Active listening and social etiquette

Active listening and social etiquette

by Magenta

23 July, 2018

By Paul Russell, a luxury lifestyle coach.

If there’s one skill we’ve all mastered, it is the art of fake listening. We do it all the time, nodding our heads, smiling in the right places but mentally we’re somewhere else entirely. It reminds me of a story about President Franklin D. Roosevelt who was said to like to throw in a complete curve ball at White House receptions to test whether others were listening. “I murdered my grandmother this morning,” he is supposed to have been fond of announcing whilst shaking hands and in a tone you might use to say “hello, how are you.” It is said that very rarely were his efforts to root out conversational fakers ever met with an appropriate response.

There are many reasons that we don’t actively listen, it may be because we are focused on something else entirely, be that meeting a president or what we’re going to order at Starbucks on the way home. It could be that instead of actively listening we’re actually planning what we are going to say, and poised like a diver on a board we are waiting for our moment to surge into the conversation. Whatever the reason that we don’t actively listen, the results are the same- ineffective communication, limited engagement and little development of rapport. Of all the new skills you could develop for Learn Something New Week, the most important one is probably the one that you think you already know how to do- listen.

The most difficult time to try and achieve active listening is when you’re hearing something that you don’t want to hear. The urge to break in is almost overwhelming, and very few people are able to withstand that impulse to snatch up a comment and utilise it as leverage within the conversation. If this is you, then conflict and disagreement is something that you are probably well familiar with, your conversations are more likely to be battle grounds full of invisible point scoring than anything that resembles a productive and useful conversation.

Everyone though can benefit from active listening and there are key steps to take. The first is to actually pay attention, it sounds simple but in the majority of cases we are far more focused on ourselves than on our conversational partner. Flip this dynamic, and give them your full attention. Judgement is the next trap that we tend to fall into, so whether we’re judging them out loud or just inside our own heads, this type of thinking inhibits active listening. Try not to jump into every available space in the conversation, instead allow the other person time to formulate their thoughts and fully express what they want to say. This is a particularly useful tactic in a situation of conflict as butting in can often escalate rather than calm a situation.

When you feel that there is a natural pause you can ask open ended questions to gain a further insight into the topic. This is the time when you can clarify anything that you’re not clear about and perhaps also acknowledge how the speaker might be feeling, saying something like, “that must have been terrifying for you.” Acknowledging feelings really helps someone to feel truly heard. For complex or professional discussions, this might be the point at which you would also summarise what has been said, giving your conversational partner the opportunity to add anything else that is relevant. From here you can show through gestures and words your understanding of the situation. Often, we think that we then need to quickly solve the problem, but in many cases active listening fulfils the primary need.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt smilingly proclaimed that he had murdered his grandmother, what he was asking for was to be heard. What he wanted was for someone to engage with this on a genuine level. To pay attention, to not (in the first instance at least!) judge, and instead of a tired platitude actually offer something of value in response, and with this utterance there are many, many open ended questions that could have been asked of Roosevelt! There is no denying that active listening is a lot more challenging than fake listening, but the rewards are infinitely greater. So this Learn Something New week, challenge yourself to do something transformative- actively listen.

Paul Russell is a luxury expert and etiquette coach who works with private clients and high net worth individuals in the art of correct behaviour. He is co-founder and managing director of Luxury Academy, a multi-national company, specialising in soft skills training for the luxury market. Luxury Academy have offices in London, Delhi, Visakhapatnam and Mumbai. Prior to founding Luxury Academy, Paul worked in senior leadership roles across Europe, United States, Middle East and Asia.


The price of life: 2007 - now

The price of life: 2007 – now

by Magenta

12 July, 2018

In this guide, Robin Hood Energy discusses the rising cost of life in 2018, compared to 2007, and the journey in between.

Seemingly every day we’re being made to pay a few more pennies in our shops but this all adds up, especially over a period of years. Only recently, supermarket giant, Tesco, announced they won’t be price matching their products against competitors anymore. Prices rise. Brexit looms. Is it all just a big media scare though? Or has the price of life truly risen? Research from, energy supplier, Robin Hood Energy, analysed the price of common household goods and necessities, like petrol, from 10 years ago compared to now. Let’s see how much money the general public really has lost over the years.

1/ Petrol

In the UK, people are spending around 115.2p per litre on petrol, where has flit back to 2007 and you’d be paying 84.7p instead. Statistically, the UK person uses 1,377 litres per year which costs you £3,828 more now than it did back in 2007. We are definitely not getting the best miles per gallon there.

