How to be present when others are losing it

Do you struggle to know how to be present with someone when they are upset or angry, or when you are tired or going through it yourself? I’m very often struck by how people can lack the ability to “be with” people emotionally, especially those who work professionally with people in challenging situations. It’s like our buttons get pushed or we feel inadequate or lack the resources we need. Somehow, people say, they “aren’t qualified” to handle it.

It will be all right

It will be all right

When people kick off

I remember once on a Gestalt training course unpacking a whole load of grief around the impact of divorce on my contact with my younger son, and how I verbalised it to the group in a way that the facilitator later said she was “out of it” for the duration of my work. I recall she was a parent herself. So this can challenge even seasoned professionals. Luckily I had another who  worked with me.

Yet this doesn’t just apply to professionals. Anybody can face this at times. What about when your partner kicks off about some hurt or pain and it’s you that happens to be there – and they need you to be there? What do you do? Do you do what so many do, and shift about uncomfortably, tell people “not to mind” and “it will be OK”, and not get upset, etc? Who are you really helping here, the person kicking off, or actually you yourself? Are you really telling them to stop?

What we don’t like is being faced with powerful emotions that tap into our own stuff, especially if it touches our own doubts and inadequacies. Yet, there are resources available, if you choose to access them.

Being resourceful: self awareness and self management

One is self awareness and self management, in this case the ability to be aware of your own process and how your buttons can get triggered by other people’s stuff. It helps to know yourself enough to know what is your stuff in this situation, of course! This is often all about personal development – that doing your own journey bit, dare I say, that many of us are today afraid to do. It is also about how you self manage, in this case choose not to get caught up in your own stuff but put it on one side, the rule of epoché in Gestalt terms.

Presence

Another is the ability to be present, to be right there in the moment, thoughts and feelings on pause (I’ll say more about that in a moment), in the “here and now”, still in yourself, centred, at One as I keep writing on this blog, connected with some energy  centre or chakra within like your heart centre region or, in the case of powerful emotion, perhaps your power centre in the  solar plexus region. So that you are aligned with  Source as you are “with” another. “Being with” is all about being present with them. So you are truly “with” them, in support, with mind, body and soul, right there in the moment.

Empathy and respect

Your stance matters hugely too. So think about  it. Here is needed Carl Rogers’ empathy and unconditional positive regard. So you respect utterly the  other person right there where they are and what is going on for them. No judgement (this can be tough, but it really matters). No conditions attached. In fact  you  are unattached to everything, including how you feel. You have to let go of all that. And you empathise with them, which is to seek as far as humanly possible to see things from their perspective, although  you cannot “know how they feel”. Thus you can hear their story. And you hear it like you get it. So that they feel heard, which is what so many people need. They may not need to be fixed (which is what so many men try to do  with  women, by the way!). Here’s where you truly stop and be with them in their pain.

Then they will feel supported. You don’t have to take their side, or agree with them, or blame them. Just be there. In peace, bringing peace. Om shanti.

I coach people and give training in these core skills. To contact  me, click here

Hope and possibility are always there

When in the midst of winter the snowdrops start to flower, as they are here now, there’s a sense of the first shoots of spring whilst it’s still being cold and grey, like an image of hope and possibility for us. It can seem for some that all there is is grey when in reality new beginnings are already there. Spring buds are already forming. Daffodil shoots are growing. The cycle of nature is already in action for the next opening to its own magnificence. As they say, behind the clouds the sun is always shining.

Snowdrops

Snowdrops

Having hope and possibility is a shift of perception, a change in our thoughts. When things seem bad, there is always another way of seeing the situation. What we can lack is the ability to let go of our concern and regard how things might be from another perspective. This is not to say that winter is a bad thing, but that it is common in winter for difficulties to seem more real and present. Depression, for example, can be particularly strong at this time. Outside is cold and dark and we shrink within and if within is not a very happy place we can feel that more.

Losing hope can bring us to the pit of despair, where it can seem like nothing can be done and nothing can change. People in relationships that aren’t working, or in jobs they don’t like, or with health conditions that seem constantly bad, or money worries or faced with the prospect of undesired possibilities coming up – all these and more can leave us depressed and unhappy.

