Episode 338 – Crafting Connection with Felicity Dwyer

Felicity Dwyer‘It’s important to think about connecting with ourself first [because] whatever kind of interpersonal communication we are involved with, we are always there.’

In her 3D model of communication, Felicity Dwyer starts by inviting us to consider how we communicate with ourselves. It’s a profound and often moving process, but if we’re going to connect meaningfully with others, it’s an essential starting point. In a world that often focuses on superficial tactics to get a message across, this approach invites us to think more deeply, and connect more powerfully. 

This connection with self and others also characterised Felicity’s approach to writing her book, Crafting Connection, and in this conversation she talks frankly not only about how she developed her own thinking through writing, but also about inviting others into the process, and coping with the gift of feedback… 



Felicity’s website: https://felicitydwyer.com/

Felicity on Twitter: https://twitter.com/felicitydwyer

Alison on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bookstothesky

BizBoWriMo: https://alisonjones.lpages.co/bizbowrimo/

The 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge January 2023: https://pi-q.learnworlds.com/course?courseid=proposal-challenge-jan-23

WriteBrained: A 28-day exploratory writing adventure: https://pi-q.learnworlds.com/course?courseid=writebrainedcourse

The Extraordinary Business Book Club on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1447064765612358/

Felicity Dwyer

Alison Jones: Well, this is great, I am here today with Felicity Dwyer, who is a facilitator, a trainer, a coach, and a consultant who helps individuals and teams to connect and to communicate so that people feel heard and understood. A lead trainer on both CMI and ILM leadership and management qualifications, Felicity also helps people with challenges such as managing difficult conversations, facilitating effective meetings, and navigating change.

And her new book is called Crafting Connection: Transform how you communicate with yourself and others. I think what we need right now is a visual aid. Felicity, could you just…

Felicity Dwyer: Thank you…

Alison Jones: …oblige by…

Felicity Dwyer: Yes, this is Crafting Connection: Transform how you communicate with yourself and others. And it’s obviously a Practical Inspiration Publication and a cover design that I’m absolutely delighted with.

Alison Jones: It is gorgeous, isn’t it, that swirl? And if you’re looking on video, if you’re watching this on YouTube, you will notice that Felicity is basically wearing a necklace of her book cover, which I have genuinely never seen before.

So well firstly, welcome Felicity. It’s great to have you here, and congratulations.

What did it feel like opening the box?

Felicity Dwyer: Oh, it felt amazing. I did get a video of it, which my husband kindly did for me, and I was really…

Alison Jones: …the unboxing genre.

Felicity Dwyer: …share that. And it’s funny, I did it to share with others, but then I forgot that I could watch it myself and re-live the moment. So it was, yes, it was really a good feeling.

Alison Jones: There’s nothing quite like that moment and the smell of them is there?

Felicity Dwyer: Yes, absolutely.

Alison Jones: Well, brilliant. So I want to ask you first about the title, which I know you and I talked about for a long time, Crafting Connection, and also that subtitle about connecting with yourself and others because I think, you know, I talk about this in writing.

We think about writing for other people, but of course we write for ourselves. But when we think about connecting, it’s kind of implicit in that that we’re connecting with other people. So why did you start with the idea of connecting with yourself?

Felicity Dwyer: Thank you. Yes, I might say a little bit about the title because I think it’s quite interesting and relevant, the Crafting title, because I tried a few titles and when I came up with this one, it just felt right and something about it. It’s partly the word crafting, which is a process word, and for me, connection, it’s about a dynamic process. It’s not a static thing.

And if you think about the difference between communication and connected communication, communication could just be a little notice on a notice board or a quick tweet with a bit of information. Whereas connected communication, it involves that sense that this is something dynamic and it’s changing. So that, you know, it felt right that title.

And to think about self and other. I think the reason it’s important to think about connecting with ourself first is whatever kind of interpersonal communication we are involved with, we are always there.

Alison Jones: There’s one factor that is always consistent in all these interactions. Yes.

Felicity Dwyer: Absolutely. So it’s like I’ve come up with this sort of model and we are always at the center of it. And the connecting with yourself, I’ve covered different aspects of it. Part of it’s about connecting with your values and what matters to you and what matters to you now, because we are always changing and dynamic and, you know, I’m not the same person I was five years ago or even last week, and I imagine you may not be either. In fact, we are so dynamic that every time we take a breath, there is a subtle change in, you know, the atoms that compose our body, which is quite amazing when you think about it. So I think connecting with self is really, really important. So, I talked about values, I’ve talked about the role of the body, connecting with our physicality, connecting with the way we think. So not always getting caught up in the content of our thoughts, which can change very, very quickly. But actually getting to know how we think, the patterns that we observe in ourselves, and obviously bringing that knowledge into the way we connect with others.

