Listening, of course, is more than just hearing. It is about paying attention to someone in a way that creates a genuine human connection. Sometimes that connection is enough to enable the person concerned to feel stronger, more confident and better supported in dealing with their difficulties. Listening is an important first step in terms of exploring potential solutions, but at times listening is enough on its own to find the strength to move forward positively. ‘Dadirri’ is a concept drawn from Australian aboriginal culture which refers to the type of listening that creates that all-important bond, listening that gives a strong and genuine message that we are concerned and that we are here to help without judgement. It could be described as listening with our heart, rather than just with our ears. When you have been on the receiving end of such listening you will know about it, as you will feel the positive, empowering effects of it. Learning how to develop dadirri listening is therefore an important step forward for us to take.
From time to time we find ourselves in situations where we are finding it difficult to comprehend what has happened – times of loss, crisis or sudden change, for example. It is as if our head knows, but our heart hasn’t caught up, and so ‘it doesn’t seem real’ can be a thought that runs through our mind. This is a perfectly normal phenomenon and nothing to be concerned about in itself. However, we need to be wary of two potential problems. One is that, when we find ourselves in such a situation, we may make decisions that we later regret because we have been destabilized by the change that has occurred. For example, some people can respond quite rashly in situations where they are confused about what is happening. Second, if we are trying to help somebody who is in a ‘heart hasn’t caught up with head’ situation, we have to bear in mind that they may not be taking on board what we are saying to them because of the sense of emotional shock they are experiencing. We therefore have to choose our moments carefully in interacting with someone in such circumstances.
Many times I have heard some people try to justify bullying behaviours by describing oppressive practices as ‘strong leadership’. In reality, using bullying tactics is a sign of a lack of leadership. A leader is someone who shapes a culture and creates an atmosphere where people want to do well, where they want to be part of a team that works well – they do not need to be coerced or intimidated into doing what is required of them. They feel they belong to an important endeavour and are pleased to be part of it. Bullying is a sign that leadership skills are lacking or that the person in a leadership role has failed to grasp what leadership is all about.
There are relatively few people in today’s world of work who are not under time pressures. This is all the more reason that we need to make sure that our time is used wisely. This is not about petty ways of saving 30 seconds here or a minute and a half there, but rather about having the assertiveness skills to protect our valuable time by not allowing others to seduce us into putting time and effort into activities that are not a priority for us. Demands on our time are potentially infinite, but however skilful we are at time management, the time available will always be finite. Don’t let it be spent too cheaply.
Yes, it’s a cliché, but the fact remains that, in working with people and their problems, we are likely to get better results if we smile. Smiling gives a clear message to the effect of ‘I am pleased to be in your company’ while not smiling can give the message that we are not pleased to be in that person’s company. Of course, we don’t want to go overboard and come across as insincere, but smiling really can make a big difference. Sounds obvious? Not worth saying? Just watch people around you and see how often people interact with one another without smiling. You’ll see that lots of opportunities to make a positive connection are being missed.
The term ‘trauma’ is often used in a very loose and ‘watered down’ way to refer to any difficult or distressing situation. However, in its technical sense, trauma refers to a wound (physical or psychological) that has lasting effects. We are now realizing more fully that so many of the mental health problems that people encounter are linked to earlier experiences of one or more traumas. Indeed, difficulties in life more broadly will often have their roots in trauma. So, if we are working with people in any sort of supportive or supervisory way, we would do well to ask ourselves whether trauma is playing any part in the situation – particularly those situations that are proving problematic or challenging in some way.
So-called ‘common sense’ is often not common (different people have different ideas about what is common sense) and not always sense (it is often contradictory). What counts as common sense can be important advice and wisdom built up over many years of experience. However, it can also, at times, be based on unquestioned prejudices and taken-for-granted assumptions. But, whether what counts as common sense is sound or not, what resorting to common sense amounts to is relying on preformed ideas instead of using reflective practice to think, plan, analyse and make sense of the situations we are dealing with. Someone saying: ‘It’s common sense’ is often inviting us to accept their perspective uncritically, rather than work out our own view on it.
I mentioned in an earlier blog post that the Avenue Successful Time and Workload Management e-learning course is based on four principles of time and workload management. One of those principles is ‘Invest time to save time’. Unfortunately, busy people often fail to do this. There may be useful ways in which they could save time and energy, be more effective and/or achieve better results with the same resources, but many people will not explore these because they see themselves as being too busy to do so. That is, they don’t invest time to save time. An investment is not the same as a cost – the idea is that you should get that time back, with interest. Abraham Lincoln is attributed with saying that, if he had six hours to chop down a tree, he would spend the first four sharpening the axe.
As we have noted, the modern workplace tends to be a pressurized one. There is therefore a temptation to just press on, to adopt an attitude of ‘Head down, get on with it’. This can be highly dangerous as it means that people are making decisions, interacting with other people and generally going about their business without giving enough thought to what is involved or how it might go wrong. Part of the problem is that some workplace cultures can encourage this sort of behaviour and create the impression that stopping to think is a luxury you can’t afford if you work here (rather than a necessity if you are to practise safely). So, whether the impetus to just ‘Get on with the job’ without thinking is coming from within yourself or from your wrong environment, the significant (and potentially disastrous) dangers remain the same.
Confidence is not something that you either have or do not have or have in a certain quantity. Confidence is an attitude. The word confidence means ‘trust’, so whether you are confident or not depends on whether you trust yourself. Sadly, many people have little trust in themselves, little self-belief, and so they will approach new situations and challenges with an attitude that says: ‘I can’t do this’. People who believe in themselves, by contrast, will approach new situations with the attitude: ‘I don’t know whether I can do this, but I am going to have a damn good try’. That is, they do not write themselves off.