Tag Archives: communication

I Love You John Hannah, But Please Shut Up

John Hannah (Vanya), Joe Dixon (Astrov) and Alan Francis (Telygin) in Uncle Vanya at St James Theatre. Credit Simon Annand.

Hello, reader!  How are you doing?  You’re looking very well, I must say.

Last week I went to see Anya Reiss’ modernised version of Uncle Vanya at the St James Theatre, starring the relentlessly wonderful John Hannah as Vanya.  Having studied all kinds of plays at uni – including the work of that cheerless bunch of bastards known as “the Naturalists” – I am already as familiar as I want to be with Chekhov’s story of love, labour, loss and smug gits.  I mainly went to see John Hannah, if I’m honest.

For those of you who were not forced to read two Naturalist plays a week for a year, all you really need to know is this: traditionally Naturalist plays are characterised by all of the characters being miserable, and unanimously doing sod all about it.  Actually, that’s not very fair: sometimes they commit suicide.  But that’s about it in terms of problem-solving techniques.

What these characters do instead of pro-actively fixing their lives is talk.  They bitch about each other, they speculate on each other’s love lives and futures, they whine a LOT about the causes of their constant unhappiness, and they make terrible jokes.  What I like about Uncle Vanya as a play is that someone finally picks another character up on this.  Vanya is to be pitied for falling in love with a much younger, married woman, but it’s not her fault that she doesn’t feel the same way.  Will he shut up about it and behave with a shred of dignity?  Will he calmly and quietly enjoy their friendship for what it is?  Will he resist the temptation to constantly attempt emotional blackmail?  Of course not.  Understandably, Yelena cracks in the face of Vanya’s relentless whining and tells him to shut up.  Well, wouldn’t you?  I mean, John Hannah is absolutely wonderful, but even in his sultry Scottish voice, Vanya’s lines sound pathetic.

I am a big fan of words, talking and verbal communication in general.  I think that it is healthy and positive to have conversations about your feelings, and to process ideas and upheavals by discussing them with loved ones.  But venting about our problems means absolutely nothing if we are not willing to do anything about them.  It’s all very well and good to bemoan a bad situation, but if there are steps you can take towards resolving it – even if it’s just walking away with your dignity intact – why not take the flipping steps?

It makes no sense to talk the talk without walking the walk, especially when it comes to our emotional well-being.  Talking about stuff is wonderful, but (unfortunately) it won’t always solve our problems.  If you think about it there is always something that you can actively do to make a situation better for yourself, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential it might be.

Also, acting upon your social survival instincts can lead to good things, and it teaches us to follow through with stuff we know is good for us.  For example, since I came back from the Fringe I have been contemplating (out loud and in front of witnesses.  Oops) taking up indoor climbing.  The time has come for me to face my fear (and a wall, presumably), so tomorrow I will be going climbing with a friend of mine who has given me strict instructions not to “fall off and die”.  I will do my best.  Assuming that I’m successful, I’ll report back on Friday.

Have an amazing week.  Eat super tasty breakfasts every day.

Grumpy Alert

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Hello, dear reader.  How are you?

Let’s be honest: on some mornings you wake up and just don’t feel right.  You might have had a bad day yesterday, or not slept very well.  You might wake up with a headache or find that you’ve overslept.  It might be for absolutely no good reason at all, but the fact is that some days just start with a bit of a black cloud.

As I’ve said before, we shouldn’t be quick to decide that we are having a bad day.  However, it’s inevitable that people will be in a bad mood from time to time.  When that happens, it’s important to know how to deal with it.  Here are a few ideas:

Communicate
This will vary from person to person, depending on how they tend to handle stress.  If you’re spending time with colleagues or friends who might need a bit of a heads up about your frame of mind, make them aware.  If someone in your life tells you that they’re in a bad mood, accept the information and ask them questions (depending on how much or little they need to talk).

