

anger mgmtIn this article, Kate Griffiths debunks some of the myths around rage and share some tips on how to manage your anger.  In essence it is all about emotional mastery and who wouldn’t want that.

Over the last couple of years, I have had an almost allergic reaction to most activists in that I don’t want to allow them into my space.  Initially I noticed this but could not understand why as often they represent great causes.  I myself was very proud about being one of the people who marched against Tony Blair’s decision to declare war on Iraq for example.  And as those that know me well would recognise I am a very passionate person.  Then I realised that at some level the disconnect was coming because they tend to be angry people who justify their way of being by saying its righteous anger.  I had a major aha moment.  Being passionate has enthusiasm and encouragement as its source of energy; anger of any kind is based on negative energy and is ultimately destructive.  I share this because it is what in part has motivated me to write this post.

Myth 1: Anger is a source of energy

Some justify getting angry as they claim to get a surge of energy and say that it motivates themselves or others into action.  This is only a partial truth let me share the chemical reaction that happens when you are in a rage.  Anger starts with the amygdala perceiving a threat and therefore needing to protect you.   Without getting too technical, there is a surge of adrenaline and nonadrenaline which can provide a temporary feeling of greater physical strength aka the incredible hulk.  However when your anger subsides you will feel exhausted and what is very important to note is that it can take up to two hours for it to subside and for you to return to a relaxed state.  During that time you are more prone to being triggered and getting angry again.

If you keep getting triggered you can cause permanent damage.  Chronically angry people may not produce acetylcholine, a hormone which tempers the more severe effects of adrenaline. Their nervous system is constantly working and can eventually become overexerted, leading to a weakened heart and stiffer arteries.  Research published in the Week magazine in March 2014 suggests that such people are five times more likely to suffer a heart attack and three times more likely to have a stroke.  As Mike George wrote in his book, Don’t’ get mad get wise, getting into a rage causes you pain and is the equivalent to emotional self-harming.

Myth 2: righteous anger is justified

No anger is ever justified because even if it is not physical, it is a verbal form of violence.  Your trigger may be that life is unfair to certain individuals or groups of people and therefore it is right to express anger on their behalf.  Imagine what would happen if you threw a bit more self-awareness into that moment, you might see that you have made yourself a victim on their behalf and are suffering in the same way you see them suffering.

This is like someone who is drunk trying to help someone else who is drunk….your so-called “righteous anger” shuts down your capacity to empathise and be compassionate also ~ Mike George

Getting your own back

What about those times when you have been unfairly treated or misquoted?  Only today I went into a difficult meeting which needed to happen to get the best result for my daughter.  I knew ahead of time it wasn’t going to be easy and thought I had prepared myself for every eventuality.  It all got a whole lot harder when I found out that someone had taken something that I had shared on Facebook out of context and  in effect spread half truths about me.  Part of me yearned for justice, to find out who could have done such a thing and have words with them.  But how would that have helped?

Facing my upset full on and acknowledging my true feelings and finding a safe space to express them and be supported by those who knew my intention was pure has enabled me to step back and let go of this.  If I had chosen to wreak revenge who knows what else would have happened or where this would have ended?  And yet there is so much in the media that encourages us to do just that.  All that does is to perpetuate negative energy.

These may not be beliefs that you buy into at the moment and yet I hope it is food for thought.  Let’s assume for now you recognise the dangers of anger then the next question you will be asking yourself is how can you act on this information.

Three steps that will free you from the anger habit:

  1. Understand why anger is unhealthy;
  2. Accept responsibility for your anger whatever form it takes, at all times and in all situations – no one has made you angry; and
  3. Be prepared to uncover, question and change the beliefs and perceptions you hold, which are creating your emotional pain.

It is not easy but remember this we are designed to be loving peaceful souls.  You can find your way back to your true essence by learning and practising a form of meditation.  It is one of the reasons I teach mindfulness as it is so restorative and enables mindful communication.  Why bother?  Because as you tune into these truths something shifts not just at an individual level but also at a collective level which means ultimately there is more harmony in the world.

