Today’s episode is the last in this first series. We’ve looked at eight different lives, all challenging in their own way, to the individuals themselves, but also to the people that they encounter.
And now you’ve heard some of these stories, I wanted to conclude the series with giving you something practical, a ‘how to’.
How do we deal with these unexpected moments? How do we be present with someone when they tell us something that we don’t know what to do with?
I’ve brought back Mandy Preece, author and creator of Being Rock, the award-winning communications training. Being Rock is a superb method of listening which gives us the tools to manage the moment when we don’t know how to react to what we’ve just heard.
This is a powerful end to this first series as Mandy shares very real and practical techniques that will enable you to be present with people in ways that you never imagined.
In This Episode
- How we listen incorrectly
- Why unexpected listening changes everything
- Noticing the elephant in the room and using it
- Why ‘but’ is the word you need to listen to
- What to do when someone rants at you
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Music by Grant McLachlan
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American Psychologist Association – Psychologist Finder
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You're listening to Drawn to Deeper Story. I'm Cath Brew from drawntoastory.com. I'm an artist who illustrates and educates about marginalized experiences for positive change, with a particular interest in identity, belonging and expat life. This podcast is about live challenge us and the difficult conversations around them.
It's a place to listen openly, to absorb people's truths and to learn how to show up differently for the benefit of everyone. And that's you included. Today's episode is the last in this first series. Don't worry, we'll be back early next year, but today is the last in the series. And if you've been listening all the way through, you will know that we've looked at eight different lives that are all challenging in their own ways, to the individuals themselves, but also to the people that they encounter.
That unexpected moment when they're on the receiving end of people's shitty banal, unfunny, or awkward reactions. And actually I have to correct myself, I say unexpected, but it's only unexpected to the other person. The person on the receiving end is often unfortunately used to hearing these kinds of comments, hence actually the whole reason for this podcast, to try and create a sense of, uh, a bridge or a sense of cohesion and unity for people.
And so now you've heard some of these stories. I wanted to conclude the series with something more practical. A how to, how do we deal with these unexpected moments? How do we be present with someone when they tell us something that we don't know what to do with. How do we respond when we don't know how to react?
I know, you know, all of these scenarios, and I know, you know, because I know them too, those unfortunate moments when you just want to style it out, but you end up firmly with your foot in your mouth, wishing the ground would envelop you, or that you could press the undo button. And [00:02:00] so I've brought back Mandy Preece who spoke to us about her awful experiences with menopause.
Many Preece is founder of an award-winning communications training called Being Rock. Her work is astonishing listening to people at the end of life, shaped her understanding of what it means to listen, to actually listen so that people feel heard. And she delivers training to all sorts of organizations, including the NHS, which for expats who don't know is the National Health Service here in the UK, to colleges, to schools, charities, and also within the community.
And she was also fantastically the NHS unsung hero volunteer of the year in 2019. And her book Being Rock was published in 2020. So with out further ado, welcome Mandy to Drawn to a Deeper Story.
Mandy: Thank you so much. It's lovely to be back.
Cath: I'm grateful to have you back and feel really privileged to be able to present a practical thing, cause I know hearing all these stories one thing and it's wonderful to start to realize that there's all these other types of lives out there, but it's like, what do we do? What do we do in those moments? So it's wonderful to have you. So how I'm going to go straight in, how is being rock different to any other kind of listening?
Mandy: It came from experience Cath. If I perhaps give you the scenario of how it came about. So I was volunteering as an end-of-life companion in a hospice. I was going around asking people if they wanted, my company and what was happening is we were going from chitchat and me, sort of cleaning tabletops and finding TV, remotes, and that sort of thing, to suddenly them dropping something quite significant into the conversation. Sometimes very, very huge things, huge things, a bit like some of your podcasts and, would always catch me completely unawares and I actually think sometimes completely unaware that's for them as
well. It was like, they just suddenly were so full of needing to talk. It would just suddenly come out
Cath: Surprising themselves.
Mandy: Exactly. And what was happening is I was responding to that, with active listening. So I was making sure I was making eye contact. I was becoming aware of my body language. I was thinking forward and it wasn't really working. And, um, after many nights of sorts of sitting in my car, after my shifts, banging my head against the steering wheel, I decided to let the people I sat with and the families I was sitting with, teach me what it means to be alongside someone in difficult situations.
As a non-professional, I think this is really important. You know, I'm not, in the realm of expected listening. I'm not turning up at the bedside and they're expecting me to make something okay or to talk to them one-to-one and we know that that's arranged and I have a role. It was completely unexpected listening.
