A tiny tip with huge effect

Chances are that you are known with the advertisement I am about to talk about.The advertisement concerns a drink but every time I watch it, I am more drawn to the 45 sec. story.

The main character does not make choices.
The voice-over (the man who appears from the refrigerator) says: ‘We see this a lot. People who don’t make choices. Innocent? Maybe. But when it starts taking over your life…’

When it starts taking over your life…
The result is that the main character let others choose for him. And I can tell you, they do! The man ends up with a ridiculous suit, a ‘dubious’ hairstyle, a house that is not a house, let alone a home, and drives around in the strangest car. Or better, ‘vehicle’.

The voice over turns up again: You cannot live like that!
At the end of the story, after a lot of encouragement and with great effort the main character finally makes a choice and gets what he chooses. The man, discovering the power of choices, is thrilled. Everyone around him is happy. That is the moment to celebrate and a party starts.

The creators of this advertisement produced a funny story here, one with a core of truth. They show what happens when you don’t make choices but also what happens if you do!

How important is it, to choose?
By choosing yourself, control over your life is in your own hands. By doing so, you create the opportunity to get what YOU want. The opportunity to live the life you wish. A team that serves you best. Having to job you envisioned for yourself etc. The haircut you fancy…; )

At the same time deciding is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do.
We tend to keep weighing our options in the hope a better one comes along but that does not make any sense. You can gamble on it of course, but it usually results in disappointment and fragmented attention, you will get nothing from it. Obstacles and reasons why it will be difficult, impossible, over handed etc. prevail. The only thing you achieve with this is the confirmation that you will not succeed. Or a haircut you absolute dislike. 😉

To get what you want, you must decide what you want.
With all your being, with everything you have.

Miracles do happen, you know:
As soon as you have made that choice, all the reasons why you would not get what you want melt away. Once you have made your decision, there is focus, focused attention and dedicated action.

You will be amazed by the vast array of opportunities that present themselves. Again, and again it turns out that there are several roads that lead to Rome. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Whatever you do, Choose!
If it is not clear yet, my message here is the following: Dare to choose for what you want. Choosing is absolutely the first step towards getting what you want. And like I said before: It is not always necessary to know how to get ‘there’. When you make the choice, the path reveals itself.

Are you afraid to make a choice?
Choosing one option is the only way to find out if it is the right one.

Do you feel you made the wrong choice?
Choose to make another. But whatever you do, Choose!

Are you impatient?
Have faith. Yes, sometimes (or most of the time) it takes a while. But one thing is certain, as soon you made your choice, you will get it. You will get there.

Before you know it, it is time to CELEBRATE! ( link to part 2 of the commercial)

The Curling Mum

Since I learned about this word in the Netherlands word I use and play with it during coaching and training with my various clients. It’s a word for mums who swipe away every obstacle for their children. Of course they do that out of love. That’s not the issue here.

But, my question is, are they really helping their children by doing that? Most of the time the answer is, no.

What kind of person do you think that particular child will become? I am sure I don’t have to tell you what the answer to this question is. I am sure because the answers I get are always the same.

– Everyone knows you should not take away every problem for the other person.
– Everyone knows we all can, even must make mistakes to learn.
– Everyone knows we even have the right to make them.
– Everyone knows letting people do things themselves is much more empowering than taking away the opportunity.

And yet we cannot help ourselves to (over)help others. I bet there are not only curling mothers, but also curling fathers, curling managers, curling employees, curling bosses, curling friends, curling neighbors, curling colleagues, etc. who swipe away every little obstacle for others.

Again, helping in itself, is a fine quality. But here I wonder again: do you really help by doing so? And are you helping yourself?

I see many people suffering from this. They are always worrying about others. Afraid of what could happen. Afraid the other will not learn. Always busy, even stressed to save others, or the project. I see people burn out because of this. Not being able to let go. Not being able to deal with not knowing if all will be ok.

Here it is: By overhelping you don’t only harm the other but also yourself by doing so.

Think about this: What is ‘helping’?

