Conversation with dogs

Differences are good

I have two dogs, a standard poodle and a toy poodle, “Mango” and “Smoothie” don’t ask me about their names… that’s a story for another day and nor are they my password.

The point is the little one “Smoothie” is an identical but ‘shrunken’ version of the big one “Mango” they are a very cute combination.  Whenever you walk these dogs someone will stop you for a chat, initially about the dogs.  The conversations are beautiful, always uplifting and always put a smile on my face.

These spontaneous conversations make me feel connected to humankind, so refreshing when technology although meant to connect us seems to isolate us more instead.

It got me thinking, we could all do with a ‘dog’ icebreaker to help us feel more connected.

Now, I know not everyone is into dogs so hear me out…

I remember an old friend of my mothers’ use to make her own hats.  As a young teenager I thought these hats were … well, to be polite, these hats were pretty ‘out there’ I thought she was quite mad, but thinking about it now, these hats were more than a hat, they were a connector for her in society.  Mum and I often saw her in the street chatting away to one person or another and these conversations always seem to start over her hats.

Feeling connected in this world is vital for our good mental health, maybe it’s time to think about what your ‘dog/hat’ icebreaker could be and start savouring these fabulous spontaneous conversations.

Differences are good

In workshops I love using my Conversation Style Game, M.O.D.E.  We all have different conversation styles: Minders, Organisers, Directors and Enthusiasts and in my workshops, in between the laughter, there are so many comments; ‘that explains so much!’, ‘Now I get you!’ as everyone starts to understand the different conversation styles at play, it’s Emotional Intelligence at work and it’s wonderful to see.

I created M.O.D.E. after my experience working with a boss called Trevor.  Now Trevor like me was also originally from the North of England and when we were in the pub together, outside of work, we got on like a house on fire.  Working together less so…

Over a weekend I would come up with a new idea, (I’m an Enthusiast, Director, I like new stuff and think quickly). First thing Monday morning I would rush into Trevor’s office arms waving saying something along the lines of…

“Trevor, I have this fabulous idea for a new marketing initiative!!!” There was no plan, no numbers, just lots of arm waving and energy.

At 8.30 am Monday morning this was Trevor’s response.

“Tracey, I have not had my coffee or planned my day, go away”

It wasn’t a great working relationship. 

A couple of months later Trevor and I attended a program around behavioural styles it was then I realised we were the complete opposites of each other, (Trevor, is an Organiser, Minder, he’s is measured and likes time to think).  

All I had to do was make some small changes in the way I spoke to Trevor for my ideas to be heard and this is what I did.

Firstly, I went in after 10 am that way he had time for planning and a coffee.

Secondly, I approached Trevor in his communication style which is calmer and without arm waving.

Thirdly, I gave Trevor time to think, I put some numbers on a one-page document, (I’m unlikely to ever go beyond one page) and left it with him to think about.

IT WAS LIKE MAGIC!  

Every time I approach Trevor in this way, I got my ideas across, Emotional Intelligence works!

It turned out once Trevor and I understood and appreciated our differences we become a really powerful team. 

Differences are good

In our relationships, we have communication habits or patterns. We might finish off a partner’s sentence, or have certain topics that are no go areas, some of these communication patterns are cute and endearing, and some are unhealthy. Most are unwritten and unspoken about and they happen over and over again.

(It is especially noticeable when you catch up with a sibling you haven’t seen for a while, those childhood communication patterns come flooding back. I observed this with a friend of mine and his older sister who lives overseas, the moment they met they went into this prodding, tickling encounter, as an only child I thought this weird especially since they were in their 40’s, but that’s a communication pattern for you).

In my marriage, there became an obvious communication pattern.

If ever I wanted to give my husband feedback, this is what would happen:

I give husband feedback……. he counters by giving me feedback….. I apologise.

I realised he wasn’t taking any of my feedback on board and instead, he used attack as best form of defence and I was becoming way too subservient as a result, not healthy.

We chatted about this, and I expressed my frustration, and to his credit, he recognised the pattern we had fallen into.

