Using natural processes can make us better at facing life's challenges, writes Pol Moussoulides
In 2001, I was the voice coach on a film adaptation of Marian Keyes's book 'Watermelon' with Anna Friel and Brenda Fricker in lead roles. After a coaching session, Anna and I were having lunch in a nearby restaurant and I was quizzing her about her amazing ability to learn and retain lines.
As we were talking, I noticed an impeccably dressed man in his early 60s very subtly trying to tune into our conversation from a few tables away.
After five minutes or so, he patted his mouth with his napkin, stood up and walked towards us.
He said: "Excuse me but I couldn't help overhearing your discussion and it was fascinating. My name is Tony Buzan. Can I join you?"
It turned out he was the inventor of the mind-mapping technique and an expert on mental literacy. Although he has written dozens of books, I was particularly interested in Buzan's brain-friendly learning for children, and how he uses pictures instead of words to stimulate and engage students in the classroom.
Before we left, Tony asked me if I wanted to see his diary. What he revealed were pages of beautifully ornate hand-drawn hieroglyphics. My eye gazed at a plane taking off heading towards a steaming hot slice of apple pie.
"Ah", he said, "tomorrow I am going to see my mother and her baking is legendary". With a wink he continued: "Pictures help us all to remember. I haven't forgotten or missed an appointment in years!"
Theatre, TV & film professionals have known for years that creating memorable pictures results in making stories more memorable, but I had never really thought about using this technique to help my brain retain information longer.
So powerful was this meeting that I began a journey that has taken me from neuro linguistics to emotional intelligence and the psychology of persuasion to enhance the methods I use when working with my clients who have to speak for a living.
There can be many stressful times for families, and without doubt, looming exams can bring out the worst in us.
Our soon-to-be-tested darlings can turn the atmosphere very dark by either allowing nerves to get to them, or by seemingly not caring enough to revise.
Whichever way your child chooses to 'prepare', research from neuroscience tells us there are dozens of ways to reduce stress, avoid friction and boost your brain power.
As a voice and communications coach, although I am hired to help people become more effective leaders and communicators in their jobs, almost without exception, clients immediately see the benefits of how the techniques can be applied directly into their family lives.
Because the core of my work helps people to become comfortable in their body, clear in their thinking and persuasive in their words, it no longer comes as a surprise when most want to share the information with their loved ones at home.
T hen a few years back, I met a brain specialist from Canada named Terry Small. He has established himself as a world-renowned speaker on using the brain's natural processes to help people live healthier, happier more productive lives.
The first time I heard him speak, I had to stop taking notes as the nuggets of amazing facts were coming in such high quantities it was impossible to write amongst all the gasps and laughter from the corporate audience.
"Ninety per cent of what we know about how the brain processes information has been discovered in the last two years."
"The brain sees what is essential, not what is real."
"The brain will naturally resist change to protect us."
"The effects of Alzheimer's can be avoided if you establish a brain plan for you and your family as early as possible."
For more than 20 years, tens of thousands of parents and children across his native Canada have heard Terry speak.
What makes his approach unique is that families are invited to attend together. Through magic illusions and entertaining interaction, the audience gets an understanding of how some brains process detail differently to others, and how both adult and child can use techniques to engage the other more successfully.
When I founded the Young Gaiety School of Acting in the late 1980s, I was determined to remove judgemental elocution and restrictive exams out of teaching drama to young people.
Professional actors don't do exams; they have repeated experiences of playing physical, mental and word games.
Allowing children to raise their self-esteem through confidence and creativity is a fun and natural way to encourage courage and expression.
Large global organisations spend hundreds of thousands to invigorate and enthuse their staff to generate more productive ways of thinking. Stimulating brain, body and voice is at the core of every high-level leadership development programme.
We only get one brain, one body and one voice to last a lifetime. Making them work together can work wonders for exam preparation and the many other challenges that we all face throughout our lives.
On Saturday, February 9, David Coleman, Terry Small and I will be speaking at a seminar in Dublin's Temple Bar entitled 'The Smart Savvy Family'. We are inviting parents and their children (over 11yrs), teachers and youth leaders to join us and learn how neuroscience, psychology and performance techniques can dramatically enhance the way you and your child learn and engage together. For information see www.voicematters.com