chapter 5. Calm

Taking it one day at a time

Without us perhaps quite noticing, much of what we place our hopes in will be ready for us in a very a long time indeed, in months or even decades from…

chapter 1. Relationships

Escaping the Shadow of a Parent

When we think about children living under the shadow of a parent, we tend to imagine the offspring of especially distinguished, notorious or wealthy people, children who – whatever they might…

chapter 3. Self-Knowledge

Overcoming the Need to Be Exceptional

It’s a rather simple question that quickly gets to the core of someone’s sense of well-being and legitimacy: did your childhood leave you feeling that you were – on balance –…

chapter 3. Self-Knowledge

Learning to Lay Down Boundaries

One of the reasons why our lives might be less than they should be is that we have missed out on an awkward-sounding but critical art (whose absence we may until…

chapter 3. Self-Knowledge

Are You a Masochist?

One of the more surprising and yet effective things we might learn about ourselves is that we are, and perhaps have always been, masochists – an idea as controversial as it…

chapter 1. Relationships

On Being Angry with a Parent

One of the more shocking and difficult emotions one may feel towards one’s parents is anger. It might have been acceptable, as a toddler, to have had the odd tantrum in…

chapter 3. Self-Knowledge

On Self-Assertion

One of the reasons why our lives are harder than they might be is that most of us have not got a firm handle on the art of mature self-assertion; that…

chapter 3. Self-Knowledge

You Could Finally Leave School!

Technically, most of us leave school at 18 – an event that tends to be vividly etched in memory and surrounded by considerable ceremony and emotion. And yet, rather oddly, despite…

chapter 5. Calm

Expectations - and the 80/20 Rule

In 1905, the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto noticed a detail about the peas in his garden: 20% of the pea pods seemed to be responsible for yielding 80% of the peas.…

chapter 3. Self-Knowledge

On Depression

Almost half of us will suffer from depression at some point in our lives, but the condition remains badly misunderstood and therefore often poorly treated. At the heart of our collective…

chapter 4. Sociability

What to Do When a Stranger Annoys You

In every life, we are constantly confronted with situations where a stranger will do something acutely irritating or discomforting: perhaps they’ll turn up their music too loudly on the train, or…

chapter 1. Relationships

What You Might Want to Tell Your Child About Homework

One of the inevitable duties of parenthood is having to induct our beloved child into the reality – and horrors – of existence. Starting with homework. It’s been a difficult evening;…

chapter 1. Relationships

On Apologising to Your Child

There few things more appalling for the parent of a grown-up child than the realisation of just how much one has, over the years, deeply hurt the person one most loves…

chapter 2. Work

How to Fire Someone

Some things are awkward to say not so much because they require a particularly deft or careful choice of words but because it’s difficult to get into the frame of mind…

chapter 2. Work

Diplomacy at the Office

A deadline is looming and a member of your team hasn’t made much progress on the crucial part of the task that’s been assigned to them. You feel like going up…

chapter 2. Work

On Small Talk at the Office

Some of what makes office life awkward is that it asks us to tread a fine line between being, on the one hand, efficient and focused, and on the other, genial…

chapter 2. Work

How to Tell a Colleague Their Breath Smells

We tend to have a pretty confident attitude towards the technical failings of the people we work with. These failings may be maddening, but we know how to put them right;…

chapter 2. Work

How to Screw Up at Work

One of the greatest problems of our working lives is that we lack any experience of, or instruction in, the essential art of failing well. Because our efforts are focused on…