The still small voice within. A guide to mastering your inner voice…

pexels-photo-164636.jpeg“The only tyrant I accept in the world
is the still small voice within me”
Mahatma Gandhi.

Maybe Gandhi “accepted” it because he realised that he had the power to change it…. Or perhaps he knew that he had the choice how much attention he actually paid to it?

So, what do we do with, if indeed we notice,  the still small voice within? Part of our development of EQ skills is to develop self awareness so, pay attention and notice your inner voice. Believe me, it is always with you!

Our inner dialogue or self-talk is hugely powerful and influences us in a powerful way, moment to moment. Our state in any moment is influenced hugely by what we are listening to and not just the words. The WAY we are talking to ourselves has more impact than the words we are listening to.

Years ago, when I was teaching communication skills to Health Care Professionals, I always emphasised the importance of tonality, pace, etc. as being crucial to the meaning of the message when communicating to another individual. When I began to run Corporate programmes about stress management and resilience, I did teach about self talk – and yet  I admit, initially, I focussed mainly on the what of what we are saying to ourselves. A little on the how, yet way too little.

It was, however, only when I sat in a room with several hundred others as an NLP Practitioner delegate, and learned from Richard Bandler about the power of submodalities, that the learning really took off for me!!

Those skill drills eliciting submodalities were so important. The exercises in changing them were truly lessons in driving the bus as Richard would say!

I am guessing that, at times, we can all identify with the tyrant concept that Ghandi referred to.

Sometimes that inner voice is anything BUT still and small. It can be downright loud, destructive, tyrannical even. It can certainly lead us to feelings of depression, guilt, anger, frustration, panic fear, anxiety and other states far removed from and overwhelmingly different from the happiness and freedom available within.

When we talk to ourselves in positive words matched with a positive tonality and get the pitch, volume and inner smile in the voice, boy does it feel different!

Much of my work with clients in and outside corporate land is around giving people tools with which to achieve more joy… one of those sets of tools is about managing their voice within!

Below is a summary of what they and I learn and practice!

Firstly to pay attention to and to notice how you are feeling and tune in to your inner voice as if tuning into a radio!!!

1. Notice the inner dialogue
2.  Pay attention to what it is saying
3.  Notice HOW you are hearing the voice, is it gentle soothing, encouraging and supportive or sarcastic, belittling, frightened or sad?
4.  Consider what that voice may be getting you to pay attention to and act upon? (Remember there will be a positive intention – tricky though it may be to discern!) .
5.  If the voice is useful and you are feeling great, keep going and do more of it! Ramp it up!
6.  If it isn’t getting you to feel the way you need to in the situation, take action.

After all, there isn’t really anyone there, just a set of neural pathways firing off – electrical activity represented as a voice.

For many clients, corporate and private, this image in itself is enough to get them to take control. They can picture a set off pathways and the electrical activity and imagine putting a block in, a “STOP” sign,  so that the pathway can’t fire off in the same way any more.

stop-shield-traffic-sign-road-sign-39080.jpeg

Easy to visualise and very effective.

If the voice persists, there are several techniques which, if you are a practitioner of NLP you will be aware of.

Case study

I often tell the story of a client called “Ryan” who learned how to have better conversations in his head with fabulous results for his happiness and achievement.

Ryan was 10 years old when I worked with him.

His father called me and told me that Ryan had a promising tennis career and yet had “lost all of his confidence”. He had become anxious, increasingly worried, and had become fearful about playing matches. Whilst he was fine in training, he had lost every match in recent weeks. Could I help?

I wanted first to elicit whether I was talking to a father who had sights set on a Grand Slam Title and whether Ryan was keen or reluctant to climb up the tennis ladder. A quick chat to Ryan convinced me. The young man LOVED his tennis and wanted to enjoy his matches and to win again.

Ryan and I worked together once and kept in touch by phone.

This young man had developed a very critical, frustrated, irritated, superior and aggressive inner voice.

“You are useless at Tennis, the other boy will be better than you, you will miss all your shots, you may as well give up, you’re a useless failure”

Those were just a few of the hypnotic suggestions he was bathing in on a daily basis!

