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.



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.


Unconscious habits stop deep connection

young people habitsIn this article Kate Griffiths unpicks an innocuous phrase that is used by many and shows how it prevents real connection.  She implies this could be one of the main reason you are not getting the level of success you are looking for in business.  So take a moment to pause from the busyness of your day and check in to see if this applies to you. 

Do you tend to ask people what they do when you meet them for the first time?  And when you are asked that question is the answer something you have honed into a 30 second elevator pitch?  Does it have the desired effect – do people go wow and hire you on the spot? I expect the answer depends on how authentic you are.

If you said yes to either or both of those questions then do not worry, you are not alone if you perform this ritual.  I have not done a survey but I expect at least 70% of people do that.  You may not even know why you do it.  It could just be one of those unconscious habits you have adopted.

Ask yourself what are you hoping to receive when you ask that question?  Are you merely asking the question so that the recipient will ask you the same one back and you can “strut your stuff?”  Of course you don’t have to share any of this with me although I am curious to know but do take the time to be honest with yourself.

Here’s my working theory.  Whilst some do ask this question, so as to get the chance to answer it themselves and so are not really interested in what you have to say, that is probably the minority.  For many of you it is probably an unconscious filtering system; a way of finding out whether or not that person can be of use to you in whatever you are trying to achieve.  If you are a connector you may seize on the info as a way of working out who to connect that person with in your own network.

All of this can be very helpful and that’s a great start.  Now ask yourself – can a person really sum up the key elements of who they are in 30 seconds?  No of course they can’t so when we ask people to do that, we are being reductionists.  We are asking them to categorise themselves so that we can put a label on them and then file them into one of a number of boxes.  What those boxes are and how you use them will be unique to you and is not what I am interested in here.

What fascinates me is how effective that way of being is?  And as way of an answer I am going to share a story of something that happened to me at the beginning of the year.  I was engaged in some speed networking, not something I do often and I came across a woman who did just what I have described but to extremes.  She wanted to know what I did so being a little mischievous I gave her lots of seemingly incompatible one word answers and then sat back and watched.  She was struggling to make sense of them and finding it extremely hard to put me any of her readymade categories because like most people I do not neatly fit in one box, I am a complex being with hats for many occasions.

So here’s what I suggest that you do next time you meet someone you don’t know.  Ask them what they love in life.  I can guarantee that their eyes will light up and they will share something much more intimate than the usual I am a facilitator response.  It is also likely that you will discover that you have more in common than you could have ever imagined and your life will be richer for the exchange.

If you want to know more then join us for the inaugural Link4Coffee in Hitchin on Friday 20 JuneQuotidian – a chance to get to know who is in your community so that you link, learn and grow on so many levels.  We need new ways to connect that move away completely from the old paradigm and this is it.  I wrote a whole piece on new paradigm networking a while back so check it out if you want more on this topic.  Otherwise book into Link4Coffee in Hitchin – we already in double figures in less than 24 hours.


Kate Griffiths is a midwife who births new paradigm businesses.  Following a career at PwC and prior to that as a Director within Higher Education,  she now works primarily with conscious business owners and leaders that recognise the old paradigm way of doing things does not work.  She helps them discover 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.  You can meet her at the inaugural Hitchin Link4Coffee next Friday, 20 June.

From solopreneur to new paradigm entrepreneur: the way to flow

In this article Kate Griffiths shows that it is no longer enough to be creative and have ideas to become a successful entrepreneur.  The way to differentiate yourself and get ahead is to become a new paradigm entrepreneur. This requires a shift in the way that we conduct business and she shares some of the tools that you need.

Talking to my husband last night, it became clear that the concept of a “new paradigm” entrepreneur was a foreign one to many people so I thought it would be helpful to unpick what it is because as more and more people realise that the current way of doing things is not working, and by that I am referring to the fact that humanity pays homage to the market whereas the market should be serving humanity and the planet.  Many are thirsting for ideas of what else is possible.  Quite often when you ask, what you get back is a set of lofty ideals and as the new chair of the RSA, Vikki Heywood realised 21st Century Enlightenment is only possible when you enrich society with ideas and action.