Don’t Make A Chain
One bad occurrence does not necessarily lead to another: just because you overslept doesn’t automatically mean that it’s going to rain.  If you avoid linking small bits of bad luck together, your bad mood won’t last quite so long.

Distract
If you are in a bad mood, you need to stop thinking about it.  Do something else.  Distract yourself with something shiny, or read a book.  If someone in your life is feeling a bit moody, talk to them about a completely unrelated topic, or show them an amusing post on Buzzfeed.  It might not permanently fix the problem, but a distraction is a nice rest from feeling down.

Treat Yourself
Buy a proper coffee with a fancy syrup in it, or download that new album on iTunes.  You are a marvellous human being who is worth investing in, especially when you’re not feeling quite right.  If someone else is in a bad mood, treat them a little bit.  Reminding someone that you care about them, even in a small way, is an excellent tonic for the blues.

Have a fantastic Tuesday.

Cliché Corrections

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Hello, lovely reader!  How are you?  Gosh, it’s been ages, hasn’t it?

I would like to apologise on behalf of myself and my erstwhile laptop for the radio silence this week.  On Friday, Calcifer unceremoniously died on me, and had to be taken to a computer repair place.  And yes, I did name my computer after a character from Howl’s Moving Castle.  He is back in action once more, thank goodness, so I can carry on talking to you lovely people.

Today’s blog is about clichés.  We use them all the time, perhaps without even noticing how frequently we drop them into conversation, and we rely upon them to make our meanings clear.  Clichés can be annoying, trite or even offensive, but they are also a tried-and-tested method of expressing ideas in a way that everybody understands.

Having said that, some clichés now seem to be a bit outdated or irrelevant to modern life.  We still understand their meanings, but honestly, how often do any of us have any birds at all, let alone ones in bushes?  With this in mind, I have decided to tweak a few famous phrases to better suit our needs.

Hell hath no fury like a woman whose best friend has been scorned

It’s true that scorned women tend to be pretty angry, but their friends’ wrath is usually much scarier.  The last time I found myself in a somewhat scorned state, my beloved flat mate Ash was livid, and she doesn’t really “do” anger very often.  Potential scorners, beware: women are of the (absolutely correct) opinion that their best friends are beautiful, fascinating and lovable human beings – hence the friendship – and if you mess things up, they will come down on you like a furious ton of bricks.

A watched phone never beeps

I admit that I sometimes stand and watch a pot of water, getting cross because it just won’t boil.  However, that invariably turns out to be because I forgot to switch the hob on, rather than my feverish anticipation affecting the laws of physics.  In this day and age, communication technology has become the pot, and texts, Tweets and Facebook notifications are the bubbles we wait for.  Particularly when we are interested in someone or we are waiting to hear about a job interview, we just can’t tear our eyes away from our screens.  Well, it sucks but it’s true: waiting for something won’t make it happen.  Put your phone down and make yourself a cup of tea.

Plenty more fish on the dating website

Those of you have read this blog about Tinder will recall that I’m not a huge fan of internet dating, but I completely understand why so many people are.  I find the original cliché about there being an abundance of fish in the sea silly for two reasons: firstly, talking about fish either makes me want to watching Finding Nemo or eat smoked salmon, so I tend to get distracted from the task of finding said fish.  Secondly, the unanimous response to “plenty more fish in the sea” is “I don’t WANT another fish, I want THAT fish!” Or boy, or girl, I guess.  If you’re actually attracted to fish then we’re probably focussing on the wrong issue, here.
Anyway, the point is that finding new potential partners is daunting after a heartbreak.  Even though I’d never use it myself, I think it’s kind of nice that people can browse internet dating sites to ease themselves back into romance and all that jazz.

