Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

Writers and researchers on emotional intelligence and leadership sometimes use the phrase primal leadership to describe their view on the place of emotion in a leader’s role. This seems like a weird word to use. Primal has (at least) two meaning that help us understand why they use it. Something is primal if it is:

  • original, early, first in time
  • primary, basic, of first importance

They believe that emotions are primal to leadership in both senses. Humanity’s primordial leaders where chieftains or shamans who compelled by emotional leadership. And modern business leaders have the task of both driving collective emotions in a positive direction and clearing away toxic emotions. But how?

Resonant Leadership vs Dissonant Leadership

Resonant leaders drive emotions positively, by pulling others through their vision and example. Dissonant leaders undermine the emotional foundations that let people shine. Daniel Goleman has detected six leadership styles, or different methods of showing leadership in different contexts and to different people. It is possible to move between them, and a good leader will do that, even using the dissonant styles when necessary.

The four resonant leadership styles are:

  1. visionary – moves people towards shared dreams
  2. coaching – connects what people want with company goals
  3. affiliative – creates harmony by connecting people
  4. democratic – encourages people’s input and participation

Dissonant leadership styles are:

  1. pace-setting – meets challenging and exciting goals
  2. commanding – gives clear directions in an emergency

Attunement vs Alignment

Some leaders speak of their task in terms of aligning their people with their strategy or goal. This leaves a mechanical impression of the role of leaders: people are objects to be arranged in straight lines, like so many cogs. But support requires the emotional as well as the rational parts of the brain. The concept of attuning more fully describes a leader’s role, with its suggestion of the harmony of the instruments in an orchestra. Attunement requires a direct connection with people’s emotional centres. It achieves this through involving people deeply in the process and allowing them to make decisions about their place in it.

Threshold Abilities vs Distinguishing Abilities

Many leaders find themselves in a position of leadership simply because they tick several of the correct boxes. The have the basic skills that everyone has to have to do the job. This usually amounts to standard mix of IQ, technical skills and personality traits. They are average rather than outstanding in terms of their performance. Leadership experts suggest it is better to disregard the standard criteria if you want star results. Instead, start with high performers, compare them to average performers, and find out what makes leaders in the field. These are the real leadership abilities, or, as Goleman calls them, the eight ‘distinguishing competencies’.

Process vs Program

Once you realise the need for emotionally intelligent leadership at all levels of an organisation, the questions become a matter of how exactly to roll it out. Traditionally, organisations have answered this question by means of one-time training and educational programs. These are necessary but not sufficient. What is required is an entire process that not only fills minds with information, but permeates every level of the organisation.

Such a process not only educated individuals, but also works with teams and the company culture too. Through coaching, it will apply lessons learned and provide feedback on progress. It will take the form of an emotional as well as intellectual journey. Without all these aspects in place, the leadership produces will simple take the form of theory and certificates.

We believe that you can learn emotional intelligence like any other set of skills. The same goes for leadership. We’ve taught and coached EI for over a decade, at universities and for businesses. Contact us to find out what we can do for your organisation.

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Can You Learn Emotional Intelligence?

Either you ‘re smart or you ‘re not.

That ‘s how most people think. You are born with a certain brain and, like your height or the colour of your eyes, there isn ‘t much that you can do about it. You can study, read, and practice. But your potential peak is already set by your DNA, and you can’t alter that, outside of science-fiction anyway.

Well, actually, you can. There is a great deal you can do. Especially in the realm of emotional intelligence, or those capacities you have to understand and manager our own emotions, and those of others. This is important for two reasons. After a score of 120, IQ ceases to be a factor in success, especially in leadership. And success in the workplace is about 20% dependent on IQ; EQ is the largest other (but not only other) factor.

Intelligence is Multiple

Psychologist Robert Sternberg found that there were three types of intelligence: analytic, creative and practical. Only the first is linked to academic prowess. Educationalist Howard Gardener proposed eight intelligences, two of which are intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligence, the essence of EI. Everyone has gifts; everyone can become gifted.

Intelligence is Mastery

Some models of EI view it as a set of traits, located at the lower levels of personality. But the most experts understand EI as a set of abilities. These abilities show themselves in our behaviour, as we adapt to different situations and solve various problems. Motivation and empathy, and especially the social and communication skills, are habits we can master with training and practice, lots of practice, approximately 10.000 hours of it!

Intelligence is Mindset

Carol Dweck has popularised the idea that there are two mindsets fixed and growth and that these two mindsets determine success in different areas, including learning. Someone with a fixed mindset want to be told they ‘re smart, that smartness is an ability, and they they either have it or don ‘t. A growth mindset person believes that smartness depends on effort and attitude, and that they can learn whatever they want.

