Arthur Coaching Ponder Question of the Week:

As coaches, how can we address social isolation?

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Lonely with 5000 Friends

shutterstock_179289275In the UK, the number of people living alone doubled in the last 40 years. Public perception is that this must be mostly elderly people, due to the increasingly ageing population. However, many young people are living alone and suffer from loneliness -no matter how connected they are to people via the internet. They might have thousands of friends and followers in the virtual world, but still have no-one to really talk to.

What is true friendship? How do we know when someone is a friend? How easy is it to develop meaningful friendships online?

Even in real life, some people have many friends to do things with: shopping, drinking, dancing, watching or playing sport. However, not many people have friends they can do nothing with: someone to simply ‘be’ with, for comfort and company. External activity and stimulation becomes the focus of many relationships, rather than a more ‘internal’ intellectual or emotional intimacy – or a companionable silence. You can feel lonely, even when you are not alone; lonely in a crowd.

According to Age UK, 450,000 people in the UK over 65 were alone last Christmas.  One in six over 65-year-olds rarely communicate with family, friends or neighbours once a week.  Old people can become isolated: it is almost a given. However, surprisingly perhaps, another age group that features in the loneliness figures is the younger generation. Young people are also victims of social isolation. In a poll last year, the BBC found that 1 in 4 young people suffer from loneliness, in spite of having many social media connections.  30% of 18-24-year-olds admitted that they feel lonely and isolated at least some of the time.

Apparently many young people feel ‘out of touch’ with people, through lack of face to face contact. As social media’s influence increases, collecting a high number of so-called ‘friends’ is appealing. It is possible to have thousands of Facebook friends all over the world, in which the quantity of contacts is more important than the quality of the relationships. This means that many superficial acquaintances are created, without the depth of caring and intimacy that can develop in close friendships with a select few. Developing a true relationship through real, shared experience and history cannot be achieved online. Human interaction wins over technology in terms of close friendship.

So, what does friendship mean to you?

Georges Petitjean

Founder, Arthur Coaching

Arthur trains individuals to become professional Young People Coaches. Our mission is to facilitate access to quality leadership coaching for young people.

Arthur Coaching: The Rise of Youth Debt

shutterstock_98788745Young people are burdened with increasing levels of debt, according to a poll published in 2014 and commissioned by think tank, Demos. People in their 20s-30s are either “putting their lives on hold or racking up substantial debt”.

The Populus poll found that more than half (55%) of those aged 18 to 24, and 48% of those aged 25 to 34 say their debts have increased over the past five years.

The majority of young people have debts of more than £2,000 – 45% of those aged 18-24 and 56% of those aged 25-34. However, almost one-fifth (19%) of 18-24-year-olds and 22% of those aged 25-34 owe more than £10,000.

Research in 2014 by Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) found that more than six out of 10 young people – 62% – are turning to payday loans – high-cost loans aimed at people struggling.

High-interest loans often spiral out of control, leaving people in debt with nowhere else to turn but into a vicious circle of more borrowing. 10% of CAB clients in serious debt are aged between 17 and 24, of whom just 8 are in debt because of mainstream credit, such as an overdraft, bank loan or credit card. People aged 17-24 make up more than 15% of CAB cases where their debt has been caused by loans charging high rates of interest.

Because people under 18 can’t be held to loan contracts, and the debt cannot be legally enforced, no loan company offers loans to people so young. However, some young people have lied about their age and taken out payday loans online.

David Cameron has said that we are “all in it together” to tackle the deficit. That’s all very well. However, university tuition fees have been trebled while benefits for pensioners have remained.

Additional pressure is placed on people just starting out in life. The costs of studying for a degree, buying a house and starting a family are higher than ever. People in their 20s and 30s face a choice between putting their lives on hold, or racking up debts.

If you do need to borrow money, opt for a less expensive standard personal loan or credit card: usually a much cheaper alternative than a payday loan.