So therefore, the listening had to be completely different. Actually, the listening is, what we probably would call community listening. We do it every day. The problem is we do it every day, but we don't always get it right and the more challenging some of these problems are, the less likely to get it right.
Cath: Is that because we get in the way of it ourselves?
Mandy: Exactly. Hugely because we get in the way. Can I just say this is really important for the podcast is I was making all those mistakes. I'm not coming on here and saying, I'm doing it all perfectly. I'm coming on, saying I too have failed many times and through that failure, I realized that we do need to get ourselves out of the way and therefore how to do that and why we need to do that. Why it works, if we can get ourselves out of the way.
Cath: So when you were talking to these people, you commented that you realized you were doing it wrongly, it wasn't working. How did you know it wasn't working? What were the cues that made you realize that it wasn't working?
Um, so they'd start to disengage, or they'd look down or they'd look away or they do like fake yawning, or they'd look cross.
Cath: And if they're in a bed, they can't go away, they can't get anywhere.
Mandy: I always say that you have to be considerate to someone in a bed because they probably can't hit you and they can't run away. So they're very good teachers. I think, you know, when somebody drops something huge into the conversation and then your response is not appropriate, but two things will happen. That person will either get cross or they will withdraw from you and that was happening. So a big part of Being Rock became, if somebody is telling you something don't change what you're doing or how you appear in that moment. Stay authentically you in that authentic moment. If that makes sense.
Cath: Is that because they've felt they're able to share and they've shared, so actually whatever you've been doing has been working.
Mandy: Normally what you're doing is you're not putting too much pressure on them. And that's what I realized with active listening. If they're not expecting you to be a listener for them, then if you suddenly turn and really do all the active listening, suddenly you've shifted the expectations around that scenario and they can feel super vulnerable and then they'll withdraw because suddenly you're not being authentic in the moment you're being a listener. You're doing listening and Being Rock isn't about doing listening, Being Rock is about being alongside someone so they feel heard and how we enable that, is by offering our presence and getting ourselves out of the way.
Cath: So is that how you would sum up Being Rock in a nutshell, so to speak of being outside and getting yourself out of the way?
Mandy: Yes, and also, You know, rocks aren't perfect. I'm not saying, you know Be Pebble
Mandy: [00:08:00] Rocks aren't perfect but that you've been worn by life, you know, and the reason that person is sharing with you is they see you as somebody who's safe, even, you know, strangers sometimes share with us on a train or something, but they've already read your body language as you look safe, safe enough to share.
And, I find that really, really intriguing. So, you know, they seeing you as someone they can bash and crash against and trust that you'll hold it for them. But that's why we use the analogy of Rock. We don't need to be perfect. We just need to show up.
Cath: Yeah. And that sense of safety is going to be different for every different person. So, so for me, I would imagine that once you understand Being Rock in more detail, then you can make safe spaces for more people than you might otherwise naturally.
Mandy: Yes or find a way to in the way that you then learn how to be alongside or respond. Then at the very least, even if they don't then further open up to you, hopefully they'll go away feeling heard.
They'll say that person heard me. I know they heard me or they may even feel that unconsciously.
Cath: That thing of you talking about opening up is when we get in the way we want them to open up when actually that's about us, not about their need, isn't it? So often we want to show that we understand and so we end up telling our own story. Yeah. And that's us getting in the way and actually probably makes them then feel further away.
Mandy: Exactly. And you know, the whole thing about being heard, is in order to hear someone, they have to know that you're not going to over-talk them and I had to get rid of the word in my head about being helpful. You know, I wasn't there to help. I was there to support and if supporting someone was, you know, finding their TV remote then that was my role and if supporting someone well, they told, uh, really important, life story or shared something traumatic, my job was just
Mandy: [00:10:00] to be there with them so they felt witnessed.
Cath: Yeah. That fascinates me because often we say, can I help you or I want to be a help and it's such a loaded word because it comes with all our own expectations. What we think that means when actually it's not what that person actually needs in that moment. It's like they may have, uh, kitchen that's absolute state of mess and our need is that'll help them, but actually all they need to do is for you to sit in a corner and sit next to them and actually just be with them. And that, I think that's what fascinates me about Being Rock is getting ourselves out of the picture, I think is one of the hardest things.
Mandy: So always being led by the person, not the other way. You know, we do live in a fix-it society, you know, and if you just listened to your pocket, Um, you can't fix what those people have been through. The only thing you can do is support them as they find a way through.