Intelligence is Malleable

Science is providing evidence that the brain isn ‘t static but rather malleable, that is, able to continually changing in response to new information and experiences. This concept is called neuroplasticity, and applies also to intelligence. Even capabilities normally associated with IQ such as reasoning and memory can shift over time and with training.

Ah yes, “with training.” That’s where we come in. The Sensei team train and coach on all these areas, and have done so since our start. We’ve helped people in workplaces, universities, and schools learn emotional intelligence. And we love to work with you too. In the mean time, if you want your brain expanded a little, try juggling or comedy, maybe at the same time!

Mohicans Do Not Call Themselves Subject to Much at All

Mohican wisdom – at least how it is presented in the Last of the Mohicans movie – features heavily in our communication workshops. With fierce independence in mind, this blog post follows on from my 5 Assertiveness Techniques post, and includes assertive power words that you can adopt immediately as part of your efforts toward living and working in the way that suits you just like the Mohicans did.

Mohicans and Freedom

In my favourite film, Last of the Mohicans (which includes some blood-stirring assertive lines), the hero Hawkeye answers a tricky question with:

I do not call myself subject to much at all. Hawkeye

Fear not. I am not advocating anarchy (except maybe in your mind). Far from it. I am, however, advocating freedom to make your own choices (and take the consequences responsibly without blaming others); freedom from blame and being asked to live someone’s wasted life over again for them; and freedom from guilt bestowed by unrealistic expectations of your role, whatever that might be.

“I” Statements

Compare You have not spoken all morning with I notice that you have not spoken all morning. “I” statements show three things:

  • It’s your observation
  • It affects you, personally
  • Therefore, it’s non-negotiable

I ain’t your scout. And we sure ain’t no damn militia. Hawkeye

Combining “I” statements, in order under the following headings, can be very powerful:

  • Situation.
    I have noticed that you talk loudly over me, when I’m trying to respond to your comments, in project planning meetings.
  • Interpretation.
    I conclude from this that you are not interested in my priorities and concerns when planning projects.
  • Feelings.
    I feel undervalued and embarrassed infront of the team, when this happens.
  • Wants.
    I want you to give me opportunity to express my suggestions and viewpoints and listen more patiently.
  • Future (consequences).
    I am not prepared to be involved in future projects with you, if this continues to be the case.

Use “I” statements when you want to assert yourself in a conflict situation, or one where you feel you are not normally or likely to be listened to. It is a great way to start a conversation, especially when you are expecting it to be awkward. It sets a straightforward, direct and personal tone. It is difficult for people to get around what you are saying.

Saying No

Why do we find this word so hard to say? Probably because people are not used to being denied their wishes, we are not used to putting ourselves first in any situation and we want to be liked. Consider all the negatives. This is what we are afraid of. And, this might often be what we get.

Decide what you want in the workplace, and say “No” to the rest.

For those of you who are looking to develop a long-term strategy for how to survive at work, assertive behaviour is the only thing that will work. Aggression will alienate you from many, and you’ll be feared or tolerated rather than truly listened to. Passivity will mean people won’t know what you stand for, and will tend to take you less seriously as an effective member of the team.

Avoid saying No+.

What’s No+? No+ any excuses, apologies, equivocations or meandering explanations. In a situation where you need to put over a strong image, you will only weaken your message. And, you may create an opening for someone to solve that problem for you, thus leaving you in a situation where you can do nothing but revert to “Yes”.

Finally, it’s clever to consider the pros and cons of saying “No”. How much will it cost you? How much will it benefit you? It may be easier to say yes, all things considered. Just make sure that it is your choice.

The Conditional “If”

There is great widsom on qualifying what you say. In that way, you will avoid equivocation. Clear and direct communcation is what assertiveness is grounded in. Think carefully about what you will say, and preface it with an If statement a condition that must be met before you will do what you say. It is implied that if what you ask does not happen, then you will not follow through with your side of the bargain either.

This power word leaves little room for misunderstanding. It is direct, and you may not win any popularity competitions.

Yes I do, I know exactly what what I’m saying, and if it is sedition, than I am guilty of sedition too! Cora Munroe

However, remember, someone’s negative response or feeling to your assertive power words is their responsibility. Do not attempt to pacify someone who is angry because you are using assertive language.

If you prepare the budget, I will deliver the presentation and field questions.

If you continue to yell at me, I will walk away. We can discuss this later.

The Conditional “When”

In the same way, “when” is a mightly little word. It pins the person down. It doesn’t let them go until they’ve answered. And, there really is little scope for them to be vague and general.

I’ll get the report done.


It’s simple, it gets straight to the point. You can also use it to make conditional threats. We recommend removing all tomahawks from the vicinity!

When the Grey Hair is dead, Magua will eat his heart. Magua

The Assumptive “Thank-you”

Do you ever remember your art teacher at school asking you to put away the paints at the end of the day?

