Storytelling: A Christmas Thought for Families

No one managed Christmas better than Andrea. Her Christmas was a legend with children, grandchildren and friends.  Her cakes; her pies; her turkey: all were beyond compare.

Every year she invited a dozen or more people for Christmas dinner.

Every Boxing Day, exhausted but satisfied, she reminded herself how glad she was she’d done it.

Last year, with just two weeks to go, disaster struck. She broke her wrist. What could she do? Desperate, she wrote  an email full of apology with a list of tasks she couldn't manage herself. She sent it round to everyone she’d invited.

Andrea spent Christmas Day sitting in an armchair, eating food cooked by other people. She hated every moment. She knew the Christmas arrangements she'd planned would have been so much better.

She watched, frustrated, as her guests washed up and put things away in the wrong places. She itched to do it herself.

She looked on as her grandchildren opened presents someone had swathed in clumsy homemade paper. She wished she’d been able to wrap them herself in tasteful perfection, as she’d done every other year.

The day dragged itself wearily to its end.

On Boxing Day, her youngest son stumbled downstairs just before lunch. Sighing noisily, he rubbed his stomach, settling down to another beer and a hunk hewn from the Christmas cake. A bought cake. He’d iced it himself, late on Christmas Eve after a trip to the pub, forgetting to use marzipan. It was yellowing already, Andrea saw.

She could stand it no longer. She breathed deeply, her apology on the tip of her tongue. She’d make it up to them next year, she’d promise. Everything would go back to normal. She’d outdo herself.

Before she had a chance to speak, her son leaned over and ruffled her hair.

"Thanks for everything, Mum,” he grunted. “Best Christmas ever.”

Merry Christmas. If this story made you think, come on over to the Speechcontacts website  to read more about the importance of storytelling.

Storytelling matters: Global Warming

Alfred Deville gestured at the projected image with one carefully manicured cloven hoof.

‘We are,’ he said, ‘making progress. Just a few millennia ago, we dealt with the dinosaurs. After that: the dodo.’

The picture changed; a group of pig-tailed sailors chased a waddling, flightless bird.

‘Tasty but dim, I remember,’ said Deville, licking his lips.

Americans in the front row downloaded the image to their iPads, snickering.

Deville changed the scene again. Planes speared through the sky over a landscape of melting glaciers and smouldering forests.

‘My best idea to date,’ boasted Deville. ‘I stole it from the last dragon, who, you remember, melted the North Pole with his dying, fiery breath. Bless him.’

He glanced around, caught the gaze of a new acolyte who frowned in a puzzled way.

‘Before your time, young Mr....’ He leaned forward, read the name tag out loud, ’Mr B L Zebub. Interesting name. Well Mr Zebub, the Pole froze over again, but already I had my grand plan.’

He gazed around, timing it.

‘Global warming!’

The tumultuous applause died at last.

‘Air Transport,’ he continued, ‘is central to my plans. Every plane emits enough CO2 to melt the glaciers in, oh, a year or two, I should think.’ He waved a hoof vaguely. Detail was not his strong point. That was for his team.

‘Humans adore their flights, their holidays in the sun, their lunches in Rome. They will never give them up. My work is nearly done.’

At the back of the room, Gerald O’Donahue sighed. He pulled out a battered Pocket Atlas from his battered pocket. Quietly he flicked through the book, stopping at a page marked ‘England.’

He thought a moment, scratched his head, smiled and scribbled a note in the margin.

‘Snow on the runway,’ he wrote.

How to help your child talk and grow smarter: listening skills in his first year.

Your baby learns to talk by listening to you speaking. He needs to hear you clearly and concentrate on what you say. He may have perfect hearing, but if your words are drowned out by noise from the TV, he can’t pick out what you say. Turn all external noises off for at least an hour every day.
Children raised in noisy places find it hard to concentrate. They may find it hard to sleep properly, and they never learn to listen carefully and concentrate on one thing at a time.
Help your child learn to listen, and he will pay attention and concentrate. Knowing how to concentrate stands him in good stead when he goes to school.

