That afternoon, 4.45 p.m.
‘Hello, Chris, good to see you again,’ began Steve, extending a
hand to his old university friend.
‘And you, Steve,’ Chris replied, pulling up a seat. ‘Well, have you
had a chance to talk all this over with Lynn?’
‘More than that,’ replied Steve. ‘We’ve decided together it’s the
right move for me.’
‘That’s great. You can even live with the lower basic salary then?’
‘Absolutely,’ laughed Steve. ‘And I’ve told Lynn we’ll be going on
a Caribbean cruise next Christmas when I get the first big bonus
‘Well, I’m sure you’ll be looking out the Panama hat before the
year’s out,’ joked Chris. ‘And we’d review your salary for the New
Year. So you can start in a month’s time then?’
‘Yes, my resignation is in and I’m free to start then,’ replied
‘That’s great,’ began Chris. ‘Oh, just one thing. The car we give
to our Sales Director is a Ford Mondeo.’
‘A Mondeo?’ asked Steve, hesitatingly.
‘A Mondeo Ghia. Is that OK?’ enquired Chris.
‘That’s absolutely fine,’ smiled Steve, adding to himself: ‘For
Saturday 18 February, 11.15 a.m.
Steve put another round of toast in front of Lynn as they sat at
the breakfast bar.
‘You know, this flat’s getting a bit small for us,’ began Lynn, ‘es-
pecially if we want a little brother or sister for Nicky to play with
Steve freeze-framed his bite on a piece of toast for dramatic ef-
‘Well, if I don’t get this promotion, there’s nothing to stop me – is
there?’ Lynn continued.
‘Do I sense a little hint of defeatism?’ suggested Steve.
‘Just being realistic,’ replied Lynn. ‘There were several other good
candidates in for the job and I thought I’d have heard by now if
I’d got it.’
The sound of the letterbox rattling stopped the conversation.
Steve returned from the hallway with several envelopes in his
‘This, I believe, is for you, Lynn,’ he said. ‘Looks as if it’s from the
‘You open it, Steve,’ she suggested.
‘Come on, it’s your moment,’ retorted Steve.
Hesitatingly, Lynn lifted a knife and slit the letter open. She read
the first two lines and shrieked in delight, throwing her arms
round her husband.
‘I take it you’re the new Head of Training?’ Steve asked, grinning
widely. ‘And that any thoughts of an addition to the family are
‘I suppose so,’ replied Lynn. ‘Unless I find within a few months
that I can’t …’
‘Stop it,’ interrupted Steve. ‘You’ll be just fine.’
‘It is a very responsible post,’ replied Lynn.
‘And you’re a very capable person,’ countered Steve.
‘You’re right. I realize that now,’ said Lynn.
‘Yeah, you’ve come quite a way in the past few months,’ sug-
‘We both have,’ replied Lynn. ‘But what’s been so different re-
‘We’ve talked a lot more, Lynn,’ said Steve. ‘Sometimes argued
– but we’ve worked things out.’
‘So what got us talking?’ asked Lynn.
‘Well those bizarre texts stirred things up a bit, didn’t they?’ re-
‘Now there’s a thing,’ continued Lynn. ‘Remember how we
couldn’t delete them? Well I looked through my texts yesterday
and there was no sign of them.’
‘Strange,’ said Steve. ‘I’ll check mine.’
After repeatedly scrolling through his texts, Steve reported back:
‘No, they’ve gone!’
‘Damn! And I’d promised Helena that I’d show her all the ques-
tions when we meet for coffee next week,’ began Lynn. ‘What
on earth were they now?’
Steve opened a kitchen drawer and pulled out a paper and pen.
‘I’m sure we’ll remember them, if we just go through them one
by one,’ he said. ‘You got the first one. What was it?’
‘ARE YOU HUNGRY FOR LOVE?’ replied Lynn.
‘And how did you respond to that?’ asked Steve.
‘Well, at first I really didn’t think I was comfort eating – but I
was,’ began Lynn. ‘I felt lonely in the evenings and we were both
caught up in our own worlds and had drifted apart. But it made
me realize that I was using food as a substitute – and what I
needed was to feel better about myself – and us – rather than try
to feel better by snacking.
‘I needed to satisfy my emotional hunger – and now I feel better
about myself and us.’
‘What was your first text?’ she asked.
‘ARE YOU GOOD ENOUGH?’ he replied.
‘And what did you do about that?’ she asked.
‘Well, at first I was really hacked off,’ he replied. ‘It came when
all the problems with the Bulldog were getting out of hand. I was
feeling bad enough already without that nonsense.’
