Can you hear me?

Do you really listen or do you just hear?  Listening is crucial to success when selling your business, speaking to a customer or having good relationships with friends and family. 

A major part of my role as a therapist is the ability to listen closely and to really hear what the person is saying – also how they are saying what they are saying. 

Listening well is a skill which you can learn and develop.  Consider these tips:

  • When you really listen you show the other person respect by giving them your full attention.  Put your mobile phone away, don’t have it on the table – even if it is face down!  By doing this you send a silent message to the other person that they have your full attention and they are important.

Think about where your mobile is when you have a conversation with your employee, your customer or your child.  Change your behaviour and send a message that the other person is important to you at that moment.

  • By giving respect you are more likely to gain respect from the other and in turn they are more likely to listen to what you have to say.

  • Listening will provide you with knowledge about the other person, if you know them better, you may understand them better.  Think about the benefit of understanding your boss, or your customers’ needs or your spouse’s worries.  How would your customer feel if you remembered their birthday, their last holiday destination or their child’s name.  What if you could remember something your spouse said they wanted to do and you surprised them with it?

  • When you listen well you are more likely to be a better conversationalist.  You will find that you speak with more clarity which may prevent confusion or conflict.  Listening will force you to slow down and take time to hear, in turn you may think more before you speak.

  • When you listen, allow the person to finish what they are saying.  Sometimes being criticised or blamed can cause us to jump in and defend ourselves – we may not get the whole story.  The conversation can escalate into an argument with each person defending themselves.  It has to be a two-way street of course otherwise you may find yourself railroaded and not able to make your point.

There is a saying “You have two ears and one mouth, use them in proportion.” Not a bad thing to remember.

Be More Corrugated

Do you ever feel that your emotions go up and down in an extreme way? Are you like the Himalayas – really high and then really low?

A client and I discussed this today and she told me that she wanted to be more like corrugated iron. “How do I do that?”

How do you even out the highs and the lows, how do you maintain that gentle undulation which is, some would say, the up and down of ‘normal’ life?

When we hit a problem or have a ‘negative’ emotion we can often focus on it and see it as proof that our life is in a mess or just not going the way we want it to – ever! When we have a positive emotion we are so high on the feeling that we momentarily forget about the negative things in our lives, even though they are there.

Having a negative view prevents us from absorbing and really appreciating the positive things. We have a negative experience, we think about it, we have a resulting emotion which then reinforces our behaviour. So even though you may have had a great dinner with a friend, your car breaks down on the way home and your response is ‘Typical, you see when I let myself go and have fun, something happens to pull me back and prove to me that life’s a bitch.”

How do we be more corrugated iron? Gatefulness.

If we can let down our resistance and truly accept and absorb the good feelings, knowing they are there for what they are, and not see them as a trap, then we become more robust and able to deal with the negative things when they happen, rather than sinking into a hollow.

Having a regular gratefulness ritual is a good way to do this but at a very simple level it’s just about noticing the good things and letting them in. It’s similar to accepting a compliment.

We are more corrugated.

You look great today!

What is your reaction when you are paid a compliment?  Do you push it away by saying something negative, do you feel your whole body stiffen and find it hard to make eye contact.  Do you even hear it?

Often our responses to being complimented are because we have a negative self view.  As a nation, we find it hard to see ourselves positively and to own it at the risk of being seen as big-headed and arrogant and so we find it hard to acknowledge our own strengths, abilities, looks or intelligence.  We want to shrink and hide away instead of hearing the compliment and taking it in – and feeling good about ourselves.  I remember being like this through my teenage into my late twenties/early thirties.  I had to learn to firstly hear it, then accept it without pushing it away.

A compliment is like someone giving you a gift.  When you negate it or bat it away, you are pushing back the gift and saying you can’t accept it.  Think about how you feel when you tell someone something you appreciate about them – ‘You look lovely today’ or ‘I appreciate your time’ and they bat it back to you – does it feel good?  No.

When you give another person a compliment and they smile and say “Thank you, that makes me feel really good”, it feels good to you too doesn’t it?  It’s an exchange and you both feel a connection in that moment.

Celebrate National Compliment Day and when you notice something you like about someone, tell them.  If you receive a compliment today – breathe, pause, hear it, let it in and say “Thank you”.  It may be difficult at first – you don’t have to believe it, just hear it. Over time, the more you practice, the better at receiving you will become and the better you will feel about yourself.

