Helping Other People

We have all been encouraged to be helpful to others, and we often do this by trying to ‘fix’ things for them, and give them solutions to their problems. Our intentions are good, but we don’t always prove to be as helpful as we intended.

What we forget is that what would work for us won’t necessarily work for someone else. For example, I am planning to have Christmas holiday in the sun, and haven’t yet decided where to go. As soon as I mention it, people offer me suggestions, before they have any idea of my criteria for a holiday.

It sounds as if I am being dismissive if I ignore their ‘helpfulness’, but actually most of their suggestions don’t take account of my preferences and circumstances. They are suggesting what they have enjoyed, or would like to do, in the context of their own circumstances.

What their suggestions do give me is the opportunity to clarify further my own criteria. If I don’t find their idea appealing, what would appeal? And if they asked me about my criteria for a good holiday first, then their suggestions would be more directly helpful.

How often do you try and fix other people’s problems? Most of us do it, at work and at home, so this is just a reminder that we could be genuinely helpful by not suggesting a solution. Instead, we could help the person to clarify exactly what would work for them by asking questions such as:

‘What would make this feel right for you?’

‘How exactly do you want this to be?’

‘What would help you to find the solution to this?’


Next time you want to solve someone’s problem and help them, ask them questions instead of giving an answer.

Before you ask someone for their help, tell them exactly what you mean when you state the problem, and what you want from them.


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Having Enthusiasm

Have you noticed how infectious enthusiasm is? We all respond to someone who obviously has put their heart and soul into something rather than just their intellect.

The word enthusiasm originally means ‘inspired by God’ or ‘the God within’. This may sound off-putting to some of you, but it captures well the sense that enthusiasm is heart- or spirit-based, and therefore appeals to us at a deeper level.

An example I came across recently is of someone who works for Virgin airlines. She is a member of the ground crew, doing an apparently ‘ordinary’ job, yet she talked for half an hour of how much she loves what she does and whom she works for. She saw her job as important to the company’s success, and gave her all to it willingly, because the company also made sure that she was cared for, and had her own life as well.

To invoke enthusiasm in others like that, we need to ensure that they feel valued and important, and that their individuality is appreciated.

To invoke it in ourselves we need to find what makes our heart sing in our work, and build on that.


  1. When are you enthusiastic? Look for what makes your heart sing at work.
  2. When do you encourage others to be enthusiastic? Look for opportunities to make others feel valued and important, and cared for.


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Life is a bitch and then you die, or: Life is a beach and then you fly

I was reminded again recently of how powerful the culturally given beliefs are – you know, those things we know are true, because things happen which reinforce them.  For example, we can probably all find evidence in our personal experience that people are not to be trusted, or that the world is not a fair place.  It is interesting to notice that we can also find evidence that the opposite is true. Most of us have experienced people being trustworthy, or something which felt very fair and just.

The evidence we choose to notice will affect how we expect others or the world to be.  It really is our choice: evidence for all beliefs is there for us, otherwise no-one would believe them!

And have you noticed how we tend to get what we expect?  This is because we give off an unconscious message that tells the person how we are viewing them, and nine times out of ten, they “play the game” and respond how we expect them to.

So why make life harder than it already is?  Decide to believe what is more useful to you, and start collecting evidence!

Homework :

1.       Next time you need help from someone, assume that they will be helpful.  Imagine them being open to your request, and see what happens.

2.       When you come across someone who is optimistic about life, find out what they believe about people, and about how the world works.  Deliberately look for evidence which supports their belief.  (If you are already optimistic, list some of your own evidence).


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‘I’ve always prided myself on being good at analytical/logical thinking, and when I was asked if I would like to go on a programme on developing my skills as a leader I thought I would learn to be even more logical and analytical. Half way through my first day all I could do was shake my head in disbelief.

We had spent the whole morning looking at ways I could make myself feel good and, although that was very pleasant, it felt both selfish and irrelevant to me as a leader.

The workshop facilitator persisted in looking at personal stuff for the rest of the afternoon, which was spent on how I think. Analytical? Nope! My intuition, for goodness sake! I haven’t used that since I was a child. I went home and told my wife that it was a most unexpected day. Two hours later she told me to shut up.

