Ups and downs of mental illness in men

The ups and downs of mental illness in men captured in film

Happy Sad Man — Docu-film by Genevieve Bailey

Jane from Jane James Consultancy has given me permission to share her post about this docufilm which charts the ups and downs of mental illness in men.

I haven’t seen the film yet but I’ve contacted the filmmaker to see how I can view it here in the UK. You already know how much this film appeals to me, given my background. But I also want to highlight and raise awareness of mental illness and men.

Moreover, I’d like to encourage conversations with men around how they see mental illness, and look at ways we can all help.

Most of us know how difficult it is to get men to open up or to talk about their mental health. Perhaps it’s a film we can all watch with our hubbies/partners or share it with other men you know? Get the conversation going……………………..

A brief synopsis

HAPPY SAD MAN gives unforgettable voice to the complex emotional landscapes we can all traverse. Touching, funny and tender, this must-see documentary is set to shine a light on and change the dialogue around masculinity and mental health today. Exploring hopes, anxieties, joy and darkness the raw vulnerability of these stories will inspire you to hold some of the men in your life that bit closer.

Over to Jane and her post

Happy sad man David showing the ups and downs of mental illness
Happy sad man — David

I came across this film on Eventbrite. A two part event from Australia.

Genevive is a film maker from Bondi Beach, Australia who has spent years making this documentary. If follows a group of five men – all ages and backgrounds in their journey through the ups and downs of mental ill health and their strength in finding ways to make a difference to others.

I’ve been interested in mental ill health and wellbeing for many years and seen diverse projects/films/discussions trying to capture the stigma and loneliness felt by those living with mental ill health – none touched this film.

Ivan is an outreach worker
Ivan is an outreach worker

The sensitivity, respect and inclusion Genevieve showed, John, Jake, Grant, David, Ivan, Dave and their families/friends conveyed the real range of emotions felt. The passage of time from the 50s/60s to today hasn’t demolished the stigma mental ill health causes. Still a taboo subject.

It’s always struck me – where does this stigma come from? We aren’t born with it. If we’ve learned it, we can surely unlearn it? Why does the mind scare us so much that we feel unable to say ‘hey, how are you feeling? I’m really concerned about you’….. The mind is just part of the body. We wouldn’t fear asking ‘how’s you leg? healed ok?’.

Happy sad man

Raising awareness of Mental illness on Bondi Beach
Happy sad man — Grant, A keen surfer who has bipolar — Bondi Beach raising awareness

tells the story of a group of men. An emotional awakening of understanding on how these men feel on their rollacoaster journeys. Little gems are littered throughout the films.

Grant’s synergy of living with mental ill health is like a recipe. You have to balance everything. Using fluorescent colours to start a conversation on Bondi Beach about mental health every Friday morning at 6.30am.

Flouro Friday is now on 200 beaches across 40 countries. Using bright clothes and surfing to spark a conversation. Can we adapt this idea to fit the communities we live in?

David’s wet dog perfume was another highlight. His goal wasn’t to make money but to get people smiling and talking.

Jake from docufilm Happy Sad Man --- portrayal of men and mental illness
Jake from docufilm Happy Sad Man — portrayal of men and mental illness

Jake’s journey from film maker to war photographer was stark. Even in such dire circumstances he was able to teach children in Syria, Aleppo etc to skateboard and do the things that kids everywhere do. He also taught them how to make films on their mobiles to capture the environment they live in the the futility of war.

The overall message of hope was uplifting.

There is still time today to register on Eventbrite to watch this outstanding documentary and join the live Q&A session tomorrow.

John says he's an old hippy and he has a  mental illness
John says he’s an old hippy and he has a mental illness

You can follow Genevieve Bailey at:

You can find out more about the film here. And, like I said, I’ve sent messages to Genevieve to find out how I can view the film here in the UK. I’ll let you know how I get on, whether I get to watch the film and what I think of it.

Over to you


Have you any thoughts on this docufilm? Have you seen it? If not, is it something you’d watch — and share? I’m really interested to hear what you think and I look forward to any comments. Tho’ not sure I could answer any questions — until I’ve seen it 😉

How to break up with a narcissist

Do you need to break up with a narcissist?

How to break up with a narcissist and red flags to look out for
How to break up with a narcissist and red flag to look out for

In a previous post How to spot a narcissist, we looked at narcissistic traits and I showed you some examples. Before we move onto How to break up with a narcissist, take a look at some the red flags to look out for.


  1. will claim deep emotions, but display none. A narcissist will tell you they love you but after a period of time, they stop showing it. They lack the motivation to maintain their romantic façade, and employ defenses to avoid closeness, according to Psychcentral. They become cold, critical and angry, especially when they’re challenged or don’t get their way. So I suppose in some way, they do have deep emotions, just not the nice ones.
  2. are dismissive of your skills, abilities or achievements and hate it when you ‘show off’ any of this to them. I was once told to “shut the f*ck up, all you do is talk about that f*cking job!” He actually overheard me telling a group of colleagues that our ward had won the annual award for excellence.
  3. don’t like when you do something without including them i.e. one of my exes sulked when I took my sons and their girlfriends to Portugal for a week. It was “why didn’t you take me as well?” He actually wanted me to pay for him to come on holiday, and pay all his expenses! “I don’t get holiday pay so I’ll lose £1000 if I take a week off!” he’d whine.
  4. talk constantly of their exes and how wonderful they were? One ex always spoke of his gorgeous ex, and he criticised my weight whenever he could. “You’re getting a bit lardy-arsed there girl.” he’d delight in telling me when in company. Oh how I laughed when we bumped into his ex — if you’ve ever seen the movie Shrek, think Fiona.
  5. try to please you to win you over initially, but once they’ve made their ‘catch’, they just please themselves. One ex drove me to and from work (3-4 minute walk from my home) in the beginning. I thought he was so sweet with all the driving me around but he had an ulterior motive — jealousy. He was keeping tabs on me.
  6. are emotionally unavailable and keep you at a distance, ‘cos they’re scared if you get too close, you won’t like them. I realised that in each of my three relationships, although I thought I loved them, I really didn’t like them.
  7. are motivated by the chase. It’s the chase, not the catch that motivates them. Once they’re victorious, they can lose interest, and move on to the next conquest before it gets too emotionally intimate. If not, they’ll be emotionally unavailable, as above.
  8. have an astonishing amount of crazy’ people in their past i.e. One ex described his mother as a mad woman, his father a psycho and an ex of his should have been Sectioned. And I took it all in! I felt for him and tended to attribute his behaviors to those ‘crazy’ people

This list is not exhaustive and you may know of other red flags?

Almost anyone can be a narcissist

How to break up with a narcissist
How to break up with a narcissist — Photo by Vinicius Altava

And let’s be clear — not all narcissists are men and not all men are narcissists. I’ve only used he/him/his for ease and brevity. Narcissists might be women like your mother, your sister or even your best friend.

In fact, most us have some narcissistic traits. Looking out for our ourselves and our own needs is quite a good thing really. In fact it’s crucial to being a happy human being and building positive relationships with others. Okay, I get that.

Still, I always wondered why I attracted these narcissistic men. I mean, was it me, did I come across as weak or needy? Moreover, what did I ever find attractive in said narcissists (other than their absolute gorgeousness)? Well I’ve found some answers.

“Studies show (Brown, 2013) that narcissists market themselves in attractive, deceptive packages. They may present with a swagger, intense eye contact, charm, knock-your-socks-off seduction……..”

Thinking back, yes my exes had those traits, and that’s why I found them attractive — I mean, who doesn’t like a bit of swagger? However, around eight to twelve months in, I noticed red flags and realised they were actually there early on. (Mind you, it took a lot longer the first time, with the boys’ dad.) Yet I chose to ignore them.

As for why they chose me? I’ve read that narcs are said to target successful, attractive, self-sufficient, and intelligent empaths as partners? Hmmm, it wasn’t my innate qualities like empathy and compassion that attracted them then? Yes, it was those too. These qualities give narcissists an ‘in’ to conduct their manipulation and suck the life out of their victims.

Most people wouldn’t entertain narcissistic abuse past a very early point. However, people with empathic traits are something else: they have a need/wish to fix people, help and heal.

How to leave a narcissist

How to leave a narcissist - girl waving bye bye
How to leave a narcissist – Images by Pixabay

You’ll already be exhausted from constantly battling their behaviours, so leaving a narcissist is always going to be tough. But it is possible. Just trust your gut, maintain firm boundaries, and keep reminding yourself why you must walk away.