Is helping taking away the opportunity for others to learn and grow


Is helping more like supporting as people execute on their own.

I am sure you know what the answer is. I am also sure you know what to do to prevent yourself or others not to ’overhelp’ other people.

What advice would you give when you see someone ‘over’helping?

Please leave your answer in the comments below. You never know who you help with doing so 😉

The fifty euro note

When it comes to anecdotes I have the memory of an elephant. Especially if it has to do with a topic that interests me. When I heard the following story, I thought it was brilliant.

The story of my friend
Some time ago, my friend had just heard that he would lose his job and was considering chasing his long-held dream. By coincidence a building- overlooking a nice square – in the village became available. An ideal place for his long-dreamed Bistro. He started thinking about what it would look like: the interior, the terrace, the parasols on sunny days. His clients chatting, enjoying the drinks and some nice food. He saw himself working in and around the bistro, interacting with his clients. Being proud of his own business.

He decided to reach out to a coach.
Together they explored the required steps to realize this big goal. At the beginning my friend was enthusiastic but as the time went by, he increasingly became more dispirited. He realized he had to make space for his dream. This included having to make choices that others might not going to appreciate. Having to take steps that will require him to show who he truly was. Making clear what his wishes were. Regardless of whether others would agree with him or not. He should completely go for it.

My friend felt as if he was getting smaller and smaller. Finally, he admitted: I am scared. 
Essential to the story is that my friend was bullied at school when he was younger. As you can imagine this has left its marks on his self-image. Even now, 20 years later he still carries it with him. The news that he will lose his job comes on top of this. He feels miserable.

The coach and the fifty euro note
The coach said nothing, thought for a moment and then without one word he reached for a fifty euro note out of his pocket. ‘How much is this worth?’ he asked. ‘50 euro’s’, my friend answered confused.


Next, the coach wrinkled the fifty euro note. Threw it around in the room. Onto the ground. Jumped on top of it while screaming and cursing. He went nuts on it. Then he picked it up, folded it open and asked the same question: ‘How much is this worth?’

The realization
In the meanwhile, tears were rolling down my friend’s face. He understood and felt the message immediately:

–     Despite the abuse of the piece of paper it is still worth 50 euro’s.
–     Despite the bullying and the loss of his job, his value remains intact.

For my friend this was the first step towards feeling better about himself.

Everything worked out fine for him by the way. He has worked very hard. He still keeps an eye out for others, but he does not ‘please’ them as he used to do. Instead he stands up for himself, sets boundaries and preserves them. Loves himself. To his own surprise he is completely supported by those around him. People are happy to see him grow. Blooming and happy. Being fully who he is.

And his dream?
That has come true: a fifty euro note is attached to the coffee machine in his café: A beautiful bistro located next to the nice square in the village. The parasols are standing on the terrace and he walks around proudly. He interacts confidently with his clients. Proud on himself and his own business. Just as he had imagined.

5 tips
If you ask my friend which tips he found to be most useful:

–     Find peace with your past
–     Compliment yourself
–     Reward yourself for your successes, even the small one
–     Work out
–     Surround yourself with positive people

  • Karen van Hout

NB. With a huge thanks to my friend. For privacy reasons the original story has been altered so that the main character cannot be recognized. Did you like the story? Feel free to share the blog.

It takes two to tango

Sonja enters the room. She is full of hope.
It’s the first time we meet. She tells me she feels like a doormat. Or better, she behaves like one. One look from another person and she already does what she ( thinks ) will be asked.

A reaction that is eagerly used. But Sonja suffers from this. Feels that this behavior does not suit her. Her energy level is very low, therefore she wants to break this pattern. She is very excited about what’s to come.

=> Everything starts with a decision.

Sonja enters the room. She looks concerned.
After some questions she tells me what worries her. After our previous conversation, she did some thinking. She really wants to get rid of that ‘please people behavior’ and also knows she needs it, but on the other hand she is very afraid of changing. She is afraid that she will turn into a nasty and selfish human being. A witch. I reassure her. The one person who is in control is herself. She is not a nasty human being by nature and will not become one.

