Tag Archives | behaviour with others

PEACE ON EARTH, GOODWILL TO ALL

This blog is called Ways of Remembering. In our world today, I think it’s worth remembering what Christmas really stands for. The message that accompanies the birth of Christ is simple and profound: peace on earth, goodwill to all.

It isn’t Christmas trees or presents; it isn’t overindulgence in food and drink; it isn’t spending money, going into debt. Jesus set the example of a different mind-set, and whether we believe in him or not, it’s a great example that we can all attempt to follow.

He demonstrated by example that everyone has value and deserves kindness, no matter how different from you they may be. He used stories to remind people that it may be the outcast or stranger who actually lives the values we say we have, and those who claim the highest ground often use it to exclude or condemn others, rather than to help others to be in the same place. This is what goodwill to all looks like – inclusiveness and kindness.

Jesus also famously said, ‘Turn the other cheek’. This is often interpreted as weakness or submission, but I think it simply means: stand in your place, but don’t fight for it. If we truly believe we have got it right, we have no need to prove it to others, or try to force them to agree with us . We are more likely to influence another person by being our truth than by trying to convince them with words. This is peace on earth.

So this Christmas, let’s be kind and warm with others – (and ourselves!). Let’s be the best we can be, and let others be how they are without judgement. Let’s have some peace and goodwill, at least within our own sphere of influence!

May you have a peaceful, warm and joyous Christmas time..

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DON’T BE A FIXER!

Have you ever told someone about something you had a problem with, and had them immediately jump in with a solution to your problem? We all have, haven’t we? And occasionally it’s useful and helpful, but often it is just somewhat annoying, yet you know they’re just trying to help.

Their solution can sound condescending or just be inappropriate. It may be something you have already considered and decided wouldn’t work for you, or it may just not fit for you or your particular version of the problem.

You see, most fixes offered are ones that would make sense in the fixer’s view of the world, rather than yours. The fixer is interpreting the problem in the way it would show up in their lives and offering the solution that would work for them. So they’ve solved the problem for themselves, should it appear, but not for you! The problem may sound the same as it would in their world, but the implications and impact of it in your world will be different. Similarly, the solution may work in their world, but it may not fit your way of sorting things out, or deal with all the implications for you.

Of course, we’ve all been that ‘fixer’ as well, and of course, we offer the solution because we want to help. So how can we help more usefully?

There are two ways we can be really helpful to someone with a problem. The first way is to take the time to allow them just to talk about it, without judgement or interruptions.

Many years ago, a friend of mine phoned to suggest she came round that evening. I was feeling really miserable and that the world was full of shit, so I told her not to. Ten minutes later, she knocked at the door. ‘I’ve brought wine, and pen and paper,’ she said. ‘I’m going to take notes while you tell me all about it, and we have a glass of wine.’

After about half an hour of pouring out my miseries, I began to feel my mood changing. I apologised for inflicting it all on her, and she said: ‘you didn’t. I was in a good mood anyway, and I feel just fine. I thought I could just be a light at the end of the tunnel, and help you to make your way through that tunnel.’ What a lovely description of what she had done to help me! She had kept herself feeling good, and allowed me to express what I was feeling so it came out of my mind and body, and I could get some perspective again. Just allowing me to talk it out made such a difference.

The second thing we can do for others is to ask questions that help them to sort it out for themselves, in ways that work in their world. A few useful questions might be:

  • What exactly is bothering you about this?
  • How would you like it to be resolved?
  • What would make it possible for you to sort it out?
  • What would help you to sort it out?

These sorts of questions help people to find their own answers, ones that will work for them.

So next time someone comes to you with a problem, don’t be a fixer – be someone who helps them to help themselves.

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REAL CONVERSATIONS

If I had to choose one thing that I couldn’t do without in my life, it would be real conversations. Depriving myself of that would reduce my quality of life immeasurably.

Etymologically, conversation means we turn with each other. It is where we follow the thread the other sets up and then see where it leads. It requires a curiosity about another’s world and a desire to share. It is so much more than talking or even listening.

There is an inevitability about it leading to more than facts or information – it is always going to be philosophical. By that I mean we will pick up on attitudes to and beliefs about life, work, the world, because we are sharing who we are, not just what we know or do or have.

It has nothing to do with intellect – it is about following our native intelligence, and being prepared to share our hearts with another. It is opening ourselves up and encouraging another to do the same.

These conversations are a part of friendships and close relationships for me. I am lucky to have quite a few people who are always up for a real conversation, and indulge my enjoyment of it.

And then there are those moments when we can also share a real conversation with a stranger, and bring something different into our world. We discover shared passions or interests, and we also explore our differences and gain a greater understanding of different attitudes, cultures and backgrounds, that are not part of our world. It is such a lovely way to learn and grow!

I have recently had two wonderful conversations in this vein with two very different people: one with a very bright successful businessman, and one with a delightful wine grower. I may not ever meet them again, but they have enriched my world by sharing something of themselves with me.

Next time you have the opportunity, prompt a real conversation: offer your stories, talk about what you love, what matters to you, and ask them for their stories in return. People are pretty amazing when you engage them in real conversations.