Here’ some of the things you must do to leave your narcissist:

  • Re-engage with your family and friends circle if your narcissist has kept you away from everyone. You’re going to need some support in both getting away from your narcissist and staying away. Don’t be embarrassed to reach out to them. Your family and friends will more than likely know that it’s your narcissist that’s split and divided you all. They’ll be delighted you’ve made your mind up to leave and will no doubt be happy to have your back.
  • Report any abuse to the police or at least tell your GP what’s been happening. You may need a written record if you wish to go court at a later date. Your GP might also be able to help in accessing refuge and mental health support for you and any children
  • Log out of any devices he might have access to and change any passwords he knows so that he can’t track or trace you. Buy a cheap phone to use in case he has a tracker on your old one. You don’t want to go through all this just for them to catch up with you when you least expect it. It will also stop him being able to contact you and trying to wheedle his way back in.
  • Look out any documentation that belongs to you i.e. passport, proof of address, bank statements. If you can’t physically take them because he’ll know you’ve done so, take copies or screenshots on your phone. You might need these when you try to get housing or for financial transactions like hire purchase for furniture.
  • Hang on to every bit of money you can get your hands on and hopefully you’ve been able to squirrel some away. You’re definitely going to need your own money, so perhaps you’ve been saving for this day. Give all the cash you have to someone close for safe-keeping so that your narcissist can’t get to it.
  • Don’t tell them you are leaving. Arrange a time when you know they won’t be around and have a friend or a taxi pick you up. Have them take you somewhere safe. You might have to use the police for this if you fear violence or other retribution. If you tell them you’re going, you know they’ll only manipulate you into staying. So don’t!

Other things to consider when leaving

Cut other toxic relationships
Cut other toxic relationships — image from Pinterest

While the following are not as high up the list, it might be a good time to

  • Cut out any other toxic relationships like the friend who jumps up and down and says “I knew it!” when hearing the news. Or like my friend who said “None of us liked him, and Jenny says he chatted her up at your party.” Hmmm! She could have told me at the time rather than letting me marry the pig!
  • Throw out any gifts, letters or cards that will remind you of your narcissist. They’ll only have you crying into your white wine hot chocolate and weaken your resolve. Avoid any alcohol if you’re the type of drinker who gets sentimental and weepy. Your narcissist would be delighted hearing you sob into the phone, telling him you still love him. That would only tighten their vice-like grip on you once again.
  • Do some work on yourself like improving your self-esteem, confidence, or coping skills. You’ll need all your wits about you, and more, to get through leaving a narc because it’s hard, trust me. You can find lots of psychological and mental health information, support and resources online like websites, blogs, online apps and tools.
  • Make a list of why you won’t be going back to your narc and won’t give them any more chances. You’ve probably given them one too many already. Did they keep their promise that they’d change? Long-term I mean? They will not change and you cannot change them. No matter how many chances you give a narcissist, the results will always be the same.

Over to you


Again, there are many other things you might choose or have chosen to do when leaving your narc. I’d love for you to share them with us. What are your thoughts on narcissists or the people who stay with them? I look forward to reading any comments and answering any questions.

Passive-aggressive behaviour in relationships

How to deal with passive-aggressive relationships

Are you the one with passive-aggressive behaviour in your relationship?
Are you the one with passive-aggressive behaviour in your relationship?

My previous post What is passive-aggressive (PA) behaviour covered what it is, and how it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. We learned how it involves behaviours designed to get back at another person without them recognising the underlying anger. We also looked at PA acts in the workplace, and how to change it.

What’s more, we learned that PA is a defence mechanism that allows people to get what they want — under the pretence of still trying to please others. They want their own way, but they still want everyone to like them. They’ll tell you everything’s ‘OK’ but watch carefully, you’ll spot how their actions subtly belie their words.

In this post, we’ll explore more signs of, causes and how to combat passive-aggressive behaviour in relationships. It might just save your sanity!

Causes of passive-aggression

Family dynamics can contribute towards passive-aggressive behaviour in children
Family dynamics can contribute towards passive-aggressive behaviour in children

PA can be a helpful way to deal with certain issues (and to avoid tantrums in front of others). However, long-term, it can cause problems, particularly in your relationships.

“Someone who uses PA may be afraid, or feel resentful, angry, or frustrated, but they act cheerful or pleasant. Then they’ll find indirect ways to show how they really feel.”

While the exact cause of PA remains unknown, both environmental and biological aspects might contribute towards its development.

Healthline wrote “Parenting style, family dynamics, and other childhood influences may be contributing factors. Child abuse, neglect, and harsh punishment can also cause a person to develop passive-aggressive behaviors. Substance abuse and low self-esteem are also thought to lead to this type of behavior.”

Passive-aggressive parenting

Mum and teen arguing - Are family dynamics and parenting styles responsible for passive- aggressive behaviour?
Are parenting styles responsible for passive- aggressive behaviour?

PA behaviour can stem from a child’s experience with anger. If you grew up with rage, yelling and hitting, like me, you’re more likely to grow up afraid of anger.

I watched panic-stricken as my dad regularly beat my mum since I was about knee-high. Later, as a teen, I got the same panic whenever someone raised their voice anywhere near me.

PA can also come from parents who treated anger like it was on the “Naughty list.” You couldn’t be angry and don’t dare try to express it! Sad — Yes. Cheerful — Yes. But, anger, don’t even go there!

So again, you’re afraid of anger because perhaps you haven’t seen it in action or you weren’t allowed to be angry. It wasn’t so much that I was told I couldn’t be angry, but when I tried to tell dad to stop, he just shouted at me to get back to bed.

If we grow up thinking that anger is ‘bad’ or it’s not allowed, we don’t learn how to feel it. Moreover, we don’t know how express it in ways that are healthy or beneficial to our relationships.

Signs of passive-aggressive behaviour in relationships

Are you the passive-aggressive partner?
Are you the passive-aggressive partner?

If you spot PA behaviour in your partner or family member, you might recommend they see their GP or other professional. It’s tough being in a relationship with a partner who acts passive-aggressively, so address it a.s.a.p. Specific signs of PA behaviour might include:

  • Resentful and opposing requests i.e. having to take his suits to the cleaners and pick them up again, twice a week or having to complete his tax returns. You’re getting fed up and resentful having to do these tasks.
  • Procrastinating and intentional mistakes in response to others’ requests i.e. you ‘forget’ to pick his suits up, or you deliberately wrote the wrong date on his tax return.
  • Cynical, sullen or hostile attitude i.e. You eye-roll when he asks why you haven’t picked his suits up, or you put your earplugs in when you know he’s itching to moan at you. Sometimes, you just huff and puff around him but when he asks what’s wrong you say “Nothing!”
  • Frequent complaints about feeling underappreciated or cheated i.e. You tell him, ten times in a row, how fed-up you are, having to run around after him all the time.

Some other signs of PA behaviour include:

  • Not responding to their emails, phone calls or texts.
  • Always missing events with the in-laws or his slimy boss.
  • Avoiding going to bed at the same time.

Common passive-aggressive phrases

I’ve borrowed and adapted the following from Psychology today “10 common passive-aggressive phrases that can serve as an early-warning system for you, helping you recognize hidden hostility when it is being directed your way:

1. “I’m not angry.”

Denying feelings of anger is classic PA behaviour. The passive PA person insists, “I’m not angry” even when he or she is seething on the inside.

2. “Fine. Whatever.”

Sulking and withdrawing from arguments are primary strategies of the PA person. They use phrases like “Fine” and “Whatever” to express anger indirectly and to shut down direct, emotionally honest communication.

3. “I’m coming!”

PA people are known for verbally complying with a request but behaviorally delaying its completion. You ask your partner to clear the kitchen after dinner. He happily responds, “Yep, give me a minute, I’m coming,” but half-hour later, he’s still playing games online!

4. “I didn’t know you meant now,” He laughs.

While all of us like to put off unpleasant tasks from time to time, people with PA personalities rely on procrastination as a way of frustrating others and/or getting out of certain chores without having to directly refuse them.

5. “You just want everything to be perfect.”

When procrastination is not an option, a more sophisticated PA strategy is to carry out tasks in a timely, but unacceptable manner. You cooked his steak well-done when “you damn well know I like it medium-rare!”

6. “I thought you knew.”

PA people express their anger covertly by choosing not to share information when it could prevent a problem. You forgot to tell him his mum’s making lunch on Sunday and he’s booked to play in a golf tournament. You know how he hates letting his mum down, “Oops, sorry, I thought you knew about lunch,” you smile.

7. “You’ve done so well for someone with your education level.”

