Assertive Communication

Assertive communication can be confusing.  Does it mean being selfish?  Can you be over assertive? At times people can avoid learning how to be assertive because they fear the consequences.

The definition of assertive communication is valuing your own needs and opinions as being equal to that of others, to stand up for your own and other’s rights in a calm and open manner.

Fear comes from the assumptions we make about others reaction to our assertive communication.  It could cause conflict, we will be rejected, not liked anymore, others will think we are selfish or bossy.  These may happen but done in an assertive manner being clear and calm, respectful of yourself and the others, will lessen the possible impact of our assumptions.

However, when I used to run assertion workshops I did say it came with a warning! When we start to change our behaviour and responses to one of standing up for ourselves, saying what we need or want, saying no, then there may be others who don’t like that.  They don’t want to see you change, it takes away their power.  This is their problem and is not a reason for you to stay where you are – perhaps passive and wanting to please all the time.

So what are the key features to assertive communication? 

One of the easiest ways to be assertive is to use the word “I”, not “we or you”.  You are speaking about yourself not about others.  Own what you say, be responsible for your thoughts and opinions.  Using “I” statements also makes it very clear to others what you are saying.

Match your body language to your verbal message.  Don’t give out mixed messages as your body language will be believed more than what you are saying.  Open posture, good eye contact, clear voice and calm tone will all emphasise and give respect to what you wish to say.

Listen to your gut response when being asked to do something.  Does your heart sink or do you feel uplifted? Be honest with yourself and say no if you don’t wish to do something.  It is only a request  and you have every right to say no just as everyone else does.  Say no clearly without waffle and excuses.  You may wish to compromise which is fine.

Give yourself time to consider a request or criticism. You don’t have to respond straight away. By giving yourself some breathing space you can consider your response.  This stops automatic habits of saying yes or agreeing – it gives you the opportunity to consider your own thoughts and needs.

The great thing about assertive communication is that the more you do it the more you respect yourself and the more others respect you.  They know that when you say no you mean know and equally when you say yes it is because you want to do something.  Assertive communication is not easy, it’s a skill that can be learnt but with it comes higher self-esteem and self worth.

Change – getting on track

Change – the important bits to succeed!

In the last blog we talked about some of the major blocks that can easily get in the way of making the changes we want.

When we want to add or take away something in our lives it requires persistence, determination, consistency and a deep sense of knowing why this is important to you.  We also need a willingness to welcome failure as a way of learning.  All “successful” people have some time or another failed and it is what they have learnt from the experience that has made them succeed.  As the saying goes – “there is no such thing as failure, only feedback” and failure is only as you perceive it.

Here are some of my ways of bringing about change:-

  • Focus on what you will be gaining – what will you feel/be/have and what impact will that have on your life?  Write down how this change will benefit you in everyday life eg be able to play in the park with  children/grandchildren,  lose weight to have enough energy to walk to work, save x amount a month in order to go on holiday next year etc
  • Write your goal down or make a picture of it and put it somewhere where you can see it everyday. 
  • Don’t just think or decide how you want things differently – start doing it.  It is so easy to live your life in your head but change will only happen if you do something different.
  • It’s been said many times but make change happen with small and achievable steps.  Even if   doing that change is just for that hour or day – you have gone forward.  Build on your steps, recognise your effort, chart your progress and always keep in mind what you are gaining.
  • Let go of old hurts as the world has already moved on “When you forgive, you no way change the past – but you sure do change the future” A Cope & G Oates
  • Choose your attitude towards change – see it as a challenge, interesting rather than hard work, difficult. The language you use will affect your mood and approach.
  • What strategies have worked in the past when you have brought about change in your life? – employ them again. 
  • Share what you want to happen with others and ask for their help in supporting steps towards achievement.  This is the main one that works for me as the more I talk about it the harder it is for me to give up – pride takes over!
  • Act the person you want to be. The saying “fake it till you make it” helps to imprint into your physiology how you feel, stand, walk, talk – you become comfortable with this new way of being and will attract into your life what you need to achieve your aim.
  • Remind yourself and answer these four powerful questions to keep you on track.
  • Turn  obstacles into problems to be solved rather than seeing them as an excuse to give up.

Whatever strategies you use, keep going, be flexible, adapt and have a firm belief in yourself  – you know what difference it will make to your life.  If you need a bit of a support or “push” to get you going, you are welcome to book an Insight session with me.