 => Essentially you do not change, you become yourself more and more.

Sonja enters the room. She looks frustrated.
She has changed. She knows it. She stands up for herself much better. Knows what her boundaries are and takes them into account. She feels it. She sees it. She notices it. And it feels so good! But the ‘others’ unfortunately do not see the change. They treat her just like before. As if nothing has changed. I recognize it. It is a fact:

=>Sometimes it is hard to see new behavior.

Sonja enters the room. She looks spunky.
She did not let herself be discouraged and continued her new behavior. What has helped her is that she realized that her new behavior does not always suit everyone. That people often tend to approach someone as they used to be. What helped her is pointing out what she is running into. She realizes:

 => Sometimes it is hard for others to accept new behavior

Sonja enters the room. She looks delighted.
She succeeded. She has achieved results! She can be herself and at the same time maintain a good relationship with her colleagues. In fact, she is respected, her growth is seen and she even receives sincere compliments.

 => Sometimes it is just a matter of time

Sonja enters the room for her final session
We discuss the trajectory. ‘That we took out the core of my’ please people behavior ‘ felt very good. That was such a relief. This allowed me to be myself . I then applied the tools that I learned afterwards step by step. I feel good, much calmer and relaxed. ‘

She explains further: I developed a new attitude towards other people. I now know how much effort it takes to change behavior. How exciting that is. What I found difficult is that although I changed, my environment did not. Not directly. It is very difficult when people continue to respond to you as if you are still the same when you are not.

It sometimes felt like a refusal to see me as I am. Sometimes I felt really insulted by that. Yet I now understand it too. I know that my old behavior came in handy. And I see that I made it happen myself. I also see that the more I implemented the new ways, the better things got. ‘It takes two to tango’ as you always say.

I now know that you cannot just assume that someone is like they were yesterday. Or last week, last year. It is true what you said:

Meet each person every time as if it were the first time you meet him. You never know what happened in the time that you do not see each other, many things can change.

And to come back to my previous fear
I now know my behavior has nothing to do with who I am. I am who I am.
My behavior, I can choose. And you know what Karen?

=> I have changed, and yet again, I have not.  

  • Karen van Hout ( with thanks to ‘Sonja’ who gave permission to write this blog)

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How to ‘let go’ in 3 steps.

Leave the emotions out, look at the naked facts

‘Just let it go!’
Go with the flow. Relax!

Well-meant advice
Well-meant advice, but difficult to do when somebody gets under your skin. When you are in conflict with someone. If you cannot seem to make clear to the other person what you actually mean. If you are stressed. If you experience feelings of anxiety and shame. Insecurities. Particular beliefs. If you feel like you are the victim of someone else’s behavior. If you do not succeed in that one thing you would really like to do. If you lost someone or something of value to you. You constantly think about it.

Often this is not helpful at all, if you ask me. Unfortunately some kind of leaflet with instructions is not provided. Because how do you let go of something?

If you let go, do you drop everything? Is throwing it away the solution? Do you just take your hands off it? Do you block it out of your mind? Fold it up and clean it up? But then – what is next?

The leaflet
‘Letting go’ is a verb. As long as you are keeping yourself busy with it not a lot will happen. If you continue thinking about it and working on it, it will stay with you. If you are unlucky, it will even grow. Everything that you pay your attention to, grows. Whether you like it or not.

Desperately wanting to let go of something is like tightly holding on to something that you want to let go of. It cannot go anywhere.

Letting go in 3 steps

Step 1:
‘Open your hand’ and turn it until your palm faces upwards. Give air to what you want to let go of. Let it be. You have all the right to be stressed, sad or angry.

Step 2:
Look at it. Take the emotions out. What are the naked facts?
Things are the way they are. Nothing more, nothing less.

Step 3:
Accept ‘what’ you want to let go of. It is as it is.

What is next?
Relax. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to what you want to let go of. Let it be. For now, it belongs there. You will notice that as soon as you start to accept ‘what is’, it will resolve itself. Eventually everything goes away.