‘But didn’t it make you start to think about the causes of that?’
‘Sure,’ he replied. ‘I started to realize I was far too hard on myself.
I’d always looked for my dad’s approval – but never got it. So I
suppose I began to understand that I only need to approve of
myself – and value myself for being a worthy human being.
‘What other people think of me has become far less important.
It’s what I think of myself that really counts.’
‘That’s so true,’ said Lynn. ‘And my next text got me thinking
along similar lines. Do you remember, it was: IS YOUR EMOTION-
AL BANK BALANCE IN THE RED? At first, it really upset me. But
I was allowing myself to be used by everybody and couldn’t say
no to anybody.’
‘Remember we looked at the pizzas,’ recalled Steve, ‘and re-di-
vided your time to leave some left over for you?’
‘Yes,’ began Lynn. ‘I hadn’t realized how much I needed to feel
liked by everybody – but, I just needed to like myself more. And
funnily enough, I feel so much better for having more time for
‘You’ve really got to keep your emotional bank balance in credit –
by investing enough time and energy in looking after yourself.’
‘Quite right!’ said Steve. ‘And you’re looking so much happier
since you started doing that.’
‘Your next text was something about bullies, wasn’t it?’ asked
‘WHO ARE THE BULLIES IN YOUR LIFE?’ replied Steve. ‘And I
began to realize that I was being bullied by the Bulldog – and
was still being bullied by my dad, in a way. I’d never challenged
Dad’s criticism. In fact, I’d adopted it and come to believe it. I even
realized I was bullying myself!
‘Once I’d realized who the bullies were, I could challenge them
for the first time in my life.’
‘Hey, Steve, remember that time we were getting stuck into the
garden and that message came through: WHO ARE YOU PRUN-
ING BACK TO PROMOTE HEALTHY GROWTH?’
‘Of course,’ began Steve, ‘the day Helena and Jim were pruned
back and Andrea and Bob were weeded out.’
‘Yeah, that was a laugh,’ began Lynn, ‘but our friendships had
really become far too cluttered. And we’ve now given ourselves
room to breathe – and grow. I was expecting a backlash, but
some of them probably feel the benefit too.
‘Ultimately, you have to keep all relationships balanced, healthy
– and under review. That’s how to flourish and grow with the
people you choose to have in your life.’
Steve fell quiet.
‘What’s up?’ asked Lynn.
‘Oh nothing,’ said Steve. ‘It’s just that I was in a bad way at the
time I got the next message: HAVE YOU LOST YOUR BEARINGS?
It was the day I’d had a bust-up with the Bulldog. I went for a
few drinks too many – and I thought about driving the car into
a brick wall.’
‘You thought about killing yourself?’ Lynn gasped.
‘I was just feeling sorry for myself,’ retreated Steve. ‘I’d had too
much to drink.’
‘Steve, promise me you’ll never bottle things up like that again,’
‘No, I won’t,’ he began. ‘But, you know, it was a turning point
for me. I really had been feeling lost and heading nowhere. But
that Confidence Compass you’d found pointed me in the right
direction. I really had no idea how “driven” I was – constantly
working harder to feel better about myself. And the truth is, I was
on a downward spiral.
‘I now feel I’m heading in the right direction – balancing all the
hard work with a much greater belief in myself.’
‘I was having an awful day myself,’ said Lynn, ‘when my next text
came through. I’d fallen out with Mum – and Nicky was playing
up in the supermarket when I got a message: WHO ARE YOUR
ROLE MODELS? It got me thinking about Dad and all his broken
promises – and Mum had a dig at me for paying too much atten-
tion to celebrities and their lifestyles.’
‘She had a point, Lynn’ suggested Steve.
‘I know she did,’ replied Lynn. ‘I just wasn’t ready to admit it. But
I now pay far less attention to who people are – and far more at-
tention to what they believe and what they do.
‘I now choose my role models for their depth of character, rather
than their superficial image.’
‘Your mum had a pop at your parenting skills that day, as I recall,’
said Steve, ‘and that’s what my next message was about: WHO
ARE YOU PARENTING? When we talked about it – or argued
about it, to be more accurate – you accused me of being too hard
on Nicky and I accused you of being too soft. In the end, we just
had to learn to be firm – and set clear boundaries. We were guilty
of sending him mixed messages. So we both had to sing from the
same song sheet.
‘I certainly didn’t realize that I was being so critical of him. And I
now make a point of telling him how much I love him. I now also
know that I can be a parent to myself – and treat myself in the
way any good parent would treat their child.’
