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Building a strong future based on a rich past
March 28, 2016

We love the new Expo2020 logo: A ring is a symbol of connection: connecting minds, creating the future, said Ms Reem Al Hashimy. And of course, the ring’s age signifies the fact that the future is built on the strong foundation of ancient civilisations. See article:


A 4,000-year-old gold ring found in an archaeological site in the desert is the inspiration behind the Dubai Expo 2020 logo. Courtesy Dubai Expo 2020

José de Heer


More male Emirati teachers needed

This issue (See article here: is not merely a local or regional issue. We believe more male teachers are needed in elementary schools. Mr Gaith Al Matrooshi took a great step, choosing a profession where he can be a role model. But what’s more important, is his attitude towards his profession: Job satisfaction, he said, was a major compensation.
“The reason it is immensely enjoyable is two-fold. Knowing that I am moulding the future generation of our nation is an honour and privilege that I carry with pride,” Mr Al Matrooshi said.
“Second, the way my students look up to me. I see the positive change I am making in their lives, which fills me with great joy.” Hopefully, many more courageous men will follow in his footsteps.


Teacher Khalifa Al Naimi instructs pupils in maths at Al Tamayoz Model School in Al Ain. Delores Johnson / The National

José de Heer

Schools are out
July 16, 2015


Schools are out. Fights between siblings are on!

The scenario: Schools are closed for summer break, children are thrilled and parents are excited that the school runs have stopped for a while. After a few days however, families wonder why they were feeling happy before, because the initial feeling of joy has been replaced by frustration and disappointment since there is an atmosphere of fighting and arguing in the family. Do you recognize this situation?

How come? Uhhh…because we are bored or spoiled? Maybe. But, what is really happening?

Well, we have been in a different world: a world of going to school with a certain structure or habit with its’ own rhythm and now we have stepped into a NEW world. This means that the old structure is gone and the exploration phase has started and that’s what we are experiencing.

What might help to have a smooth and healthy transition from ‘school mode’ into a ‘happy holiday mode’? How about creating a new structure, ‘the 6 step process’, see below?

Step 1. Set-Up or Preparation Phase

Plan for a family meeting and set some basic rules, such as: everybody shares, nobody makes fun of the other, no blaming, no criticizing (no negative comments, only positive acknowledgments), one person speaks at a time (the others listen).

Step 2. What does each family member want Phase

Hand out paper and pencils. Write down what your ideal holiday would look and feel like. Each family member shares what s/he wants. Everybody listens without commenting and what one says does not have to be realistic because dreaming is allowed in this phase.

Step 3. What doesn’t each family member want Phase

Think for a moment and share with each other what you don’t want your holiday to look and feel like. Everybody listens (no comments, judgments or solutions, let the message be in this phase).

Step 4. What do we want Phase

Make a list of what each family member wants. And on another paper write down what each family member doesn’t want. Circle common themes and point out differences. Differences are normal. This is how we get to understand each other’s preferences.

Step 5. Creative Phase

Now ask yourselves:

a)    “What atmosphere do we want to create together?”

b)    “What atmosphere don’t we want as a family?”

c)    “Which behavior supports what we want as a family?”

d)    “Which behavior supports what we don’t want as a family?”

e)    “How can we remind each other –without blame- to show the wanted behavior?”

NB: you can come up with signs or certain words/sentences that will remind each other.

Step 6. Mutual Agreement Phase

Write down the answers of step 5.

You now have a list of things you want to do and behaviors to go with it, so it’s time to go on holiday and have loads of fun!…and walk your talk by reminding each other (including self) of what you agreed on. Like: “Hang on…I’m surprised. I see you fighting. Remember our talk/list? What’s up? (Let each person speak while the others listen without interrupting). Okay, so I’m hearing …. And I’m hearing….So, what do you want from each other? Have a look at our list. What would help us? Any idea? ” Keep building –as a team- upon it any time you like by adding or removing things on your list.