I was curious about the next day and had to admit I felt rather good about myself. As we began to explore what made a good leader I realised that I had what it took, but it wasn’t what I thought it was.

Since that five day session I think I have used about half of what I learned with Di – which is about 100%, at least, more than I have taken from other courses. It makes more and more sense, and it works. No, it really works.’


Di says:

Adam spent the whole of the first day staring at me and shaking his head in disbelief. I could feel his gaze on me the whole time.

It’s a common reaction. At first many people think I am crazy. And I remind them that, when they do get themselves in a state where they feel good abut themselves, they are in a superb position to help others get more from their work.

Western society’s love affair with logical and analytical thought reflects a belief that science could solve all of our ‘problems’ This ‘logic’ breaks work down into boring and meaningless tasks, so that the work does not inspire and motivate, and ultimately the work gets done badly. Nice logic!

We have got to the stage in our culture where many of us think that work has to be boring, hard, stressful. If not, the story runs, we are not earning our money or our leisure time: “work hard, play hard’.


1. Enjoy your work today.

2. Give yourself some treats: stop and smell that flower, smile at that toddler, use your favourite soap, wear your favourite clothes.

3. Take a risk: go in after the traffic, leave your tie at home, leave your e-mails until you have spoken to everyone face-to-face

Enjoy your work today.

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Emotional Resilience

An aspect of emotional intelligence that we don’t often pay attention to is the ability to ‘bounce back’ when something unexpected happens. This can be anything from an unexpected traffic jam which makes you late, to a bereavement or drastic change of work circumstances. It is so easy to get knocked back in our culture. We tend to see the world as conspiring against us anyway, and so fall too easily into self-pity and being a victim of circumstance. If we were to view the world as ‘on our side’, then we would look for the gain from the change. When we develop emotional resilience, we react differently.

We forgive ourselves if our initial reaction is negative, and just let it go.

We pick ourselves up and get on with things, just like a child who has fallen over when learning to walk
We consider what the learning is for us in the particular circumstance, and actively take the learning.


Take an example where life dealt you an unexpected blow in the past. What have you/could you learn from it, in a positive sense?

Identify 4 ways in which the world has conspired with you, by offering you unexpected changes.
As you receive some ‘knock’ this month, stop and go through the process stated above.

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What is emotional intelligence?

So, what is it? It is the reminder that we all do have emotions and are often led to act by them, but if we don’t acknowledge their part in our decision-making, we are likely to be reactive rather than responsive. It used to be called wisdom, or common sense, but, as Robert Cooper says, the trouble with common sense is that it is rarely practised.

When you use your emotional intelligence, you recognise, value and use your emotional reactions constructively. You know that you are in control of your reactions, and consider the consequences before simply acting on them.

For example, we all get frustrated in a traffic jam. Not using your emotional intelligence leads to being driven by your frustration. So you end up stressed at least, and sometimes it can develop into road rage, or causing accidents.

And if you stop for a moment and consider, you realise that the frustration is not constructive, and will not change the situation. Using your emotional intelligence is more likely to lead to putting on some favourite music, thinking about some issue you have to resolve, or just enjoying the countryside you can see.

On the positive side, most of us have ‘had a good idea’ – something that came spontaneously, which we then dismissed as being impractical, irrelevant, or illogical. If we use our emotional intelligence, we often realise then, rather than when it is too late, that the idea is worth following through on.


Take 4 of your ‘instant reactions this week and just stop and ask yourself the following questions before either dismissing them or simply reacting:

1. How does this help me to live my life well?

2. How will this make a positive difference?

3. What will be the effect of this in the future?

As you hear the inner responses to the questions, make sure that you listen to your heart as well as your head – if your heart sings, you are on the right track!

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Time For A Spring Clean

The clocks have gone forward, spring is in the air, and it’s time for spring cleaning. This usually sounds like an onerous job, so I would like to give you a few tips for spring cleaning your life in a simple and fun way.

