Who Else Wants To be Liked? Best Tips For Meeting New People

Maybe I should be asking: who doesn’t want to be liked? Because most of us, whether we admit it or not, want to be admired, liked, accepted and popular. People who genuinely don’t care what others think of them are the real eccentrics in society, and much as you may admire them, you probably wouldn’t be happy in their isolated environment.

Being easily liked can help you in so many ways. It  helps you get a job (your interviewer makes his mind up about you in seconds). Once you’ve got one, you want to fit into the team and enjoy your work.

In your social life, you want friends, at least enough so you get to go out once in a while.

Every time your child starts a new school, or goes to University, or wants to move away from home and share a flat, she needs to get on with other people.

Why people like you
You can make people warm to you at first sight, through your body language and your inner language. It takes practice, and the more you practice, the better you’ll be.

The first time two people meet, whether it’s at a party, meeting your partner’s parents, at an interview or a business meeting, it’s a significant moment. Just like other animals, for each participant the first meeting is full of anxiety. Both of you unconsciously ask yourselves Is this person dangerous? Is he stronger than me? Is he going to attack? Or is he like me, one of my tribe, someone I will be able to depend on and trust?

Remember that both of you have the same questions flicking through your minds, and the answers will depend on the way you appear. Take control of this situation, by taking account of the four things you need to give yourself a charisma boost.

A new person will feel safe with you if you seem:
   • to fit into his ‘tribe’ by looking like him, so you're less likely to attack;

   • competent, giving him confidence;

   • warm, as you signal that you like the look of him and won’t be a danger;

   • good humoured because you seem to find the same things funny as him.

Give out these signals using the following tips and you'll be liked on sight.

Look right
Dress in the style of the people you plan to meet. You wear different clothes at Glastonbury to those you need for a business meeting. Be appropriate. In most cases that means being clean, tidy and neat. Only dress like a Goth when you meet other Goths.

Body language
Show you are in control of yourself, so that the person you meet can relax. The way you stand, your gestures and your facial expression all give him important signals, so look him in the eye and smile. As you look, say to yourself, “I like him/her.” That one thought changes your facial expression more effectively than any amount of practice. Your smile becomes warmer, your forehead relaxes and your eyes crinkle in a genuine smile.

Stand straight with your hands at your side, not crossed in front of your chest.

If you shake hands, lean slightly towards him and shake firmly, then let go.

A strong voice shows your confidence and self-control. For a strong voice, you need a good lung-full of breath and a relaxed throat. A good tip is to breathe out fully, then let your lungs refill naturally. This relaxes your muscles far more than taking an intentionally deep breath.

Lower your voice a little, if you tend to squeak when you feel nervous. Most of us do.

Speak a little louder. When you feel shy or nervous, you're likely to mumble.

If your voice is habitually weak and thin, it’s worth practicing a few voice exercises to strengthen it.

Most of us are not comedians and we can’t tell jokes. Don’t try. The best way to seem good-humoured is to enjoy other people’s humour. This puts you on the same wavelength and makes you seem alike. Smile when your companion makes a joke, even a bad one, and avoid laughing out loud unless you truly find something funny.

More communication skills that work:

How to Banish Guilt Through Positive Thinking

Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication Skills: Ten Best Tips for Better Understanding 

How I Stopped Mind Reading and Started Enjoying My Life

How to Give Advice

How To make Positive Suggestions and Improve Your Child’s Behaviour 

Ten Tips on Dealing with Angry People 

Ten Ways Pauses Improve Communication

How to Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: Your Baby's Understanding

Here's extract number 12 from How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: your chance to learn more about the way your child learns to talk.

The third key that unlocks the mysteries of language for your child, is understanding. In previous extracts, we've looked at how he learns to notice and pay careful attention to the world around him, and how he learns to listen to noises.

This extract explains how your baby starts to understand the significance of words, and looks at the importance of gesture.

