I’ so thrilled to introduce this week’s man of the week!
Meet Andrew. He’s currently working to help smart, nice people get better at difficult conversations. Andrew recently released his (free) e-book ‘Stop The Dread – 11 ways to move towards (and through) life’s difficult conversations’. After five years in Singapore, Andrew now lives back in the south of England with his husband Stuart and Grace The Dog. He aims to have a degree in Modern Languages from the Open University by the time he is 40, and bakes his own bread twice a week.
How do you serve the world?
My job as I see it is to help people stay open and communicate clearly through challenging times. The difficult conversations thing has been brewing for a while. After years of helping people with presentation skills, I realised that often where people were presenting was often in situations of conflict. The presentation was just framing the discussion that was to happen afterwards. This lead me to spend some years reading, writing and thinking about conflict resolution for ordinary people.
I have now broadened my remit to cover a wider mission of equipping people with the skills and wherewhithal to deal with all types of difficult conversations – talking to strangers, selling your ideas, asking for help, giving bad news as well as handling disagreement in a way that leads to sustainable resolution. There are lots of courses in the pipeline – they’re coming as fast as I can type!
In the meantime, I’ve recently launched an experimental ongoing weekly difficult conversations e-course that gives you a small focus every week so that, by and by, your instincts in challenging situations get better. This is very different to the approach I’ve had for years with presentation skills, which is intense small-group coaching. The difficult conversations weekly focus is more quiet, gentle and sustained over time. Still quite challenging though!
How do you take care of yourself while serving the world?
First off, knowing my limits. I’m working on making my perfect day happen now, rather than waiting for the future. Luckily, I don’t need much. A bit of writing, a bit of language study, and a nap goes a long way. To start with, I meditate every morning (well, six out of seven on average). I try and eat well, exercise regularly, all that stuff. I’m aiming to sleep eight hours a night, even though there was that report that said it was unnecessary. I can be a bit of a worrier, and have been known to not rest well enough. Knowing what I’m able to fit into a day, and making it sustainable is an ongoing challenge for me. There’s so much I want to do!
Another major lesson has been learning about boundaries. I’ve always been quite sensitive – Randi Buckley told me I sounded like an empath, which helped me to make sense of what happens to me. (Funnily enough, the empath was my favourite character on Star Trek: The Next Generation!) For example, at college, I just didn’t know how to let people deal with things on their own, and where to draw the line. I remember in my first week in halls, I sat up all night with this girl I’d just met, listening to some awful thing that had happened to her years ago. Then, she didn’t want to sleep on her own, so we dragged her mattress into my room, and she stayed in with me. That kind of thing happened to me for a while.
I then became a Student Union officer, and took on way too much. Too much responsibility for other people’s stuff. In fact, that was a major reason why I left university – I just overloaded myself. I’ve also just remembered: At one point, back back back in the day, I thought I would help people with phobias, using a mix of stuff I’d learned. I was going to be The Phobia Guy. I got two clients, and it was a nightmare. The process went on and on.
I then tried a bunch of stuff. I trained as a holistic aromatherapist, a coach, a space clearer – and finally I realised I’m not cut out for one-to-one work! Over the years I have tried different styles of working. Finding my own voice and rhythm really helps me to stay replenished. Questioning mental rules about how you ‘should’ be working can free up a lot of energy. And, hey, there are a lot of good coaches out there, so it’s not like the world is missing out.
My other secret? I’m really, really happily married (12 years together and counting) which helps. Stuart looks out for me, and gets stern if I’m not looking after myself.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned through being of Service?
Can I do three?
~ It’s a fine balance between doing what you want, what people need and what’s fun.
~ Often you can only see the next step and half, not the whole journey.
~ You can’t help ’em all.
What and who inspires you?
I love seeing people who are really good at what they do. Musicians, programmers, bakers… Any technical expertise that has come from long study. In fact, whenever I hear someone talking passionately about what they do, I have to control the urge to go and start studying it myself!
I have a soft spot for other meditators too, of whatever stripe. Having a daily practice of stillness can really change people, I reckon. I had a stall at a New Age fair in Singapore once (don’t ask) and there was the usual people floating through. Then this Indian couple came up to me, and as we got talking, it turned out they were from a meditation school. In comparison to the crystals-and-incense crowd, they had a clarity in their eyes that I felt an affinity with. Also I am deeply pulled towards older, unflappable people. I’m looking forward to being eccentric and unshockable!!
If you had six months left to live, what would you do?
I’d spend the first month saying goodbye to everyone, then the last five being quiet and at most two feet away from Stuart, preferably in sight and sound of the sea.
What is a favourite quote of yours?
“It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can do only a little. Do what you can.” ~ Sydney Smith.
“Books take longer to read than they do to buy.” ~ Andrew Lightheart.
“If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” ~ Joyce Bull, Andrew’s Nan.
Check who our last guest was here.