Remember to wash the brushes thoroughly. Thank-you!

Saying thank-you in advance shows you are assuming what you ask will be done. It’s a done deal. There’s no discussion necessary. And, it’s an extremely polite way of getting what you want. It’s very powerful when combined with a command (verb, e.g “wash” or “email me”).

Consider this:

May I have a copy of your presentation?

Your listener can refuse.

Email me a copy of your presenation. Thank-you.

This makes it more difficult to refuse, since you sound as if you’re assuming they’re going to comply.

If you’d fed up “livin’ by another’s leave” (Hawkeye) and if you’d like help wth developing some powerful verbal tactics of your own, get in touch.

Photo by Lakeisha Bennett on Unsplash

Fear, Obligation and Guilt

Often our lives are characterised by FOG: fear, obligation and guilt. In many cases, this involves other people. That is what this blog post deals with. It concerns how to limit fear to the unavoidable, remove obligation when it is incorrectly placed and replace guilt when it is unjustified.


Who are you afraid of? Are family, friends or co-workers controlling you with your own fear? Does their behaviour, words, silent treatment, lies, or manipulation make you fearful? If you are aware of it, you can do something about it.

If the other person is aware of it, and continues to threaten (whether silently, or in words), this is called bullying or emotional abuse. Sufferers say often more damaging, long-term, than physical violence. And, in the realm of those who help men and women with domestic abuse, emotional abuse is subsumed under the heading of domestic violence. It is often likely to lead to it, and when emotional abuse is present, violence is likely to be too. A note of caution. If you have been physically threatened and are afraid of someone, or have already suffered at their hands, this is entirely different. Organisations such as Women’s Aid and, recommend removing yourself from that situation. Don’t live in fear of your life, or physical safety, or that of your children or other dependants. There are many organisations who will help you escape from this precarious situation.

Take advice from professionals who are practised at dealing with victims.

Never forget that the more you fear someone, the more power it gives them.

Violence aside, that ought to make you angry enough to actively and consistently change that emotion when it surfaces, from fear to pity or, better, indifference.

Techniques for Limiting Your Fear of People

  1. Attend an Assertiveness course, and learn how to communicate assertively, avoiding both aggression and passivity. Assertiveness and Workplace Confidence is one of our most popular workshops. Learn how to deal with those who would aggressively demand your obedience. You are an adult, you are entitled to your rights, you have responsibilities. Learn this and never be successfully bullied again. Yes, people won’t like you. However, being liked is not the goal. (In Northern Ireland, we are taught from a very young age not to flaunt our passion, opinion, emotions, or knowledge. Expect that when you begin to practice assertive communication, many will interpret your directness as aggression.) The point of assertive communication is to get your point across clearly, and succinctly. It does not involve shouting, bullying or manipulation. We recommend this: The Assertiveness Pocketbook.
  2. Limit the amount of time you spend in that person’s company. In many cases, this is achievable. If you cannot avoid them when you want to, for example in the workplace, then devise ways of limiting the contact. This may mean shorter meetings, moving desks, changing shifts, restructuring the team, or applying for a transfer. The less you see that person, the less damage they can do. The more astute will realise why you are spending less time allowing them opportunities in which they can attempt to manipulate you. This is especially effective if combined with assertive communication when you are forced to spend time with them. They will see less of you, and what they do see, is positively different.
    This is one example of setting boundaries around your time. We highly recommend Cloud and Townsend’s Boundaries, which deals with protecting you and yours using boundaries.
  3. If your fear is one where you are paralysed in the company of more than a few colleagues, take it one step at a time. One of the best ways of overcoming debilitating shyness is to begin practising on strangers. Chat to the guy in the paper shop, or have a longer conversation than is necessary with a random stranger at the bus stop. This helps build up your repertoire of things to talk about, and makes you realise that you can participate in an interesting conversation after all. Learn to use body language, clothing, smiles, handshakes to create an air of confidence, and fearlessness. The feelings will come later, but the appearance of confidence is achievable. With success, comes the positive emotion of confidence, which in turn fuels the next encounter. We recommend The Confidence Booster Workout.


Who “makes” you feel obliged? A demanding boss? A lazy co-worker who will show up the team, if you fail to step in and cover up for her? An immature parent? A whinging child?

Are you the person who sorts things out? Gets things done? Fixes whatever, and whoever, is broken? Takes care of things no-one else will?

If your life is taken up with rescuing other people, then you’re heading for depression.

How do I know? Because I sometimes work with those who deal with depression sufferers. Besides, I’m the Rescuer personality type and I know what it feels like to be consumed with wanting to help fragile victims, taking on the heavy, emotional baggage they inevitably carry around. And, because I see the Rescuer type every day.
They’re physically exhausted. And, mentally?