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Kate Griffiths works  with individuals and business owners to create more ease and flow in their lives.  Clients include conscious business owners and leaders who recognise that the old paradigm way of doing things does not work and want support in determining  what the new ways of doing business look like.  She is passionate about creating conversations that lead to change and has developed her own process to do that called connection through conversation.  If you would like to learn how to use mindfulness for yourself then do check out Kate’s two day mindfulness course  at the end of November.

What are you really saying?

head based communicationDon’t waste a good crisis.  You can apply that to situations that backfire on you in that they are great opportunities to learn.  This week I want to share how conscious communication is only possible when you get out of your head.

The other day a quite innocent exchange of views became very intense very quickly and by the end I felt violated quite simply because I no longer felt respected or heard by the other person.  I had a strong reaction probably because I am highly sensitive soul.  Yet even at the time I recognised that this was a great gift, an opportunity to explore how the whole exchange could have been more fruitful for both of us.  Coupled with the fact that I am doing a lot of work around how to manage conflict in the work place, it just felt that a post on the tenets of good communication was timely.

Words are so powerful.  The phrase sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me is stuff and nonsense.  You can feel violated by another just by their manner towards you as much as what they say.  So let me share with you some tips on how to manage challenging conversations.

When the going gets tough, turn to wonder

If you start feeling irritated and annoyed or sense yourself going onto the defensive, get curious.  Ask yourself what is triggering you?  Not always easy or the first thought in a conversation and yet it can provide a mine of information.  The likelihood is that a need of yours is not being met. 

If you discover what that need is then you are in a much more powerful place and can find a way to share that information with the person you are talking to.  The likelihood is that they have no idea about what’s going on for you.

 

Self-respect and respect for others is vital

Be honest.  How often do you berate yourself when something goes wrong?  Do you start attacking yourself and calling yourself stupid.  I expect you do because the way that you were educated to think would have encouraged that.  Actually it is very hard to learn when you are giving yourself a hard time and in extreme cases it can lead to depression.  As a minimum when the “inner bitch” gets going you have lost your sense of self-respect.

At times it can be very hard to maintain respect for the other person.  This happens when you stop listening to understand their point of view and have decided that what they are saying is nonsense.  In these moments there is no more curiosity and the danger is that ego can take over and you can think that you are superior and that you are right.

Whatever the truth of the situation, the other person will sense that you have switched to a more adversarial position and there is a strong possibility that they will withdraw from the conversation rather than keep plugging away.  Alternatively they may go into an accommodating style and just agree with you in order to end the disharmony or they may move to a competing style and become as vociferous in staking their position, which just leads to a Mexican standoff.

Taking yourself too seriously

If you find yourself in a tense conversation and can maintain a lightness about yourself and even bring in humour that can help to defuse the situation.  Just remember there is very little that is of a life and death nature.  If you take yourself too seriously then it is likely you will find yourself needing to be right.  When you get into that frame of mind then it follows that in order to do that you will need to prove that the other person is wrong.

If you find yourself heading in that direction ask yourself the following three questions:

  1. Is what I am going to say truthful?
  2. Is it necessary?
  3. Is it kind?

Only proceed with what you were going to say if you can answer yes to all three of those questions.  Otherwise try and let it go.  If you are already feeling emotional, taking a few seconds to centre yourself using something like the breathing pause will help.  If you are calm the other person will sense that and it will help them to match what you are showing them.

Silence is sometimes the best answer ~ Dalai Lama

Silent is actually an anagram of listen.  We have one mouth and two ears and if you use your mouth in that ratio then you will gain so much more from those around you.  It will give you the space to listen for the needs of the other person and then you can voice what you think they are.