However, only take out a credit card, personal loan or other borrowing if you are sure you can pay back what you owe. Before resorting to that, be frugal and see where you can reduce your outgoings and make savings.

If you’ve already taken out a loan, or you are in debt and struggling to pay, do seek professional help. You can find your local Citizens Advice bureau in England and Wales on citizensadvice.org.uk. Get advice online at adviceguide.org.uk. Consumer advice is available from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers. Alternatively, call National Debtline on 0808 808 4000/ 0808 808 4000.

Georges Petitjean

Founder, Arthur Coaching

Arthur trains individuals to become professional Young People Coaches. Our mission is to facilitate access to quality leadership coaching for young people.

Arthur Coaching: Confident or ‘cocky’ teenagers?

shutterstock_193973885Are teenagers demons or are they being demonised? Usually, the media and general public have a bad impression of young people today.

As I understand it when I read the press, teenagers mainly fall into two (somewhat archetypal) categories:

  • The know-it-all lairy ones who answer back, full of cocky arrogance, ebullience, and loudness. The ones who hang about in gangs around the shops, drinking their way through the alcohol spectrum from beginners’ alco-pops to hardcore vodka. The extreme ones mugging grannies, dealing drugs and causing trouble.
  • The quiet ones – or the monosyllabic grunting ones; the introverted or shy awkward ones who lack social skills; the ‘Emos’ and those with teenage angst. The ones sitting alone in their rooms, playing computer games or exploring suicide sites.

It is easy to see the quiet ones as lacking in confidence. However, what if all the negative characteristics associated with teenagers actually mask a lack of self-confidence? Even hanging about in gangs resolves a fear of being alone. What if even their cocky ‘over-confidence’ was, in fact, over-compensation for a lack of real self-confidence?

The two main attributes of self-confidence are self-esteem and self-efficacy.

Self-esteem comes from being comfortable in one’s skin: a sense of our competence, coping abilities and our happiness. This comes from other people’s approval of us, in part, especially when we are very young. More importantly, it comes from our approval of ourselves.

Self-efficacy comes from mastering skills and achieving goals that matter to us. It’s our confidence in learning and working hard to succeed. This is what helps us to accept challenges and to persist when we are faced with setbacks.

Anyone at some point in his or her life must build confidence. It is hard enough for adults to do this, let alone young people, as they lack life experience and are being flooded with raging hormones affecting their emotions and judgement. Often, young people need support to develop their self-confidence.

So how do we help young people to build a balanced sense of self-confidence, based firmly in reality? Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix. The good news is that it can be more easily achieved through coaching, over a period of time.

Coaching programmes with disadvantaged young people have proved to significantly increase levels of self-esteem, aspirations and school attendance by up to 80% (CSUK – ASPIRE NLP & Life Coaching Programme, 2008). Coaching has caused a 50% drop in alcohol and drug misuse (Foyer Health Programme Test Bed, 2010), and helped young people to gain vocational qualifications, apply for / attend job interviews, resume probation contact, take up volunteering, resolve debts and apply for social housing (USC YMCA Report, 2011).

These results are promising, but this is just the start. What more can be done to build young people’s confidence through coaching?

Georges Petitjean

Founder, Arthur Coaching

Arthur trains individuals to become professional Young People Coaches. Our mission is to facilitate access to quality leadership coaching for young people

Arthur Coaching: The Brain is to Blame

shutterstock_195037466A common problem that parents/teachers/employers and young people experience is a gap in understanding. Adults use phrases like: “we speak different languages” or “we’re like ships that pass in the night” to describe the communication between them. Often, both adult and young person are experiencing the same sort of frustration and feelings.

In the last 30 years, behavioural scientists have reported that adolescents undergo massive changes in cognitive and emotional capacities which continue into early adulthood, well beyond teenage years. Brain scientists – neuroscientists – have more recently discovered similar changes in the brain.