If you're a new reader, CLICK HERE to read How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter from the very beginning.This link takes you to the first post, so you can read the extracts in sequence. At the end of each week's post you'll see a link to take you on to the next extract. I try to post every Friday, by noon GMT.

is a two-way process. You talk, while I listen and decode your words in order to understand what you mean. Then I reply, while you listen, decode and understand, according to research undertaken in 1948 by Shannon and Weaver. If this process is going to work when you talk to your child, he needs to understand the words you use, and the grammatical structures you use to assemble them together into meaningful sentences.

Without that understanding, your communication is less effective and the message is lost or scrambled. Your child needs to understand the meaning of the words, phrases and sentences of language, so he can follow verbal instructions, ask for things, or pass on information.

Understanding: infants
At birth, your baby does not understand any words, although he can hear your voice and enjoy its sound, finding it soothing. At this time, his concern is to make sure you respond to his demands for food, warmth and comfort, to keep him alive. All his brainpower focuses on fulfilling his immediate needs.

As he grows, and his billion brain cells start to build connective pathways to each other, he begins to recognize that your voice sounds different at certain times and in certain circumstances. Sometimes you speak quietly, but sometimes you sound agitated or urgent.

He starts to notice the differences and he turns to look at the person speaking, interested in the noise their speech makes. He gets excited when he hears your voice approaching, associating it with the good things about a parent: food, comfort, warmth and safety.

Understanding: six months
At around 6 months, he turns to the sound of doorbells or dogs barking, hearing the difference between those noises and speech. Now he realizes that your speech is more than simple noise. He hears some sound combinations repeated. He hears you say “no” or “bye-bye” many times, and the link between meaning and sound grows in his brain.

He starts to recognize his own name, probably the word he hears most often. He also begins to understand the language of gesture, including waving.

Understanding: gesture
He needs to hear words and see gestures in context, to work out what they mean. This is a good time to start introducing simple signing. Signing allows him to associate gestures with words and their meaning.

Gestures are easier for him to understand and copy than words. They’re bigger, which makes them easier to see and the movements are less complicated. A wave is one simple movement, easy to decode and understand, while the word “bye-bye” is a string of small sounds put together in a special pattern.

Signs are easier for him to make, as they need fewer fine motor skills: and his motor skills are still developing alongside his language.

Come back next week for another extract. A link will appear HERE.

If you're finding these extracts useful, and can't wait to read the rest of the ebook, you can BUY NOW. Download How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter to your Kindle in seconds for only £3.53 ($5.73).

Communication Skills That Work: Ten Ways Pauses Improve Understanding

The pause can become your best communication friend. Use it. Become a clearer, more charismatic communicator as you speak less and pause more, whether in one-to-one conversations or talking to a whole room. Never underestimate the impact of a brief hiatus. Learn to embrace the rhythms of speech, and make use of those silent moments.

Here’s how:
• Pause to allow your listener to catch up. Always think of your listener’s angle. Research shows that both children and adults understand best when your speed is moderate and you pause several times a minute. Remember that your ideas are familiar to you. You already know what you’re about to say, while it’s all new to your conversation partner. He needs decoding time.

• Pause even more when you talk to a bigger audience. Everyone in the room has extra distractions all around her and she needs extra time to take in your words. She has to hear them clearly, blocking out the man next to her when he sniffs or coughs. She needs to to remember each word long enough to extract its meaning, teasing out your grammatical markers, like word endings, and word order in the sentences. The bigger the audience, the longer your pauses should be.

• Pause to make sure you choose the best word for clarity, accuracy and to avoid offense. Notice how an excellent speaker feels comfortable when she stops and thinks, while her listener waits, breathless, until she selects exactly the right word. A nervous or careless speaker who talks vaguely and dully about ‘things’ and ‘stuff’ quickly loses your attention.

• Pause to let the other person speak. Unless you’re a politician with just one minute to deliver your sound bite, be polite. Let your conversation partner have his say. Listen to what he says during your pause and take account of it in your response. Have you ever met someone known as the life and soul of the party who tells strings of jokes and stories without stopping to interact with you? It doesn’t take long for you to want to get away from him, does it?

• Pause to let the other person think. If he stops to find the right word, give him time. Chances are, it’ll be worth waiting for. If you interrupt, you’ll never know.