Life will throw up these challenges and yet the human spirit endures. We do get through these things. Circumstances change. Nothing in life is constant. We have the capacity to feel great or immense sadness. Awful though it can seem, we do have choice as to how we deal with the situations we encounter. On the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, I am reminded of how inmates had to endure immense privations and some of those used for slave labour or other hideous activities did survive. In Man’s Search for Meaning, a former inmate Viktor Frankl showed how although we may not be responsible for the situation in which we find ourselves, we are responsible for how we deal with it. Whatever is going on for us, life’s purpose is the meaning we make of it. We can either have despair or we can change how we see it, and make even the more unsatisfactory seeming situations part of the joy of our life! It is all about the thought we have, the meaning we make, our state of being.

So, in the midst of winter, the spring shoots are already there. There is always hope and possibility. There is always another meaning.

When you adopt a mindful perspective, you learn to let go, witness your thoughts, be present with what is, and know within you the joy that is always there.

I give coaching to help people change their mindsets and build a more hopeful and positive outlook and attitude to life and to create more positive outcomes. To contact me, click here.

Is the love-hate relationship between peoples out of control today?

Am I imagining it or is the love-hate balance tipping too far towards hate? Are you feeling uncomfortable about the seeming rise in antagonism towards minorities? Where’s the love and peace? We seem to be in the middle of one of those phases in public life where there’s a desire to blame the ills of life on scapegoats, be they Muslims, benefit claimants, Roma gypsies, immigrants, another religion, another nationality or whoever. Equally we have extremists who have fundamentalist outlooks and see themselves engaged in some climatic struggle against the forces of evil. So, how do we respond from a mindful perspective?

Just recently Muslim fundamentalists in Paris killed a number of journalists for publishing cartoons of the Prophet and attacked a Kosher supermarket. Around the world there’s been protests: “Je suis Charlie”, banners proclaimed, as many asserted the right to free speech. Others insisted on the right to offend, while many Muslims protested against the insults to their religion. All this of course is great recruiting material for extremism, Muslim, Neo-fascist or whatever. You might get the passions aroused, the mutual indignation, and sense of righteousness.

So what might God think of this? Righteous too on one side or the other, or bemused? I remember some words of a teacher of mine, “the benign indifference of the universe”. Taking “sides” doesn’t really fit from this perspective. S/he might simply be reflecting on how humans experience themselves and s/he too through them.

It’s not so easy to see our own shadow at work, that we too can be like this at times. How often have you flipped from respect to antagonism towards another? It’s hard to acknowledge that we humans have this inside us, that we have both the polarities of love and hate at the ego level. Yet this kind of awareness and humility can be helpful, since change starts with ourselves and releasing hate within us. Then we can more truthfully love. As Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”, and he campaigned through non-violence.

There’s also a clue here, about our state of being. If you breathe, step back and witness all this, what are you aware of? I don’t know, but there might be you being aware of having just taken a breath and paused, and then a remembrance of all those thoughts about humans in the world of duality, of being polarised, and love and hate, and all that stuff. And here’s you, being more present and aware.

So, that stuff is not all of you. There’s also you, being present. So you can change your state of being, just like that.

So, there’s all that love-hate stuff “out there”, and “in here”, now here, not nowhere, there’s another sense of who you are.

You could explore “now here”, mindfully, and not be caught up in “out there”. The world of duality, the world of illusion, is how we experience life at the level of ego. But it doesn’t have to be like that. The more we live “now here” the more connected to love we are likely to feel. Then we can manifest “as That” when we make contact with those “out there” who might still be caught up in ego. We can feel God within, whatever our belief system and however we understand it, and we can also see God in each other too.

Then we can be at peace, which by the way is one meaning of the word “Islam”.

Is being yourself really scary?

People are it seems really confused around the issue of identity and authenticity, especially when communicating with or presenting themselves to others. The comment “just be yourself”, sounds very simple but is actually a minefield for many of us. Being yourself can mean to enter into a state of authentic being, but you might not be able to work out what that is or how you do it. To put yourself out there in a genuine way can feel very scary since we can feel very vulnerable and we don’t know how it will go down with others. What if we get ridicule or hostility?

