On Listening

Truth Byte #27

“No one is listening to you.” 

You keep talking and talking.  And no one seems to hearing a word you say.

Sound familiar?

I have this experience when we are running late for something.  I tell them and tell them that we are late, but my kids just don’t seem to hear me!  And neither do their grandparents.  For different reasons, I think.  Little ones are often in a land of their own, where time stretches and shrinks depending on if they are having fun or not.  The grandparents? Well, I think they are tired of giving a shit!

We are all talking, all the time, and no one really seems to be listening at all.  Or if we are listening, it’s mostly to be polite until there is a pause so we can interject our own witty additions and observations to the conversation.

There is one place I have found that I am really, deeply, truly listened to, and it’s a space that I don’t visit often enough:

On a couch or a phone talking to one of my two “shy” friends. 

I have known both of them for decades, and when I speak to them, they actually listen.

Deeply.  Thoughtfully.

They let me blabber a mile a minute and flit for this idea to that topic, finding the thread and keeping me grounded.  They have a warm, amused look as I talk, and they don’t interrupt.  And when they do speak, it’s insightful, connected, and rich.

I think these days we are supposed to call people like them “introverted”.

I call them steady, grounded, deep. 

These women know themselves, and they are incredibly perceptive about others.  Unlike me, though, their faces don’t give it away, and they don’t need everyone to know about or agree with their opinions.

One of my two friends, a recruiter who works at an incredible company in Alberta, was featured on Susan Cain’s blog, the Quiet Revolution. The other is a psychiatrist who deeply cares about the human spirit and is doing a fellowship on the East Coast.  What these women have taught me is that I need to listen.

Deeply.  Fully.  Without interrupting.

Which is bloody hard for an extrovert.

And yet, that’s my job.  I listen to people every single day.  Even on weekends.

For hours at a time, I listen, not only to their words, but to their bodies, their eyes, their pain.  I listen to how they speak about themselves, and how they speak about the world.  I listen for their strengths, their dreams, the untapped gifts that they have yet to discover.  Sometimes I hear things they don’t want me to hear. 

Sometimes I know things they didn’t even know themselves. 

So in my greatest challenge I have also found an unexpected treasure: the capacity to really listen to someone, to really hear what it is that they are trying to say.

Many times in my work and personal life, I have asked someone the “suicide intervention question” (which is basically, “Are you thinking about ending your life?”) and usually, they are shocked that I knew.  Usually, they are relieved that someone heard through the story to the heart of the matter.  Usually, they are grateful that their secret was “heard” without them having to use the words.  Usually, they get the help they need once they find their way out of that devastating silence.

Today, I challenge you to really listen.  Someone in your world is likely trying to tell you something.  They may be telling you directly, or they may be telling you by cutting you off and pushing you away.  They may be reaching out for help, in the clumsiest way, or they may be telling you something about yourself that you have blinders on about.


You will be surprised at what you hear.

Do you want to feel heard? Do you want to become better at listening? Join us in the Fall for a transformational workshop that will help you understand what people are really talking about, underneath all the noise. Sign up today!

Are you ready for closure?

Truth Byte #26

“The end is coming and you aren’t ready.”

The end is coming.


But we don’t really like endings. 

I remember being ten years old and getting hooked on a novel series called Sweet Valley High.  Every book stood alone, and the characters were consistent and predictable.

They didn’t really evolve much. 

Each book was about something fascinating happening in the lives of these twin sisters who were nothing alike.  I remember that sinking feeling every time I was close to the final chapter and then the final page of a book.  I just didn’t want it to end.  And lucky for me, it didn’t really have to end because the very next Friday, the Book Mobile (a kid’s library crammed inside an old white van with a sweet faced old lady sitting in the driver’s seat) would be back across the street from my elementary school and I could stock up on another batch of adventures.

Life is kind of like that.

We have these mis-steps and pitfalls and successes and triumphs, and there is a part of us that doesn’t really want to face the end of anything.  Or when we do face the end, it is often framed in terms of beginning of something new.

The end of high school? That’s okay, it’s the beginning of young adult life.

The end of single life? That’s okay, it’s the beginning of a committed relationship.

The end of a committed relationship? That’s okay, it’s the beginning of finding yourself again.