• Pause after an important phrase to let your words sink in. President Obama always followed “Yes, we can!” with a pause. Rushing straight on to your next point destroys the moment.

• Pause to make sure your audience is listening and to check their reactions. Stopping for a second gives you time to register body language. It allows to see whether your conversation partner is nodding along in agreement, or gazing over your shoulder to find someone more interesting.

• Pause to review what you just said and check where you need to add clarity. As you use your pauses to watch your partner or your audience, notice frowns or puzzled expressions. Maybe you need to add a few words, or ask a question, to help with understanding.

• Pause to gain your audience’s attention even before you begin a speech. Walk to your place, stop, look around the room and count to five, then begin. This shows that you are completely in control and adds to your charisma. You may feel nervous, and you gain time to breathe out and then in, ready to go. Practice it at home.

• Pause often during difficult conversations. A therapist often uses pauses to allow her client to think, react and review the topic. Use a pause with your child, friend or partner, giving him space to express himself honestly and sincerely. You may be surprised at the results.

More communication skills posts you may find useful:

Communication Skills That Work: Ten Tips on Dealing with Angry People

How To Make Positive Suggestions and Improve Your Child’s Behaviour: Communication Skills That Work

How to Give Advice: Communication Skills That Work

Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication Skills: Ten Best Tips for Better Understanding

Help Your Child Talk: Two Toddler Listening Games

Here's extract number 11 from How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: your chance to learn more about the way your child learns to talk.

Last week, I introduced some games to play with your toddler, and there's a useful comment on the post from a friend, (thanks, HunterValleyYabby2,) saying that there are free resources for sound lotto on line, as well as commercial ones - just google 'sound lotto'.

Here are some more games for you to try with your toddler, and a short checklist of ways to improve his listening skills.

If you're a new reader, CLICK HERE to read How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter from the very beginning.This link takes you to the first post, so you can read the extracts in sequence. At the end of each week's post you'll see a link to take you on to the next extract. I try to post every Friday, by noon GMT.

Listening: toddler activities: sound chart
It's easy to make this yourself.

Divide a large sheet of paper into seven sections, one for each day of the week. Keep a selection of sticky stars.

Every day, choose one sound. It could be a dog barking, an aeroplane or someone coughing. Select something that you and your child will hear several times.

Cut out a picture of the sound, stick it on the paper and listen out together with your child. Every time he hears the sound, he sticks on a star.

As he gets older, use a different word for every day, or a different speech sound.

Listening: toddler activities: storytelling
Prepare to read a story aloud. Tell your child to listen out for a certain word. When he hears it, he can do an agreed action. For example, every time he hears the work “up” he jumps in the air.

Make sure he sits down again each time and prepares to listen again.

Listening: checklist for toddlers

  • Keep to a routine, with quiet times for stories, games and puzzles.
  • Include times for noisy play and letting off steam.
  • Tidy his toys occasionally so he attends to one thing at a time.
  • Smile when your child talks to you.
  • Turn off the TV and radio for a time every day while you play.
  • Make a quiet corner with somewhere to sit and draw, colour or look at books.
Come back next week for another extract. A link will appear HERE.

Can't Wait To Read the Rest? BUY NOW and download How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter in seconds for only £3.53 ($5.73).

Communication Skills That Work: Ten Tips on Dealing With Angry People

Is there such a thing as a difficult person? 

I've spent many years working in hospitals, where people are more likely to be anxious and stressed than almost any other place. Nursing staff often “burn out” due to the stress of their jobs, and this happens across the globe, in Shanhai, the U.S. and the UK.

One great stressor for those of us who face the public daily as part of our work can be dealing with the anger, usually mixed with anxiety and fear, of our clients.

You can often defuse and improve the situation, so that your difficult person becomes - well - a person.

I’m not talking here about someone who comes into your office wielding a knife, or attacks you at a football match. In cases like those, you need to know how to defend yourself without laying yourself open to prosecution. If you think you’re likely to be in this position, take some self-defence training and check your organisation’s policies.

Mostly, though, bad encounters stay at the level of shouting or swearing. Even mild disagreements, with people who just won’t see your point of view, can leave you feel upset, angry and frustrated for the rest of the day. Here are some tips on turning a bad encounter around and walking away feeling good about yourself.