He wanted to enjoy his tennis, feel happy confident and motivated to win with a lovely mix of excitement and anticipation before and during his matches.

He wanted the feeling of winning, success and celebration back!!

Mastering his inner voice was the key to him achieving his desired change. We did other things too yet the major shift came when he changed his inner dialogue!

I gave him several tools with which to do this. The one he liked best and used the most was imagining he was listening to a track on his Ipod and simply changing tracks!! After all, why would he listen to something that was making him feel bad!?

I then asked him to imagine tuning to a different track, an audio book yet that didn’t seem to help.

We had been talking about favourite Tennis players, TV shows, movies, etc., so I seized an idea (the client will always provide the answer!!)

I asked him to create his own inner confidence coachand to imagine what that person would say to him about his tennis… I suggested his favourite player and many times Grand Slam Champion (mistake Bridget, too directive, remember the rules!) and he said, very cutely……

“Do I have to have a tennis player?”

“No” I said, it’s your brain – you can have whoever you like.”

“I know who I will have,” he said suddenly and, as he did so his whole physiology changed. He sat up tall, smiled and I knew the change we were waiting for had happened!!!

“Who will you have then?” I asked.

“Mr T” he said!!! (What a fabulous coach strong, solid, confident and BIG!!!)

“Fantastic” I said – “A fabulous coach! After all he’s on the A team.”

Ryan who was on a roll then said “Is it OK if I have two?”

“Who else have you got on your team now then”I asked.

“Rocky“ grinned Ryan!!! And he got even taller – if that was possible!

I got him to close his eyes and imagine walking in court with Mr T on one side and Rocky on the other, with Eye of the Tiger blaring through the speakers and – job done!

We did some great visualisations, more work on building great states and then, off he went, head held high – and brimming with confidence and a great big smile.

He started to win his matches again and, whilst he may or may not become a Grand Slam Champion, he now has an idea and a sense of what it could feel like!!

Inner Tyrant to Inspirational Inner Coach in a short session!

Ryan’s story has inspired many of my adult clients both private, and at CEO and Director level in corporate land. Whilst the tyrant may well pop up from time to time, it’s good to remember who is in charge.

Is your own inner dialogue always helpful? If not, use the techniques I taught to Ryan and notice the difference. Message me about your experiences and do get in touch is you would like to know more.

Until Next time.

Bridget

Mind your language – words matter!

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Language is fascinating!  We are born without language and quickly gain an understanding of words spoken to us and around us, comprehending much before we even begin to use words ourselves.

We learn from parents, siblings, peers and from TV, radio and the vast array of social media that we become exposed to from an early age. At school we learn more formally and at some point are enlightened that there are different types of words that have different functions in our native language, whatever that may be. There are verbs, nouns, adjectives and a host of others. Words to describe things, words for things and words that are about doing things. We soak this up, becoming proficient ( mostly) in using a whole variety of words to communicate our thoughts, wants, needs, ideas and opinions.

Somewhere along the way we get used to using certain words that are, in effect, wrong, out of context – perhaps this is laziness but that debate can take place elsewhere!

One such example of this is something I hear regularly in my coaching practice as well as in the wider world. We are in the habit of using nouns instead of verbs – a habit that often contributes to becoming or being “stuck” in a problem.

Let’s take the following statement as an example

“Communication is appalling in our team”.

I guess we will all have an interpretation as to what this may mean. The tricky part comes when the individual wants to move forward and change “something” to improve the situation. The following statement is a common one.

“We all need to work on communication, it’s time it improved”

Whilst we stick with a noun – “communication” we have a problem. Firstly, there is actually no such thing – the definition of a noun in the Oxford Dictionaries is as follows :-

Noun :- a word ( other than a pronoun) used to identify any of a class of people, places or things.

Now can you see the problem – communication is not a thing – we cannot see it, pick it up, buy it or improve it because, in truth, it doesn’t exist. The person using the word communication is talking about something abstract and as such, is powerless to improve “it” because, quite simply, “it” doesn’t exist!  The brain, doesn’t really know what to do with this statement and so it is easy to remain “stuck”.

