The Collective

Lightness

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As I dive into another scorched almond/slice of panetone/lebekuchen for the 26th day on the trot, it’s tempting to think of the good a large dose of Magnesium Citrate might do me right now.

Possibly we could all do with feeling a little lighter currently, especially after a December (okay so it was November too) of de trop socialising and the dizzying, relentless pace of the run-up to Christmas. Except at the dawn of 2018, I realise I mean lightness in many senses of the word.

It was an email exchange with my former editor, Lisa Armstrong, that got me thinking once again about the importance of living lighter (and consequently, happier, more positive) lives. For a fashion feature, I had asked her to define what luxury meant today. Her definition was lightness in everything from ‘featherweight but warm coats and silk filled duvets to food, luggage, attitudes – and not being hemmed in.’ She thought that if she could cultivate a single thing in everything she did, it would be of lightness of touch. Read More…

How To Do Blingy Festive Wear In A Non-Bling Way

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Not so long ago, blingy layers of festive sparkle worn in the run up to Christmas was what ‘other’ people did. Certainly not how anyone with even a sliver of good taste might dress. And certainly not the behaviour of a discerning style maven whose look might best be described as polished but not too polished, stylish and yet not ‘victim’. Well not so in 2017 when shimmering sequins of silver, gold, green, pink, and cobalt blue- yes ,even altogether in the same outfit- are very much where it’s at this winter. And while no one wants to leave the house in a deluge of sparkly tat, this Christmas is fast shaping up to be the one where it’s perfectly acceptable – expected even – to go all out, Quality Street wrapper style, into the night.

For someone who might be described as Mrs Matt (I have never been drawn, magpie like to anything that sparkles) , I’ve already managed to acquire a twinkly silver top from Vanessa Bruno and a pair of sequin ankle boots, although admittedly these are black. But how do you pull any of this off when you’re allergic to high shine? This might sound like the biggest oxymoron but the secret to sequins this season is wearing them in a matt way. Read More…

Be Happy – How To Be The Best Version Of Yourself

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How to be happy or happier? Who doesn’t wonder at the formula. And yet, while there’s no one -size-fits-all answer to the question, the missive this month is inspired by Boudica Fox-Leonard’s brilliant feature in the Saturday Telegraph, which I haven’t stopped thinking about since I read it, not least because as the weather turns, we are all more susceptible to SAD –vitamin D folks at the ready.

In it, Andy Cope, psychologist and author claims a small number of Brits, his “lab rats” (a group of people he calls the “two-per-centers” which are the top two percent of the working population , who stand out as creating a positive uplift in those around them) are 22.5% happier than anyone else, with a third more energy and asks what they can teach the rest of us?

For the past 12 years Cope has been studying happiness and observing happy people and is now on a mission to share what he has discovered. Perhaps deep down we too know that happiness is infectious. When someone smiles at you, your gut reaction – whether you know them or not – is to smile back. Happiness, even for a nation he describes as one of moaners (Brits apparently languish at no. 19 on this year’s World Happiness report) is a lot easier to achieve than perhaps we might realise. It’s very much worth the effort, because as Cope points out, without wishing to sound evangelical, your happiness will change the happiness of those around you. Read More…

Autumn Wardrobe Digest

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I know, I know, it’s not very 2017 to be buying head to toe anything and really, unless you’re a Russian oligarch’s moll, few of us spend tens of thousands updating a winter wardrobe. Still, that “back to school/ university/ job /life without school children clawing at your knees all day” feeling- the last one a particularly  delicious one – signals the moment to reassess the change in seasons and much more importantly, your wardrobe.

Since late July, the magazines have been full of thigh-high boot chat but I like to think that most of us prefer to buy autumn clobber when there is genuinely a chill in the air and when we’re not trying to dredge up the dregs of a summer sun tan. So here is a round-up of items that that will instantly update and add vim to what you already own. Heck, they’re pretty classic (and thankfully practical) items so they may already be lurking in your wardrobe if you’ve been canny enough to hold on to past goodies. In any case the following should see you right through to April. In Gill’s words, let’s do it. Read More…

Why We Need To Stop Worrying!

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‘The things we worry about are mostly the things that never happen”

Who doesn’t like a life maxim? Admittedly the myriad ways exhorting us to Carpe Diem on Instagram can get a little nauseating . You won’t catch me adding ‘ #blessed’ to a post any time soon, but generally , my guilty pleasure is  positive nuggets and the wisdom they impart. It was however, the above choice words from the the writer Lucia Van der Post which really made me sit up and think. They are the words which have had the most profound impact on how I live my life on a day to day basis.

