Listen and Learn.

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I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I am going to learn, I must do it by listening.
Larry King.

We all like to be heard. What we think and feel we want to be able to express to others and when we can do it freely we feel better and happier. We all recognize this and appreciate how important it is, so why when we have all this understanding and insight do we frequently fail to truly listen to what others want to say?
Perhaps it is because we feel that we are too busy or under too much pressure to waste time listening to what someone else thinks as we believe we already know the best decision or outcome? Or perhaps, we are too focused on what we need to do next that we simply do not take the time to listen before moving on to our next task or job. We just want to be able to tick off that we have dealt with the matter and move on.
The problem with this strategy is that more often than not we haven’t dealt with anything successfully. All we have really done by communicating in this manner is to potentially create more stress for the future.
Too often when we think that we are communicating we are in fact just barking out orders to others or we are defending ourselves from perceived criticism from others. This sort of communication can end up with us going round and round in circles trying to make our point and failing to do so. All that happens is that we end up feeling more and more exasperated, fed up and no further forward.
We are all guilty of doing this at some point in our lives and the solution to all the frustration and angst that this type of behavior causes us it really simple and straightforward. If we feel that we are not being heard rather than shouting louder and louder we need to stop and listen to what those around us are saying before we can then calmly answer them and express how we are feeling. Good communication requires all parties to be silent at some point and listen to what the others are saying before they actually respond. If we try to get our view over without paying attention to their views we are simply wasting our time. Seldom has anyone ever personally achieved anything constructive or made themselves feel better just by overriding the views of those close to them and imposing their own on any situation.
If we want to be happy, successful and content then it is simply essential to be a good listener. When we spend time listening to others they respect us more and will in turn spend time listening to us when we need them to. We can learn so much from hearing what those close to us have to say and that can help us to grow closer to those we love and to grow stronger as a person. As American psychologist Karl A Menninger once said:
Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.
Sometimes when we feel that we are not being listened to, we ourselves are also not actually listening. The only way to resolve or at least attempt to resolve this type of situation, is to stop trying to get our own point across and spend time hearing what those we believe are ignoring us, are really saying .If once we have listened to them we still feel they are not letting us respond or take our view in to account we need to make a decision about whether they are the right people to surround ourselves with. Either way just by listening we gain knowledge and that always makes us stronger.
If we find that we are the ones who have allowed ourselves to get in to the bad habit of not truly listening and communicating well to those around us, we simply need to decide to stop and change how we have been responding to others and handling things.
It is not difficult as we all have the ability inside us to be able to make such positive changes when we can see the benefit of doing so and know that by changing we will feel better and more in control. We all must learn how to make positive choices in life if we desire happiness. None of us should stick with bad habits or poor strategies that do not work well simply because they take time and a bit of effort to change. That is simply daft and most definitely not a recipe for success. Being able to be flexible enough to adapt and change makes life happier, as we learn what works best for us and for those around us. As I always say though, the choice and the power to make positive life changes lies solely within ourselves. No one can do it for us and we can hold no one responsible other than ourselves if we don’t change when we need to. We all need to learn to make changes today, even if only small positive, ones for a happier tomorrow.

Feeling sorry for myself ?

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Self-Pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world.

Helen Keller

Helen Keller became blind and deaf at the age of two and yet she still was able to go on to become an author, political activist, lecturer and was the first blind person to obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree. She could have allowed her disabilities to restrict her life but she chose not to and decided instead to push herself to lead as full a life as possible. We need to recognize as she did, that the key to living life fully is not being able to avoid negative life experiences; we can’t really do that no matter how safe we try to stay, but to choose no matter what life flings at us to embrace it as fully as we possibly can.

Too often when the going gets a bit tough and even sometimes just when feeling simply frustrated we can indulge ourselves by allowing our minds to become filled with self-pity. The trouble with this is that these destructive and weakening thoughts can then creep up and take over and completely affect negatively how we see the world. When we spend too much time feeling sorry for ourselves we forget to be grateful for all the things we have around us to be grateful for. We simply cease to be able to see the positives and focus only on the negatives. The shocking thing about this is that the trigger can just as easily be something trivial and yet we allow it to become a big deal and to grow out of proportion in to something we then falsely feel incapable of handling.

