This Blog is an Invitation to Life

Dear reader,
this is a message that hit our mailbox today and I’d like to share it with you. Today it was sort of a lousy day, because I hosted a workshop yesterday and was rather ill, so as a consequence today I cannot talk, because I’ve nearly lost all of my voice. So I cannot call anyone, nor pick up the phone (which means I’m pretty bored). Then unexpectedly, this happened. And the sender was kind enough to let this message be shared. I have nothing left to say in addition. Not just because I’ve lost my voice, but because there’s nothing left to be said. 
Dear Ribalon,
you don’t know me and I don’t know you. But somehow I feel like I’ve known you forever. I’ve been quite miserable for quite some time. In 2012 I’ve had a car accident. I was in a car with my boyfriend at the time and his sister. We were going home from a concert. He was driving and I don’t remember much, because it was night and we were sleeping – the last thing I remember is him covering me with his jacket so I wouldn’t get cold. The next thing I woke up in the hospital from a coma a few days later. I won’t bother you with details. However in just one night, I’ve lost the love of my life and my own identity. I ended up in a wheelchair. Couldn’t find any reason to live anymore. Nothing made sense. I was nobody, I had nobody. I didn’t know neither who I was, nor who I am supposed to be now. And why. So I stopped attending my university, all I did was browsing the internet and playing some sagas on my ipad. I secretly wished my life was over and I blamed my boyfriend for leaving without me. I blamed myself for letting him drive. I blamed the singer for performing that night. I blamed my parents for having me.
Then one day I found your blog. Your logo caught my attention, because it’s so childlike. It was in October 2014 and I was just typing in some keywords about coaching and stuff. Your posts at first didn’t mean much, but they were somehow interesting and somewhat cosy to read, because you were only inviting your reader to join, but never imposed your preaching. And you felt so close, not at all high or perfect and I liked that. I perceived your blog as a silent invitation to life.
It’s more than one year since. So I thought I’ll let you know what happened because of, or by following your blog.
I am still struggling to figure out what to do and how to adjust to my new situation and my new identity. But I went back to the university. I know it’s not my fault things happened the way they did. And I suppose me staying alive had some underlying reason. And I should make some sense of it. Though it’s still very hard and it hurts me even thinking about it, let alone writing about it, I know I have to stop hiding. And your kind posts helped me do that, step by step. 
I realize you didn’t and couldn’t know that. However for me it was like this little light bulb, telling me I’ll be ok. I’m not ok yet. But I have hopes I might get there one day. I simply want to thank you for this and I hope to meet you one day to tell you that personally. Please let me know if you’ll ever host a workshop in XXX, because I’ll surely be your no.1 participant. But you’ll have to find a place that is wheelchair accessible.
I hope this message finds you well and sorry for its length.

This is my aunt’s picture from her seahouse. I suppose as long as we are able to notice features like these, we might find a reason to smile.

You were born to count the stars PART 2

Have you ever received a genuine compliment? I’m sure you have. And have you ever had an opportunity to give a compliment that came from your heart? Probably also.

But we do it way too rarely. And this is a huge pity.

I believe that compliments are the best feedback you can give to someone. BUT (!): Compliments have to be real, genuine and based on facts. Otherwise it’s just plain small talk that in best case keeps the other person amused and in the worst case she/he might feel offended that you make fun of them. In order to be able to think of an appropriate compliment, you have to learn to listen to certain skills and values within the person you are about to compliment. And to do this, you can not listen to their problems, nor can you take a judgemental position.

I regularly run exercises on compliments when I work with groups. And I use it all the time with my clients. Why? Because I want to make them feel better? No. I use this as a feedback to show them their own resources. And it works.

Such an activity I prepared for my youth exchange group I told you about in Part 1 of this blog post. The activity was to write on our backs some things we appreciate about the other person. The key was that we were not allowed to see what’s on our backs, nor who is writing. In the second part we wrote our own qualities that we believe we possess ourselves, on a special piece of paper and later on combined it with what was written on our backs. It is much fun to observe people’s reactions as they read messages from random people. Often it happens that the messages are accurate and even much more appreciative than what you dare to say or think about yourself. To sum up the exercise, we read aloud three things about ourselves that touched us the most. It was a very special moment and some people reported that it was hard for them to read aloud positive things about them, but because we created a very safe and intimate atmosphere, they took a chance and were not disappointed afterwards.

Just for fun, try to use a compliment as a feedback when somebody asks you a question or expects you to comment on a current debate issue. You might be very surprised what you’ll get in return. I do it all the time and sometimes the boomerang hits me back with unexpected surprises.

Take this for example: while I was in the UK, I got pretty attached to a certain cup/coffee mug. It was a very funny cup with cute small sausage dogs drawings. I always had my tea or hot water (a strange habit, I’ll tell you more about it on some other occassion) in that mug. Always. Then as the family noticed how much I like that mug, they took me to the store where they bought it. But unfortunately it was last season’s model and they ran out of it. I was quite disappointed, but hey, it was not meant to be. I took a picture of it and promised myself that I’ll make my own one day.

Then, a couple of days ago, I got a package. Didn’t look carefully where it came from, because I was expecting something and thought that was it. But inside there was something wraped and a message enclosed. It was the sausage dog mug! I couldn’t believe my eyes. R. made special efforts to look that mug up and she said it was the last one. And I knew she liked this mug as much as I did, but she bought this one and sent it to me from England. I was really really touched and grateful. To have friends like that who remember you and make something so nice, is a true gem.  A gem to value and nourish.