In order to work on this, it is necessary to change it back into a verb – a doing word. This requires ownership, action; and once we do this, “to communicate” becomes an activity that we can do in the same way or differently in order to improve.

As soon as I consider how “I communicate” with you and with the other individuals in my team, I have a range of choices as do you. Moving from a noun to a verb, is empowering and helps me take responsibility for the way in which I communicate with others.

I can explore options and plan to communicate differently. I can ask you the best way to communicate with you and you can tell me. We can both now be accountable and our actions and behaviours can be shaped into a way of communicating with each other that works more effectively!

Another example that I hear often is :-

“I will work on my relationship with ……. ( client, manager, mentor, partner, child )” :- Spotted it? Another noun where a verb will be so much more useful.   There is no such thing as a “relationship”.  I can’t see one, hold one, pick one up etc!

I can pontificate about a relationship with someone else to my heart’s content but until I take accountability and change my language to an action word, it is very tricky to change.   What I need to reflect upon and adapt, is the way that I relate to the other person and the way that we relate to each other.  It is here where I can experiment with my behaviour and be flexible to create change.

So, next time you are stuck with a problem, check that you have the right keyword. Check that there is a verb in the right place and if not, consider altering the language. Take out the noun and get ready for action by using a verb!

Until next time

Bridget Clapham

Boosting your happiness at work. Part one:- are you asking yourself the right questions?

How many people do you know who are happy at work? – (I fully realise that there are other factors influencing our feelings but for the next few minutes, lets focus on work.)

Yes, I know it’s a big question, you are reading lots about happiness at work on social media and it even makes the TV news. In a sense it’s too big, too nebulous – what does “happy” mean anyway?! Like me, you could be pondering that one all day so…..

Let me ask another question or two.

How many people do you know who talk about their job with passion, who wake up in the morning (well, most mornings anyway) and actually look forward to going to work with a sense of excitement and anticipation about what the day will bring?

Do you?

I know a few folks who fit into that category… but I know others of all ages, who often wake up with a cocktail of less welcome feelings spinning around inside. Such feelings can include, anxiety, panic, dread, depression, boredom and in some cases, such an overwhelming mixture of the above that they would and occasionally do, turn right back over and bed down for a duvet day. If this continues, wellbeing suffers and mental health problems can arise.

“So, if I want to be happier at work, what can I do about it?” I hear you say!

Firstly, if you are the person looking forward to work….celebrate that, and spread a little of your enthusiasm within your team.. although the chances are they’re pretty happy too, because you work in the same place. Culture is a key influencer on the happiness barometer!

1. Get curious

If, however, you are hiding under the duvet or starting to feel that that would be a preferred option on a regular basis, then you need to do some detective work. Channelling your inner detective is useful but be careful…. the type of questions you ask yourself are key to what you will learn and to how quickly you solve the mystery and move forward.

2. Have a go at this thought experiment.

Ask yourself the following questions. (In my experience, these are the questions that people ask,  as clients usually come to work with me having worked out all of the answers to them)

Be disciplined and only spend a few seconds on each response and then move on.

  • How do I feel? What emotions can I identify here?
  • What is wrong at work that is making me feel this way?
  • How long have I been feeling this bad for?
  • What are the main problems and who is responsible?
  • Whose fault is this and……
  • What should they be doing about it?

How do you feel when you ask yourself these questions? Better… or worse and more likely to hibernate?

3. Get curious in a different way with a new focus

Now….. wipe the slate clean, look around the room, look at something that makes you smile, ground yourself in the present moment, take a breath or two and ask yourself this new set of questions:-

  • What feelings do I notice when I breathe, focus inward and notice what is going on for me?
  • What are the work based triggers that are impacting so strongly on my mindset and feelings? ( useful to identify in relation to taking action)
  • How do I want to feel?
  • What would I like to happen at work, that would help me to feel more energised, happier and to get my spark back?
  • What CAN I actually do to begin to take control, feel more energised and get my spark back?
  • What one thing WILL I do today, that will start to make a positive difference?