Barriers to Change

We all change throughout our lives either by design or fault.  We develop and grow as we go through our ages and during our lives experiences bring events that can have significant impacts.

This kind of change will happen subconsciously and without any planning or forethought.  That’s not to say we don’t have any choice, we may not be able to control the circumstances but we can make choices how we choose to respond, learn, process the event.

The change that seems to be the most challenging to bring about is the change that we consciously decide to make.  It’s often a behaviour – a way of eating, thinking, reacting.

We can start off with good intentions, have a goal in mind, spend money to achieve it, plan the first few steps and then it tends to dissipate.  It becomes too hard, too costly, too time consuming so it’s easier to just let it drift and to try again another time.

So what are the barriers that get in the way?

Values

Is your desire to change truly important to you?  Change is more likely to occur when you really know why it is important – 90% of success is knowing why it is important, 10% is knowing how to go about achieving it. The importance goes beyond material gains and links into your values.  Values are what motivate, they are part of the essence of who we are, what connects us to others.  They are our hidden priorities.

Here are some examples of values:-

Love, peace, wealth, success, adventure, fun, happiness, security, intimacy, autonomy, altruism.

If your goal of change doesn’t link in with your values then it is more likely not to be achieved.

Motivation

Truly how motivated are you to succeed – a 100% or about 75%? Again the degree of motivation will be reinforced by knowing why this is important to you and what you will gain/have/receive/feel from the end result.

However you need to use the best motivating strategy for yourself.  Are you somebody that sees the end goal, plans the steps in between and then heads off in that direction – the TOWARDS motivation?

Or do you wait until it becomes so uncomfortable before you take action, the AWAY motivation?  Neither is better than the other, you just need to know what works for you.  Look back on past experiences of achievement and identify the key aspects that made it possible and apply them again.

Internal Thoughts

In the book Shine by Andy Cope and Gavin Oates they talk about your inner Jeeves.  A faithful servant, who has been with you for many years, knows you very well and has only your wellbeing in mind.  Your inner Jeeves believes that any change from your norm is just another “New Year’s resolution” that will be broken in a few day and then you can get back to normal again.  These are your own inner thoughts and beliefs that very happily get you back to your status quo.

So with three major hurdles to overcome, it is a challenge, hard work, personal effort to make the significant changes you so desire – however the starting point is  awareness and insight.

Take time to recognise and acknowledge these barriers and in the next blog I show you how you can maximise your success.  Or in the meantime book a complimentary Insight session to discuss your own challenges to change.

Inner strength

Maintaining Inner Strength

Inner strength, just like muscular strength, needs to be maintained otherwise it goes flabby!

Last month’s blog was about finding our inner strength, so once found, it is important that we keep it strong.  There is no special formula or unique regime to keep our strength strong but it does require awareness, motivation and persistence.

Just as our bodies need exercise so we can also use physical exercise to maintain inner wellbeing. If we are able to appreciate what our body does for us, give it good nourishing food and exercise in whatever form, then we are likely to feel stronger in ourselves. This in turn allows us to cope better with any stress that comes our way.  Get in touch with your body – how does it feel, what is it saying to you, what does it need?  Listen to your body, be aware of it and support the inner and outer strength.

Feeling connected within yourself also means being connected with what is around you, with your environment.  None of us are an island and although we may need or crave time on our own we also need people in our lives.  To boost our inner strength those people need to be supportive, encouraging, fun, motivating, non-judgemental, compassionate and forgiving.  When others feel good, we feel good and vice versa.  Surround yourself in the energy that gives you hope, understanding and contentment.

Our physical environments are also a crucial aspect of our inner health.  Do you live /work in places that make you feel good? Do you enjoy the atmosphere? Are you comfortable within your surroundings that you can relax and totally be yourself?  Could your home do with fresh energy coming in? You can find out more about enhancing environmental energy in this blog.

What else maintains your inner strength? How you fill in your time impacts upon health.  The spare time that you have, are you spending it in activities and with people that make you feel happy?  Hobbies and interests will add to your self-esteem and enhance your sense of identity.  Maybe it is time to bring in new interests and let go of others – choose ones that make you feel joyous.

Then in between work, people, hobbies and exercising find a place of calmness! Allow time just to be, no expectations, no worries, just you and your breath.  The stillness you gain reinforces the core strength within you, reminding you of the essence of who you are and what you are capable of.

