HSP: what are your plans for Christmas and New Year’s eve?


As a coach for highly sensitive people lots of stories about Christmas and New Year’s eve come my way. Most of the highly sensitive people I speak rather spend their time quietly with a few friends or in some situations only with their spouse, love relationship and kids in stead of packing stuff, organizing big dinners and traveling from one family to another with two days. (Christmas) And as for New Year’s eve, in the Netherlands it is the tradition to set of fireworks up until late, go out until late and the next morning you possibly catch yourself with a hangover and a huge lack of energy. This feeling of being totally wasted could go on for days so the people I speak to ask themselves: 

‘What do I want to do, how shall I organize this and most importantly, how will I communicate this to my spouse or family?’ 

Yesterday I gave a lecture about high sensitivity with professional and personal relationships. This same topic arose and conclusion was that it is most important to listen and finally act upon your own needs. The difficulty lies in the fact that we are so accostumed to do what others want and expect from us. (or read: to do what the group/family wants) In many cultures it is a tradition to spend time with your loved ones during these festive days, but all I hear about is lots of family stress. I understand it is very hard to break with family and cultural traditions just for your own sake. 

How wonderful it would be if we could choose for what we most want to do during these days? Before having this as an option in mind, one needs to tackle lots of emotions. Emotions such as guilt, anger or even family member blaming you for not coming to the gathering. Year in, year out, you feel horrible, and perhaps this comment rings a bell ‘this year I will stay at home’, but to find yourself each year in homes of other family’s or family at your place, because the motivation to choose for what you want somehow disappears. Days after the social activities you feel exhausted of all the conversations, impulses and possibly excessive amounts of food. 

What if, after years of struggling, with the December month turning around the corner, you consider, just slightly consider to do what you want. What ideas would pop up? With whom would you spend these festive days? How will you go about communicating this to your family? Think about it, it could definitely free your mind and body and take you up to a higher level of excepting and acting up to your own needs. The positive effect about this is when you feel well and good about yourself you could mean much more to others. This doesn’t only go up for festive days, it’s a daily positive life attitude. Many highly sensitive people regard doing something for themselves as ‘egoistic’. No way, it is super healthy to put your own needs first and in my view of life this naturally goes with healthy relationships, either professionally or personally. 

As a Chinese born in the Netherlands I never had a relationship with Christmas. These days were focussed on work and serving others Chinese food from out of the restaurant of my parents. And as for New Year’s eve, this meant being with lots of Chinese family living in the Netherlands, most of them had restaurants so lots of good food was served. Whole evening went to spending time with cousins and grown-ups talking and playing games. Chinese tradition of setting of fireworks did go hand in hand with Dutch culture’s fireworks at 0.00am 1st of January with a huge difference, Chinese fireworks was all about banging our ears of whereas most Dutch fireworks were about beautiful colors and figures whirling up into the sky. 

Somehow I feel lucky to not have any traditions in relationship to Christmas, it seemingly makes it easier to choose for what we want to do. But even so there are some family expectations to tackle. Even without a religious link to it family wonders what we will be doing around that time of year. Or perhaps it’s even more so the case that it’s more about me, somehow I feel compelled to share what we will do, in other words, we would like to spend time here at home in stead of visiting you, you and you. And as for New Year’s eve, to be honest, I have never been into fireworks. This year we decided upon spending time somewhere where it is fireworks free. Hmmm..this is quite a challenge, but we will find a place. I am sure of that. Where there is a will, there is a way. 


Parenthood: I want to go faster and higher


Yesterday I had an interesting encounter with a lady from Romania and her daughter (4 years old). My daughter and I were playing at a playground in The Hague city centre. (Rabbijn Maarsenplein) As always my daughter found her playmate within seconds and it happened to be a lovely looking bright eyed girl. Before the two mums exchanged a word the girls were already communicating non-verbally and verbally. The verbal part was especially interesting. My daughter spoke to the girl in Dutch and the girl responded in English. But was English her first language? Over a conversation with the Romanian lady I found out that the girl chose English to be her first language!

