Judge Thy Neighbor

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This judgmental, hurtful, rude way of responding is sure to win you the “Worst Listener of the Year” award.  The last thing someone needs to hear when they are opening up to you is your judgment of them.  Telling someone that what they feel doesn’t make sense or is stupid is an example of being judgmental.  Other examples are telling someone they shouldn’t feel what they feel or think; or one of the most shattering is “You don’t feel like that.”  This is a harsh response to the person sharing.  Have you experienced this from someone?  How did it make you feel?

If someone asks your opinion about what they are sharing it is fine then to give it.  However, that doesn’t require you to put them down or discount their feelings or thoughts.  If the person doesn’t ask for your opinion-don’t give it! When someone shares what they are feeling with you, try and remember that feelings are just feelings.  Feelings don’t always make sense.

It is also important to keep in mind that you don’t have to agree with the other person to be a good listener.  Good listening doesn’t require agreement.  It requires the sincere intent to understand the person from their point of view.  Perspective is everything. If he or she has a different perspective than you that doesn’t mean he or she is wrong. There is plenty of judgment in the world.  Please be careful not to perpetuate that trend.

A virtuous way to help you be less judgmental when you are listening to someone you don’t agree with or you don’t understand how they are feeling, is reflective listening.  As stated previously, this is when you confirm with the person that you have heard them correctly.  There is no judgment in this.  There is no opinion of yours shared.  It is simply hearing the other.

Are You There?


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Listening in body only is when you are talking and the person seems physically attentive, yet it is as if they are looking through you, sort of like they are in a conscious coma.  The person is physically present but is mentally elsewhere.  Have you had this experience before?   Usually after you have talked a little with no response you might wonder or even ask, “Did you hear what I said?”  Often the person will say “No, I am sorry.  Can you repeat that?”  The person truly was not mentally present for the conversation.  While I imagine this has happened to all of us at one time or another, it is an issue if it keeps happening with the same person.

Often the person who is zoning out while you are talking is preoccupied with something.  Life is overwhelming at times.  If you know you are overwhelmed and not able to give someone your attention who is asking for it, just let them know.  You might say, “I know you are really stressed right now and I do want to hear about it, however, I am too upset right now to focus.  Can we meet for lunch?”  This type of response is respectful to both self and others.  Or it could be that you have trouble with keeping up with what the other person is saying so it is easier to zone out and just do the best you can to give the appearance of understanding what they are saying.

Reflective listening is a wonderful skill to help you stay with the person mentally.  Reflective listening is simply repeating back what you think you heard the person say.  This is a very caring act.  It shows you are intentionally trying to hear what the person wants to tell you.  It is important when you reflect back what you think you heard that you do so without adding your own twist to it.

Think of this as if you were looking in the mirror.  What you see is your reflection.  No additions or subtractions; just you. With this type of listening that is all you do.  Reflect what you think you heard.  For example, you might say, “So you received exceeds expectations in every area but one and for the third year in a row you didn’t get a promotion?”  If you are correct the person will usually say, “Yes, and…” on they will go with more detail.  If you didn’t get it quite right the person can correct you so you understand what they meant.   “So you got exceeds in almost every area and they still did nothing to honor that?”  The person might say, “Well they did give me a good bonus, but I have been waiting for this promotion.  I am so frustrated.”   It is a wonderful gift to interact with someone who is sincerely trying to hear you.



If You Would Just Stop Making Me So Angry!

There is a wonderful saying that I both love and hate which states, “No one can make me feel anything without my permission.” How often have you heard yourself saying, “He makes me so angry?” Or “She frustrates the crap out of me.” While this response is a naturally reactive one it leaves you in the one down position or the victim position. The above saying reminds me that only I am responsible for my feelings.

When someone does something that you then feel angry, it is better to reframe it correctly; such as “When he didn’t return my calls I felt very hurt.” Or, “I know what she is like and I let her get to me again.” Both of these statements put the ownership back on you! This gives you power to do something about it. It takes the power away from the other and leaves it with you. When you take responsibility for your reaction you then are in control of how you want to handle your response or feelings.

Putting the responsibility back on yourself is the primary way of feeling more in control of your life and the various situations life brings your way. I encourage you to pay attention to how you word your statements. Notice if they are more I statements or more blaming statements. Make the conscious choice to remove yourself from the one-down role to the role of empowerment and choice. It is only then that you can move forward in that situation or relationship in a productive fashion. You always have a choice! Choose responsible, mindful living! It is a much happier and productive existence.