The end of being a “needed” parent, having a job, your youth, living in a particular home, that’s okay, it’s just the beginning of something else.  And you can see how we spin the endings so we don’t have to feel the loss.

But when we don’t take time to really end, we leave a lot unfinished.

So here’s how you can start to actually honour the endings in your life, instead of rushing on to the next beginning.

  1. Reflect back.

Leonie Dawson has this incredible series of workbooks.  She leads you through planning out the year (pre-orders start July 20-27 in case you want one for really crazy cheap!) and the thing she does that I haven’t seen anywhere else is she forces her people to reflect on the end of the last year or last month or last week.  What went well? What didn’t? What did you love and learn? What should you probably never do again? When we take the time to reflect back at the end of a period of time, we can actually start to evolve.  That way, we are not the same people in book 15 as we were in book 2 of our lives.  Looking back helps you to actually learn and grow.

  1. Commit to completion

When we don’ acknowledge the end, we are left feeling frazzled and it’s hard to really start the next phase with that solid feeling.  We just jump to the next thing.  This used to happen a lot with a particular friend of mine and music.  We would get in the car and she would tell me about this great song she wanted me to hear.  We would listen to the first minute or two of the song, and then she would pop over to another song.  This would go on for an entire 45 minute car ride.  I always left those drives feeling unsatisfied…I never got to complete any song and I had a bunch of catchy opening bars in my head for the rest of the day, but couldn’t really decide if I like those songs or not because I hadn’t really heard them.

When you commit to completion, you take the project, idea, relationship, etc. right to the end point, and then thoughtfully let it go.  You don’t walk away in the middle.

  1. No regrets.

Easy to say, tough to do.  When you actually admit to yourself that something in your life is ending, and take some time to feel the mixed bag that comes with closure, there isn’t really room for regret.  Regret is when we wish we said or did something different.  When my cousin died beside me at age 22 in a car accident, I had no regrets.  Because I knew she knew how much I loved her…I told her several times each day, and especially on that evening when she was so bursting over with life and laughter.  I knew she knew how much I respected her.  I knew she knew what an impact she had on my life.  And so I didn’t have that feeling of “I wish I had told her….” that I have experienced with the death of other family members and friends in my life who died slowly from illness.  When we have the luxury of seeing the ending is on it’s way, this is a chance to be brave and go through the grief as it comes.  Not feeling might make you sick, and regret is a smelly monkey to have hanging on your back.

  1. Don’t do it alone.

It is tempting to isolate yourself when you are going through an ending.  And it’s true, no one can do it for you.  But remember that we are social creatures.  When tragedy strikes, we have a natural impulse to come together.  Whether it’s something intense or something minor, reaching out to people you trust will help you come to closure more quickly.  It’s a reminder that even though this part of your life is over, there are people that will love to through the transition and into the next phase.

Are you ready for closure? 

Then don’t just nod your head, do something about it.

The next Path of Leadership workshop in Calgary is on Guilt and Regret and in Vancouver it’s Relationships.  What usually takes three to four months of weekly counselling, people can resolve in one day at these workshops, and how it happens is absolutely fascinating for those of us who have an interest in people and human psychology.  If you are ready to close the old stories of your life and start writing some new ones, please join us.  There are a few more days to get the special discounted price, and if you are ready for a quick and lasting change and an unforgettable experience, sign up today.

Before Your Sweetness Turns Sour…

Truth Byte #25

“Claim your beauty before it’s too late.”

In the animal kingdom, males are granted with special features to attract the females of their species.  In the human kingdom, it seems these roles are reversed.  Many women in cultures all over the world spend hundreds of hours and dollars a year engaging in a variety of beauty rituals from hair removal to exfoliation to make-up application to shopping sprees to gym memberships to low-fat cooking lessons, all in pursuit of a certain physical size and style.  As I enter this world of beauty almost two decades after my contemporaries, I am seeing there is a lot to learn, but also a lot of mis-truth out there about beauty.

So today, I am taking the veil off beauty.

Beauty is much more simple than I used to think.  I used to think that one had to have a specific bone structure and waist size, a certain hair colour and style, a certain skin glow and eye shape to be considered beautiful.

Today I know that this is all bullshit.

