Voodoo at home

How to choose an apple over chocolate

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I’m sitting in a room surrounded by mess.

An hour ago, the room looked tidy. But it wasn’t. Behind the cupboard doors, there was chaos. The mess was out of sight but not out of mind. I opened the door, and now I’m dealing with the consequences.

I’m not generally a messy person. I like a place to look lived-in, but not cluttered. However, even with the best of intentions, things can build up. The problem with ‘stuff’ building up over time is that it results in you having to invest significantly more effort to put it right later on. ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ as they say, whoever ‘they’ are.

And yet, even though this requires effort, and the messy in-between stage can be unsettling, there is something oddly therapeutic about de-cluttering and reorganising; identifying what is worth keeping and what is just ‘baggage’. It clears my head. I’ve read that we make healthier choices when our surroundings are de-cluttered. (Something about participants in a study choosing an apple over chocolate – that’s powerful stuff!) 

People Voodoo is all about taking good care of yourself and others, so I‘m all for making healthy choices easy. If de-cluttering is good for you, let’s get stuck in. Here are a few ideas for you to have a go at.

Idea 1 – Weed the garden

This is the easiest place to start (assuming you have a garden). A weed is a weed and you’re unlikely to feel any emotional attachment to something that popped up uninvited, unless your tortoise will suffer dandelion withdrawal problems. You get all the de-clutter benefits without any tough decisions.

Idea 2 – Discipline your desktop

If you’re more into computers than compost and clippings, then this might be the one for you. Filing isn’t just for paperwork you know. If you can’t count the icons on your desktop out loud without taking a breath, it’s worth a review. Anything you don’t open at least once a week could be filed away.

If that feels a bit too ruthless to begin with, try setting up a folder called ‘do I really need this’ and put everything in there. Anything you take back out in the next 2 weeks can stay out, the rest you need to find a new home for.

Idea 3 – Wade into the wardrobe

This may cause a sharp intake of breath for many of you. Depending on the size of your wardrobe, this could be quite a big job. If you think you’ll struggle due to scale or emotional attachment, I suggest you start with something small, like socks.

Divide everything into 3 piles:

  1. Love & wear as often as possible
  2. Can’t remember when I last wore and/or not sure I like this anyway
  3. What was I thinking!

Pile 3: This pile is about to leave your life. If everything you own has moved to pile 3, slow down. What will you wear? Maybe try pile 2 for a few items.

Pile 2: If pile 2 is substantial, either because you can’t bring yourself to move things to pile 3 (come on, you can do it!) or because you’ve been overzealous and it all just came over from pile 3, shove it all into bags and store it all somewhere out of sight. Set a calendar reminder for 1 years’ time (I like to allow for seasonality), and anything you haven’t gone looking for before then belongs in pile 3.

Pile 1: If it’s all in pile 1 and the pile is taller than you, enlist help!

Oh and before you start, just remember that it might get worse before it gets better, but it’s in a good cause and you’ll thank yourself for the mental and physical space you’re created in your life.

So, Can I offer you an apple or some chocolate?

3 ways to avoid empathy slip-ups

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Communicating with people who have a different outlook on or approach to life can be simultaneously challenging and rewarding. We’ve all met people we just gel with and empathise with more easily, and others we find more tricky.

I’ve spent many years helping individuals and groups become more aware of their own style and how it affects and can be adapted to improve their relationships with others. Along the way, I’ve witnessed many situations where the best of intentions led to misunderstandings, slip-ups, bad feelings and fallouts.

Always on the lookout for ways to help people be more empathetic and understand each other better, I was genuinely pleased when social media became flooded with lists of ‘5/10 things you should to know about….’ There’s really nothing better than a bullet point, whistle stop tour through the inner workings of a group of like-minded people to help raise awareness.

I’ve read every list that’s come my way, from ‘Things you should know about people with tattoos’ to ‘Things you should know about mothers that decide not to breast feed’ and there is some pretty useful stuff out there.

