Tag Archives | relationships


Last month I suggested that we ensure that our interaction with people is not transactional, and that we remember to engage with our hearts and not just our heads. This month I’m going to take that a stage further and suggest that we give more value to our interactions by engaging in real conversations with others.

The original meaning of the word conversation is that we turn together, and it always makes me think of dancing, where we take it in turns to lead, and enjoy being together and seeing where the dance takes us. Conversation has a flow to it, and a rhythm is created which has a special value.

In conversation, we learn about and from each other, and thereby enrich both our awareness and our relationship without effort. It doesn’t matter what the topic is to start with – it can be the weather, a TV programme you watched, or how you spent your evening. What matters is that you have the intention to engage with the other person, and share something of your self – then the magic happens.

I have stood at the bus stop, and begun with complaining about the poor service and ended up finding out what it was like to be a prisoner of war in Germany in World War Two. I have begun a conversation about having to do a lot of driving with a taxi driver, and ended up discussing our similar philosophies of life. Of course, not all conversations take us to such fascinating places, but they do always enable us to understand more of other people’s worlds and to be more sympathetic, at a minimum, and they can be a simple means of enhancing our lives and relationships.

So don’t ignore the opportunities to have a conversation every day. Stop for a moment and talk to the shop assistant, the work colleague, the person behind you in the queue. We seem to have got out of the habit in our culture – too busy, too rushed, too immersed in our phones – and we are losing out by not taking those 5 or 10 minutes. They are not a waste of time; they are a way of building relationship and awareness that comes naturally to us. Be interested in others and their lives and ideas – they’re fascinating!

Take a moment to think of a couple of real conversations you’ve had recently. Feel again the glow of being in that flow with someone else, the energy of it, the fun of it. And remember the after-effect on both of you: the warmer greeting next time you meet, the smile of recognition. Don’t deprive yourself – get out there and have a conversation with someone!

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How often do you tell the people you love that you love them? Or show them how much you care?

How often do you tell the people you work with that you appreciate what they do that makes life easier for you? Or that you enjoy aspects of their personality?

How often do you thank people for the everyday services that they give you? Or tell them when the service was more than you expected?

These questions tend to only occur to us when we lose someone we loved, yet they need to be part of our everyday lives. When someone dies, it reminds us that it could always be too late to say the things that really matter to those we know and care for.

And if we are to live joyfully, relationships we have play a part in that – by paying attention to the good things about our relationships, we both gain more joy and spread more joy.

I don’t understand why we have a cultural tendency to notice the negatives in our relationships. I do not believe that it is inherent – young children don’t do it until we teach them how to. Nor do I understand why we restrict our positive feelings about each other, rather than let our hearts be full – again, young children are extreme in their emotions, so inherently we all are too.

So how about having a month of daring to appreciate, enjoy, and voice the positive in all your relationships, and see what happens!


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There have been several TV programmes recently that have prompted me to think about understanding. What they have had in common is the theme of really getting to know others and how they think, work, live, and the result of that, which is inevitably a greater sympathy and understanding of their world and the way it works or doesn’t for them.

We talk about understanding something as if it is an intellectual exercise, but the word originally means to stand in their place, and experience it. True understanding will expand our awareness of the possibilities in the world, and will touch us emotionally as well as intellectually.

There have been lovely examples of this in the series called ‘The Secret Millionaire’. Every one of the people who have been giving away money in this series has gone to live in the community for a while, experiencing first-hand the way the community works and the way people live their lives there. And every one has had a change of heart, an emotional experience, a change of attitude – they have also all been moved to tears and seen their experience as a gain for themselves, and not just for those to whom they have given money.

Most of the time, we live in our heads, not because that is natural to us, but because that is what we have learnt to do. As small children, we cannot help but react from our hearts first, but we are good learners, and we soon realise that adults don’t do that. As children, we are also fascinated by other people’s worlds, yet we learn to judge them from our own perspective, and close down to the possibility of learning from them and truly understanding them.

So I have a suggestion: How about finding people whom we have a judgement about and seeing if we can really understand them. These could be our children, our parents, our work colleagues, or a category of people we don’t know at all.

All it requires is being prepared to spend time asking people to talk about their world, and listening with curiosity rather than judgement. Then to really imagine what it would be like to live in that world, and how you would feel if that were your world. For example, many years ago, I was prompted by one of my teachers to ask people begging on the street to tell me their story. It only took a few of those stories to make me realise that it could have happened to me, and that I would probably be an alcoholic or drug addict if it had. It took away my judgement of them, and made me very grateful for my own good fortune in having friends and family that supported me in tough times in my life.

If all of us were just to increase our understanding a little, I think we would change the way the world works!


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Over the last couple of months I have really become aware of just how many wonderful friends I have. They come from all the different stages and environments of my life, ranging from people I’ve known since school days, to people I have met through work, to the people who run our local general store.

And they have made my somewhat turbulent life easier in all sorts of ways: by giving me a delicious sandwich for a picnic lunch as I was rushing off; sharing a laugh and a bottle of wine; listening to me when I was upset; doing a task they knew I would put off – the list goes on and on.

This has made me realise yet again just how precious friendship is, and what a difference it makes to our life. It is vital to reaffirm friendships, and continue to build them.

At Meta we firmly believe in making friends with our customers and suppliers. It is much more fun than having a distant, purely professional relationship, and brings joy into parts of work that people often have problems with. When we phone or make direct contact with people, we look forward to the conversation, and we believe that they usually enjoy the chat too.

Wouldn’t life be different if most of those you dealt with in your everyday life were friends of yours??


  1. Express your appreciation of the friendship of those around you
  2. Treat a customer or supplier as you would a friend – just chat to them like a real human being and be interested in them and their world.
  3. Be a good friend to someone by just doing a little something which makes a positive difference in their lives.


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Appreciating Difference

As we start a New Year, we usually all resolve to do something different. Most of the time, our resolutions are about being a better person in some way.

For me, a speech given by Bill Clinton as the Dimbleby lecture made me think about how judgmental we can be. It is so easy to, as he said, ‘put people in boxes’.

I have seen and spoken to a variety of old friends this Christmas. Some of them are housewives, some are chief executives, and some have still not decided what they want to do with their lives. They provide me with plenty of opportunities to put them in boxes: good/bad use of their talents; boring/interesting; as they were/changed – the list goes on and on.

But whatever it is that they are doing or not doing, they are all special human beings. And if this is true of so many different people that I know, perhaps it is true of those I don’t know so well.

So my New Year’s resolution is to be more appreciative of the value of people’s differences, and to delight in our common humanity. It’s easy with some, and harder with others, but it is undoubtedly a great way to change the world a little more!


  1. Look at yourself and notice where you judge yourself to be lacking in some way. Now appreciate that quality in yourself – it makes it easier to do the same with other people.
  2. Take 3 people you know and identify what makes them special
  3. Smile with an open heart at the next person you see whom you have judged to be deficient in some way


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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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