Communication is the solution!

Communication is the solution!

Maybe you can’t solve all your problems right now. Distribution jammed, resources scarce, staff resigning, delivery uncertain, customer satisfaction at its lowest level. What you CAN do though is COMMUNICATE to an exceptional level.

When things go wrong – it’s not the mistake or the error that has to be the deciding factor… we are all human, we all make mistakes, and we all know other people make mistakes too…But poor communication or lack of communication can really tip us over the edge. Human beings often hate poor communication more than they hate mistakes. As babies and infants, we are not wired to notice distribution chain errors or product challenges – we are wired to notice good and bad communication. We are wired to notice when someone is taking care of us, paying close attention to us and is truly focussed on our needs. We are wired for connection. In your business, whatever deals you are trying to make or keep – it is communication skills and human connection that are the real deal-breaker.

Your business cannot always find the solution to the problem, but it can always focus on excellent communication, leadership and relationship building. Even when a service is disappointing, or when we face uncertainty, loss, change or a crisis, if the communication is good, you can turn that experience around and actually bring some meaning, joy and human connection to your employees and customers’ lives.

I’ve had a number of customer service moments over the last few weeks. Some good some bad. I’ve cancelled a delivery service but had a complete turn-around with a company I had a product issue with.  

I really liked my grocery delivery service – they were far more convenient than going to the shops. On the other hand, I wasn’t hopeful about my complaint call to the company about the faulty product – which started with me, not in the best of moods. So why did I cancel the delivery service and yet feel totally different about the company that sold me a faulty product? Simple. The way they communicated. The way they interacted with me. The way they made me feel. As our dear 4D friend and colleague Anthony Etherton would say – it’s not rocket science, is it??! It’s good, clear and above all INTENTIONAL communication.

Take a moment now and think of a time you got annoyed with a company that you have dealt with – not because they made a mistake, but because their communication was poor.

And now think of a time when a company you were using made a mistake but because of the great communication and relationship management – you not only stayed with them but were grateful and appreciated their care, attention and impact on you.

Notice how you feel when you think of those very different experiences. This is the ripple effect on you and your business. Right into people’s lives, experiences and memories.

Whether you need to improve workforce well-being, team collaboration, company culture or customer satisfaction – better communication skills may well be the solution you are looking for.

And 4D is here to help – with courses, coaching, keynotes, plus our new 4D OnDemand digital platform – – we are here to help you, your leaders and your people become expert communicators who can inspire, motivate, energise and turn even the most challenging situations into golden opportunities. Stay tuned for some tips and best practices coming in the next article!

Love the 4D Team

x

A message from Philippa at 4D

A message from Philippa at 4D

What can I do to help?

I am sure many of you feel as distressed and wretched as I do at the news coming out of Ukraine. Just when we felt we were emerging from the pandemic, the devastation of a war in Europe crashes in.

I have reflected a lot over the past few days on the reaction around the world towards recent events. As with any devastating challenge or trauma coming into our lives, be it a personal, professional, or global curveball, many of us will be spiralling through a powerful, and complex mix of anger and outrage, helplessness and hopelessness, sadness, and despair, as well as love, hope, compassion, and kindness.

And as many of us watch the often-overwhelming footage of destruction and hear the heart-wrenching stories of pain and loss, we may be asking – What can we do? How can we help? We can donate of course but perhaps this doesn’t always feel enough. While we can admire and appreciate those who hurry to the borders to help refugees, that is simply not an option for so many people. So, what can we do?

Aside from doing anything we can to help individuals, support those in need and stand up for freedom and peace…we can also come back to ourselves and start there. Whether in conflict with one other person or a group or a state – we can rage and blame of course…and we can also choose to come back to ourselves and ask: How do we want to ‘be’ in this? Who and how do we want to be in response to aggression and conflict? Here are three reflections which we hope offer some support…