Hazel is a problem

I heard an article on the radio earlier this week about a group of people who every year, in January, go out in the countryside and monitor how many wild flowers they can find. I have been thinking about that since I took a long car journey last Sunday and noticed that the catkins were abundant in the trees.

Catkins or ‘lamb’s tails’ are usually one of the first signs of spring but there they are in January hanging in the sunshine. It only takes a little warmth for them to burst into life and to spread their pollen on the wind. As soon as we have some warm sunshine, nature recognises the warmth and responds with a release of pollen – as it should do.

I have been asked over the last week – ‘This feels like hay fever but it’s only January … what do you think?’ Well my answer is Hazel is the problem. Although it is ‘only January’ if you look closely you will see the tips of the spring bulbs poking through the ground and the catkins on the trees – all getting ready and making sure they are there for the spring warmth. For those sensitive to pollen from Spring flowers and shrubs this can mean itchy eyes, running nose and headaches.

So you aren’t imagining it – you can get hay fever in Spring or even at the end of Winter.

Rather than take anti-histamine, desensitise with kinesiology

Study shows wet wipes use may increase propensity to allergies

Is it me?  Or are we going back to the old ways in more ways than one.  Mobile free Mondays so people can actually talk to each other, Kylie’s new album has been released on vinyl and cassette and some people are having a varied diet of some days meat free?  Maybe being ‘old fashioned’ is the new trend?  So going back to soap and water may be the next thing.

This article answered some questions for me and, I suspect, many others too about why so many people have developed allergies over the last 20 years.  Cleanliness is next to Godliness they say but have we taken it too far with bleach sprays, anti-bac. wipes and plug-in room fresheners?

 

Wet wipes are contributing to childhood food allergies, finds study

a person walking down a street© Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited
Wet wipes could be putting babies at risk of allergic reactions by creating a breach in the skin’s natural protective coat that makes it more sensitive to unusual chemicals, a study has found.US researchers hailed a “major advance in our allergy understanding” after showing they can develop after repeat skin contact in an area where soaps have stripped the natural oils from the skin.

If wet wipe residues are not rinsed off, babies are then vulnerable to absorb allergy-causing chemicals when they’re picked up or touched, the authors said.

This is particularly true for children who already have a genetic predisposition for developing allergies that are also linked with conditions like eczema, which affects a third of childhood allergy sufferers.

The findings go some way in explaining how food allergies, an extreme immune response to harmless substances, start and why allergy rates have increased nearly 20 per cent in countries like the US in the past 20 years.

“This is a recipe for developing a food allergy,” said the study’s lead author, Joan Cook-Mills, a professor of allergy-immunology at Northwestern University.

“It’s a major advance in our understanding of how a food allergy starts early in life.”

Wet wipes in a woman's hand.© provided by Shutterstock Wet wipes in a woman’s hand.

Eczema is caused by when genetic mutations disrupt some of the proteins embedded in the skin that create the barrier effect.

But in a test in baby mice with these eczema mutations, exposure to peanuts alone wasn’t enough to cause an allergy in later life.

After reading about studies where drugs were delivered through the skin using soap to break down the barrier, Professor Cook-Mills said: “I thought, ‘oh my gosh! That’s infant wipes!’”.

Repeating the experiment, the team first applied sodium lauryl sulphate, a common soap also found in wet wipes, to the mice’s skin before exposing them to common food and other allergens.

They were given three or four skin exposures in a two-week period, and were then given egg or peanut to eat. The researchers found the mice developed a rash at the skin exposure site, as well as having allergic reactions and body-wide anaphylaxis – the shock response in serious allergies.

The wet wipe effect could be similar to the skin barrier breakdown with a mild rash or bad eczema, and Professor Cook-Mills said parents should go back to older ways of washing infants.

“Reduce baby’s skin exposure to the food allergens by washing your hands before handling the baby and limit use of infant wipes that leave soap on the skin.

“Rinse soap off with water like we used to do years ago.”

Click here to see original article on http://www.msn.com

“…what you taught us was amazing.”

