Following a training I gave recently, someone asked me to teach them to do what I do. He explained that other trainers he’d observed relied heavily on content or particular techniques (or both), whereas I seemed to do neither. His conclusion was that what makes me so effective is that I rely on myself. I have a belief in my work and I know my stuff intimately, but that was not what he was after because in the job he does, he has those things too.
His comments reminded me of two things: Firstly, my own desire to learn something similar after witnessing Karaj at close quarters. (See ‘This Is What I Trained For’.) And secondly, these lines from the 2011 post, ‘Measurable Results’:
I recently worked together with another trainer. At the end of the two days he commented that I had written nothing down, yet I was able to recall accurately what people had said and what the important points were which needed addressing. That was because of the fluency I achieved during the four years of intensive training I went through.
After we talked, I sat down to write a plan for our work together. I paused for a while as I considered how to formulate the goals of the agreement from my side. What exactly does he see? How do I encapsulate my whole way of working in a few lines? And by what criteria can we measure his progress at the end of the coaching programme? These are the notes I made:
- You are better able to lead a group by being yourself more fully.
- You develop your ability to tune in to every situation such that you know what to do and say more effectively and more intuitively.
- You notice (behavioural or spoken) anomalies or triggers more easily – those words, inflections, facial expressions or elements of body language which create a disharmony in you, or which raise a question in your mind (even if you are unsure of the actual question).
- You become practised in stopping the process when you feel discord, i.e. when something doesn’t feel or sound right to you, or when you feel there is a legitimate need to explore further.
- You are more able to ask the right questions (of yourself and others) in order to facilitate deeper, more effective work.
Clearly, it is not so much about being myself as being tuned in to myself. That is how Karaj described it whenever I asked him how he did what he did. Here are a few lines I wrote about him in 2002 (‘My Life Is On Track’):
Any sensations he experiences which are not a part of him at rest make him sit up and ask himself: ‘What is this person doing to me?’ Because he knows himself and because his life is simple, he is able to identify any fluctuations which occur within his own field of existence.
On top of being able to tune into oneself, there is a need to tune into those around us. You do that by listening fully. Not because you are looking for anything in particular, but just to hear what is there. Listen closely enough (not just with your ears, but with your whole body) and you will notice what you need to notice. By listening fully you are likely to tune into people and situations at a deeper level.
For example, after a couple of years working closely with Karaj, I began to get the feeling that I was making progress on precisely those criteria. Here’s what I wrote following a conversation with a close friend (‘No Longer Who I Used To Be’):
It was great to talk to him and be guided by how I reacted internally to what he said; I was very much tuned in and it wasn’t a case of having to work hard in any way. I can do this. Don’t get cocky.
Listening closely is more easily achieved when you are curious. It was my curiosity about why people behave they way they do which drove my process from the very start. That curiosity, and a desire to understand what is happening, mean that if I am unsure, then I stop the process and ask questions until I am satisfied. Here is a later piece from 2014, when I visited Karaj for the first time in 10 years (‘From Curiosity To Reflection’):
I talked generally about my need to understand things in great detail. I get frustrated if I don’t understand something and I ask question after question until I do. He encouraged me to explore the subject, and to know that my questioning occurs at the level of feeling rather than cognition. Cognitive questioning is surface level, whereas at the feeling level it goes much deeper.
Finally, there is the question of connection. If you are able to connect with people and see connections in what they say and do, the work becomes even easier. Karaj was always looking to make connections; and whenever I talk to groups I implore them to seek a connection with whatever is being said, regardless of who is talking. Part of my work is to make those connections obvious to people. When they can see the connections for themselves, everything makes a little more sense. Here is an extract from the aptly named piece, ‘Make A Connection’:
[…] Karaj was asking us to connect with each other. Nothing else. Just connect. He always urged us to look for the humanity in people, and his words were allied to that. Finding something within ourselves which connects with what another person has said, goes way beyond demonstrating that we have been listening. It is about making the most of an opportunity to share time and space with another human being in a way that makes a strong, supportive, and powerful contribution to their life.
Fundamentally, of course, it is necessary to know oneself as intimately as possible. Upon that foundation everything else is built. My gratitude, therefore, goes to Karaj, who taught me how to do what I do. It also goes to the man who asked me to teach him how to do the same. His request prompted me to look closely at who I am and how I work. The more I looked, the more clearly I saw the many elements which needed to be honed over the years until they became an integral part of who I am. Now, when I work, all I have to do is be myself.