Behind the Boundary

Strong, supposedly negative, emotions like anger, rage or sadness can get a bad rap. These ‘negative’ emotions can be discouraged or rejected throughout our childhood and into our adult lives. And, yes, getting stuck in an emotion like anger is dangerous for us, our relationships, our society, and our health. However, whether you think about a personal conflict in your life or current events, we can understand the response of strong emotions in a different way. Whether we respond with rage, anger, sadness, or despair – strong and often difficult emotions can carry important messages for us. Anger, for example, can often arise as a ‘no’ to someone crossing our boundaries or ignoring our values. And when we understand anger as ‘no, this is not okay’ then we can start to take agency and make choice in a situation. Fear on the other hand may be calling us to act towards our safety and the safety of loved ones. Rather than getting stuck whirling around in a storm of difficult emotions for days, months or years, we need to understand these feelings as messengers that something isn’t okay, something has to change – emotions as a call to action. Signals sent by our body to help move us to a better place. As therapist Diana Fosha explains, “No matter how scary emotions can sometimes seem, if we allow ourselves to process and metabolise them, they will invariably take us to a good place”. So, if you are in conflict with someone or having strong feelings of anger, sadness, fear, or despair to events, can you listen to the feeling and ask what it is trying to tell you? From there, you can start to act and make choices. You can set boundaries, you can state your position, you can stand up for your values, you can communicate your beliefs and needs, you can feel more solid and sure of your footing and know what for you is okay and not okay.

At 4D we constantly ask the question – “Are you happening to the world, or is the world simply happening to you?” We ask this in terms of leadership, communication, and the impact we make. And this question is as, if not more, relevant when the hardest of times are upon us. When we lose someone we love, when our security feels threatened, when we are hurt, when we are scared and when we see war unfolding around us. It is at times like this that the world can happen to us, that we can feel so emotionally overwhelmed that we are lost in feelings of rage, anger, hurt or helplessness. It is by coming back to our 4th dimension – our intentional dimension- that we can start to get back to choice. It is from our intentional selves that we can happen to the world again.

 

Be the Change

You have no doubt heard the often quoted and yet highly relevant quote from Ghandi “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

As we face conflict or injustice in our lives, it can be tempting to let our anger, grief or hopelessness dictate our actions. But, if we want to live in a world where kindness, care, love, understanding, compassion, and humanity far outweigh cruelty and conflict or despair and defeat, then where in our own lives can we reduce conflict, increase understanding, reach out with love, or show an act of kindness? How are we living the values we so desperately want to see on the global stage?

By firing up our 4th dimension – our intentional dimension – we can surface from drowning in overwhelming and sometimes paralysing emotions – and get back to choice. From here, we can choose to put into the world and into our relationships more of the qualities we ourselves want to see in the world. So, what one word can you put in your head today that will set your intention for the day? That helps take you from feeling paralysed to purposeful, that redirects your anger to action, that helps you climb out of a spiral of hopelessness back up to a place of choice and hope. You may choose a word like loving or kind or motivating or caring or even playful or fun…by setting an intention through simply putting that one word in your head today, you will change your state, change your impact, change other people’s day, and create a ripple effect that can truly effect change in the world.

By coming back to ourselves and coming back to choice – we come back to possibility. And by coming back to ourselves and then coming together, we are working from the kind of consciousness, collaboration, leadership, and love that really gives us all a chance to build the day, the relationship, the business, the community, and the world we truly want to build.

 

Let go of the Past

Finally, conflicts can often arise from the seeds of ancient historical disagreements and bitterness. While we might question global actions based on decades or centuries old grievances, we might also look to ourselves and question how this very practice shows up for us. How many of us hold onto old narratives of wrongs done to us in the past that justify our feelings, actions, and choices today? How many of us live moments of aggression or anger, sadness or stubbornness that have their roots in arguments or hurts from months or years ago?  Even without knowing it, many of us can still be holding onto old hurts that continue to hurt us every day. We carry those past pains into the present day and live and breathe them as part of our story. What would it be like to let go of those stories? To release ourselves from the past hurts, to choose today to put down that emotional baggage and let it know we don’t need it anymore. That we are choosing to walk forwards without it now. While the pain we feel from past wrongs done to us may be totally justified, when we carry them with us every day, they become a burden that often end up hurting only us in the here-and-now.

I hope these three tools are as helpful to you as they have been for me.

