About Marjorie Johnson

Marjorie Johnson

Listening Begins with the Pause

Stephen (not his real name) was in his weekly management meeting and as usual, he found himself getting frustrated with his colleague Bob.    Every week, Bob was vocal in his opinions and Stephen often found his mind wandering when Bob would launch into an explanation or ask questions that Stephen thought were unnecessary.  The fact was, that although Bob was extroverted, he often brought up information that needed to be addressed. Stephen knew he was missing potentially critical discussions by “zoning out” but he didn’t know how to force himself to listen. As his executive coach, I asked Stephen how well he listened to himself.  Was he aware of the subtle tension that preceded his annoyance with Bob?  What was the thinking that preceded him tuning Bob out? How adept was Stephen at listening to himself when he was anxious or stressed?  I suggested that he try Mindfulness Meditation:  simply follow the breath noticing the full inhale, pause, exhale, pause, inhale.  As he practiced every day for 10-15 minutes, he noticed the pause, between inhale and exhale and the longer pause between breaths.  He became aware of his wandering thoughts when practicing and eventually this carried over into his workday.  As he learned to pause and to listen to his wandering thoughts in meditation, he became able to pause before zoning out in management meetings.  The pause helped him to be at choice so he could to listen to Bob’s message despite his talkative style.   

Deepening Awareness: Mindfulness Practices for Coaching

Mindfulness increases awareness and change in executive coaching.  Gain a better understanding of its benefits, and how it enhances your client’s experience by joining me at the IFC June Dinner on June 20, 2019 at 6:00PM, where I’ll be discussing how to use Mindfulness exercises in your personal and professional presence.

For more information please see link below:

Deepening Awareness: Mindfulness Practices for Coaching

March/April 2019 Power Points

No one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes.  Even though we all make them,  it isn’t always as easy to live with the fear and judgment we put on ourselves because of them.

How does one turn down the guilty and self-critical voice we hear inside when we do make a wrong decision, and turn up the Self-Compassion to recover from it?

Read my latest March/April 2019 Power Point for tips on being more Self-Compassionate during those times:

March/April 2019 Power Points

Self- Compassion as a Self Improvement Strategy

Self- Compassion.  Does this phrase bring up thoughts of ego, self- centeredness and self- pity? It often does, because most of us were learned to fear mistakes and judgment when we made a mistake or did something WRONG as children. We also learned to feel guilt and even shame for those misbehaviors.  Some of us high achieving perfectionists (you know who you are) have spent our lives beating ourselves up over real and even imagined imperfections. We tell ourselves, “I really messed that up! Why am I so stupid?” “I’m never going to get that job!” “I really bombed that big presentation!”  Negative criticism and guilt lead to anxiety which inhibits clear thinking and now we really can’t perform at our best.

What can we do to turn down that guilty, self- critical voice and start clear accurate self-reflection so we can do better next time? We can show ourselves some self- compassion!  In fact, people who are self- compassionate are more honest about their strengths and weaknesses and more resilient. IN turn they are more honest and forgiving of others.

So, what is self-compassion?  According to researcher/ author Kristen Neff, Ph.D. Self Compassion, 2011 Harper Collins, it is comprised of 3 components:

 *self- kindness- an understanding and non -judgmental attitude

 *recognition of our shared humanity- everyone makes mistakes; experiences pain

*Mindfulness- a full awareness of our experience

When we are fully present to our mistakes, weaknesses and suffering, without judgment, we are better able to problem solve.  This clear thinking empowers positive action to comfort, soothe and motivate us to change and grow.   Facing our experience as it is with kindness rather than amplifying it or avoiding it due to fear, helps us move forward.  Remembering that all humans are imperfect and experience pain in life, puts our experience and our self -worth in perspective. We have the courage to change.   As we approach ourselves with both honesty and kindness, we can also be positive and accepting of others and support them to grow.

Let’s take a business situation.

Dean (not his real name) worked in finance in a global corporation.  He was extremely intelligent, detail -oriented, and trusted by the C-Suite.  Dean’s self -talk was critical most of the day, every day.  He was convinced that sooner or later he would make a big mistake and could lose his job.  The truth was he was highly valued and his boss, the CFO, often told him he was way too hard on himself.  Still, he lived with anxiety and self- doubt about his performance.  Unfortunately, he managed his people with the same highly critical attitude.  He didn’t dare take the time to just chat with them or go to lunch because there was too much to do.  Not surprisingly, the only time they heard from Dean was when he found an error in their work and his feedback could be harsh.