Soothing noises
Learning to listen is a skill that your child begins to learn at birth, when he turns his head to your voice. Notice how your quiet voice soothes him, while loud noises startle him and may make him cry. He may like to listen to the washing machine or vacuum cleaner, as the quiet rumbles they make sound a little like the noises he heard before he was born, and he will love to listen to you talking or singing quietly.

While your baby is tiny, too many new sights, sounds and people can over-stimulate him. Be prepared to take him to a quiet place and soothe him if he becomes fractious. Everything seems new and strange to him, and he needs plenty of peaceful sleep. While he sleeps, his brain busily builds connections and helps him to make sense of the world.

As your baby grows, he spends longer periods awake and alert. Make sure he hears your voice, not voices from the television. He learns best from you, because you can adjust your voice and your words to his needs. Spend time with him and let the housework wait.

First year
Notice how your baby listens attentively to the noises around him during his first year. He may stop what he’s doing to listen to a new sound, and turn to search for something interesting, such as the sound of another baby. Watch how quickly he turns to hear a quiet rustle of paper behind his back.

From around six months, he’ll recognize familiar words. When you say the name of a family member, he’ll turn to look at her. He’ll enjoy the sound of his own voice and make repetitive babbling nonsense sounds, such as 'ba-ba-ba'. He’ll love to spend time with you, copying your babbling noises and laughing with delight.

If you'd like to find out how to help your child talk and grow smarter, check out this Kindle eBook.

Storytelling: The Globes

Every story tells another story. Here's a simple tale: I wonder what it means for you?

In a tiny white house in the forest, lived a mother and her three sons. One day, the oldest child asked,     “What will I be when I grow up?” His mother opened a black velvet bag. Out rolled a globe. It dazzled the boy, glittering blue and silver. He gasped.

     “It’s the sea,” he cried. He saw the ocean stretching out before him, meeting a distant horizon. He heard gulls cry and smelled the salty spray. His mother put his globe away.

     “When you are grown,” she said, “you may look in it again.”

     When her second son was five, he asked,

     “What will I be when I grow up?” She opened a black, velvet bag. Out rolled a globe, pulsing with a deep light.

     “It’s purple,” whispered her son, “like the sky at night. Why, I can see the stars.” He shivered with delight in the cold night air. She put his globe away.

     “When you are grown,” she said, “you may look in it again.”

     Her third son reached his fifth birthday.

     “What will I be when I grow up?” he asked. She opened a black, velvet bag. Out rolled a globe. 
      “It’s green, like the grass,” he cried, “and golden yellow like the fields at harvest.” He thought he heard the wind, rustling the ears of corn. He felt the warmth of the sun on his face. She put his globe away.      “When you are grown,” she said, “you may look in it again.”

     Many years later the three sons sat around their mother’s table on her birthday.

     “Do you remember,” asked the eldest son, proud in his Navy uniform, “the globe you let me see when I was five? It showed me I should be a sailor. How did you know you should choose a blue globe?”

     “Do you remember,” asked the second son, the famous astronomer, “you let me see the stars in the sky in my globe. It showed me I should explore the universe. How did you know you should choose a purple and silver globe?”

     “Do you remember,” asked the third son, glancing happily at his muddy boots by the door, “you let me see the green of the grass and the golden harvest in my globe. It showed me I should be a farmer. How did you know you should choose a green and yellow globe?”

     “We’re grown now,” they said. “We have wives and children of our own. May we see our globes again?” Their mother showed them one black, velvet bag.

     “Only one?” they asked, puzzled. “Which globe is it?” Out rolled one pure, crystal globe. For a moment it lay, flat and dull, until as the light caught it, all the colours of the rainbow spilled across the table.

     “I could not choose for you,” she said. “How could I know which paths you would take? But when each of you looked in the globe, you saw what you had chosen.”

If you like this story, there's an article on the SpeechContacts website about storytelling and why we need it, at

Keep Happy

Some people just seem to keep happy. If you'd like to join them, start small. It's not about getting rich, being a celebrity or living in a big house. Think of the happiest person you know. How do you know they're happy? Maybe they smile a lot, or make time to chat, or just look relaxed and content.