1 Remember that this difficult person is someone struggling to cope, having a hard time or finding life a problem. That may be easier to take into account if you work in a hospital, where you expect people to be anxious, worried, frightened or tense. It’s harder when a client phones you up and abuses you because his laptop won’t work, but still, he’s suffering.

2 Put yourself in his shoes. Remember how it felt last time you were really frustrated and no one would listen? You may have controlled yourself better than he can, but remembering how it felt will go a long way to help you cope. Instead of meeting his anger with your own, you feel some empathy.

3 Listen to him. Let him rant and call you names. As my grandmother used to say, “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you.” He will run out of steam eventually, unless he intends violence. Don’t hang around if you suspect this might be the case. Push your panic button or hit the emergency number on your phone.

4 Make eye contact if you can, though he may avoid this until he calms down. Use an open body posture: keep your arms by your side (crossed arms look defensive). Avoid any gesture that could appear aggressive, such as raising your hands or your voice. Keep a desk between you if you feel anxious, and make sure you are between him and the door, if he’s in a room alone with you. Try to move into a position where you are both facing the same way: standing face to face can be too assertive at this stage.

5 Walk away if it really gets too much for you (after all, you may be having a bad time yourself that day). Leave before you lose your own temper or feel so upset you can’t bear it. Say, “I will find someone else who can help you,” or simply “I’m sorry, I can’t deal with this now,” and leave. Then find someone who will help.

6 As you listen, really listen. Go beyond the abuse and try to hear what he’s saying. Keep trying to make eye contact, and when you do, nod to show you’re listening.

7 When he slows down, talk quietly to him. Tell him you’re sorry he feels bad, or if he has a genuine complaint, apologise for the mistake. Check that you understand his problem. Ask a question, to make sure you’ve got it right.

8 Solve his problem if you can.

9 When all is quiet and calm, point out firmly that his behaviour was inappropriate and unacceptable, and lay down the rules for any repeat performance: such as immediately calling the police.

10 Talk to a colleague, friend or senior person, to review what happened and deal with the feelings you may have afterwards.

More communication skills posts:

How to Give Advice: Communication Skills That Work

Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication Skills: Ten Best Tips for Better Understanding

See Things From His Point of View: Resolving Conflicts

Help Your Child Talk: Toddler Listening Games

Here's extract number 10 from How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: your chance to learn more about the way your child learns to talk.

Last week, we looked at games you can play with your baby. This week's extract moves on to think about toddlers and suggest some activities you may enjoy that will support your active toddler's listening skills.

If you're a new reader, CLICK HERE to read How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter from the very beginning.This link takes you to the first post, so you can read the extracts in sequence. At the end of each week's post you'll see a link to take you on to the next extract. I try to post every Friday, by noon GMT.

Listening: toddlers
Listening skills still matter to your child as he grows into an active and lively toddler. He needs to run and have fun, and he needs quiet times every day, just with you.

Remember to end each day with a story before bedtime. Settle down in a comfortable place with him, maybe after his bath when he feels relaxed and happy. Use a simple book, with bright pictures, and be prepared to read the same book many times. Your child loves familiar things; they make him feel safe.

Keep talking and playing with him regularly. Read stories to him, sing nursery rhymes together and talk about things he sees.

Listening: toddler activities: jack in the box
Use a jack in the box to show your child the fun in listening for a signal. Make sure he enjoys playing with his toy then introduce the idea of waiting. Hold his hands, say his name and wait until he looks at you. Then say, “go” and help him press the button that makes the puppet jump. Press the button immediately when you say “go”. Those moments of waiting increase his excitement, until the toy bobs up, keeping his attention development going alongside his listening skills.

Listening: toddler activities: noise - makers
Collect together pairs of instruments. Try rattles or squeaky toys, tambourines, drums or rattles that you make yourself by filling yoghurt pots with rice, sugar, sand and so on. Always make sure that you cover the pot carefully to prevent your child trying to eat the contents.