As Dean’s executive coach, I explained the neuroscience behind relentless negative self- criticism.  We talked about how critical thinking is hampered by the anxiety it generates and over time performance suffers.

Conversely, mindful acceptance of a mistake allows us to face it without exaggerating it or shutting down due to fear.  Reminding our self that everyone makes mistakes and that we are capable adults, enables the mind to clear so we problem solve and remedy the situation.  As we turn the mind away from criticism toward acceptance with non- judgment, we relax and use our energy to create solutions.  As Dean practiced Mindful breathing every day, especially during times of challenge or mistakes, he experienced greater confidence with the big boss.  Not surprisingly, he started to risk taking the time to chat with his direct reports and get to know and enjoy them.   When they did make a mistake, Dean approached employees with a teaching style, so they learned and developed their skills.  They in turn felt more valued and calmer which reduced their mistakes.

Self -compassion is not coddling ourselves. It is honest acceptance with recognition of our humanness, and it helps us address our mistakes with courage, creativity and resilience. Sounds like a sound self- improvement strategy to me!


Upcoming Events: 

Mindfulness Based Support Group

5 Thursdays, 12 Noon – 1:15 pm

Starts May 2 and ends May 30, 2019

Registration is $160 and includes of Marjorie’s CD:

Come to the Quiet: Meditation for Relaxation and Healing

Register at Marjorie@ascendconsulting.net


Marjorie presents “Cultivating Deeping Awareness: Mindfulness Practices for Coaching”

June 20, 2019 ICF Philadelphia

Contact Marjorie for more info



Did you know Marjorie is a highly sought -after speaker for Leadership Retreats?  Her highly interactive, content rich keynotes focus on critical leadership and emotional intelligence competencies that set winning companies apart.  


Contact Marjorie for your organization’s next event” Marjorie@ascendconsutling.net

A Reason (and Season!) to Connect

We see the signs everywhere: gift ideas, charities asking for help, the Salvation Army Bell Ringers, the Hanukkah candles and the Christmas trees. Our whole mindset is about giving gifts, showing love, and gathering together at work and home. At times it seems tedious, so many in need and so many parties/invitations.

What is the point of it all?

At our core, our humanity demands connection.  In every culture throughout the world, human beings gather in groups using formal celebration, movement and words to express their desire for connection. Even our brains are hardwired for connection as Marco Iacoboni found when he discovered Mirror Neurons.  According to Wikipedia, “A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another. Thus, the neuron “mirrors” the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting.”  The fact that we respond in our brains to what someone else is doing as though we were doing it, is remarkable. It demonstrates how connected we humans are with others at the brain level.

So, what does this say about how we celebrate and give at this time of year?  It implies that apart from corny sentimentality or tradition or because we should, we come together and give to others because it is who we are as human beings.  How shall we express this spirit of connection and giving throughout the year in our homes, marriages, offices and teams?  More importantly, how can we get more skillful at connecting in ways that help us be better people and more successful in our relationships.   The late Judith Glaser, an Organizational Anthropologist and executive coach, with whom I had the honor to study, was a pioneer in communication and connection in business.  She shares the practical applications of the connection between neuroscience and communication strategies in her book Conversational Intelligence.  Two of her strategies that work to create trusting connection and to overcome conflict are:

The Ladder of Conclusions and Moving From “I to We”

Often, we have whole conversations in our heads that predict how someone will think, feel or respond and, based on our “self- talk”, we decide whether to talk to that person and what to say.  The “Ladder of Conclusions” graphically shows the brain science behind how we come to “know” something and how important it is to distinguish between our assumptions and theories and fact.

When we realize that what we are thinking in our head is not fact, but is merely our theory, we can check out that assumption by talking to the other person involved. We can ask open questions that build a shared understanding of reality which can pave the way to communication, and mutual solution seeking. This moves us from “I to We.” When we talk in ways that invite others to openly express their thoughts especially if they are different from ours, and if we listen with the desire to understand and connect, we open up new possibilities, solutions and connections. As Judith often said: “Words create worlds.” The words we use either create positive feelings and brain chemicals of connection(oxytocin) or make us fearful or defensive (cortisol) which drive us apart. “Culture depends on the quality of our relationships which depend on the quality of our conversations.” * Judith Glasser Conversational Intelligence for Coaches Training, 2016

So, this Holiday Season, lets practice the skills of self- awareness, checking our assumptions and opening up dialogue so as to increase understanding in our homes neighborhoods, businesses and on social media.  Let’s remember that there are myriad possibilities for solutions, innovation and healing in all our relationships.  Let’s make this the gift that keeps on giving all through the year.

