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Archive for category: Psychology

Why Concrete and Coaching Don’t Mix

Why Concrete and Coaching Don’t Mix

Following on from a coaching session with one of my Clients yesterday it got me thinking about the concept that concrete and coaching don’t mix.

My Client is a Civil Engineering Contractor and is wanting to take his business to the next level so we’ve been having regular coaching sessions to look at what actions he needs to do to grow his business and maximise profits.  When he first contacted me he didn’t have any headspace at all, it was full of all of the things he knew he needed to do and deal with but didn’t know where to start and he was very stressed.  We use the word stress a lot, it’s a feeling that we have but what does it mean?  It’s basically when perceived pressure exceeds your perceived ability to cope.

Fast forward a few sessions later and he’s getting clearer but a couple of weeks ago I went to site to do the session as planned and he was having a disastrous day, the concrete pour was not going well and the water had managed to disconnect itself somehow.  That day we cut the session short so he could deal with the issue but that prompted me to share with you a couple of tools you can use to help you get more headspace.

The first one is to breathe.  Sounds a bit daft to say that as we need to breathe BUT, this is called the 7/11 breath.  It’s a technique I was taught on my coaching course and used many times as a Project Manager when I felt stressed and pulled in lots of different directions.  I used to take myself off to the ladies and practice breathing in for 7 counts and breathing out for 11.  Do that a few times and it really does calm you down.  When you get stressed it shuts off the  part of your brain that thinks creatively which is just what you don’t need in that situation.  Next time you feel yourself getting stressed, try it and let me know if it works.

The second tool is simple, when you’re mind is full, write it down.  The short term memory part of your brain acts like the RAM of a computer.  It keeps storing things that keep going round and around your head like an unclosed loop.  If you don’t find a way to close the loop you can literally go loopy!  Every time you tell yourself ‘I need to do this, I must sort that’ but then you don’t do anything with it, your short term memory stores it, and the more things you tell yourself, the fuller it gets until you may feel like your head could explode.

So, get a piece of paper and have a massive dump, a brain dump I’m referring to, just to be clear!  When you write things down that signals to your brain that you’ve closed the loop and it empties it from your short term memory.

Both tools are simple but effective and I hope you find them useful.  Enjoy the rest of your week and I’d love to know how you get on if you use them.

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Bricks and the City – What A Load Of Bullocks!

Bricks and the City – What A Load Of Bullocks!

I read a couple of weeks ago in Construction News, ‘offensive talk rife at work’ (4 April 2014/7) about a new survey  conducted by CITB which revealed that sexist, racist and homophobic language is regularly used in the construction industry.

The survey findings are on the link above and are not good reading.  Interestingly most of those surveyed described the tone of offensive language as “banter”.  So, a lot of construction industry workers may have been conditioned over the years and developed their rhinoceros skin to think that it is “banter” but it’s not really.

I have worked Client side for the whole of my career so far but I regularly go out onto site and hear bad language, however,  because I represent the Client and I’m a woman they seem to tone it down a bit.  I must admit I have resorted to turning the air blue on one or two occasions but It’s really not a good look.

All of this got me to thinking about the origins of swearing, why do we do it?  During my research I came across Steven Pinker who is a Psychologist at Harvard and specialises in language, mind and human nature.  His talk on The Language of Swearing on You Tube is f*cking brilliant (all will be revealed if you watch).  It’s in 2 parts and the link I’ve posted is part 2 which talks about the 5 different types (yes, there are 5, who knew?!) of swearing.  The first part of the talk looks at the psychology of swearing and tells us that taboo words activate brain areas associated with negative emotion and the brain can’t help but register it’s meaning.  Use of language as a weapon forces listeners to think an unpleasant or at least an emotionally charged thought.

The 5 types of swearing are:-

Dysphemistic which is the opposite to Euphemistic.  A Euphemism is an alternative to a dispreferred expression.  With a Dysphemism you want that person to think about how awful something is, the point for politeness has passed, a strong emotion that has to be expressed

Abusive swearing is used to intimidate and humiliate someone in a metaphorical sense

Idiomatic swearing is where is where it is unclear what words are doing in expressions if someone used the f word a number of times in one sentence which we’ve all heard a number of times (like when I made the mistake of going to the local pub on darts night?! Never again!)  It is used to ping people’s emotions to be macho and cool or to express informality

Emphatic swearing where you want to emphasise something

Cathartic swearing which lets of steam, releases tension and stems back to when an animal is injured or confined, a sudden angry noise, but, as Steven Pinker points out, we learn the words to say, we don’t know them instinctively!