Alison Jones: So, and you talk about sort of three dimensions of connection, which you sort of touched on there, but just to spell it out explicitly for people, what’s that sort of three dimensional model in your book?

Felicity Dwyer: Thank you. Yes. Well I’ve called it Connecting in 3D. And the first level of connection I’ve called Connecting Within. And that’s the connecting with yourself. Then there’s Connecting With, which is connecting with the other person or people that you are in direct contact with. So that’s where I share lots of ideas around effective communication, you know, listening, asking questions, giving feedback, those kind of things.

And the third dimension I’ve called Connecting Beyond. And that’s really our connection to the wider networks and communities that we are part of because we are absolutely you know, we are not isolated. We are all sort of caught in, or you know, like in a web of community. And in fact, when we are not, that’s when we can feel very isolated and disconnected.

So it’s encouraging you to think about, what communities am I part of? Are they serving me? Am I able to contribute, you know, are there things I need to do to feel more connected with the wider whole of which we are a part?

Alison Jones: Yes, I found that three dimensional taxonomy of connection really helpful and interesting. And the thing that’s surprising, if you are, again, if you’re watching this on YouTube, you will notice Felicity is incredibly graceful with her arm movements and very expressive with her arm movements. And that point about embodiment, and you mentioned earlier about, when you take a breath you’re almost a different person, and just connecting with yourself in the moment where you are, who you are, how you are. You talk about body whispering..

Felicity Dwyer: Mm-hmm.

Alison Jones: …and I’d love, just tell us a little bit more about that because I kind of want everybody to know about this.

Felicity Dwyer: Okay. Thank you. Yes. I mean, we are just embodied beings. We are embodied intelligence. You know, the idea that there’s a separation between our mind and our bodies, it’s scientifically not true. We have neurons all throughout our bodies. We have neurons in our heart, we have neurons in our gut. There’s been a lot of research on this lately from people like the HeartMath Institute. And if we only connect with the cognitive side of ourselves, we miss messages from our bodies. But our bodies speak, I say they speak in whispers because we have to slow down and tune in to listen to what’s going on in our body.

And there’s a couple of different ways that our bodies pick up information. You know, we pick up information from the external world, but we also pick up information from what’s going on inside. And one of the ways that this can really help us, is helping us with intuitive decision making. Because sometimes, I don’t know if this has happened to you, but when I think back about poor decisions I’ve made, it’s almost where I’ve talked myself out of something that I knew was right, or talked myself into something that didn’t feel right.

So it’s getting to know what it feels like to have an intuitive understanding of something and an intuitive feeling is not the same as just being scared about doing something. You know, we can step out of our comfort zone. We can take a risk and feel a bit scared, but there’s something different, there’s a subtle difference between that and knowing inside that this isn’t quite right.

And just when you start to listen to your inner messages, it helps you get clearer about that and there’s loads more benefits as well. It can stop you overthinking, for example, something that I’m very prone to if I’m not careful.

And sometimes when we get caught aware and we are worrying, if we just bring our attention back to, okay, what’s exactly is happening in our bodies. So say we get anxious about something and saying, okay, I realize my heart’s beating a bit fast, I’m breathing quickly and then rather than talk ourselves out of the anxiety, if we just focus on our breath or just trying to relax our physical body, that will impact our mind.

So the two, the mind and body are in a constant communication, but sometimes the easiest way to address overthinking or anxiety is actually to come back to the body. So that’s another reason and there are loads more, which I won’t talk about on the podcast, but there’s lots of ideas in the book.

Alison Jones: I find that really helpful, because I think we do think of ourselves as sort of, you know, brains wandering around on legs, don’t we? We, our society privileges the intellectual, the mental, over the physical when it comes to certainly communication. So just that sense of you can’t separate these out, and you’ll be a much better communicator to other people if you are much more comfortable with that sort of sense of embodiment yourself, I just found that really powerful.

Felicity Dwyer: Yes, absolutely. And just to add to that for a minute when you are communicating with other people, when you’re quite centered in your body, you will pick up messages from other people too. And some people do this very naturally and they tend to be called Empaths, I think, and will pick up the feelings.