So what am I talking about? Surely it is normal to feel a little down at times, everyone can and does indulge a bit in this type of self-pity and occasionally, if it is brief, it can be a good catalyst to help us move on and to shake ourselves down as they say and start all over again. The problems arise when people get stuck in the habit of feeling sorry for themselves and then forget to move on or chose not to. For example relationships can and do break up and obviously that is painful ,but whilst sitting feeling sorry for yourself may feel quite good for a short while and is normal, if allowed the feeling of unhappiness can grow out of all proportion until it becomes all-consuming and can make you feel completely vulnerable, weak, unloved and bitter. When negative thoughts are allowed to grow out of proportion like this you are in fact digging a deep hole which is hard to then get out of. It is not impossible to get out of but it does make it much more of an effort to do. It is far easier to not allow it to take over than to rectify it when it has, so always, no matter what your life circumstances are or how down you feel, practice finding the positives in your life. Concentrate for a while on what you are grateful for. If you are breathing you should be grateful so no one should say ever that they are not grateful for something. If you have life you have the ability to change it. Perhaps not immediately but a day at a time is all any of us can really take. We need to choose to be responsible for our own happiness and to make decisions to change the things that pull us down. If we can’t change what has happened we can change how we look at it and how quickly we enable ourselves to move on. To live life we can choose to capitalise on our strengths or focus on our weaknesses. It is our life and our choice but only one will bring happiness. What would you choose?

To friends New and Old

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It is not too late to develop new friendships or reconnect with people.

Morrie Schwartz.

As we go through life we attach and sometimes detach from people who were once important to us. This can happen for a variety of reasons, some because of differences perceived or real and sometimes it is that we simply just drift apart. Occasionally you can let others influence how you think and react and instead of taking action, do nothing to preserve or maintain something that once was very important to you because of their influence over you.

I have learned a lot of valuable lessons over the years but none more so than this. I have found that I have to base my feeling towards people on how I personally find them to be and not on how others tell me they are. Sounds simple enough but actually it is quite difficult as people who are close to you can for one reason or another try to guide you in a direction which they believe is best for you. They truly believe that it is for the best but in actual fact it is really what is best for them and meets their needs and not necessarily your own. This is never beneficial because it fails for two reasons. If they are right and you are better away from the person or people you need to learn this for yourself in order to feel satisfied that you have made the right decision to move on. If they are wrong you have sacrificed a friendship for no reason other than to meet someone else’s needs.

Whatever decisions you make in life make sure that you base them on how it affects you. It is never too late to admit if you were wrong in your judgment of someone and try to make amends. It is possible with new learning to reconnect and in fact have a stronger relationship than before with a clearer understanding of each other’s needs. Equally it is important to recognize when new bonds and new friendships need to be created and to let go of ones you have grown apart from. The choice should always be your own and you should never allow others to box in your choices or options. So if there has been someone you have been thinking about and have been meaning to call, call them. Do not think that you have left it too long. Go learn for yourself whether you have or find perhaps that they in fact they have been thinking about you too. It is far better to know one way or the other than to forever live feeling uncertain. Alternatively, if you have moved to a new area or perhaps friends have moved make a concerted effort to get out, join clubs or classes that will help you to meet and connect to others and find new friends. Always take positive action that increases your happiness rather than decreases  it and you can’t go far wrong.

Seeing both sides now.