You may not be right but that then gives them a chance to articulate their needs.  I believe this is so much more powerful than what many tend to do which is to ask “what do you need?”  Quite often that puts the other person on the spot and they don’t always know what they need. Giving them something to work with is a great way of discovering their actual needs.

Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love ~ Lao Tzu

I want to end my thoughts with this.  It echoes what I stated about when deciding whether to share something or not.  When you are kind in thoughts, words and deeds you experience a richness in life.  Perhaps not immediately but it will always come back to you.  It is why the Dalai Lama has always emphasised the importance of kindness.

When someone continues to share with you what you are doing well then you start to believe that you are good at what you are doing and are more likely to perform at a level of excellence then when someone is highly critical of you.  More than that it will start to shape your thinking and you will be more likely to pick out the good in others.  In that one moment you have created a virtuous circle.  It does wonders for your sense of well being and it puts well being firmly at the centre of all your communication which is why I am such a fan of non-violent communication as a tool.

I will leave you with this quotation from the Dalai Lama which I believe sums up all that I have said.  If you feel inspired then do leave a comment below as I love hearing from you:

As long as we observe love for others and respect for their rights and dignity in our daily lives, then whether we are learned or unlearned, whether we believe in the Buddha or God, follow some religion or none at all, as long as we have compassion for others and conduct ourselves with restraint out of a sense of responsibility, there is no doubt we will be happy ~ Dalai Lama

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Kate Griffiths works  with individuals and business owners to create more ease and flow in their lives.  Clients include conscious business owners and leaders who recognise that the old paradigm way of doing things does not work and want support in determining  what the new ways of doing business look like.  She is passionate about creating conversations that lead to change and has developed her own process to do that called connection through conversation.  If you are feeling stressed and want more space or time in your life then check out Kate’s two day retreat at the end of November.

 

Death and rebirth: vital phases for any growing business

full stop & unity bottleIn this article Kate Griffiths shares a story about transition and offers strategies on how to manage it.  She writes from the perspective of a small business owner, where you are your business.  Daunting though change can be, remember order emerges from chaos  

In August I chose these two bottles when asked what represented where I was and where I was going in my business.  Why these particular bottles?  Probably in part because they are so contrasting and also because I had already been working with Unity, the clear one.  Interestingly, the black one is anything but black.  Have you ever noticed that about black that there are other colours hidden within it? In short the black bottle among other things represents rebirth along the lines of the phoenix arising from the ashes.  The kind of rebirth that is only possible when you have died to yourself. So we are not talking the small stuff here

At the time all I could see was the huge potential in the message and was very excited about what could happen.  Six weeks on, I can honestly say it feels as my dear friend Elaine commented this week as if I have been running at 100 miles an hour to keep up; and as is often the case, I have needed periods of time in hibernation to allow the process to unfold.  One of the things I am more conscious of are the symbols that have shown up to mirror this shift.  For example over the summer a bat flew into the house and circled around for a good ten minutes before finding the doorway out.  In shamanic terms, Bats signal transition.  If, like me, you live with other people then this kind of change doesn’t just impact on you, it also has major ramifications in their lives too!  Let me unpack that further for you.

Physical signs

Decluttering on a physical level is a great way to also release old patterns of behaviour and thoughts that no longer serve you.  In effect as you clear your space, then there is room for new ideas and thoughts to be cultivated.  Quite unprompted I have felt the need to blitz our living space and get rid of anything that we no longer need.  A boot full of stuff went to a friend of mine who runs the the local toy library; followed by five bags to the charity shop and another five to go.  We have also revamped one bathroom getting rid of an old chest that was falling apart and replacing it with a cheap storage unit that allows us to see the towels in all their colour.

Mental signs

During levels of upheaval you will probably notice additional levels of exhaustion so it is important to recognise even more strongly the need for self care.  For me that has meant little to no television in the evenings; less reading; more baths; massages along with meditation, daily appreciations, giving myself reiki and designing my own special routine as I go to bed.  A bedtime routine is key because it ensures that you are choosing what messages to send to your unconscious as you fall asleep.  Curious to find out more then check out our October challenge in Sacred Soul Space.