Being yourself can be tricky

It’s all the more  tricky when various “celebrities” and PR-savvy people seem to be doing a pretty good job of it, with whom we compare ourselves negatively, until that is we hear that there’s a crisis of confidence in public figures, a cynicism and distrust which seems to suggest that actually what we’re getting isn’t truly honest and authentic. This is often described as the age of narcissism, the false self, self-absorbed and “me first” orientated, presenting some seemingly convincing image but actually wrought with anxiety about whether it is “good enough”. Many people are now asking for honesty and trustworthiness. If you are presenting a “self” that people don’t get, there’s a problem.

Knowing who you are

Being  yourself presupposes you know who you are. Do you know who the being is who you are trying to be?! That can need working out and it isn’t necessarily easy, especially knowing where to start. It’s really important to do some training where you need to share with others in a group and part of the work to involve sharing yourself authentically. It is in groups that you can get the feedback, and people can be very straight about what’s missing. You can learn from that. It’s also important to work on getting connected with yourself emotionally, to sense how you are really feeling, and learn to trust what your body and your feelings are telling you in any given situation. Then learn to express that, so that what you then share is connected with all levels of your being.

At all levels

This brings us to the importance of knowing yourself at all levels of your being, which is not only intellectual and rational but also emotional and sensed as stated above, and also spiritual. Sensing your spiritual side is unfashionable but something that people can sense intuitively. Thus when you are connected at all levels and speak from there, you open yourself to connect with all levels of the other person too, and to others in a group for example. This is the level of the connectedness we have with all others, in the sense that we are all One. So when you are thus connected, you are in touch with a force that we all know even if not consciously, and people can feel almost automatically drawn to you. This is arguably the challenge of the modern age, to use this age of instant communication to connect with all people through our Oneness. To be so aware of being yourself brings a whole new dimension to knowing yourself and being yourself.

Thus real authenticity is to be complete at all levels of your Being, so that you can truly be your Self.

You can still opt out of it all if you choose, and go and find and be yourself on your own or with like-minded. But you might at some level still find yourself needing to deal with the challenge of connecting with less like-minded people. After all, what we resist, we get.

I give coaching to help people overcome their fears, be themselves and communicate effectively with others. To contact me, click here.

Do you need to change your lifestyle before stress does?

Are the warning signs flashing that you need to change your lifestyle before stress gets the better of you and brings about some unwelcome change? In fact are you heeding the signs? People don’t always see that the signs are there, that what was previously OK about how they were living and working is now no longer OK. We think we can cope and assume things can be as they have been so far, when in fact the body is protesting and the style is draining it of the ability to be able to cope. What is important is that we make the necessary changes before we are not in a position to choose.

Our bodies are designed to cope with short-term stress, such as an emergency, where the body generates hormones to enable us to respond appropriately. However what many of us do is live at a pace and pressure that makes the stress response more of a norm. It can even be addictive, the “buzz” of the hormones powering through us. It might be OK when our work is going well and we are enjoying ourselves, but when the stimuli get more negative, the body starts to react negatively too. Over time this can store up illness and eventually be dangerous. Little signs like catching colds, sleeplessness, aches and pains, excess of smoking, alcohol and eating, tense muscles, irritability, out-of-character behaviour, are just the early signs. You want to take action before you find you have some serious health condition.

It’s not so easy since we have often conditioned ourselves to tolerate a certain lifestyle that makes stress part of the architecture. For example we set ourselves expectations for our housing choices, where we live, or schooling for our kids and accept certain kinds of travel and types of jobs, or we want particular kinds of careers and these have consequences for our lifestyle, or we find it difficult to get the right balance between work and free time and/or family time. For some of us we treat stress as part of the territory, not realising how it can over time harm us.

Then we wake up and realise that all this doesn’t work. Then there’s the issue of how to change it, before it’s too late. That too can be stressful, which shows how caught up in all this we can get! We run up against the conditions or expectations we set for ourselves, like we believe we “must”have certain things in our lives for it all to work, conditions which are actually costing us.

It’s all about stepping back from it all, pausing and letting go, and then asking ourselves what we really want.

People often say what asked that last question that all that really matters is love, relationship, peace and the timeless little things, seemingly of little consequence when busy and stressed, and which we therefore forget about, but which actually have real meaning for us. Like sitting and looking at some scenery just down the road, a walk in the park, holding hands with your loved one, being still…

Today’s life has disconnected us from who we really are. It’s time to reclaim it.