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My Grandmother had a saying “It doesn’t matter how thinly you slice the bread, there are always two sides”. When I was younger it used to drive me mad as usually she would say it to me when I was repeating some bit of gossip or information I had heard at school or at the local shops. To me everything was very black and white .It was either right or it was wrong and I believed tales that people recounted without question. I didn’t tell lies so why should other people? As I grew older I began to realise the wisdom in her words. It really wasn’t about telling lies, at least not always. Seldom people deliberately set out to lie to you when they recount what has happened to them and apportion blame to whomever or whatever they believe caused it to happen. It is just how they actually see it. They will tell you a story based on their values and beliefs and how it appeared to them but if you were to take a survey of other people who may have been present at the incident, you would get varying accounts of what each had or had not seen and all would believe they were telling the truth. The police find this all the time when they take witness statements. There could have been a robbery and a whole lot of people may have witnessed it, yet it they had not had a chance to talk to each other, each person present could give similar yet different accounts. These can be differences in the size of the person, their clothing and even colouring and accent. If however the witnesses have chatted to each other before giving their statements to the police then they will start to follow and actually believe what the person or people in the group with the most conviction remembers. This is why it is important for police to try to speak to people before they have had the chance to speak with each other. They do not deliberately change their statements it is just in fact human nature to be easily led to do so by someone else’s strong conviction of the truth, even if this is actually a misplaced conviction.

If this is a problem with a lot of witnesses imagine how hard it is when you are hearing one person’s account of a situation against another person’s account? Who is telling you the truth? Mostly you will find that in many situations, unless it is a crime where one person commits a definitely criminal act against another, the truth is somewhere in the middle of both sides. Rather than cause further pain to both injured parties it is often wiser to just be a good listener and not to take sides. Taking sides usually just results in more fighting and more upset for all involved. If you can be supportive, without judgement it will help others to heal quicker. Yes their ex may have been horrible but constantly agreeing what a bad person they were and what a fool they made of them is not going to help them move on healthier and happier. It just increases their feelings of unhappiness and spirals people further down in to a bigger darker hole, making it harder to climb out. Equally telling them not to be daft and that you can’t believe it of the other person will also have the same effect of increasing feelings of hurt and isolation. So whilst you may have an opinion it is far kinder not to actually express it other than to agree it is time to move on as clearly whatever the reason it was unhealthy for them to stay in that particular relationship.

So how does this affect us as individuals? Well when we feel that we have been hurt or treated unfairly by a partner, ex-spouse, family member, friend, colleague, the list can go on, it is important for us to realise that this is just how we feel and that the person that hurt us might truly believe that they are in the right. No amount or arguing or debating will change that and it will not help us to hold on to the hurt. That is not to say that we allow it to continue and take no action. It is just that trying to get the blame to lie with another is a waste of time. It will not in the long term ease the pain, in fact it actually makes it worse as it can be unfair to both parties .A lot of precious time and energy can be spent trying to get someone to recognise how they have wronged or hurt us and it achieves nothing as they may well still believe they are in the right. It is far better to look at how you allowed it to happen in the first place. To recognise what it is that you need to learn positively from the experience that will enable you to move on with life stronger and happier? Take back control of your life by taking back your personal responsibility.

None of us can actually control the actions of another person, not even of those that we love. All we can ever hope to do is to be able to control our own reactions and to make sure that we learn from our past mistakes. By accepting this we take back our own personal power and reduce the ability of others to cause us lingering pain. We learn to thrive rather than just survive and surely that is the best motivation of all to start today, to let go of past perceived hurt, pain or regret and move forward building as we go a happier, healthier more fulfilling life.

Learning to Communicate .Part Two

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Don’t make assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Miguel Angel Ruiz

It is all too easy to become a mind reader. To say something to someone and because we do not get the response or the reaction that we have anticipated, we suddenly start to “mind read” them which means that we make up reasons for why we think that they are behaving or responding the way they are. These judgments are based on our beliefs and values and insecurities not theirs and so are seldom accurate.  We  begin to think that they are doing this because of whatever reason we have conjured up or they are not doing this because of  and  again we conjure up another reason. We might be right but we are just as likely to be completely wrong. Seldom do we stop and think that perhaps they have not understood what we have said or they didn’t understand the importance of it and that maybe just maybe the reason for that was that we just did not communicate it as well as we thought we had. We must not be afraid to express how we feel and to say it clearly. There is seldom little point in being so subtle that your point is missed entirely unless you are attempting to be the next James Bond and you are on a secret mission. Even then I doubt he would have much success this way.