Far from feeling benevolent toward the person they’re rescuing from their own problem, inadequacy or laziness, they most often resent them!

Techniques for Limiting Obligation to Your Genuine Responsibilities Only

You have the right to judge your own behavior, thoughts, and emotions, and to take the responsibility for their initiation and consequences upon yourself.

You have the right to offer no reasons or excuses for justifying your behavior.

You have the right to be independent of the goodwill of others before coping with them.

You have the right to say, “I don’t care”.

  • Now, go back and read the rights again. Ponder what each one would look like in your life.

From now on, take care of those things you know are your real responsibilities, and ignore those that others place unfairly upon you. This is not a licence to drop your responsibilities. On the contrary, it is a license to take up those responsibilities and carry them out, unfettered by the illegitimate obligations placed on us by others.


What if you don’t do something for someone? Are you taken over by guilt? Do you groan at the consequences?

If I don’t do this for her, then she’ll suffer! If I don’t help out, then no-one else will!

Did you ever stop to think that it is not within your circle of concern what the consequences are? And, sometimes it is not even within your circle of influence! It only appears so, because you have allowed someone else to determine it for you.

Techniques for Not Feeling Guilty

  • Ask yourself if you have done something wrong. If not, then you need not feel guilty. That nagging voice in your head probably speaks very like your parent/child/boss/friend/neighbour. It is false. Ignore it. You will train yourself gradually to mute the volume.
  • Are you the type that can’t enjoy a success? You feel guilt instead? Think of success as a logical, intended culmination of years of planning, or months of study, or days of labour. It would be a huge surprise if anything other than success was the result. That is what you are working toward, isn’t it? Then, enjoy it!

You Are The Only Person Who Can Break The FOG Cycle

I’m very fortunate, I know, to have a husband who cares for my mental well-being. But, I was horrified, though not surprised, recently, to listen to a woman whose husband never asked her how she was feeling. The thing is, if you never say how you’re feeling, people can sometimes be forgiven for assuming that you feel OK. That leads to a situation where your feelings are unimportant.

Never underestimate the immense lack of interest of others, even those closest to you, in your contentment, mental wellbeing, physical health or fulfilment in life.

Fear – speak out, be heard in a positive way. Don’t fall into the trap of becoming aggressive towards those who scare you.

Obligation – take responsibilities seriously, but only those that you decide on.

Guilt – much of it is misplaced. Decide if the emotion is warranted, and act accordingly.

All of this takes a little practice, I know! But, it is achievable.

Image credit: mikecolvin82.

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5 Assertiveness Techniques

Last Wednesday and Thursday, Allen and I took our first, joint workshop. The topic was Assertiveness and Workplace Confidence. Assertiveness Techniques is a small part of one of eight sections which made up the workshop.

It’s all very well knowing that you have the right to express your thoughts or opinions and that by dressing right, standing tall and using your voice and tone to help your case, you are presenting an assertive image.

But, what do you SAY?

Here are five techniques for getting your point across assertively. Do we teach all we read or know about? No, we only teach what we’ve tried and proved ourselves. The following techniques work!

Repeat to Fade

You may have read about this technique before. It’s more usually known as The Broken Record Technique. The basic premise is that people will get the message after three attempts. he key is to repeat your words over and over, without substantially altering too much, and without elaborating.Sweetheart, you must come to the work dinner.

“Sweetheart, you must come to the work dinner.”

No, I am not (1) going.

Aww… Please…

No, I will not (2) be there.

We’ll all miss you…

Like I said, I am not (3) going.

In What Situation is This Useful?

Those who are extremely persistent will be less likely to hound you to do things you’d rather not, if you use this technique consistently. Avoid the temptation to give reasons why. If you do, you may find the person tries to solve the problem making the reason defunct forcing you to capitulate.

Failsafe Instruction Blueprint

Consider the scenario: you’ve just completed an important meeting. You’ve been up a few late nights, feel drained of energy and you’ve yet to chair the director’s conference on Friday.

Address the person by name. (Charlotte…)

Tell them what you want. (I want the report completely typed up, proofread and printed…)

Tell them when you want it. (… by 11am on Wednesday morning.)

Tell them why you want it. (It is for the directors’ conference on Friday morning.)

Say thank-you. (Thank-you)

In What Situation is This Useful?

Those who lack motivation or the skills to work unsupervised will respond well to this technique. Keep the communication precise and clear, so there is less room for miscommunication.

Negative Assertion

Turn the power of the opponent around to your advantage, as in martial arts!

This technique involves assenting to the part of what the person says that you agree with. You are still being assertive by not agreeing to the rest by refusing to mention it. But, you are being very clear in what you are agreeing to, by being specific.

