Sunday, 29 April 2018

The Psychological Aspect of Self Presentation, 2

Confidence is like a muscle. The more we use it, the stronger it becomes. But we don’t start with a marathon or working with very heavy weights, we build up our confidence muscle with training. And the more we train, the more we can attempt. Setting ourselves goals and achieving them increases our confidence. When I work with clients, I tell them I can’t sprinkle fairy dust on them and instantly make them great presenters. I view myself as being like a personal trainer and coach, so I can teach them specific techniques to practice to improve the physical aspects of their voice, poise and posture. Then I can coach them around their mindset and how it’s supporting or undermining their delivery. But then they need to do their own work on their body and mindsets, and the more they practice the better they get.

We looked at some of these mindsets in my first blog on the psychological aspect of presentation, and the introduction of the notion of Nits and Pets.

Another approach is very much drawn from meditation and gets us seeing our thoughts as mental events rather than realities. So when we meditate, we start by observing our breath and then move onto observing our thoughts. One technique is to imagine our mind as a a blue summer sky and the thoughts as small clouds, appearing and disappearing. We focus on the stillness and blueness of our mind, and when we become aware we’ve been distracted by a thought, let it go and return to the blue sky. That sky is always there, we just have to look beyond or behind the clouds to focus on it again. Another exercise we can do is to briefly label the thoughts before letting them go - “domestic chatter”, “work related”, “future planning”, “replaying the past”. We train our minds to notice them and then let them go as mental events that aren’t of use right now. We then bring this training into the rest of life, so we can observe thoughts that aren’t serving us, that are just a distraction or even plainly untrue, and let them go, again labelling them before dispatching them if that’s useful.

Another technique is to notice our relationship with our self. When we are self aware, we are conscious of our impact on others and we try to live an an open and skilful way. When we are self conscious, we are so wrapped up in our own discomfort, we are closed, and clumsy in our dealings with others, imagining them judging us and finding us wanting. As a presenter it’s good to tell yourself to get over yourself! It’s not all about you, it’s about your message and sharing it as a gift with your audience in the present moment, being totally present with your story and who you are telling it to. W. Timothy Gallwey of the Inner Game books has an interesting approach to the self. All his books are based on the idea of Self 1 and Self 2. Self 1 is our inner judgemental, critical voice, giving commands and an ongoing critique, a know it all who doesn’t really trust Self 2. Self 2 is more the self we were as children before we had lots of harsh interventions from parents, teachers and “friends”, who when left to get on with it has enormous potential to learn and perform. Think of Self 2 as us “in the flow”, so absorbed in an activity we enjoy that we don’t hear or listen to Self 1 and are at our very best. When we hear Self 1 and start to recognise this inner dialogue isn’t helpful, let it go and relax into Self 2.

Do you relate to or find any of these concepts helpful? If so, let me know.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

British Meditation School

When I first decided to train with the British School of Meditation as an accredited meditation teacher, it was to help with my one to one work with business leaders. I’m a coach and trainer, specialising in self presentation and communication. I draw on my background as a broadcaster, but also as someone who has meditated for many years, to deliver this. As I experimented with techniques to facilitate better communication, like working with the breath, the posture and being fully in the present moment, it became clear I was incorporating mindfulness and clients were responding well to this. This being the case, I wanted to understand better the wider context for the role of mindfulness in developing leaders, the evidence for its benefits for mental resilience and well being, to learn further meditation tools beyond my own practice, and to have an external validation that an accredited course and membership of a professional meditation body, that required ongoing CPD, would give me.

Without question it has benefited my one to one work. But it’s also led me to do corporate work with teams which I’m finding very rewarding. The business world is becoming more aware of the cost of days lost by employees taking time off because of stress, or by employees underperforming because of feeling under too much pressure. Mindfulness can’t change external factors, but it can change how we react to them, making us feel calmer and more in control.

Most recently I’ve started working with the Gloucestershire firm, BPE Solicitors. At the start of the year they ran a series of well being events for their staff, delivered by different practitioners. One of their team had worked with me before, and asked if I’d be interested in running a mindfulness event. I delivered 2 sessions, each of an hour, to 2 groups of 20, looking at some definitions of mindfulness as well as introducing some breathing and visualisation techniques to experience it. The staff reaction to this was very positive, so they invited me to provide one day a month of 2/3 sessions (depending on numbers as we are trying to keep the groups down to 10 or less) up until the end of the year.

Amanda Coleman, HR Manager at BPE Solicitors, says “We value the productivity and commitment of our teams but know they need to look after themselves to sustain this. These sessions have proved popular and effective, so we’re pleased to support them”.

The attendees are responsive and clearly appreciate that BPE are happy to invest in their emotional and mental health. If nothing else, the sessions give them time to step away from their desks and discover how 40 minutes of meditation can make them feel both calmer and recharged. But I’m also exploring with them what techniques work particularly well for them, so that if they wish, they can start using them within much shorter sessions on their own. I’m emphasising too that mindfulness isn’t just about sitting and focusing on their breath, mantras or visualisations. It’s also about a certain level of awareness we can bring to all sorts of everyday activities to step off the treadmill for a few moments of being present.

Over the next few months, we’ll be continuing to work with tools to help us be physically centred and more relaxed. We’ll be looking at how to calm our minds, then start to watch our minds and stop our thoughts from overwhelming us. And we’ll work with our senses to be more fully present in the moment, using sight, sound, smell and taste (the very popular mindful chocolate eating exercise!).