Cath: Yeah. I think it's also about us as the listener learning to sit in the discomfort of ourselves, of being present with that person. So we don't end up in a toxic positivity where someone's potentially lying in bed and only has weeks to live and we're telling them it will all be, okay. It's like the brain doesn't engage. We're just this desperate need to try and fill the space and actually sometimes not filling it and just listening is absolutely the far better thing to do to remove us, get used to discomfort, sitting in discomfort and being there for someone else.
Mandy: That's why end of life was such a good teaching platform for me, you know, six years of hundreds of people I've sat with and they were, all of them were my teachers. They either taught me something about how to be alongside someone or they taught me something about myself.
It was, it was the biggest teaching. If that doesn't work, what you just said then does not work, you know?
Yeah, exactly. It reminds me of, I think I've told you this story before, but the Reverend Richard Coles tells the story of sitting with a man at end of life and saying prayers and talking deeply with him and he motioned for him to come down to him and put his head down thinking it was gonna be some profound moment and the man said, would you shut the fuck up? And he had the grace to tell that story and to laugh about it and it was a very, very good example of sometimes just get yourself out of it and be there.
Mandy: Absolutely. I think it's important to say to your listeners as well, that although Being Rock came from end-of-life, it's definitely for all types of life. You know, I use it a lot with, with my son. I use it a lot in my friends and family relationships, because it works for all of us. All of us are desperate to be heard. Never have we lived through a time where we all need to be heard more than now. And if somebody responds in a way that, let's give an example, if you say something like, uh, I had COVID and I was poorly for three weeks and they say, well, at least you weren't poorly for four.
Cath: You want to smack me in the head?
Mandy: Indeed. So one of the things I've been practicing still practicing, is to remove the words 'at least' from my vocabulary. It's so damaging.
Cath: It just completely devalues what that person said. Isn't it?
Mandy: Yeah. So that's a very good example of what I call our default programming. So all of us will have these default programs of how to respond to a tricky situation. And you know, that you've been defaulted by somebody because they'll come out with it really quickly. There's no thought process behind it literally is an automatic running, an automatic program. And the thing about that is once you realize that you can be much kinder to people who've just defaulted you, but also much kinder to yourself when you do it because you realise oh, there's the
programming and it's the programming that you have to get over. Some of our defaults might be humour. Some of them might be, buck up um, cheer up, fix it. I have a huge fix it gremlin on my shoulder. Um, you know, whatever they are, I'm not saying they're wrong necessarily in themselves. What I would say is we have to be in control of them and them not in control of us, because sometimes they will come out very inappropriately and we don't mean to be cruel, but they can be hurtful.
Cath: And I think it's also about people that they think they're alongside you because it's like, oh yes, I I've heard you and now I'm adding some extra information when they don't realize that it actually is taking away. Even at the moment with everything with COVID that I know I'm struggling at the moment. I've just had enough and if everyone's oh, yes, but everyone's struggling. It's like, yeah, but they are. But I don't feel heard in that moment.
Mandy: And that's the thing. It's about being in that moment with that person. And enabling them to feel heard. That's the role. I now say to myself, oh, rock moment and that just reminds me to be still, because stillness is a really hard thing to learn. And somebody said to me the other day, oh, does that mean you're detached? And I said, no, it's very, very present stillness, which actually requires of you to be really in the moment. But you're being in the moment, not in a way where you're leading that moment. So it's not your, like, here I am Buddha, sitting here listening to you. It's not like that at all. It's like, hopefully they shouldn't notice you at all. So if you think of all the times that you've had the most epic conversations with people, when you've really poured your heart out to them in an unprofessional situation in just an everyday situation, you probably cannot quite remember what they said or did. If it was really good. If that person is really being rock for you,
probably wouldn't be able to say to me why, I don't remember if she said in the thing, I can remember a volunteer mentoring me and this lady ranted at us and she kept it going for a fair old time and the volunteer said to me, I kept waiting for you to say something and she said, you didn't, you just stayed with her and I said, well, of course, you know, she needed to get that off her chest.
Cath: So how do we do it?
Mandy: Well, the first one we've talked about a bit, which is presence. The second one is observing, which is around observing body language, but also how people speak when they are struggling. Then how did we respond? That's going to make or breaks the connection the response. And then empathy. Cause I wasn't quite getting empathy right.
Cath: So talk us through those.
Mandy: If we go back to presence? Well, we've talked about how important it is to be authentic and not to be doing this thing, but being alongside and a big part of that is that in unexpected listening presence, tops, eye contact, which is quite surprise, isn't it because we're all taught, if you're listening, make eye contact, In Being Rock it's different. It's not make eye contact. It's match eye contact.
Mandy: So if somebody is telling you something and they're very vulnerable and they're not looking at you, then I do not look at them. I look down a bit.. I don't look away from them, but I keep my eyes down. Cast a bit to give them that space.