All you have to do is to identify one area of your life where you wish it were different – a habit, behaviour, or thought that has become outdated in your life. Most of us have several things in this category! The problem we have is that it is generally considered to be hard work to shift something which has been a part of our lives up till now. And maybe we can do it quite simply, by approaching it in a different way.


  1. Consider the outdated thing and find a metaphorical equivalent for it in your home or possessions, e.g. rowing with your partner might be represented by that ornament that your aunt gave you years ago, or slumping in front of the tv might be represented by the cushion on your favourite chair.
  2. Take the item and get rid of it – unless it is a whole room in which case you might be better to just re-decorate it!
  3. Now imagine how you want to be instead, e.g. pleasant after work, or energetic.
  4. What would represent this new state or behaviour for you metaphorically? Have some fun going out and looking for a replacement metaphor, e.g. a pair of lovely bud vases, or a new cushion with vibrant colours. By the way, it need not be anything that costs – it could just be a pretty pebble.
  5. Now ‘invest’ the new object with how you want to be: ” You are my being pleasant after work symbol”, and place it somewhere you will see it frequently.
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Changing Your Habitual Thinking

Most of us have learnt to think in limiting or negative ways. We consider problems rather than solutions, and notice what’s wrong rather than what’s right.  We do this without even realising it, and it is well engrained as a habit.

So to break it, we need to practice doing something different with our brains: noticing what’s right.

There are simple and enjoyable ways of undertaking this practice. Here are a couple for you to play with.


  1. Spend a few minutes thinking about the good points about your family, your work, and being the age you are. List at least ten good points for each category.
  2. Now think of one way you could add another point to each list by taking some action.
  3. And finally, think of a simple way you could show your appreciation for the gifts these categories bring into your life.
  4. Now decide to catch someone doing it right – your partner, child, friend or work colleague. Notice something they do which pleases you and tell them so.


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Being In The Present

Most of us spend large parts of our lives ignoring the messages we are being given, because we are not present – we are too busy thinking about what has already happened or what might happen.

The first messages to take notice of are the ones which our body gives us. When we ignore these we put our health at risk. Do you listen when your body says ‘I am hungry’ or ‘I am tired’? Most of us have learnt to work past these signals and just carry on as if we were robots.

How about taking notice of your body for a little while each day?


  1. Spend two minutes every two hours listening to your body’s messages: do you need a break? Do you need a walk? Are you stiff or uncomfortable? Just noticing is the first step to doing something about it.
  2. Before you eat, ask yourself what your body really wants right now. Does it want food at all or is it just the normal time to eat? Does it want the sweet food first?
  3. Finally, notice how your body reacts when you go to reply to someone every so often: is it comfortable with your response?
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As we start the new year, it seems appropriate to ask how we can make life a happier experience for all of us – let’s make a positive difference.

Keeping your fuel tank filled – see previous blogs – is a good start, because that will help you to be more positive in your outlook on life.

But what about those who have a negative effect on you, and seem to take that positivity away? Not only do they disturb your happiness, they also suffer a lack of happiness themselves – it is the rare person who really feels good when they are causing others to feel bad.

There are ways we can change this effect, to the benefit of all parties involved.

  1. Don’t give away your power! Remember that we choose to allow something to affect us. After all, what to one person is a disaster, to another person is an exciting adventure – they have obviously made different choices about how to react. So choose to react differently to the person. Imagine their comment or attitude as a brief rain shower which temporarily wets you and then dries up. Even better, imagine that you have an invisible shield which protects you from getting wet at all!
  2. Even more powerfully, experiment with how you can change their reaction to you, which causes them to behave in a way which affects you badly. Step into their shoes for as moment. From their perspective, what could you do differently that would provoke a different and more useful behaviour in them? We often unwittingly provoke just the behaviour we don’t like and by making a change in our own attitude or behaviour we can change theirs.


  1. Practise using your invisible shield when someone next seems to want to offend you or upset you in some way.
  2. Take a person that you always seem to have a negative reaction to. Imagine you are them, and ask yourself, ‘what would make me behave more positively with …?’ Use the answer to guide your behaviour next time you encounter them.


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