You can be like that too! No matter how busy you are, there's time to squeeze extra pleasure into your daily routine. Try it and feel the difference.

Here's how to lift your mood: and it's free!

Stop for five minutes. Listen to your own breathing. Take a moment longer to breathe out, emptying your lungs completely. Notice how much more relaxed you feel. You'll go back to work happier and more productive than before.

Rearrange the furniture: you'll feel as though you've moved house.

Passing a chemist? Try a squirt of perfume or after shave from a tester bottle.

Smile at the very next person you meet: especially if you don't like them. You'll be amazed at the warm glow you feel.
Decide on the most important task of the day. Make this your priority and take a few minutes to congratulate yourself afterwards. 

Take your next meal slowly, enjoying every mouthful.

Find something to look forward to tomorrow..

Build Your Own Communication Kit 4

See it from his point of view
Kindness is an underrated strength. In our competitive world, it's easy to assume that it shows some sort of weakness. But acknowledging other people, and our relationship with them, can lead us to do things that make us happier than taking the selfish route.

One of the simplest things we can do is something for charity. Big charity events, like marathons, are incredibly popular. They let us do something that meets our personal goals, and at the same time we know that we are helping someone else.

Kindness at home
Sometimes it's much harder to be kind nearer to home. Maybe your mother drives you mad, or your partner seems to you to be moaning about something trivial.

Quite often, the best gift you can give under these circumstances is simply listening to them, and this is often the hardest thing to do of all.

You can make it easier on yourself by learning to see things from their point of view. Here's an exercise that can help you to 'walk a mile in their moccasins.'

Talk to yourself
When you're on your own, try this. Put two chairs next to each other. One is your chair and the other is for your 'partner' even though he isn't there.

Sit on your chair, and explain what is driving you mad.

Then, step over to the other chair, sit in it and imagine you are your partner. Now explain how you are feeling.

Go back to your own chair and answer his points.

Continue this back and forth conversation. You'll find that you begin to see the issue from his point of view.

That doesn't mean that you will change your mind and agree with him, but you will find you feel less annoyed with him, and that will help you to listen more kindly next time you discuss the problem.

Good Decisions Make Us Feel Happier: The Six Step Process

One of the keys to a happy life is making sensible judgements. So often we waste time trying to decide what we should do. We puzzle over our decision, sometimes pulled one way and sometimes another, and often we end up doing nothing and missing opportunities.

A good decision is one that considers all the options. So if you have a difficult decision to make, here’s a Six Step process that will help.

Step One: Sit down with a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle, so you have two columns.

Step Two: In one column, list all the good things that you can think of on one side of the argument. In the other, list the arguments against that side. You may end up with something like this:     

                                              Should I give up my job?

 Arguments for giving up                        Arguments against giving up

I hate my job                                                  I don’t have another job to go to

I think I can be a writer                                  I’ve never had anything published

I will have time to write                                  I may not be good enough

I can live on my savings for 6 months          I like having a regular income

I will feel happier as a writer                         I like going on expensive holidays                                                                            

And so on............

Writing the arguments down will help to clear your mind and make it easier for you to make the decision.

Step Three: When I make this sort of list, I like to give weighting to the items, as I find some of them are more important to me than others. For example, ‘I will feel happier’ would be more important to me than ‘I don’t know whether I’m good enough’. I’d give the ‘happier’ item five points, and the ‘I don’t know’ item only one. You can choose how to weight your items. It’s your list, after all.

Step Four: Add up the points and make a total.

Step Five: Then you make the decision. Avoid slavishly following the totals. You may surprise yourself by deciding to act in a way that seems to go against all the logic, but that ‘feels right.’ The list will have clarified your thoughts and you will, at the very least, know what you’re letting yourself in for.

Step Six: Finally, as Napoleon is reputed to have said: Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.

Curiosity and Wisdom Can Boost Happiness

Happy people have key strengths. An important strength is wisdom. Finding out what happy people are really like has led research into Positive Psychology that can help each of us grow happier. One of the keys to happiness is boosting our wisdom through our natural curiosity.