Cath: You talk about eye contact, but is that also how your body is? Do you match body structure as well?
Mandy: Yeah. If you want to make, well, not so much necessarily matching body language completely, but you want to stay as you were. So I, you know, I, I was moving into what's the language of an active listener.
Don't do that. Just stay. So you feel sat there and they've pouring their heart out to you and you're sat there with your legs
[00:18:00] crossed and your arms folded cause you were a bit cold. Don't use your body language to make a thing about it.
Cath: That for me is what's really standing out from what you said is that because it's unexpected, whatever you were doing was working, don't change it. Just stay in that position.
Mandy: So eye contact, we're going to match eye contact. So my rule is, if they're not looking at you, they're not looking for a response from you. Yeah. Okay. However, if they're ranting at you and looking at you I would match eye contact because otherwise, if you look away from somebody who's really looking at you, they're not going to feel heard.
So, so it's, it's matching. Um, and then the other part is to be comfortable with silence because quite often when people fall silent, it's because they've gone into the recall part of their brain. And they're trying to think about what they're going to say next and if we speak over that, they lose their train of thought.
Cath: I'm just visualizing myself in those situations and thinking when I'm not looking at someone, in addition to the tangible, recall of the memory, I'm also stepping into those emotions. You're reliving it in a way that's then allowing you to express the difficulty, whatever it is, that's come up and somehow being able to tap into that makes it more powerful for me if I've been in those situations.
Mandy: Yeah. So that takes us from presence into observing and I found that people talked in two types of ways what they're really struggling. One is I call inward and one is outward. So inward is, everything is on top of me, I'm going to have my head down on my eyes, down cast, my shoulders hunched.
I'm coping with the situation by protecting myself and my body's curling up to do that. Don't come near me pose, you know and I'm sure all of us would recognize that sort of really vulnerable body language where we just close in. Yeah.
What's really interesting is then people also speak inward. They will do the same thing. They will hide what they're really troubled with between a load of other words so we don't spot it because they're trying to explore, what's really on top of them, but they're inwards so they're also trying to hide. Even children do this. I'll give you an everyday example that teacher told me that I call it the drop. So someone will drop into the conversation what's bothering them, but hide it, sandwich it amongst some other statements. Um, and a little boy did this. He said, had lovely weekend with daddy. Mommy wasn't there, but daddy bought me loads of treats.
Now he was eight. We do these drops all the time and we normally sandwich them or we just drop and then dismiss. So it might be really, really stressed at work, but every once in the same boat you did to drop earlier. You said covid's been shit for me, but then it's been shit for everyone. Yeah. So a big part of Being Rock, if you see their body languages in inward, you're on cue now to listen out for how they're saying things and see if you can see that drop. We normally hear what somebody says after the word, but. We need to start remembering what did they say just before the word but? Because that's the thing they want to talk about.
Cath: Yeah. That's a really, really good tip. Isn't it? That but. So how do you listen? How do you get back to that point before the, but?
Mandy: Practice. So watch out for drops all the time. See if you can spot them and the more you practice, the more you begin to teach your brain to remember what somebody said before that word. Yeah. So my brain now goes, when I hear someone say butts, my brain instantly goes, what did they just say? Well,
then, you know, I can, I can do the recall now. But yeah it's worth watching.
Cath: That also must be incredibly powerful as a parent and as a teacher with children. That reading between the lines often with kids who won't say something like you can see body language change, but they're not verbalizing it. It's like when you try and pull the child aside and say, look, what's going on. Something's not right. So it's like acute, acute listening to pick out those situations.
Mandy: And imagine that your inward, if somebody asks you lots of questions, you can't answer those. Cause you don't know where you are, especially children. So in terms of Being Rock for parents, don't ask them a question. Don't ask them what's the matter. I've tried to remove that from my vocabulary as well. That's harder to do. You know a child has a face on and the first thing we say is what's the matter. And they go nothing. They don't know. So, Being Rock for that one would be reflect the emotion they're showing you. You look sad. So, that's inward. Outward is loud brashy, you know, profanity, think of whacking, big arms swings we know what body language looks like. Lots of eye contact the way people speak as the rant. They literally will dump a whole load of words at you. the secret to that is to weather the storm
Cath: Is that weather, but not take it on board.
Mandy: Yeah, because she'll rock. So that's great. Cause it can wash over you.
Cath: You say that like it's so easy. I think I might need to carry a rock around in my pocket that I rub with my hands to remind myself.
