Sunday, December 9, 2018


I wonder whether you are as puzzled as I am by the lack of emotional maturity amongst politicians these days? Where is the emotional intelligence? Not that we should expect our leaders to have the highest EI any more than that they should have the highest IQ. but the complete lack of it we are seeing around the world beggars belief. It seems to me that uncontrolled emotions are completely running things.

We all know that emotions are powerful, but I believe there is enough evidence published by now that I can safely claim they are THE most powerful force we have. They drive everything of significance: what you think, how you behave, how you perform, how you communicate, how well your brain works and even how healthy you are. And while emotions are powerful when you are aware of them, emotions wreak havoc when you’re not! Which could be one reason why unmanaged emotions are so prevalent in politics and leadership: there is little if any self-awareness.

As you may be aware (pun intended), self-awareness is a prerequisite for emotional and social intelligence – if you are unaware of what you’re feeling or how it’s impacting you, you are unlikely to have much awareness of how you are affecting others. You will also have less capacity for empathy and, most important of all, for managing your own emotions so you could think and act in ways that work better for you, your goals, your situation and the people around you.

Unfortunately, there is little any of us can do about our leaders (save taking EI into consideration next time we are called on to vote for or influence the election of one, of course.) However, we can always get better at developing our own EI – and thereby influence ourselves and our surroundings in as positive a way as possible. Just as with the plastics crisis, we each can make a difference!

So, as we move towards 2019 (a year that will hopefully be managed with more emotional intelligence) – I offer a few practical guidelines (or for many of you, reminders) to help us all contribute to that! 
Think of them as your ‘EI 5-A-Day’.
  1. Label your feelings rather than other people - avoiding blame.
  2. Own your feelings. Take responsibility for your own emotional reality. (Check in your body; where & what are your feelings?)
  3. Make a distinction between what you feel and what you think.
  4. Acknowledge when your emotions aren’t helpful or working for you and/or others, and take a time-out to self-regulate and problem-solve whatever is causing the emotion (use tension release processes and slow breathing).
  5. Look for learning and growth in your emotions or the stress-producing situation, and appreciate ‘what is’.
I hope you find this a helpful checklist. If so, do pass it on!

Warm wishes,

Sunday, October 7, 2018



I have spent the last 9 months writing my new book, ‘Intuitive Parenting’ – a ‘how to’ book being published by LittleBrown next summer. An exciting project to say the least, and I am relieved to say the editing process is complete and I just finished reading the final proofs. Phew!

During the writing process, it became very evident to me that intuition –tuning into and trusting it- is not just important for parents, it applies to us all. Bombarded as we are by external and oft-extraneous influences 24/7, the ability to access our innate intuition is increasingly critical for all of us. With unprecedented quantities of virtual stimulus, never-ending streams of unsettling global news, and the pressures of just having a life in these trying times, the result can so easily be ever increasing stress and self-doubt. (No wonder anxiety and depression are on the rise!)

Tuning into and building confidence in our own innate ‘wise inner voice’ may actually require that we take less input from outside sources, if for no other reason than that the wide array of differing opinions and contradictory advice ‘out there’ can so easily result in confusion, insecurity and indecisiveness, even leading to us making regretful decisions. On the other hand, confidence in our own ‘north star’ and strengthening our intuition requires listening to it, how it feels in our bodies, and then acting on what feels right. Once we do that, the (invariably) positive feedback we get from the result builds confidence in our intuition, strengthening both our intuitive voice and our self-confidence. In other words, less ‘’Googling’ and more taking time to ‘listen’ to ourselves and that still small voice inside – and then acting on what we get is something I have become convinced of is key to both well-being and anything else we may want to achieve. Seriously.

My conviction of this has not only been strengthened by endless research results documenting the significance of managed emotions (the result of which is a greater ability to tune into one’s intuition), but also studies by well-established and reputable business publications reporting on one of the most visible side effects of the unstable times we are living in for business - that executives just cannot handle it. Clearly, one of the most important things a CEO has to do is stay focused and steady as the stress on the business becomes so intense it can feel like being under siege. However, the current climate of uncertainty leaves many a leader in panic mode, their resulting emotion-driven behaviour often derailing their businesses or at the very least magnifying problems to the degree that they negatively impacting every member of their team. The innate ability for leadership that may have originally elevated them to their current position is no longer working, for them or their business. I rest my case.


Whenever you have a decision to make, however small, check in with your body first. Breathe slowly. Centre yourself. Then imagine one of the decisions as if it is already made and check how your body feels. Does it feel uncomfortable in any way, or does it feel right? Do this with each decision. Whatever feels right, is usually right.

Give yourself time to get calm and centred. Whether you’re a parent or a leader, in a stressful situation take enough time (it needn’t be more than a minute) to centre and ‘widen your perspective to see ‘the big picture’ before determining the action needed. BE first, DO after.