“You’re rubbish at writing letters!”

This letter was rubbish.

In What Situation is This Useful?

Those who make broad sweeping statements like this are acting like a critical, judgmental parent would with a child. It pays dividends to act like the adult by assenting to what you can and ignoring the rest. It is not helpful to get into a discussion about the words “always” or “never”.


Create a fog around what someone says to you, by recognising their need or priority, but stating that yours is more important.

I realise this is important, but it is not as important as…

I know this is a priority for you, but my priority is…

In What Situation is This Useful?

When you want to recognise the other person’s position but force them to recognise that yours is more important for you. It is a way to avoid being manipulated.

Negative Enquiry

This is a way of focusing the negative statement back on the person. It forces them to give examples of what they mean. If they are unable to do so… then it’s probably just a nasty, personal attack.

“You’re useless.”

In what way, specifically?

In What Situation is This Useful?

It is a way to get constructive criticism, or real feedback, that you can do something with.

Do You Want to Learn How Not to be Quite So Darn Amiable!

These techniques work. In the UK, we’re taught to be amiable, often at the cost of our own comfort and mental well-being. We learn to become passive, in the light of the aggressive and unreasonable words and behaviour of others. Or, we turn aggressive ourselves, in a vain attempt to defend ourselves against attack. Neither is effective.

These techniques provide alternative methods for dealing with people we live and work with. The goal is to become assertive by being able to state our case, without being overcome with emotion or ineffective through vagueness. The assertive person has something to say, says it calmly and succinctly and then stops.

Let us know how you get on with these techniques. Check out 5 Power Words and or Assertiveness page.

How to Be Brave

Captain Frederick Marryat (July 10, 1792 August 9, 1848) was an English novelist, a contemporary and acquaintance of Charles Dickens, and is noted today as an early pioneer of the sea story. He is best known for the autobiographical novel Mr Midshipman Easy and his children ‘s novel The Children of the New Forest.

Why am I telling you this? Because it gives some context to one of the powerful quotes on courage and overcoming fear that I ‘ve ever read. These words come from Teddy Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States of America, and an incredibly brave man.

Having been a rather sickly and awkward boy, I was, as a young man, at first nervous and distrustful of my own prowess. I had to train myself painfully and laboriously not merely as regards my body but as regards my soul and spirit

When a boy I read a passage in one of Marryat ‘s books which always impressed me. In this passage, the captain of some small British man-of-war is explaining to the hero how to acquire the quality of fearlessness. He says at the outset almost every man is frightened when he goes into action, but that the course to follow is for the man to keep such a grip on himself that he can act just as if he were not frightened. After this has been kept up long enough, it changes from a pretence to a reality, and the man does in fact become fearless by sheer dint of practising fearlessness when he does not feel it. (I am using my own language, not Marryat ‘s.)

This is the theory upon which I went. There were all kinds of things of which I was afraid at first, ranging from grizzly bears to ‘mean ‘ horses and gun-fighters; but by acting as if I was not afraid I gradually ceased to be afraid. Most men can have the same experience if they choose.

So, to put it in American English, you ‘fake it until you make it ‘!

In my opinion, it offers one of the chief ways to develop confidence in yourself as an individual. And it ‘s not just fluffy sentiment and wish-fulfilment. There is a sound psychological basis for it. Read what Williams James, American psychologist and philosopher, had to say about it.

Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can regulate the feeling, which is not.

Thus the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our spontaneous cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there. If such conduct does not make you feel cheerful, nothing else on that occasion can.

So, to feel brave, act as if we were brave, use all of our will to that end, and a courage fit will very likely replace the fit of fear.

These are some of my favourite quotes ever. What do you think of them?

Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

The Resolution of the ‘Adult’

It’s that time of year again. Set out on a new path, turn over a new leaf, become a better person… I’ve always resisted – or at least that’s what I told people – making new year resolutions. It’s just a lot of sentimental nonsense we tell ourselves to make us feel better:

  • This year I’ll be a better sibling/offspring/darling.
  • This year I’ll lose weight/start a fitness program/have ‘nice’ nails.
  • This year I’ll start – and stick to – some charity/community work.
  • This year I’ll plan the ultimate action-packed holiday and start saving for it now.

Do we ever even start these half-baked ideas? Never mind actually carry them out for real? What’s keeping us back from doing these things?

Does this Sound Familiar?

  • I can’t be a better person because I’m inherently bad/selfish/inward-focused/too busy.
  • I can’t lose weight and get fit because my health’s not great/I’d only embarrass myself running round the roads/I’d never stick to it/no-one would join me.
  • I’ll not work for free because those lazy, homeless people’d never appreciate me anyway. They’d look at me with jealousy and I’d probably feel guilty.
  • I’ll never be able to save money for any project. I’m just too disorganised with my finances.