I send you much love and to all of you caught in conflict – you are in so many hearts and minds and prayers.

Philippa x

4D’s Phil & Pen: Toxic Positivity

4D’s Phil & Pen: Toxic Positivity

Welcome to the 4D Human Being Podcast. In this video we are discussing Toxic Positivity

Toxic positivity is the belief that no matter how dire or difficult a situation is, people should maintain a positive mindset. It’s a “good vibes only” approach to life. And while there are benefits to being an optimist and engaging in positive thinking, toxic positivity instead rejects difficult emotions in favor of a cheerful, often falsely positive, facade.

 

We all know that having a positive outlook on life is good for your mental well-being. The problem is that life isn’t always positive. We all deal with painful emotions and experiences. Those emotions, while often unpleasant, are important and need to be felt and dealt with openly and honestly. 

 

Toxic positivity takes positive thinking to an overgeneralized extreme. This attitude doesn’t just stress the importance of optimism, it minimizes and denies any trace of human emotions that aren’t strictly happy or positive.

Relationships? Or “Communication-ships”

Relationships? Or “Communication-ships”

Communication is EVERYTHING!

 

Of course at 4D Human Being we pretty much believe this to be true and whilst (strictly speaking) there are other things in the world aside from communication (), we truly believe that communication is core to who we are and the experience of life that we are creating for ourselves and one another. So no small thing!

And yet, why is it that so often we don’t communicate, or feel that others fail to communicate with us? This can be because literally no communication occurs. And it can also refer to communication simply not landing in the way we/others intend – and so what takes place is ‘miscommunication’. We could write a book (actually a library) on why communication is important and the skills and tools we can use to be better communicators. But this August Newsletter will not be a book. Instead, we want to offer one focus to help us step in and communicate and to be better communicators. And that is…

…that communication is relational. So join us as we release the focus from ourselves as ‘individual communicators’. And we shift the arc of focus to the relationship – to the audience (or our partner!) to create a different experience of what communication really is.

 

 

Why is Communication Important

 

Any list of ‘top required soft skills in the workplace’ will certainly have communication skills at the top or very near the top. These skills are critical to our success and the success of our organisations – never more so than at the moment – whether collaborating across organisations during the pandemic to save lives or as is the case for many of us working hard to sustain business performance across teams and customer bases when working under challenging economic conditions and doing so virtually. And aside from the professional benefits of strong communication, let’s not forget that research suggests that in our personal relationships, it is effective communication that we struggle with the most and is the #1 reason for relationships breaking down (John Gottman Institute).

We can tell ourselves that the reason to be a great communicator is to effectively transfer information from one human being to another. And whilst this is true – and has been critical to the survival and development of our species, communication serves so much more. Communication enables us to create, build and nurture relationships with other people and to create shared meaning in our lives. And when that becomes the focus of why and how we communicate, well… we are entering a whole new ball game.

 

Why it Fails

 

There are many reasons why communication either doesn’t take place at all or it fails for some reason. One way to think about why this might be the case is to consider where is your focus of attention? Think about the last time you needed to have a difficult conversation or perhaps get up to present in public or even participate in an interview. It’s likely that any preoccupation prior to the ‘communication’ would have been focused on you. Will I do well? Will I say the wrong thing? Will I forget something?

Sound familiar…?

And if this is the case then several things may be happening, such as…
We may want to be ‘right’
We may be fearful of looking stupid or being criticized or attacked
We may choose language that focuses on our own needs/opinions
We may not listen
We may end up trying to avoid having the conversation
We may (consciously or unconsciously) be preparing counter-arguments for why the other person is wrong

And so the list goes on.

As a business owner occasionally I do have to step into some difficult conversations and back in the day when I was younger, and working in the corporate world, I sometimes would prepare a lot for such ‘encounters’. However looking back now, my ‘preparation’ was undoubtedly attempting to secure me in some of the above positions. Rather than focus on a true two-way communication.

 

Communication is Relational

 

Communication is so much more than words and information. It’s relational. Communication creates, builds and transforms our relationships with everyone from our family, friends, colleagues, boss, clients and anyone from the postman to the slightly grumpy neighbour!