Dr Martin Seligman has led research into positive psychology and happiness. He's identified six virtues that build on the personal strengths we all have in larger or smaller amounts. The six are wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance (an ability to show restraint) and transcendence (paying attention to the world outside ourselves.)

Wisdom is one of the core happiness virtues. It's about adding to our skills and knowledge and using them wisely. There are hundreds of ways that we can grow our store of wisdom.
Curiosity is a personality strength that helps to develop our wisdom, and contributes to an overall boost in happiness.

Curiosity may have killed the cat but he probably died happy. Children are great at curiosity. Why is the sky blue? How many peas can I stick up my nose? When we grow up we often stop asking questions and stay in our safety zone. That way we miss opportunities for that buzz we can get from finding out new things.

Start to ask yourself: What if? What if I listened to a different radio station today? What if I made that suggestion to my boss? What might happen? How would I feel?

Often, we're too scared to try, so we go on getting up at the same time, eating the same breakfast, listening to the same music, even saying the same things to the same people every day.

We can make changes.

The 'What if?' experiment
It's scary but exciting to do things differently. Start off simply. Try a new way of doing one thing every day and see how it makes you feel. Here are some suggestions to start you off.

  • Eat something different for breakfast; if you usually have muesli, try porridge, or yoghurt and toast. Try coffee instead or tea, or the other way round.
  • Take a different route to work; maybe you could use the bus instead or the train, or give yourself a bit of extra time to walk to the station through new streets. Who knows what you might see?
  • Do something different at lunchtime: try a different type of sandwich, sit in the park and read a book.
  • Take a quiz that might tell you something surprising about yourself. There are plenty to find on the internet.
  • Rearrange the furniture. You might find your room looks bigger, or it may spur you on to redecorating.
  • Choose a book from the library that you would never normally read, and read at least one chapter; perhaps that new author will become one of your favourites.
  • Google something that you know nothing about. Maybe ice hockey, or pottery. Find out all you can about it.
  • For one full day say 'yes' to every suggestion anyone makes to you and see what happens.
  • Think about taking a course in something you always wanted to do.
The point of experimenting like this is to explore what it feels like to take a step out of the ordinary and find out something new. After all, if you do the same thing every day, what stories will you have to tell your grandchildren?

Enjoy your new found wisdom and happiness.

Every day, there's a new suggestion for a happiness boost at

Happiness: Reasons to Be Cheerful

Today the sun's shining and I've ditched three layers of clothes. I've gone all morning without breaking my diet so I feel pounds lighter. I've washed the kitchen floor and it's as sparkly and bright as the floors in those adverts. I feel good.

But wait a minute. How can I be feeling so happy when there are wars, famines and disasters happening all over the world? Won't thinking about those things ruin the mood?

The good things that are making me cheerful today are all pretty trivial compared with the madness that's going on around the globe, but the truth is, the tiny details make a greater difference to my mood than worrying about the huge, important issues.

That's partly because I can do something about them, I guess, and partly because they're happening, now, today, and I feel the effects straight away.

The great thing is that if I'm having a blue day, when things aren't going so well, I can change one or two details and make myself feel better instantly. I can spray myself with a scent that I love, that persuades me take a deep relaxing breath. I can put on a pair of red socks to make myself smile. I can listen to Mozart and find myself enjoying the anticipation of waiting for my favourite moments.

I know that those things will pick me up. That boost might not last long, and it won't deal with real problems of illness, death and broken hearts. It won't solve anything, really. But just for a moment, a few seconds, a brief heartbeat, I'll feel better.

The things that enrich my life may be different from the things that work for other people, but we can all find our own mood-improvers. To write a list of 'what cheers me up' is a great start, and to patch one of them into everyday life is a brilliant second step.

Sometimes the things we can do on a small scale, in our corner of the earth, like charity donations or little kindnesses to friends, help us feel good and make a difference in the world at the same time.

They say 'don't sweat the small stuff,' but if we pay attention to the details, the aspects of life we can really control, maybe it gets easier to deal with the big scary stuff. It's worth a try, anyway.