2/ The cost of education

Still a sore subject for many now-graduates who received the £9000 per year tuition fees compared to their predecessors who had the same education, same lectures and same opportunities for a third of the price. The numbers are quite simple here, if you did your degree 10 years ago, you’d be £18,000 better off, that’s not even accounting for debt and the interest that develops over time.

3/ Sweets treats

I’m sure we’ve all spoken to our friends and colleagues about how we remember when certain chocolates cost way less than they do now. On top of that, they seem to have gotten smaller too, the jury’s still out on that one though. The research specifically looked at Creme Eggs and found that if you ate just one a week, you’d be set back £33.80 now compared to £17.16 then! Deliciousness is expensive.

4/ How expensive is getting ill?

The NHS is one thing we take for granted in the UK, with prescriptions costing around £8.60 currently, however 10 years ago they cost £6.85. This is quite a reasonable price increase as a one off for what you’re getting anyway. However, if you had one a week it would’ve cost you £330.20 in 2007, whereas it costs you £447.20 in the present day.

5/ Staying in touch

Nearly everyone you know has an iPhone, it’s the most popular phone in history. If you were ahead of the trend 10 years ago, it would have at you back £297.67 precisely, however now, for the latest model you’re paying £999. In essence, it does the same thing, but the £701.33 increase is incredibly steep just to keep in touch with your social networks. Maybe it’s time we all went back to Nokia 3310s.

6/ Energy

To stay in touch, we need to charge our devices, energy bills seem to increase every other month with blame being placed on Brexit, trouble with sourcing materials and increased demand. In 2007 the price of a standard tariff would be around £1,039.23 but if you shop around today and lock in a fixed tariff you can get one for a similar price or even less around £959.95.

Life is always increasing in cost, of course, the price of living rises every day. So, it’s important as consumers for us to shop and compare. A great power which we didn’t have much authority over back in 2007.


Gardening on a Budget: 7 Top tips

Gardening on a Budget: 7 Top tips

by Guest Contributor

2 July, 2018

By Andy Baxter, MD of Internet Gardener

In this guide, Andy Baxter, MD of Internet Gardener helps prove that gardening doesn’t need to be an expensive hobby, offering some top tips for those wanting to have thrifty green fingers.

1/ Keep your space limited

There’s a common misconception that you need a large garden or a huge space to be a good gardener. This is simply not true! The latest trend of ‘urban gardening’ involves the uprising of city gardening – making the most of small spaces to grow your own produce and flowers. This commonly includes keeping your own mini-garden in planters on window sills and ledges, but balcony gardens are also becoming popular, as well as rooftop gardens! Making the most of the space you have will save you money, as you won’t feel like you need to invest in a bigger property with a larger garden, or rent out an allotment. Additionally, you’ll naturally be more efficient with limited space, as you’ll have to be really selective on what plants you want to invest in.

2/ Recycle all the way

One of the benefits of gardening is that you can re-use a lot of the components. Many people spend hundreds on new compost, whereas hardy plants don’t need anything fancy. In fact, reusing soil or dirt from previous plants is totally acceptable, especially if you’re feeding minerals and nutrients to the plants using your own home made compost, which brings me onto the next point…

3/ Make your own compost

Collect your kitchen waste from fresh produce, such as vegetable cuttings, egg shells, leftovers and fruit peels. You can get large tubs for outside spaces for pretty cheap, but even if you don’t have much space, keeping this in your own little ice cream tub under the sink or somewhere else dark will still work.

4/ Keep seeds and grow them next season

The best thing about gardening is that you’re literally growing the next years crop! Make sure to collect the seeds from each plant and keep them stored away somewhere dark and dry until next year. You could even plant them again this season, if your gardening space is warm enough.

5/ Grow fresh produce

I know it sounds obvious, but why not double save by growing your own vegetables! Cheap salad and vegetables to grow include spinach, cress and spring onions. There are a load more as well, such as starting your own herb garden. Having to buy this consumable can get quite expensive since herbs always need to be so fresh, so you’ll be surprised how much you can save by having your own pot of basil on the windowsill!

6/ Use anything as pots and planters

Don’t spend loads on expensive and fancy pots for your plants! The plant won’t know any different, as long as it’s the right size! Honestly any old container will suffice, especially if you’re starting out with seedlings. Try using old mugs and glasses that you no longer need, or have broken handles. Things such as biodegradable egg containers are great for starting out seedlings too.

7/ Use your own weedkiller

Those who are fans of organic gardening will like this one. Instead of spending a lot of money on harmful weed killing devices, try using vinegar, which you’ll find is just as effective. You can even use salt to deter slugs and snails from chomping your salad. Gardening doesn’t need to be an expensive hobby, it should be accessible for everyone. With a little planning, even the most thrifty among us can start their own garden in no time!