How do you feel now? – Feedback strongly shows that the proactive and solution focused, second set of questions, help to empower people and inspire a more positive, optimistic and motivated approach to change. This relates to Emotional Intelligence so feel free to check back to this post for more on EQ Emotional Intelligence at Work. What’s it all about?

If you have done the thought experiment and noticed the positive impact of the second set of questions, follow through.

Do one thing differently every day and begin to notice the differences. Let me know your experiences. Either comment below or email me at bridget@bridgetclapham.co.uk .

Part two (look out for my next post), will explore some tried and tested examples of actions you can take to increase your happiness and wellbeing at work and in general.

Until next time…

Bridget

 

 

 

Ten habits for getting the best from your 121’s at work … to improve fulfillment and productivity.

If your 121 meetings are productive, positive and play a crucial role in moving forward in happily achieving company vision than maybe you don’t need to read this.

If not, read on and see how helpful you find it!. Either way, do message me or comment to share your experiences whether they are of best practice, or of the more frustrating variety!

What’s the point of 121’s?

The weekly, fortnightly or monthly 121 between a manager and team member is a fabulous opportunity for celebration, problem solving, creating thinking, learning and development.

It’s a chance for a senior individual to meet with a junior individual to check progress in relation to projects, the day job and ultimately checking that all is well, people are confident and supported and that all activity is in line with achieving the team and company vision.

“What a great idea – a no brainer”……. I hear you say!

Why then do I hear so many people, in many different organisations saying “ It’s a waste of time” “ Don’t see the point of them” and “ Ah, yes, 121’s….well…..we always mean to have them but something always seems to get in the way” ?

What goes wrong?

Talking to many team members and managers across many businesses, it seems that very often,  the 121 meeting is a tick box affair with managers and staff, short of time and focused solely on checking progress and on correcting poor performance.   Closed and leading questions are common, such as “Now that new project, you’re all Ok with that aren’t you?” to which the team member is highly likely to say “Yes” even if this is far from the case!

These meetings, it would seem, when they do happen, are often squeezed in to a busy week and, for this and other reasons, neither participant is able to be fully present. Both parties often have their brains darting all over the place to past, present and future challenges and focus is thus affected.

Getting the best from the routine 121 meeting.

Having created space in your diary for a 121, how do you both get the most from the precious time that you are spending together?

Here are my ten recommendations for leaders, managers and individuals who are meeting for 121’s and want to make them worthwhile.

  1. Manage your Mindset. Take time before the meeting to breathe and create headspace. This will help you to park other thoughts, be more mindful, focus on the outcomes of the meeting and thus have a positive attitude and approach.
  2. Build your knowledge and awareness of EQ skills….and use them. Emotional Intelligence at Work. What’s it all about?
  3. Decide what you want to have achieved when you both leave the meeting and…. “begin with the end in mind” as Covey would advocate!
  4. Always agree upon two sets of outcomes when setting the agenda.
    1. A focus on WHAT is going on i.e. strategy, projects, progress and challenges.
    2. A focus on HOW the individual and manager are operating i.e. using great skills, identifying skills gaps, awareness of how much pressure the individual is under, and how they are feeling about workload and success levels. In this way you can identify skills objectives and how the individual can be supported to develop skills that are lacking.
  5. Work out a format for your meetings that works – this may be that you spend the first part of the meeting, however long with your attention on WHAT and the second part on HOW or…… cleverly combine the two using great coaching skills along the way.
  6. Be fully present for each other during the meeting – choose the right meeting space, put phones on silent, park other thoughts, boundary the time you will spend, focus and delve in!
  7. Celebrate successes since the last 121 and identify the skills that have used to achieve it. The individual may be able to mentor another team member who is looking to develop the same skills!  To praise or not to praise? That is the leadership question!
  8. Identify challenges and adopt a creative and problem solving approach to overcoming them. Remember that between you, you have many years of experience and a combined skill set that is phenomenal.
  9. When mistakes or errors have been made, adopt a case study approach so that you can reflect together, be creative and plan to incorporate learnings in the future.
  10. Leave the room with a SHARED understanding of what you have spoken about and agreed and of next steps. 

