Are you listening?


My client shifted uneasily in her chair, hesitating before telling me what she had learnt since our last session. I had been told that she had a difficult week, full of significant decisions and soul searching. “I’m starting to realise” she said, “that no one really listens to me”.

Listening to another person is really difficult. I mean really, really difficult. As a psychotherapist this is a fundamental that I revisit again and again. I need to check with myself: Am I really listening to what is being said? What assumptions am I making up? What does this person want me to hear?

In thinking about the quality of our listening, in our closest relationships and workplaces, I reflect on 3 blocks to better listening that we may not be aware of:

  1. We do not value listening: Plain and simple we do not think it is important to listen to others. It takes up too much time and we’ve got to much to say / do / achieve. We are so used to putting ourselves first that we deny ourselves the depth of relationship we can have with anyone around us. People who value listening have experienced the difference that being listened to brings. People who do not listen may never have had this experience.
  2. We react: When someone speaks to us, they invite a response. “Hello, how are you?….. I’m hungry….. You forgot to bring the milk home!” When we hear this invitation of course we respond. This is often uncomplicated for many of our daily interactions. Once emotions are involved, however, we can react – giving them the same response we feel we are receiving. Then listening and true communication shuts down. It is important at times like these to slow down and really receive what is being communicated.
  3. We are thinking of what to say next: The human brain is amazing how we can process information on many different levels. While we are listening we can simultaneously formulate a response. We might hear the other person but we are not listening. Note the attention here is on me and not the other person.

The most exciting part about listening is it’s capacity to genuinely transform lives, for ourselves and others around us. After all, we get what we give.

Magic Words


I love the title of a book by the late Steve De Shazer, Words Were Originally Magic. Steve is the father of Solution Focused Therapy and he discovered that by asking different questions, his clients got different results.

Don’t we realise the magic of our words??

We can be mostly lost inside our own heads -talking to ourselves! The words we use both to ourselves and with others, can have a huge effect on our emotions and actions.


Take the simple little word ‘try’. How many times a day do we use it, saying, ‘I’ll try to get there’, or ‘I’ll try not to break it’? What’s the difference between those sentences and the following:

‘I’ll get there’ and ‘I won’t break it’.

Of course, the latter are definite, with a sense of purpose. Try indicates there is no definite purpose, and implies failure. Any time you use ‘try’ with yourself or others, you may be defeating yourself.

Instead, use a definite verb, like ‘do’. I will do my homework, I will do my taxes.


Another word we ‘should’ eliminate! Should implies that someone else is telling you what to do. By dropping this word you claim back your responsibility and your energy. Instead use ‘could’, which gives you the freedom and choice to do or not do.


Ok, so there are plenty of things that I definitely can’t do, such as run a four minute mile or play guitar like Eddie Van Halen. But in my own self talk, this could easily be filed in Room 101. Can’t is a self limiting word, and to me it feels like a weight on my shoulders keeping me down. If I simply don’t want to do it I can say I won’t.

Have to / must

These sound a lot like ‘should’ – when I use them, I feel like my life is not my own and someone else is running the show and telling me what to do. Now I use, I want to (or don’t want to) or I choose to (or choose not to).

I find this very interesting to note my own conversation and the way that using different words can have an effect on my feelings and energy levels. Give these a spin and let me know if they work any magic for you!!

Accelerated Change!

Fancy a change?

Sometimes the simplest approach is the most effective, and because it is the simplest it is also the most overlooked. If you’re like me, then you probably rush to make things more complicated than they need to be. Surely the most effective, the most advanced technologies for change have got to be the most complex!! No they don’t!

What am I talking about here? I’m talking about setting your own goals.

Simple isn’t it – so so simple this is neglected by pretty much everyone you passed in the street today.


We all know this, right? If you set goals they have to be SMART : Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound. This is simple, ok? Yeah, but who does it?

Specific: Make your goal detailed so you know what it is you are after. You want to be happier? Ok, make it specific to be a goal. What are you doing that makes you happy? Who are you with when you are happy?

Measurable: You must know where you want to go, so you will know when you have arrived. You want to lose weight? Ok choose a weight that you want to be. By this summer, I want to have dropped a stone in weight.

Achievable: Your goal is likely to stretch you, but make sure you can get it with some work. You want to look like (insert this weeks role model here)?

Realistic: Keep it real – make sure your goal is something that is possible for you. Very similar to above.

Time-Bound: Set yourself a date when you would like to achieve your goal. This brings that all important focus, and prevents it from being a dream.

Write it out!

Brian Tracy, in Goals, suggests that you begin by writing out 10 goals that you would like to achieve in the next 12 months. Write them out in the present tense, as if you have already achieved them, eg I am now exercising three days a week for an hour each day. Then pick one, by asking the question: what one goal on this list, if I accomplished it, would have the greatest positive impact on my life?

Once you have chosen it, he suggests working on that goal every day: set a deadline, write why you want to achieve this goal (hint: the more reasons, the greater your motivation), list the possible obstacles you will need to overcome, write out a plan to achieve it and take action everyday to move you closer to where you want to go.

In addition he suggests this: everyday you need to visualise yourself having achieved your goal: what are you doing? who are you with? what are you saying? how do you feel now that you have achieved this?

By taking these simple steps, you will become a magnet for all the goals you want to achieve!!

Encompass (verb)

1. to bring about, or cause to happen

2. to include entirely or comprehensively

3. to enclose or surround