As a result, we introduced, and both agreed to implementing, the ’24 hour rule’.

It’s very simple, the rule is, if we want to give our partner feedback, we preface it with;

‘this a ’24 hour rule’ conversation’

Which means for 24 hours, our partner cannot come back with feedback for us.

Let me tell you this rule works it forces the other person to think about the feedback they have received, of course, we all want positive feedback. Still, sometimes our nearest and dearest can have valuable things to say that can help us grow as a person, and we need to put ourselves in a position to hear that valuable feedback properly.

Thank you not sorry

I was running a leadership workshop the other day and one woman, I’m going to call her Donna stood out for the wrong reason, she apologised 5 times in the first two hours of the workshop.

First, she was late arriving by 5 mins.  Now I’m sure we are both aligned here, we all want people to turn up to events on time, no one wants to be kept waiting but she wasn’t the only one to arrive at that time,  Sydney’s traffic was particularly awful that day, but she was the only one to apologise. That’s OK I hear you say; she is being polite… and yes, I agree, but so the day went on.

During the first session of the day, we were discussing the importance of vulnerability as a leader, and there was a strong push back particularly from some of the men in the room.

“Sorry, can I say something…” Donna said to join in the conversation shortly followed by

“Sorry for interrupting but…”   then

“Sorry to ask, but…” 

And then the classic one was as Donna was walking to the flipchart, I changed directions as to where I was going in the room, and I bumped into Donna.

“Oh sorry,” said Donna.

You get the picture.  I had a chat with Donna at lunchtime, and she was genuinely surprised by the number of times she had apologised, “I had no idea” she said.  

For Donna ‘sorry’ had become a filler word to use almost to get her conversations started, it was a habit, something she, like most of us, had no doubt been conditioned to say as a child.

And it’s cultural, I grew up in the UK, and we English are known for excessive apologising, one event I have never lived down in my family archives was the time I walked into a lamppost and apologised to the lamppost.  (The lamppost was fine by the way, I had a massive bruise on my forehead, but my family nevertheless thought the apology was hilarious).

We should absolutely apologise for things we have done wrong; these messages should be delivered with sincerity and action.  

The challenge is when we become compulsive with our apologising, they make us appear weaker, particularly at work and in our personal relationships. 

These were the suggestions I gave Donna.

If you are a couple of minutes late, instead of saying sorry say,

“thank you for waiting’” 

In group discussions when you want to join in use.

 “And…”

“Another point of view to consider…”

“I’d like to expand on that…”

“What about considering….”

If you want to complain about something instead of starting with “I’m sorry”.  Start off with “thank you for listening. I want to talk to you about…”

And when someone bumps into you simply smile and say “hello” they’ll feel much less awkward.

In the afternoon session Donna only made one ‘sorry’ we smiled at each other.

These habits are tough to spot in ourselves; they are habits, after all, we do them without thinking.  If you know a beautiful woman who has this habit herself, pass these suggestions on to her, it’s a simple way to help her become more compelling in her conversations.

Giving feedback

There have been several instances recently that has led me to the conclusion that most women are crap at giving feedback, myself included even though I teach communications I recognise it is not easy to do especially if it’s with a friend.  

I think the challenge is we are so concerned we will offend or damage the relationship that we say nothing or when we do, we’ve bottled it up for months and it doesn’t come out well.  Two stories one funny one very sad that makes my point.  The first, the funny one was I was vegetarian for years when I was living in the UK, my family were mortified, (we were a meat and two veg family so taking out the meat was shocking for the family).  My Mum being the beautiful woman she was, made me some lentil burgers, she made them in big batches and stored them in the freezer.  I was so grateful that she had made the effort to accept my vegetarianism that I said they were lovely, and as a result they kept coming year after year, and they were anything but lovely.  I should have been up front, given her a big hug for being thoughtful and laughed with her at these incredibly dry burgers instead I had to cop them for six years, true story.  