When life gives you lemons, go and find the tequila

Who among us actually knows how to make lemonade out of lemons?  Not me, that’s for sure.  I do know how to do a tequila shot, though.  I’m being flippant about some fairly sound advice, here: when bad things happen, find a way to make them work to your advantage.  I totally agree with this idea, but I also think that sometimes all you can do is switch off.  I’m not condoning binge drinking as a solution to life’s woes, but I do think that we should relax and enjoy ourselves when we can.  Sometimes there just isn’t a way to get a positive outcome from a negative situation, and at those times all we can do is try to have some fun.

Well, it’s lovely to be back with you, dear reader.  Have a fantastic day, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

A Realistic Romance Recipe

One Day - Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess

Hello and happy Wednesday!  You’re looking lovely today, if I may say so.

Not for the first time, my inspiration for a blog post has come from an episode of How I Met Your Mother.  If you’re not a fan, don’t worry – I’m only using a tiny snippet.  Two of the characters are discussing what it takes to make a relationship materialise, and one of them claims that chemistry is the key ingredient, and that “if you have chemistry, you only need one other thing: timing, but timing’s a bitch.”

Chemistry between two people is obviously very important in romantic situations, and timing is clearly essential (and also a bit of a bitch).  But relationships are very rarely that simple, and I think we need a few more bits and pieces to make the blasted things work:

Referees

As in people who provide references, not the football people.  I’m not suggesting that we turn the pursuit of a relationship into some kind of emotional job hunt, but it can be much easier to let your guard down with someone if a mutual friend will vouch for their behaviour.  Lots of people meet their significant others through friends or family, and I think that they start relationships with a very clear advantage.  If you meet someone in a bar and they make a great first impression then that’s lovely, but it’s a massive bonus if someone you trust can tell you for certain that this person has no criminal record, is good with kids and usually remembers to return phone calls.

Confidence

As Dexter says to Emma in One Day, “You’re gorgeous, you old hag, and if I could give you just one gift ever for the rest of your life it would be this: confidence. It would be the gift of confidence. Either that or a scented candle.”  Confidence covers all sorts of things, including the belief that you are a lovable person, the ability to look (and more importantly feel) good in your own clothes, and the willingness to start a conversation.  You might have unbelievably strong chemistry with someone and the timing may be perfect, but if all you can do is mumble into your shoes then your would-be romance will go nowhere incredibly rapidly.

Communication

This one is the most difficult (especially for us Brits), and annoyingly it is also the most important.  Nothing will work between two people unless they communicate.  (I’m starting to feel uncomfortable even typing this bit, to be honest.)  We don’t like talking about our feelings, do we?  Oh, sure, over a drink with our friends or in a post-break up rant, absolutely.  But with the person we want to go out with?  Good heavens, no.  It can’t be done!  We’re supposed to tell each other where we stand, how we feel and make sure that no one is being led on or getting confused?  What a ridiculous notion.

Communication issues are the reason that Jane Austen novels are longer than two pages, why Bridget Jones takes so long to get Mark Darcy, and they make up the basic plot line of every rom-com film ever made.  If the characters told each other the truth earlier on in these stories, they would be happier much sooner.  Sure, the films would be rubbish and the books would be abysmal, but you are not a character in a story.  You’re a real person, and no one is going to write your happy ending unless you flipping get on with it.

Besides, you deserve to be happy.  You’re a legend.

Have a superb Wednesday.

Wiggly Priorities

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Hello, and welcome to the weekend!  I hope you’ve had a nice lie-in.

If you’ve read yesterday’s post, you will already know that I decided to turn my phone off for 24 hours.  The main downside of this choice should have been communication issues, but luckily my flat mate tells me where I’m meant to be most of the time anyway, so that was fine.

The hardest part was actually the lack of sound.  I am always listening to music or a podcast, so wandering around without my earphones in felt very odd.  It was also pretty strange to go without the Notes feature on my iPhone for a day, because I use it all the time for blog ideas and so on.  The upshot of this was that I went to bed last night with a load of ideas scribbled down my arm.  These notes have now been partially transferred to my face and one of my pillows.