If you'd like to know more about how we can work happiness into our lives, come and visit SpeechContacts

If you're the proud owner of an iphone, you can find a free application there that will offer you a daily dose of life-enhancing suggestions.

Happy Talk

This Easter, I was pondering the things that make us happy and wondering, as ever, what real happiness is.

I took a peek at the newest addition to our family, now seven weeks old, and there was one answer, at least. There’s no doubt that a baby who’s just finished a feed, has a clean nappy and warm bed, not to mention plenty of cuddles, is in heaven.

So what happens to us as we get older? Why do we lose that fabulous feeling of wellbeing, of contentment and of just being happy in our own skin?

I can’t help thinking that the things we tell ourselves and our children may have a lot to do with it. Have you listened to adults talking to children? So often our conversation is full of ‘don’t.’

Don’t pull the cat’s tail. Don’t run into the road. Don’t talk with your mouth full.

It goes on throughout our lives. We’re always talking about the things we can’t do and the sad truth is that if there’s one thing that makes me want to do something, it’s being told I can’t.

I went to our local pet shop the other day. There was a notice on the fish tanks.

Don’t bang on the glass. Now, it hadn’t occurred to me that I would want to bang on the glass. Why would I? But when I read that, I could barely contain myself. Would it really hurt the fish? How about just a tiny tap? No-one would notice, after all.

Then I saw another notice, next to a pile of bags full of gravel.

Don’t climb on the gravel. I’m sure you get the picture. I suddenly knew exactly how it felt to be a child again, tantalised by suggestions of things I mustn’t do. I had to leave before I disgraced myself.

Telling us not to do things so often has the opposite effect. It can even be dangerous. Remember that classic instruction to anyone dangling at the end of a rope halfway up a cliff face: Don’t look down?

Wouldn’t it be great to turn all those negatives into positives? It’s not hard to do. We could change,

Don’t pull the cat’s tail into stroke his head gently. Don’t run into the road, could be see if you can keep inside the lines on the pavement. And don’t look down could be (much safer) look up to see how close the next handhold is.

So I’m setting myself a challenge today. No more negatives: only positives. I will avoid the words don’t at all costs.

I will tell my son to drive safely. I will point out to a child how much he will enjoy talking very, very quietly and I will tell myself to remember to buy the milk.

Perhaps you could join me in the challenge? Maybe when we get into the habit of being positive, we’ll find again some of that contentment we knew when we were babies. Even more importantly, maybe our happy talk will help our children to grow up to be happier people.

If you’d like to know more about happiness and communication, please visit or join my new Facebook group, Happy Talk.

Learning to talk is child's play

Watching children play is such fun. They love to offer pretend cups of tea, or bath teddy and put him to bed. It's even more fun to join in, and the great thing is that you're helping them learn to talk.

Pretending is so important to a child's developing language skills. There's good reason for this.

Language is a set of symbols
When your toddler offers you a cup of pretend tea from a miniature cup, and you pretend to drink it, nobody is fooled. He knows as well as you do that there is no real tea in the cup. What's more, he knows you know.

The cup represents or symbolizes a real cup of tea.

The word cup is a symbol that stands for a real cup, just as the toy cup does. Toys are symbols, so are pictures and so and words.

Although language is something that most of us learn easily, in fact it's a very sophisticated system of symbols. A word stands for something, just as a doll stands for a person and a picture of a toy car stands for a real car.

When you think of it like that, it's amazing that any of us learn to talk at all: never mind reading or writing.

We can help
Parents and grandparents can really help a baby learn about symbols.

The learning starts as he concentrates on one toy, staring at it, feeling it, sucking it. He doesn't need a cot full of stuff at this stage. He can only think about one thing at a time.

When he loses interest, offer him something else. This makes sure he isn't bombarded with too many things at once.

Then he starts to play with two things at a time, putting bricks in boxes and banging his rattle on his cot. This is the next step on the journey to language.

Soon you'll start to see real 'pretending' as he uses a toy teacup to pretend to drink. At first he pretends to drink himself or offers a drink to you, but then he'll offer a drink to teddy.