Marjorie is a clinical social worker and certified professional coach. She applies the concepts of Mindfulness, Emotional Intelligence and “conversational intelligence” in her counseling, coaching, corporate training and keynotes.  Contact Marjorie at Marjorie@ascendconsulting.net (610-696-4443) for information on these topics and keynotes and check out her websites: 





Interested in Learning and Practicing Mindfulness?

Are you interested in finding ways to put a pause in your stressful days?

Are you anxious or depressed and want new strategies to feel calmer; more positive?

Marjorie has been facilitating the Mindfulness Based Support Group for 10 years. While Marjorie does not directly accept insurance, if you have out -of -network benefits you may submit your receipt to insurance for reimbursement.


The next Mindfulness Meditation Support Group starts Jan 23, 2019 7:15 – 8:30 pm for 6 Wednesdays (Last group is Feb 27, 2019.)


September/October 2018 PowerPoints

As we settle back into the fall routine, stressful situations are bound to arise.  As Maureen Killoran said, “Stress is not what happens to us. It’s our response TO what happens. And RESPONSE is something we can choose.”

Embrace the new season and take some time for yourself to read my latest PowerPoint blog excerpt, upcoming events and more about my practice.

September/October 2018 PowerPoints

Living and Working Mindfully…The Case for Compassion

In a recent Harvard Business Review article on stress, the authors mentioned 2 key strategies that help leaders effectively manage stress: tipping point awareness-recognizing when you are exhibiting behaviors indicating you are nearing your threshold of overwhelm, and stress shifting through intentional breathing. More and more we hear evidence of how intentionally pausing to breathe, can be a powerful anecdote to stress. What’s more, mindful breathing can help restrain us when we are about to interrupt someone or blast a colleague or employee with negative criticism.

As a teacher of Mindfulness Meditation, I recommend this to all my executive coaching and personal counseling clients because stress is everywhere, and the breath is always with us to slow the runaway nervous system and our quick tongue.

“She did me wrong”, “He attacked me in that meeting”! When clients feel wronged, whether at home or at work, I listen with compassion and invite them to be compassionate with themselves. After the grief and hurt is calmed, I invite the person to release the hurt, because resentment only hurts the one holding on to the anger. Thus, forgiveness and letting go clears the way for effective problem solving so one can plan the best approach to an honest conversation with the other party. Let’s face it, we humans aren’t always at our best and our communication often goes awry. Misunderstandings, the silent treatment or thinly veiled alliances that pit one group again the other ensue. Resentment, hurts and grudges impede team work and sabotage success. As Judith Glaser in her book: Conversational Intelligence (2014, Bibliomotion, Inc.) says, people get stuck in positional conversations or the Tell Sell Yell syndrome, and innovative solutions cannot occur. So, yes, at work, too, in the most sophisticated organizations I recommend Mindfulness, compassion, forgiveness and letting go. After all, its only then, with a clearer mind that can we think clearly, created trusting connections get back to business.

Blind Spots and Building Blocks to Listening

Often, we hear and don’t listen. Or, we listen and think we know what the other person thinks but we don’t. In fact, according to Sandford research study 9 out of 10 conversations miss the mark. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/speech-acts/. Why is this? One of the reasons is because we use words and phrases that the other person understands and uses in a very different way or degree. Take Harry, a friend a of mine who was unemployed although he was looking diligently for over 3 months. I asked this soft-spoken man how he felt about the job search process and he said he was “depressed.” (I had used the word “depressed” for minor setbacks like when I gained a few pounds!) So, I did what Judith Glaser calls “double clicking” I asked him to share with me what “depressed” felt like for him. He said he felt “like he was climbing a mountain with a piano on his back!” This brought tears to my eyes because I now understood what he was really trying to say.

In personal or business conversation we may think we know what someone means when we may not. Using “double clicking” or reflective listening gives the listener a chance to state what we heard and then, invites the speaker to say more so we really hear the accurate; deeper meanings of their comment. I have found that when people take the time to do this, understanding really opens people feel heard and co -created solutions can be generated.