When I got home tonight I received a lovely gift. Thank you letters from some of the Class at Sedlescombe Primary School. I went in last week to talk to them about muscles. It was an absolute joy to do and to receive their letters was so lovely. They wrote about what they had learned using words like ‘autonomic’ and telling me how much they enjoyed it. Drawings of the heart and biceps. They had put so much effort into writing them. Just so lovely.

World Mental Health Day

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I was reflecting this morning on World Mental Health Day yesterday.  I saw a very moving interview with Frank Bruno about his new book ‘Let Me Be Frank’ and his motivation in creating the Frank Bruno Foundation.  I was very touched by his story and have been very moved over the last weeks by high-profile people discussing issues of mental illness after significant events.  All of this is to be welcomed and applauded.

So I was thinking about the theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day being workplace wellbeing.  We tend to think of mental illness as being extreme and sufferers being ‘Sectioned’, but everyday, people are suffering from stress, lack of self-esteem, low confidence, marriage break up etc – all of which may not be traumatic as we think of trauma but can severely affect our performance at work.  The very energy needed in managing anxiety or depression can be extremely debilitating and difficult to manage.

I was talking to someone today who had heard me talk about my work with confidence building in women and he asked me if I worked with men.  We had an interesting discussion about the pressure on men to just ‘pull yourself together’ – or ‘snap out of it mate’.  ‘Big boys don’t cry’ and the pressure to be the strong provider perhaps only adding to the perception that men shouldn’t show their feelings – that it is a sign of weakness.

When a man shows his feelings with another man, that man may feel uncomfortable and not know how to respond.  It feeds into an innate sense in men to be action orientated and ‘fix it’ and they may not know how.  To be able to be with someone in their feelings and really hear them is sometimes all that is needed.  When we are heard, we feel valued.

Later on, after our discussion, the man in question apologised to me for the conversation.  Actually, I felt privileged that he would share his feelings and story with me and I told him that to do that, and to seek help, is a healthy state.  It is a place of vulnerability and courage and from that place can come change.

Some useful things:

Breathe Out

Mental Health at Work

“Our kids have been dealt a bad hand”

I was really struck by two things that came my way this week.  One is the Simon Sinek interview where he explains how Millennials feel about the ‘promises’ they were made about how life is and our responsibility as Leaders and the research from the UCL (University College London) Institute of Education and the University of Liverpool which found that nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of 14-year-old girls and nine per cent of boys the same age are depressed.

I was a teenager once and I found that time in my life very difficult.  I had feelings of raised emotions, confusion and a lack of understanding of why I felt the way I did.  I didn’t however self-harm or consider ending my life.  The sad fact of the matter is that many of our young people today do.

Some would argue that teenagers have always felt that this time of life is difficult, raging hormones, exams, having to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life are all probable factors.  This research, however, points out that 10 years ago, the figure for girls was less than 12%.  So there is an increase in incidence of depression in our young people, so what’s happening?

Is Simon Sinek on the right track?  We live in a time when young people will take a selfie an average of four times before they are happy with it and even then may retouch it.  If it’s posted on social media and they don’t get as many ‘likes’ as they think they ‘should’ get, then they will take it down and feel bad about themselves.

Our young people are externally referenced, they don’t want to be different, they want to be, look and do what everyone else in their peer group – not all but apparently a large proportion.  I was different, I didn’t want what the mainstream wanted and I was bullied, in a relatively minor way.  I was excluded from the group, names were called etc. I didn’t have the additional pressure of social media and at my core I had a strong sense that being me was actually ok – even though I was always last to be picked for the netball team.  Over the years I have learned that being different is actually an expression of my individuality.  I have come to like it and I have grown through it.

How do we talk to our children when they have these feelings and this culture? How can we relate to it if it’s not our experience, can we understand it?

I was talking to someone this week who told me that no matter how often they tell their young daughter that she is beautiful or has done well, it just doesn’t sink in.  She can’t accept it.

This research and these issues sadden me.  I want every child to feel ‘special’ as we have taught them, we are all special, individual and magnificent – but in our own unique way. To value myself, to appreciate my uniqueness and my magnificence has been hard work. It has been work.  Work on myself through ‘therapy’ and self development.  I didn’t have the extreme pressures that young people have today.  It’s tough for them and as Simon Sneak says ‘It’s not their fault’.

 

Click here for Independent article on UCL research

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