Now you can see that teddy is like a real person to him. He might kiss him, wash him, and out him to bed.

Here's where grownups really come into their own. This kind of play is for anyone. Even uncles who claim 'I don't know how to talk to children' enjoy tea parties, dressing doll games and pretending to bath teddy and put him to bed.

If you'd like to read more about language and communication skills, check out How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter, our Amazon Kindle eBook (you can also read it on iPhone, iPad, PC, Mac...     BUY NOW for only £5.66.

Happiness: How to Enjoy your Work

Work is something we have to do, whether we like it or not. But what if we could find ways to really enjoy work, so much that we don't want to stop?

When a writer's writing and an artist's painting, they seem to enter another world. They achieve levels of concentration that make them apparently lose contact with reality and experience real happiness.

Maybe it's one of the reasons why creative people love what they do.

During twenty years of research into aspects of happiness, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi discovered the importance of this state of 'flow.'

The great thing is that any of us can experience it. There are six important aspects that make it so satisfying.
  • Concentration
  • Using your skills
  • Goals
  • Feeling in charge
  • Losing yourself
  • Forgetting time
It's wonderful when you find activities that meet all these requirements. If you'd like to read more about the six keys to flow, and ways to achieve it, there's more detail at SpeechContacts but here's just a word of warning: make sure that you keep one foot in reality, even if it means setting a timer before you start your painting, practising your Spanish, or writing that poem.

If you don't, you can find yourself spending so long in your own world that you lose track of things that are important, like doctor's appointments and picking the children up from school.

Build Your Own Communication Kit 3

Do you look down and mumble when you’re nervous? Do you stare up towards the sky when you’re trying to remember something you’ve read? Have you noticed other people doing these things?

It’s all to do with using different parts of your brain. We have five senses: seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting. We differ, though, in the way we use them, and we often prefer to use one sense more than the others.

Some people are visual types, and they notice the things they see. Others are auditory and more aware of sounds, while others prefer to feel and touch things. We call that sense of touch, ‘kinetic.’

Amazingly, you can tell which sense a person’s using, just by looking at their eyes. If their eyes go up to look at the sky, they’ve thinking visually. If they look down, they’re noticing how they feel, and if their eyes move sideways, it’s a sign that they’re concentrating on sound.

The areas of your brain that deal with your senses are in slightly different places, and brain scanning shows that the direction of your eyes can indicate which bit of your brain is most active.

Knowing more about how others notice the world can help us to get on with people in day to day life as well as in the working world.

Sometimes we assume that everyone thinks the same as us, but we’re all different. The more we understand about our differences, the better we’re able to connect with people, enjoy their company, and make an impact on them at work.

Being aware of the options is a great tool in your communication kit. You can talk and write more meaningfully, by ‘talking the same language’ as your audience.

‘I see what you mean,’ ‘I hear you loud and clear,’ ‘Let me get a handle on that.’

The words and phrases we use give other clues about the way we think. When we say, ‘I was moved,’ or ‘he’s so sharp he’ll cut himself,’ or ‘hold on a minute,’ we’re using feeling ‘kinaesthetic’ language.

If we talk about, ‘I’m under a cloud,’ ‘you’re a sight for sore eyes,’ or ‘I can see my way forward,’ we’re using visual imagery.

And when we say, ‘it was music to my ears,’ ‘I hear you loud and clear,’ or ‘to tell the truth,’ we’re using auditory language.

You’ll find you use all your senses, but it’s likely you’ll find yourself preferring one or two of them. You may already have an idea about how you notice things. For example, do you learn best by reading what’s written or do you like to hear someone telling you information?

If you want to explain something, it helps to appreciate the way they think and learn. If you’re telling your aunt how to retune her television, for example, she may want to follow the written instructions. Or she may be better listening to an explanation, or will want to watch someone doing it and copy their actions.

Use word clues and eye movements to find out what kind of explanation will work best, or use all the sensory channels just to make sure.