In last week’s post, I argued that abundance is our natural state of being and yet there is still plenty of evidence of the scarcity mindset in action.  Research by neuroscientists has shown that we have greater capacity to remember negative information, hence why the news is always filled with horror and disaster in spite of the great advances we have made over the last 100 years.  Another reason for this is down to individuals’ level of self awareness.  I would like to share with you a taxonomy of the self that Lynn Serafinn developed in an article on branding as a way of putting this into context and exploring the shift that is needed.  Lynn describes the self as having five levels of awareness:

  1. Inherited self – formed by our genetic blueprint/DNA; this is the deepest layer of ‘unconscious self’ created by ‘Nature’, where our actions and reactions may be (or at least feel like they are) beyond our control, and are operating at a ‘survival’ level.

  2. Conditioned self – beliefs, attitudes, customs, patterns of behaviour formed by our association with family, society, etc.; this is the next layer of ‘unconscious self’ created by ‘Nurture’, where we are habituated to doing things and thinking a certain way without question.

  3. Conscious self – when we become aware of the unconscious layers of self and they start to lose their grip on us; this is where we become aware of our motivations, clarify our direction, and become more decisive and purposeful in our actions.

  4. Macro-conscious self – when we develop an awareness and sensitivity to the ‘space’ around us; at this level, we develop a social consciousness towards the needs, pains and wants of the greater ‘social self’, and feel a responsibility to (and connection within) it.

  5. Meta-conscious Self – when we develop an awareness of the greater ‘Will’ of the Creative Energy, the cycle of life, etc.; here we are able to tap into and utilise the energy of the ‘Whole’ rather than just knowing we are a part of it.

Currently most coaches and therapists work with clients to review and repattern based on the first two levels of the taxonomy and their aim is to enable clients to spend more time as their conscious self.   This is no longer enough.  We need to be supporting people to develop their macro and meta-conscious selves so that they can thrive in the new reality that is emerging and becoming more real.  Those in the personal development industry that get this and start operating from this place will be at the cutting edge of their field.

If you are not a coach or a therapist then you may wonder what this means for you. Ultimately it is about reflecting on the dharma of business and your business in particular?  To what extent does it feed off society?  In the new paradigm, the role of business is to feed society whilst creating jobs and prosperity.  Let’s explore this further.

I am working with others to develop world changing conversations as part of a world changers programme.  One of the concepts we have developed is called the “winnovator”.  This is where influencers and leaders, in fact each and every one of us, creates a win for themselves, those that they are interacting with and the planet.  Can you imagine what the world would be like if we were all doing this as a matter of course every day? Instantly business would be fun, sustainable and profitable.

This principle speaks to another that is underlying all this and that is that the new paradigm is all about collaboration.  This is not a new idea however many collaborations have failed and some have decided to go it alone because it is easier.  It may well be faster but you will not have the level of reach and impact that way.  The key is to learn how to do collaboration and to realise that it is the end game not the first step.

In my half day workshops, my focus is on creating a space where people can be their whole selves because that is when the magic starts to unfurl.  Past participants have commented on the amazing lack of competitiveness between business owners at these events. I am delighted to see that three people have gone on to form a mutually beneficial collaboration after attending one of my workshops recently.  How is this possible?  It comes when we experience deep connection with others which is really the purpose behind what I do.  Connection is the gate way to a richer, more fulfilled life individually and collectively.  This comes through connected, mindful communication.

If you want to come and find out for yourself then I invite you to join us on 19 July where we will be exploring why you have been born at this time in history and what you are sensing is yours to do in the eco system of which we are all a part.  I hope that you have found this article inspiring and I would love to hear your comments.


Kate Griffiths is a qualified coach, speaker, community leader and writer, who is fascinated by the power of conversation. She teaches business owners, leaders and teams how to communicate effectively to build stronger relationships and thereby improve the possibilities for innovation and collaboration.