I’d never really thought of the pointlessness of my worrying before. I ran through all the things I spent my life worrying about, the various different outcomes to the many “problems” I felt I had (NB, I use the word “problems” loosely here).  Even when there was nothing to worry about, I would be worrying about not worrying. I KNOW!! Read More…

Emotional Intelligence

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Who doesn’t love a list? For most of us, it’s the proverbial endless to-do-one, but recently I’ve been compiling a mental checklist of things I wish they’d taught us at school. How many times in the past twenty years have you used your simultaneous equations? My point exactly. Instead, how handy would it have been to learn – and in no particular order – how not to get gazumped, the truth about childbirth, how to avoid the divorce courts when you have two under-fives or the best way to navigate the work place which, let’s face it, is where most of us will be spending a very long time.

Oh how I wished I had known a bit more about emotional intelligence when I started out twenty something years ago. There should be compulsory A-levels on this topic. It’s the single most useful skill that will help you thrive in life and the work place. And way more important than any career service at school or university will impress on you. It’s that ability to work out how you fit into a situation and be sensitive as to how you are perceived. Certainly it will help you manipulate a meeting to your best advantage if you are able to ‘read’ the emotions of others and learn to say the right thing to obtain the right result. Your double first from Oxbridge will resonate far less if you are arrogant and unable to see beyond the end of your nose.

In his 1995 book, Emotional intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ, psychologist Daniel Goleman described EQ as knowing how to handle feelings without being swamped, being able to motivate oneself to get jobs done, being creative and performing to one’s peak and sensing what other people are feeling.

While we are pretty much stuck with our IQ level, emotional intelligence can be developed until well into our 40s regardless apparently of whether someone is a born leader or not with most people bolstering their work performance by improving their EQ.

How to improve your EQ?

  • At the core of trying to achieve this is learning to become a better listener.

Hard I know in today’s selfie/ selfish/ self-promoting society where we are all encouraged to wade or ‘lean’ in. The more you listen however, the more intuitive you become and more in tune with your gut although that’s a whole other topic. A lot of the time it pays to hang back, listen, don’t be a bull in a china shop.

  • Be more self-aware

Another step on the path to improving your EQ is knowing yourself ie becoming more self-aware and understanding –or being honest and admitting – your strengths and your weaknesses. This is easier said than done because few of us like a long, hard stare in the mirror.

Feedback from bosses and colleagues can be enlightening and provide meaningful insight into any behaviour we need to develop or change. Try to be open-minded and not too sensitive or defensive.

It’s also worth asking what you might have done differently. Again, easier said than done. Obviously it’s not possible to be entirely immune to other people’s opinions. Something a former boss once said to me still rings in my ears and still irks. But she was right and I am a much happier and more positive person for addressing her observation.

Some people find it useful to have a mentor or a business coach to help them (really, a truthful, no-nonsense friend would work equally as well if the above doesn’t feel appropriate). Look on the feedback as the opportunity for growth, and the chance to improve. This exercise is not a popularity contest so you might have to get used to sucking up a few harsh truths.

  • Developing greater empathy is essential.

A good way to do this is to put yourself in other people’s shoes and try and avoid being judgemental. Remember, not everyone is like you. A person who has empathy, has compassion and an understanding of human nature that allows him/her to connect with other people on an emotional level.

Remember: you don’t know everyone’s background story day to day. Do you really know why your usually easy going colleague has just snapped at you? Take the time to find out; there’s nearly always a reason, and sometimes, with a bit of prodding from you, they might be quite pleased to discuss it.

A knee jerk reaction often is to go on the defence. But often that judgement or criticism is not directed at you. Sometimes it’s not about you at all , but rather what someone else is thinking and their own perceptions projected onto you. In fact, it’s almost always about them, their issues, their needs and their wishes to control or manipulate a situation.

It’s also worth paying attention to when you feel negative emotions. They are usually a sign. If you are frustrated, ask yourself why. If you have explained the same thing three times and people still don’t understand what you mean, take responsibility.

  • Have the courage to admit you are wrong. Often!

Admitting mistakes and learning from them shows character, integrity and that you’re not a robot. No one likes a smug person. We instinctively warm to people who are only too happy to show their shortcomings (again back to empathy).

Emotionally intelligent people are self-motivated. They’re also not motivated simply by money or a job title. They are usually resilient and optimistic when they encounter disappointment and driven by an inner ambition.

People who are emotionally intelligent are able to build up trust quickly with others on their teams. They avoid – and er, don’t waste time in needless power struggles, bitching and backstabbing. They usually enjoy other people and have the respect of others around them. Little wonder that they soar in life and in the work place.