Try. Compliments work. If you don’t know how, come to some of my workshops and I’ll show you ;). You’ll learn it quickly.

back feedback

My back feedback. I was deeply touched.

sausage dog

THE sausage dog mug

How to deal with success is as important as of how to deal with failure

Dear reader,

Easter here. Hope you’ve used this opportunity to visit some family or friends or at least to have some time off. We visited my grandma (the one I told you about already) as we had a family reunion. Not to mention that my grandma’s doing great and is celebrating her 90th Birthday in 3 weeks, she’s had an accident with her water heating system just the day before we arrived, which caused her corridor to be covered in mud and she’ll be without hot water until somebody delivers and installs her a new one. So she made me wash the salad in the ice cold water and as strict as she is, I had to do it at least five times until the water was crystal clear. I don’t consider myself spoiled, but I really felt like that as I started whining and imagined how she will manage to cope with this for days, if I had trouble to cope for only 10 minutes.

Anyways. As we all get together, everybody has lots of news and I always enjoy these conversations. I don’t usually add much to the conversation, as on the outside I’m not a very loud person, or if I do speak up, I ask questions. And usually others appreciate this, because I’m often regarded as “a nice person to talk to.”

Being a family (everybody being interested in everybody) my cousin asked about what am I up to and how I am doing. Everybody knows I’ve opened an institute and that I’m traveling a lot, but no details, so there was much to tell. But I was not prepared for this, so I didn’t know where to start. I just said I’m in the process of going and it’s a beginning only. I was unable to take my “five minutes of fame”.

Then on the way back, as I had time to think, because it’s a rather long journey and I was driving, I realized I failed to answer that question completely. That I was totally unprepared to be asked a question where I would tell something about what I’ve accomplished and how I’m doing. I’m too much used to defend my actions in terms of giving the arguments supporting why I did or didn’t do something or to fight back when I’m being criticised. And I got used to these kind of questions. How about when somebody asked about my successes? Glp …

I’m interested how you respond to criticism and how you respond to admiration. Can you handle both? Do you accept praise easily and are you capable to say thank you? And does that make you proud or confused?

How come we are sometimes better “trained” to respond to negative than to positive feedback? Is there a way to unlearn old patterns and invite new ones?

There is. I’ll tell you about it before long. Keep in touch and observe your own responses in the meanwhile 🙂

easter breakfast

Easter breakfast. Helps you think.

Good life is not just the absence of negative things

Dear reader,

I promised  you to say something about how come we are sometimes better “trained” to respond to negative than to positive feedback. Also, I promised you to introduce a possible way to unlearn old patterns and invite new ones come in.

Back in 2000, my ballet teacher told the class at the beginning of our ballet course that he follows two rules in providing feedback about our performance:

1. what we do right and well, is normal and how it should be done. Therefore he will not say it.

2. what we don’t do right, he’ll emphasize and correct so that we could improve.

After four years of training we felt like we couldn’t do anything right. Out of 18 students in the first year, only myself and another girl have completed the studies in due time. We didn’t celebrate it.

If you do receive a lot of criticism and negative feedback, you are very likely to be doing something really important and perhaps something meaningful, that only a few are willing to try. If you are coping with criticism and can handle it more or less one way or another, you have probably developed a very precious skill: resilience. Further, you might be expressing great courage if you keep going inspite of the criticism. I think this deserves a deep bow. It also demonstrates you are a fighter and survivor.

However, life is much more than that. I bet sometimes you get positive feedback as well. What do you do with it? Do you even notice it? Do you celebrate it or do you accredit less importance to it than to the negative feedback? Maybe because positive feedback is ok, but negative should be considered more seriously, so that you can improve? Close resemblance to my teacher?

Here’s an exercise: try to remember the last compliment, a positive feedback or comment you’ve received about your work. What abilities and skills did you have to demonstrate in order to receive this compliment? What did the compliment giver see in you that she/he decided to delivier it to you the way they did? Why do you think they considered bothering making a compliment or a positive feedback to you? They could do otherwise, but they didn’t. And I guess they were not forced into making this compliment, so they probably gave it freely and out of their own intention.

Going one step further: how did you respond to the feedback? Were you able to take it seriously and accept it? How did you express that? How did receiving the compliment feel inside? What might the other person who gave you the feedback notice about you as you responded? And how did they respond back?

Sometimes we might think that it is good enough not to receive negative feedback and criticism. However life is much more than just the absence of negative. Good feedback is not just the absence of negative feedback. Good feedback is about appreciation, respect, gratitude, kindness, good handshake, a shoulder to lean on, a supportive company, good health, smiling, to be loved and to be able to love. It may feel like a lot. But you deserve this. All of this. And not just sometimes. You deserve it regularly, just as much as you deserve to breathe clean air.

To conclude, here is some experiment you might want to try: you might be waiting for your next compliment and embrace it fully. And how about while waiting, you make a genuine compliment to someone? How about you use the next opportunity you meet someone that is important to you and tell them something about them that you appreciate? Try and observe the difference you will make.

As William Makepeace Thackeray said:

Never loose a chance to say a kind word.

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