The girl is growing up in a household where her mum speaks Romanian to her, her dad speaks Greek and her parents speak English with each other, because neither one speaks the partners language. The girl started speaking English when she was going to childcare and from there on she chose to speak English at home. As if three languages wasn’t enough already she is now even capable of communicating in French. From December last year she attends the French school in The Hague. Their motivation to get her admitted to the French school was a practical one. They were advised that the French education system is the same in every country they would travel to. And that they will travel is a certainty, because the girl’s father is working for the Greek embassy. In the midst of all changes they wanted to provide their daughter a stable and dependable education system. I’ve heard some horrifying stories about the French education system so I was curious after their experience.

The Romanian lady spoke about teachers reprimanding children who somehow disturbed the class. They would be set apart in another class for like ten minutes. She thought there wasn’t something wrong in their way of handling disobeying children. There were no horrifying stories shared here. Another story she did share was one regarding the primary school our daughter will start attending from September on. It’s the JFK Montessori school in The Hague. It is a remarkable story of a teacher who walked into a class where the children were talking loud and making lots of other noises. The parent who shared this story with the Romanian lady witnessed the teacher started singing in a soft voice and the children responded to this with lowering their voices and noises. Amazing!

I found it particularly interesting to listen to all these stories, because of her open attitude towards these two different education systems. She was happy with the French school and at the same time understanding and in awe of the way of teaching at a Montessori school. But there was a huge difference in the way our daughters thought and interacted with each other. On a basic human level they connected in a playful way and there was a continuous desire to interact and have fun. But then somehow when both girls were on the swing the girl told her mum to push her higher, because she wanted to go faster and higher than my daughter. While shaking her head slightly as if to say she’s not agreeing nor happy with this attitude, but nevertheless with a smile, she explained that her daughter is very competitive in every aspect of her life.

I have the feeling she didn’t link the competitiveness with the people that her daughter is surrounded with in school and the education she is receiving. But I’m not sure, perhaps she is aware of it and dealing with it in her own way. For now I believe they have other concerns; they will start packing for their move to Teheran this August where they will stay for two years before moving to Greece for two years. It seems that in between all this instability the French education system provides them the certainty they need and believe their child needs.

Colombian lady talking loud


Today I found myself in a bus from The Hague central station to where I live. My attention was immediately drawn to a lady speaking in Spanish. I believe I stared at her, because my eyes met the eyes of a lady who noticed I was staring. Her eyes moved quickly from me to the loud Spanish speaking lady. Reason why I stared was that she spoke Speedy-Gonzales-Spanish. Up until now I hadn’t heard anyone speaking Spanish that quickly. My brains were working overtime to understand each and every word. I know, this comes across like eavesdropping and I don’t want to be rude, but I was so much impressed by her speed of talking. It came down to understanding some words and phrases.

In my head thoughts started to circle around and around. Shall I speak to her? Wouldn’t that seem weird to her and to all the passengers in the bus? What shall I say? Could it be that she is talking that fast, because of any disease? Oh, no, if that was the case, it would be very awkward to have a small talk. What I really wanted to share with her was how impressed I was. I stopped all the circling thoughts and decided just to do it, because otherwise I would regret it. Right after my decision her phone made a loud noise. She looked at the back, our eyes caught and I smiled at her. She smiled back. I saw my chance and moved from my seat to a seat behind her and said ‘Disculpe’ (excuse me) and off I went.

We had a really nice talk. I discovered that she is Colombian and that all Colombians talk fast like that. Well that was her opinion, because I have met Colombians before and their speed of talking never struck me in a way as with this lady. She has almost lived her whole life in the Netherlands with her Dutch husband. They have one child, a son, 33 years old and moved back to Colombia and is raising his three kids there together with his wife. She works in healthcare and only speaks Spanish with her husband and when she is back in Colombia. Her life is in Dutch.

She also shared with me that Dutch people don’t talk as loud in public transport as Colombians do. I know, I said, but I’m used to it, because Chinese people talk loud as well. I very much enjoyed our ‘small’ talk which in fact ended in sharing more with each other than what we think of the weather or things happening in and around public transport. Yes, it was the right decision to go and talk to her.