Happy Holidays!

With love,

Cindy van de Kreke-Freens


Interview with Maram Khamis
July 6, 2015

Mother of Belal who took part in Tiger Training Program. see

Emotions in healthcare
June 21, 2015

This video has stirred a lot of emotions, and has opened up the conversation about feelings in healthcare. Traditionally, doctors seem to have been encouraged to suppress their own emotions, especially in challenging situations or if they need to deliver bad news. However, several studies conclude that bringing bad news is stressful for doctors.

A study by R Brown et al in 2009 states that breaking bad news is a stressful experience especially for doctors who were fatigued. Poor communication performance was related to burnout. A study by RT Lee et al in 2003 suggests that emotional exhaustion is a cause of burnout. A US national survey published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2012 reported that US physicians suffer more burnout than other American workers. Some 45.8% of physicians were experiencing at least 1 symptom of burnout.

As burnout is related to emotional exhaustion, something needs to happen. I believe the key is in the emotions. In articles describing the event shown in the video, I read that after the emotional outburst, the doctor steps back into the hospital, “holding his head up high”. He is ready to go back to work and perform his duty competently. Allowing yourself to grieve, like the doctor in the video does, may be the the solution.

Everyone of us, doctor or not, has been taught from a young age that showing your emotions is ‘not done’: We hush babies who cry, and we say things such as “big boys don’t cry” to our sons. When we suppress emotions, they keep our brains occupied, and recovery takes time. But when we acknowledge our emotions, when we take a moment to understand what’s going on with ourselves, our emotions subside and we can recover.

It is perfectly normal for a doctor or nurse to be sad or upset about not being able to save the patient. It is their dream to help all patients. That’s what brought them to the medical field in the first place. Therefore, not being able to do so is upsetting, naturally. So I like to suggest: Allow yourself a moment to accept and understand your emotions, especially in difficult situations. It helps to recover quicker.

Sources: “Doctors’ stress responses …” R Brown et al, Nov 2009; “Correlates of physician burnout across regions and specialties: a meta-analysis” RT Lee et al, Sept 2013; “Physician burnout: It keeps getting worse” C Peckham, Medscape Jan 2015.


José de Heer


The Gift of Being Present
June 9, 2015


Interview with Ghada Zakaria by Empower World: “The Gift of Being Present”

Please see:

Giving & Receiving… Gratitude is all we need!
October 15, 2014

Gratitude is a word that shows up a lot lately. We get encouraged to practice gratitude. But what is it, really?

According to the Oxford Dictionary gratitude means: “The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” It sounds simple and yet there are a lot of assumptions around “how one expresses gratitude”.

A dear friend of us handed out hand written cards as a token of her appreciation of her fellow participants after a 3-day-intense- and-personal-course. She received diverse reactions. Some reacted overly grateful and guiltily because they did not have anything to give her in return. Some were clearly confused and clammed up and only one smiled genuinely and thanked her. Despite our friend’s good intentions, the impact was mixed. Our guess is that we all have experienced similar situations and yes, probably we recognize ourselves in all of the reactions, too. We sure do:-)

What’s not gratitude?

– Keeping the score by returning the favor.

– Letting someone’s light/love bring out our discomfort: Our inability to receive a compliment or a gift sometimes makes us react inappropriately.

– Givers gain: giving with theintention and expectation to get something in return.

Gratitude is, according to the Oxford Dictionary: “being thankful: readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”.So, giving is purely about enjoying the act of giving. And, how can we do that? By being mindful and by counting our blessings. The key is to do that right in the moment. We can be thankful for others, the people around us, and what they bring into our lives, for things that happen to us, and we can be thankful for ourselves.

In our busy lives, it’s easy to forget and just move on, as if we’re on autopilot. We also tend to focus on the negative, on things that didn’t go so well in our day. And it’s important to sometimes just observe and think about all the good things that surround us. Gratitude is a balancing act. It can help us re-focus on the bigger picture, what’s really important.