The backhanded compliment is the ultimate socially acceptable means by which the PA person insults you to your core. When your snotty sister-in-law says, “Don’t worry; your hair will grow back” or, “You’ve put weight on, it suits you.” The chances are you know how much “joy” a PA compliment can bring.

At first, the PA person (ex-sister-in-law) may seem nice and pleasant, and often appear to be really complimentary. It may take a while for you to recognise that her compliment was a cheap jibe, designed to upset you in some way.

8. “I was just kidding.”

Sarcasm is also a common tool of PA people who express hostility aloud, but in socially acceptable, indirect ways. When you show that you’re are offended by biting, the hostile joke teller plays up his role as victim. “Can’t you take a joke?” he’ll grin at you in front of others.

How to combat passive aggressive behaviour

If PA behaviour starts to rear its ugly head during any dispute, try to follow some of these tips:

  • Take a metaphorical step back. Calm down by taking a few deep breaths. There’s no point in continuing if either one or both of you are in a negative frame of mind as the PA will start to creep in. One or both of you will zone out, play around absentmindedly on your phone or do the eye roll, then huff and puff. Take a minute or so to relax and regain your composure.
  • Talk to your partner about whatever issues you have, as soon as they happen, and way before the frustration or resentment sets in. Communicate clearly, concisely and assertively. Take the time to make sure your partner knows what being PA looks like and how it’s affecting you and your relationship.
  • Try to stick to one or two issues at a time; it shouldn’t be total character assassination. Be specific. If you don’t like him cutting his toenails in the living room and letting them flick all over the place, then tell him exactly that. And listen to how your partner feels or thinks, don’t make assumptions. He probably didn’t realise this act grossed you out.
  • Ask your partner how they think the ‘problem’ can be resolved. Tell your partner how you think it can be resolved (Don’t cut your damn toenails in front of me – it makes me feel sick). Flesh out ideas between you. If you’re direct and state the issue, you’ll be able to solve the problem much easier than if you skip around it. Write both your answers down.
  • You might want to scribble down the pros and cons of each of your ideas. Choose the solutions together and see which one will work best so that you both win.
  • Carry out the solutions. If he says he will stop cutting and flicking his toenails in the lounge, then he must. Okay, so you might have to remind him the first hundred few times. But he must stick to it.
  • If your solution was for him to do his nails in the bathroom and he continues to cut them in the lounge, you’ll both have to go to the next solution. No, not the one where he says you could cut his nails for him! Or not the one where you say you’ll take the garden shears to his feet.

So, to wrap up


We’ve covered

  • PA behaviour in relationships
  • Common PA phrases used in relationships
  • the causes of PA
  • PA parenting
  • the signs of and how to combat PA behaviour in relationships

Truth be told—while momentarily satisfying or briefly convenient — in the long run, PA behaviour is even more destructive to relationships than aggression. Over time, virtually all relationships with a person who is PA become confusing, destructive, and dysfunctional. PA behaviour is about power and control.

Break the cycle by stepping away from the PA behaviour, choosing to create a new pattern for you and your family. If you’re the person with the PA behaviour, you might want to get professional help.

Over to you


Do you recognise any of the above signs in yourself or someone close to you? How did you overcome PA behaviours in others? Are you aware of your own PA behaviours and have you had to work on them? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and any questions you might have.

What is passive-aggressive behaviour

How to identify passive-aggressive behaviour

Passive aggressive-behaviour at play
Passive aggressive-behaviour at play

Passive-aggressive behavior might be a feature of some mental health disorders, but it isn’t considered a recognisable mental health condition.

However, passive-aggressive behavior can interfere with your relationships and create difficulties at work, for both you and those around you.

Have you ever come across or been the recipient of passive-aggressive behaviour? The chances are that you have but perhaps not realised it at the time.

Have you ever, or do you display passive-aggressive behaviour? Again, the chances are that you have and maybe you weren’t aware of it.

Remember that time your best friend got a promotion only a fortnight after blagging that amazing new job? What about when you told hubby not to bother with Valentine’s Day, and he didn’t? Maybe you sulked a wee bit, and the next day your best friend or partner asked how you were. You smiled “Fine!”

I think most of us know that whenever someone tells you that everything is “fine,” it generally means the opposite.

Someone who uses passive aggression may feel annoyed, angry, resentful, or frustrated, but they act neutral, pleasant, or even cheerful. They then find indirect ways to show how they really feel.

What is passive-aggressive behaviour?

Passive aggression and the angry smile
Passive aggression and the angry smile

In The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools, and Workplaces, “passive aggression” is defined as a deliberate and masked way of expressing covert feelings of anger (Long, Long & Whitson, 2008).

It involves a range of behaviors designed to get back at another person without them recognising the underlying anger.

So, passive-aggressive behaviour is when somebody expresses resentment or animosity indirectly. Rather than showing hubby your resentment and explaining why he’s such an arse, you’ll behave in ways that distress or frustrate him. You didn’t receive a card or flowers, so now you’ll let that special Valentine’s Day steak dinner dry up!

Rather than telling your friend you’re a little jealous about her fab new job and pay rise, you’ll not contact her for the rest of the week. Perhaps you didn’t want to deliberately upset hubby or your friend, but that behaviour in itself can be really upsetting!

People with passive-aggressive behavior express their negative feelings, often subtly, through their actions instead of openly addressing them. This creates a disconnect between what the passive-aggressive person says and what they actually do.

Passive-aggressive behaviour in the workplace

Passive-aggressive behaviour at work
Passive-aggressive behaviour at work

For example, I’d propose that our Charge Nurses take the lead on planning the nursing rota. Curtis, with his passive-aggressive behaviour opposed the plan, but instead of voicing his opinion, he’d agree to it.

Since he was actually against the plan, however, he resisted following it through. He’d purposely miss deadlines, leaving staff nurses not knowing their shifts for the coming week.

There’s always that someone at work who tests your patience to the max, right? And while you probably can’t tell them to f*ck off how you really feel, there are some subtle ways to get back at them. I know, cos I’ve used them against or received them from narcissistic bullying bosses!

Morning Tessa, nice to see you.” Cue big smile to the b*tch who interviewed me for the third time and still refused to offer me the job. I’d only been acting up in this job for two years and we’d won three awards for Excellence.

I’d say “Thanks for your feedback Tessa! I’ll keep it in mind!” I could do my job with my hands tied, wearing a blindfold so Tessa’s negative feedback was unfounded.

“I’ll go through the Trust Policy and get back to you!” I beamed when Kate, my Modern Matron, told me to get all staff holiday plans a whole year in advance. Of course, I knew the policy was that staff could request any holiday leave as and when.

Curtis always used passive-aggressive responses like “Okay, if that’s what you want.” Then he’d continue to type everything in capitals and say “Ah, I forgot. Anyway, I think it looks okay!” when I explicitly said to type in lower case – because typing in capitals is called shouting and it’s considered rude.

Passive-aggressive doesn’t mean you’re bad

The angry smile of a passive-aggressive person
The angry smile of a passive-aggressive person

Being passive-aggressive doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Often it’s “a strategy we use when we think we don’t deserve to speak our minds or we’re afraid to be honest and open.” says psychotherapist Tina Gilbertson, LPC, author of Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings.

It’s not always a bad thing either. Passive-aggressive behaviour might be a way to retaliate if you’re at the wrong end of a power dynamic. Like me and Tessa. Although she was my boss, she felt threatened by my twenty years of HR management experience, so had to publicly undermine me.

Or me and Curtis. Upset because I was sent in as Acting Ward Manager, the job he’d expected to get, he was deliberately passive-aggressive. Sadly, rather than telling Tessa to “stuff her job” or yelling at Curtis to “grow a pair”, I retaliated with passive-aggressive behaviour of my own!

If you’ve encountered acts of passive-aggression then you’ll know just how frustrating, overwhelming and exhausting it can be. And if like me, you’ve been guilty of it, stop! It’s not very adult-like and it’s not the best way to resolve things.

The following post will explore more signs of, causes and ways to change passive-aggressive behaviour, particularly in relationships.

Over to you


Have you used passive-aggressive behaviours or have you been on the receiving end of them? How did you handle them, or not? What are the best passive-aggressive phrases you’ve used to get back at someone? I look forward to any witty one-liners I could pinch, any comments or questions.

How to improve your emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence and how to improve it

Improving Emotional Intelligence
Improving Emotional Intelligence — Image by Pixabay

In How to talk to angry people, we looked at how to knock the wind out of an angry person’s sails and how to diffuse angry situations. While the techniques discussed were emotional intelligence (EI)-based, the post didn’t explain what EI is and isn’t, or how to improve your emotional intelligence. So today, this post will do just that.