Win & Write: What makes you tick?


What makes you tick? Tell me in <500 words & you’ll get a Free Skypesession! In Dutch or English. Mail it to orchidoflife@gmail.com before Friday 8th of July. Write ‘What makes you tick?’ in the subject line. Mail me your name and skypename. I will give away 3 skypesessions; so 3 lucky writers will be informed by mail before Thursday 14th of July. All stories may be published on http://lifecoachingdenhaag.wordpress.com/ (Dutch) or this blog. #career #ambition #love #dream #life #passion #food #people #nature

Give away genuine smiles

On a beautiful spring day in the Hague I was with my daughter in the tram. Three guys stepped into the tram. I noticed they we’re from abroad. Didn’t speak Dutch. Two guys passed and the third appeared. In some magical way, from that moment on, I entered in another dimension. A dimension in which everyone was cheerful, authentic and there was this heartfelt connection between all of us. The magic came from the third guy.

When he saw Amé his face opened; he lifted his eyebrows, his eyes started glittering, his cheeks came up to his ears and there was this big smile curling up his lips. Stunned. I was stunned. In a split second my attention was drawn to where we should get off. It was the stop after the three guys got in. When I pulled the buggy towards the door I thought of asking this third guy for help. Three pair of eyes were already geared towards the door. All of them ready to help out. I asked the third guy.

After letting go of the buggy he looked Amé straight in the eyes: again this open, gentle and smiling face. He waved at her. It was clear that Amé, a baby of almost eight months, had this effect on him. He wasn’t giving away these smiles to every person he passed in the tram. Though I believe this way of connecting to babies would also work with adults. The world would be a far better place to live in when people could make the same connection he did.

Improve your relationships with Social Panorama


Without being conscious of it, you have fixed your position in society and your social panorama. This means that you always continue to be who you are, even if you want it to be different. The social panorama model is a psychological instrument with which we can change our unconscious map of social reality. In this model, interpersonal relationships are explained as cognitive constructions in mental space; we project people onto a mental location, and that location determines the quality of the emotional relationship. Problems with intimate relationships, self confidence, conflicts, power, families, teams, and organizations can be relatively easily analysed and solved with the help of the social panorama model.

You are in the centre of this ‘social panorama’; all significant people are projected on their own locations around it. The exact locations where the images of others are placed in someone’s social panorama have proven to be extremely meaningful. This lead up to the social panorama’s maxim: relation equals location. Or more precisely: the quality of a social relation is to a great extend governed by the spot where the inner image of the person is projected in mental space. (by Lucas Derks, founder of the Social Panorama)

My Social Panorama experience in Hong Kong
In 2006 I went with Lucas Derks to Hong Kong to attend a training on Social Panorama which was given by Lucas himself. The training was organised for consultants who are working in business and health care organizations. During the training I have seen amazing results by using this method. There was a Chinese man dealing with self esteem issues and slowly small changes were visible in his facial expression and his standing posture became more steady.

Furthermore I noticed a cultural difference with the Dutch culture. The Dutch express theirselves more in comparison to the Chinese. The Dutch share their opinions and emotions can be read off their faces. Generally speaking, Chinese people, who are born and grew up in China, don’t have strong emotional facial and bodily expressions. This means that as coaches we need to be more aware and take the time to guide them fully through the process. It was very interesting to see how acting upon these cultural differences made such a huge difference in the results.

Social Panorama as one of my coachingtools
I have used this method in my practice to the great benefit of my coachees. For example one of my coachees struggled with authority issues on the workfloor. She had problems with facing her manager when it came to salary negotiations or simply when they teamed up to discuss projects. She felt she couldn’t meet the high expectations of her manager. After I had guided her through the Social Panorama she felt herself being on an equal level with the manager and the high expectations she felt earlier weren’t that high in reality. She felt less dominated and her own feelings of being ‘not important enough’ changed for the better so that she was capable of meeting the expectations of her manager.

Read more about Social Panorama & see films on how it works on the website of Lucas Derks, Social Panorama.