Emotional and spiritual signs

This whole area can offer the biggest challenges because often you have not been supported in being able to express your emotions.  A conversation with a client recently made me realise that it was important to articulate the emotional upheaval because it may well help you if you find yourself in a similar space.  I have included spiritual here because the two are entwined for me.

Taking a panoramic perspective, we are in the midst of a huge shift from the masculine form of power to a more feminine style of leadership.  What does that mean?  On one level it is about accepting that what is is and that means practising detachment and recognition that it is no longer possible to control any aspect of life.  The harder you try to control the outcome, the more stress you will feel.

As women, the more that we find our voice and step into our power, the more isolated our partners can feel if they have been used to taking charge.  There is a subtle shift in the relationship.  You no longer need your partner, you choose to be with them.  If your partner has been the more dominant party in the relationship, they are going to have to start redefining their role and that can be hugely challenging.  It can lead to denial, frustration and resistance.  It also means that you have to found additional resources of love, compassion and patience holding the space so that they feel safe.

Final tips on how to manage such a shift?

The main way that I have found which works is to have a clear idea of where you want to go.  Keep hold of the vision, don’t fixate on the hows.  Ultimately trust that you are in exactly the right place for you right now and be with whatever unfolds.  And remember out of chaos comes order.

To summarise it is important that you give yourself space and are especially kind to yourself during this time.  And remember as you embrace this change and see the positive in it, you will transform the way you experience it: avoidance just prolongs the agony.  It can also help to have the support of a coach especially one that understands first hand about what you are dealing with.

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Kate Griffiths works  with individuals and business owners to create more ease and flow in their lives.  Clients include conscious business owners and leaders who recognise that the old paradigm way of doing things does not work and want support in determining  what the new ways of doing business look like.  She is passionate about creating conversations that lead to change and has developed her own process to do that called connection through conversation.  If you want to find out more about the power of colour then do book a colour taster session with either Kate or Elaine at the Herts Health and Wholeness Festival on Saturday.

Kate is also the co-founder of Art of Leadership, a consultancy which supports organisations with their leadership challenges in a very creative way.

 

 

 

Four metres up: an unexpected lesson in leadership

Striding EdgeIn this article Kate Griffiths shares how leadership comes in many forms and sometimes from unexpected sources.  This is a true story of what happened on her holiday this summer and what she learnt when she pushed herself beyond her limits.

As a couple, my husband and I have always believed that it is important to provide our children with opportunities that require physical challenge as a way to build their confidence.  That is why we walked up Helvellyn with them in April.  We described Striding Edge, the ridge pictured, as great scrambling rocks.  Completing it was a great achievement and little did I know at the time that I would be put to the test myself this summer.

We spent nearly three weeks camping in France in August and one of the activities our girls love is the French “Go Ape ” equivalent where in harnesses they go high up into the trees and complete an assault course.  This year i agreed to join in even though I have vertigo.  As soon as we got to the start, our eldest was itching to do the intermediate level and claimed that she was no longer a beginner having successfully completed several circuits the year before.  After our induction, the four of us headed over to the middle route on the green path.  Just as we were about to start I had second thoughts because once you are clipped on there is no way off, you have to stay on until the end.  I convinced our youngest to come on the first green one with me and I am so glad that I did.  In part because we discovered she was not quite tall enough to go on green and the route my hubby and other daughter did went up eight metres from the ground!

We started our ascent, my youngest leading the way.  When I stepped on the thin wire, it wobbled a lot and I looked down and four metres seemed very high.  It took all my courage to grit my teeth and keep stepping forward as the vertigo kicked in big style.  Halfway across my carabiners got stuck on the wire above my head and so ended up behind me.  It was a delicate manoeuvre to go far enough back so that I could reach them and yank them forwards.  From that point on I kept them ahead of me. The sweat was pouring off me by this point.  I had never felt so full of nerves and yet I knew I had to put a brave face on it for my daughter.  The next task was like a railway bridge with diagonal wooden round logs for slats across.  We both discovered that the easiest way was to walk along the edge of the wire.