There are valid explanations for young people’s unique attitudes and thinking. From neuroscience, we have learned that the prefrontal cortex of the adolescent brain is not yet operational until the person’s mid-twenties. This part of the brain is responsible for rational thought, planning, decision-making, impulse-control and emotional control – so maybe it’s understandable that young people indulge in risk-taking and what we might consider to be unreasonable behaviour.

Teens and adults use different parts of their brains to process reading facial expressions and feelings. Teens not only misread the feelings on an adult’s face, they also react strongly from an area deep inside the brain: the amygdala, a small almond shaped area that guides instinct or gut reactions. When teenagers get older and move into adulthood, the centre of activity shifts more toward the frontal cortex.

Meanwhile, adults rely on the frontal cortex, which governs reason and planning. The frontal cortex gives adults the ability to distinguish a subtlety of expression, to use reason (to rationalise), organise their thinking, plan, control their impulses and reactions. The frontal cortex has been described as the ‘conductor of the orchestra’. If you imagine a bunch of musicians doing their own thing, without co-ordination, order, planning or organisation, that might be like a young person’s brain. Emotions, hormones, thoughts, feelings and reactions are all firing off, without the controlling or management influence of the frontal cortex. Reactions, rather than rational thought, come from the amygdala, leading to impulsivenes or risk-taking behaviour.

Maybe that explains why the teen to young adult years seem so emotionally turbulent.

Now, how can we use this new knowledge to understand and to communicate better with young people?

Georges Petitjean

Founder, Arthur Coaching

Arthur trains individuals to become professional Young People Coaches. Our mission is to facilitate access to quality leadership coaching for young people.

Now, how can we use this new knowledge to understand and to communicate better with young people?

Charlie or Not Charlie? #IamCharlie

shutterstock_141073798After the terrible attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, many people on social media are saying in support: ‘Je suis Charlie’.

Charlie Hebdo cartoonist, Renald ‘Luz’ Luzier escaped the massacre in which 12 were killed, because he was late for work. He wept as he told reporters, “The terrorists, they were kids: they drew just like we did, just like all children do. At one point, they lost their sense of humour. At one point, they lost the soul of their child which allowed them to look at the world with a certain distance.”

Despite radical interpretations, the Qu’ran preaches religious tolerance (109:1-6): “Say: O unbelievers! I do not serve that which you serve, Nor do you serve Him Whom I serve: Nor am I going to serve that which you serve, Nor are you going to serve Him Whom I serve: You shall have your religion and I shall have my religion.”

Charlie Hebdo lives on, despite the terrorists’ attempts, still standing for freedom of expression and advocating tolerance. The cover of the “survivor’s edition” shows the prophet Mohammed, weeping, holding a sign saying: “Je suis Charlie” and “All is forgiven.” Luzier said, of his new cartoon, “I’m sorry we’ve drawn him yet again, but the Mohammad we’ve drawn is just a little guy who’s crying. He is much nicer than the one followed by the gunmen.”

I support the right to free speech. I also believe in practising that right responsibly and respectfully. There is great value in respecting other people’s opinions, even if they challenge us; even if we disagree. The right to disagree, however, does not mean the right to kill. While free speech means that I can say what I want, I do think about the impact of my words – and how others will feel, whether or not they share my belief system.

When I speak, I don’t want to be part of the problem; I want to be part of the solution. I want to help people. I want Islam, Christianity, Judaism and the whole of society to be open, inclusive, democratic and liberated. Free speech is fundamentally essential to that. So is respect. Both can exist together.

Freedom of speech is deeply and historically ingrained in French values. Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity are personal, social and constitutional rights in a democratic world. They are words for us all to live by, in a tolerant world.

Some Muslims – including Imams – were offended by Charlie Hebo’s cartoons. After the tragedy, the same Imams were shocked by the violence, reminding people on TV that you should only fight words with words, and encouraging Muslims to attend the rally in memory of Charlie Hebdo.

If I am Charlie, and you are not – it’s all good.

Georges Petitjean

Founder, Arthur Coaching

Arthur trains individuals to become professional Young People Coaches. Our mission is to facilitate access to quality leadership coaching for young people.