Thursday, 24 November 2016

Fibbing about Father Christmas

Today has been a day of BBC radio interviews asking my reaction to an article in a couple of the national newspapers about the long-term damage to children being ‘lied’ to about the existence of Father Christmas.

The authors of a piece in The Lancet (Prof Christopher Boyle from the University of Exeter and Dr Kathy McKay from the University of New England in Australia) claim that lying about Father Christmas and the subsequent discovery by the child of the lie destroys the trust between parent and child.

Whoa!  That’s quite a claim if I do say so myself.

As a psychotherapist, I have heard a lot of stories about the traumas of Christmas, but never in my career have I heard anyone talk about how damaged they felt at being lied to about Father Christmas.

The authors claim that when children find out their parents have lied about Father Christmas then the bond of trust is broken because, what else have they been lied to about.  Granted, the authors say their theory isn’t based on observation but is theoretical so there isn’t actually a body of research to back up the claim.

It’s still worth unpicking to see if there is any merit in the argument.

Is fibbing about Father Christmas really worse than fibbing about the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny or any other fantasy characters children embrace when they are young?  

When you think about it, parents lie to their children all the time, often for their own (the child’s) well-being:  “Can I watch another film?  Please, please, please?  “Oh, it looks like the video isn’t working any more; let’s read a bedtime story instead.”  And so on.  We sprinkle our communication with lies for convenience, protection, expediency - any number of reasons – and children do survive these lies unscathed.

Let’s get serious for a moment.  There are far more damaging behaviours that parents do to create long-term harm to their children including physical, sexual or emotional abuse; consistently not keeping their word; malicious lying.  If we’re concerned about the breakdown of trust that’s where our attention should be.

Personally, I’m not keen on parents using Father Christmas as a threat (“he knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake”), but it seems very reasonable to join children in their pretend world till it isn’t pretend anymore.

Children thrive on fantasy, on make believe, on using their imaginations to create their unique worlds and often long after they have learned the ‘truth’ about Santa Claus, they enjoy perpetuating the myth for the next lot coming up.

In just about every interview I had today, I was asked what parents should say if their children ask if Father Christmas is real.  The answer was the same, ask the child what he or she thinks; ask what they like about Father Christmas and what makes them think he isn’t real.

Create a dialogue with your child rather than making it a question and answer session because dialogue helps them work things out for themselves in a way that works for their reality, not necessarily yours.

This whole notion has felt like a tempest in a tea-pot and I for one will continue to support whatever myths the little ones around me have till they don’t believe them any more and they’re on to something else. 

By Jo Ellen Gryzb, Director of Impact Factory

Thursday, 17 November 2016

The Emotion of Change

Change is one of those subjects I'll be writing about till it's time for me to lay down my pen.

Today I'm going to focus on the feelings that can happen around change and how to manage yours and other people’s emotions.

Change during any time of uncertainty creates an uneasiness that you can practically feel in the atmosphere.  Whether it's Brexit, the US Presidential election, an unexpected merger, an office move, redundancies, new policies or even having to find a new way to get to work because of road works, change disrupts the rhythm of our lives.

We need change; we need to be challenged; we need to develop as human beings which means something different has to happen which in turn leads to change.  The contradiction in all of this is that at the same time that change is a positive it can feel threatening, it can knock us off course, it can make us feel discombobulated and unsure.

Even people who are 'early adopters' and who generally thrive on change can feel as though their world has been rocked to its foundation if change comes suddenly or if it's imposed from on high or if it's not what they expected.

Managing change well means managing the contradiction of needing change to grow and needing things to stay the same in order to feel safe. 

Here are a few tips to help you manage change more effectively.

1.   Accept that yours and other peoples' feelings are real.  It's incredibly frustrating and enraging when someone tries to dismiss your feelings.  Someone recently said to me, "Get over it" when I said how upset I was about a recent change.  Get over it?  I don't want to get over it just now, thank you very much.  I need to stew for a while till some kind of healing process happens.

2.  Which leads to… accept that for some people change will take longer to 'get over' than others.  We all have different ways of processing the world around us and expecting everyone to march to your beat (especially if you are an embracer of change) is unrealistic and unfair.  You can help people manage their process by understanding how they see the world rather than hustling them to get to a place where they see the world the way you do.

3.  Avoid using the term, 'at least'.  When someone is struggling with change, hearing the term 'at least' is completely useless in helping people with their feelings:  "at least the new offices are closer to the tube" "at least they're only making a few redundancies" "at least you have a job, there are plenty of people who would love to be in your position”.  In my experience, people will eventually find their own silver linings if other people stop telling them to cheer up or that they don’t know how good they already have it.

4.  Show genuine empathy because sometimes it isn't going to be OK.  Sometimes there really are no silver linings.  A little empathy goes a long way because as human being we need to feel heard and acknowledged.  When people know they have been understood that's one less battle they have to fight and they can begin to process their emotions more effectively.

5.  Take some kind of action.  When change hits us, it's easy to fall into a kind of helpless inertia because we feel impotent and powerless.  There is always something, no matter how small, that you can do.  You may not be able to prevent the merger, but once you have managed the shock, you can offer gentle options while seeking opinions. Because so much change is imposed and we don't have much say in the big stuff, it's vital to focus on the small stuff we do have some control over and make active choices so we feel connected and involved.

6.  Finally, when you are overloaded with change, sometimes it’s wise just to take a time out.  Lick your wounds in private, avoid having a moan-fest with like-minded people.  Instead, see if you can gently wind down the ‘what-if’ hamster wheel of wishful thinking till you get to a place where you aren’t fully awash in emotions.

It is at that point that you will have regained some balance and perspective which will enable you to go back into the fray of change.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Storytelling: Creating an Emotional Connection

In my last blog I wrote about how brilliant customer service can make you stand out from the clamouring crowd.

This week I’m turning my attention once again to Storytelling as another incredibly powerful way to distinguish your company so you can rise above the noise to be seen and heard.

Since stories are hard-wired into our psyches, using stories to create an emotional connection, will immediately resonate with your customers and your own people as well.  Sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in what you’re selling that you can forget why you’re doing what you do in the first place.

What makes the biggest impact of these two statements?

  1.  Impact Factory has a diverse workforce.
  1. What connects Uganda, Spain, the Czech Republic, America and even the UK?  Our brilliant Home Team has a variety of ‘accents’ all working to make Impact Factory outstanding. 
 Both are accurate statements; the second one uses basic story elements to grab your attention and stick in your memory.

Stories can by-pass logic by connecting with our feelings and they can also make the logical stuff more accessible. 

What we’ve noticed is that people who come on our courses often think that they have to have some kind of special skills or unique writing talents in order to use Storytelling to enhance their message.

Not true!  We work with people’s innate storytelling abilities and give them specific tools that will bring their corporate messages to life.  These might include:

-The best use of analogies
-Simple ways to create a unique written ‘voice’
-A variety of story structures that best suit the message
-How to use connective phrases
-How to build anticipation

And that’s just the tip of the metaphorical storytelling iceberg.

So why not have a go at developing your natural expression to soar above the competition.