I give coaching to people who want to re-balance their lives, get off the stress treadmill, and find a calmer, more meaningful life. To contact me, click here.

Do you worry that your mind keeps you awake?

It’s a dilemma when you can’t sleep at night because your mind is busy, and then you start to worry that your mind is keeping you awake. Your mind might be churning things over and then you’re fearful that it is doing this and stopping you sleeping. Worrying that we can’t sleep is a major factor in insomnia, and having a busy mind is a major contributor to the problem. It’s a very good reason to learn to manage your mind and is where mindfulness can be so powerful.

You might for example lie down after a busy day in which you have been very mentally active and then find yourself staying awake, unable to sleep, or so it seems, your mind going over certain issues that are concerning you. Then, as time ticks by, and the thought that you need to be up early comes to you, there’s that stabbing feeling in your gut as you feel the anxiety that this thinking is keeping you awake, that you’ve got a sleepless night ahead and that you still have to get up early. It’s like that deadline gives you an imperative that you must sleep and you believe you need that sleep, and still you’re thinking things over, and you’re worried that you’re doing it!

Time to pause and get what’s going on! And let go!

Not so easy until you’ve done some work on all this and can see the pattern, what you’re doing to yourself, and can interrupt that pattern and work to manage your thoughts and let go. It takes, in a sense, training and practice.

The idea that we can manage our thoughts can be a challenging one to people who feel they are prisoners to their thoughts. Yet this is precisely what we need to do. Very often it is about becoming aware that your mind is busy, catching yourself doing it, challenging the pattern and stopping it in some way. It is something that can be consciously done, but as I said, it needs awareness – and coaching.

Mindfulness practice plays a big part, learning to be aware of your thoughts but not caught up in them. With mindfulness you can become the aware witness of your thoughts, but unattached to them, so that they can pass you by. This too takes practice, and meditation is a very valuable tool to help you learn to do it effectively.

Then you know you have inside you a calm, steady, centred place that you can go to. You can learn to let go of thinking and be still and in the moment. You can let go of thinking and of anxiety too, and be present. You can be unattached to deadlines, and to how things “ought” to be, and just let things be, just as they are.

As you calm yourself and let go of thoughts, you can then let your natural sleepiness to come to you, of its own accord.

Just as we can have bliss be present too, our natural joy and contentment.

I give coaching to help people manage their minds and practice mindfulness. To contact me, click here.

Do you relate well to others?

Do you relate well to others personally and at work? Do you inspire, lead and motivate them well, or do you struggle in the “people” aspect of your job? It’s common for people to minimise this part but it’s crucial to things going well.

Business leaders have finally woken up to the fact that “soft skills” make a big difference to the bottom line, after years in which people have denied its importance and minimised the value of such training and coaching. Many in the Learning and Development industry will of course be thinking “told you so”, but it must still be a cause for celebration for many that at last the truth is out in the open, and it needs all the support it can get.

It is now being argued in a new campaign by employers that coaching and training in such areas as communication, initiative, interacting with customers and team working can make an impact to the value of £88 billion a year in increased productivity and reduced operating costs. It is said that this is particularly so in businesses that rely on “face-to-face human interaction.” An example of this relates to the field of Emotional Intelligence (EI). Research has been showing for a long time now that EI is far more important than IQ in terms of a leader’s capabilities, in the proportion of 85% to 15%.

My own experience as a coach has shown how true this is. One example is how time gets lost in needless conflict between managers and between their teams. Only when the managers have resolved their differences and found a better way of working together have results improved. I’ve often seen how personal differences get played out in intra-organisational issues. Another is where a manager believes that to manage effectively (s)he has to be strong to the point of bullying the team, and fails to build relationships and rapport with his or her team and results through such methods as simple positive motivation and encouragement.

Key to EI is self awareness, the ability to know your own strengths and weaknesses, but built on that key foundation is self management, the ability to self manage and act appropriately, and social awareness, in particular empathy, to understand and get alongside others. Then the fourth key area comes into play, the ability to build good relationships at work.