New possibilities are given the opportunity to surface. The first steps towards making the necessary changes can be taken.

Soon there will be a moment when you will realise that you have not thought about that one thing for a long time. Or that you did not have a particular feeling for a long time. You do not carry it with you anymore, you lost it.

That is how it works. That’s the magic:
As soon as you accept and embrace what you want to let go of, it will let go of you.

– Karen van Hout

Everyone counts. Everyone matters.

‘Going beneath the surface’


Above the Surface
Erik breathes a sigh of relief. Luckily he has found his team a new member. The team members will probably be as relieved. After the departure of their former colleague the position has not been properly filled. Colleagues came and went but now there was an applicant who seemed to be just right. The right education, experience and competences. And also quite important, the right personality. This woman is a keeper. Erik knows it for sure.

The team members welcome the new employee with great enthusiasm. Initially the woman is as excited and does what is expected from her. After a while however, she is shriveling as a flower in the dessert. Erik sees it happening. He does not understand why but he knows: she will also leave the company.

In the meantime, by coincidence, he comes across the systemic methodology. This gets him interested in the different options to discover the dynamics within his team and decides to set up a systemic constellation*.

Beneath the surface
During the systemic constellation props are met to represent the team. It becomes clear that there is something ‘not right’ within the team. On an day to day basis nothing seems to be the matter but when we take a closer look, we see there is definitely something going on. The team comes across as weak. Some members are about to leave. Emotions and feelings such as insecurity, sadness, anger, and confusion come to the surface. Erik is astonished. He was not aware of this.


The inaudible but tangible message
On inquiry, it shows that the team in its current form has been around for quite a while. Some time ago, as Erik still remembers vividly, he fired a member after the two of them got into a huge argument. This employee left abruptly without saying any goodbyes. Not a word has been said about it ever since.

From one moment to another, suddenly the employee was literally completely excluded. There was no farewell. No credits were given for what he had done for the company. In fact, the complete situation was hushed up. The message ‘If you argue with me, then you do not exist anymore’ seemed to glimpse through.

Power of the system
The exclusion of a member goes against one of the basic laws of systems: everyone belongs to the system, the team in this case. If someone leaves the system then this is supposed to occur under fair circumstances.

If someone is excluded like in the story above,  then this will weaken the (team) system. The unspoken message sounds inaudible but is no less tangible for the team. Similarly, the person who will fill in the gap will also feel it. This person will get dragged into the dynamics, behave the same or like here, leave as well.


Disturbed dynamics can be restored again.
In the first instance, Erik does not want to go along with this line of reasoning: “This is nonsense! It is the way it is. We got into an argument and the employee left, period. That does not say anything about the rest of the team.”

Well, it is clear Erik needed some extra encouragement:

Indeed, it is the way it is. You cannot change anything about that. The person left. In theory, that is fine. However, the circumstances under which the person left have resulted in damage.

Erik sighs. He considers whether there might be some truth to this observation. Indeed, the circumstances were not very appropriate. But what can be done about it?

The good news here is: Fortunately, disturbed dynamics can be restored again. For the comprehensiveness of this blog I will leave it by giving a clue: What would happen if you would include ‘what has been excluded’ again?


Everyone matters
Erik looks at me with suspicion; ‘Are you really saying this? Can it be that simple?’ After some time of consideration, he decides to give it a try. It will not hurt. With hesitation he places a prop who represents the fired employee, back into the constellation of the team.

Erik immediately notices a change. The current constellation does not seem to be accurate anymore and he adjust all props until he feels it is ‘right’ again. When we look at the ‘new’ constellation the team appears to be stronger and comes across as a more coherent whole. Calmer.

Erik anxiously asks, ‘I do not have to hire that person again, do I?’ Besides from the fact that nothing ‘has’ to be done – no, that is not necessary. But you could consider (still) saying goodbye appropriately. Would that be an option?