Parent, Adult and Child

Having the resolution of the Adult is the first step. Where does it come from? Well, I’ve come across a new book recently. It’s not new (first published in 1967), but I’ve been meaning to read it for ages and the seasonal ‘holidays’ was a chance for me to do so. It’s called I’m OK, You’re OK and it was written by Thomas A. Harris. His premise – that traditional psychoanalysis (the art of discovering the root of people’s inner problems) is pretty much useless as it’s couched in terms that the subjects themselves can’t really understand – is based on Berne’s Transactional Analysis. And, Harris maintains that while one could attend a counsellor or therapist (as an individual or in a group) and work through the method offered by Transactional Analysis to uncover what is holding you back, you could also use the method yourself and encourages the use of his book, to this end.

  • Simplified, Eric Berne maintained that we – as adults – all have various ‘tapes’ or ‘scripts’ (silent memories) playing through our minds at all times. One script – that of external events – was recorded when we were children, mostly up to the age of 5, when we heard and watched our parents’ (or primary care-giver’s) behaviour. This told us why we should brush our teeth and when, why we shouldn’t talk unless we’re spoken to, the reasons why those from other cultures are suspect, who we should never bring home, how much rest we need and so on. This is recorded in our Parent and replays throughout life. It may explain why we hang the dishcloth just so, over the tap, or not (even if no-one is around to see). This script is unprompted and difficult to shake off. It can be protective and nurturing, but it can also be smothering and sinister.
  • The second script – mostly internal events – was recorded in our Child and it replays our feelings and reactions to what we heard or saw. For example if we were paid alot of attention to, then neglected, we reacted with confusion or hurt and hatred of hypocrisy and lack of consistency. This script plays consistently throughout physical adulthood too, as we experience certain responses, feelings and reactions to what is said or done around us. The Child will be spontaneous nad playful, but it can also be cruel and capable being unreasonable or of throwing tantrums.
  • In contrast to both, there is our Adult. This is the reasoned ego state, whereby we analyse data, look for facts and proofs and then resolve to take a decision or make a response. It is the Adult who will refuse to reject someone who is different, simply for that reason. The Adult will make plans and design contingencies. The Adult will know what to do in an emergency or threatening situation. The Adult will not be thoughtlessly demanding and controlling, neither will she give unlimited vent to her emotions.

For me, this is a fascinating insight into why we do things. For example, I use ALL the same cleaning products as my Mum used when we were little. I have a pathological hatred of all things and people who base their lives or careers on pretense (the Parent comes out strong here), deception and untruthfulness, and indeed, the importance of truth was instilled in me while very young; calling a spade a spade is one of my best-known traits, for good or for ill. My Adult however, has had to learn when to be diplomatic and when to speak up; it doesn’t always win.

In a similar way, I’ve inherited my dad’s physical aversion to game shows. We weren’t allowed to watch these as children, no doubt due to the dubious, bawdy humour(?) of the lecherous hosts. I still can’t bear to sit in the same room, as they continue to parade their too-old fake grins and canned laughter to a brain-dead Saturday night audience. There’s not even a TV in my house! I will however, admit an undying love for The Equaliser and MacGyver (was there ever a better theme-tune?) though, both of which can still be viewed online.

In the same way, I know how to make a nutritious chicken and vegetable broth and and will never put salt in my cooking (just like mamma taught me). These habits die hard, but they clearly come from what Berne labelled the Parent ego state.

The Child loves slapstick and tickling and silly puns. The Child reacts violently against inconsistency and hypocrisy and tyranny. The Adult however, must learn how cleverly to counter these realities of living in a twisted, often cruel, adult world. The Parent must offer advice and help to those stuck in the scripts of their own past and practical support to those whose petulant Child takes over too often. The Adult must develop coping strategies and develop her own Adult responses. The Adult will read books about personal development.

What are your new year resolutions? Here are three of mine, based on a reading of Berne and Harris:

  • Master assertive anger
  • Develop poise under pressure
  • Get to grips with emotional detachment

Image credit: blogger’s own.

Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

Leah Totten Won

I’m no Claude, but here are a few suggestions why I think Leah triumphed over Luisa.

Leah Totton was cast as the quiet, even cold, one during The Apprentice 2013. It’s true that we’re not known for our effective assertiveness skills in NI. But, cold!?

First, let me explain why Leah may have been artlessly pegged as the quiet, cold one.

Allen‘s Granny Used to say That Everybody Has to Be *Something*

In order for the media industry to invent headlines and concoct a story, everyone has to have a character, a physical flaw, a quirk (Alex’s quirky eyebrows, Jordan’s impressive quiff, Tim’s physical energy, Myles notable “abs”).