Things Not to Say to People Who Are Grieving – #4

4.      “Time heals all wounds.”

What a popular saying.  Is it true?  Maybe for some things.  I don’t think it is time that necessarily heals the hurt, but what we do about our loss during that time.  Either way, telling someone that time heals all wounds when they just lost their child, or when their husband of twenty years walks out is not really what they need to hear.  Ask yourself what the point is in you saying that?  How is that helpful?  Please try and respect that the griever is in a very fragile state and doesn’t need trite answers or platitudes.  If you don’t know what to say, you could say, “Just wanted to let you know I will be thinking of you and praying for you.”  That is very kind.

I imagine if we interviewed those who have been through various losses and asked them if they agreed with the statement “time heals all wounds” we would get mixed responses.  From my own life I can say time has greatly helped with some of the losses I have experienced, such as hurtful situations in relationships, different transitions etc.  I think it was a combination of time and my own personal growth.  However, there are several other losses that “time hasn’t healed” and never will.  While I may not walk around crying every day or talking about it, the injury is still deep and impactful.

To the griever:  If someone or several people say this to you I apologize on their behalf.  It is a trite and aloof comment.  Feel free to respond “Well it doesn’t feel like it.”  Or just brush them off and seek out others who will not try and tell you that you will feel better soon or in time.  While that may be true it isn’t what you usually want to hear. The timeframe of your healing journey is yours and will be walked through at your own pace.

Are You A Good Communicator?

Knowing what you think, feel and want and then being able to communicate these in a clear fashion that is respectful to self and others is a fundamental way of taking responsibility for yourself and keeping off the Drama Triangle that I introduced to you in the last two blogs. With the many books, trainings and workshops available on healthy communication, it still seems to be difficult for many.

To communicate respectfully you do need to be aware of what you want to communicate. Often one responds reactively or what I call defensively. This is a harmful and dysfunctional way of communicating and usually injuries both parties. So first and foremost slow down and take a moment to be clear about what you are thinking, feeling or wanting. Get clear.

Secondly, send your message to the other person in a respectful manner. You can do this and still say what you need to say. It is important to override any fear or guilt you have in ensuring you speak your needs with a clear voice.

When sending your message it is most important to use I statements. It is your needs you are communicating after all! You statements sound blaming and tend to put the other on the defensive. Hear the difference between these two following statements. “You were late again last night. You are so inconsiderate.” Versus, “When you were late last night I felt very hurt and frustrated. It makes me think you don’t value me.” Which one would you be more receptive too?

Another point I want to make about how you send your message is to pay attention to your non-verbal communication. Your body language goes a long way in communicating to the other. Make sure you are displaying an open posture. Eye contact and facial expressions are also important. Your non-verbal messages need to be congruent with the spoken message.

The other very critical part of communication is how you receive a message or response sent to you. We call this listening. In my many years of working with clients I have found this to be the hardest aspect to do well. Most people have never been taught how to listen respectfully. When another is sharing we are usually thinking of our own reactions rather than trying to understand that person’s perspective.

When listening try to stay focused on what the other person is sharing with you. You don’t have to agree with them, but it is important to understand their viewpoint. You can ask clarifying questions, such as, “So, are saying that you would prefer I call before I come over?” You can show you are listening by responding with empathy, “That does sound frustrating.” And before you switch the conversation over to you it would be great if you could summarize what you think the main point is that she or he has shared, just to make sure you got it. Wow all that before you share your own view point! Good communication takes education and practice, but I believe it is worth it!

Are You A Real Winner?

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Is the person who has risen to CEO of a company really the winner? My wonderment is how did that person climb the ladder to that position? Did they rise to that position with grace? Is he or she now in that position because of their true competencies? Was he or she able to display those competencies without having to degrade others?

To me the real difference between a winner and a loser is how one wins or loses. It is the character one displays in the process. Do you have to dominate, intimidate, shame or double-cross the other? Is that part of your strategy in winning? Is this what we as a people want to honor as a ‘winner’?

I always tend to prefer the win-win position. To me the win-win position is when both my needs and the others are respected. That doesn’t mean I don’t secure a position or that I have to let the other have the position I am seeking. It means that I earn my position in a way that is honorable and respectful. I don’t have to cheat or be scandalous to get to the top (whatever getting to the top means). So, while we see these types of negative characteristics in the work place and sporting events, it is also true in the game of life.