Sadly, as with all communication, this list writing can also present a communication ‘banana peel’ to slip up on. Slip-ups I’ve come across have included;

  • writers venting their frustrations at being misunderstood, whilst setting unrealistically high expectations of the people around them, with apparently little intention of adapting their own approach.
  • writers sharing stories of sadness and grief, and whilst asking for greater empathy of their situation, inadvertently or sometimes more directly, suggesting that their pain is somehow superior to the pain of others.

Even if you practise People Voodoo it can be hard to empathise with someone who throws accusations, downplays or belittles your own experiences or expects all the effort to come from you.

And yet, empathy is so incredibly important to good relationships, so here are 3 ways to build your empathy muscle to help avoid empathy slip-ups.

1.Try to separate the behaviour from the intention

Intentions are about who we are, behaviours are about how we are.

Yes, of course how we behave matters, and destructive behaviour needs to be challenged, but before you judge a person entirely on their behaviour, try to see the intention behind it. It is possible that they either don’t have the emotional resources or communication skills to express their intention in a more positive way.  Some well timed, tactfully constructed feedback might be all they need.

2 Be fair with the way you give your empathy

Not everyone shows feelings in the same way, and context and pressure can play havoc with our approach to expressing our feelings.

The person crying the hardest isn’t necessarily the one hurting the most. In fact, someone who has been brought up to look ‘strong’ might intentionally appear emotionless but, shaken up like a can of fizz, they will later explode to release that tension.

With your People Voodoo hat on, try to give your empathy and support equally, regardless of how feelings are expressed. The phrase, ” I can see you are finding this hard” can be appropriate to someone who is shouting or someone in floods of tears.

3.Be prepared to pay for breakages

Emotions are like crystal glasses. If you are going to get them out more than just on special occasions, (and you really should), then you can expect a few breakages along the way. It’s easily done. A scratch here, a chip there.

Be willing to accept your mistakes, apologise and try again, And be bold enough to expect that of others too.

You won’t get it right every time, but don’t let that stop you trying.

 

 

 

Mind the gap

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Do you think others  find you worthy of trust?

How easily do you trust others?

If you practice People Voodoo, the issue of trust is probably as close to your heart as it is to mine. A relationship without trust can be a very lonely and uncomfortable one. To reduce that suffering we need to understand how trust works and how to bridge the gaps in trust.

Charles H. Green’s  Trust Equation is a brilliant starting point.

 

Trust = (credibility   x  reliability   x  intimacy) / self-orientation.

 

Let’s take a closer look.

  • Credibility is all about words; what we say.
    • Do you sound like you know what we are talking about? Are you knowledgeable and consistent in what you say? or do you wing it?
  • Reliability is all about our actions. 
    • Do you do what you say you’ll do? Can you be depended upon? or do you fail to follow through?
  • Intimacy is about security and emotion.
    • Are you confidential? Do others find it comfortable to share information with you? or are you known to embarrass others or leak information?
  • Self-orientation is about focus.
    • When you are focused on achieving your own goals do you still consider those around you? or does it appear to be all about you?

What is most humbling is the power of self-orientation to win or damage trust. Even if you scored 10 out of 10 on credibility, reliability and intimacy  (10 x 10 x 10 = 1000),  a reputation for having high self-orientation (10) can wipe out 90% of your good work. (1000/10 = 100).

Mathematics to one side, we intuitively know that it is easier to trust those who have our best interests at heart, even if they are occasionally late, or pretend to know more than they really do in the pub quiz.

This week, to practice some People Voodoo, why not focus your attention on closing some trust gaps.

  1. Be open and honest about what you know and consistent in the input you give.
  2. Check what you are committing to, ensuring you do not over-commit and under deliver, with deadlines or offers of time.
  3. Consider how you invite and treat information offered to you, whether that’s the way you handle paperwork or how loudly you speak in a public place.
  4. Ensure that you are demonstrating a genuine interest and concern for others.

And last but not least, if you are able to do so humanely, why not let someone else know what they could be doing to earn your trust.

 

 

A change is like a…

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If the saying is true and a change is like a holiday, then the UK leaving the EU is like a two week break in the Maldives!

Maybe not.

In reality, change can be hard, especially when it is forced upon us. Actually, it can feel like a real punch in the face.

Why? Because it’s emotional. It’s about loss.

We need to go deeper than facts and process to help each other navigate change. This means there is plenty of opportunity to apply People Voodoo.

Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross gave her view on this topic as far back as 1969. She may have worked with the terminally ill, but when she concluded that we experience denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance in loss situations, she might as well have been describing the effects of the EU referendum.

Denial

This is the shock stage where we think there must be a mistake. Maybe votes have not been counted, the screen hasn’t refreshed. Of course, if it’s all over Facebook and every news channel, then denial doesn’t last long. If it does, then People Voodoo would recommend to allow a bit of time for it to sink in. If it helps to check the facts, do it. If it helps to repeat it several times, do that. This is a normal response to loss, it takes as long as it takes. 

Anger

Another reaction to change is to question why. Frustrated, we seek out the reason or the source of the problem which can result in blaming; people or events. We might be angry with those who voted differently, those we think lied or those who use it as an opportunity to pedal their own agenda. We might be angry with ourselves for being taken in, for being complacent and letting this happen, or for making the wrong decision.

Before we judge, and expect others to accept things and move on, it is worth considering how accepting we are being. Anger is a normal response to loss. Someone who is grieving is suffering, even if it comes out as anger. Where People Voodoo can help, is with being respectful to others in the messages we put out during this time. Anger is not equal to aggression. It is possible to honour the anger without doing harm to ourselves or others.

Bargaining

This is a negotiation or compromising stage. For People Voodoo this is the perfect time for listening. What is being bargained about, tells us what is really at the root of the suffering. We can’t go back to life before an event (yet), but there may be other options for going forward. If someone tries to bargain for what you believe to be a lost cause, just remember, this is a normal response to loss. Listen and help them work through the arguments or options, there may be something there to work with.

Depression

This is the ‘what’s the point’ stage. The sadness. This is a normal response to loss and maybe the one we most easily associated with it. We may become recluse, stop engaging in the discussion and disassociate ourselves, emotionally or physically. The People Voodoo approach here is one of being available as a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear, offering and encouraging kindness to ourselves and others.

Acceptance – not to be confused with feeling OK about it all!

This the point where we can start to prepare for what is to come. People who feel they have suffered a loss won’t suddenly feel happy about it, and we can’t expect them to. What acceptance gives people is the space to plan ahead, without anger or sadness dragging them back. People Voodoo is all a bout getting here as fast as possible.

What about you?

What was your reaction to a recent change? Are you one of the lucky ones who flies past the other stages on the way to acceptance? Are there changes that you accept more easily than others? How are they different to the ones you struggle with? If you do get stuck in any of the stages, where do you stay the longest? Why do you think that is? How do you move yourself on?

Change will certainly feel more like a holiday if we can all get to acceptance faster with minimal time spent suffering on the way.

 

 

 

 

I swear, it really hurts!

man-stress-male-faceHow do you feel about swearing?

Not the ‘making a solemn promise under oath’ kind of swearing. The offensive language, cursing, or using profanities kind of swearing.

People Voodoo seeks to reduce suffering, so you’d think that swearing would be on the list of things to avoid, but it’s not. If used wisely, swearing can actually be good for you!

If you take a dim view of swearing, or feel generally uncomfortable about, or around swearing, then please be reassured that People Voodoo does not promote swearing as a daily activity. There is however value in it for remedial purposes.

There is evidence that swearing helps you feel less pain. Yes, in the name of science volunteers put their hands in icy water and if they were allowed to swear, it reduced their pain experience compared to those who were only allowed to use neutral words. But look out, if you overuse swearing, the benefit reduces. It’s only effective in moderation.

So, regardless of how you feel about swearing, there is an opportunity to apply People Voodoo to a swearing situation. Try asking yourself:

Is this a physically or emotionally painful situation where someone is using swearing to manage their pain?

  • If yes – does the person need help to reduce suffering, and can you help?
  • If no – what’s really going on? maybe this is  a swear-oholic who might benefit from some People Voodoo.
    • Before you rush in, just be prepared that they might not want your @!!*%’! opinion.

And when you next stub your toe, grab the opportunity to be kind to yourself and swear!

If you think any of this sounds challenging, here is a reminder that progress does not happen overnight.  A ‘hole’ lot of progress.