It Is What It Isn’t

The expression ‘it is what it is’ has been in use for a good few years, but seems to have extended its reach to all kinds of situations in which it is too often used to mask attitudes which limit rather than encourage communication and understanding.

In some contexts, the phrase expresses a wonderful philosophy. It suggests that we should accept the unique existence of something without trying to change it or subjugate it to our own wishes. Who better than Mr Bob Dylan to express this: ‘I ain’t looking to simplify you, classify you… analyse you, categorize you… or inspect you or reject you’.

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How to be Properly Busy

We tend to use the word ‘busy’ to indicate being active and having a lot to do. But the term has lost its neutral descriptive quality and become loaded with implications and judgements about the value of our lives.

Perhaps it’s the word which is offputting. ‘Busy’ isn’t a great word. It sounds like the irritating buzzing of a wasp. It brings to mind the old-fashioned term ‘busybody’, a pejorative term which in the olden days would be applied to people who meddled in others’ affairs.

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How Words Can Cloud Our Thinking

The words we use in everyday interactions are under intense scrutiny. In some contexts, we are increasingly aware of how language can be used to hurt, to demean, to belittle, to exclude. We choose words carefully, not wanting to offend through carelessness or ignorance, and not wanting to take offence when none was meant.

In the new atmosphere of heightened awareness of, for example, equality between sexes, we could take another look at some of the habits of language and communication that we have taken for granted for years.

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How to Stay Authentic in Difficult Situations

One of the most well-meaning but useless pieces of advice that many of us have received and that many of us have given (come on, hands up) is the recommendation to ‘just be yourself’. They’ll love you, we add. Of course you’ll get the job. Of course your date will like you. Of course you’ll get on with the other kids/your prospective in-laws/your new workmates. Just be natural. There’s nothing to worry about, you’re great!

The urge to be our authentic self is a sound one, particularly considering the barrage of examples of fakery and fraudulence which we face every day. Now more than ever, perhaps, we value what is genuine, sincere, authentic, and want to be perceived as such in the way that we present ourselves and in our dealings with other people. However, strange as it may sound, being authentic does not mean that you have to be consistently open and honest, or that you have to behave in the same way to everyone.

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When a Phone Call is Better than a Text Message

Text messages are, naturally, indispensable. It could be argued that the ability to exchange text messages is a major marker of our development as human beings (insert emoji of your choice).

Instant communication has transformed the way we interact in our personal and professional lives. We have evolved to meet the changing world but there are times when it really is better to make a phone call rather than text a message.
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Don’t Box People in by Making a Gift of Gender Stereotyping


‘Tis the season to be gender-stereotyped. We may think it’s been a long struggle, but that at last the cause of equality is making some progress.

Belatedly, we are publicly addressing issues of power and imbalance between men and women. We are careful to use gender-neutral language. We don’t think in terms of boys’ careers and girls’ careers. We don’t assume that certain toys are suitable for girls and certain toys are suitable for boys. And then…

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How Likeable People Can Find Real Confidence

How’s your Confidence Barometer at this very moment?

For many of us, it’s hovering in the lower figures, perhaps threatening to drop right off the scale unless something drastic happens to raise our level of self-possession and faith in our ability to succeed in — well, anything really. How can we find our way to having True Confidence in ourselves?

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How to Deal with Envy in Friendships and at Work

How to deal with envy by http://maryhartley.com

You know the feeling — the inner lurch of dismay when your friend buys the Jimmy Choos or Mulberry bag that you can’t afford, the gritted teeth through which you congratulate your work colleague on their promotion, the pang of misery with which you view images of happy families and couples on your social media feed…

As the American writer Gore Vidal so memorably said: ‘Every time a friend succeeds, something inside me dies.’

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Emotional labour or a labour of love?

How many hours have you spent in the past week or month on the activities involved with maintaining relationships and recognising the needs of the people in your life?

These ’emotional labout’ activities could include, for example, organising a social or family event, spending time with someone, sending thoughtful texts, listening, cooking a meal, remembering birthdays, having a drink or coffee with someone, offering help, making someone comfortable — it probably adds up to a lot of time and probably the greatest amount of hours is clocked up by women.

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How To Speak Human

The rise of management speak and workplace jargon not only debases language — it also diminishes those who use it.

It creeps into communication and, without realising it, we adopt the latest buzzword or usage, fearing that not to do so will reveal us to be out of touch.

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How to Talk to Strangers and People You Don’t Know

In some situations, it isn’t too difficult to exchange words with strangers or semi-strangers. When the context is clear, we know where we stand.

We know that at a wedding or party or reception, there is a general expectation that we will engage with the people at our table or in our group, and daunting as ‘small talk’ can be, we can learn how to become better at it.

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