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ASKING FOR HELP

Why do we find it so hard to ask for help? I’ve pondered this question many a time, and not really come up with anything useful. Over the last few months, I’ve come up with a theory that might help, so here goes!

Once upon a time, (not that long ago in our history) we lived in communities where we all helped each other – that’s how we survived. We bartered our skills or strengths for those of other people, and between us we could do more, have a better chance of thriving. Although a generalisation, there is no doubt that cooperation, sharing of abilities, helping each other out, were vital to the development of human culture.

This allowed us to go beyond survival mode, to begin to differentiate between skills, and give some more value than others. This weakened the bargaining power of some and strengthened the bargaining power of others. For example, once everyone knew how to preserve and cook their food, it was no longer a valuable skill. On the other hand, someone who was great at developing useful tools would have a special talent to barter.

So those who had the valued skills didn’t have to ask for help – it was given to them in return for their skills. Only those who were seen as weaker would have to ask for help, and risk being refused or taken advantage of. And although we no longer live in those communities, we have absorbed into our culture the idea that asking for help is a sign of weakness, and leaves us vulnerable. If only we’d absorbed more thoroughly the other part of community living – that cooperation and helping each other out enables us all to thrive!!

So how do we counteract this underlying sense that asking for help shows weakness and makes us vulnerable? The most important thing is to collect evidence that the effect of asking for help is different from that.

If you think of when others have asked you for help, you will notice that, in most instances, it is a pleasure to do so. It feels good to be able to give someone a hand, whether that be just because it’s easier if two of you do it – carrying something heavy – or because it’s something you are good at, and they’re using your skill – checking spelling and grammar in an important document.

And if you think of times when you have asked for help, haven’t people responded positively most of the time?

When we do have negative reactions, either in ourselves or from others, it tends to be for one of two reasons: it feels like a power play, or it feels like someone is taking advantage.

The power play is someone refusing to help or putting major conditions on their help. This does make you feel weak and put down. Taking advantage is when someone is always asking for your help, without ever offering something in return – we feel used.

Now those of us who find it hard to ask for help are never going to come in the latter category! The last thing we’re going to do is to expect constant help in an unbalanced way. We may occasionally come across someone who tries the power play game, in which case we need to ask someone else!

Most of us will be good at offering help, being generous with our time and talents. Let’s not be superman or superwoman though. Then we’re the ones making others feel weak! Asking others for help shows that we also sometimes can’t do it all on our own, it makes us human. And it makes those around us feel valued for what they have to offer. It is that essential trait of human beings, their ability to cooperate and help each other out.

So start collecting your evidence that asking for help generally has a good effect on all concerned. And don’t struggle on, being independent – we all do so much better when we ‘re being interdependent, when we work together.

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HAPPY MONDAY!

I was re-reading the story of Winnie-the-Pooh deciding to go and see all his friends. When Piglet said that they should have a reason for going, he said, “We’ll go to wish them a Happy Thursday.”

So often we wait till we have a reason to make contact with our friends, some news to tell them or something to ask them. And these are good reasons to make contact, so long as we are clear in our intention. I certainly phone people I’m close to to give them a ‘progress report’ or ask for theirs, or to ask a favour, or respond to their call.

And we all have that moment, from time to time, when someone comes into our mind from out of the blue, and I believe it is a prompt from the universe to say hello again to them. In my experience, these are often the most delightful conversations because they have no agenda of any kind. When we ask them how they are, and what’s going on with them, it is because our only intention is to re-join with their world and show our interest and affection – it is not the polite preamble to what we really phoned them for.

By taking notice of this fleeting remembrance of someone, we extend our repertoire of reasons for phoning to include perhaps the most important one of all – I was thinking about you with affection.

So who might you call, just to say Happy Monday?

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SHARING YOUR EXPERTISE

There are some things I’m really good at, and lots of areas where I still have a lot to learn. This week, I’ve been reminded that we all have a different range of expertise and that we can use that to enhance our own awareness. Giving away your own expertise is a lovey gift to give.

This doesn’t mean using it in a one-upmanship way, where we impose it on others to impress them. It means working out what aspects of your expertise might be useful and relevant to someone, and how to offer it in a way that helps them.

I had examples of both approaches at a gardening show last weekend. One exhibitor had a plant I didn’t recognise. I asked her what it was and she said ixia. I was no wiser, and asked her how to care for it. She told me it needed full sun and good drainage, and you could almost hear her unspoken words – ‘but you have to know what you’re doing and be a specialist like me.’

At the other extreme was a man selling alstroemeria plants. I said that I already had some of a different colour and asked him if these spread in the same way. He said that his variety clumped up, and then told me how to ensure that they ‘took’ when planted out, how to make the plant strong, even how to pick the flowers so the plant produced more. He shared his expertise so that I would be able to care for the plant better and have the best chance of enjoying its beauty.

