Experts talking or writing about their field can easily be tempted to use specialist vocabulary and complicated sentences. But problems can arise. The expert may fail to communicate successfully with non-experts. And even other experts may not completely understand the message either (whether or not they realise that.) I have been helping people with communication skills for over 30 years, people who are experts in their own fields. In my experience, it has always turned out to be possible to express their complex knowledge and ideas more simply. My father, a UK civil servant for 50 years, was fond of saying, “The most common error in communication is the assumption that it has taken place.”

Here are some tips from some masters in communication: Sir Ernest Gowers (author of The Complete Plain Words), the lyricist Gene Lees (in his excellent introductory chapters of Modern Rhyming Dictionary: A practical guide to lyric writing for songwriters and poets), George Orwell (Politics and the English Language and Other Essays), and William Strunk (in his famous work, The Elements of Style). (more…)

Conflict doesn’t have to be destructive

You and I are different. We do not see the world the same way. Our needs are the same – I do believe there are such things as universal human needs. But we will not always agree on strategies – how to get those needs met. We also may not agree on priorities or values. Conflict is inevitable. How can we respond to our conflicts so that we both gain, rather than one of both us having to lose? (more…)

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I did a trawl of the internet recently to collect words and phrases that I would prefer not to see and hear any more. It would be good to think that I could take the moral high ground and say that I had not used any of  them myself. Unfortunately, I realise that many of these have slipped out of my mouth, or into my own writing at some point. So I put them here first as a confession, and cautionary reminder to myself. Reading this list, I am appalled at the laziness and imprecision of thought; the unexamined and suspect values; and, quite often, what they reveal of a casual disrespect towards listeners, readers, or people being spoken about. Readers may well not agree with everything I have put on my list of ‘words and phrases to avoid’, but I hope the list will give cause for reflection. (more…)

Needs, rights, feelings and wishes

“I need an ice cream!” Really? Need? One of the interesting things about language is that we can say things are not true. Lying is a special category of untruth. But it is also possible to say things that are not so, ie simply not accurate, and not even realise that we are being inaccurate. We hear the word ‘need’ and recognise that someone is probably wanting to convey some sense of urgency, and may have intense feelings; but that does not necessarily mean that they have accurately named their need. The excellent work by Marshall Rosenberg in Non-Violent Communication (NVC) makes a careful distinction between need, feelings, and the strategies. Feelings arise from our needs being met or unmet; strategies are what we to try to get our unmet needs met. (more…)

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These questions deliberately alternate between helping you bring out the strengths in you and your proposed business offering, and challenging you on possible weaknesses. You can work on the questions in any order  – they are there simply to stimulate your thinking. (more…)

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Whether learning, singing or performing, we function better when our minds are not distracted by anxiety, and when we can feel completely present physically, mentally and emotionally. The following exercise can help us achieve and sustain equanimity. (more…)

This was an interview I gave for the Journal of the Oxford Psychotherapy Society, a few months after I was keynote speaker and trainer at their AGM (2009), and a few months before another training I was to deliver for them in Feb 2010. (more…)

This exercise helps us understand why we might have such strong reactions to someone in our adult lives, and why those reactions might be so familiar to us. Basically, we ‘project’ our childhood experience of relationships onto the relationships we have in adulthood, and then behave as if the people we now interact with are our parents. (more…)

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or ‘Sirens and Tricksters, enemies and teachers’

Not being authentic is very appealing. It must have its merits, otherwise why would we all do it? Inauthenticity shows up in so many ways. White lies are a simple and obvious example. And white lies, by their nature, are easy to justify. Actually we justify white lies on moral grounds. It’s not just that we claim they don’t really hurt anyone. We even go so far as to suggest they increase the quality of life, help everyone save face, feel more comfortable, and avoid needless pain or embarrassment. We also point out that ‘nobody will know anyway’. (more…)


Authenticity is the opposite of imitation. The roots of the word lie in the Greek authentes: hentes a doer, and auto, from within. A person who is authentic makes an independent assessment of a situation, and then makes an independent choice for which they take full personal responsibility. They are, and recognise themselves to be, full authors of their own actions: author, from the Latin autor, meaning a creator or progenitor, autor also being related to the Greek authentes. The authentic individual is an artist, making something new in each moment, daring to step out of what they know to choose what is unknown but what their inner ‘knowing’ tells them is right, in and for that moment.

The intellect will constantly nag us (and perhaps it should), asking whether this is any sensible or safe basis on which to make choices. And yet, some of our most important decisions are made this way – shall I take this job, marry this person, buy this house, have a child, sign this deal, walk away from this apparently golden opportunity, say the unmentionable that’s on everyone’s minds? Following our gut takes guts.

True happiness comes when we follow the stirrings and leadings of our own authentic selves, so that we discover what our unique contribution is, and what value we can add to the greater Good.

Authenticity is inherently and eminently practical. It makes the kind of difference we need if we want to improve our lives, or improve our organisations. It pursues excellence, and what is best for all concerned. It may take more time than some methods, but then it also ensures that we take the shortest time possible to arrive at the Highest Good, and therefore promotes what is most efficient. Its exercise ensures the highest possible levels of personal engagement, responsibility and accountability. And its motivational value is also high, in that it connects people with what gives them meaning. It is open-minded and oriented towards awareness, spontaneity, change and creativity, and therefore is responsive to wherever the greatest opportunities lie for evolution and growth. (more…)