If we mind read someone we are being completely unfair to them and to ourselves. We can create problems where none actually exist and cause ourselves and them a lot of unnecessary pain and embarrassment. So why do we do it?  Mostly it is fear of something. It can be fear of rejection, ridicule or judgment. We are scared to say exactly what we mean in case they don’t agree with us and so dance around it in an attempt to gather more information and check to see if we are on the same wavelength or not before we attempt to honestly say what we feel or think .If we were being honest with ourselves though, we need to ask the question why would we want to be with someone romantic or simply a friend who was not on the same wave length as us? What benefit is there to having to conceal our true personality, thoughts and feelings? If we express ourselves truthfully and they ridicule or reject us surely we have just saved ourselves a lot of time and potential heartache?

To be happy in life we need to learn to be true to ourselves and not hide away pretending to be something we are not. We should recognize that we all have our strengths and weaknesses and not be afraid to express ourselves honestly. This enables us to learn from past mistakes and move forward in life, happier, healthier and more confidently. To be able to do this we need to communicate well with others and to do that we need to be fair and honest. Say what we mean and be prepared to listen to the other person’s point of view and perhaps learn from it. If a friend or a partner has done something that has hurt us we need to be able to sit with them and explain why we feel the way that we do and not just react without giving them a chance to explain their actions. We may find that they were completely unaware of how strongly we felt and had no ill intent .Instead of reacting to people and situations instantly it helps to calmly sit and discuss what is going on and learn from it. Do not create unnecessary drama and heartache in your life when by simply taking the time to chat you could find out one way or another what is really going on and why. If someone refuses to communicate with you, then let it be known that you are open for discussion and then leave it up to them. There is no point in chasing after or worrying about someone who will not give you the opportunity to explain yourself or their actions. Let it go and get on with your life. You will find that it may eventually then get resolved but it certainly won’t if you keep going at it without a pause.

When it is a marriage or a close relationship that has broken down it is important to be clear and not hostile in any communications. It really doesn’t matter who is to blame for the break up particularly if there are children involved. What matters more is that if you still need to communicate with each other for whatever reason that you do it in a straightforward way. It is wiser not to have a hidden agenda as they will only hurt you in the end. Be honest and as fair as you can be and you will at least respect yourself, if not the other party. At the end of the day it is how you behave that will make you feel good or bad about yourself when you reflect on it in the future. To allow you to be happy in the future always make sure that you can look back and know that you did your best. Learning how to communicate honestly and directly is one of the basic keys to happiness and well worth practicing daily.

Dealing with Stress

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Yesterday I watched a very interesting video on stress and how it was not in fact a negative thing if you didn’t view it as such .Seems a strange thing to say as for many years we have been told that stress is a killer. We need to de stress our lives. Take up yoga, Thai chi meditate anything in fact to reduce our stress and let us live longer. This interesting video turns all that around and reports a recent study which has shown that people who believe stress is a killer are more likely to die from it than those who just see it as part of life and deal with it.

I am an Neuro Linguistic Practitioner and from an NLP point of view that is what we were taught, it makes perfect sense. Your brain and what you believe decides how well or how badly you will respond to any situation and how much you will learn positively and get out of life .The decision is yours to make. So in the case of stress it would seem if you believe it can kill you it will. We have a lot to learn from this study as it impacts all areas of our lives and can have a huge positive effect on us all if we learn how to improve our way of thinking by watching it.

My husband ,who is a Doctor doesn’t like to tell his patients how well or how badly he thinks they will do with certain treatment ,as he believes that will interfere with how well they can potentially do if they are not limited by limiting /negative beliefs. So for example if someone has had a stroke and lost the use of his arm and the scan shows it might never work again rather than say that to his patient my husband would say “some people do not recover the use of their arm after a stroke such as this but others manage to get movement let’s see how well you will do”. He has found that people can surprise you as long as you do not set them a limit. I find the same with clients. Take back control of your life  acknowledge that although there are problems there are also lots of ways of getting round, over and through them as long as you are determined to find a way. Sometimes we pay too much attention to the limits other people set for us not recognising that these my well be their limits but that does not make them ours, unless of course we choose to believe that they are.