Suggested exercise for leaders and team members.

a) Talk through these 10 habits with your team member and benchmark yourselves against them.

b) Decide where you need to focus and go for it!  I have a feeling that the quality of your 121’s, your working relationship and your productivity will all benefit.

c) Reflect upon the changes you have made and adapt further if necessary.

Do let me know how you get on and please share this to others who may find it of value.

Until next time

Best wishes

Bridget Clapham. Executive Coach and Development Consultant

www.bridgetclapham.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts about confidence – what’s it all about?

How often do you hear someone say..(that someone could be you!) that they have lost some confidence or that they would be able to do something more easily, if only they had more confidence?  We often talk about it as if it is something tangible when in fact it isn’t!

What has happened here is that through the way we use language, we have turned something that is a feeling, a way of being, sometimes a cocktail of feelings, into a simple noun. An elusive thing!

Sadly we cannot go into our favourite store and purchase a bag of “confidence”. It doesn’t work like that. I would go as far as to say that, in truth, “confidence” as such, does not exist.

If we can identify and recognise “it” as a feeling – a sense of “being” confident,  we start to take control. That sense of control starts to come because we are experts in feeling different emotions and “being” in different states. Lets face it, we have been doing it since we were born!

Your amazing brain has many memories of feeling the way you feel when you have the feeling that you describe as confident. It knows which parts of itself to activate and exactly which cocktail of neurochemistry to create. If you need to feel more confident, you can give your brain a helping hand.

This simple  brain training experiment will demonstrate:-

  1. Take a few moments and sit or be somewhere where you can have some peace and quiet!
  2. Go into your memory banks and think of a time when you felt really confident. What were you doing? Where were you? Who was there? What was happening?
  3. Immerse yourself in that memory ( you will probably be smiling by now)  and step right back into it.
  4. Imagine you are back there again, seeing the sights and hearing the sounds that were going on at the time.
  5. Notice how you feel and smile some more as you replay the events of that memory.
  6. Stop and notice how much of the original confident feelings your brain has cleverly regenerated for you! If you could measure your neurochemistry right now, it would be very different to how it was before you started the exercise!

Clever eh?

Play with this and if you are wanting to incrementally build your ability to “be” confident more of the time, I invite you to do this exercise daily, several times. Notice the differences!

There is a wealth of neuroscience to support these ideas and if you are interested in more ways to run your brain differently, you can look up the many works of two of my teachers :- Dr Richard Bandler co- creator of NLP and Paul McKenna. If it’s business texts you are looking for check out the work of Simon Sinek. he includes some great explanation of our positive neurotransmitters in his book Leaders Eat Last

The aim of this post is to get you thinking about how you “do” confident and to invite you to be curious about how you work on ways to BE the way you want to be in different situations. I am aware that there are many variables to consider and this is one piece of the jigsaw.

Watch out for more pieces. I am excited that I will be sharing them with you!

Until next time

Best wishes

Bridget

 

 

The birth of a blog! Really Useful Stuff!

Welcome to my blogging adventure, sharing really useful stuff to folks around the world!

Let me elaborate… In my work as a Coach, working with leaders and people at work, with private clients and with students I often send them stuff which relates to the coaching and which is intended to help them to live a happier, more successful and generally more positive life.

The “stuff” can take the form of my own thoughts and alleged wisdom relating to the coaching we have shared to video links, Ted talks, Images, quotes and articles to compliment the coaching. The usual response from my clients is to say:-

“Thanks Bridget, that stuff you sent was really useful.!”

Reflecting on this led me to think that over  the years I have amassed a wealth of resources, some ( lots actually!)  in my head and some in my PC! Why send stuff to just one person when it could be shared to a wider audience?

I will be honest with you folks. I haven’t a clue about how to make best use of the software resources designed to help me blog so I am on a steep learning curve. I invite you to join me and to support me as I build up an online resource of stuff. Who knows how really useful you will find it!

Until next time

Bridget Clapham. http://www.bridgetclapham.co.uk