Play with two of the noisemakers, so your child becomes familiar with the sounds they make. Place them on a table and then rattle one of the matching noisemakers out of his sight, to see if he can find the pair by listening alone.

Ring the changes by using two or more noisemakers in sequence, so he learns to copy rhythms.

Listening: toddler activities: sound lotto
Record some everyday sounds yourself, in preparation for a game of sound lotto with your child. Leave a gap of a few seconds between each sound, and collect a picture to illustrate each one. Include bird song, a cat, a vacuum cleaner, water running, and any other everyday noise your child will find familiar.

Put two or three cards in front of your child and give him some counters. Make sure he is listening. You may need to say “listen” and wait to gain his attention. You know you have his attention when he looks at your face. Then play one of the sounds on the tape recorder. Let him put a counter on the correct picture.

As he becomes more skilful, put out more cards or play two or three of the sounds before allowing him to use the counters.

Come back next week for another extract. A link will appear HERE.

Can't Wait To Read the Rest? BUY NOW and download How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter in seconds for only £3.53 ($5.73).

Communication Newsletter: Child Talk, Music, Stroke and Brains

I like to sample the web and sniff out tasty communication–related topics.

There are stacks out there, so here’s my selection box of tasters. Please dip in.

Choose from helping your child talk (one of my favourite flavours), some fellow-bloggers’ thoughts on the benefits of silence and music, a sign of hope for stroke patients and this month’s favourite soft centre: the importance of red wine and chocolate, preferably enjoyed together. Yum.


Child language
The Hello 2011 campaign is raising awareness of the importance of your child’s first three years. That’s when your baby/toddler learns language most quickly – so why not take advantage of that window. There’s plenty of help on the Hello site, including some great videos.

Early years are key for communication skills yet 1 in 5 new parents unaware of need to talk to their baby! Don’t be one of that 20%.

Helpful pauses and magical silences
Good news for parents who um and er. It doesn’t matter if you hesitate a bit when you talk to your children – in fact, it may even help them, by slowing your speech down and giving them time to understand it. In fact, pauses in speech help everyone, not just children, to process what you say.

I love this post from Mary Plouffe, a clinical psychologist, on the healing power of silence.She’s someone who welcomes pauses and silences, and her writing style enchants. Take a while to read and think. Maybe, like many of us, you could use some extra quiet in your life?

Communication, science and the brain
Future hope for locked in syndrome sufferers. When is life no longer worth living? How can you tell what another person thinks if he can’t speak or move?

Here’s a hopeful post on how scientists are bypassing motor problems in stroke patients and using blocked brain signals to enable movement again. Wonderful prospects for people longing to communicate and their families.

Music has great power to relieve stress http://bit.ly/gWcR5L There’s a strong linked to talking, in fact there are theories that the two abilities develop as one in a tiny baby. If your life is busy, your toddler fractious or your tween hyper, try some calming music.

Chocolate and red wine: of course it's good for you!

Try some of these other posts on communication:

Your Five Senses

Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication Skills: Ten Best Tips for Better Understanding

Credits: Child listening to music image

Help Your Child Talk: Listening Games for Your Baby

Here's extract number 9 from How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: your chance to learn more about the way your child learns to talk.

This extract introduces games to play to help your child develop his listening skills.

If you're a new reader, CLICK HERE to read How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter from the very beginning.This link takes you to the first post, so you can read the extracts in sequence. At the end of each week's post you'll see a link to take you on to the next extract. I try to post every Friday, by noon GMT.

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 he’s likely to turn to search for something interesting, such as the sound of another baby. He turns if you make a quiet noise behind his back.

Listening: familiar sounds
From around six months, he recognises familiar words. When you say the name of a family member, he turns to look at them. He enjoys the sound of his own voice and makes repetitive babbling nonsense sounds, such as “ba-ba-ba”. He needs to spend time with you, copying your babbling noises and laughing.

Listening: activities for babies
Always play listening games in a quiet room and turn off the TV and radio. Play when you and your baby are happy and relaxed. If one of you is not enjoying the game, stop playing and try again another time.