We’ll explore what it is and isn’t, together with its key features, and the management of EI at work and elsewhere. We’ll also discover whether it’s beneficial and if so, how to improve your emotional intelligence.

What emotional intelligence is

Managing Emotional Intelligence ---
Heart & mind managing Emotional Intelligence — Image by Pixabay

The concept of Emotional intelligence is attributed to Professors Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer (1990). In this American Psychology article published in 2008, they wrote of EI

“Emotional Intelligence includes the ability to engage in sophisticated information processing about one’s own and others’ emotions and the ability to use this information as a guide to thinking and behavior. That is, individuals high in emotional intelligence pay attention to, use, understand, and manage emotions, and these skills serve adaptive functions that potentially benefit themselves and others”.

John D Mayer, Peter Salovey, & David R Caruso

So EI is being able to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to

  • relieve stress
  • communicate effectively
  • empathise with others
  • overcome challenges and
  • defuse conflict.

What Emotional Intelligence isn’t

Happiness and motivation are not Emotional Intelligence
Happiness and motivation are not Emotional Intelligence – Photo by Pexels

It’s not friendliness or pleasantness, calmness, optimism or happiness, and it’s not motivation. John D Mayer says that “while these qualities are important, they have little to do with intelligence, little to do with emotions, and nearly nothing to do with actual emotional intelligence.” He continues  “It’s especially unfortunate that even some trained psychologists have confused emotional intelligence with such personal qualities.”

That’s not to say you can’t be super pleasant or friendly, ecstatically happy and optimistic, calm or motivated. Of course, these are all great attributes and will work fantastically alongside EI. But let’s not confuse the two.

Why it’s important to improve your emotional intelligence

Emotional Intelligence

Strong EI helps us to build stronger relationships, succeed at university or work, and achieve our career and personal goals. It can also help us to connect with our feelings, turn goals into action, and make informed decisions about what matters most to us. EI is having the ability to

  1. perceive emotions in oneself and others accurately.
  2. use emotions to facilitate thinking.
  3. understand emotions, emotional language, and the signals conveyed by emotions.
  4. manage emotions so as to attain specific goals.

Key features of Emotional Intelligence:

The ability to sense others' emotions
The ability to sense others’ emotions — Image by Free Images

According to Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist who helped to popularize EI, there are five key elements to it:

  1. Self-awareness — the ability to recognise and understand personal moods, emotions and drives and the effect of them on both self and others. Imagine being angry with hubby but you hide it from the kids because you don’t want to upset them.
  2. Self-regulation — being able to manage your thoughts and actions. Managing our thoughts isn’t always easy as we often have Negative Automatic thoughts (NATs), which can be difficult to control. Self-regulations means having the ability to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, and adapt to changing circumstances. And while some of us can control our actions, others might smash a plate or slap someone in the face.
  3. Internal motivation — the force that leads you to achieve a goal because of personal satisfaction or desire. Examples might be running a marathon or starting your own business.
  4. Empathy — the ability to sense other people’s emotions, along with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. Remember that old saying “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.”
  5. Social skills — are the skills we use everyday to interact and communicate with others. They include verbal and non-verbal communication, such as speech, facial expression, gesture, and body language. Some people appear to ooze these skills, charming and engaging everyone they come across. Others might be less skilled, they feel shy, get tongue-tied or stand out as a wallflower at parties.

Emotionally intelligent people are able to:

Feeling jealous on the tennis court – image from Pixabay
  • identify what they’re feeling i.e. anger, fear, jealousy, rejected
  • know how to interpret their own and others’ emotions, despite some of their differences like age, office hierarchy or social standing
  • recognize how their emotions can affect others, such as the hope and optimism contagion we often see in leaders at work
  • regulate their own emotions so that they ‘don’t blow a gasket’ when that same disruptive colleague disagrees with yet another perfectly viable suggestion
  • manage other people’s emotions so that the above colleague might feel less argumentative or disagreeable. They understand that, when happy and relaxed, someone will be more likely to agree to taking on a task than when angry or stressed.

Put more simply: EI is the ability to make emotions work for us, instead of against us.

Emotional Intelligence in the workplace

Nurse team leader with high EI
Nurse team leader with high EI – image from Pixabay

People with high EI appear more able to deal with colleagues or customers’ complaints, or to mediate conflict between others. They often also excel at making strong and positive personal connections with seniors, colleagues and customers.

Staff teams with high EI are far better at working together. They use appropriate and effective communication skills, tend to trust each other, and value input from others. They’re able to understand and empathise with the feelings of others, and generally respond positively to their suggestions.

The best team leaders understand people; they know how they work, and how to influence them. They know how to inspire them, and lead them in the right direction. Effective leaders tend to have a solid understanding of how their own emotions and actions affect the people around them.

The better the leader relates to and works with colleagues, the more success they’ll garner. EI is an essential people skill and, to succeed in a competitive workplace, developing it is vital.

Not many of us like change, but EI gives us the tools we need to deal with any changes that might come our way. At work, I’ve seen people face change with crossed arms, rolling eyes and negative attitudes. But I’ve also seen staff with EI responding in much more positive ways, and inspiring other team members to feel the same way.

Using EI in other situations

Managing emotions - active listening and making others feel heard
Managing emotions – active listening and making others feel heard

Most of us know someone who’s a really good listener. Whatever the situation we’re in, they always seem to know just how we feel, know what to say and how to say it so we don’t feel upset or offended.

They’re always considerate and compassionate, and able to instil positivity and hope in others. Even if we can’t come up with an immediate solution to our problem, we’re often feeling less distressed and more optimistic.

Even changes at home, with our families and children can be managed with EI, by using empathy and acknowledging any fears, ensuring everyone feels listened to and heard.

Whether it’s with an angry partner or a moody teenager, we’ll no doubt have to face difficult conversations in our personal lives. These tough talks will no doubt stir up all sorts of emotions, but having the right skills will ensure you’re able to handle them effectively. You’ll be able to emotionally connect with the other person before finding an effective solution.

How to develop and improve your Emotional Intelligence

Practicing Emotional Intelligence can help retrain your brain
Practicing Emotional Intelligence can help retrain your brain

While some people naturally have high EI, it’s still a skill that can be practiced and developed. Practicing EI behaviors can help your brain adapt to making these behaviors become automatic, and replace less helpful behaviors. So practice:

  1. Honing effective listening skills. People with EI listen to understand before responding, rather than just waiting for their turn to speak. This allows them to respond appropriately and shows their respect for the person speaking who, in turn, feels listened to and heard.
  2. Practice using effective communication skills and assertive communication, and learn how to say ‘NO’, and mean it. Ask someone close, or a mentor maybe, how you come across during conversations, particularly in times of stress and conflict.
  3. Try to remain open to feedback from others. You don’t have to agree with or believe them but just listen, take a breath and become aware of the emotions this evokes. Think about how you might have responded had you’d done so impulsively.
  4. Practice maintaining self-motivation and a positive attitude, as they’re contagious. Remember, self-motivation in the emotionally intelligent person promotes motivation and positivity in others. They’re motivated to set and attain their goals, and are resilient in the face of the challenges in reaching them. Try to be aware of the self-motivation, or lack of, in others and observe their moods. Use your self-motivation and positive attitude accordingly to affect an appropriate shift in the negativity of said others.
  5. Seek ways to become more self-aware. Be aware of your own many and various emotions, and how they affect people around you. See if you can determine the emotions of someone close, asking them if you’ve got it right. Watch other people when they’re communicating, paying attention to their body language, any facial clues or gestures and see how this affect you or others.
  6. Practice staying calm by learning some breathing techniques or other strategies that you’ll be able to use quickly and easily during stressful situations.
  7. Become more aware of the people around you, at work or in social situations. Observe how they behave and relate to others, and if you like what you see, ‘steal’ it, and practice it.

Last thoughts

Emotional Intelligence can be learned — Image from Unsplash

The above are only some of the skills mastered by high emotionally intelligent people, but they’re enough to start with. However, I can’t repeat enough how practice is vital — you wouldn’t drive down the motorway after just one driving lesson, would you? Nor would you beat a Grandmaster at chess, having just played the game once or twice.

Remember that building and maintaining effective relationships is key to engaging effectively with others. Someone with high EI doesn’t take the negative emotional reactions or responses of others personally. Rather, they’ll try to understand the source of those emotions and the values that are meaningful to others. This allows them to engage appropriately rather than avoiding the person who often ‘blows a gasket’ either at home, socially or at work.