So what is a true winner? Maybe it is the one who may have lost the competition or didn’t receive the promotion. If that person knows he or she tried their hardest and did so in an honest fashion. If she or he was able to give it their best effort and be accepting of this truth; if the person is able to accept that the other person on that given day or in that given situation was the “winner” so to speak; isn’t that person displaying winning qualities?

I encourage you to examine yourself and how you succeed and how you handle your defeats. Can you look yourself in the mirror and feel good about how you achieve both. Does how you win or lose reflect your positive traits? Becoming the highest version of you is the greatest “win” of all!

The Gift of Giving!

I hope those of you who celebrate Christmas are finished with your shopping! If not you are going to be having a joyous time fighting the hustle and bustle of the crowds. This thought of gift giving made me think of another very important aspect of gift giving…and it doesn’t cost anything! I invite you to think about, along with any tangible gifts you are giving the people you care about; what intangible gift do they need to receive or you need to give to them this year?

When I think of intangible gifts I think of aspects such as patience, kindness, thoughtful, intuitive, encouraging, and motivating, along with many more. These gifts are priceless. And when you give these gifts to those around you it can be a breath of life to them. So I encourage you to think about the different people in your circle that you are giving tangible gifts to this holiday and think about which intangible gifts you need to strengthen in that relationship. I encourage you to name the person and the associated gift.

And then there are the many intangible gifts that we can all learn to give more of on a daily basis to people we know and to the strangers that cross our path. Your kind actions often have a larger impact on the personal receiving than you can ever realize. You never know what kind of morning that person has had when you decide to be generous and let them go ahead of you in line at the store because they seem rushed. You don’t know the story these strangers come to you with and your intangible gift of patience or kindness may be just what they need.

I believe we each have within us these intangible gifts and are capable of being intentional about bringing them forth more often in our daily interactions with others. I encourage you to think about which of the qualities are more natural for you. Maybe you are a natural encourager, or someone is very welcoming. Maybe there are some of your intangible gifts that you would like to bring to the surface more often; such as patience. It is always good to self-evaluate and asses which qualities in you could use more attention. So in the spirit of giving I implore you to think about ways you can give more of these intangible gifts this holiday and throughout the year.

The Gift of Friendships!

This time of year reminds me once again of another precious gift that is more valuable than any gift that money can buy; that is the gift of friendship. As I think of friendships I am thinking of all the layers of friendships that I believe we need. This ranges from surface relationships to our most intimate friendships.

I think of the importance of having healthy acquaintances. These may be people that you see occasionally. Acquaintances could be your neighbor, or someone you do sports with or some other activity. Or they could be a work place connection. These are people you enjoy when you are around them however; they are not in your inner circle.

I also think of those we call a ‘good friend’. As you consider your good friends, I imagine this narrows down the number of people that fit this criterion. There is such a blessing in having a number of good friends that you can call on to do things with; to support you through the good and rough times.

Lastly, there are the few intimate, close friends that hopefully we are each blessed to have. These friendships are priceless. These are the few people that have traveled through thick and thin with you. These few close friends are ones that you can tell the full truth to without fear of judgment. These are your forever friends.

I believe each of us needs all of the above type of relationships. However, individually some need a greater number of acquaintances, a greater number of good friends or a greater number of close friends. This is based on the individual’s personality and disposition. I do know that we all need these types of safe connections.

I am often envious of people I know who have stayed close to people they went to grade school with, middle school or high school. They may not talk to these people on a daily basis, but they have kept this bond. These long-time friends hold so many shared memories. Even through long periods of not talking when you reconnect with this childhood friend it feels like no time has gone by at all.

During this time of the year I hope you will reflect on who the important people are in your life and if you haven’t thanked them or shown your appreciation and gratitude in a while I encourage you to do so. Not so much with physical gifts but via words, whether written or spoken, thanking them for the gift they have been in your life.

If there are some friends in your life that you have accidently neglected due to the many demands in your life, I encourage you to reach out to them and let them know that you still value them. Do not forget that these friendships are part of your anchoring; your support system; your encouragers. There is know getting around the fact that having a solid support system is one of the keys to having a full and complete life.

Protect Your Spirit During This Holiday Season!