People need to get comfortable working with emotions, whereas historically they were viewed with suspicion by senior managers. A business that has a positive emotional climate is where people feel good to be there, where they feel connected to and supported by one another, where they feel safe to be themselves and feel confident in what they are about and where they are going, where they can be open and honest and trust one another, where they willingly collaborate to make things happen, and where their abilities are recognised and rewarded. That’s not done just by throwing money at it. It’s done by building engagement, involvement and commitment. That kind of organisation has a positive emotional climate, communicates well and gets good results from its people. It is very likely well-led.

I give coaching to build EI skills. To contact me, click here.+

Do you feel dumped upon emotionally by other people?

Do you often find that you’re dumped upon by someone? Like it’s their stuff but somehow you’ve got the problem, particularly if they have the knack of making it look like it’s your problem, or you have a way of taking it on board and thinking it is your problem. It’s easy to feel the victim in such circumstances but not so easy to hand the problem back to the other person, especially if you are not so assertive. Then if we try to hand it back, it comes back at us big time!

It helps if we can pause and see what’s really happening.

Feeling at fault

You might for example be one who easily feels “at fault” in situations and blames yourself. You might too readily take the blame. You might not feel so good in yourself and so when another directs anger or upset at you and implies that you are the “cause”, you might quickly act as if it is really you and your problem that has made this happen. You might too readily say “sorry” and apologise, to reinforce the other person’s sense of righteousness. They may act as the innocent party.

You might want to please the other person so as to preserve a good atmosphere and avoid conflict and angry exchanges. You might be afraid of their anger and thus give way too easily or endure their anger and moods to get a quiet life.

It’s not so easy in all this to take a step back and see what’s really going on. Yet this is what we need to do, be the witness.

So, let’s pause.

Pause…breathe in deep…breathe out long…and do that again…and let go…and allow the truth to be present.

Co-created

Problems in relationship, whether at work or at home, are co-created. We together make it happen, although it feels like it is the other person or us ourselves. Angry, aggressive, critical, irritable people tend to get together with people in the opposite polarity, more non-assertive, more passive, quieter, more peaceable-seeming. Some grab the power, others give it away, and one gets together with the other. Yet, we’re both doing it.

To break the cycle, one of us needs to step outside of the racket, see it, stop it, and let go of it.

Projection

We also need to see that each is a projection of the other, our shadow. Yes, we may take on board others’ stuff too easily, but we don’t find it so easy to see that we can be like that too, but tend to disown it and project it on to others. The key is to take back our power, be more assertive, but also acknowledge that the stuff we experience from others is also our own. “There I go too”.

This point may seem abstruse to the point of obscurity, but is very often the case. What we experience in others belongs to us too. There is usually a grain of truth. It can take a lot to see it, and it may not be the same as what we find in others but it can contain an element that is important to us. When we find it and express it more authentically it can be a great breakthrough, a blessing even. It may not be nasty and it can be simply be a power that others appreciate and find good.

We also need to recognise that we are taking on board other people’s stuff too, and of course hand it back. The art is to get off the “blame game” racket.

When we find truth in a situation, there is calm and peace. All is OK, because we feel OK. We have re-claimed ourselves, and know who we are. Then we can more easily love one another.

I give coaching in handling relationships, both at work and personally. To contact me, click here.

Are we losing our ability to have empathy and to connect?

We must have all done it, a family gathering at Christmas and at a quiet moment you come into the room and everybody is on their phones or tablets, with snippets of conversation in between. Perfectly normal, you might think: everybody is wishing friends a Happy Christmas. Except that that is what occurs a lot right through the year where people are together or alone. This world is now getting brilliantly connected. Yet do we notice any disconnect with others we’re with?

Being a big user myself but also a coach of relationship and interpersonal dynamics, I’m frequently observing what occurs in the use of the gadget in one’s hand. As the law now recognises, people can’t effectively concentrate on driving and use a mobile phone. The focus gets drawn into the latter and people miss crucial and sudden events on the road, with sometimes fatal results. When we focus on our gadget, our attention is drawn away from what is occurring around us.Thus we are at best only partially present to those around us. To another, it can feel, if they are so bothered, that “the lights are on but nobody is at home”.