Upcoming Events

Sept 27, 2018 6 pm Corner Bakery, King of Prussia
Marjorie  presents “ Insights on Type and Mindfulness” at the  Philadelphia Area MBTI meetup for trainers, coaches and practitioners

Oct 24, 2018 Mindfulness Based Support Group
6-7:15 for 6 Wednesdays
Personal Touch Physical Therapy
790 E. Market St, Suite 290
West Chester, PA 19382

Oct 30, 2018 11-12:30
Leadership: The Importance of Presence
Novak Francella LLC, a Bala Cynwyd CPA Firm

Oct 30, 2018 11-12:30

Leadership: The Importance of Presence

Novak Francella LLC , a Bala Cynwyd CPA Firm

June/July 2018 PowerPoints

The newest addition of PowerPoints is out!  Take some time for you to read my latest blog excerpt, upcoming events and more about my practice. Take the time to pause and refresh this summer! As the Dalai Lama once said: “Calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, so that’s very important for good health.”

Enjoy your summer and be on the lookout for an announcement for the next Mindfulness Groups in the September PowerPoints issue!


June/July 2018 PowerPoints


How Mindfulness Meditation Can Help Us to Relax This Summer

Ah, Summer! Most of us will take a vacation, a long weekend at the beach or mountains or simply sit by the pool or in a park in the evenings. The long days of summer give us permission to pause…to refresh and relax. We Westerners desperately need this time to stop the busyness of our task-oriented days. While initially this pause can give rise to some uneasiness – “Shouldn’t I be doing something right now?”- Sooner or later, we feel our breathing slow, our bodies relax  and our thoughts slow down. This pause is essential for our heart health, our mental clarity and our relationships. Research has shown that about 85% of physical illness is stress related and hurts productivity at work. Psychologist Erik Altmann found that a 3 second distraction can double the number of mistakes.*

Clearly, we need this pause for our health, our safety and productivity. But what to do the rest of the year? How do we keep refreshed and clear thinking all year long?

One way to bring this pause into our daily lives is to purposely set aside time to be quiet. Mindfulness Meditation is one widely researched practice that has been proven to improve attention, promote relaxation and improve listening. Leaders who practice mindfulness achieve better results, clarity and collaborative teamwork. The ability to pause and reflect each day builds the muscle of awareness so one can stop, think clearly and choose the best response when facing a difficult challenge or meeting at work.

A mindful pause also has been shown to improve empathy, so we can listen, hear and understand what a colleague or family member is really saying. In the best-selling book by Judith Glaser Conversational Intelligence, we read that when we pause and really listen with an open mind we have far more curious, productive and collaborative conversations that generate co-created solutions. The leaders and teams I have worked with find that when they slow down and pause throughout the day they are more productive and have stronger relationships as well as life balance.

So what about you? How will you use these summer months to create a practice of mindfulness or some other quiet reflection so you can bring this pause into your life and your work? How will you listen and connect with your colleagues to build stronger relationships based on pausing and really listening before you respond?

You are invited to join the leaders, companies and non-profits that are experiencing clarity and collaboration from mindful leadership and “conversational intelligence!” Call me to schedule a consultation so you experience more collaborative relationships and better results.

Create the productivity, collaboration and results your team needs. Learn how to move meetings into creative discussions that generate innovation and buy in! Achieve this with Conversational Intelligence and Mindfulness leadership coaching and training!

Enjoy the pause!


*Live Science, Jan 21, 2013 Erik Altmann, a psychologist at Michigan State University


Upcoming Events

  • Beginner’s and advanced Mindfulness Groups will start in October – Watch for the dates announced in the September Power Points issue!


Also, check out my counseling website: www.ascendcounselingPA.com.

Mindfulness Meditation Group Starts April 11, 2018

Starting Wednesday April 11, 2018


Mindfulness Meditation Group

6 Weeks ($200) includes CD “Come to the Quiet”

Register & pay by April 4 to get a $20 discount!

Location: 937 Prichard Avenue, West Chester, PA 19382
Time: 7:30 – 8:45 PM
To register email Marjorie@ascendconsulting.net or call (610) 696-4443

Unsure what “Mindfulness” is:  read my blog “Mindfulness is the Secret to Success!” for more information and see what all the hype is about!