Sometimes people will deliberately try and limit us for various reasons, jealousy, fear of losing us, not wanting to admit they need to try harder themselves. The list can go on and on but the important thing to remember is to make your own decisions and choices as you are the one going to have to live with the consequences as well as the benefits. So it is as well to make sure you give your all and have no regrets. As Audrey Hepburn is quoted as saying “Nothing is impossible the very word says I’m possible”.

If you are interested in watching the video I am talking about here is the link.

http://www.upworthy.com/a-whole-new-way-to-think-about-stress-that-changes-everything-weve-been-taught-2?g=5

There is also a very good book about the mind and the body written by Dr David Hamilton called” it’s the thought that counts.” Below is a link to Amazon uk where you can read a bit more about it.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Its-The-Thought-That-Counts/dp/1401916295/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391976043&sr=8-1&keywords=its+the+thought+that+counts

When humour turns bad.

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Humour is a wonderful and powerful thing. It can get you through tough times and help create bonds between people. It can lift your spirit and change gloomy days to happier ones. It is a great coping ability to have. But, when it is used to ridicule or tease someone with intent to make them feel bad then I consider it to become a very dangerous thing indeed. I use the word dangerous deliberately as it is an insidious way to knock someone’s self-confidence and create doubt whilst keeping at a safe distance from the victim. The attacker can always use humour and their victim’s lack of it as an excuse for their behaviour. Leaving the person attacked by it feeling vulnerable and angry. It also fails to resolve the initial problem that initiated the “humorous” response in the first place. So the person who set out to hurt or deflate his victim with the attack has a momentary but unsustainable high as the problem still exists or has been made worse.

“Sarcasm I now see to be, in general ,the language of the devil; for which reason I have long since as good as renounced it”.

So says Thomas Carlyle who clearly may have been hurt by someone’s sarcastic comments. I don’t quite see the devils involvement but it can be very hurtful when used against individuals in the form of personal attack.

If someone has done something to upset, hurt or annoy you then it is far better to deal with it face to face. Reasonably and calmly explain what has happened and try together to find a way to resolve any issues. Bring in a neutral third party if required or go to a mediator but do not be fooled in to thinking that by using various sarcastic attacks you are going to remedy the issue and gain permanent satisfaction.

This solution is of course for those who are feeling genuinely aggrieved and who have resorted to sarcasm as a poor means of communication. There are others though that have an innate desire to pull people down for various reasons but inevitably because they can’t face their own inadequacies or failures and so can’t bear to see others succeed or be praised or get any form of recognition that they themselves desire but have no ability to receive, perhaps because they do not give of themselves enough to ever be in the same position as those they envy.

This is bad enough when the person attacking you is a stranger or even and ex friend. An ex-partner often falls in to the poor communication or anger category and usually this  can be resolved by mediation or if this is not possible then  simply just let them go, cut them out of your social circles, social network sites and anything else you could have communication with them in and move on.

What though if it is a close family member? How then do you deal with it? Well again communication is the key but if this has been tried and failed then for me the answer is the same as I would say for anyone being hurt or harassed, move on and no longer communicate with them. If need be cut all ties with them unless they develop the ability to communicate in a normal, healthy fashion .I appreciate that the thought of this can be daunting but living with someone putting you down on a daily basis is no way to live your life. It can and will create all sorts of personal issues for you and will more than likely never be resolved unless you remove yourself from the situation. It is unhealthy for them and for you. When I was younger I remember hearing older people say to friends struggling with family issues ”you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family”. This is true but that doesn’t mean that you have to stay and put up with negative behaviour. Sometimes people develop a negative way of talking to each other without actually realising how destructive it actually is. By creating space it can give each person a chance to examine their behaviour and decided whether any aspect of it needs to change. If they can’t recognise the need to change and you can no longer tolerate it then it is far better and safer to be away from them and the situation, than risk it degenerating in to something more physical. When an individual has to deal with sarcasm daily it can and often does lead to physical altercations. The inability to be clearly heard or to be able to express oneself without ridicule can and does make people very angry and brings out frustration often as aggression. So take yourself away from a situation where you are likely to lose control. Sometimes we simply need to recognise that there are some people with whom we will never be able to communicate and leave it at that. We should stop trying to explain ourselves and our actions, rise above their level and move on.