Mandy: I have a few mantras that I play in my head when I first started. So, when somebody's family member was crying at the bedside. You know, that you well up when somebody is crying. So my mantra in my head would be going, not my grief, not my grief, not my grief. Just to stop me joining in. A tear is fine, but full on
Mandy: [00:24:00] blubbling at the bed side is very inappropriate.
Cath: A priest leading a funeral sobbing.
Mandy: Um, yeah, so when somebody is ranting at me, I'll say, um, in my head not about me, it's not mine that they're using me as a rock to shed that stuff. I mean, if somebody is ranting at you and is directed at you, that's very different thing, then that you have to think, well, I either extricate myself or I just, whether it.
Cath: I think that's a thing to consider isn't it? That ranting about a subject is very different to ranting about something that they're accusing you of doing or behaving a certain way,
Mandy: A lot of people will be impacted by something that's happened during their day and they want to have a great big rant about, you know, the person that cut them up at the traffic lights or whatever.
Cath: So we have, first of all, we have, we have presence and then we have observing the inward outward and the appropriate response to that. What's the next?
Mandy: So the next thing is that response to inward and outward. So if we do inward first, cause their inward and feeling vulnerable, we can't make our response very noticeable because if we do, then they will clam up.
Mandy: So with regard to the drop, all I do is I say the word of the drop, the most significant word, or a couple of words around what the drop is about. So that little boy, um, mommy, wasn't there. I just say, I would probably say something like she wasn't there, but I don't make a question of it. So she wasn't there? I don't make a great big thing about it. I just reflect. It's almost the same as way you'd go uh huh. It's that neutral and don't make eye contact, because then what you're doing, if you make very clear eye contact with someone, while you do the reflection with your body language, you're taking them away from being inward,
you're shining a light. They don't want a light. They want to be in a cave.
Cath: Yeah. So it's just an affirmation that you've heard really what they've said.
Mandy: Exactly. I've heard you and then don't say anything else. That's where the silence comes in, because you want them to realize deeply often subconsciously that you heard them. And if you carry on talking, they'll just hear a load of words.
Cath: Yeah. And is it enough to just go, uh huh? What is that massive difference? Like I can get how it, is an affirmation that you've heard, but if you don't do it, is it going to make them clam up?
Mandy: The danger with aha. We have to watch this, is that we start doing it a lot and if you keep on doing it, then it can sound like you're not actually listening.
Cath: Even you doing it, I could feel me starting to get irritated, but like, yeah, it's just, it's like that automatic reaction stuff that comes out. I just proved my point by asking my body's done that thing!
Mandy: I mean, none of this is rocket science, but it isn't easy to rethink the way that we respond to people and then make it natural.
Cath: Absolutely relearning natural things is quite hard.
Mandy: Yeah. Learning your programming is quite hard. And then with the rant, what's interesting about wraps is first, do not interrupt a rant. People who rant this don't like that. In fact they get quite cross. That's not a good idea and then wait for them to come back to you. I call it rant and return because people will let you know, they'll say something like, oh, I didn't realize that was upset about that. Or I am a silly arse for ranting at you. I'm sorry. Or that sort of thing. The moment that they do that they're back with you.
Cath: [00:28:00] So with the rant land, how do you acknowledge, like when they get to that point? Because if you're the listener sometimes even just acknowledging or confirming it, there's a fear that it might start it up again. Like how do you, how do you, how do you hear it, but not extend it?
Mandy: I don't really do a lot, so once they do the rant and the return, I quite often breathe and sort of relax so that both of us, are kind of give them to permission to sort of breathe and relax as well. And then again, I don't leave the conversation, because the problem is once somebody is ranted and returned to you and then you go straight into, oh, well, isn't the weather nice. Well done. Everything you've just achieved....
Cath: yeah you're going, to piss them off. It's making me now think about every conversation I've had. This is frustrating. I'm thinking. Ooh. Ooh. Is that a rant? She was very quiet then. Was oh deary me, so... empathy then what's the next phase? Because if you've had a rant everything can be quite hard,
Mandy: Everything is really hard and I think I hopefully I've nailed one of the reasons why it's so hard. So empathy we tend to use for when somebody throws a very difficult statements at us. So, uh, to think of some of your podcasts before. If somebody said I've been in prison. I've had a shit time with the menopause. Um, my son's an addict. And if somebody says that to you, your brain goes, well, I don't know how to respond and I've come to the default that we talked about whatever your default is, it comes out and has a party. And we've now killed the opportunity for empathy. Dead. And once you're on the back foot, you're not going to get
Cath: you can't rescue it.