The more I work with normal, everyday people, the more I learn about beauty.  There are five myths about beauty that I want to expose right now so you can get back to claiming your own beauty.

  1. “They” know what is beautiful, and they are showing us.
    • Hollywood, Bollywood, that glossy magazine and that tella novella or soap opera director do NOT know what true beauty is.  They can show us what is appealing to the eye, but you have to know that the faces and bodies you see on the screen have been wrung through the filters of video-editing technology and hair-and-makeup, and so what you see is a perfectly lit, perfectly angled, flawless shell.  They have given us lots of cultural stereotypes to undo (ahem: gentlemen prefer blondes) and contribute to all sorts of body-doubt.  Trust that YOU know what is beautiful, and work with what your mama gave you.
  1. Beauty is only skin deep.
    • There are physically attractive men and women who are also lovely people.  This myth was created by people who felt ugly, and needed to demonize the beautiful folk.  A truly beautiful person shines, and a bitter person, no matter how physically attractive they may be, does not.  Those sparkling, hopeful eyes and that ear to ear smile of a two-year old gets you every time, right?  That’s because it’s not about their physical shape or what they are wearing, but the joy that is bursting through.  Get in touch with that spark, and your beauty will burst forth too.  Suddenly you will notice that people find you irresistible.
  1. You are either born beautiful or not.
    • We are born with certain physical features, sure, but how our face and body develop over time has a link to the thoughts we have about ourselves and the worldLouise Hay has been writing about this connection since the 1970’s, and through her books and lectures has shown how powerfully and directly thoughts and beliefs impact physical well-being.  The ugly thoughts turn into disruption and dis-ease, while positive thoughts (which she calls “affirmations”) help our bodies remain healthy and shining.  No matter what you were born with, the kind of “vibe” you bring is more powerful and palatable than your six pack or perfect contours.
  1. Slimmer/lighter/(insert comparative word here) is better.
    • When we think about physical beauty, we have to be honest with ourselves that concepts about beauty do not exist in a vacuum. There are historical forces that shape our beliefs about what we consider beautiful.  For example, in places that were colonized by Britain and other Western European countries, the “white is right” perspective penetrated the local psyche deeply.  Generations after independence was won back by nations, lightness of skin is still considered a marker of beauty.  For people growing up in these contexts, we must challenge the socially accepted norms of beauty.  Why is slimmer better? Why is lighter skin more desirable?  Why do we have phrases like “good hair”?  The changes start from the inside, by being able to look in the mirror or look into the world and see beauty in all shapes and colours.
  1. Beautiful people have an easier life.
    • It is easy to look at someone who seems to “have it all” and judge him or her. But beautiful people have problems too.  Research has shown that physically attractive people are believed more often, are given more leadership opportunities, and get away with more bad behaviour, but I know from working with some very incredibly physically beautiful people that just because one is pretty or handsome, does not mean his or her life is without issues. When we don’t have something for ourselves, we tend to judge it in others in order to cope.  But here’s the rub: beautiful people need friends too.  So be that friend and stop assuming their perfect hair or chiseled chin means they have it all.  And this will likely help your own beauty shine through.

I meet beautiful people all the time.  Some of them are old friends that have found their life-rhythm and are just glowing, while others I just see passing by, sharing that “life is good” feeling through a smile or nod.  I see beauty all around me in the clouds and the trees and the rivers in my own neighbourhood.  And more and more, I am claiming the beauty within me, and letting it shine through.  You can join me on this journey, if you are willing to see though our collective veils and notice beauty in the most unexpected places, including the mirror.

Do it now, before you your sweetness turn into plain old sour.

Want to truly uncover your beauty? Join me for a life-shifting workshop coming up in the Fall.  Early bird deadline is coming up, so book now to get a deal! Watch my talk-show on the topic of being smokin’ hot for more practical tips on claiming your beauty.

If I Can Fall, So Can You

Truth Byte #24

“It’s time to fall off the pedestal.” 

For years, my friends and family had me on a pedestal.  I was the straight A student that was destined for great things, that shining star that made people smile and made people proud.  I was the eldest daughter of a single mom, and I was wise beyond my years.  The pedestal they had me on was a tall one.

So when I fell off, it was a steep drop.