So with this in mind, where is our ‘arc of focus’? Think of an arc stretching from you to the other person/audience and if THAT is where the focus is, we can transform how we communicate and how we feel about communication. And transform our relationships.

The arc of focus and The Big B

(Intellectual Dimension)

 

It takes effort (in all 4 dimension – physical, emotional, intellectual and intentional) to remove the focus from ourselves and truly focus on other people. As the novelist Zadie Smith recently pointed out on a podcast interview (The Adam Buxton Podcast ep.130) – when she met Tom Hanks, she thought what a kind and generous person he was and how he is so outward facing to everyone he meets. This is a generous thing to do and can have an enormous effect on other people. But as she also pointed out, it takes practice and it can look an exhausting thing to do for any length of time, especially if that focus of attention in communication is not reciprocated.

So, accepting we are not all perfect and selfless beings. And we are not even all Tom Hanks, what can we do? How can we shift our arc of focus to the ‘other’?

One thing to consider is to craft into your communication the benefit to the other person of what you are saying/offering. It sounds obvious but so often we can forget and we can communicate just from our own perspective – with an unconscious emphasis on what WE want. Build in the Big B (benefit) upfront and not only are people more likely to listen, but the communication is also much more likely to be relationship-focused.

 

 

Open-armed

(Physical dimension)

Our gestures say so much about where we are operating from and whilst gestures such as pointing fingers, folded arms, exasperated shrugs all perhaps have their place and… we can choose to use our physical gestures to engage relationally when speaking. Or even when being silent.

For example, open arms and open palms is a universal sign of ‘peace and openness’ and demonstrates empathy and a willingness to be open and that we are not hiding anything. This simple gesture can have an enormous impact on the neurochemistry of the person standing in front of us.

One of the most impactful examples of this that I find personally is when I manage to find myself in my more ‘conscious’ parenting state and respond to tantrums or anger from my kids with a simple open arm gesture. It doesn’t always work (and let’s be clear I don’t always find that it’s my first response!) but I am constantly surprised at how often it does work. It calms the situation and opens a new line of communication, where my child intuitively feels that I am open to hearing their viewpoint or underlying needs.

 

The Listening Vase

(Emotional Dimension)

 

Emotionally we can boost our empathy by listening rather than talking. Not only does this help people feel heard but as the listener you are more powerful than you perhaps think! Not only in terms of shaping the conversation and landing the communication – but with the added bonus of simultaneously focusing on and building the relationship. If you feel that communicating your message is all about you talking, think again. Think of someone else’s words as the liquid and you as the person listening is the vase. Depending on how you listen, facial expressions, body language, attitude, concentration, focus, you will be shifting the shape of the vase and how the message is finally formed. At the extreme of course – if you stop listening, the speaker will finally stop speaking!

The 2% Truth

(Intentional Dimension)

“I have one major rule: Everybody is right. More specifically, everybody — including me — has some important pieces of truth, and all of those pieces need to be honoured, cherished, and included in a more gracious, spacious, and compassionate embrace.” ― Ken Wilber
If we enter into conversation wanting to be right or to win it’s unlikely communication will truly take place or at least not land in a way that makes it effective. We each have our own truth and whilst we may not hold ourselves out to be perfect, flawless and always right, we do fundamentally have a viewpoint and a belief that is important to us. And of course… that is true of every other person on the planet. So… Intentionally, how can we hold both our own truth and also that of others? Without entering a battle or fully conceding? The answer is to understand that we are all partially right.

One way to practice this mindset is to enter a conversation knowing that whatever the other person says there will be at least a 2% truth in what they say… This small % means that we can hold our position/opinion as our own truth AND we can also allow space for the fact that the other person’s opinion or point of view even if vastly different to our own could at the very least hold a 2% truth even for ourselves.