But for a lot of us, if we’re too caught up in our mind, we don’t. So just settling into the body and if we feel we’ve picked up too much from someone else, then we can also use physical approaches to almost like free ourselves from that, just a little bit of a shakeout or going for a walk. You know, physicality can help release this as well if we feel we’ve got a little bit too much stuck in our bodies.

So movement is another part of that. It’s not just connecting into the sensation. It’s also when we feel the sensations that perhaps we don’t want to be stuck with movement, physical movement, can help. You know, just kind of move us on really.

Alison Jones: And I really want to keep digging into this because it’s so fascinating and also the way we are spatial beings. We locate ideas up here, don’t we? We look to the view.

Right, I’m going to ask you about writing, because I really, really wanted to ask you about writing as well. So tell me a little bit about, and this is your first book.

Felicity Dwyer: Yes.

Alison Jones: So, what surprised you about the process? What did you most enjoy about it? Let’s start with the positives.

Felicity Dwyer: Yes, well, one thing I’m thinking, I’m not new to writing for business but I’ve never written a full book before. And when I’ve written sort of reasonable size publications in the past, they’ve always been someone else’s brief. So this is what we want, this is the research we need, write it, you know, research it, write it.

But of course with Crafting Connection, I had to come up with the whole thing myself. So I had to come up with a concept. I had to come up with, obviously all the ideas, the chapter titles, all those sorts of things. And I’ve noticed that it was quite an iterative process. So the little germ of an idea about these sort of three, I’m calling them the three levels at the time, three levels of connection, was definitely, probably about 2019 I came up with that.

And then when I did the book proposal challenge, wonderful course, recommend to all, I obviously managed to get those ideas, you know, into a really good framework. I brought in the ideas of the dimensions, came up with the chapter titles. They came quite easily. I would have to say the chapter titles came quite easily.

The sort of outline content came quite easily. Yes, so those are the bits that I felt. These are the bits that I felt quite were quite easy and fun to do.

Alison Jones: And that process of articulating and structuring what you have to say. Do you remember how that felt at the time? I mean, I’m really interested, actually. This is a leading question, I don’t even care, but I’d love to know, did you notice the sort of physical response to that process?

Because what you’re doing is making the invisible visible. And there is a sort of embodying of your ideas on paper, isn’t there? And I’m just wondering how was that physically.

Felicity Dwyer: Yes, I really got this sense that, and you’ll see the figure, I’ve got a couple of diagrams that I had commissioned for the book, and the figure that has got quite a lot of movement because I had this sense that you are very much being in the center of the circle and moving and connecting.

And these are concepts I have explored, you know, in the past through sort of dance and movement. So it was almost like capturing in words. I mean that’s a wonderful question, capturing in words experiences that I had had in movement. I do share one story towards the end of the book about when I was in, I do quite a lot of conscious dance practices. I won’t name a particular one on this podcast, but some ideas are in the book.

But you know, I had that sense, you’re moving, you’re connected with yourself, you’re maybe moving with somebody else. So you are observing them and part of the skill is observing them and being influenced by them. You know, it is like a dance.

I mean, of course that’s one of the metaphors I use observing, but still connected with yourself and your movement. But then the third element is suddenly becoming aware that I was in a room full of dancers and we’re all moving, and the music of course is giving us that, you know, that we’re all moving to the same rhythm. And that’s really quite a transcendent experience.

So yes, so the three levels to me are alive and what I’ve tried to do is capture in hopefully a fairly clear and not you know, not overly yes, hopefully in a clear way.

Alison Jones: Do you know, until we were having this conversation right now, I had never made that connection. Ha, see where I did there? Between your three dimensions when we are relating to people and the experience of writing the book, because you have got this sense of bringing out what’s inside you. It’s very personal. These are your ideas, and you’re in relationship directly with people. You know, you and I we’re talking, you’re talking to your fellow challengers who are kind of asking clarifying questions and all that good stuff, and you are also writing in this broader context of the conversation that’s going on about relationship science in your space.

You are writing in the context of your following on social media, your professional networks. So there is really those three dimensions play out beautifully in the work of bringing a book into being, don’t they?

Felicity Dwyer: Absolutely, and this is a business book because these are the skills I use and teach at work. But they’re the skills for all kinds of relating and the first person I put in my acknowledgements is my daughter, because she is the one who teaches me the most, and when I’m able to connect with her, that’s, talking about values, that is the most worthwhile thing.

