It’s A Matter Of Opinion…. Or when you really think you know someone

The other day I was unfollowed on a number of social media platforms by someone I had been friends with for quite a long time.. ( in fairness, I said for them to feel free to do so if they felt they wanted to. But suppose , in my heart of hearts, sort of hoped they would just cut the RL contact and stay with the safer cyber one) Someone I had met often and got on pretty well with, but who has decided our friendship wasn’t working because we had differing opinions on a number of things, felt my opinions were a direct and personal slating, and saw disagreeing or discussing as being confrontational as opposed to being able to have an honest conversation with ‘a friend’

I had noticed a few times that if I said something they didn’t agree with they would disappear. I would then be left wondering what I had said or done wrong, usually being the one to make the first move at addressing things, taking a bunch of flowers as a peace-offering… When, in fact, I hadn’t really done anything wrong apart from express a personal opinion.

And I am inordinately and ridiculously upset by this. And I don’t know why, other than I have quite a lot going on in my life at the moment so am possibly ultra sensitive, and less able to be logical and sensible about it.
Confrontation is the last thing I like. I will do anything to avoid, often to my own personal detriment.

Believe it or not I am a sensitive soul, who hates the idea of deliberately upsetting anyone, and over the years this has had an impact on both my personal and professional life. Perhaps if I had confronted some personal issues head on I may not have found myself lying awake at night agonising over things.

Perhaps if I’d stopped that member of staff in their tracks all that time ago, when they were hell-bent on a mission with their own agenda, I wouldn’t have been driven to the brink of a total meltdown… Rendering me unable to walk through the main gates of the building without becoming a shivering, gibberish wreck.

However, having said I’m not one for confrontation, I do tend to say things as I find them. I don’t believe in lying in order to preserve someone’s fragile ego. But I do try to be gentle and am always open to discussion, and the first to apologise if I’m in the wrong…. Which I often am. I can’t be someone or something I’m not. And, anyway, if you are you will invariably be found out at some stage.

I’m lucky in that I have a small circle of very good friends, who also feel the same way as me, and we can be completely open and honest with each other. Express opinions, disagree without it causing upsets or rifts. After all isn’t that what real friendship is all about?
Perhaps in this day of cyber friendships we find ourselves being drawn to people we most likely wouldn’t be in the real world.

Having said that I have met some really wonderful people through social media.. Some of whom I am very fond of, and we have a fab time every time we meet up. There are a few I haven’t been able to meet yet, but plan to.. And I’m pretty sure we will get on famously.
And there are some very special ones I’ve got to know, and we will be friends for life now.

What you see is what you get with me… And if others don’t like that then I have to learn that it’s not my problem, and I shouldn’t have to change to appease them. And perhaps they aren’t meant to be part of my life… However hard I find that.

I am who I am and I can’t, and actually don’t want to, change.

 

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Do you really want this job?

I was talking to a friend the other day about an upcoming interview they had been invited to attend. They were both excited at the prospect of a new job, bringing with it new challenges which they felt they needed, and terrified at prospect of being interviewed, as they hadn’t had one for some considerable time.

Throughout my career I have had many interviews. In fact between 2001-2009 I had to reapply and be interviewed for my job at regular 18 month intervals as we went through various management and organisational restructures!

And, as I moved up the managerial ladder I was heavily involved in interviewing prospective staff. In my last NHS post was responsible for the selection and recruitment for all temporary staff except doctors… So going through applications, assisting with short listing, and sitting in on interviews with various professional leads when it wasn’t nurses being interviewed. And I loved it. I love people watching at the best of times, but interviews are fascinating. They bring out either the best, or the worst in people.

I recall interviewing a lady for a theatre team leader’s post. We asked her something about working under pressure and she proceeded to tell us that the last place she had worked at was like working in a ‘mash tent’ the anaesthetist and I couldn’t look each other. AND she was wearing scuffed white stilettos. I couldn’t take my eyes off them.

I have met all kinds of people. The shy, timid ones who you had to coax one syllable replies out of, but actually were brilliant practitioners, to the brash, over-confident ones who had been everywhere and done everything, but when it came to scratching under the surface were not as competent,or confident, as they would have you believe.

So, anyway, from my experiences, I thought I would jot down and share a few useful (maybe) tips in case anyone had an impending interview on the horizon, and yes I have encountered all of the following…….