Improving EI can help us feel more confident in our dealings with others, particularly during times of stress or conflict. EI is beneficial and if mastered, it enables us to maintain strong relationships and attain a happier and more fulfilled life.

Over to you

Image from Clipart

Do you recognise the emotions you feel and are you able to manage them without allowing them to overwhelm you? Can you motivate yourself to do things, like exercise or relaxation, and in turn motivate others, perhaps to join you? Are you able to sense the emotions of others and respond effectively?

How to talk to angry people

Do you know how to talk to an angry person?

Receptionists have to know to talk to angry people waiting in busy A&E departments
Receptionists have to know to talk to angry people waiting in busy A&E departments

Have you ever come across a group of angry people, or an angry person, and not known how to talk to them? Perhaps you’ve had to deliver bad news to your team about cutbacks, redundancies, or a reduction in salary, particularly recently?

Are you a nurse or other professional who’s had to cope with the angry family of a patient? Or a rowdy group of drunks fooling around in the A&E department? I dare say we’ve all come face to face with at least one angry person in our lifetime.

Unfortunately, I’ve had a few angry people men crowding my personal space, fists clenched, close up and spitting with rage. Some had me back up against a wall or cowering in fear, and one turned to physical abuse.

But let me tell you something now, I won’t ever allow this kind of behaviour again, and I hope you won’t either. It’s never acceptable – ever!

Recent tales of anger and aggression

Angry young man
Angry young man

A group of angry young thugs attacked my nephew on his way home from a night out. They surrounded him, swearing at him for ‘looking at them’ and ‘saying something nasty.’

My nephew was tipsy, but he tried reasoning with them. However, he’d barely spoken when one of the thugs headbutted him and he stumbled and fell to the ground. The rest joined in, kicking him in the face, head and upper body.

Fortunately, a car stopped, the thugs ran off and the driver called both the police and ambulance. My nephew was badly bruised and sustained a cracked cheek bone and a broken nose.

My friend was in a store recently and she inadvertently queue-jumped. She hadn’t realised that the group behind her were adhering to the 2 metre rule. She just saw a space and strolled into it.

A group of angry young ladies verbally abused and threatened her, despite her sincere apologies. My friend left her full trolley, and the store.

My nephew and my friend later wondered if there was anything they could have said or done differently. The thugs appeared to be on a mission, and nothing Tommy said would have stopped them.

On the other hand, Louise might have been able to calm the situation as it was broad daylight and she was surrounded by people. However, had I been her say last week, when I felt desperately low in mood and anxious, I might have panicked and done what she did. Today, I would have handled it differently.

Reasons to be angry

Rightly or wrongly, people are angry and protesting
Rightly or wrongly, people are angry and protesting — Image by Pexels

While the above tales may be extreme, it appears that people are becoming more angry, and about many things. Americans are living in a big ‘anger incubator.’ Americans are angry about the death of George Floyd. They’re angry about police violence and the country’s legacy of racism.

Around the world there’s anger provoked by the coronavirus pandemic: anger at public officials because they’ve shut down parts of society. Or anger because they aren’t doing enough to curb the virus.

People are angry about having to to wear masks, or angry toward people who refuse to wear a mask. Others are angry with anyone who doesn’t see things their way.

In London, everyone from tenants, residents, shop-keepers, businesses and black cabbies in London are angry. They’re angry and taking to the streets because of Sadiq Khan’s ridiculous road closures and under used cycle lanes.

We’re surrounded by anger – we get angry at t.v. or the news, and if it’s not that, it’s social media. If it’s not politics it’s soaring crime levels.

But anger is normal, right?

Anger is normal but rage is not
Anger is normal but rage is not

Anger is a normal but very powerful human emotion that can range from slight irritation to strong rage. There’s good reason for anger too. It lets us know that there’s a barrier in the way of something that’s undoubtedly important to us. It’s this barrier that evokes an emotion in us, which leads to our anger.

You see, anger doesn’t act alone. It’s always driven by another emotion like fear, anxiety, jealousy, disgust, frustration or other strong feelings. And often, rather than show any of these emotions, for whatever reason, we become angry.

Think about the man who you’ve just told is about to lose the job he desperately needs. Rather than express sadness or disappointment in front of you, his male boss, he might show anger. Behind his angry shield, he’s feeling threatened — not by you, but by the loss of his job, his salary or his status.

As women, because we often get “Oh, don’t turn on the waterworks,” we don’t. We get defensive, and angry (mainly at that comment).

So how do we talk to an angry person

Angry people are often stressed
Angry people are often stressed

We all know how easy it is to become upset or flustered when we’re confronted by an angry person and we don’t know what to say or do. If we don’t know how to respond, we can easily make the situation worse. However, when we respond calmly and with empathy, we stay in control, and can diffuse the situation effectively and courteously.

Let’s take a look at a few simple ways to reduce the anger and maintain a sense of calm. While the angry person is raging and waving their hands around, or blustering, red in the face and finger-pointing:

  • Take a few slow and deep breaths. Effective breathing techniques will slow your heart rate down and have a calming effect on you.
  • Try to maintain a relaxed but confident posture — hold your head up but let your shoulders drop down from your ears, unclench those fists and relax your jaw. Crossing your arms, heavy sighing or tutting and rolling your eyes is a surefire way to add fuel to someone’s fire.
  • Try to remain or at least appear calm but for crying out loud, don’t say “calm down!” to the angry person who’s about to blow a gasket. If you didn’t already know this — it’s like a red rag to a bull.
  • Listen actively, and show that you’re listening by giving appropriate eye contact, just don’t stare or glare. Try to understand what’s driving their anger i.e. they feel hurt, judged by you or others in some way, they might feel let down, disappointed, disrespected or afraid.
  • Once you’ve listened to them, do not say “I understand but,” or “okay, but.” We’ve all been on the tail end of that response. A simple change of the word ‘but’ to ‘and’ can often make a difference, and that’s another post.

An example might be

Receptionist at busy GP surgery

The lady with two screaming toddlers who fumes at the receptionist in the doctor’s surgery. “I’ve been waiting for almost an hour, I’ve been up all night with these two and I need to be seen now.”

The receptionist smiles and says “I understand, but everyone else has been………”

“No you don’t bloody understand……….” fumes the lady. You don’t know that hubby screamed at her to keep the kids quiet so she’s upset and and tearful. It can soon escalate into something like “….. you patronising old jobsworth.”

  • Responding to someone’s needs calmly can be the key to gaining cooperation from the emotionally agitated person. In tough situations, the issue at hand isn’t usually the actual issue. How you handle the issue becomes the actual issue.
  • Show empathy, kindness and compassion, and an apology can go a long way too. You might say “I’m really sorry you’ve had to wait for so long and I appreciate how frustrating it must be. I’ll go and see if there’s anything I can do.” Then go and do just that.

Acknowledge their anger

Upset and stressed— Image by Unsplash
  • Acknowledge their anger. If someone expresses anger and you fail to react to it they’ll feel like they aren’t getting through to you. Think about how you would feel in a similar situation. Imagine you’ve been charged £15.00 by the bank for going overdrawn by 59 pence. You explain to the bank teller that you were only overdrawn for a few hours because your salary went in at midnight.

The bank teller might say, “I can see you’re annoyed and I’d like you to know that getting to the bottom of this is just as important to me as it is to you.” Or “I think I understand what’s happened here, but please correct me if I’ve got it wrong.”

You’d feel listened to and understood, and you’d calm down. You know it’s not the teller’s fault and that at least they’ve offered to help fix the issue.

So we’ve covered how to breath and relax, remaining calm and listening. Then apologising and using your effective communication skills like empathy and kindness to help calm the angry person. Understand what’s driving their anger and acknowledge that, responding calmly and taking any necessary action to fix the issue.

When we’re able to diffuse someone’s anger, it can help us to deal with others who perhaps lack the emotional intelligence to manage their emotions. Let’s explore this further and continue with more strategies to diffuse anger in the follow-up post.

Over to you

When was the last time you had an angry person shouting at you? What did it make you feel like? Or were you angry and someone dealt with your complaint inappropriately? How could they have handled it differently? I’d love for you to share your experiences or just comment, or ask any questions.


How exercise benefits mental health

Learn how exercise really benefits your mental health

Benefits of exercise on your mental health
Benefits of exercise on your mental health — Unsplash

I’ve recently had a few physical and mental setbacks which have rendered me lethargic, fatigued, feeling fat, and unhappy. I’m a great believer that exercise benefits mental health, hence my digging out this old post, seeking inspiration and motivation.