And the little thing that helps me, if we’re perhaps in a slightly difficult dynamic, is to connect with my heart and to have a little bit of my tension on my heart and being in connection with her, and it does seem to just slightly change. I mean, it’s quite a magical thing, really what the heart, connection with the heart, can do in just bringing a softness to a relationship. Yes.

Alison Jones: I guess it helps with perspective as well, doesn’t it? To put it in a different way. It’s just that actually this thing is not so important. This is what’s important.

Felicity Dwyer: Absolutely.

Alison Jones: If you’re not watching, that gesture won’t have meant anything to you, sorry. So we’ve talked about what you did and what you enjoyed, and perhaps what surprised you?

What did you find tough?

Felicity Dwyer: Well, I think the hardest bit was just getting myself to sit down long enough to get the words on the page. And I did try lots of different approaches and I, you know, learned from others. And tried different things that work. At the end of the day, you’ve just got to get down and write stuff.

So that was part of it. And I did a lot of editing. I took a lot of feedback on board. And I really, really welcomed the feedback, particularly the people who had the courage to give me really quite frank feedback. It’s fine to say yes, it’s really good but I had a couple of people who were really, one in particular, who were really, really clear about this needs to be clear, this isn’t fully explained, et cetera, et cetera. And I really, really valued that because it then gave me the chance to improve it.

So my absolute learning is writing a book, is, even though the ideas come from you, it’s a collaborative process and I cannot emphasize that enough. And not to be precious about bits that you thought were good, but then somebody says, you know, this isn’t clear, or whatever.

So I think it’s that element as well.

Alison Jones: I mean you’re framing it really positively, and you’re right, it is a really positive thing. It’s also really horrible in the moment, isn’t it? Where you sort of, you know, you sweated blood over this stuff and you send out, somebody goes, Yes, that doesn’t work. That’s rubbish. It’s so hard to take.

Felicity Dwyer: Yes, I think it’s about connection again, you have to trust that the person actually is doing it to help you. You know, when it comes to feedback, which obviously I’ve talked about in the book, if you’re doing it with absolute respect and concern for the individual, then it’s coming from the right place.

So, although it’s, yes, it’s not necessarily easy to take, it doesn’t feel like criticism. It feels like it’s constructive and supportive and yes, it’s interesting that that was modeled in the experience of writing as well as being a topic in the book.

Alison Jones: Yes, I mean, writing is life. It’s just a metaphor for life. That’s all there is, yes.

So Felicity, you know, I always ask my guests for their best tip for a newish, or somebody who’s kind of where you were a year ago or so, just starting out in the journey,

Felicity Dwyer: Yes. So my overarching tip is if you are not, if this is your first, or if you haven’t yet got an approach that works to try things out, to get advice. You know, some people have a very structured way, some people recommend a more free way of writing, but until you try these things out, I think it’s hard to know what works for you.

The two things that worked for me specifically, I recommend firstly was forcing myself to meet deadlines. So for example, I took your bootcamp course because I knew that I had a deadline built in and there was no way I wasn’t going to meet that deadline and get that review, you know, so that helped.

The second thing I found the best way in the end was to get the basic ideas down via mind map and then transfer it and just do it on the computer. So that worked for me. So I started some bits in long hand. I tried different things, but I would say that was my core methodology was mind maps and then a Word document.

So that was probably how 70% of the book was written. And you know, the other 30% was written using different methods.

Alison Jones: And you are so, so right about the, what works for you and thank you for sharing your methodology because I think, you know, there you go try that out people, I think it’s a really solid way of doing it. And actually we should say from a sort of technical point of view, building up your entire book in a single Word document might feel a bit unwieldy, but it has huge benefits because you can see how long the whole thing is, for one thing. If you use Word styles, you can navigate through it and you can search easily through it. So there are good reasons for doing that. But that point you made about trying things out, I think is really, really key and I literally, I’ve just come off a call where somebody asked me, you know, what’s the best way of, I mean, effectively saying, what’s the best way of writing a book.

It’s like that there is not one single best way. You have got to, you know, try what other people do, adapt them, play with them. And I think building that kind of confidence in your ability to learn what works for you and double down on it and adapt it and play with it, it’s part of the whole journey, isn’t it.

Felicity Dwyer: Absolutely.

Alison Jones: Which is not an answer that people like.