Maintaining your inner strength is a lifelong process. First be aware of it, bring it to the fore and then nurture it so you can call upon it whenever you need to.

Inner strength of lioness

Inner Strength

When we are faced with external stress, pressure and demands this is the time when we need to tap into our inner strength.

Generally what we currently have to deal with, we have faced before, but maybe in a different guise.  The issue may be different but the emotions and feelings are what we are familiar with.

We have so much inner strength and resources but we can often forget or ignore them.  We can allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by emotions which can lead into a panic cycle and not know how to respond.

Over the years, however, we have experienced, and gathered, inner strengths such as reflection, determination, calmness, trust in self, belief and motivation.  We have accrued skills such as problem solving, listening, delegating, sharing (with the right people) and the ability to ask for help or to recognise when to let go and accept.

If we can bring our strengths and resources to the fore than our ability to cope, to bring down stress levels and to gain confidence will expand and grow.

To do this we need to be in a place of calm. The brain, as we know, registers uncomfortable/distressing situations as a danger and triggers off the fight/flight/freeze response.  When we are in this state our ability to think logically and rationally is impaired.  The body is focused on survival rather than cognitive problem solving.

The most important thing you can do is to get to a state of calm.  You can do this through relaxation, Reiki, meditation, walking – whatever helps to switch off that alarm system.  Once in this preferred state think back to another time when you had a similar emotional reaction or problem.  How did you react? What was most helpful at that time? What did you learn from that experience?  From this reflection pick out the most helpful action, strengths, skills and consider how you could apply them to your current situation.

Take control of the situation which may mean in essence choosing how you wish to respond.  What is best for you? Trust yourself to make the right decision at that time.  We can do no more than our best.  Use all your past experiences to tap into what is already there – your inner strength.  Move from an external need for support, approval and assurance to an inner belief of trust and strength.

If you struggle with this concept or have difficulty getting in touch with your inner strengths and abilities then you may wish to consider an EFT (Tapping ) session as  a gentle way to bring down intensity of emotion and reframe and strengthen your inner resources.

“Go within every day and find the inner strength so that the world will not blow your candle out.” ―Katherine Dunham

play as adults

The Importance of Play

I was watching a friend’s 3 year old grandson roll about on the floor in a public place.  Why was he doing it? Because he could!  He had no inhibitions, not doubting thoughts, just a desire to play and feel the experience or rolling around.

We all know the saying “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing” by George Bernard Shaw.  When does that freedom of playing stop? I think it stops even when we are children or certainly teenagers and instead our rational, inhibiting mind kicks in and starts to restrict our inner child.

What favourite games or activities did you do as a child, how did it make you feel?  As I recall those memories even now a smile spreads across my face.  There is a sense of freedom, joyousness, being right in the moment – a chance to explore our bodies, our environment and our minds.  Play was about laughter, making friends, feeling good, feeling happy. And as adults we still need and deserve those things.

We know that play is essential to development and growth in all young mammals but play in adults is also incredibly beneficial.  Play in adults relieves stress, builds bonds within friendships, stimulates brain function and promotes connection and a sense of belong, all crucial for good mental health.

I know that there is a place and time for everything and that rolling on the floor in a restaurant although it might make you feel great, could have consequences!  However as adults we can still find time and ways of means to play.

As I’ve mentioned in several blogs it stars with attitude and choice, an intention and willingness to let go of possible embarrassment, of ignoring social norms and doing your own stuff regardless of what others may think.  In fact we don’t know what others are thinking and may even be envious of our expression of freedom and inhibition!

Play can be an individual activity such as splashing in puddles, skipping when out walking, blowing bubbles or playing with a pet.  Play with others can be spontaneous or planned, building sandcastles on the beach, arranging board game evenings, playing hide and seek, doing I-Spy on a car journey, the list is endless.  Whatever you do it should give you pleasure, fun, laughter and freedom of movement and thought.

What have you done recently that has been fun and playful? If you’re stuck with what to do go back to those memories of play as a child and if possible live them again.  Don’t get put off by others saying that it is “childish” or they haven’t got time, they are missing out big time!

Leave your adult self behind and once again find your inner child!

Hidden aspects of ourselves

Hidden Aspects of Ourselves

I doubt whether any of us are straight forward.  There are aspects of ourselves that perhaps we care to keep hidden or at least only show on rare occasions.  At times, others around us see things in us that perhaps we don’t see or recognise ourselves.