Anyone who is in charge of or influencing others – be it children or employees – will do best if they can be flexible. Like an athlete or dancer, maintaining a centred balance within yourself, so you can quickly pivot to meet the need of the moment will counteract any possible damage caused by uncertainty – be that in the financial market or the farmers market with a runaway child!

Until next time, thanks for reading!


Tuesday, July 3, 2018


The oyster must become aware of the grain of sand before it can make a pearl.

I have quoted this once before, but I am thinking it bears repeating.

When we want to initiate any kind of change or growth, (or maybe even more relevant these days), try to handle turmoil around us with a bit more grace, the first step lies in awareness, self-awareness – it really is unavoidable.

A client of mine once told me that to him, awareness meant ‘taking note of something from all sides, looking at all aspects’. An interesting perspective. I challenged him to consider that view regarding his self-awareness. He rose to my challenge and shared an initial insight which I think applies to many; that too often we only see ourselves, and others, from just one perspective, with a view that is merely observing what appears to be on the surface.

Attempting to widen out perspective, (we can even aim for a 360 degree of self-awareness!) we can begin with a ‘conversation’ with the self about an aspect of our self we are not used to giving too much attention to or that we have neglected (for example, if we are ‘over-working’, our 'self-care' side may need some attention.) 

You will find that by asking a gentle question to yourself now and then (‘how am I feeling?’ or ‘does that feel ok?’), slowly, just like with another person, the ‘object of your attention’, - that part of you that’s been neglected - will begin to open up to you to reveal it’s essence. From there you can begin to see that aspect of yourself for what it really is and develop a rapport with yourself that is necessary for any change to begin to take place. 

Obviously, it isn’t very easy to change something if you don’t know what it is, so the time spent in ‘making friends’ with the little 'grains of sand' in your own inner life will be time well spent. 

Alternatively, you can always test this idea with yourself. Ask yourself: How well do you know you? When was the last time you had a conversation with yourself that was just about you? Not about your job or your partner or what you think about X or what your feel about Y. Just a little chat inside about how and who you are. It may sound silly but most of us don’t seem to have the time for these little chats with ourselves, and the result can be that we go about our lives for years and years and everything seems okay when suddenly – Boom! One day we look around us and realise that we don’t have the slightest idea as to why we are doing what we’re doing. Our partners and family are strangers to us, we have nothing left to say to old friends and our work has become meaningless. Nothing has changed, really – we’ve just let ourselves lose touch with who we are. We’ve forgotten to check in with ourselves for so long, that one day, that other part of you stand up and says “Hey, this isn’t what I want!”

At this point we usually do one of two things; we either panic or we ignore the little voice and all our feelings. We pull ourselves together and go right on doing what we are used to and hope that the feelings will pass. But they don’t. We can make them go away for an hour or a day, but sooner or later they pop up again and will continue to do so untill we take the time to listen to what those feelings are telling us. 

But with a little self-awareness - and being more tuned in to our body - we can learn to listen to what our internal voice is saying to us before we get to that place – hopefully avoiding such a 'boom!' experience altogether. This is the beginning of transformational change in our lives – when we can start to hear and interact with what we are saying to ourselves and learn to use these conversations to bring about other changes that will benefit not only you, but the little ‘you’ inside.

What are the grains of sand in your life?. ‘Listen’ to your emotions, listen to your body.

Sunday, January 28, 2018


I find myself beginning to appreciate something I used to hate as a child, something I felt was filled with disdain and put-downs and which I felt emotionally inept at participating in – that something was ‘vigorous discussion’. In our family, discussions often turned heated and even hostile. I would get so emotional I couldn’t compete with some family members’ forcefulness, especially those who seemed to find amusement in others’ agitation or passion. Invariably I would get so emotional I would just storm off, (definitely contributing to my desire to learn how to manage emotions!)

Nevertheless, discussion remained to some degree a part of my life, and as I learned to manage my emotions better, (particularly needed when one of my more passionate opinions was challenged!) I also learned to recognise the value of discussion in accepting differing points of view and in taking me out of my comfort zone, thereby expanding my mind. I learned that getting along with each other is not synonymous with concurrent opinions, and that there is such a thing as healthy conflict.

However, in the last couple of years my view of the inevitability of healthy discussion and disagreements during life’s journey has been challenged, and challenged too often to be ignored.

It seems that many of us are becoming less and less willing to handle differences of opinion, and more and more inclined to judge and condemn outright those who may have a differing view, even before any kind of dialog has begun, never mind having a discussion. I am not referring to any subject matter in particular, but rather a trend both on social media and in ‘real’ life that is creating more rigidity, intolerance and blame and less and less of what we really need; resilience, tolerance, compassion, and emotionally intelligence.