I was beginning to get into the whole exercise and forget how high up I was when I came a cropper.  We had to cross two Tarzan-style jungle swings pulling ourselves across using our arms.  I got about three quarters of the way across and felt the strength in my arms go, I couldn’t make it to the platform.  Earlier when I had let me daughter go ahead so that I did not wobble the bridge she had turned around on the platform ahead of me and shouted,  Mummy just believe in yourself….

These words were ringing in my ears as I stood there unable to step forward.  In the end I just had to sit on the swing.  I kept calm but I knew that I had not an ounce of strength left in my arms.  Fortunately someone else was able to blow a whistle to get one of the mountain guides to come and help me with that last bit.  It seemed ages until he came but he did and I got to the next platform.

Most of the rest of the trip was uneventful although at one point there was a rope to swing across a section that had no knot in it.  I lost my nerve momentarily so the guide said he would swing with me so off we went and then I realised midair I was doing it by myself which felt amazing.

My legs were like jelly and I was a sweaty heap when I finished the circuit and yet I had a real sense of accomplishment and the whole experience bonded me even closer to my youngest daughter.  She had seen me on the edge of my comfort zone and out of it; and seen how despite all that I had continued to the end of the trail.

When you are the leader in a situation, it is all about learning self-management and knowing when it is appropriate to share your vulnerabilities.  There will be times when you are at the edge of your comfort zone; when you are muddling through – strategy is often emergent and then dressed up afterwards to look as though it was planned.  The other valuable lesson here is that such experiences of physical exertion stand you in good stead for when you are under huge pressures at work.  You know you can get through it because you did when you were climbing.  These kind of experiences help to build your confidence and your resilience.

For me personally, what I realised was that I do not have sufficient upper body strength and I would like to take steps to address that and work on that through the Autumn so that such a situation is less likely to arise again.  I am convinced that the situation empowered my daughter too because she was the one giving me words of encouragement at key moments to get me through.  A powerful lesson in communication that was completely unintentional.  What lessons have you learnt from your children? How do you view physical activity like this?  I would love to hear about them and any other thoughts you have in the comments below.

 

 

 

What’s your story? Is it about surviving or thriving?

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st ethelburga and gherkin_LGIn this article, Kate Griffiths explores how stories shape the world we live in; how some of them are ones that we consciously weave and others are much less conscious.  To some extent it depends on what you choose to believe.  A belief is just a thought that you have had many times so that you see it as truth.  She reminds you that what you focus your attention on grows. 

Let’s start with the juxtaposition in the image for this post.  You are looking at the Gherkin, a building in the heart of the city of London that for many represents money, power and certainly the old story of which I will share more in a minute.  However you are viewing it through the archway of St Ethelburga’s, a Medieval church that was destroyed in the IRA Bishopgate bombing in 1993 and then rebuilt and opened as a centre of peace and reconciliation.  For me this image represents two worlds colliding….

Let me explain further.  My mother was dismayed when I said that I no longer watched the news.  She felt that I would not be aware of what was happening in our world.  For me it was a conscious choice as most news whether it is what you read in the papers, listen to on the radio or watch on the TV, has a negative spin.  An unrelenting diet of this can lead to fear and ultimately a sense of hopelessness.  A belief that there is nothing that you can do to halt the destruction.

Interestingly, studies by neuroscientists have shown that our brains find it easier to remember negative information. This is all due to the functioning of the amygdala, a primal part of our brain located in the brain stem. The purpose of the amygdala is to be our early warning system for any danger that may be in our vicinity. It creates the fight-or-flight response we feel when we are afraid. This is to ensure our survival. This aspect of human nature is the foundation on which marketers like Bernays based their work.

