Posted by: ginalazenby | November 20, 2008

Ruby Wax: From smart-ass comedy to guru of calm

Gina Lazenby & Ruby Wax

Gina Lazenby & Ruby Wax

Ruby Wax was the day’s motivational speaker during the afternoon session of Everywoman’s National Conference.  I was expecting a hilarious and raucous performance but Ruby is the not the same women she used to be – well not quite.  Her fabulous wit, put to great use as script editor of Absolutely Fabulous, was much in evidence and now she has added a new dimension. For the last few years she has been studying Psychotherapy and Neuroscience and her subject today was ‘authenticity’…. how we can get out of our own way and feel the difference between who we are and who the other person is that we might be with. It was mind-blowing.  She talked about her experiences of interviewing people who she did not necessarily like but had to create genuine rapport with. For instance, how can you hold back feelings of contempt for OJ Simpson when you believe him to be a murderer or how can you genuinely enthuse with Imelda Marcos over her shoe collection when you know she has robbed her country of $17 billions? Interesting one. She said that you have to hook in to something that you like in them as a human otherwise they will read your feelings and will close up and you will lose the intimacy.  So this was an interesting proposition: how can you be truly authentic AND everyone’s friend?   How can you run a company and have the ability to get down ‘down in the trenches with the troops’ and yet still be the one who can go to the mountaintop for the biggest vision? Being a performer and a leader is a balancing act.

The culture around us makes certain demands of us in the way we need to dress or behave but whatever it is we need to do to comply we must not lose the essence of who we are. When you lose contact with what is special, unique and separate about you, then paradoxically, that disconnection from yourself sets up your disconnection from others. Ruby talked of the need for women to really get what is different about us: we have wonderful empathy, listening and communication skills that significantly differentiate us from men as well as our hard-wiring in our biology for survival and talking on the phone! She asked the question why we tuck away our feelings when we get to the office?  Men accuse women of being “so emotional” and yet it’s out ability to access these that provide us with our useful communication radar.

She talked about how we affect the space in between us and the other person. If you are unaware of your own feelings and energy and you disconnect from being neutral then you have to stop and break the tension that you have just created. By doing this and bringing this level of awareness to your interactions with others, you become the driver of yourself and of the situation. When you learn how to control yourself you learn how to dialogue. By being able to switch yourself on and off you create wonderful moments of connection when you can really help the other person you are with (whether you are that performer/interviewer or business leader).  Calmness is required, the ability to hold for a moment and go within and know what is going on for you and not what you have picked up from another person.  Ruby concluded by saying that when you really lock in your connection with another, you let go of whether they are male or female, black or white. All the separation and difference disappears. Be the calm space.  Mmmmm. This is a different Ruby to the outrageous and daring comedy interviewer I remember from the 90s but I recognise your journey Ruby. Until we meet again. Thanks.

Read more about Ruby’s new life as a ‘shrink’ for BBC online”


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