The second story is the more important one.  Some women I know are part of a sewing club, I know an unusual club for many of us, just stick with the story.  One of woman is poor socially and can be very abrupt with the group.  Everyone in the group knows this except her! She has this terrible blind spot, and no-one was ever game to let her know the impact she had on those around her. Her behaviour would often result in tension in the sewing group which last week resulted in two of the women leaving because of an ‘incident’ and the club has imploded, a lose-lose situation.  I wondered if someone had said something earlier would the situation have had a better outcome?  Quite possibly.  

I know it can be hard to give feedback, but be brave and consider your intent as your intent is key.

If your intent is to genuinely help someone then a private conversation should go well.  If your intent is really to ‘tell them off’ then success is less likely

And importantly, we need to understand if we are silent, just like the other sewers in the sewing club were over the years, we are actually part of the problem, as our silence says we are OK with the situation.

They say feedback is a gift, let’s see if we can make it feel that way and help each other be the best version of ourselves. X

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-04-27/philosophy-helped-me-leave-my-marriage-quit-my-job/10959868

Colour is the new black

What we wear says lot about us.  I’ve noticed I’ve abandoned the fitted garments for something more comfortable, but don’t worry I’m not yet into the polyester slacks my Mum use to wear, please don’t ever let me get that low.  But comfort is really important and I have abandoned wearing black!

I know, believe me it was a dramatic shift for me, not only is black slimming, it was my default option in my wardrobe.  Actually, black was my wardrobe for my entire life until now… Black suited me it was a colour I could pull off.  The new reality, although depressing initially, was that black doesn’t suit me anymore, it makes me look so much more tired than I was actually feeling, and I hate to use the ‘a’ word but black was aging me. It still took a good girlfriend to give me the hint, well it was more a shove, ‘you should stop wearing black, it doesn’t suit you anymore’ and she was right.

Fast forward 6 months, I’m fully into colour.  I’ve discovered its way more fun than just basic black and unsurprisingly, I’m being noticed much more, more compliments and what’s not to like about that.

Check out the link below and bring some colour into your life that gives meaning to who you really want to be 

https://www.bourncreative.com/meaning-of-the-color-beige/

To smile or not smile that is the question

I spend a lot of time coaching people on developing their personal brand and helping them make great first impressions.  So much of it is around body language and facial expressions, the stuff we often don’t even think about.

In workshops when people are conscious about their body language they naturally stand or sit taller, which instantly makes they look thinner and fitter and when I get them to connect with each other I get them to smile, not a half-baked smile that hides your teeth, no, one of those big smiles that yes, does and should crinkles around your eyes.

Smiling not only makes us look more attractive, smiling makes us stand out in a room and the smile triggers our brain to release endorphins which makes us feel happier AND if we smile at others they will naturally smile back, even if they don’t know you, it’s a great social experiment you can try out walking give a big smile and eye contact to someone walking by and I guarantee they will smile back and that will give you such a lovely lift and you will want to keep smiling ☺

P.S.

OK I have just told you to smile and it’s important BUT not all the time.  When you are telling someone something of importance, something you want them to believe you need to lose the smile.  Women are notorious at smiling when delivering serious news messages and it confuses the recipient and dilutes your message.  This happened to a friend of mine years ago. He was in a performance management meeting with his boss, he was basically crap at his job.  When I met him that evening he said the conversation he had with his boss was weird “she just kept on smiling” he said. “I didn’t know whether I was being sacked or asked out on a date”.  If you want to be taken seriously with your messaging be congruous with what you say and how you say it.

Where did I put my glasses?

A quick trip to the supermarket I say.  I’ll be in and out in 10 minutes, I say.  I only need to grab a couple of items, one of them being a low sugar peanut butter.  I find the peanut butter grab the jar, move my glasses from the fashionably perched position on top of my head down to my eyes and . . . . . gosh . . . my world suddenly went rather dark.   Hmmm….. my sunnies, not my reading glasses.  