Appropriate goodbye
This seems to be something that Erik would be willing to do. He increasingly realizes that the way how the former employee left the company was not appropriate, and takes responsibility for his part. He decides to openly share his insights with the team but before he does this, he calls the ex-employee. He asks whether he would be willing to drink some coffee together, allowing him to apologize for the way things turned out, and to thank him or her for his years of dedication to the company.

=> What kind of effect do you think this act will have on the former employee, the team, the organisation, the new member of the team and last but not least, himself?

  • Karen van Hout

Eline’s top 5 tips for managers with a ‘wobbly’ team

In the Dutch language we have the following expression: ‘As the wind blows, so does her skirt.’ When I ask Eline whether she knows this expression, she looks at me and nods. She laughs because she realizes that this sentence sums up her whole story.

Eline is a manager. She struggles because everyone in her team goes his or her own way. The promises are not being kept and the atmosphere between the team members has its ups and downs. They also have a lot to say on Eline. ‘They wobble,’ she says. And, ‘I have no control over this team.’

As our conversation proceeds it becomes clear that Eline is wobbly herself. Afraid to upset her team members and willing to keep the peace, she allows agreements to change constantly. How the wind blows…


If you wobble, your team wobbles with you.
Eline admits that making decisions is not one of her strongest points. ‘The team’ always wants her to make different decisions and Eline often wonders whether they are right. As a result her strategy changes all the time. More often than not deadlines are stretched and to the least extended. Agreements altered or not fulfilled. Attending someone to his or her behavior does not have any effect because everyone knows: today it is this approach, tomorrow it will be different. And if not tomorrow, it will be the day after.

As our conversation goes on it becomes painfully clear to Eline: It is not surprising that the team behaves as it does.

If your team wobbles it is time for action!
The worst thing you can do is to postpone making things right again. Postponement means that you accept the situation the way it is. It affects your credibility. The power the (team) system will come into action and ultimately everyone will ‘wobble’. The problems (read: your problems) will not become any smaller. So it is time for action. Now!

Make sure that you stand firm yourself
It may take some time but it is possible to turn the tide. And this starts with yourself. Instead of looking at the team first, it is better to look at yourself and to examine your way of leadership.

In addition to my tips mentioned in the blog Will they still like me, Eline has made a top 5 list of the tips that have helped her in this process. One extra tip I would like to give you is that Eline has made use of a notebook in which she wrote everything down. This helps her to be inspired when she faces a difficult situation.

Eline’s top 5 tips

1.     Know who you are, what you do and why. The better you know yourself, the more confident you are. Consider this knowledge to be the foundation of your actions. Know that you do not have to act as if you are different than the person who you truly are.

2.     Take the position of the leader. Take the lead and pay attention to your team members. With the emphasis on ALL team members. Know what drives them and what concerns them. Encourage each to get the best out of himself in their own way.

3.     Formulate your communal (team) contribution to the success of the organization. Give the employees something to hold on to. Where are you heading? Spread this message clearly and make your team members co-responsible for the success.  Eline added something what I fully support: celebrate the successes you book.

4.     Be clear in your communication. How tempting it may be to equivocate, it is important to be trustworthy. Especially when the message is complicated. Be clear and straightforward in your communication, make clear agreements and come back to them. Always! In case of  undesirable behavior, respond immediately. In private. If you see desirable behavior, respond immediately as well. Give a compliment, preferably in public.

5.     Walk your talk. Eline has already mentioned it in the fourth tip: be trustworthy. What you say may sound nice but what people see is of more importance than any of your comments. Your words are not of any significance until you live up to them. Take the lead here: show everyone what you expect them to do.

Which tip could you add to this?

4 Advantages of gender differences within the workplace

In a previous blog I wrote about Monique. How she came to the decision to compose a diverse team.

Monique noticed that she had made a good decision. As she expected, the different traits and talents of the people she chose added value to the team. She was content.  It has become a good cooperating team. The desired results were being achieved and from time to time they had a good laugh. The project was running smoothly.

Monique did however worry about Diana, one of the women in the team. Diana had her opinions about the men. She was very clear on this and expressed these opinions verbally as well as non-verbally.