Whether this is due to increasingly divisive and hostile political atmospheres, growing vitriol on social media or a combination of many other factors, it certainly isn’t helped by the algorithms of social media that only feeds us more of whatever perspective we already agree with, leaving our opinions unchallenged and our comfort zone firmly intact.

Although these algorithms create an environment that meets our need to connect with like-minded people in like-minded groups, all too often those same groups allow no dissent and offer only facts that support our beliefs, making it easy to ignore any evidence that our perception could be wanting or even mistaken. The momentary sense of belonging such exclusivity brings creates internal narratives –storylines we tell ourselves– that actually fuel isolation, prejudice, and create feelings of defensiveness, leading to anxiety and even fear.

Psychologist and author Brene Brown puts it this way; “When we feel isolated, disconnected, we try to protect ourselves. In that mode we want to connect, but our brain is attempting to override connection with self-protection. That means less empathy, more defensiveness, more numbing.” Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, has studied fear since before 9/11. “For the moment, most of us are either making the choice to protect ourselves from conflict, discomfort and vulnerability by staying quiet, or picking sides. Either way, the choices we’re making to protect our beliefs and ourselves are leaving us disconnected, afraid and lonely.”

I wonder if our new Minister for Loneliness here in the UK has made this connection, that there is a significant relationship between unchallenged opinions and loneliness? (Yes, for those of you in other countries that may not have heard, we do now have a Minister for Loneliness!)

A researcher who has studied loneliness and its causes and effects for over twenty years is social neuroscientist John Cacioppo. “To grow into adulthood as a social species, as humans,” he says, “is not to become autonomous and solitary, it’s to become the one on whom others can depend. Whether we know it or not, our brain and biology have been shaped to favour this outcome.”

Our brains are hardwired to connect and to meet the basic human need to belong –to a family, group or tribe. Cacioppo’s studies have found that our neural, hormonal and genetic make-up supports interdependence over independence. We derive the most strength not from our individualism, but from our collective ability to plan, communicate, negotiate and collaborate together. And today, instead of creating isolation, social media could be a positive force for connecting us to diverse opinions, diverse cultures and indeed diversity of experience.

Almost two decades ago I attended a conference where the keynote speaker, activist and author of You Are, Therefore I Am, Satish Kumar suggested that the greatest illusion of our time is that we are independent. He pointed out that the focus on the independent individual has lead us down a destructive path and he used the US Declaration of Independence as a metaphor, saying “…instead we need a Declaration of Dependence, …… we are dependent on each other, on our earth and on our society.” The fact that indeed we are dependent on each other includes our diversity and diversity of opinions as well.

Healthy discussion or ‘healthy conflict’ has also been a noteworthy part of the research into emotional intelligence, with several studies showing clear evidence that there is a significant relationship between the ability to participate in healthy conflict and high emotional intelligence (EI). Those with well-developed EI are more likely to collaborate and to seek and find compromise than those with less developed EI who were more likely to avoid conflict altogether or adopt a dominating style. * Albert Einstein stated it well (although emotional intelligence was not a concept back then) “Any fool can know; the point is to understand.”

1.When you find yourself feeling disturbed or threatened by disagreement or a challenge to your beliefs, take a deep breath and give yourself a few moments to pay attention to your emotion, and the tension in your body. Try to let go of the tension. Exhale and ask yourself if you are really threatened (if the answer you give yourself is ‘yes’ then plese leave the situation). If you know you are not really threatened, stand up if you can and take a few deep breaths, checking your posture and opening your chest. Centre yourself.

2. Then listen – and for just a minute or two, step into the shoes of the other person. Try to understand where they are coming from. This is not so you’ll agree with them – just so you understand and therefore can increase your ability to better communicate.

3. When you do ‘speak your truth’ in a disagreement, try to stay aware of your triggers - monitor your breath, your body and your posture. Notice any tension or uncomfortable changes. This will help you stay aware of possible ‘short circuiting’ in your brain that may have your ‘threat system’ triggered – in which case a long exhale or even a trip to the bathroom might be called for.

If we can be mindful like this, take charge of our emotions, on purpose, within a discussion or conflict, our brain stays ‘switched on’. In such a ‘managed’ state we can also stay aware of and true to our own values while being mindful of the differing values of the other - and the possible value of the very conflict itself.

When we mindfully manage our emotions, a disagreement can –instead of something we avoid– become an energy that propels us forward to a resolution or to finding a middle ground, and often a collaboration that helps us act or ‘perform’ better, be more authentic, learn about each other and keep communication open. With such ‘emotional intelligence’ applied, conflict can even be used positively, creating an energy that can ‘get things done’. Most importantly, it is within a healthy discussion or conflict that we can capture the differences and diversity that make a community, group or family a stronger, richer, more entrained unit. At the very least, we can agree to disagree!