Wednesday 31 October 2018

How to speak so that people will listen

Have you noticed how some people can command the room when they speak, while others find it hard to grab – and keep – people's attention? We take a look at why this might be – and how to stop it happening to us!

Only talk when you have something to say

Have you noticed that children will ‘switch off’ from adults when they talk for too long? The same is true of our co-workers and colleagues. Often the people who are the most talkative are the ones that are listened to the least – it is hard for people to distinguish between the chitter-chatter and the words that add value to a work situation so they just switch off. If you are more mindful over your words at work, people will be more willing to listen to what you have to say.

Listen very carefully

We have two ears and only one mouth and there are many that believe we should listen twice as much as we talk. We don’t just mean not talking here though, it’s about actively listening to what our co-workers have got to say and using their ideas and insight to make us better at our own job. Listening is about processing what others have to say and only responding or adding to the conversation where you can definitely add value. People have to trust that you listen to them before they will actively listen to what you have to say.

Choose your time and place wisely

Speaking to people is not just about the words that you use, it’s about when and where you choose to impart your knowledge too. So, 4pm on a Friday in a crowded lobby is not going to command the same level of attention as 10am on a Monday in the training room, when everyone is motivated and ready to tackle the week ahead. When you have something important to share with others, make sure you are not competing for their attention.

Summarise and follow up

If you don’t feel confident in speaking and are often unsure that your audience will have taken in what you wanted to get across, always end your conversation or presentation by summarising your most important points, even if this means you’re repeating yourself. It’s also fine to follow up with people after the event too. Putting the important points in writing should not be seen as a reflection on your speaking ability, more a helpful reminder of your most salient points.

Public speaking or indeed addressing colleagues in a formal business setting is something that few of us relish. The good news is that these skills can be learn't – and until you have mastered the art of speaking with confidence, there are a few tricks you can employ that will enable you to ‘fake it until you make it’!

Here are our practical tips for how to speak with more presence so that people will sit up and listen:


As much as you can anyway. Do a few gentle stretches, touch your toes, walk up and down the stairs a few time. The more relaxed your body is, the more relaxed your voice will be when you’re speaking. Take a deep breath and let your body settle. Speak from your belly and direct your voice from your chest. When your voice is lower it sounds strong and convincing – people trust what you are telling them.

Slow down

When we are talking to groups of people or delivering presentations it’s important to take our time. When we’re nervous, the tendency is to rush through the event to make it end quicker – unfortunately this just means that we don’t articulate properly and this can make it more difficult for people to hear and understand what we are saying. Rather than rush through, slow down. Think of it this way – the more people who understand what you have told them, the less questions you will have at the end!

If you’ve got ten minutes free, why not watch this inspiring TED talk about the art of powerful speaking

Monday 29 October 2018

Tackling bullying at work

A report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) states that between 83-90% of UK organisations have anti-bullying policies, yet bullying is still happening. So what constitutes bullying at work?

Common bullying behaviours

  • Being insulting: personally criticising someone or making them feel small by ridiculing, humiliating or making demeaning comments.
  • Harassment: with-holding information; overloading someone with work; taking the credit for someone else's work; or removing responsibility from someone without discussing it with them first.
  • Exclusion: scapegoating, isolation or victimisation.
  • Intimidation: threats of physical violence or psychological intimidation.

Bullying may continue over a long period before it is recognised as such and it may be that the bully is not aware of how their actions are perceived.

The impact of bullying at work

It has been estimated that bullying may cost the UK over £2 billion a year. For the employee, it can lead to social and psychological problems in the present and longer term too.

"People who are bullied, particularly for longer periods, often struggle with feelings of low self-esteem, stress, anxiety and depression, says "Professor Ewan Gillon, Clinical Director of First Psychology Scotland, who has worked with many clients who have experienced bullying at work. "They may end up feeling completely exhausted and suffer physically as well as feeling traumatised by the experience."

When the situation starts to take its toll, people often resort to taking sick leave. In the end they may  feel the situation is intolerable and leave the organisation, without another job to go to.

How can organisations help?

Work to promote and uphold positive values and behaviour in the workplace: this is important as it ensures everyone knows what is acceptable behaviour and what is not.

Support employees: the provision of accessible and professional support for employees in the form of counselling, CBT and coaching can aid the resilience of employees who feel bullied. In addition, employees who are aware of their inappropriate behaviour may be assisted by working with a professional to change how they interact with others.

Group training: training in a group or team can be an effective way of building mutual respect between colleagues and can help foster an environment of group responsibility. Training in issues such as stress awareness can help employees recognise the signs of stress in themselves and others and can help them build strategies for dealing with stress effectively.

Wednesday 10 October 2018

How to say no for the sake of your mental health

It’s nice to be there for other people but sometimes we can put ourselves under pressure by placing the needs of others before our own. This can lead to resentment, over-stretching and can even stop us from delivering the results we are truly capable of. Not only that, the constant demands on our time can adversely affect our mental health and well-being.

In a work situation, there may be situations, tasks – or people – that you really feel you can’t say ‘no’ to. These may change as you grow in age and experience, or with the length of time you have been with your employer. For example – a new recruit may feel uncomfortable turning down requests early on in their employment. The truth is that we all have a thing or two to learn about how to – politely – say ‘no’ to those tasks and activities we either haven’t got time for, or simply don’t want to do.

Know what you’ll say ‘yes’ to

It sometimes helps to be absolutely honest with yourself about those additional requests that you do feel able to help with. This will make it easier for you to say ‘no’ to those that fall outside of the parameters you’ve set yourself. What do we mean by this? It could be that you are happy to help your colleagues with ad-hoc requests that fall within your specialist area, but unwilling to help with general tasks when other team members could equally help out.

Acknowledge and appreciate why people turn to you

It is easy to feel put upon when people constantly ask you to complete additional tasks, especially when you find it difficult to say no. If this is the case for you, a good starting point to easing the stress you feel is to remember why people turn to you. Generally, we only ask favours of those we can trust to get the job done. We choose to seek help from those people with the capabilities to deliver great results on our behalf. So, however stressed out these additional requests make you feel, it always helps to start from a place of appreciation.

‘No’ doesn’t have to have negative connotations

This article from Psychology Today explains that all too often we associate the word ‘no’ with negativity when really it is just about us making a choice. It suggests we should take more power from saying ‘no’, as it helps us to establish and maintain boundaries and how we assess our own self-worth, in relation to the needs and desires of those around us.

Of course understating why people ask us to do things, and acknowledging what we will and won’t do, is only half the battle. Saying ‘no’ does get easier with practice and until we get more comfortable with saying ‘no’ when we need to, here are our two top tips:

Be direct

Say what you mean and give a short explanation why, for example: I can’t this week I have too much on; or I don’t think I’m the best person to do that. Don’t tell people you’ll think about it – that just prolongs the agony and adds to your stress – and try not to get involved in long conversations about it. The longer you chat, the more time the other person has got to persuade you to change your mind. Be polite, be firm and to the point.

Don’t apologise

Try not to apologise for your inability to take on the extra tasks. Recognise that by saying no you are placing a greater value on your own time, than you are on the needs of others. Remember too, that this is nothing personal – you are saying no to the task, not the person who asked and there’s no need to apologise for that.

The good news is that once you have got out of the negative cycle of agreeing to do everything that is asked of you, it becomes easier to say ‘no’. Not only that, people soon come to realise that you are more than happy to say ‘no’ and are more likely to explore other avenues of help and support before they come to you, as a result. It’s a win-win situation.

For more tips on how to say ‘no’, have a look at this blog post on PsychCentral