  • She found that the men often took action too soon.
  • She called them childish because they were busy outdoing each other.
  • She did not feel as if she was taken seriously when she said ‘no’.
  • She found them lazy because it seemed as if they continuously delegated their tasks onto other people.


The assignment
Monique saw it happen. First she did not want to believe it but indeed: men and women differ from each other in behavior and in communication. She understood that this could occasionally not only lead to laughter, but also to misinterpretations, confusion, and annoyance.

But she also noticed that there were similarities. Each member of the team was incredibly driven. Motivated to become a successful individual who is part of a successful team. So she decided to make use of the things they had in common.

To be able to share this insight with Diana, she gave her the assignment to describe the gender differences within the team, and to analyze the advantages and the disadvantages.
After some resistance, Diana decided to give it a try.

The result
Because she had been so focused on the differences, it was easy for her to draw up this list. She experienced more difficulties when examining the advantages of these differences. However by thinking critically, being an observer, and talking to her colleagues, she discovered the following advantages:

  • By letting men and women work together, the men were prevented from taking action too soon while the women were stimulated to take action.
  • The fact that the men proudly acknowledged and shared their achievements among the team, gave the women the opportunity to do the same.
  • While women consider a ‘no’ to be a clear ‘no’, Diana realized that men often consider it to be something that can be changed into a ‘yes’. She now perceives the negotiation that follows after saying ‘no’ to be an opportunity for woman to continue the conversation and get what she aimed for anyway. She also knows that she has to be very clear when refusing something.
  • The annoyance that the women always seems to be working and the men apparently do nothing, also disappeared. The men inspired the women to perform their tasks more efficiently. At the same time, the women motivated the men to complete the tasks that were assigned to them.

Diana’s conclusion:
Men and women in the workplace respond differently. She saw that the unwritten rules were just there. The different reactions are not personally focused. And do not have to be brushed away but may be there. She concluded that men can learn from women, and vice versa. That the differences are the cause of the team’s success.


What’s next?
So this is not a plea for change. But a plea for creating mutual understanding and awareness. So that you can anticipate this and thus achieve better results. Whether they are business or personal.



Comment of the author: I know that some women consider this to be manipulation. But this is not the case. And by the way, if it makes our lives easier then what would be the issue?

Try to look at it as a chess game. What will be your next move?


– Karen van Hout

Why mixed teams perform better

Monique faces a great challenge; she has the opportunity to create her very own team for a long-term project. At first glance, she has some candidates on her ‘list of favourites’. Colleagues who she knows and likes to work with. You could say, ‘job done’. But Monique knows more is needed to complete the project successfully.

So she first determines which qualities she deems necessary to achieve success. On a personal level, she asked herself the following questions. Does she only want people she has worked with before or is it smarter to involve new members? What should the ratio ‘upcoming talent’ vs. ‘Recognized experts’ look like. Etc. Would it make sense to look at the male / female ratio? And which ratio would be the best? Will it make any difference? Monique went to investigate.

Homogeneous teams
For Monique, a team consisting only of women would feel most comfortable. But she also knows that such a team is one-sided. A team with much of the same, how valuable this one contribution in itself is. In addition, in the early days she already experienced that in a one-sided team there is generally less supervision of agreements and performances and a greater chance of group thinking. Issues that will not benefit the final intended results of her project.

The mix, heterogeneous teams
Monique is researching what a mixed team could do for her. She finds out that mixing different qualities and talents will make her team richer. She discovers that greater diversity ensures that more sources of independent information and therefore different insights are available. Because of this diversity one has to talk to each other. Therefore the issues will be viewed from different angles in order to arrive at the best solution or conclusion.

One that will probably sound very different from what a homogeneous team can ever come up with.

Monique’s decision
All in all, she decides to put together a mixed team. Attracting people who are different from each other. In background, experience, character, but also to have a good look at the male-female ratio. She realizes that one single man in a women’s team, or a single woman in a men’s team, will not make the difference. She decides to strive for an (for her) optimal 50/50 male / female ratio.