Mandy: You can't rescue it. It's gone. So first of all, we're going to work on our defaults and then the second thing with empathy is we have to understand that we cannot say, I know how you feel. Because she can't possibly
know how they feel, because you're not inside their head. And also comparison of stories. We think we're being very helpful but comparing somebody’s story does not work. So the example I use for my training is just because it's such a good example is, uh, somebody said to me three days after my mom died, a friend of mine said, I know how you feel because I lost my horse last year.
Cath: Oh, oh, oh dear
Mandy: Super kind friend. Lovely person. Just trying to do empathy. Just like I probably would have done empathy before I realized doesn't work because you're comparing your stories. What does work though is to compare the impact of what happened to both of us. So if, instead, he had said I too have experienced grief and I know how tough that is. Yeah. That's empathy. Because that we're talking about the impact that our situations have had upon us without any I know how you feel or sharing your story or comparing your stories. It kills connection. So a big part of empathy is kind of naming the elephant in the room. What's the elephant?
Cath: Yeah in a world of toxic positivity we're not encouraged to go into hard spaces, so everything has to be kind of lovely and wonderful and I've learned over the years to actually I mean, I guess it's probably, it is all this, but to listen what someone said and actually just see it. I mean, several years ago there was a woman that we know who I met in our village gardens and I hadn't seen her a long time and she was with a walking frame and she looked really physically immobile. And I went up and said I'm like, oh, what's what's happened. And she said, blah, blah, blah and then looked at me and I just said, I'm
really sorry. That's just shit. And she went, yeah, yeah, yeah, actually it's shit. And just me saying that, I could feel the difference in my body with how I felt and how she responded and it was a light bulb moment for me and it wasn't me saying, oh dear, well, I guess you'll get better. Or like life goes on or any of that crap and now talking to you makes me think that's that I was doing what this is all about.
Mandy: Yep and you were naming the elephant in the room a nd swearing, you know, is a really good way of doing that
Cath: and it felt good. I could feel how good it felt in my body because of how she responded and it was clearly very different to how other people had been saying it the way she kind of lunged at me.
Mandy: And then right in that moment, then she feels heard. And that's what Being Rock is all about. It's just enabling that moment of feeling heard and it doesn't matter if you never see that person again or they never talk to you about that thing they shared with you again, because role is to just be there for them in that moment. And then that moment will pass.
Cath: Do you think that it's about like, why do we not do that then? Why are we so afraid of just being with someone? Is it our own discomfort of not being able to cope with something being a bit difficult? And we want everything to be happy? Is it because we're not encouraged to sit in the shit of things?
Mandy: I think partly it's because we're all are really good at loving other people and we want everything to be okay for them and wrap them in cotton wool and keep them safe. That's a big part of it. Um, there's another part of it where we're taught, that it's a really good idea to offer people loads of solutions and recommend stuff. And that's how you support someone why don't know about you Cath, but that really irritates me. If I have a really, really tricky problem guarantee, I've thought through probably every solution. What I don't know is which solution is going to come up on top. So if somebody says, well, I have sort
of this, yes, I'm blinking have, cause I'm not stupid. What I want you to do really is to let me talk so that I can find out which one of those solutions that I've thought about is probably the one I'm going to get before.
Cath: Yeah. You're allowing a space for some processing to happen by being a listener.
Cath: What about people who we see as being people who cope well all the time and who seem to have the shit together. I remember talking with a friend once who was struggling and I asked her how she was, we had this amazing conversation and she said to me, you're the first person it was in like a year or something who'd asked me how I actually was. And everyone else was trying to tell me all their solutions and all the things that would help. How do we shift that in our head, where we see someone who's capable and they're always coping and they're always wonderful, how do we actually recognize that that bombshell at dropping that thing in is actually real, it's a significant thing that they actually need you to listen to?
Mandy: I think the thing is it's not to make assumptions, isn't it? So if you hear somebody who's very capable doing the drop, reflect it because it might just be that they'll go, gosh, she noticed and, that just can transform a conversation and also if you reflected drop, it can switch somebody from being inward to outward, be warned. They might be like a damn ready to burst and if you reflect something, they might suddenly do this massive rant but that's a good thing because it gets it off their chest.
Cath: I'm a perfect example of that. I remember not long after my father left, I was at work and I, I asked the admin assistant if we had some different biscuits for the biscuit jar cause there was only the plain ones and I wanted like the nice chocolate ones as you do. And the admin assistant said to me, your mother never taught you to do something with like it using up food or some comment. And, and I think she'd said it as a joke,
but in my eyes, my mother was the perfect thing at that moment. And my father had left and I remember I just tore straight into her and I mean, you know, me, I don't do that. And I just said, don't you dare tell me what my mother does or doesn't do. And I was shocked at my own behaviour, but it absolutely triggered a moment that she obviously wasn't and I wasn't expecting,
Mandy: and right there, and then, then she has to find the strength and say, gosh, I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to offend you, you know?