Back in 1955 psychologist Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham developed a model that enabled people to gain a better understanding of themselves in relation to others.  Combining their Christian names together they created Johari Window which continues to be used today especially within team development.  It is a feedback and self-awareness model that I have used myself when running workshops on team building and developing confidence.

I do think that it is worth, every now and then, to consider our own Johari window and to check out which areas can perhaps do with a bit more developing!

In its simplest form there are four quadrants or areas to the window, see diagram below.

Area One is known as the Open area and this represents our skills, behaviour, attitude, knowledge and experience that are known to us and to others.  It is open, nothing hidden, there is clear open communication.   When working as part of a team this area ideally should be developed in order to lessen conflict and avoid miscommunication.

Area Two is the Blind area which represents information that is known by others but not by the person themselves.  Maybe others are deliberately withholding information from you or you may be choosing to ignore issues about yourself.  Others interpret you differently from how you perceive yourself.  Not necessarily a good place to be in and often people who are known as “thick skinned” have an over developed blind spot.

Area Three or Hidden area  is what we know about ourselves but have chosen not to share it with others.  These can be our fears, past experiences, feelings, secrets, hidden agendas.  There may be many reasons why we choose not to make it open but we need to be aware that there may come a time when it is appropriate and healthier to move it into the Open area.  As the saying goes “what we resist, persists”.

Area Four known as the Unknown contains latent abilities and experiences that are unknown to both us and others.  It is the bit yet to be explored or discovered.  Maybe we have yet to have the opportunities to push out of our comfort zone, to realise that we are far more capable than we think we are.  Self-discovery and observation by others can help move from this area into area one.

By taking a quick check using this model are there aspects that you are ignoring about yourself? Maybe you hear others repeatedly tell you about certain skills/attributes that you are not accepting? Does it feel appropriate to be a little braver and move out of your comfort zone and stretch your potential?  For all us we rarely stand still in our personal development and growth so I hope that a reminder of this model will help you take another step forward.

Johari Model
Stress

Stress Awareness

Stress affects everyone and April is Stress Awareness month.  At times stress can be energising, positive and motivating but when demands upon ourselves exceed our perceived ability to cope then stress can become a problem.  The effects of stress are different for each person, for example it may affect our sleep, eating habits, relationships or concentration to do our job.

It is is rarely contributed to just one thing but to many factors over a period of time.

When stress becomes prolonged or excessive and we perceive that we cannot cope with demands then the impact upon our lives can be detrimental.

At times it is others that first recognise that we are stressed rather than ourselves.  It can be easy to keep our head down, keep going and ignore warning signs.  Sometimes we only recognise how stressed we are after the situation has gone!

The starting point is to increase our awareness of how we are feeling, what our body is telling us, notice changes in our behaviour and hear what others are saying. Only when we are aware can we do anything to help ourselves.

What are those warning signs?  This will obviously differ for each person but here are a few that may be familiar to you:

Physical – increased muscular tension, headaches, feeling nauseous, sweating

Emotional – feeling anxious, increased irritation, frustration

Behaviour – decreased or increased sleeping, lack or increase in appetite, withdrawing, increased alcohol/coffee/smoking, lack of tolerance

Cognitions (thoughts) – blaming others, everything appears negative, increased worry about everything, not being able to switch off thoughts

So what can we do?

Identify what is causing the stress and determine whether:-

a) it is under your control and you are able to do something to change it

b) it is something that you cannot change and therefore find a way to accept the situation

c) you can just let it go, as in the long run or in a few weeks time, it really won’t matter or it isn’t that important

Share your concerns and seek out the right people that will be able to support you or be able to make changes with you.

Look after yourself physically by having a healthy diet, get enough sleep, take exercise, engage socially with others and actively do relaxation eg have a bath, listen to a mediation tape, have ring-fenced quiet time.

Talk to yourself as if you are your best friend; be kind, compassionate and caring to yourself.  Praise and compliment yourself on how you are doing and how you are coping.

End the day by giving gratitude for what you have in your life – family, friends, home, health, faith, work etc.

Keep in mind that the stress will pass and spend each day focusing in the here and now.  Turn worries into problems and look at how to solve them.

So how can I help?

Book yourself a Reiki session which promotes relaxation, re-balancing and restoring of energy levels.