 

Many of us may sometimes have conversations around the current pandemic and there are many differing opinions out there. I and many other people have for example travelled abroad recently for certain reasons (e.g. me – to collect my kids from their dad’s house in Italy). Yet some of us may question why people are travelling abroad at the moment especially when quick changes in quarantine measures could arise at any moment. My mind wants to leap to many defences of MY choice to travel abroad and yet taking a breath, perhaps I don’t need to justify my reasons. Perhaps I can be true both to the many thought-through reasons surrounding my decision, careful choices I had made, and how I had managed the trip cautiously – whilst also recognising that yes there is also a truth in mass movement not being ideal at the moment. Neither of us was fully right or wrong. There is truth everywhere not just somewhere.

The information you need to share (whether in a personal or professional relationship) is important to you and potentially important to others. And yet your communication does so much more than transfer information from one human being to another. You are creating a connection (Communication-ships!) between yourself and other human beings – in every moment. And if that is our focus every time we go to communicate, what might we change and… what might we create?

5 Qualities to help us Overcome Curveballs

5 Qualities to help us Overcome Curveballs

We are all together in this Coronavirus curveball. So, what should we do? How should we be?

 

If you’ve never experienced a curveball in your life – then you are one of the lucky ones. Most of us, certainly after a certain age, have had to cope with sudden loss, illness, incidents, redundancies, relationships ending unexpectedly, betrayals, shocks and disappointments. And throughout all of that many of us cling to the things we can still find certainty in – our work, our passions, a nice meal in the pub, a dance class, a football match and seeing friends and family. But all of us today are experiencing those familiar rugs being pulled from under our feet.

 

I think a lot about curveballs and how we cope emotionally, psychologically and socially when they happen. Personally because of things that have happened in my life and professionally, because I and my 4D colleagues help organisations, leaders and teams navigate change and uncertainty – through keynote speaking and face to face or online workshops and coaching. When facing massive change in your personal life you might find certainty and solace in your workplace, and when struck by uncertainty at work we might find comfort in the familiar routine of home. But now, both personally and professionally, our worlds have been rocked. 

Here we are – day by day watching the statistics and graphs curving up to one of the biggest curveballs any of us have ever faced.

Once this has passed, we will look back at how we responded. At what legacy we created about ourselves. And right now is the time to start consciously responding and behaving in a way we will be proud of.

I and my partners at 4D Human Being believe there are five key skills and qualities that we all need to tap into when curveballs strike: Resilience, Connection, Adaptability, Communication and Storytelling.

 

1. Resilience

 

On July 19th 2016 I was staying with my sister in Sussex, when I received a phone call from the police at 6 a.m. I was soon struck with the horrifying news that around midnight the night before, my partner Tom had taken a piece of rope and driven himself to a motorway bridge in North London, where he had taken his own life. The curveball had hit. I don’t need to tell you of the anguish and pain that followed. And… amidst the shock and the horror and the grief and the fear, I was a single woman with a business that supported both me and my sister and her three children. As well as our other wonderful 4D team members. On some level, I simply had to dig deep, tap into my resilience and carry on. Five weeks later I was standing on stage in Las Vegas delivering a high energy Impact seminar to over 2000 people. It wasn’t that I didn’t still feel all the pain and hurt, it was that there was another part of me that I could access, a part that could connect to a wider purpose and be of service to others. Because in a curveball, in spite of our fear, we often need to find the strength and resilience within us that can create some scaffolding for us to see a crisis through. I needed, and wanted, to keep working, to keep sharing a message of courage and positivity that not only helped my audience but supported me as well. So, what is it you know about yourself? What quality can you dig deep into and tap into right now? What helps you feel resilient? Is it gathering information? Staying physically strong? Self-compassion? Or is it, like me, through tapping into your personal energy and wider purpose? How can you identify your key strengths and qualities and so dig into your own inner resilience and resources? And how can you help others to do the same? It might not take away the fear and anxiety, but it may well help you to turn a corner through these tough times.