I’d previously come across a great blog called When Women Inspire. It’s written by Christy Birmingham, a Canadian writer, blogger and author. As I write about all things mental health, I found one of Christy’s posts particularly interesting. Rather than reinventing the wheel, Christy’s allowed me to re-blog her post How exercise benefits mental health.

Furthermore, many studies support the growing literature suggesting that exercise has beneficial effects across several physical and mental health outcomes. Research shows that participants engaging in regular physical activity display more desirable health outcomes across a variety of physical conditions. Similarly, participants in randomized clinical trials of physical-activity interventions show better health outcomes. Moreover, they experience better general and health-related quality of life, better functional capacity and better mood states.

The physical benefits of exercise are well known, but what effect can it have on your mind and mental health? Let’s find out.

Exercise and changes in mood

Effects of exercise on your mind and body
Effects of exercise on your mental health

According to Lane and Lovejoy, the general trend in research findings indicates that exercise has a mood enhancing effect. This is typified by increased vigor and reduced anger, confusion, depression, fatigue, and tension. As I expected, Lane and Lovejoy’s own study concluded that exercise does bring about improved mood.

Another study by Brand et al said “Studies at the macro level (such as longer-term interventions) showed that physical activity impacts positively on cognitive-emotional processes of patients with mental disorders. However, research focusing on the immediate impact of acute bouts of exercise (micro level) are missing.

The aim of Brand et al’s study was therefore to investigate whether and to what extent single bouts of moderately intense exercise can influence psychological functioning in inpatients with mental disorders.

The study showed how psychological states improved from pre- to post-session. Improvements were observed for mood, social interactions, attention, and physical strengths. Likewise, rumination and tiredness decreased. Mood, rumination, and tiredness further improved, when patients completed the questionnaires the second time in the same week.

The study concluded “at micro level, single bouts of exercise impacted positively on

  • cognitive-emotional processes such as mood, rumination, attention and social interactions
  • and physiological states of tiredness and physical strengths

among inpatients with mental disorders. In addition, further improvements were observed, if patients participated in physical activities a second time.”

So, there we have it. Even one bout of exercise is helpful! Whoo hoo!

Speaking from experience

Swimming is a great stress reliever
Swimming is a great stress reliever — Photo by Heart Rules

I know from both personal and professional experience that exercise is beneficial for mental health. At the Day Hospital I worked in, we had weekly swimming sessions at our local pool. We also had our own gym with two full-time fitness instructors, which was a big hit with patients. And staff often joined patients for workouts.

One year, four of us (two staff and two patients) exercised, trained for and completed a 5k charity run for cancer. We each romped home in less than 40 minutes — you can imagine just how happy that made us all feel.

We always carried out pre- and post- physical activity assessments and noted vast improvements in the same areas as the studies above. The results were recorded and documented in both the patients’ notes and in a separate interventions folder. We were able to use these results to measure the success of the various interventions provided by the Day Hospital.

Personally speaking

Now, I’m not a lady that wants a rock hard body worthy of those fitness competitions. But more recently, and as I’ve gotten older, I feel I’ve let myself go and my bingo wings are beginning to flap a little lot more than I’d wish. And let’s not mention the pumpkinesque physique I’ve mysteriously developed. Mind you, it hasn’t bothered me that much that I’ve done any exercising. But, and bear with me here, I really am going to start!

I’ve been sadly lacking energy and motivation lately, but seriously, now it’s time to take a bit of my own advice. Action happens first and motivation follows! I’m going to have hubby take some before pics, urgh! That ought to work 😉 and the exercise will follow.

What I’ll need to exercise at home

Toned arms like Jade Pinkett-Smith @ Instagram
Toned arms like Jade Pinkett-Smith @ Instagram

Now you might think that toning my arms á la Jade Pinkett-Smith or Heidi Klum requires a gym full of equipment. But all I’ll really need to sculpt some seriously taut and toned limbs is a pair of dumbbells. Mind you, 2 x 2 litre cartons of milk will also work, and 15-20 minutes.

I’ve read somewhere that I should crank up the under arm toning exercises 2-4 times a week for added strength and definition in my biceps and triceps. Don’t laugh…………… I’m determined.

I’ll keep you posted and hopefully get some after pics, showing off my newly toned arms. However, rest assured, you’ll not be seeing any of my slimmed down Rubenesque body snaps any time soon.

Over to you

Any questions?

Do you or have you found that exercise helps improve your mood? What type of exercises do you do and is that a lone or a group activity? I’d love to hear what works best for you, and it would be great if you shared any tips. I look forward to your comments, questions or constructive criticism about any of my posts, and my blog in general.

Why do we struggle with assertiveness?

Do you know why we struggle with assertiveness?

Lack of self-confidence can impact on your assertiveness
Lack of self-confidence can impact on your assertiveness

We’ve all probably thought to ourselves “I wish I could say no!” Well-meaning friends say “you need to be more assertive.” and “you need to learn how to say no.” Why do we struggle with assertiveness and the inability to say ‘NO’?

By never saying ‘NO’ we very can very quickly end up feeling resentful towards others. You know — that family member or colleague constantly asking for “just one last favour.” And we frequently let the priorities of others take precedence over our own.

A lot of the time, we don’t want to upset anyone, or make someone think less of us. We don’t want to make people angry towards us, and perhaps we just feel uncomfortable saying the word ‘NO’. But I think mostly, we want to make a good impression i.e. at work we’ll take on extra work, even when our in-tray’s already full. And when we meet new friends, we agree to do things we don’t particularly want to do, we say ‘YES’ anyway.

We let people run rings round us. We feel overwhelmed, put upon, used, frustrated, tired or stressed. So, why do we do it to ourselves?

What does assertive mean?

People with mental illness often lack assertiveness
People with mental illness often lack assertiveness — Photo by artem-maltsev

The Cambridge English Dictionary says “Someone who is assertive behaves confidently, and is not frightened to say what they want or believe. Similarly, the Collins English Dictionary writes that “Someone who is assertive states their needs and opinions clearly, so that people listen, and take notice.

Assertiveness then, according to Skills you need, is a skill regularly referred to in social and communication skills training. Being assertive means being able to stand up for your own or other people’s rights in a calm and positive way, without being either aggressive, or passively accepting ‘wrong’.

In other words: Assertiveness means standing up for your personal rights – expressing thoughts, feelings and beliefs in direct, honest and appropriate ways. It is important to note also that: By being assertive we should always respect the thoughts, feelings and beliefs of other people. Those who behave assertively always respect the thoughts, feelings and beliefs of other people as well as their own.

Assertiveness is a healthy way of communicating. It’s the ability to speak up for ourselves in a way that’s respectful and authentic. Most days, we’re in situations where being assertive helps us — like asking someone out, approaching a professor with a question, or doing well on a university, promotion or new job interview.

Passive, assertive or aggressive

Passive, assertive or aggressive

There are various ways we can behave or respond to others, particularly when there’s conflict i.e. in a passive, assertive or aggressive manner.

Passive behaviour generally means we put up with situations where we feel awkward, rather than being honest and saying what we think. We tend to apologise for our own views and put ourselves down rather than expressing them positively. “Sorry, I know I’m not very good at this. I probably agree with you really.”

Being assertive means being

  • honest with yourself and others, stating your own views authentically, clearly and concisely
  • self-confident and positive but not headstrong and contradictory, just for the sake of it
  • firm in expressing your opinion but, at the same time, understanding others’ views and being prepared to reach a workable compromise and
  • able stand up for your own rights and beliefs without dismissing the rights or opinions of others

Being aggressive in your communication with others is asserting your rights regardless of how others feel. You want to get your own way, even at the expense of others. Aggressive behaviour tends to have control at its heart.

Do you struggle with assertiveness?

This kid looks super self-confident
This kid looks super self-confident — Photo by Sharon McCutcheon

Do you:

  • wish you could turn down another request to babysit, stay late at work or run yet another tombola stall for your kids’ school?
  • become frustrated because you can’t make yourself heard above all the other ‘smart people’, even when you know you’re right?
  • do you wish you could put your hand up in school or work when people are asking questions and you know the answer?
  • lack the skills to disagree with others, even though you know they’re wrong?
  • feel that your views or opinions are not respected because you don’t command respect when you speak?
  • wish you could perform better in social situations, and know that you need better communications skills?

This list is not exhaustive but if you answered yes to any of the above, it seems likely that you struggle with assertiveness.