1. Do not be late. Yes, I know that sounds obvious!
2. Remove your sunglasses. And I don’t mean just put on your head
3. We know you’re nervous, but a limp, sweaty handshake is not good
4. Turn off your mobile phone!
5. Ditch the chewing gum!
6. Dress appropriately. Jeans and trainers may be fine in certain situations, but not all. And if you have to wear them, find a pair of jeans that aren’t frayed around the hem. And clean your trainers!
7. And ladies, if you’re going to wear a dress please make sure it’s not so short that when you sit down and cross your legs the interviewers will not be in fear that they are about to witness a ‘Sharon Stone’ scenario
8. Do not use foul language
9. Do not “bad mouth” your current/previous employers
10 Try and know a little bit about the job you’ve applied for
10 Do not ever address the interviewer as darling/love/sweetheart/babe. if you can’t remember their name a simple good morning/afternoon will suffice nicely thank you

And finally

14 As you leave the interview do not, on any occasion, attempt to air kiss your interviewer!!

So there you are. Follow these useful hints and you’ll have the job in the bag!

Don’t you just love people? I do

Hi, How are you ?

Your phone rings, and at the other end is a friend you’re not heard from for a while

“Hi, how are you”? They ask. You reply “okay thanks” or some other fairly non-descriptive response “and, how about you”?

Then you realise why they’ve called you…. The cursory enquiry into your well-being was only ever meant as an opening into a full-blown, 20 minute account of how they are, what latest ailment they’re suffering from, how terrible their lives are, and how badly they’re being treated at home/at work/ by friends. You don’t need to say anything… Well, you can only get the odd “oh no/ poor you/really/surely not” in anyway , so engrossed are they in their tale of woe.

Now, please don’t get me wrong, I do I genuinely care about my friends and their welfare. And I have some who have horrendous things going on in their lives. But ask them how they are and the normal reply is “I’m hunky dory hun” when I know full well that’s not true, but I also know that when they’re ready to say something they will… And they know I’ll be there for them, in whatever way I can.

This is particularly true of one dear friend who, 9 times out of 10 manages to completely ignore/change the subject/use distraction whenever I ask how things are.. Or dare to suggest they should perhaps slow down/take some time out/see a doctor. So when they do, on the very rare occasions, actually reply by admitting they’re tired/sad/fed up/ unwell. Then I know things are bad. And I wish I was nearer so I could do something more practical to help.

No, I’m talking about the ones who seem unable to get through a week without some drama occurring, that they need to off load….on me. They need advice/help/to tell me a secret. Jeez, I’ve so many secrets tucked away I could be a millionaire if I ever resorted to blackmail!! And, NO, I’m not telling you any!!

Then, after 20 minutes they suddenly remember you’re still there, and finish the call with “ thanks for listening, gotta dash. But if you ever need to talk……”

Once, when there was something particularly grim going on in my life, I did actually dare to try “talking”. Oh my! That was a mistake! I’m not sure if they were shocked at what I was trying to say, and unable to cope… After all, as they said “but you’re the strong  one, you deal with everything”. Quickly followed by “look, I have to go now. But I’ll ring you back later. Now, I’m not sure how much later they meant, but it was just as well I didn’t wait in for them as it was over a month before they rang again. And guess what? Yep, they had a problem they wanted advice on! Obviously any memory of anything I’d started to tell them was long forgotten.

On another occasion someone rang, asked how I was.. I replied with my stock answer, but didn’t ask how they were…..oh my again!
They launched into me…. “Aren’t you going to ask (whatever it was going on at the time) is?” “ I can’t believe you can be so thoughtless” I bit my tongue, apologised and then before I could say anything else they proceeded to tell me anyway, in great detail.

I don’t want to sound as if I’m hard and unfeeling. I really am not. And have lots of lovely friends that I know would be here for me, at the drop of a hat, as I would be for them. And some of those are relatively new people that I’ve met on Twitter, and then in RL. We’ve shared stories and confidences, and it’s been good, and therapeutic to have been able to share some stuff, that I possibly may not have shared with friends closer to home.

I am a fairly private person, and choose carefully what I share and whom with. But , sometimes, it would be nice to think that the “how are you” from some people was actually meant. Or that if they did stop to listen, they’d, maybe, give some indication next time we spoke that they’d remembered any of it.

