X is for ….

It’s the end of November already and we’re on count down for Christmas, but I’m not going to be using this newsletter as X is for Xmas.  Instead I’m going to talk about the X factor.  Not the programme, but what I think gives people the X factor, ie that noteworthy special talent or quality.


For me, the X factor is all about the way people show up.  And by that, I mean their attitude, how they engage with others, listen without judgement and be in the moment.  When people connect in this way they bring about an energy and interest that makes people feel valued and special.  And when people feel valued and special, they more likely to continue paying it forward and making others feel the same way.


Attitude tops the list for me.  Whenever I’m working with people, one of my ground rules is that ‘if you’re in the room, be in the room’.  What’s the point of wishing you were somewhere else?  If you’ve made the effort to be there, you might as well get the most out of the time you’ve allotted to the task.  With an open mind and a ‘can do’ attitude anything is possible.  After all it was Henry Ford who said ‘if you think you can or you think you can’t, you will’.  When you have a ‘can do’ attitude you see all sorts of opportunities, you also connect differently as people like to be around happy, positive people.


Engagement isn’t just about creating a connection.  It’s the way in which you do it which leads to people feeling valued.  Taking time to acknowledge someone when you’re really busy or recognise someone who has gone beyond the call of duty makes such a difference   I know that making small talk is an art form in itself, but showing genuine interest in others and asking about their circumstances needn’t be an arduous task. People love to talk about themselves.  Why not go ahead and ask some questions about work, hobbies, favourite foods etc.  You may be surprised to find out how much you have in common.


That same curiosity can also help us to listen without judgement.  But isn’t it difficult to listen without forming an assessment of either the person or what they are saying.  On the coaching programme that I’m currently attending we were recently asked to check a story we had written to see if it was full of judgements or actual facts.  By just asking a few more questions we could thoroughly understand why we had formed the judgement.  Isn’t it amazing how simple it is when you know how!  Not only does it give you a greater understanding from where the person is coming from, but it also highlights your own limiting beliefs.   I can’t remember who said for those who cast judgements on others, it says more about the person judging than the person being judged!  It’s so true.  When we make an assessment, it’s usually linked to part of own history rather than what the person is feeling or experiencing at the time.  By checking it out, asking relevant questions, we gather all the facts to enable us to see a more rounded view of where the person is coming from.


The final part of my X Factor jigsaw is about being in the moment.  Something I continually struggle to achieve.  As someone who always seems to be on fast forward, I am always focused on the future.  I tend to run my diary like a military event so that I can achieve everything on my list.  Although it helps me to remain proactive, it can also sometimes fill me with a sense of exhaustion just reading through what needs to be done each day!  Ray is always telling me that I might get a lot done, but life isn’t just about the destination, it’s about enjoying the journey along the way.  Although he sits polar opposite to me on the ‘getting things done quickly’ spectrum, I have at last conceded that he does have a point!


I started a nine month ITS ‘coach approach’ programme in September.  It’s been quite an eye opener as we’ve had to really listen and observe what’s going on for ourselves and our clients.  I’ve always regarded myself as being very self-aware, but during the last couple of months I’ve become much more conscious of every element of my physiology, emotions and language and in particular my self-talk which is rarely in the moment!  It’s been a huge lightbulb moment for me.  My head is either racing forward to what needs to happen tomorrow, next week and next month or playing out what could have been better about activities I’ve already facilitated!


Having just enjoyed a wonderful relaxing holiday in Thailand, I’ve had time to reflect on how I can live in the moment and increase my productivity.  You can imagine how delighted I was when my first lesson came about from a favourite past-time; people watching!  Thai people have a ritual for saying hello and goodbye.  They don’t shake hands.  They place their palms and fingers together in a type of prayer position between the face and the chest – the higher the hands the greater the respect for the person.  The greeting called a ‘wai’, pronounced ‘why’, is usually accompanied with a small bow of the head and can also be used to say sorry or thank you.  Whilst waiting for a meal to be served on our second day of the holiday, I was watching people come and go.  The people who really intrigued me were those walking at a hundred miles an hour, aka me!  However, rather than doing what I had done and given a quick ‘hello’ before being seated, I saw them slow right down, stop and partake in the ‘wai’ ritual.  I witnessed a change in their physiology as it brought these people right into the moment.  Whatever was racing around in their heads, was shelved for those ten seconds whilst they made a connection with one of the waiting staff.  It was at that very moment, that I decided that taking part in this ritual would be the starting point for me to begin my slowing down and feel in the moment.  Every day for the two weeks that we were away I greeted each person in the same way.  It was interesting for me to witness how easy it was for me to make this small change in my routine and feel the difference it had on my emotional and physical state.   No longer were my shoulders acting as ear-rings.  I was walking around in a more calm way and found myself relaxing and genuinely enjoying the interaction with everyone.


As it seemed so easy, I thought that there were perhaps other things that I could try to help me to stay in the moment.  These are my top five pointers, in no particular order!

  1. You are where your attention is.  As a curious person, I can be easily distracted by things that are happening around me.  When I’m meeting people in public places I now make sure that I’m the one who is facing away from the action so that I can focus solely on the person and hear precisely what they have to say.   This is also true when I find myself disagreeing with what another person is saying.  I’ve been known to let my mind focus on what I’m going to say next rather than to continue listening fully to their point of view, probably due to a sense of attachment to my point of view.  However, if I can remove the emotion and continue to ask questions, it allows me to remain focused and respond to what the other person is saying rather than react to them.
  2. Shared experiences are their agenda not yours.  When someone tells me something along the same lines that I might have experienced, I am trying to resist the urge to tell them how it was for me.  I realise that it can often help build rapport if you share.  However, it’s better to hear the story from the other person’s point of view.  There may be similarities but there are bound to be lots of differences which make their story special to them. Interrupting and voicing your own opinion means that you’re working to your own agenda rather than the other persons.
  3. Take the appropriate time.  Although my diary can be an exhausting read, I’m now trying to spread the load more broadly and give myself additional time to complete the tasks.  This means that I don’t feel that I’m scrimping on any activity and therefore stops my negative self-talk being so critical of my achievements.
  4. Question assumptions. Gathering facts rather than acting on assumptions helps me to keep my self-talk in the moment rather than in the past or future which is very empowering.  It creates a truer picture in my head, rather than one that is based on incomplete facts.  It also helps when I listen with both my eyes and ears so that I can check for congruency in what is being said.
  5. Play the role of observer.  I’m finding it fun observing myself in a variety of situations especially when a particular emotion is evoked.  By just making the tiniest of tweaks to my physiology, emotion or language I can alter my focus and the way I’m interacting with others.  Just sitting back in my chair rather than leaning forward and taking time to breath properly means that I change my emotion.  And for me that’s fantastic as I really do believe that we see the world through the emotion we are feeling at the time.

I know this post has been a little longer than usual, but I hope you enjoy it and find some really useful hints and tips to help you be in the moment too.

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