Why not spend some time watching and listening, to find out the kind of language and learning that works for you and the people around you. With that tool in your communication kit, you can find endless ways to be clearer, get on people’s wave length and make connections.
If you'd like to read more about building your own communication kit, go to SpeechContacts

The search for happiness

Shopping, eating and drinking, new cars and big houses, fame: all ways we try to make ourselves happy.

We know, if we're honest, that what we get is just a temporary burst of happiness. It doesn't last. Before long, we're back where we started.

So what's the secret that really happy people know that the rest of us are searching for?

Dr Martin Seligman and his colleagues at the Positive Psychology Center of the University of Pennsylvania think they may have some answers.

They've even found that people who report positive emotions tend to live longer.

They've used science to spot the six 'virtues' that work long term and help us to blossom. So, here are those vital virtues that we can all aim for, knowing they can make us happier and healthier:and here's a few ways we can move nearer to them.

Courage: having the will to achieve even if there are difficulties. So don't give up when things get tough, put in the extra work and keep going: it's worth while.

Humanity: it's important to look out for other people and appreciate them. So why not ring your mother, email your friends and help out your neighbour.

Justice: being fair and thoughtful, doing things for the community as well as ourselves. It helps to look outside ourselves from time to time.

Temperance: have a little of what you fancy but know where to stop! It's good to be sensible with money, stop eating when we're full, think before we speak.

Transcendence: understanding that the world is bigger than we are. People who believe in some spiritual connections with others and with the wider universe tend to be happier. Enjoying life, with zest and enthusiasm, is a great way to find happiness.

Wisdom: adding skills and knowledge and using them sensibly helps us to thrive. Making sure we go on learning throughout life will make us blossom.

So let's all add some real happiness to our lives.

If you'd like to read more, go to SpeechContacts main website
You can even download a free iphone application at iHappiness

Build Your Own Communication Kit 2

Here's another tool for building better connections with other people. It's based on finding the way someone's brain tends to function and on using language that taps into that; in other words, speaking their language.

I bet you've heard people talk about whether they're 'visual' or 'auditory' people. You probably have an idea about yourself. Do you think about the things you see, notice the way things look, use words like, 'I see what you mean'? If so, you're probably quite visual.

If you use phrases like, 'that rings a bell,' and if you remember things by hearing them rather than by writing them down, you may be more 'auditory'.

Or you may learn by doing. Maybe you notice how things feel and say things like, 'I don't feel comfortable with that.' That makes you a 'kinaesthetic' person.

It's sometimes surprising to find that other people are different, and that they may see/hear/feel things differently. By noticing how others think, and tailoring the things you say to them, you can get on the same wavelength as them. Here's an example:

Jenny and Sarah are talking on the phone about their ‘girls only’ holiday. Jenny wants to persuade Sarah to go walking in France. Jenny likes to feel fit and she relates to the way she feels. She says: ‘Look, you’ve been worrying about getting fat and if you lie on the beach you’ll feel worse. Let's have a healthy walk each day and if we get too hot we can stop for a while and have a cold drink’. Sarah's not convinced.

Let’s rewind so Jenny can try another approach. This time, she thinks about the clues Sarah can give her. She knows that Sarah wants to appear tanned, she likes to look good and she worries about being too fat. Conclusion: she cares about appearances. She tends to think visually. So this time, Jenny talks Sarah’s language.

‘There’s the most fabulous view across the sunflower fields, and when the sun goes down the light is amazing. There are some nice easy walks, just enough to get our legs toned up so we’ll look good in shorts.’

Talking someone’s language is a great tool in your communication kit, especially if you want to be persuasive and win someone round to your point of view.

Communication Skills That Work: The Fail-Safe Way To Build Instant Rapport

What does it take to be a great communicator?

Well, first of all it takes two people. Talking to yourself isn’t communicating. So you need to make some sort of a connection with the other person, even if you've never met them before.

There are whole books written about building ‘rapport’ through activities like shadowing or mirroring body language. But there’s a much easier way. It’s a secret that really successful people use, but they hardly ever talk about it. Once you know it, you’ll find yourself getting on with new people so much better.

And the best thing of all is, you don’t even have to say anything to build up a good relationship.

So here it is:

When you meet someone new, look them in the eye and tell yourself that you like them.