Book an appointment to learn Emotional Freedom Technique (or Tapping) as a self-help tool that decreases intensity of emotions and promotes a different way of looking at situations.

Book a day on a retreat especially designed for healthcare workers – 11 May 2019.

There is nothing to be ashamed of feeling stressed and the more we understand our early warning signs and do something to help ourselves the more in control we feel thus decreasing our levels of stress.

meditation

Meditation – the Benefits

Meditation can still conjure up images of sitting in the lotus position and chanting “omm”! Meditation in the Western world has moved on a lot from the original Eastern practice and it is more accessibly and “easier” to do now for many people.

There are many fantastic meditation groups that provide the space and stillness to meditate alongside others and if you are a beginner can learn the process and discipline of meditation.

For some people to sit still and to attempt to empty the mind can be extremely challenging.  Sitting still can evoke beliefs of “being lazy, not doing anything” and there can also be the fear of what can come into the mind if we are not controlling it.

However meditation can be done in many ways and they all have immense health benefits.  If you have time in the morning, especially at the weekend, why not sit quietly in bed and just focus on your breathing.  Notice when thoughts come into your mind and then just return to being aware of the rise and fall of your chest.  If you can do that for 5 minutes that’s brilliant, if you can do it for longer even better.

If you prefer to be led into a meditation there are lots of apps and CDs that are available such as Headspace , there are many more listed here.  To immerse yourself into meditation you can go on a retreat, silent or otherwise, which can help kick start your awareness of how to meditate.

For more informal ways of meditation just be in nature, walk quietly, preferably alone and use all your senses to tune in to what is around you.  You may have a favourite spot where you can just sit and be still and allow your thoughts to drift in and out without any focus upon them.  Or you may give yourself time to have a bath rather than a shower.  Set the intention to be still in mind and body, ensure that everyone else in the household knows not to disturb you and create a warming and relaxing environment.  If you still find your mind wandering always go back to noticing your breath.

So why should we meditate?  Research has shown that meditation will decrease blood pressure, decrease heart rate, decrease the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, it can re-alkalize your body, slow the ageing process down and promote deeper sleep.

Apparently our normal waking brain waves, Beta, are at 14-28 cycles per second.  In meditation they go to Alpha waves at 7-14 cycles per second and in deep meditation can drop into Theta waves at 4-7 waves per second.

We also know that through meditation we can clear and balance our chakras and in turn balance our energy field which can decrease the risk of illness and in time be more in tune with nature thus once again promoting good health.

If you are not sure how to start having a Reiki session is a good way of giving yourself permission to stop , be still and to receive.

So however you do your meditation, whether it be for 10 minutes a week or an hour a day it is part of valuing your own health and wellbeing which enhances health benefits to ourselves and others.

acts of kindness

Acts of Kindness

Kindness is about generosity, consideration and empathy. In my last blog I wrote about empathy and compassion and it is how we can demonstrate these qualities in acts. A lot has been said and written lately about doing random acts of kindness and I totally agree that it feels not only good to the receiver but also to the giver.  In fact kindness ripples out and if you have been on the receiver end of a kindness then you are more likely to go on and engage in your own kind acts.

The givers of kind acts feel a greater sense of satisfaction and happiness which in turn boost good mental health and wellbeing.  There is now a Random Act of Kindness day on 17 February 2019.

The acts can range from small and unassuming to grand gestures without the need for recognition or praise.  So anything goes that is spontaneous, unprepared and done to help someone else.  It can be giving someone the rest of your time on a parking ticket, leaving a book for someone else to read, let another person go ahead of you in a queue, hold a door open or pay someone a compliment.  It stops us being self-centered and inwardly focused and allows us to be more aware of the other person.

We are more likely to do a kind act if we have experienced it or have recently talked about it so it is in our subconcious.  A friend mentioned that she had given someone a lift as he had missed his bus and the next day I was approached by someone asking for bus fayre as his car had broken down.  Normally, as it was the evening, I wouldn’t have done so but it was in my subconscious what my friend had done.  So I gave the person some money only to find out later it was a scam!  So I must admit that maybe it wasn’t the wisest thing to do especially as it was the other person approaching me.

You are in control of the kind act, so you are choosing what to do of your own free will, even if it is spontaneous.  Keep an open mind, be aware of others needs and do something because it will benefit someone else and hopefully in turn they too will pass on a kind act.