Before we can talk about how to protect your spirit during the holiday season we need to have some clarity on what it means when we speak of our spirit. I am guessing this conjures up various ideas. How does one describe their spirit? According to TheFreeDictionary.com spirit is defined as “the essential nature of a person”; the vital principle or animating force within living beings”; “incorporeal consciousness”. What does this mean for you? How would you describe your spirit?
What do you think it means to protect your spirit? One definition of protect is “to keep from being damaged, attacked, stolen or injured; to guard,” from TheFreeDictionary.com. I think this covers the essential meaning of protect. It is your job to know what types of situations may hurt or damage your spirit or what type of situations are just not you and therefore may need to be avoided or at minimum prepared for in advance.
With this in mind, one of the first things that can benefit you around the holidays is to surround yourself with people who accept and like you and your spirit. Maybe these are the types of people you will already be around during the holiday season. If so, what a blessing! If, however, the people you will be spending the holidays with are not so accepting, then I encourage you to saturate yourself with those who do accept you prior to your holiday events or travels. Fit these accepting people into your schedule. Whether this means having a dinner date with them prior to you traveling or before the event you’ll be attending. Or maybe it will be to stay in contact with them via phone, email, or texting while you or they are away
Equal in importance is to be as prepared as possible for what you might face during the holidays. One way to do this is to scope the place out! Know what you’re getting into. Be prepared and take responsibility. Is this going to be an environment that is more safe than not? Some situations (like families) are ones you have experienced often so that you understand the dynamics enough to know what to expect. Some situations are new so you do your best to get a sense of what the occasion will be like ahead of time.
Lastly, dress for the occasion! If you are going somewhere that feels very safe and accepting then by all means, go for it! Wear your best and most colorful outfit or dress drab and comfy, whatever is you. If there is some risk or if it is unsafe for your spirit then wear your protective gear! Don’t let it all hang-out. It is your job to protect yourself and stay alert.

Creative Ways To Handle Conflict!

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For many just the word conflict makes them nervous. Conflict conjures up negative meaning for countless people. There tends to be the conflict avoider and the conflict seeker/creator and then those that lay somewhere in-between. Learning how to handle conflict in a respectful way to self and others is the key. If we are going to be in relationships, then we are going to have conflict. The following are a few quick tips on handling conflict:


When someone has the courage to express something to you that seems like a conflict it is imperative to show sincere concern. Showing sincere concern is displayed in many ways, however, your non-verbal communication will tell the person a lot about your level of sincere concern. Keeping good eye-contact and sending non-verbal cues that show concern is a good start. Positive non-verbal cues are open-body posture, nodding as you listen, concerned facial expressions, etc.

Being opened-minded during a conflict with another person is certainly a challenge. It is not always the easiest things to do especially if it is a topic that you are both personally invested in your viewpoints. Being open-minded to the fact the maybe the person’s viewpoint has some merit takes training in being intentional in the moment. It is about acknowledging that this person may have something I need to hear and in fact may offer you a different perspective if you can stay open to that possibility.

I will say that being non-defensive is the best way to handle conflict. Often you don’t even realize you are being defensive because it such an instinctual reaction. This actually is true. It is instinctual to be defensive; yet, it is harmful to all our relationships. As a human you have the ability to learn to be non-defensive. However, this requires significant attentiveness to your reactions and choosing less defensive ones. In the beginning it feels like a lot of work, but as you practice non-defensive responses they become easier.

Fairness during a conflictual situation can also be a challenge. Fairness makes me think of the win-win outcome that is often referenced. When you approach a conflict with the intention of both your needs and the others being important and valid there is a greater hope that a win-win outcome will occur. If you are the type that tends to have to be right then you usually seek a win-lose outcome with your way winning. Just as harmful is the lose-win when you give into another without expressing yourself fully for the sake of stopping the conflict.

Being a good listener during conflict is a rare and special craft. In my experience most people are not too good at listening. Listening is about staying with the sender not shifting to your own thoughts and reactions. Good listening is making sure you understand and have heard the other person. Reflecting back or mirroring to them what you heard them say is priceless. This has nothing to do with agreeing; it is about making sure you get it from their perspective.

Being introspective can be very helpful during conflict. What part of what he or she is saying to you may be true? Is this a complaint I have heard about myself before? What truth is there for me in this? Another part of introspection is asking yourself what this is bringing up for you. Are you having reactions that are connected to other parts of your life, not just with this person?

Consideration of what the other is sharing is very helpful during conflict. Being willing to consider their perspective in the conflict is a wonderful gift. Considering the possibility that both of you can see and experience the situation differently; and yet considering that both views are valid.

Being thankful for both the courage the two of you had to talk through the conflict and thankful for the opportunity to learn is key. What a wonderful attitude that would be towards conflict!