After rummaging around my bag and coming up empty, I now begin the “stretch my arm out as long as I can and hope that I can somehow focus on the fine print” but, dang if that fine print was just all too fine.  Realising this trip may not be the quick “in and out” I hoped it would be, I asked the woman next to me if she could help.  ‘Oh, hang on’ she said “I’ll have to get my glasses” with a smile on her face. She rummaged in her bag, and then rummaged around a little more, but to no avail.  She looked up at me, kind of lost, “oh I’ve forgotten my glasses too’, we laughed. She also tried the extended arm technique but still no clarity.  

During our lovely interaction we discovered that not only had we both left our glasses at home we had also both left our shopping lists at home too.  It was beautiful to laugh at the quirkiness of our era.

Next time you forget your glasses, can’t find your glasses /phone / bag, just smile to yourself in the comfort that you are very much NOT alone. 

OMG - I've Gone Grey!

Now I’m not talking waking up one morning and discovering I’ve gone from black to white.  Now that would be really really traumatic.  No, I’ve actually been going grey for years, and I mean years, my beautiful dark brunette hair started sprouting greys in my early 30’s by my early forties I would have very clear badger stripes if I didn’t stay on top of the dying.  The grey made me feel old, yet I wasn’t ready to go grey.   So, my next step in taking control of the greying situation, was to go platinum blonde!

Well, I say platinum blonde, but in truth first attempts from dark brunette to blonde were more ginger in nature.  To be brutally honest I looked like a worn-out hooker.  My daughter cried when I got home. I cried with her.

Not to be deterred and after investing hours in salons and plenty of money I got the blonde I wanted.  Which worked for a time…

Being blonde is fun.  You do get noticed more on the bus (very annoying from the perspective of a previous natural dark brunette) and I celebrated the greys coming through, theoretically it should be easier for the blonde to shine…hmmm, not quite the case.  Five years later, my hair was like straw and wouldn’t sit in any style having been so fried with the bleach and if not managed well with every purple shampoo known to man, or woman, my hair went very yellow, edging closer to that perilous ginger.

Last year, I’d had enough, time to take control once again.  I let the natural colour grow out bit by bit then chopped off the frazzled bleached blonde hair and here I am in my shiny short silver hairdo today.

It’s actually a really lovely colour and I can’t stop stroking my hair these days, it’s chemical free now and so smooth and soft to the touch.  I’ve had three compliments this week about my eyes and how striking they are, (one from a very cute waiter, but I’ll save that conversation for another day).  The point is, that my natural grey suits me, I can see that now.  The decision to embrace my greys though was not an easy one. It actually involves admitting to yourself your aging.

So, let’s talk about some of the reactions I have gotten from women…

“Oh, you’ve changed your hair”….  This one I have always found annoying, do you want points for being observant?  Clearly you don’t like it otherwise you would have said that you did!

This has often been followed by;

“I’m not ready to go grey”  … Now I get this, I too wasn’t ready to go grey for years.  Am I being overly sensitive to this statement?  Possibly… What I hear when someone says this to me though is that you are saying you believe you are younger or can look younger than me which doesn’t exactly make me feel great when we are talking about my hair.

The corker response so far has been…

“What were you thinking?”  … Now that one definitely hurt.  Without a doubt I have had some corker impromptu haircuts, (an 80’s perm springs to mind) but this was a considered decision, it was me being brave enough to own my grey, my attempt to be a real woman and own my age rather than always trying to look decades younger than we are.  So that statement hurt.  It actually really hurt.

It’s been several months now and I am proud and loving being grey.  The more comfortable I’ve gotten with my beautiful soft grey, healthy shiny hair, the more beautiful compliments I’ve subsequently received.  The funniest one being a woman in her early 20’s who wanted my colour and wanted to know the dye brand and shade number.  Cue big smile on my face and my inside voice saying “how ironic”.

If you are thinking of embracing change, I say do it, it’s liberating and for those beautiful women still dying and bleaching, I am with you too,  I feel your pain, hours in the hairdressers, or the perils of DIY dying choosing the wrong shade, ruined towels, stained bathrooms and burnt scalps are still very recent memories for me.

And the next time you notice your friend has changed her hair, if you like it tell her it’s fabulous.  I you think it’s a shocker please say nothing and move the conversation on 🙂