We don’t know these people, and so we latch on to something obvious about them in order to love, hate and gossip. It’s what makes normal entrepreneurs begin to screech at the screen… “No!”, “Agrgh!” and “Oh, wise the flip up!”. Ok, that’s only at my house…

In Quietness and Confidence Shall be your Strength

This is one of my all-time favourite ancient texts, written by an eighth century BC prophet. In defence of quietness:

  • Quietness does not mean silence. Leah Totten was not silent. She was articulate. And, choosing her words carefully, spoke when necessary, avoiding the temptation to splatter the atmosphere with clich√©s, business speak and wearying truisms.
  • Volume does not invoke wisdom. That much is clear in our workplaces, cafes, homes and neighbourhoods. And, those who used volume on the show to get their point across? Did it work? On the contrary, a loud voice used consistently is boorish, intimidating and stressful. Content often gets sidelined.
  • When a quiet person speaks, people listen. Leah was listened to because she made sense, she consistently referred the team back to the point of the task (usually, selling) at key stages.
  • Lest we forget, introversion is not a disease; it is a tendency or preference.

For Cold, Read Calm

Business shows on the telebox past and present have included candidates who were:

  • Loud and contentless
  • Confident to the point of pantomime
  • Argumentative like it was an Olympic sport

Leah’s peaceful demeanor, physical stillness, immaculate personal presentation contributed to Lord’s Sugar’s confidence in her.

Tranquil, Self-Assured and Stylish

Though apparently maligned on the show due to her medical career (why invite her onto the show??), my guess is that the following skills are crucial in a highly-charged environment of healthcare:

  • Whose office would you rather be in when bad news is delivered? One of tranquility, or one of noise?
  • Physical stillness is one of the assertiveness techniques we teach on seminars. Those who flail around are sometimes taken as nervous, threatening or bonkers (when combined with idiotic language and contentless monologues). Keeping physically calm exudes confidence and self-assuredness. It reassures the listener. (Incidentally, Karren Brady also employs this technique.)
  • Again, in business, we select clothes, style hair and adopt a personal presentation that enhances our message, rather than detracts from it. Have you read the dress what you want to become mantra? This underscored Leah’s determination to win. She already looked like a winner.

In my book (as Nick would enunciate), despite many candidates’ best attempts, it wasn’t bombast or slickness that won the day. It was a clear-thinking communicator, with little business experience, who listened to requirements of the task and interpreted them consistently to achieve excellent results.

A Woman on a Rampage

In the final, she was “a woman on a rampage” (Alex). Hardly quiet or cold!

In true Leah Totten style, and celebrated by those on the introversion spectrum everywhere, after the final she said, “I ‘m not really a big partier.”

Well done Dr Leah. 🙂

Proof For ‘Fake It Until You Make It’!

It’s the stuff of cheesy, pop-psychology legend. ‘Fake it until you make it’! Yeah, right! Excuse me if I refuse the snake oil and select a sick bag instead. Only one problem. It seems to be true.

First there was Aristotle:

“Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a particular way. We become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions.”

Then the experiences of Teddy Roosevelt and the observations of William James. And finally, Robert Greene’s power law 34 :

“Be royal in your fashion: act like a king to be treated like one.”

I’ve recently read an excellent book by Richard Wiseman called 59 Seconds: Think a little, Change a lot. In it he gives many examples of such ‘proprioceptive psychology ‘. Not only certain thoughts and emotions cause regular behaviours, but the causation works the other way around too! He quotes dozens of academic studies that demonstrate, among other things, that:

  • the act of smiling makes you feel happier
  • arm crossing increases persistence and performance
  • lying down increases creativity
  • increased heart rate and eye contact lead to love

In each of these cases, we’re progammed to think that the internal feelings come first, and that the body language is an expression of what already exists. Not necessarily. You – or someone else – can make these feelings occur by practising the behaviour.

I’ve found another confirmation of this in an article Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect NeuroendocrineLevels and Risk Tolerance. The gist of it is that those who adopt typical power poses – demonstrating expansiveness and openness – experience heightened levels of testosterone and lowered levels of cortisol. The first increases competitiveness and openness to challenge, while the second deals with stress.

Let me put it plainly. Adopting certain non-verbal communication patterns doesn’t just change how you feel. Deeper than that, it alters the chemistry of your body and brain.

IMHO that’s the real power of body language – what it does to you! How you then go on to influence other people is a secondary product of this.

Fake it until you make it. Easy on the cheese… heavy on the chemicals!

Image credit: gnuckx.

Radical Listening Skills

I was momentarily speechless this week, as I listened to 14-17 year olds tell me how I could tell if they were listening to me. We then applied this to listening to others, specifically those who were telling you something very personal, such as their feelings and what they were thinking about themselves. Here are the phrases they called out, as we thought what might be important to think about when we were trying to demonstrate attentiveness.