Embarrassing face-tattoos aside, today I would like to talk about priorities.  Yesterday I managed to work my way through a hefty amount of stuff on my to do list because I wasn’t distracted by my phone, so now my set of priorities has shifted.  Our priorities change all of the time: on a day-to-day basis they adapt to our immediate circumstances, but on a longer-term basis they shift depending on where life has taken us.  A university student’s priorities might be finishing an essay one day and applying for graduate jobs the next, for example.

People are always saying that we need to get our priorities straight, but it’s incredibly difficult to do.  How do you balance your daily duties with your lifelong endeavours?  How do we find a way to get our wiggly priorities aligned with one another?

We prioritise things for two reasons: their immediacy and their importance.  In contemporary life there is an enormous emphasis on immediacy from employers, friends and even the media.  We are constantly being told to believe that sooner is better, and I don’t think that that’s always true.  Good things come to those who wait, even in the simplest cases (like when you’re at a bus stop).

I was having a very deep and meaningful conversation about priorities with a friend the other day, and at one point he said “wouldn’t it be nice to be someone’s priority?”  Oof.  Right in the feelings.  Of course it would, but surely you are the person whose priority you ought to be?

What do you actually want today?  Do you want to feel like you’ve achieved something?  Do you want to spend time with some people who love you?  Do you want to go on an adventure?  Do you, in fact, want to build a snowman?  (Trickier to accomplish in this weather, but not impossible.)

I think that we have to trust that the day-to-day priorities (like work deadlines, essays and so on) will get us where we need to go in the bigger picture, but that paying attention to what we actually want will get us where we’d like to be.  I personally want to see Arsenal win the FA Cup, so my priority is to go to the pub with the boys and shout at a massive television screen.  To each their own.

Carlsberg don’t do Saturdays, but if they did, it’d probably be this one.  Have a cracker.

Tech: No Logic

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Good morning, you lovely thing.  How’s Tuesday treating you so far?

It’s a sleepy, chilled out kind of morning at Bag End.  (Bag End is what Ash and I named our flat, by the way.  We don’t actually live in a hobbit hole.  Which is kind of sad, actually.)  As I write this, my friend Rob is lounging around on the sofa in our living room.  He stayed over after a group of us went to the pub quiz last night.  Ash is lying in bed with her laptop, probably browsing Pinterest  and Facebook messaging people.  I am sitting at my desk (in pyjamas, but still – at least I’m sort-of vertical) talking to you, dear reader.

Bearing in mind that our flat is roughly the size of a shoe box, it seems bizarre to communicate with one another via social media, and yet a few moments ago I found myself offering Rob a cup of tea via Facebook.  It’s not even a laziness issue, because obviously I then had to stand up and make the cup of tea and take it to him, so why did I bother?

Using social media to talk to people who are in the same room (or teeny tiny flat) is one of the weirdest little bonuses of technology, and was parodied in an excellent episode of The IT Crowd called Friendface.  I have a few ideas as to why we behave in this strange and illogical manner:

  • Novelty value: we are still at a point where using social media unnecessarily makes us feel raffish, kooky and hilarious.  This is because we are all gleeful little children deep down, and that’s ok.
  • Illusion: social media and Skype allow us to talk to people all over the world, which is amazing.  When your friends have bogged off to far-flung countries, the technology makes it seem as though they could be right next to you, so using it when they actually are right next to you puts the whole thing on a level playing field.  Basically, it makes it easier to cope when the person you’re talking to actually is in Italy or what have you.
  • Posterity: we are the first generation who will be able to look back at their youth and see our entire lives documented, photographed, liked and retweeted.  Having real conversations is obviously an excellent thing, but we like to keep birthday cards, notes passed in lectures and other bits of memorabilia, don’t we?  We like having a record.

I’m not sure that mine and Rob’s little messaging interchange about a cup of tea will be my most prized memory aide in forty years, but it’s nice to have just the same.  I might go and have an actual conversation with him now.  Have a spectacular day.