What to do when you struggle with assertiveness

Understand the impact of feelings and emotions – Photo by Annie Spratt

Being assertive means being direct about what you think, want, need, feel or believe — in a way that’s respectful to others. Being assertive can help in expressing your feelings, speaking assertively and can help manage conflict with others. It can build your self-confidence and improve relationships in every area. So here are a few ways to assert yourself in a kind but firm manner.

First, make the decision to assert yourself from here on in, and because you’ve committed to it, stick to it. Honestly it does get easier. And you’ll wonder why you never did it sooner.

  • Practice saying ‘NO’, in the mirror, or practice with a good friend. Have them ask you for favours and keep saying ‘NO’ without offering any reason or excuse. Remember, you don’t have to feel guilty for saying NO, and your decision does not need an explanation! You can say “No. not today Philomena,” if you feel you have to elaborate. Don’t hesitate, pause or waver. The second you say “Err! No. I can’t because…….” or “Erm, I think I’m busy that day…….” you’re giving the other person a ‘way in’ i.e. “Oh, go on. Please? You can do your essay any day. Please, I’m desperate.” You say “I said ‘NO‘ Anyway, how are you, how’s work…… blah, blah, blah.” Again, it gets easier with practice, trust me.
  • Use the “NO, but….” if you must i.e. “NO, I can’t stay late tonight but I’ll get onto it as soon as I come in tomorrow.” or “NO, I’m not babysitting for you again this weekend but why don’t you ask ………..?”
  • Stay calm, always. Breathe, look the other person in the eye, keep your face relaxed (smiling helps me stay calm and my face more relaxed) and speak in a pleasant but firm voice. You can smile, and still say ‘NO’, in a way that doesn’t look condescending or like you’re being sarcastic. It can be really hard knowing what to do if someone’s being aggressive towards you. It’s easy to get angry yourself, but if you can remain calm and assertive it’s more likely the situation won’t escalate, and you might be able to resolve the problem.
  • Remember that your time is as precious and valuable as the next person. Ensure you give yourself say half a day before accepting any further tasks, requests, or invites. There’s no reason to answer immediately, and waiting a while gives you time to think about whether it’s something that’s really worth your effort and time. Does it suit your plans, do you really want to tag along like a third wheel, what will you get out of it? If you fancy saying ‘NO’ after your half day, the person who asked the favour, should understand. You showed that you thought about their request and in turn they ought to respect your decision.  
  • Avoid guilt trips. Stay honest and tell others how you feel or what you want without making accusations or making them feel guilty, like “it’s your fault …….” or “if you didn’t do/say, I’d be……..”
  • Use the ‘I’ word, like “I felt sad when you said/did”, and “I think what you said/did was …….” Avoid statements like “You never take the bins out” cos I’m sure they have done sometimes or “You always …….” ‘cos this might not be true, and it comes across as aggressive.
  • Think about your communication skills and ask yourself honestly, do I have to work on them? Communicating effectively can help you build excellent relationships with the people around you and help develop your self-confidence. How do you come across to others? How do others come across to you? Watch people you admire when they’re communicating. See how they draw people to them and whether you can employ some of their skills.
  • Think about the attributes or characteristics you would like to have, and learn how to develop them i.e. compassion, empathy, kindness and emotional intelligence. Learn about and understand emotions and feelings and how you can best use them to benefit yourself and others around you.

Anything else?

Of course, there are many other ways to develop assertiveness and there are lots of online resources you might find helpful. Just remember that being assertive can help reduce feelings of frustration and anger and can be empowering. Let people know how you feel, what you want and what you need to happen to get it. I love this last piece from Teachonomy

Only Say YES to What Matters Most

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Everyone has a finite amount of time they can say yes in each season of life. Don’t waste them! First, define what matters most in your life. For most of us that would be our family and friends, however it can be just about anything you find to be important. Second, before you say yes to something make sure to ask a few questions. Will saying yes to this

  1. take away time from my family and close friends or hobbies?
  2. affect other obligations I have?
  3. take away from furthering the skills and knowledge I actually want or need?

If your answer to these questions is yes, than you might consider saying ‘NO’ to the question, favour or invitation.

Over to you

Has anything in this article resonated with you, and do you think it’s been helpful? Have you ever had difficulty in saying ‘NO’ and will you at least try to practice saying ‘NO’? Either in the mirror or with a trusted friend? I look forward to any comments, questions, insights or constructive criticism.


Can we improve our motivation when we’re exhausted?

Is it possible to improve our motivation?

Can we improve our motivation through frequent work outs?
Can workout improve our motivation? Endorphins and motivation photo by Retha Ferguson on

In my previous post Why is motivation important, we learned what motivation is, and the two main types; intrinsic and extrinsic. In this post we’ll explore little or no motivation, what to do about it, and find out if it’s possible to improve our motivation.

Just to remind you that, in their simplest form, you can think about the two types of motivation as:

  • Extrinsic = related to what we have to do.
  • Intrinsic = related to what we want to do.

We’re all motivated by different things and at different points in our lives. The same task can have more intrinsic motivators at certain times and more extrinsic motivators at others. And most tasks have a combination of the two. But sometimes, some of us have:

Little or no motivation

Little or no motivation - what can we do to combat depression?
Little or no motivation, a typical case of depression — Photo by mikoto

My previous post ended quite abruptly because my energy and motivation were flagging, due to ill-health. And I’m pretty sure you’ve all had this happen on occasion? In fact, I think most people have.

Imagine J. K. Rowling thinking one day, “I can’t be bothered telling or writing stories anymore. It’s too much like hard work.” or

Holly Willoughby wakes up one morning, thinking, “nope, I’m not doing this, I just don’t feel like doing anything today.

At some point, most people will have had thoughts like this. The truth is, we all goes through periods where we have no motivation to do anything. We’ve all struggled to stay motivated when working towards a goal. It’s human nature. In fact, some days we have such a downer that even thinking about making positive changes feels impossible.

So, what can we do about this little or no motivation?

Little steps towards improving motivation
Little steps towards motivation — Photo from

Let’s start off with, it’s not hopeless! We can start our journey down the road to improved motivation — with some small steps.

When shopping, have you seen huge displays of vitamins, herbs, and other supplements like purple dandelion touted as energy boosters? They’re even added to teas, soft drinks and many other foods. However, there’s not much evidence that energy boosters like chamomile, turmeric ginseng, or crushed owls eyes actually work. Fortunately, we have ways to enhance our own natural energy levels and improve our motivation.

Okay, I know you don’t feel like doing anything some days, and you’re not alone. I’ve been there, and in fact I still get stuck in that downward spiral now and again. But I’ve learned some small steps to help me crawl out of that downer, and that’s what we’ll look at in this post.

We all have downers or lows in terms of energy and motivation. We can be stuck and overwhelmed from time to time, which can reduce motivation. It’s at times like this when we need to find that motivation within ourselves. The next time you feel exhausted and unmotivated, try one or several of the following suggestions to get motivated again.

Suggestions for how to improve your motivation

Practice improving your motivation - Yoga produces endorphins, which help in keeping you motivated
Practice improving your motivation — Photo by Elly Fairytale

So how can you practice improving your motivation? By doing just that – practicing. I’ve probably bored the pants off you when I say practice, but trust me, that’s what’s needed. Think of motivation as being a muscle, and that you have to keep practicing to strengthen it.

Some of you reading this have, like me, a mental illness which further reduces our energy and motivation to do anything. I get that and can empathise with you, but we all need to start somewhere. Why not here, and now?

We learned in previous posts that action comes first, and motivation comes after. So you……

Want to improve your motivation? Just get started!

Reach for the sky and stay positive to prevent mental illness.
Being positive makes it easier to stay motivated — Photo by Andre Furtado

Take action. Move. Do something. Get up out of your chair, if you’re physically able. Now, standing, raise your arms and hands up above over your head, as though reaching for the sky. Go on. You need to practice all this, so that when you really need it, you can use it in an instant. Hands up, and stretch……..

Life Hack suggest “letting loose all the body parts, allowing a non-disrupted flow of energy throughout it. This will make the blood flow better, especially coming to your head which needs to focus on demanding cognitive tasks. So stand up from your chair and stretch yourself out because it will make you more energized.” You can also try some simple stretches at work, in college or uni and even in your local park.

After a few minutes of reaching up and stretching, relax. Put your arms down by your sides and as you do so, relax some more. Make sure your shoulders drop down from your ears, unclench your teeth and your jaw, and uncurl your fingers. Relax. And breathe.

