When I’m hiking, I’m sometimes overtaken by faster, younger hikers with lighter rucksacks. On other occasions, it’s me that does the overtaking, in which case I think that their rucksack must be really heavy.
The truth is that I’ve no way of knowing how much their rucksack weighs. Is it full of lead or is it full of feathers? Are they whistling as they walk or are they struggling along? Are they half or twice the age they appear?
Sometimes, I can hear myself judging someone’s pace, gait or particularly annoying posture.
But what do I know about how much their « rucksack » weighs? Would I be capable of carrying the same weight, real or metaphorical? Have they just recovered from a long illness? Are they in mourning?
Which rucksack would you like to open up rather than judging someone blindly?
« If only the walls could talk! » said the beauty therapist at a meeting of small business owners. « You can’t begin to imagine all the things my customers tell me. »
I smile to myself because it’s the same with my Italian teacher. She asks me what I did last week, what I’m doing this week and what I’m going to be doing in the future. This gets me practising the three verb tenses and, if there’s been some kind of misunderstanding and I regret not having done something, the conditional puts in an appearance too!
Sometimes, I think of her as my own personal psychologist (expresso style, of course!)
When it comes down to it, psychologists, coaches, beauty therapists and Italian teachers are just trying to get us to talk. None of them has the solution to our problems. That’s for us to find. But saying something aloud shines a different light on a situation. It’s not what someone else says that makes us progress, it’s taking the time to listen to our own voice.
A personal psychologist who knows how to listen without providing a solution or giving their opinion is a rare beast. If you have one, you know it.
Tell them how much they mean to you. They’ll like that. And I’d like to say to Laura, sei la migliore! (you’re the best!)
Philippe told me that he has introduced a compulsory break for his team at around 3.30 pm to 4 pm. He calls it the « apple break ». Not just because it’s too early for a quick drink and too late for caffeine, or because an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but because an apple is a good excuse.
You can’t eat an apple in one go nor can you eat it while you’re doing something else. You need a certain amount of time and at least one hand free. So the break lasts the length of time you spend chewing and it forces – or allows – us to listen to the other apple-eaters!
If I know that at a specific time during the day, there’s going to be a difficult or vitally important moment for either myself or my team, I think about slipping in an « apple break ». It’s all about anticipation and management, creating a break to be able to look up and take a breather instead of exhausting myself at the rock face. It’s all about being ‘forced’ to discuss issues with other people instead of going around in circles on my own.
Italians go to their local café for a wickedly strong espresso, and I always plan lunch breaks with people from all walks of life to broaden my horizons.
What about your apple break? What would it be like?
As all my friends know, I love giving people big hugs. I like the physical contact with the people I love, I like giving a hug to someone who is in distress and I like giving a celebratory hug too. Any excuse, in fact.
One day I was giving a coaching class and I saw that one of the participants looked a bit dubious, as if he were struggling. Once we’d finished what we were doing, I asked him if he needed a hug. He looked down at me from a great height and said. « I’d have thought that you need it more than me, don’t you? »
Upset, I quickly turned away and found someone else who needed a hug. And it was then that I began to understand. He was right. I’d asked him if he wanted a hug not for HIM but for ME. I had projected my need on to him.
A bit later on, I told him what I’d discovered – after all, this was a coaching session, the perfect place to have this kind of discussion – and he explained to me how he worked it out: « Whenever my father wanted to eat, he said to my mother – darling, the children are hungry!! »
What about you? Do you project any of your needs onto someone else?
Someone explained to me that most buttons in a city are dummies. For example, red traffic lights. They work on automatic settings but if you give a pedestrian a button to press, she has the impression of actively participating in her wish to cross the road.
Ellen J. Langer, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University studied « The illusion of control ». She came to the conclusion that buttons reduce stress and promote well-being. They are placebo buttons.
We use surveys to ask employees for their opinion, we vote in elections, our spouse comes to us for advice. And even if what happens as a result is not what we wanted, we have the impression that we have been listened to.
Most of what we want is to be listened to. If we have this space or a forum in which to express ourselves, we have the impression of being in control.
What things do you need to express to satisfy your need to be in control?