The “inner world” of the phone or tablet is very absorbing. It is also very addictive. It’s now reckoned that people up to the age of 18 now spend over 7 hours a day so connected. However, more concerning is the potential cost to interpersonal relationships. It has been found from social-scientific studies by Sarah Konrath that there are now 40% lower levels of empathy for the age group under 30, that is roughly the so-called Generation Y, than earlier age groups had. It is also being suggested that people are losing the ability to cope with “doing nothing” and where we don’t have a distraction.

Empathy is arguably the crucial area of development for people interpersonally, and a fundamental aspect of emotional intelligence. As we grow and mature, we realise more and more the need to understand and relate to others and take their needs into account. Empathy is the ability to tune into another and get a sense of where they are coming from, to gain some awareness of their perspective. Without “social awareness”, people can struggle to connect at a meaningful level and others may sense they do not really have a relationship with them in a way that fulfills.

Being connected with others is not a digital occurrence although that is one way we can communicate. What is crucial is the ability to be present and aware of another, right now, in the moment, person to person, in the room, with all our senses engaged, and with our thinking, feeling and behaviour. We hear, see, feel, smell and taste another. Psychologically we are “there” for another, available, conscious, valuing, caring. We notice what happens for another. We respond appropriately. We become attuned and resonate, and become as one.

You don’t get all that from a screen.

The challenge is that there are many who don’t have good levels of empathy. It’s a major weakness for those in business, for example. Leaders who lack empathy are poor leaders at the people level. If you are in a job where people skills matter, it can be costly. In personal relationships it is what makes for a good relationship: how often do you hear people complain that their partners are not “there” for them when they need them?

The danger is that people don’t know what they are not aware of. Thus building self awareness is an important starting point, and getting feedback from others.

I give coaching to help people develop their emotional intelligence and their relationships with others, personally and in work. To contact me, click here.

Do you not relate well to others?

Do you find that in some area of your life you lack the ability to relate well to others? You’d not be alone, since our ability or inability to connect with others is something that is the cause of much heartache and conflict in our society and in organisations. For some it is about avoiding making effective connections and for others it is where they overdo it and cause harm. Some people are for example reserved or non-assertive while others can be aggressive.

A key underlying issue can be due to a lack of emotional intelligence, our self-awareness, how we manage ourselves, our awareness of others and how we build relationships with them.

Emotional intelligence is often described as the distinguishing feature of good leaders in organisations, and yet it is not one that figures amongst those that leaders themselves express, the latter more often judging themselves and being judged by their results. As one client client said it to me once, “I deliver but I leave bodies”. However this perception can mask the underlying contribution to success of EI, since it is arguably not so obvious and can be dismissed in business macho cultures as “soft skills”. What matters, it is implied, is “hard” results. Coaches know otherwise since they are so often working with their clients to connect more with their “soft” side and in that of others in order to get better at the hard end, as this article shows.

In personal relationships, what can be key is our ability to be aware of what is going on inside us, especially emotionally, to manage ourselves and our feelings, to sense and empathise with what is also going on for another and build a connection where there is authentic resonance, where we truly get one another.

When I start coaching people I often find it is in this seemingly scary arena of our emotional life in relationship that can be a minefield for people. Thus it pays to unpick what goes on for people so that they understand and know themselves better. Self awareness is absolutely the most important area to work on. If we don’t know ourselves, we don’t know what to change. With self awareness comes the ability to identify and manage what occurs in us and thus be able to deal with disruptive emotions and be more present, calm and centred. Teaching people self management skills is in itself a course in how to manage life.

At the same time we also explore how we might learn more about what goes on for another, so that we can better relate to another. This requires emotional self awareness since when we know more of our own emotional life we can do the same for others – though, let it be said we never “know how you feel!” But we can ask, find out and respond appropriately. As we tune in better we also learn to manage our responses better. One flows with the other.

Building better relationships is the final arena, and key to people having better personal lives and managing others better at work. It is all about how we connect and build resonance, how we overcome our own and others’ barriers, how we get others on our wavelength and us on their’s, how we tune in and speak their language and help them better understand our’s, how we value others and help them understand our values, how we get others along us, how we resolve conflict and build trust and good everyday communication skills, and how we become more fulfillingly connected.

Then the love can truly flow!

To find out more about my life coaching and my business coaching, click on the links just given and you can contact me here.

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