In other words, this is what Charles Eisenstein and others call the story of separation.  It is based on the belief that we are separate individuals living amongst isolated individuals.  It condones self-interest and suggests that my self-interest is likely to be at the expense of your self-interest.  The narrative suggests that we live in a hostile environment.  The whole focus of life is survival.

When I reflect on that narrative, it leads to a deep sense of sadness and helplessness.  It causes so much pain and it is not a world that I want to be part of.  Doug Breibart described it in this way:

What does it mean when the hope and the promise of the #AmericanDream   stops two stations short of the Boomer generation,  just in time to decimate their savings and security and eliminate an entire job strata leaving nothing in substitution to provide salvation.

What does it mean when the Endangered Species Act is a light to the salvation of species under threat is threatened within a decade; while science reports global species disappearances on a monthly basis that maps to our own global extinction.

What does it mean when the greatest constitutional government, and democratic country in the world experiences its government brought to its knees, and its financial operations threatened with shut down.

Alternatively when I watch the trailer for the forthcoming film of Joanna Macy’s work, I am filled with joy.  Last year I bought a copy of Velcrow Ripper’s film Occupy Love and held a couple of viewings of it for those in my tribe who are keen to be part of the emerging story.  The numbers of people that believe that there is a new way of being are growing all the time and it is an energizing space to occupy.

Some of the key elements of this new narrative are that the whole purpose of our being here is to experience connection.  Real connection with others only comes when we have found a way to connect to ourselves and to source. We are meant to be in relationship with others that is one of the main reasons for our existence.  Everything we do to others we do to ourselves.  Every act however small has significance.  This is because we are plugged into the greater consciousness through the invisible divine energetic web of connection.  Each of us has a unique gift to give the world and the purpose of our life is to express our gifts.  Encompassing all of this is the view that everything is sacred.

Close your eyes and feel into both these stories: the story of separation and the story of connection.  Which one gives you hope?  Which narrative enables you to be whole?

For me without doubt, it is the second one.  There are miracles happening every day.  When you watch George Monbiot’s video about what happened when wolves were reintroduced into the ecosystem of Yellowstone Park, you will see they had a fundamental and positive impact not only on the wildlife populations and vegetation but also the physical geography in terms of what happened to the rivers.

Recently I explored what connection looked like with an amazing group of people in a workshop facilitated by Debbie Warrener.  A common thread in each story was that it came out of something unexpected.  In other words we need to learn how to get out of our own way then as Arundhati Roy writes,

Another world is not only possible, she’s on the way and, on a quiet day, if you listen very carefully you can hear her breathe.

Doug Breibart described it very well when he said

What does it mean when the eyes of the world are allowed to see, the ears of the world are allowed to hear, the voices of the world are allowed to speak; and a million small groups and collectives begin to connect and align and harmonise their efforts and contributions toward serving the needs and interests of a global commons. …..It means there is hope. 

You too can be part of this new story.  The first step is connection.  You can start this journey by embracing uncertainty and living on the edge of the known and creating from the unknown.  If you or your organisation wants to find out more then contact me and I will be happy to show you.  Also I would love to hear your thoughts below.

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Kate Griffiths works  with individuals and business owners to create more ease and flow in their lives.  Clients include conscious business owners and leaders who recognise that the old paradigm way of doing things does not work and want support in determining  what the new ways of doing business look like.  She is passionate about creating conversations that lead to change and has developed her own process to do that called connection through conversation.  The next one will be here in Great Offley on 9 May.  She also teaches 8 week mindfulness courses at Harmony in Hitchin; the next two start on Thurs 8 May in the evening and Mon 12 May in the morning.  If you prefer, get in touch with Kate to set up an initial consultation to explore working one to one.

How to create conversations that lead to change

big conversation speech bubblesIn this article, Kate Griffiths shares some of the steps you need to take to create the space for deep connection within conversation that can bring about huge shifts in organisations and individuals.