Cath: Yeah. And she didn't know what was going on. And I then opened up later, but I, and I felt awful, but it was, I shocked myself at the reaction and it just made me kind of be aware really in the future.
Mandy: All of us will do things like that Cath. All of us will come out with us when we're under pressure we will use people that we see as safe. You probably saw her as a safe person to let that emotion out with. Whereas I can guarantee you that if you didn't know her very well or had never met her before, you might not have
Cath: That's true. We got on really well.
Mandy: There we go. You know, that big thing that, you know, we, we take it out on those we love well we use those we love as our rocks first and foremost, which I think is one of the things that most people are really struggling with covid now is because we've been locked in with those we love, and we've all been, not being able to use other people for those situations. So, yeah. It's a compliment in a really weird way. When we do do that, me included, I try not to feel really bad, that I just lost it with somebody. I do try and reflect on why did I lose it with them where I wouldn't have lost it? Well, because I feel safe with them and although they probably don't feel it's much of a compliment
Cath: Their feeling less safe than they were before!
Mandy: I actually think I should say to them afterwards, you know, I wouldn't have done that with anyone else and I'm sorry, I took it out on you, but actually thank you so much because it really needed to get it off my chest. So I'm
learning to see the other side of the coin if you see what I mean.
Cath: Yeah, absolutely. Have you worked with people of different backgrounds, different cultures and different ethnicities? Does it work in the same way?
Mandy: Well, that's a really interesting thing. Obviously, body language is a really tricky thing in terms of different cultures. So we're not so good with body language reading other people's cultures. Also there will be cultures where like the French where, you know, if you have a dinner party in Britain, the British will probably let everyone speak and but we're all very good at letting everybody take turns. Whereas in the French culture, it would be talking to quite a few people from France and they were saying it's just a free for all. That's how it works, you know? And it's not insulting at all to talk over someone. I'm not sure having Being Rock works in different cultures, because if you've come from a culture where talking over someone is part of the culture then demanding to be heard is quite usual. But I know. It's a really fascinating thing. I spoke to a lady from Austria the other day and she said, oh no, it works in Austria because we're very similar in the way that we might approach things.
Cath: I'd be interested with I mean, a lot of my listeners expats and people living in other countries, TCKs and immigrants and people all around the world. So this is my challenge to you. If you're listening, please let me know. Say whether you think Being Rock would work and we can share it with Mandy. There's so many things that change when you're in a different cultural setting or even, I imagine if you're with people who are neuro-diverse, who are going to respond differently as well. But I guess even in that situation it might be harder to read those circumstances than that body language, but it still comes back to mirroring what that person is doing. So what might be uncomfortable in your culture if you're observing what they're all doing? It's that when in Rome isn't it, it, it, maybe that's what we do?
And also, it's not about us. I think that's the biggest thing it's not about me. I think that would probably work in any culture.
Cath: That's absolutely fascinating. It's making me reflect on all kinds of conversations and things I've had over the years and I'm can feel myself squirming and feeling, slightly uncomfortable.
Mandy: Oh God, you know, I have done that. And sometimes I hear stuff come out of my mouth and I think, oh gosh. There's one funny thing to share because I'm really interested in this around, but around the world, actually. So we all have a tendency to upstage people when they're sharing their joy. It's another really programmed default. Got to be really careful with that because, if you pop somebody's joy bubble, that they're just sharing with you that's so damaging, and it normally comes with, if you say something like I've just been backpacking in New Zealand and somebody says, Oh, well, when I went to Australia and then actually it turned into a world trip and you say, oh
good, I'm so pleased for you. Around the UK there are colloquial terms for that and I think you and I talked about it, whether there was one in Australia.
So in Nottingham, somebody told me that it's called black catting, so my cat is blacker than your cat. Somebody in Manchester told me they call it pissing on your chips.
Cath: I love that one.
Mandy: I absolutely love that one. Yeah. Chips completely and utterly ruined. So it is about bursting someone's balloon really isn't it? You're there with your moment of triumph and somebody takes it away from you. So I'd love to hear from your listeners.
Cath: People of the world, tell us what are those expressions? There must be some, I mean, I know that Australian slang is particularly colourful, so there's gotta be some out there. But also that moment when you're feeling like shit, and you've just said how awful it is and then someone comes all well, when I was ill.
Mandy: Yeah. Yeah, no, that's definitely black catting isn't it?