That’s all there is to it. It’s a sure-fire way to overcome shyness and it isn’t difficult; but it does take practice.

If you find it hard at first, make a list in your head of the things you like about the people you meet. ‘Lovely blue eyes,’ ‘nice hair’, ‘looks kind’ and so on.

When youtry this for the first time, you may be surprised to find that your first thoughts tend to be negative, and you’ll find that simply changing this thought pattern makes a huge difference.

Change, "She looks cross" to "She looks like she could use a friendly remark."

Of course, there are some people you may need to work harder with than others. Maybe they remind you of a teacher you were scared of one. If that’s the case, use the old trick of imagining them with no clothes on.

Then, once you feel more relaxed, look at them again and find something good about them. Even, ‘you look tired’ is a good thought that will help you build rapport.

By thinking good thoughts you’ll give out friendly body language, without even knowing you’re doing it. This is called ‘congruence’ and it’s about how the way you feel matches how you behave. It's one of the most powerful tools in your communication kit.

Here’s a real life example of building silent rapport.

Susan went to a job interview. The interviewees sat on one side of a table, and the panel of interviewers on the other side, for an introductory talk.

It felt very formal and awkward. Susan noticed that one of the interview panel in particular seemed uncomfortable. She was looking down and around the room; anywhere except at the candidates.

Although she seemed fierce and unapproachable, Susan decided she was just nervous. After all, interviewers are often just as anxious as the people they interview. Susan liked her for being nervous.

So during the introductions Susan made sure she caught this interviewer’s eye and gave her a big reassuring smile. The interviewer smiled back, her face relaxed, she looked happier and she began to talk in a friendly way to the interviewees.

Susan got that job, and she always had a great working relationship with the interviewer. The funny thing is that the interviewer probably never even realised why she liked Susan so much.

Other communication posts you may like:

Talking the same language

How to use your five senses for better communication
Hello, and thanks for meeting me here today. Don’t you love the way the internet makes it so easy for people to talk to each other, even though we’ve maybe never met before?

Now, I’m a human being, so talking is one of the things I like doing best, whether it’s face to face or in print. I signed up to the communication business many years ago by becoming a speech therapist and I worked in the NHS for over 25 years.

At the same time, I led a pretty strange life because I married an RAF officer and followed him about all over England and then also to Belgium. That was an eye-opener on getting to know people with a different language and a different culture.

I’m a neuro-linguistic programming practitioner and a witness intermediary in the justice system.

Everywhere I go, whatever I do, I find people want to communicate better, understand other people more and be happier and more connected. If you’re someone who’s interested in people: in how we talk together; why we need to listen to each other; why the way we communicate with each other is one of the most important things about us: well, I hope you’ll find something interesting in my blog.

That’s why my web site’s called SpeechContacts. It’s about contact between people, mainly through speech and language and in other ways as well.

I’ll be writing about lots of things in the blog posts: how children learn to talk; what to do if you stammer or if you have a stroke; how to be successful at interviews; how to use language cleverly to get what you want; how to talk to people with learning disabilities; how to be happier; how to get on with people: the list of communication situations we can discuss is endless.

I’m going to post every week, on Tuesdays, though I’ll put up some extras now and again. I’ll choose the first few topics myself, but pretty soon I hope you’ll let me know what you want to know about. What’s more, I hope you’ll share your own insights with me so I can learn from your experiences.

I’ll try to answer emails as they come in, and when similar issues are raised I’ll put them up as longer FAQs or articles.

I write this Communication Blog

My photo

Frances Evesham: on the run around Europe for years, with only a husband, three children and a succession of opinionated cats to keep me out of trouble. Somerset stopped me in my tracks. Now I walk in the country and breathe sea air. I will get around to cleaning the house soon.

I've been a speech therapist, a professional communication fiend and a road sweeper. I sometimes work in the criminal courts to uphold fair questioning of people with special needs.

I smell the roses, lavender and rosemary as I cook with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chillies in the other. Writing historical romances and books on communication leaves enough time to enjoy bad jokes and puns and wish I’d kept on with the piano lessons.