Being grateful for others and expressing that to them, helps us deepen the relationship and increases our feeling of unity. The other person will feel recognized and valued. We give this person a boost. We get more done together, as if our batteries last longer.

In order to be giving and receiving gratitude as a booster for ourselves and others,we only need to “be” with the other, to share the gift of being together and to see the other. So, in our opinion gratitude only requires an expression of joy, a smile, an acknowledgement. What do you think?

Gratefully yours,

Cindy van de Kreke-Freens & José de Heer

The Power of Yes / And…
October 7, 2014

Have you ever listened in on a conversation, debate, discussion or argument between people? Notice how many “buts” and (worse) “no buts!” are used in the course of the dialogue at hand? Most of us get caught up in the “no but” to prove our point and to impose how we think on others. Don’t tell me it’s not you. We are all guilty of that at some point in the course of our communicative journey with others. It happens in the corporate world all the way up from junior to the top level board meetings and with top execs. It also happens in friendly conversations with friends, family and loved ones.

Unconsciously we try to impose our ideas and thoughts as better than the other person’s because we believe and think in a certain way. Often it leads to huge disagreements, conflict, tension and no resolve or solutions.

I’m not saying we can’t disagree. Of course we can and that’s okay. What I’m suggesting is let’s agree to disagree consciously and in full awareness of where we and the other person are coming from with respect and understanding. Let’s really LISTEN to what the other person is trying to say. Let’s find it in ourselves to be less attached to our own personal thought process, perceptions, assumptions and judgments and get curious about what the other is saying or trying to communicate to us.

The word is simple alignment and the way to align even if we disagree is through the use of YES / AND. So a dialogue may typically go like this: “What I like about what you said is: ‘. . . . . .’ AND I also think/ believe that ‘. . . . . .’ is possible, or we could do so and so.”

Getting into the habit of  ”yes /and” improves your listening techniques, will improve and / or create a flow in communication with others and is most likely to yield novel ideas, thoughts and solutions especially in areas of conflict and challenge. It’s also likely to create alignment in an otherwise “hot” or touchy / edgy subject matter. Alignment, also, opens doorways of possibilities in a given situation and within relationships with others. It allows us to better SEE and HEAR the other person and be SEEN and HEARD. I’ve time and time again brought this technique into the coaching of executive leaders and have had the honour and privilege to actually observe and see how it changes and even transforms communication and allows for more efficiency within a relationship and ultimately objectives are fulfilled. The same applies within relationships whether you are in a heated argument with your partner, teenage child or friend.

So next time you find yourself caught up in a heated debate or discussion, you may want to invite YES / AND into the conversation and you may try to start by saying “What I like about this or that is . . . . and . . .” You may want to ask “no but” to step aside or stay out of the picture. 😉 It takes a little bit of consciously aware effort and some practice but I guarantee you the rewards are that of empowerment and a sense of moving forward with accomplishment.

Ghada M. Zakaria

All you need is love
July 1, 2014

Many times, when we have a different opinion from someone else, or we disagree, we start making it personal. I’m sure you will recognize some of the strategies: my favorite one is to disengage, to somehow fade out or disappear. Others might be fiercely defending their perspective as the only right way of looking at the issue, and others still may start accusing the other person of “always” being “like that”. And then there’s ridiculing or other forms of bullying too.

Parents may be the worst offenders. I’m sure you’ve all heard moms say to their toddler who grabs the colorful sweets that are tempting him by the supermarket check-out counter: “You’re a naughty boy!.” There are no naughty children and there are no naughty people. It is of course (in my opinion) a naughty choice of the supermarkets to place such temptation right at the eye level of impressionable kids. But that’s a topic for another article. The issue is, that the child has now been informed of a fact, namely that he is naughty. And that’s a pity because now the whole kid has been labeled and may feel rejected and not loved.