It happened slowly at first, people feeling let down when I would say no to them, or passing judgment on how I chose to spend my time and with whom, who I dated, how short I cut my hair, who I chose as a business partner.  And slowly it became more and more obvious.  No longer was I the family go-to person when something went wrong.  These days, when there is a crisis or even a celebration in my extended family, I am often the last one in the loop.  My friends, the ones who would routinely come to me for support, felt I left them behind as I moved into “the happy life”, and felt hurt and betrayed that I couldn’t be there for them the way I always had before.

Over the years, this has been hard on me, because so much of my identity was wrapped up in being liked, being nice, and being the family favourite.  People would fly in from around the country to celebrate my achievements with me.  Once I ran out of milestones (graduation, next graduation, next graduation, final graduation, engagement, wedding, birth of babies) I also ran out of reasons for people to rally around me.

And so falling off the pedestal came as a huge shock to my self-esteem.

When you have spent your life having people look up to you, it can be terrifying to be the one everybody is mad at, or even worse, just an after-thought in the minds of those you love the most.

And yet, it was in the fall that I found myself.

For a while, I grasped for those heights.  I hosted dinner parties and planned surprises for people.  I went out of my way to be a good friend, a good sister, a good daughter/niece/grand-daughter.  But eventually I saw how those were just empty roles, and the people whose approval I craved had already made up their minds about me.

And it hurt.  And sometimes it still hurts.

But I would not trade in who I found at the bottom of that pedestal. 

The person I found has grit.  She is happy to be alone, and also a great companion if you let her in to your heart.  She is strong and capable, and yet knows how to ask for and accept help.  She has scars from her past, but they do not define her.  Most important of all, she knows she is enough.  Good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, kind enough.  Just plain enough. And she knows, deep in her most secret heart, that she is actually not better than anyone.

Which makes her great at helping people who are in pain.

I share this private part of my life today in the hopes that all the golden children out there, the ones who have been put on a pedestal, can see that the fall can have it’s perks.  We spend so long trying not to fall that we move farther and farther away from who we truly are, and that is a much bigger tragedy than letting a few people down.

If you are ready to fall off the pedestal, here are my six truths to get you through it:

  1. Know that you will lose people.
    • There are those who will drift out of your life once you stop making it all about them. Let them go gracefully and with gratitude for what they are teaching you about setting boundaries.
  1. Know that it will be uncomfortable.
    • Golden children are used to believing they cannot fail. When you start to falter in the roles you have mastered, it will feel weird.  Fall anyway.
  1. Know that you are not alone.
    • Your social support system may have dwindled, but know that you are making space for people who love you for you, not what you can do for them. Meaningful, quality relationships are more important than being popular.  The right people will turn up as you keep doing you.
  1. Know that you are stronger than you have been made to think.
    • People on the pedestal are often coddled by those who want to keep them there. You have been protected from feeling bad about yourself.  It is useful for you to be honest with yourself about your personal shortcomings, and use them as motivation to be a better version of yourself.
  1. Know that your reference point is changing.
    • Rather than relying on external validation, you will now have to cultivate your inner compass. Rather then wondering “what would ______ think about this decision?”, the question now needs to be “what is my most courageous next step?”  You have to own your life, and be willing to take accountability for your decisions.
  1. Know that some people just won’t like you, plain and simple.
    • Once you start living from the ground, like everybody else, you no longer have that celebrity glow. There are some people that will be really pissed off that you are not perfect, and that you are not living up to their expectations of you.  As a wise leader once said, their opinions of you are none of your business.  You will have to come to terms with being “not liked”.  After all, you can’t be everybody’s flavour!

Each time you take yourself off the pedestal (or are kicked off it through life experiences), you evolve into a more real, more whole version of yourself.  And if you have a habit of putting others on a pedestal, know that it’s just a matter of time until they fall, which is painful for everyone.  Today is a chance to embody equality, and evolve into that person who can connect with all kinds of people, while refusing to play the comparison game in your own head and with other people.

For a real-life experience of living from the ground, join us in the Fall as we explore what it means to be emotionally component and psychologically supported.  These workshops change people’s lives, so if you are ready to fall off the pedestal or you know someone who needs a quick yet lasting shift, connect with Dr. Saira at www.talktosaira.com.