Eye Contact

The old rule is that when you’re talking, you look at the person 60-70% of the time, but this increases to 70-80% of the time, when they are talking to you. Solidly maintained eye-contact is threatening, as in The Godfather. Absent eye-contact is disconcerting and irritating, as in People Who Love Schmoozing at Parties. You must consistently present an interested demeanor, otherwise someone will lose interest in you, or become anxious and/or aggressive.

Of course, you can use eye contact to your advantage, if you want to escape someone or discourage them from speaking. This works best with aggressive types, who will often become sullen, and eventually silent, following a period of decreasing eye-contact.

Body Language

Face the speaker. Make sure your feet, chest and head are pointing toward them. Lean forward into the conversation. If you are there in body, it conveys the notion that you are also there in mind.

Those who seem to lean toward the speaker, but face elsewhere, or vice-versa are most often to be found at parties, where someone of more interest has entered the room. For such people, it’s kinder to release them and find someone with more manners.


It’s one of the easiest things to do. It can make even the most socially awkward person seem more engaged with the speaker. It takes a minimal of effort. It encourages people to keep going.

It’s something to avoid if you’ve tired of listening, though. In my experience, it’s best avoided at networking meetings. Otherwise, you will become trapped with an entrepreneurial bore.


Nothing is more discouraging for a speaker than someone who does not respond. This is something I encounter occasionally when I’m speaking to a larger group. It takes time to establish rapport. And, if you’re in the process of revealing something very personal, then a lack of response will soon cause your openness to dissipate.

Responding to a speaker is the greatest way of eliciting more information. It’s best done via open-ended questions. Tell me more… So, how did that feel? Have you any other thoughts about that?

Alternativelt, if you fail to respond, it sends a clear signal to the speaker of your lack of interest.

Asking Questions

If you aren’t listening and hearing what is being said, then you will be entirely unable to formulate intelligent and probing questions. If the question you ask is vague, it gives the speaker the impression you were only listening at the start or at the end, as they drew their speaking to a close. Asking precise questions shows engagement and interest in the person and their topic.

You could of course avoid asking questions at all, to not-so-subtly indicate you are not interested in hearing about it any further. People who are uncomfortable with a certain topic often do this unconsciously, giving the wrong impression, but nevertheless ending any further discourse.


The best encouragement, which will elicit an aura of openness and honesty, is a genuine and recurrent smile. It promotes feelings of empathy, friendliness and trustworthiness. What better foundations for a good, honest conversation?

What are your thoughts? Do you have any tips for adding to our list of Listening Skills? Feel free to add them in a comment below.

Image credit: el Buho n ∫30.

One is Not Born, But Rather Becomes, Gifted!

The whole ‘nature versus nurture’ debate is increasingly fought out in the field of education. In an interesting article called Nature, nurture and exam results, Mike Baker looks at the current state of play. Which is, that a child’s family background largely dictates their potential for academic success.

According to Professor Chris Woodhead – former controversial Chief Inspector of Schools in England – genetic inheritance plays the decisive factor. He has a swathe of anecdotal evidence on his side.

Yet others, coming at matters form a more policy-making agenda, want to play up the part of social class as a determinant.

However kids start off, “subsequent educational success is more likely to go to those with affluent, middle-class parents” says the article. Those nefarious suburbanites are at it again!

I have only a few points to make.

Intelligence is Not the Same as Academic Skill

The article, and most of those in the education sector, seem to equate the two. One would think that they had never heard of Multiple Intelligence Theory, probably the best theory in the world (in a Carlsbergian sense). Traditional academic skill in words and numbers is one way of expressing intelligence. There are others – bodily movement, personal interactions, attunement with nature, capacity for self-reflection, spatial awareness, and musical appreciation.

So the question is not whether you are intelligent, but in what way you express it. The education system in the UK has still not faced up to this liberating truth.

In my opinion, monkeys can be taught to pass exams. It’s not the big deal we were told it was.

Motivation is More Important than Raw Ability When it Comes to Life Success

The world seems increasingly full of academically smart people (i.e. university graduates) who aren’t making much of their lives. They don’t know what they want, they aren’t interested in self-improvement, they work for money and nothing more. The averagely bright person with enthusiasm will always ace the smart person who can’t be bothered trying or who fades out at the first setback.

And the twist is, this very ability to motivate yourself is in itself a form of intelligence! (Emotional intelligence writers call motivation “the master aptitude” for a good reason.) So perhaps that supposedly ‘average but optimistic’ kid isn’t so average after all.

The great thing is that you can learn this optimism. You can grow your own self-motivation skills. You can teach yourself to be resilient when the chips seem down.

You can become gifted.

Image credit: Werwin15.