Kate is also the Community Relations Director of the 7 Graces Project, a thriving community and social enterprise.  The aim of the 7 Graces Project is to provide an educational alternative and business incubator for a new generation of ethical, community-focused businesses.




Tuesday’s Thought: Mindfulness practices can be the difference between surviving and thriving as a community

ChristianiaIn this article, Kate Griffiths reflects on her recent trip to Copenhagen.  Before she went what she was most looking forward to was a visit to Christiania and her husband even joked about leaving her there to soak up the atmosphere.  What she experienced was very different to what she imagined.  That experience led to this article – a comparison of two different communities with a view to understanding what makes them so different.


Christiania is in its fifth decade.  Despite visits by 10,000 tourists a day in the height of summer, it has struggled to survive.  It came into being in the 1970s when Danes like many Europeans were scarred by footage of the Vietnam war and had dreams of living in a conflict-free Utopia.   They eventually found their way into an old military barracks in the middle of the city, on a plot of land. It had toilets, habitable buildings and electricity.  Berries grew in the gardens, and fish swam in the lakes and canals separating this area from the rest of Copenhagen. For the squatters, it seemed like paradise. And before long, the roots of an autonomous “free town” called Christiania (after the name of pre-1925 Oslo, which had been home to prominent anti-establishment figures) started to take hold.  The state tolerated Christiania for 40 years but barely and its survival was only secured last year when it managed to meet the Danish government’s demands to pay 51.8 million Kroner to buy around 7 of the 32 hectares it occupies.  The government also extracted a promise that Christiania would maintain the properties on the rest of the land that belongs to the state.  Christiania residents secured most of the money through a 30 year loan from Realkredit Danmark.

The freetown attracts tourists because it is marketed as a hippie commune with an alternative life style.  The emphasis seems to be on the Green light zone where hash is openly bought and sold in many different ways; the air is so thick with smoke that if you hung out there long enough you could high on the fumes.  As this article’s photo shows there are some beautifully painted parts; however much of the art work is covered in graffiti and there is a definite sense of neglect and poverty.


Another self-governing community is the Findhorn Foundation.  It is now over 50 years old and yet grows from strength to strength. Its beginnings are similar to those of Christiania in that six people who were jobless and living on a caravan park started it.  That’s where the similarity ends.  From quite early on, the founders of Findhorn created a stir of wonder.  They managed to grow miraculous veg like 40-pound cabbages in poor, sandy soil.  By the 1970s the community had grown significantly and a number of members got together and designed and built Universal Hall, a feat of architecture.

Why is one group so much more successful than the other?  There are two things that stand out about Findhorn.  Its founders Peter and Eileen Caddy and Dorothy McLean meditated daily and had a set of spiritual practices.  Also from very early on, the community wanted to be known as a place of learning and set up its own university.  Furthermore, members of the community became particularly fascinated in group dynamics and what makes groups work.  This led to an exploration of whole systems thinking which is the bedrock of their consultancy service.

So whilst both communities are self-governing and based on anarchic principles, there is a stark contrast in how they have evolved over the last fifty years.  They provide us with insights into how communities might function when we are living in the new paradigm world.  In essence Findhorn represents an example of what a thriving community can look like whilst Christiania symbolises one that it is in survival mode.  The major difference that I see is that the founders of Findhorn were masters in mindfulness techniques that enabled them to still their minds so they could follow their intuition.  Recent research published by Harvard Business Review shows that after eight 45 minute sessions of Mindfulness, participants have increased focus and improved performance.  And it is one of the reasons that I have started to teach a regular Mindfulness class at Harmony, Hitchin.


Kate Griffiths is a qualified coach, speaker, community leader and writer, who is fascinated by the power of conversation. She teaches business owners, leaders and teams how to communicate effectively to build stronger relationships and thereby improve the possibilities for innovation and collaboration.

Kate is also the Community Relations Director of the 7 Graces Project, a thriving community and emerging social enterprise.  The aim of the 7 Graces Project will be to provide an educational alternative and business incubator for a new generation of ethical, community-focused businesses.