 

 2. Connection

 

Eleanor and I were actors together back in the day and worked together in a number of plays at the magical Watermill Theatre in Newbury. In between rehearsal and performances, she and I became firm friends, spending our time howling with laughter, writing comedy songs on the guitar and drinking far too much cheap white wine. With very few cares in the world, neither of us could have imagined the curveballs that lay waiting for us in our futures. For my dear friend Eleanor, hers came on a cold January morning in 2008. Early that day, she had woken up in her house and went to stir her two children out of bed. As she moved towards her toddler Miranda’s cot, she felt the horrifying chill that something was wrong. Something was more than wrong. Miranda had died suddenly during the night. At the time her death was recorded as sudden infant death syndrome but is now understood to have been sudden unexplained death in childhood which can affect children between the ages of 1 and 19. My friend faced one of the worst things that can happen to a fellow human being. So began a desperately difficult journey of working through her loss and grief. I saw Eleanor frequently over the following months and marveled at the honesty, openness and incredible strength she showed as she dealt with her pain. One quality stood out to me and helped me through my own curveball some years later. Eleanor very carefully and very consciously drew in the friends and support network that would help see her through. She understood at a fundamental level how vital human connection was going to be to support her healing. She decided very clearly who she needed to be around at that time and what each friend, relative and acquaintance could offer her and help her with. She also understood something else important to her healing – who she did not need to be around. With friends and family who, for whatever reason, she found it difficult to be around – because they were pregnant or had little girls of their own – she gently asked them to love her through this as she pressed a careful pause on connections that were hard or complicated. Increasing the connections that could support her in the way she needed. Eleanor continues to use connection today to help others heal through her wonderful work as a horticultural therapist.

When curveballs come, connection and the support of our network is vital. When our world has been turned upside down, we need the solidity and support of those who care about us. The human brain is wired for connection. We human beings did not survive and adapt alone. We did it together. And that’s how we will do it now. I am reminded of the postcards people are creating to check in with elderly people who are self-isolating. Who can you reach out to, or who can you ask for help during this time? Personally, professionally, or at an organisational level? Who could simply do with a card through their door or a text message or a facetime call to know you are thinking about them?

 

 3. Adaptability

 

On July 7, 2007, four bombs went off in quick succession in the city of London. Three on the tube network and one on a number 30 bus in Tavistock Place. A young woman named Martine Wright, was on her way to work when one of the bombs detonated in the train-carriage she was in. She was the last survivor to be rescued and had lost nearly three-quarters of her blood by the time the fire brigade cut her free. The doctors at Royal London Hospital managed to save her life but both of her legs had to be amputated. She woke up from the disaster to a very different reality. But in spite of the hardships and enduring pain and grief, she managed to make the most amazing adaptation and pivot on her life. Five years later in July 2012 she was picked to represent Great Britain’s women’s sitting volleyball team in the 2012 Summer Paralympics. She demonstrated huge adaptability, responding to her new reality and what was available to her. Not just by compromising or making do, but by adapting creatively and personally flourishing in order to find a whole new way of being.

This is a key skill that we are being called upon to tap into right now. We have to tap into our adaptability. As Charles Darwin suggested – it is not the survival of the fittest but the most adaptable. In challenging times, we need to increase our personal adaptability. And we need to adapt our organisational processes and products. Asking ourselves…what might be possible? If I waved a magic wand…? What is it that people need right now that I might be able to offer? How can I use the fact that everything seems turned upside down to be creative and to offer something completely different? This is the time to tap into your creativity and to increase your improvisational skills. This is the time for right-brain, right hemisphere thinking – recognizing that we can no longer rely on the old way of doing things; we cannot fix our current problems with the same old thinking that got us here. We have to create something new. New processes, products and new ways of being together.

 

4. Communication

 

What would you do if you suffered 63% burns to your body? And were given a 5% chance of surviving? In 2007 a handsome, vibrant young man named Jamie Hull was faced with precisely this curveball. He had decided to fulfil his life-long dream of becoming a pilot. Near the end of his intensive flying course in Florida and having completed a number of solo flights, Jamie was within sight of his private pilot’s license. Then on another routine flight in a Liberty XL2 two-seater, to clock up his flying hours, Jamie, 1000 feet up, with no parachute and wearing only light summer clothes, suddenly realized his engine was on fire. Within seconds he was no longer flying a plane, but a fireball. Jamie did some incredible quick-thinking – levelling the aircraft 15ft above the ground, slowing to 30 knots, before opening the door, climbing onto the left wing of the plane and leaping out. Alive but horrifically burned, Jamie began a long, painful recovery process. And every day as he pressed on, Jamie found himself questioning his motivation to go on living.