Monique is excited but also a bit anxious. Her colleague who has already been to this rodeo, reassures her: ‘Yes, a mixed team can be a hassle but not as much as you think.’

Accept the differences
He says: ‘Differences may give friction but without friction no shine. Accept the differences. If you do that, then others will too. The more emphasis you put on refuting the differences, the greater these will become. The fact is that we are all different. And yet all the same. Nothing more nothing less. Let the differences work in your favor:

A mixed team is smarter:
– Working with people who are different from you, challenge you to think differently than you are used to.
– Team members of a mixed team set company interests more often before their own.
– In a mixed team it seems that members seem to give each other much more space to develop and encourage each other to deliver good performances.
– Which leads to a better working atmosphere.
– In companies with a good working atmosphere, work is done more effectively, benefiting productivity.

And the team itself?
Do not be afraid that the team members will have objections. It is known that generally it is more fun to work in a mixed team. Often the atmosphere is much better than in one sided teams. In general it`s indicated that one functions better. One will be more challenged and for sure have a lot more fun.

In short:
The hassle is a small price to pay for the benefit you will have from a mixed team. All systems are go Monique.

And last but not least: If you ‘hit a roadblock’, just call Karen.

Why behaviour is not the cause

We often attribute the cause of an event to behaviour. Which makes perfect sense because ‘the behaviour’ is what we see. And so we can identify it. And as a result to ‘what we see’ a response with a connecting conclusion is possible:

–  John always responds cranky to an assignment. According to his manager this causes a dispirited atmosphere in the team.

–  Lisa’s three-year-old son takes over the entire household – his will is law. Lisa believes that this is the cause of the tensions between her and her husband.

Action = Reaction
In You do not have a relationship, you create one I have already explained that an action always results in a reaction. So indeed, if someone acts cranky then others will respond to this accordingly. Which, in John’s case, will have its effects on the team as a whole. Similarly, we can assume that the behaviour of Lisa’s son causes tension between the two parents.

So far, so good
A logical solution would be that Lisa’s son and John would ‘just’change their behaviour in a way so that it does not result in any undesirable consequences. However, often it is not that simple. In order to be able to truly change behaviour we should have a look at the underlying causes. What makes it that John responds so cranky? And why is Lisa’s son so demanding?

A way to identify underlying causes can be found by looking through a, what I call, systemic perspective. This can be explained by zooming out the situation. To be able to do this, you do not only look at the individual but you also include the whole environment in which the person finds himself (the system).

The system
You can see the system as a group consisting of people that belong together (context). In the case of John we look at the whole team. In the case of Lisa’s son we look at the whole family.

All members of the team and family are directly or indirectly connected to each other. All members influence and are being (visibly or invisibly) influenced by each other. If one person moves, then the other is automatically set in motion as well.

A system ‘lives’ according to numerous basic conditions concerning ‘belonging’ (as opposed to exclusion), ‘seniority’ and ‘balance in giving and receiving’, and always working to maintain the balance between the different elements (= self regulating).

In the system
A disturbance of the aforementioned basic conditions will result in imbalance. Because everything and everyone within a system is connected to each other, such a disturbance effects the whole system.

The system does everything to restore the balance. These movements are invisible, but can nonetheless be felt by all the members of the system. A reaction on such a sensible movement results in visible behaviour:

– The bigger the efforts and movements to restore the balance are, the more ‘trouble’ you will experience. This can cause unrest, irritations, and compulsiveness.

– When the balance has been restored (the basic conditions will be met) then this will be experienced as a more peaceful situation.


It works both ways
In short, behaviour is not the cause but an expression of something that occurs within the system.

Concerning John: all team members had the feeling that they needed to give more than they were given back in return. John was the person who expressed this feeling through his behaviour.

Concerning Lisa’s son: the boy expressed demanding behaviour because he sensed the already existing tension between his parents. This was his way of communicating what had gone wrong even before he started showing challenging behaviour.

