Thursday, 31 May 2012

Sticks and stones...

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me”.

I remember hearing this phrase often, growing up in ‘70s Britain.  Being called a nigger and golliwog were regular occurrences in the playground of the East End primary school that I went to.  It was unsurprising really, given that two of the most popular shows on television were racist.  Love Thy Neighbour dealt with the relationship between black and white neighbours and racist language was regularly used.  The Black and White Minstrel show featured white performers who were ‘blacked up’ for the performances.

This week I’ve been thinking about the fact that words have power.  Power to harm or to heal.  When words are used to hurt, the wound often goes deeper and the effects last longer than most physical wounds.  It’s a bit like the difference between chickenpox and shingles.  Chickenpox lasts for about 10 days and then the spots fade.  Shingles stays in the nerve endings and flares up painfully, over and over again.  I remember those words that were shouted at me all those years ago and I can still remember how hurtful they were.  Luckily, time has healed those wounds for me.  For others it’s an ongoing battle to overcome the pain of harmful words.

Apart from the words that other people say to us, most of us have an internal dialogue that’s constantly playing in our head.  That internal dialogue is one of the most powerful influences in our lives.  There are so many individuals who are constantly battling a critical voice in their heads.  The voice that tells them they are no good, that they are failures, that they will never amount to anything.  We say what we think and we become what we say.  No wonder there are so many depressed people in the world today.

Finally, I think about the impact of words in a domestic violence relationshipThe physical abuse often takes place against the backdrop of emotional abuse.  The constant name calling by the abuser, the verbal put downs and other verbal abuse.  All of this works to break down the defences of the victim, until she cannot fight back any longer.  The work of destroying another person’s confidence and self esteem is first done with words.

How can we change things?  Be vigilant about what you say to yourself as well as to others.  Pay attention to your internal dialogue.  Is it building you up or destroying your confidence?  Look for opportunities to affirm and encourage others, rather than criticise. 
Would you like to find out how coaching could help you to change your inner dialogue? Visit the website and contact us for your free 30 minute consultation.

Until next week, go well.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

No trespassing, this is private property!

I’ve been astonished this week by the furore over Bollywood actress, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s weight.  She has been the subject of intense scrutiny this week, because she hasn’t lost the weight she gained in pregnancy.  She had a baby last November and some of her fans are insisting that it’s her ‘duty’ to slim down.  These fans offer up Victoria Beckham and Angelina Jolie as role models for women, who were back to a size zero, just weeks after delivery!

FHM’s annual sexiest women poll, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition and the Pirelli calendar.  What do all these publications have in common? In my view, they objectify women.  I personally can’t see the connection between selling tyres and naked women.  However, it seems nothing sells like sex and women, particularly semi-clad women are used to sell a whole host of things.  The danger is that when women are reduced to mere sexual objects, it produces an environment where violence against women can thrive.  If men are continually exposed to images of attractive and supposedly sexually available women, what happens, when a ‘real’ woman says no? Women are expected to police their behaviour and their clothes in order to avoid giving out the wrong signal.  The effect of advertising has been to make women’s bodies’ public property and therefore what right does she have to say no?

Media as a whole has a huge role to play in how women’s bodies are viewed.  A cursory look through any of the tabloid press or gossip magazine illustrates my point.  Female celebrities will either be praised or condemned, purely on the basis of how they look.  Who can forget Karl Lagerfeld’s comment that Adele has a beautiful face, but is a little too fat! Too fat for what exactly? Singing? Winning awards? It seems that it’s a requirement for all female celebrities to worship at the altar of thinness these days. 

The effects of this objectification are not only limited to adult women.  Girls as young as 10 are already aware of the pressure to have the perfect figure, to be sexually alluring.  Research has shown a big increase in girls and young women who are dissatisfied with their bodies.   At an age when they are still maturing physically and psychologically, they are under intense pressure to look right. 

Violence against women is a human rights issue that affects society as a whole.  We all need to get involved in stopping it.  We need to speak up against it, tackle those who perpetrate it and support those who fight it.

Would you like more information about how training can help you tackle violence against women?  Visit the website or contact us by phone.

Until next week, go well.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

...That's just how we do things around here...

If I were to say the word ‘culture’ to you, what would you think?  Would you think about a country? certain types of food or drink? language? or the way a certain group of people behave?  Actually, it’s all these things and more.  We use the word culture all the time and we assume that we all mean the same thing.  However, that’s an assumption which may be wrong a lot of the time and can lead to misunderstandings.  What is true is that we come up against ‘culture’ all the time and so we need to become ‘culturally competent’.  By that, I mean, be able to decipher and understand the culture that we are operating in, so that our communications are clear and there are fewer misunderstandings.