A few months ago, I had the privilege of watching Jamie address an audience in the Painted Hall at the Royal Navy College in London. He had the courage to step out on stage and communicate his story in support of the charity that had supported him – Help for Heroes. Jamie has managed to turn some of his darkest moments into insights of wisdom for communication, impact and creating a difference. By reaching out and telling his story, he has inspired others to believe that they too can navigate their way through difficult times. Communication is so key during difficult times. We as a human race are not the stories and the messages we keep locked in our heads. We are the stories and messages we share in the world. I firmly believe you cannot over-communicate with your employees and your colleagues at times like this. Stay in touch, keep people motivated and let them know you are with them and there for them. These simple, yet-heart felt moments of communication and motivation, can be a powerful way to counterbalancing the impact of curveballs.

 

5. Storytelling 

 

On Saturday 13th September 2014 at 3.31pm I received an email from my friend Anna. She wrote to me from a well-known children’s hospital in London to say her four-year-old little girl, Claudia, had been diagnosed with Leukaemia. Nine years earlier, Anna and I had met walking our dogs in a London park. Her mother had met me first and said you must meet my daughter, you and she are going to become the best of friends. And we did. From wild nights out to deep existential conversations, we delighted in finding each other and the universe bringing us together.

Now, 9 years later, Anna was facing a devastating curveball. Her daughter’s Leukaemia treatment would start with an intensive five-month process and ultimately would take two and a half years in total. While Anna of course acknowledged that what she and her partner were going through was shocking and surreal, what stood out to me right from this initial moment was how conscious she was of the story and narrative she chose to create. Yes, Anna’s storytelling accepted the reality of the curveball they had been thrown, and…it also focused heavily on the positive. In that very first email she wrote that for children in Claudia’s age bracket the “cure rates are very high, over 90%,” that her daughter would, in time, “return to her childhood and go to school and play with her friends.” A little later Anna spoke to me about the clear choice she was making around the language and story she would be using to herself, to others and most importantly to Claudia. She didn’t use the words ‘disease’ or ‘illness’, instead she spoke of ‘treatment’ and ‘getting well.’ For her daughter, the weeks of hospital and procedures were simply part of a journey to wellness so she could get back to school and once again be the healthy, fun-loving little girl she was.

Throughout those critical years, Claudia never had a sense of something being wrong with her, only of things moving towards being even better.  I am so happy to say that Claudia is now in wonderful health – a smart, bright, creative and gorgeous 9-year-old living, learning, loving and laughing to the full.

In these coming weeks and months it is more important than ever that we are conscious both about the stories – and media – we allow ourselves to listen to and the stories we choose to tell.

Storytelling is vital for successfully navigating our way through a curveball. Whether it’s your personal story or the story of your organisation, you can choose which stories define and shape you. SO how can you become more conscious of the words you use and the stories you tell? How can you shape your stories to be true and at the same time helpful and hopeful, woven through with positivity and possibility?

 

We are always at choice…

 

One of my former partner Tom’s favourite phrases was ‘Are you happening to the world, or is the world simply happening to you?’ In my work as director, speaker and coach at 4D Human Being and as a psychotherapist, I and my 4D colleagues come back to this phrase again and again as a vital touchstone to our belief that we always have a choice. Whatever happens, even in the worst of circumstances, we always have a choice how to respond. So, as we all deal with the curveball of Coronavirus, we can choose to let events happen to us or we can make choices to deal with events in a conscious way – so we can be “always at choice.”

 

These five skills and qualities of Resilience, Connection, Adaptability, Communication and Storytelling can serve as touchstones for us all to help remind us we all have what it takes to see us through even the most difficult of times. We can, and must, all stay connected and together in our efforts to deal with the crisis and be kind and thoughtful to our fellow humans. We can keep communicating and motivating others to do the best they can. We can adapt quickly and find new routines and make new meaning. We can choose whether we are the victim or the hero of our own story. And we can choose to consciously create a narrative and meaning that gives us and others hope, positivity and purpose in the coming weeks.

#AlwaysAtChoice