Felicity Dwyer: Yes, yes, but there’s so much wisdom out there and you know, so much good advice to try that you don’t have to start with the metaphorical blank page of not having any ideas, but it’s just accepting, you know I know someone who plans a book so thoroughly that they need virtually no editing.

I just can’t do that because part of what I do, I think maybe it’s the physical thing of writing or even typing because I touch type. Part of what helps me clarify my ideas is the actual process of writing. So although I can get the broad bullet points down or mind map down, it’s like I need to write them to really, really think them through or to get to the next level of depth.

So, you know, it was a halfway house for me between having a structure, but actually doing the thinking in the process of writing as well.

Alison Jones: Yes, and I think that’s really, really common. I think actually it’s one of the best reasons for writing, isn’t it? Is that it forces you to articulate stuff that you’ve never, never come up with before. Love that.

And you know as well, because I know you’ve listened to the podcast before, but I always ask people for a recommendation, so what book would you recommend? You’re not allowed to say Crafting Connection, you know that?

Felicity Dwyer: I know that, as you know, I read a lot, so…

Alison Jones: Yes. I’m looking forward to this.

Felicity Dwyer: I’ve picked, I mean, I had to pick one that’s in my bibliography because I recommended loads of great books there. This is an absolute favorite, one I recommend a lot, Matthew Syed, Rebel Ideas. And it’s so good because it’s about the value of cognitive diversity you know, for quality thinking.

So loads of great stories. He’s a Sunday Times journalist, so he writes really well. It’s not remotely dry, but it is very well researched and just shows you why in order to get better teams, better thinking, you want to get diversity, you need people from diverse backgrounds. And as soon as you’re looking at a team and you’re just thinking they’re all from the same, you know, same place then you’re not going to get the best thinking.

And there’s just a little story which I like because it’s simple, but I think it shows it they did some work with students. They asked them to solve a murder mystery problem. And some of the groups were four friends, four people who knew each other well.

And some of the groups were three friends and a stranger or somebody from a different socioeconomic background who didn’t know the group. And the success in solving the mystery among the group of friends was 54%, among the group with another perspective, more diversity, 75%.

Alison Jones: Yes, it’s really striking, isn’t it? And he makes the point as well that that it’s much more enjoyable when you’re in a nice little group of people who think the same as you. You have a great time. But the results are generally not as good and sometimes disastrously poor that way. So that thing about, you know, introducing rebel ideas not being necessarily enjoyable or easy, but incredibly valuable.

I mean, it plays right back into the idea of connecting when it isn’t always easy, but is always incredibly valuable.

Felicity Dwyer: Absolutely. And I think if you really want to learn and grow as a person, you know you have to be prepared. It comes back to feedback as well, you have to be prepared sometimes to take feedback that’s not comfortable because otherwise you know you’re not going to see. Okay. You know, that’s something actually that I could change, that I could do better. And you need that. You need to be willing to be uncomfortable. You need to be willing to go outside of your comfort zone a little and then come back hopefully to the safety of the body to process it and to just to gradually expand our ability to, you know, to take different perspectives ourselves.

But we’re fooling ourselves if we think we can do without other people’s perspectives because we all have blind spots and because, we are always limited by our own, you know, what we can take in and our own patterns or processing. So yes, it’s such a valuable book.

Alison Jones: Yes, I couldn’t agree more. It is beautifully written as well, which is always a joy. Yes, wonderful. Thank you. Great recommendation.

Now, Felicity, if people want to find out more about you, more about Crafting Connection, more about the work that you do, where should they go?

Felicity Dwyer: Thank you. Yes. I mean a good place to start is my website, which is felicitydwyer.com. So there’s a page there on the book as you’d expect and information about some of the services I offer. I’m also quite active on LinkedIn and I’m quite easy to find there.

And I do have a presence on Twitter and Instagram as well, less active on those two, but do find me on any of those platforms, visit my website and yes, if you like the sound of Crafting Connection, buy a copy: I’ve got a craft kit that I offer people who’ve bought the book and that’s got some workbooks and things related to the content, so that’s a sort of a bonus as well as the book itself.

Alison Jones: Brilliant. Well, I’ll put the link up to your site and the book page and a couple of those. It is, you know, of course you should connect because that’s what we’re talking about. That’s the whole point of this conversation.

Brilliant. Thank you so much. It’s been absolutely fascinating and yes, congratulations again,

Felicity Dwyer: Thank you Alison, and thank you for inviting me on your podcast. It’s been an absolute delight.

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