One of the keys to success as an entrepreneur is the ability to be resourceful which comes the more that you can really hear what people are saying and respond to that.  Some of your ideas will take, others won’t and it has very little correlation to how much you like a particular idea.

Here’s an example of what I mean.  I started getting into mindfulness because I asked myself a question:

Why do so many people find it hard to have connected conversations?

I realised that some of that was to do with the fact that for the most part people are not truly present.  How often have you asked someone a question out of politeness or to put that person at his or her ease and then not really heard the answer?  That happened to me earlier this week and I was fine with it because I recognised the intention of the person and that they were slightly preoccupied because they were about to run an event and needed to be ready for that.  Their mind was on other things.

It is hard enough to be mindful in conversation with just one other person so imagine the demands when you have a group to facilitate.  Yet that is what I thrive at.  When I love something, it becomes the focus of my attention.  At the beginning of the year I set out with an idea, which turned into a twelve month programme.  As it has evolved, I have found myself reading up more about group process so that I can service that group to the best of my ability.  My recent research has included delving into The Circle Way and I have been getting some real aha moments.

A key part of circle is the ability to do three things: listen intently; speak your truth and attend to the well being of the group.  That is quite a juggling act.  The following story shows that more fully.

A while back, I attended a workshop in London aimed at change practitioners.  The organisation behind it believes in creating a space where it is safe for facilitators, coaches, OD professionals and others that help individuals and organisations to transform to be themselves so that they can learn and grow.  It is a beautiful, magical space and I am so grateful that it exists.

Part way through the day I ended up in a group with two others to discuss an aspect of awareness, an irony I only appreciated later.  I happened to be with someone I had never met before and someone I knew quite well.  And then it happened.  I wanted to express part of my inner truth and could not find a way into the conversation.  I was baffled initially and then after ten minutes had experienced a range of emotions that included sadness because I felt as if I was being excluded and finally anger because the behaviour of my two colleagues did not meet my expectations.  I forgot all my mindfulness training and after my companions prodded me a couple of times, I let rip.  I described exactly what I saw.  I was very direct and at the time all I could see was what I thought of as justified anger.  I was unaware then of the judgement and unsurprisingly there was a ripple effect.

There was a kernel of truth in what I shared but its impact was lost because I was unable to express it in neutral language.  Clean or neutral language is key when in dialogue and discussing difficult and/ or emotional issues.  I learnt so much from that exchange and yes it was painful.  On the plus side, we were all very present in that part of the conversation and at least two of us felt very alive during the cut and thrust of the exchange.

It is also about timing: noticing the impulse to speak and considering whether it is appropriate to share or not.  You will have many impulses in a conversation.  One of the ways of deciding whether to share and if you do so how to express it, is to think about the impact it will have on the well being of the group.  Too much self-censoring can lead to your emotions leaking out anyway as I know from my own experience.  Yet self-monitoring is another important part of any dialogue.

There is such a fine line between self-monitoring and self-censoring.    It takes discernment and practice to know when to speak from your own inner truth especially in situations when it may well contradict the conformity in the group.

In Circle one of the ways around these types of issues comes through having some structure around how to hold the space.  One very practical way of doing this is by having three specific roles – a host, a guardian and a scribe.  In my mind the one that is crucial is the guardian.  The guardian is reading the energy of the group all the time and deciding when an intervention like a pause is needed.  It is such a good idea to have this kind of shared leadership between the host and the guardian.

In essence as you start to adopt these principles in meetings and other fora, notice what happens.  At the very least I expect the quality of your conversation will change.

Kate Griffiths creates a safe space for therapists, coaches, consultants and those that work with others so that they can experience their true selves and obtain more ease and flow in their lives.  Clients include conscious business owners and leaders who recognise that the old paradigm way of doing things does not work and want support in determining what the new ways of doing business look like.  She will be running a half day soul retreat at Barefoot Therapies on Tuesday 18 March so get in touch if you wish to participate.