When I use the word ‘culture’ in this blog, I am referring to a ‘framework of behavioural patterns, values, assumptions and experiences shared by a social group”- Anna Katrina Davey.  It’s learned behaviour, often from a very young age; it’s generally an unconscious filter through which we view others and its effect is to produce conformity within the group.  In short, “it’s the way we do things around here”.

Because culture is often unspoken, for the uninitiated, it can be a bit of a minefield.  I am in the process of relocating to another country and it is already a huge culture shock for me.  I have to re-learn the unspoken rules of how that culture works. How that culture will affect my professional and personal life. One of the most amusing things I have noticed is the tendency to give completely unsolicited advice, particularly about children.  I’ve had advice about taking my daughter’s sun-hat off because she’ll be too hot.  At the other end of the spectrum, I’ve been advised to put socks on her, so she’s not too cold!  I could get into a huff about this advice or simply appreciate that it’s part of the culture.

Another thing about culture is that it’s flexible.  It can be as large as a country’s behaviour or as small as the behaviour in a workplace.  Some aspects of culture are generally harmless.  However, there are some aspects that are very damaging to various groups within the society.

If sexism and/or sexual harassment directed at women are either tacitly or overtly condoned in the workplace, then it produces a hostile working environment for the women who work there.  The options for those women are very limited- put up with it or leave!

On a wider level, the effects of culture can be even worse.  The United Nations has said that violence against women is both a cause and consequence of gender inequality.  Domestic violence, rape, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, trafficking and prostitution are all manifestations of violence against women.  Their impact is physical, psychological and financial.  The life chances of every woman or girl who is a victim of these crimes are severely limited.  A society that condones or refuses to address this kind of behaviour is a society that is failing to protect some of its most vulnerable members.

Cultural competence is a skill we all need to have in order to thrive in our personal and professional lives. Cultural competence helps us to establish boundaries for what is acceptable behaviour.  It empowers us to take action, where we have been wronged.
If you would like to find out how coaching can help you to develop or increase your cultural competency, then contact us via the website, for a free, 30 minute introductory session.

Until next week, go well.

Thursday, 3 May 2012're a strange one aren't you?

“Where do you get these strange ideas?” my poor bewildered mother asked as I came to her with yet another weird and wonderful thought.  As a child, my mother warned us not to swallow the seeds of fruit, telling us that if we did, the fruit would grow into a tree in our tummies.  What an excellent idea I thought.  If the fruit tree grows in our tummy, then we can eat as much as we like! I persuaded my sister to swallow apple seeds, whilst I swallowed orange seeds.  I watered us both diligently and waited for the trees to grow. Imagine my disappointment, when no trees were forthcoming.  I complained to my mother about the fact that the trees hadn’t grown and got my ears pulled for my troubles.

My message this week is that it’s okay to be you, even though some people may think you’re strange!

Personally, it’s been a bit of a journey for me to accept who I am.  There have been a few times, when I’ve desperately wanted to fit in with everyone else. I manage to conform for a little while and then bam! I’m back to being me.  What’s really helped me, to grow in confidence is an awareness of my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve learned to maximise my strengths and manage my weaknesses.  I used to fret endlessly about not being a creative thinker.  Then I realised that my logical and pragmatic thinking style was equally valuable to balance my team.

My second point, is celebrate your uniqueness.  Many of us are so busy trying to conform, that we fail to recognise how special we are as individuals.  We under-estimate our strengths and magnify our weaknesses.  We brush off compliments disbelievingly because we don’t appreciate our strengths.  There is no-one as good at being you as you, so why not showcase all that you are?

Finally, let’s celebrate and respect other people’s uniqueness. If everyone were the same, the world would be a pretty boring place.  I wish I had a penny for every time I heard someone say “why can’t you be more like me?” or “I would never do that to you”.  I’d be very rich indeed!  The fact is, we are all different and it is in our diversity that we are strongest.  My strength may counteract another person’s weakness and vice versa. Wanting everyone to be the same is like having to eat the same food everyday and who wants to do that?

The beauty of coaching is that it works with you as an individual. You don't have to 'fix up' before you come.  It helps you to become more self aware.  It helps you to leverage your strengths and manage your weaknesses.  It helps you to make the necessary changes, so you can realise your potential.

This week, do something that celebrates you.  Get that makeover, learn that new skill, try coaching.  Contact us for your free 30 minute session, to see if coaching is for you.

Until next week, go well.