We are taught that ‘ knowledge is power’. This implies that you need to hold on to it to be powerful. Yet the real power comes when you can use your knowledge to make a difference in someone else’s life as well. Give away what you know about, and paradoxically, you lose nothing – you still have all that knowledge. In fact, you gain, because someone else appreciates the gift you have given them, and that knowledge is now being used even more in the world.

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WE ALL NEED A CUDDLE SOMETIMES!

I’d just picked up the paper and pen to write my blog when my cat, Smokey, came in. He looked at me and my occupied hands and knees, and then leapt up anyway, draping himself over the paper and pushing his head against the hand holding the pen. I gave in and cuddled him instead for five minutes!

Both my cats do this. They are very insistent when they want a cuddle, and obviously consider it to be far more important than anything else I’m doing. And I usually give in to their demand for two reasons.

Firstly, I like the reminder that it’s important to have some affection shown to you – more important than most other things. And I admire their clarity about seeing it as a right to ask for that when they feel they need it. Most of us have that feeling of needing some affection from time to time, but as grown-ups we’re less likely to voice it clearly.

Children know that hugs and cuddles make everything feel better, but we learn to stop asking for it – just that once or twice when we’re told it’s not the right moment, or to be a big girl or boy is enough to inhibit us. And hoping someone might realise what we want is not very productive – most of us can’t mind-read the needs of those we love.

The second reason I give in to the cats is that giving them a cuddle makes me feel good as well – in fact, sometimes I do wonder if they are doing it for me rather than just for themselves. I get the warmth of their body, the soothing effect of their purring, the reminder that affection is a silent and powerful exchange.

Wouldn’t it be great if we just stopped sometimes, in the middle of all our doing, and asked for a hug or a cuddle! We’d all benefit from that, wouldn’t we?

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THE CHRISTMAS STORY

Those who know me will know that I’m not much into Christmas – it’s surely not my favourite time of year. Yet each time it comes around, I appreciate the reminder that Christmas – and maybe life in general – is not really about presents and food – it’s to celebrate the birth of Jesus. And that story is a story about miracles, angels appearing, kings and shepherds being equally welcome, compassion, and love.

Whether we believe it or not, it is a story of the potential we have as humans, and calls out to us each time, to live up to our potential. It’s not difficult to be compassionate, to treat everyone equally, to love others – it comes naturally to us. And if we choose to, we can notice the ‘miracles’ in our world, the synchronicities and coincidences, the gentle touch of angels, and the fundamental call and support to the best in ourselves.

This Christmas, let’s remember that love comes first, that miracles can happen, that there is more to being human than the news would suggest.

May your Christmas be joyous and loving!

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KEEPING IN TOUCH

This is the time of year when we make contact with people we may not communicate with at any other time. It may seem strange, to write a note wishing someone a happy Christmas when you haven’t spoken to them all year, but I think it’s important. We don’t know how our friendships may develop or shrink over time. We all change, and sometimes our friends are on similar paths, and sometimes we move away from each other. Yet over the years, those patterns change again, and some come closer again.

Relationships with others are one of the bedrocks of being human – we don’t survive or thrive without contact with other people. I like the fact that I have people in all the different phases of friendship with me, and that they are not static.

I think of it as being a set of concentric circles. The inner circle is those to whom I am closest, and the circles spread out to those with whom I have only occasional or casual contact. Over the years, the composition of those circles changes, but all those people have played a part in my life, and have contributed to its richness.

I like to remember and appreciate that, at least once a year. And sometimes someone comes closer again and brings more of the richness – what a delight!

It only takes a few moments to say hello to someone again and to express your appreciation for them being in you life. Don’t lose relationships because you can’t be bothered – they matter!

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THE POWER OF LOVE

Sometimes we forget something that we all know in our hearts – that love is the most powerful, all-pervasive feeling in our universe.

We don’t generally talk much about love; we keep it down at a smaller level: like, quite fond of, pretty good. It’s almost as if we are wary of the bigness of it, protecting ourselves from having such a strong emotion, perceiving it as a bit risky to open ourselves up that much.

And that’s understandable. Loving is often a place of vulnerability; if we open our hearts for love, we are also open for hurt or rejection, or sadness. And yet if we keep our hearts closed, we miss the joy, the passion, the power of loving – and these are what feed our soul.

They are also the emotions that keep us physically healthy. Science has shown that positive emotions create chemicals in our bodies that boost our immune system, keep our organs healthy, and help us to fight off illness.

In my experience the positives of love far outweigh the risks. Our hearts can recover from heartbreak, but they wither when kept closed.

And we can practise lots of our loving without any fear of rejection. Nature never says no thank you to love and thrives on loving attention. A delicious meal, a wonderful perfume, a warm fluffy sweater, a beautiful piece of art, an inspiring piece of music – let’s love them rather than limiting them to quite nice, and feed our souls with that feeling. When we do, the world seems brighter, more benevolent, prejudices are overcome, fear is dissipated.

And maybe we can then love other people in the same way – not as a tit for tat kind of thing: ‘I’ll love you some, if you show you love me some’ – but just because they are fellow human beings. They will have the free gift of our loving warmth towards them, which they will feel even if they don’t know it. And we will have big warm hearts because giving love feeds us too.

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