Listening: baby activities: noisy rattles
Find two or three different rattles or soft squeaky toys. Shake or squeak the loudest of these on one side of your baby, where he cannot see it. Watch him turn his head towards the sound. Shake the rattle from a different direction, then from another.

Take your time and give your baby a chance to enjoy the sound and to turn and see the rattle. If he reaches for the rattle, let him have it and let him play with it himself.

Use another of the noisemakers, perhaps one that makes a quieter sound, and squeak that in a place where your baby can’t see it.

Whisper his name, or rattle a piece of paper.

If you think he had difficulty hearing the sounds, ask a health professional for advice.

Listening: baby activities: babbling
Babbling is repeating of speech sounds many times. It begins at around 6 months old and as he babbles. he practices all the speech sounds, ready for the time he begins talking.

Choose a time when you and your baby are looking at each other. This could be as you finish changing his nappy, or give him his feed, or perhaps as he sits in his bouncing cradle.

Make repetitive sounds: “ba-ba-ba” or “ch-ch-ch” and see if he responds. If he makes sounds of his own, babble them back to him. Don’t worry that there are no real words attached to the sounds, just have fun.

Listening: baby activities: what's that?
When you hear noises around the house, draw your baby's attention to them by saying, “What's that?” Take him to see whatever makes the noise. The cat may be miaowing or Daddy may be opening the front door. Through constant repetition, your baby associates the sound with the activity.

Listening: baby activities: nursery rhymes
Keep singing to your baby as you bath him, or change him.

Turning on the tape recorder to let him listen on his own is nowhere near as good for his future language skills as singing yourself. Remember that song is a form of communication. You want your child to communicate with you, not with a piece of machinery.

CDs are, though, worth their weight in gold on long car journeys.

Come back next week for another extract, all about your baby's listening skills: why they matter and how you can help him learn to listen. A link will appear HERE.

Can't Wait To Read the Rest? BUY NOW and download How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter in seconds for only £3.53 ($5.73).

How To Make Positive Suggestions and Improve Your Child’s Behaviour: Communication Skills That Work

Don’t peek at the picture at the end of this post.

I bet you found it hard to resist just taking a quick look. As soon as you read that suggestion, your curiosity jumped into action. Maybe the ‘don’t’ also annoyed you enough to want to disobey.

I wonder how many times you say ‘don’t’ or 'stop' to your child every day. You may have the best intentions, but every time you mention something you want him to avoid, you plant the suggestion in his mind.

Once his brain has a clear picture or idea in it, he'll find it hard to resist. He needs your help to replace it with something else.

Avoid encouraging negativeideas and images by changing your own language.

Learn to make positive suggestions that focus your child's attention on the behaviour you want to encourage.

Stop coughing
A tickly cough can be a nightmare when you want to keep quiet. The more she tries not to cough, the more that tickle irritates your child. Better advice would be: Breathe out slowly, counting to four, then in again gently.

Distract her attention to another part of her body, making a comment on her shoes or suggesting her ear may be itching. Or get her to distract herself by pinching her finger tips together or getting her to sip a glass of water.

Stop laughing at that man
Sometimes, your child or teen will be overcome by embarrassing embarrassing giggling that he just can't control. Help him to get a grip on himself by making alternative suggestions that distract his attention, like: Look what’s happening over there? and pointing in the opposite direction.

Don’t run
Much better to say: Walk slowly and carefully. That focuses attention on to the action you want and helps your child put his energy into walking as slowly as he can.

Stop shouting
A class of noisy six year olds will quieten much more quickly if you ask them to practice their whispers, tell them to copy your actions as you put your finger on your lips or point and say: Look! in a commanding voice.

Don’t look down
Imagine you’re walking along a tightrope and a helpful friend calls that out. It maybe hadn’t occurred to you to look down until they suggested it! Your friend would have done much better to say: Keep looking at the tree straight ahead.

Get better results by planting positive suggestions in your child’s mind.

Here’s that picture at last: Your Happy Kids!

Some more posts on communication skills:

How to Avoid the Unscrupulous Salesman’s Language Traps

How to Banish Guilt Through Positive Thinking

How to Give Advice: Communication Skills That Work

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.