Cath: Same thing. I do remember talking about someone that talked a lot about themselves and they did
that kind of behaviour and language. This person described them as a legend in his own lunchtime, which I liked and I kind of think that that's kind of close, but it's not quite, but I really liked that.
I think I'll claim that as the Australian version.
Mandy: There's a Monty Python thing about it called two sheds Jackson. So if you've got one, shed he's got two. So in our family, we call it two shedding.
Cath: I also want to ask you, this might be a strange question, but are you able to use this on yourself? So in that moment, when your doing the poor me and you're not actually talking to anyone else. It's just your own head ruminating and you're getting the whiny voice that's coming in that's doing poor me. Can you use this on yourself in the same way?
Mandy: Yeah. So a big part of the book became how do I rock myself? And because I burnt out had that menopausal life gap. So then I had to turn it around. Could I be present for me in what did presence looks like for me and not expect me to be Buddha, but expect me to be authentically me. So, self-care for me is not trying desperately to meditate when I'm not feeling very great. It's about, can I manage a cup of tea and a biscuit?
And then also, can I observe myself? Can I hear that my own drops and think, oh wow that's significant what I just said. and think about that and then also be empathetic be kind to myself.
Cath: That's one of the hardest things though. Isn't it? I think, yeah. I think it's sometimes easy to give other people empathy, than ourselves.
Mandy: Yeah. But actually, you know, to take a step back and think, wow, can I love myself regardless of where I am. Yeah.
Cath: And I think you've actually talked about self nurture rather than self care.
Mandy: Self care. I prefer nurture. I think it feels more achievable
and also feels more loving towards your yourself. It's almost like how, as a parent, you would tuck your child self into bed. There's more layers to it that I like.
Mandy: Yes. And also it gives you the opportunity to actually hide until the duvet where self care sounds like you have to go and go to the gym, but you know, it might be your self-care, but, and the other thing is, I think, um, knowing who's in your, your rock pool, so who are your rocks? And not to expect your friends to all be all things is really important. So who are your buckup rocks that will make you laugh about yourself? Cause sometimes that you'll, you'll actually want to go to them. And who are the ones that will just be the listeners and who are the ones that actually are I call them, your diamonds, you know, who are the ones that just completely take yourself out of yourself, take you down to the pub and make you forget about everything. Because sometimes that's, that's what you need. You don't always need somebody to be alongside you in the listening, or sometimes you need them to be alongside and it really made a good fun role so that you can actually switch your brain off from what you're going through.
Cath: Yeah. I think that's equally important that complete shift of energy in your body. So you're just releasing some stuff you're not holding that heaviness all the time.
Mandy: Yeah. It's a big thing isn't it to look at this?
Cath: It is. It's massive. And I'm just thinking back around the people that I've spoken to in this series and some of the things that they've said and what the moments when they've had things said to them. People don't realize, and I hope that this series generally is sharing people's experiences and talking about what they're dealing with because if we make that comment, it's a one-off to us. This person has this every day or every part of their life and I wanted to be able to show what people are living with and then finish with you and sum it all up and talk about, right, this is
what you now know, how are you going to do it differently? How are we actually going to show up and how are we going to be rock for people, for our friends, as well as family, but all the people that we don't know. So your, your book, where can people get a copy of your book?
Mandy: It's on Amazon across the world, so that's really great and it's on kindle too. And it's just called Being Rock isn't it? It's just called Being Rock by Mandy Preece.
Cath: Fantastic. So before we finish, is there any last gems of wisdom or anything you'd like to share.
Mandy: Be kind to yourself. We're all human and we're all just doing our best and I think showing up is more important than beating ourselves up hey? We'll all have made mistakes like this. It's everybody will be listening and going oh god, I said at least yesterday you know? But so have I, you know. It's onward.
Cath: Absolutely. Yeah. Fantastic. Well, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I feel like there's so much more, I want to say, but I don't know what I want to say. It's triggering all these things. So, and that's a good thing if it makes me think and reflect and I hope it does with everybody else that's been listening and it's been very useful and please, please go and buy the book because I think it'll, really initiate some change in some people's lives to actually be there in ways that they didn't know that they could be. So it's all the wonderful way of moving forward to actually helping us all feel like we belong that little bit more, which is exactly the purpose of this podcast. So thank you all so much for listening and as this is the last episode for this series, I look forward to seeing you all again, in the new year. Don't worry. It won't be very long. I will be back. We will be planning some more fantastic interviews and I look forward to being with you all in 2022. So thanks very much, everyone. You've been listening to Drawn to a Deeper Story with Cath Brew.