So, because the supermarket management made a naughty choice, our kids get tempted to make choices that embarrass or enrage us. We know now that it’s about the behavior, not the person, so the child who wanted to grab the sweet is not naughty, but he made a choice that his mom did not agree with. It’s good to make that distinction between “being” and “doing”, so that she can keep loving the child, without accepting his behavior.

Before mom goes on and says something about his “doing”, she has to figure out why she doesn’t want him to take that sweet. So many moms will have so many reasons. And of course the kid has his own reasons. One thing is certain: his intention was not to give his mom a hard time.

Sometimes we’re just too busy to figure all of that out, because it’s time to pick up the other kids from school, or we have to get home to start cooking dinner, etc, etc. So when we have no time for a whole conversation about that piece of candy, it will do to just ask him to put it back. What is important however, is that we take action with authority. When we now know about ourselves why we don’t want him to take that sweet, it’s much easier to be confident because we believe in what we say, and we can explain it. Like that, we don’t need to resort to anger, irritation or doubt. That’s when the tantrums start. Not because the child wants to make a fuss, but because kids pick up messages from our body language long before they pick up our words. And our body language can be pretty scary!

Colleagues, relatives, husbands, they may not grab sweets from the shelf, but their behavior and opinions can be equally mind-boggling to us from time to time. And even though they are grown ups, keeping an open mind and being curious about their choices, while knowing our own boundaries, keeps the relationship in good health. In the end, all you need is love.

We don’t need to accept any odd behavior, but we have to keep accepting the child, the colleague, the friend. They don’t mean to harm you, they just have their own internal motivators that they act upon. And the more we know about them, the more we start to understand. It all starts coming together when we put our own urge to “be right” aside, so that we can really see and hear the other person. A little love and acceptance go a long way!

José de Heer

Coaching in healthcare
May 6, 2014

According to figures published by the International Diabetes Federation, there are 745,940 diabetics in the UAE, and a study in BMC Public Health Journal ranks the UAE as the fifth fattest nation in the world. An ageing population and an increase in lifestyle related diseases have caused an inflation in the cost of healthcare worldwide which is twice as high as the inflation in the regular cost of living. I assume the UAE is no exception.

The issues of aging and lifestyle habits that cause chronic disease, need a different approach than the conventional medical treatment. The healthcare consultation needs to be reinforced with education, counseling and coaching. According to Margaret Moore of Harvard, the future of health coaching will have a place in the conventional care system. Worldwide research supports this statement.

The international insurance company BUPA and Aetna in the US are way ahead of the game by supporting and promoting health coaching, to help people get started and stay motivated on the road to better health.

Empowering people to become more healthy or to stay healthy through coaching supports the clinician-patient relationship and can save thousands of dirhams per year in healthcare. An interesting side effect for companies supporting coaching, is that employees make better choices about their health, and thus increase productivity and reduce costs.

”A Randomized Trial of a Telephone Care-Management Strategy” (DE Wenneberg et al, 2010 The New England Journal of Medicine): After 12 months, the average monthly medical costs per person in the enhanced support group were 3.5% lower than those in the usual support group.

”Empowering patients, improving outcomes, saving money: the rise of health coaching” (Dr Jo Garland, GP and Clinical Lead at Totally Health and Wendy Norton, registered nurse and Head of the Health Coaching at Totally Health, Onmedica, Tuesday, 19 November 2013)

”Can health promotion programs save Medicare money?” (RZ Goetzel et al, US National Library of Medicine- National Institutes of Health, 2007)

Aetna Healthy Lifestyle Coaching Helps Employees Live Healthier and Employers Save Money” (April 12, 2013, Aetna Inc., USA): 55% participants exercised more; 54% lost weight; 51% reduced stress. Employers who used the program found they had a 150% return on investment from reduced absenteeism and improved productivity.

José de Heer


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