So, my findings are, people swear to make someone think about how awful something is, to intimidate and humiliate someone, where it’s not necessary in a sentence, if you want to emphasise something or to let off steam.

I’m no angel and I do swear, we all do, sometimes it is funny, I especially love it when the Irish swear and I thought it was brilliant when I first learnt the word feck, especially after watching Father Ted.  Also, the movie ‘In Bruges’ with Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson is fantastic.  I watched it with my parents and had to warn them about the language beforehand but they thought it was really good too.

I think sometimes swearing is ok but the key is having the emotional intelligence to know when it’s not.  There are other ways of dealing with emotions rather than swearing at someone so that they know how bad something really is, e.g, ‘you’ve really f*cking screwed up now haven’t you?’ We have to remember that we have control over our emotions and how we react to them and we have to learn how to handle them differently so we are not taking them out on someone else.

Abusive language is just disgusting behaviour and it saddens me to think that it is happening in our industry (and others of course).

I would be interested to know what other people’s viewpoints are and what we can do as an industry to change things, I think having an awareness of why we do it is a good starting point which I hope my blog has done today.

Have a flipping awesome week!!  Hmmm, not sure about that alternative!

Bricks and the City – Why is the earth round, why is the sky blue (occasionally) what makes us who we are??

Bricks and the City – Why is the earth round, why is the sky blue (occasionally) what makes us who we are??

As I mentioned in my first blog, when I was doing my coaching qualifications I had to write academic essays about change and also about coaching in the workplace which involved delving into the subject of workplace psychology.

What really interested me was the bit about what makes us who we are and how that translates into the workplace. One book that I found particularly interesting was this one:-

In accordance with Griffen and Tyrrell each human conception is born with an array of living ‘templates’ which instinctively seek completion in the environment from the moment of birth, and that continue to do so as we grow and evolve throughout our lives. human-givens

These patterns are expressed as physical and emotional needs and if we are fortunate, and are born into a culture and environment that provides us with the means to get those needs met, we develop well. It is precisely the way needs are met; by the impact life has on them, that determines the individual nature, character and mental health of each person.

This forms the basis of the Human Givens approach which talks about the physical and emotional needs programmed into us from our genes, these include:-

Attention (to give and receive)
Sense of autonomy and control
Being emotionally connected to others
Being part of a wider community
Friendship and intimacy
Sense of status within social groupings
Sense of competence and achievement
Meaning and purpose

chartThere are many different ways in which these needs can be met, e.g. security from our family, the environment in which we have been brought up, security from our jobs, relationships, receiving and giving attention to our family and loved ones, being emotionally connected, having good friendships and support, a sense of belonging in our community, a sense of achievement in our working and leisure environment. If these needs are not being met then we can feel, amongst other things, out of balance, stressed and depressed.

Does this strike a chord with anyone? (you may not even have made it his far?!)

Values and Beliefs also play a huge part in making us who we are but what are these and how do we establish what they are?

Before I started receiving coaching myself I’d never really thought about my own values and beliefs but when you do identify what they are and you’re not living your life in tune with them then it can make life even more challenging. Values are the essence of who you are, different to morals, Morals are based on an individual’s judgement of what is good and what is bad, values could be judged by others as being good or bad. There are a few different tools and techniques for identifying values which I will post up in a future blog.

A belief is something we accept as being true or real. Our beliefs dictate our experience, Our beliefs shape us and mould us to suit our environment, they can be influenced by the world in which we were brought up, our country, government, location, community, family, religion, education and working environment to name but a few.

The key word in any belief is influence which is why many of those that we carry through our life stem from childhood. It is also important to note the word trance. Trance states can be induced when we become highly emotional and when someone else focusses our attention such as our parents, a teacher, a salesman, our boss or a leader in society.

If, for example we are told something in a trance state such as, you’re not this, you’re not that, you can’t do this, or that, or you’ll never be this, you will always be that then that can make us believe something about ourselves that is not true. We then carry evidence of it through our Reticular Activating System (RAS) which is the automative mechanism inside the brain that brings relevant information to our attention. In this case, the relevant information is evidence to substantiate our belief and the belief continues.

To summarise, an analogy I use is that we all have an inner compass to guide us through life, our human givens are what we need to thrive in our environment, our values are our markers to indicate when we are off course and our beliefs either take us to where we want to be or not depending on whether they are positively expansive, or limited.

And thus endeth my ramblings, a little heavy for a second installment but I really wanted to blog about this. A lot of this information was taken out of one of my essays so apologies if it sounds like I swallowed a text book, I literally did, and it was very painful, hope it wasn’t too painful to read!