‘It was New Year’s Day when I got the next message,’ said Lynn,
‘HOW ARE YOU COPING WITH CHANGE?’
‘So it was,’ said Steve. ‘The day I heard that Mum had died.’
‘We were driving to Irene and Ian’s,’ said Lynn. ‘And worried
about whether they’d be put out by us seeing less of them – and
we arrived to hear that awful news.
‘I think I’d been rather afraid of change in the past. But now I
realize you have to swim with the tide of change – rather than
against the current.
‘In fact, I’d always thought that I would make changes ONCE
I felt more confident. But it’s the other way round. I feel more
confident BECAUSE I’ve made changes.’
‘Well, the big change I made around that time was to my lan-
guage,’ said Steve. ‘I had been so negative about Mum’s funeral
– but that message WHAT DO YOUR WORDS SAY ABOUT YOU?
certainly addressed that.’
‘And I was being unfair to myself by watering down my attributes
whenever I spoke,’ added Lynn.
‘And you would never accept a compliment,’ continued Steve.
‘Do you still think it’s phoney to say “I’m good” instead of “Not
bad” when people ask how you are, Steve?’ asked Lynn.
‘No, I’ve just got used to it – and I feel I’m being more positive
with Nicky,’ said Steve.
‘It’s easy to change your words as the first step to thinking, feeling
and acting more positively. Positive words also help to challenge
that critical voice in your head.’
‘Remember we used role play to practise your positive responses
to the Bulldog?’ asked Lynn. ‘That worked a treat. But what was
the message that prompted it?’
‘HOW ARE YOU AT SOLVING PROBLEMS?’ replied Steve.
‘Of course,’ continued Lynn. ‘And we addressed your biggest
problem by working out a plan to deal with Dave face to face
without him beating you down.’
‘I reckon I’d been running away from the problem until then,’
confessed Steve. ‘It was only when I faced up to it and under-
stood it that I could start to deal with it.
‘It’s only when you ask yourself the right questions that you can
bring the problem into sharp focus – and you can find a way
‘Then I got the message asking ARE YOU ACTING AS IF?’ said
Lynn. ‘And I had no idea what it was about. By that time, you’d
had to act as if you were really confident going into the meeting
with Dave – but then you’d prepared well and you pulled off a
‘You’re forgetting one thing,’ teased Steve.
‘What?’ asked Lynn.
‘A confident manner!’ Steve reminded her. ‘You have to look as
if you’re confident to feel as if you are.’
‘Well, I certainly used that when I went for the new job,’ said
Lynn. ‘And it worked a treat.
‘And if you keep on looking and acting more confident, you be-
come more confident. And when you feel more confident, you
look and act more confident. It’s an upward spiral.’
‘Well, your confidence certainly took an upward turn this week
with the way you handled that job interview,’ said Steve. ‘But
it was a strange message you got before it: DOES YOUR MIND
WORK FOR YOU?’
‘Yes, by the time I got there,’ said Lynn, ‘the only person who
had to be convinced that I had a good chance of getting the job
‘So what made the difference?’ asked Steve.
‘I just silenced my “goblin” and started saying what I believed to
be true,’ she replied. ‘I suppose I put my mind to work for me,
rather than against me.
‘You really do have to make your mind your best friend if you
want to find peace of mind.’
‘I wonder about your mind sometimes,’ said Steve, ‘given that
you saw the interviewers with Mickey Mouse ears and in their
‘You’re one to mock,’ said Lynn. ‘You saw Dave in his boxer shorts
and with huge ears.’
‘Which he has anyway!’ they said in unison.
‘Well, you won’t have to look at them for much longer,’ sug-
gested Lynn as the laughter subsided.
‘True,’ said Steve. ‘I’ll miss Dave – but not much!’
‘Will anything happen to him when Craig reacts to your letter?’
‘Who knows?’ said Steve. ‘But if everybody else in the sales team
is spared his bullying, that would be a good thing.’
‘So why have the text messages disappeared?’ she asked. ‘And
does that mean they’ve stopped?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Steve. ‘I really don’t know.’
Monday 20 March, 8.50 a.m.
Dave the Bulldog trudged wearily into the hotel foyer and scanned
the conference board to find the right suite.
He and four others would be spending the next six hours on an
‘Effective Communications’ course, organized by Craig for ‘se-
Craig had looked closely at his senior management team and
decided that some would benefit from a few reminders on how
to communicate positively with staff.
Dave went to switch off his mobile, but a bleep indicated he had
one new message to check first.