I really don’t mean to sound like a whingeing old bat… And I certainly don’t want my dear friends to think they can’t tell me anything again, I hope they know me well enough to know I’m there for them when they need me.

It’s just…..

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And remember ‘listen’ and ‘silent’ have the same letters in them. And it’s a real skill to “really listen”’ So many people find silences awkward and have a need to fill them, for their own comfort.

In my role I facilitate sessions on communication and often engage groups in exercises on ‘active listening’ I really think everyone should try it. Sit with a friend. Ask them to talk to you for 2 minutes about something about them. You have to listen. No speaking. No asking questions. Just listen. Then at the end feedback what they’ve told you. It’s not easy. The brain is constantly thinking how the conversation relates to stuff in you life, and the temptation to ‘jump in’ is hard to resist. But try it, and you’ll be amazed how much more you’ll ‘hear’

And, please, remember sometimes that ‘strong’ person at the other end of the phone may be desperate for someone to listen to them.

How Terribly UnBritish……or “Nina’s” Story

I was at Waterloo station the other day, waiting for a train home after a day working in London. I had some time to waste so decided to pop into coffee shop for a drink and bite to eat.

It was the middle of rush hour, very busy and I was looking for somewhere to sit. Most solitary customers had draped coats, laptops, bags, etc. etc. over the vacant seats daring anyone to ask if they could sit there!

It always amuses me when someone points to an empty seat and asks “is anyone sitting there”? I have, on occasions, made what I considered to be quick and witty responses… only to be regarded as if I may have just escaped from an asylum

Anyway- back to said coffee shop and my quest to find somewhere to sit. I spied a vacant seat at a table where a young girl was sitting. I asked “ Is anyone sitting there”?!! ……and settled down to enjoy my coffee and a quiet read of the newspaper. A real one too, not an online version!

I was just in the middle of a very interesting article on the “dilemmas of Modern Ethical Parenting”, when the young lady opposite me broke into my reverie

“Excuse me” she said, quite nervously and playing with her hair……”but I’ve always wanted to start a conversation with a complete stranger, and seeing as I’ll probably never see you again…was wondering if you it was okay with you”?

“I know it’s terribly Un British” she added

I don’t know what made her choose this particular time or why me. Perhaps I looked “safe” A mum and fellow solo traveller. But it made me think

When did we all get so anti-social?

Hiding behind newspapers, keeping eyes averted, headphone on, blocking out the world… defying anyone to even dare to make eye contact, let alone start a conversation

What are we so afraid of?

That instigating a conversation could be misconstrued?  Accused of flirting?

If we do accidentally make eye contact with a fellow passenger we quickly look away… afraid of being accused of staring. Afraid, perhaps, of being attacked?

Has the advent of texting and social media robbed us of the ability to indulge in face to face communication?

Perhaps we should just exchange mobile phone number and sit opposite each other texting!!

I can remember the days (yes I know you’re amazed) when it was quite acceptable to strike up conversations with fellow travellers, and met some incredibly interesting people, young and old,  with fascinating stories to tell.

Anyhow, I digress. Back to my forward table sharer! I replied that I was more than happy to chat with her, and after exchanging names we struck up a conversation. Those who know me know how I love to chat!!

Nina, for the purpose of this tale…..not her real name, was in her first year of university studying Physics. She was intelligent, articulate, vivacious, and confident. Well…outwardly she was anyway.

After a few pleasantries, Nina began to open her heart and soul to me. I’m really not sure why. People keep doing this to me|!

She told me she was on her way to a self-help support group for people with eating orders. I thought she was going to tell me that she worked there as a volunteer, but no, it transpired that she had an eating disorder herself and had found this group through university, though on the exterior you would never guessed.

Tonight was going to be her 2nd visit, and she was feeling very apprehensive as it had been quite a large group on her last visit. On the other hand, she welcomed being with people in the same situation as she was. She had never been before. It was a comfort to her to know other people felt and did the same things to avoid eating as she did.

Nina could not pinpoint where the problem began. She had never been bullied, never been overweight as a child nor had any cruel remarks made about her figure of appearance.