As a friend noted: ‘We often do not realise that we do not only influence our environment but that our environment also influences us.’

This sums up the whole story.


–     Karen van Hout

What do you take from this story? Feel free to leave a comment.

How much can you take?

Which thoughts came to your mind when you saw this title? Did you think about all the challenges that you have encountered until now? Did you think about your overfull closets? Money? Physical exercise? Sickness? If you know me well enough, you will know that I like to play with words. So yes, I am talking about something completely different.

This Christmas blog is about receiving. Just getting something. Without having to do anything for it. Just like that. Just because you are nice. Because you deserve it. Because the giver wanted to give you something. Just because.

We are so used to applying the ‘a favour for a favour’ rule that it becomes uncomfortable for us to happily receive something without having to do something in exchange. How tough is this for you? How many times do you say ‘thank you, but you did not have to do that’?

Of course this differs among people. Maybe you really enjoy receiving the one gift after the other without batting an eye. In that case, I sincerely congratulate you!

But how many people are not at ease when they are given a cup of coffee. And even some pastry to go with it. By an effort especially for you. A big bunch of flowers. Or does the feeling of discomfort start when you are treated on a dinner or a night at the movies. How much can you take?

I firmly admit that I sometimes struggle with these situations too. The act of giving seems to be so much more enjoyable than receiving. But why is that the case? Why is it so difficult to just openly appreciate a kind gesture or a pretty gift? And just to be happy with it? No, give! Giving is a lot more fun than receiving.

I would like to ask you whether that is really true. Or could it be that something else lies at the base of it? I think that for a large part it is easier. Because what makes receiving so difficult? Do you consider yourself to be worth being given something? Do you think that you are obliged to give something back if you receive? Do you feel the strong need to do something in exchange?

Systemically, there should always be a balance between giving and receiving. During my studies the following rule stood out to me: the giver has the right that, what he or she has given, will be accepted by the other. So.. if you do not receive, you subtract the opportunity for the other person to give you something.

In other words, you seem to give something back by just being happy about what you have been given. I consider that to be an eye-opener. What do you think?

Merry Christmas!


Karen van Hout

If you have any questions or would like to talk about this topic, please feel free to contact OFWOOD.


Homesickness is not a point of discussion

The big wish
‘Homesickness is not a point of discussion, you know.’ I was shocked myself and wanted to stop the words but it was too late. And I felt, what I just had said, was true. And still is. I cannot deny it, I am homesick and it demands to be heard.

‘We could always go back,’ was the answer. Really? My heart skipped a beat when I heard those words. Could that be possible? My husband and I looked at each other. The details of how, what, when, and where were unclear but the decision had been made: we are moving back to Luxembourg, the place where we had such a good time.

Homesickness hurts. Physically it feels like inexplicable sadness. To be honest I did not really know what it was until it suddenly came around the corner. At the beginning it is not very present and it is often outweighed by everyday events, but as time goes by it becomes stronger and more present. This goes on until it comes to a point where the feeling cannot be denied anymore and something needs to be done about it. So that is what I am going to do.

Take control
As you know I am convinced that you have control over your own life and therefore I encourage you to follow your heart. Do whatever you want to do! Make sure that you will not regret the things that you have not done. Do not let yourself be stopped by any what-if’s and should-have’s.

As I say quite often, you do not always need to know everything about the road that will lead you to your destination. At the time when we made this decision we did not know that either. What we did know was that it would be a matter of time. If you strongly focus on what you want, any road will get you there.

Celebrate every step
That is exactly what happened. We made a clear plan to make our return to Luxembourg a reality. And now, one year later after our decision, the first steps have been taken. As a highlight for us, our departure this summer has been met with a lot of encouragement and understanding. Thank you for this!

No goodbye
Of course we will miss a lot of things by following our heart. Fortunately, following your heart does not always mean that you have to let go of everything and anything. So this is no goodbye. Both because of personal and business relationships we are still connected to the Netherlands, and we always will be. So I am hoping to see you many more times.

See you soon!

-Karen van Hout

(This blog was written summer 2017)