I mentioned in my last post that I’d used this technique and followed through with helping to clean my flat. That motivated me further to think about other odd jobs I can tackle. So, the action certainly motivated me.

Control your stress

Take time to relax and prevent anxiety- and panic attacks
Stop! And breathe. Do away with anxiety! — Photo by Criativithy

We all know that stress-induced emotions consume massive amounts of our energy and reduce our motivation. So, know your limits as to how much stress you can realistically take on.

Talking to family, close friends, or perhaps a counsellor can all help reduce stress and get your mojo back. Relationships play a major part in our lives and are the main source of our happiness. So, one of the best energy boosters is actually meeting up and just having a good time. In the meantime, when you start to feel stressed, stop!

Take a moment, and breathe. I mean really breathe. First, exhale through your mouth, in little puffs – out until you feel you can’t do it anymore. Second, inhale slowly and deeply, in through your nose until your lungs are filled with air. Out again through your mouth, little puffs, slowly. In through your nose. When you’ve done this three times, you can stop, and relax.

Remember that your body cannot be both relaxed and stressed at the same time

You might also want to try other natural stress relievers like mindfulness, hypnosis, yoga, acupuncture, massage, aromatherapy, relaxation and visualisation. There’s heaps of evidence proving that these techniques help reduce stress and can promote improved motivation. So don’t dismiss them until you’ve tried them.

Taking at least twenty minutes out of your day to stroll or sit in a place that makes you feel in contact with nature will significantly lower your stress hormone levels. That’s the finding of a study that has established for the first time the most effective dose of an urban nature experience. Healthcare practitioners can use this discovery, published in Frontiers in Psychology, to prescribe ‘nature-pills’ in the knowledge that they have a real measurable effect, Neuroscience News, 2019.

Lighten your load

It's harder to be motivated if you are working under stress.
Lighten your load, avoid stress factors — Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile

Overwork is one reason for fatigue i.e. at work or at home, or because of our ever-increasing social commitments. However, you can also be fatigued due to depression or other mental illnesses. Try streamlining your list of ‘have- to-do’ activities. List your priorities in terms of the essential tasks first. Cut back on those that are less important. You might want to try asking people for help, at home, at work or in your role as fundraiser at the kids’ school.

Start by saying “No!” to people who regularly ask favours — you don’t have to tell them why or that you’re too stressed out and overloaded. Say calmly and firmly “No!” and if you must elaborate, try saying “No, not today.” And. Smile. Then don’t suddenly change your mind, like “Oh! Okay, go on then,” even if they persist.

You might also find one of my previous articles Strategies to relieve your stress helpful.

Stay in the moment

A recent study by Harvard students suggests that living in the moment significantly reduces mental illness
Stay in the moment — Photo by Samuel Silitonga

Whenever we’re doing something, we’re always thinking about the next thing we’ve got to do. So we’re constantly chasing things in the future, which is never quite here, in the moment. For example:

You’re working on a project at work at the moment, but you can’t stop thinking about the meeting you’ve got in an hour. When you get to the meeting, you’re thinking about picking the kids up and what’s for dinner. During dinner you’re thinking about the call you have to make to mum before you go to bed.

When you finally get into bed, you’re thinking about (nope, not that) putting a wash on before breakfast. On you go, in this never-ending cycle until you’re dizzy, you’re exhausted, out of energy and motivation to do anything. Sound familiar?

Stop! Stay in the moment and enjoy now! We can all try to plan for the future, but I’ve yet to meet someone who can see into the future. So, stop wasting time thinking and worrying about things that might never happen. Living in the moment not only brings energy but saves the energy you’d waste thinking and worrying about everything you’ve got to do next.

Mindfulness is an effective tool you can use to stay, and live in the moment.

I’ve read that the best way to increase motivation is to power up our self-motivation. That’s what we’ll look at in my next post, and I’ll let you have some tried and tested strategies that might help you.

Over to you

What do you think?
Over to you

Have you tried any of the above ways to improve your motivation? Or, will you give them a go? I look forward to receiving your feedback, any constructive criticism, or your comments and any questions. In the meantime, keep practicing 😉


Why is motivation important

Is motivation important in everyday life?

Motivation is important in life
Motivation is important — Image by Clique Images @ unsplash

Of course motivation is important, and in almost every aspect of human behavior too. Why? Without it, we’d do nothing; not work, have no hobbies, and no meeting up with family or friends.

Do you wish you were more motivated sometimes? I think we all do. There are times like weekends when you just want to chill out in your pj’s, and that’s okay. But on other days, we need the motivation to go to the gym, walk the dogs or go to work.

In my previous post Is self-confidence important, the words motivation and action were mentioned briefly. We found out that if there’s no action, there’s no motivation. We also learned that action comes before, and motivation comes after, and with that, comes more motivation. In this post we’ll explore why it’s important.

So what is it?

Motivation causes you to act. adult blur books close up
Motivation causes you to act i.e. to study — Photo by Pixabay on

Motivation is the process that guides, initiates, and maintains goal-oriented behaviors.

It is what causes you to act, whether it is getting a glass of water to reduce thirst or reading a book to gain knowledge.

It involves the biological, emotional, social, and cognitive forces that activate behavior.”

Very Well Mind

Why it’s important

woman wearing grey long sleeved top photography
Motivation is the desire to do things -Photo by Artem Beliaikin

Motivation is a starting point for all our choices such as partners, careers, or hobbies. It’s the reason for people’s actions, desires and needs, it makes people ready to act. It’s the force that pushes us on to develop, to change, improve and to achieve. 

Psychology Today said “Motivation is literally the desire to do things. It’s the difference between waking up before dawn to pound the pavement and lazing around the house all day. It’s the crucial element in setting and attaining goals.”

In school or uni, if we’re motivated we learn better and remember more of what we learned. At work, we’re more likely to complete tasks on time, and in the gym, we’re more able to push ourselves that little bit further.

You can read about the 9 or 11 types of motivation, but broadly speaking, there are two main types:

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation - woman wearing black sports bra and jogger shorts smiling
Intrinsic motivation — Photo by nappy on
  • is engaging in an activity for its own sake. You enjoy the activity because it’s fun or challenging, not because you’ll get a reward or avoid punishment.
  • where people are generally motivated by a desire to satisfy human needs and comes from within. It’s driven by a personal interest or enjoyment in the task itself, be that at work, in college or in sport. For example, you love tennis and you want to get better at it. You don’t want to compete in the next Olympics, you just want to play, and be better. You’d also love to wipe that smile of your big-headed pal’s face.
  • might come from a person’s own self-confidence and discipline, a desire to please their boss or do well for their company or the desire to achieve certain professional or personal goals.
  • results in growth, i.e. growth due to challenges you’ve overcome or are experiencing. This might come after a divorce or separation and mental or physical illness.
  • is clearly visible in young infants, that consistently try to grasp, throw, bite, squash or shout at new objects they encounter. Even if less important as they grow, human adults are still often intrinsically motivated while they play crosswords, make paintings, do gardening or just read novels or watch movies, according to Ryan and Deci (2000) 

Yet, to get a clearer picture of intrinsic motivation, one needs to understand that it has been defined by contrast to:

Extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation such as money, silver and gold coins
Extrinsic motivation such as money — Photo by Pixabay on
  • refers to behavior that is driven by external rewards such as praise, money, fame, or grades. This type of motivation arises from outside the individual.
  • can be driven by psychological or tangible rewards. The psychological rewards like praise, positive feelings or lack of criticism can sometimes come from within. However, they’re a type of motivating reward that is external to the actual process of participating in the event. The tangible rewards like new toys, a bonus at work or extra pocket money are simply always external.
  • refers to doing something not because you enjoy it, but because you want to earn a reward or avoid punishment.
  • where you don’t want to do something, but you must do it, i.e. take various medications each day. It feels more out of necessity rather than an activity that will bring you enjoyment or fulfilment.

Do you look forward to your daily workout because you have a bet with your best friend about who can lose the most weight? Then you’re extrinsically motivated — in this situation, at least. We’re never just intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. We can be either or, in different situations.

So now we know that motivation is important, what it is, and the two main types. In my next post we’ll explore little or no motivation, and what to do about it. In the meantime:

Over to you

While I felt motivated to complete this topic in one post, I honestly don’t have the energy. When researching this article, I saw several google suggestions as to How to motivate yourself when you’re tired, fatigued or just plain exhausted! I haven’t read these Bullsh*t claims yet but once I do, I’ll let you have my opinion. I might just have to eat my words 😉 As always, I’m happy to read any comments, receive constructive criticism and answer any questions.


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