She came from a loving and supportive family, and was wracked with guilt for what she “was putting her parents through” And although she said they were “amazingly supportive and understanding” she couldn’t talk to them or her sister about it, so felt very isolated

As she spoke of her situation my heart bled for her and I wanted to wrap her in my arms and take her home with me

She told me she had eaten normally until her A levels. Nina had been Head Girl at her prestigious school, and had felt under great pressure to succeed in her exams as she said “the whole community knew if you were head girl and so would know your results as well, and expected you to do well”

She then spent a year in another prestigious school in Israel for her gap year, this is when she felt she started “restricting”

Perhaps being away from home and living independently was the trigger, though she couldn’t put her finger on anything specific

Nina lives at home and commutes to uni daily,. She is not 100% sure it’s the right thing, but doesn’t feel ready to live independently again

Her fellow students are, as far as she knows, unaware of her predicament.

She recognises she is under pressure at the moment, studying and revising for upcoming exams, but sadly has started restricting again. She is extremely intelligent, and realises that, unless she stops, she will not have the physical or emotional energy to cope with them

Her greatest fears are that she will be unable to have children or will die young. She doesn’t have a boyfriend as she says she’s “too busy studying, and anyway, is not in the right place to deal with relationships”.

Such insight from such a tortured soul

But her greatest wish is to recover, fall in love, marry, and have 3 children.

Her parents tell her she will be very ill….and die….if she doesn’t eat. She has been admitted to hospital once, but it frightened her so much she discharged herself and managed to eat “normally” for 6 months. She is supposed to eat 3 meals a day but tells me that she rarely manages that.

She doesn’t know what she weighs as her parents banned all scales in the house. However, she has 3 mirrors in her bedroom. 2 of them full length. She spends a long time looking at herself in them, and “strongly dislikes” what she sees. After talking she thought she may “try to remove one of them later”

After talking almost nonstop for 40 minutes (yes, I had met my match) Nina looked at her watch and said she needed to leave or she’d be late.

She jumped up, came across to my side of the table and gave me a big hug….immediately withdrawing and apologising for being “so forward, and invading my personal space” She thanked me and said I had no idea how good it had made her feel to talk to someone.

Then she made her way out of the coffee shop, and I watched her skip across the concourse…..a happy, carefree young lady to anyone who may have watched her go.

We’ll never meet again. I’ll never know if she manages to recover fully. A small part of me fears she never will. But I wish her much happiness and success in her life

Who knows what the person opposite you in the coffee shop, or next to you on the train is going through? But maybe a smile to and conversation with may be a life saver.

So maybe we should stop hiding behind our newspapers, iPads, phones, and iPods.

And start being a little more “terribly UnBritish”

If I Could Turn Back Time – or is it all fate?

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“If I could turn back time”

How many times have you found yourself saying that?

But what if  you could?

What would you do differently?

Anything? Everything?

And would it be possible?  Or are all our lives already mapped out for us,  before we even enter the world with our first screaming breath, by some mysterious hand of fate?

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How and why do we make the choices we do?

Personal, professional, social

Is it fate?

Influences?……parental, school, peers

How many of us find ourselves following the same or similar career paths as our parents or older siblings?

I have some friends who are both GP’s. They have 5 children…..3 are doctors and 2 are dentists

Both my  parents were healthcare professionals , so is that why I chose to go into nursing?

Or was it because I wasn’t allowed to see the careers adviser at school as I’d put down that I wanted to go to Drama School? Not a worthy choice for a grammar School student!

And, funnily enough, my daughter also followed me into the NHS…despite refusing point-blank to speak to anyone when she was little, who dared to say ” and I expect you’ll be a nurse when you grow up like your mummy”!

Why did I choose to stay in Devon when my younger self found life going a bit pear-shaped?

What made me rent from the person  who would become my OH?

Why put that post on that particular website when looking for my birth mother, when I had scoured so many others?

And then as we go through life and we make  more of those life changing decisions…..marriage, mortgages, children

Sometimes, when I look back, I can’t actually remember how I ever came to making them….well apart from the children one

And what keeps us where we end up?

Even if it’s not right

Security?

Fear?

Misplaced loyalties?

Cowardliness

But if I could turn back time?

Well there  are things,people, moments that I would never have any differently

But  yes….there are others

Things I have done

People I’ve lost touch with

Places I’ve never been to

Decisions I’ve made

Advice I’ve ignored

But would I really?

Or is it the fabric of me?

And if I can’t?

Then maybe it’s time for another leap of faith

And see what fate has in store……….

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