Judge Thy Neighbor

Judgement 1

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.

 

 

Look Me In The Eye!

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Have you ever been talking to someone and they seem to be looking everywhere but at you?  This is a surefire way to make someone feel like you don’t give a hoot about what they are saying.  This is more than frustrating, it is downright rude.  Have you been at dinner with your partner or friend, just the two of you, and while you’re trying to have a conversation he may be looking around or watching the TV? Do you have to get right into the line of sight of your partner or friend and ask “Are you listening to me?”  It is curious when the person actually becomes frustrated with you for asking this question. Needless to say, eye contact is very important to attentive listening.

I have talked to many people who find eye contact uncomfortable.  They have said it makes them very nervous.  They can acknowledge that the poor eye contact doesn’t go over well with people even though they tell me they are sincerely listening.  Are you one of these people?   Ask yourself what it is about looking at someone when they are speaking that makes you so nervous? Working on your insecurities in this area will greatly help your connections with others. Practice makes perfect and I am confident that as you practice maintaining good eye contact you will gradually become more relaxed with this skill.

Poor eye contact is one form of negative non-verbal communication.  Looking distracted physically is another form of poor non-verbal communication.  Things like having your body turned away from the person; legs and hands crossed in a closed position; head nodding or turning in a disapproving fashion; grunting etc.  Back when I was in my undergraduate studies I was taught that 90% of communication is non-verbal.  What is your non-verbal language telling the person?  Is it showing the person that you are paying attention and interested in what they are saying? Or is it suggesting that you are disinterested and bored?

Isn’t It All About Me?

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 “Yesterday at the mall I heard someone call my name and to my surprise it was a girlfriend from high school that I hadn’t talked to in twenty years.  I was so stunned that for a moment…”; “Oh I know – the same thing happened to me when I was at the airport and…”  And on the person goes and before you know it, you are listening to them.  Has this happened to you?  Switching the conversation on to you and making it about you is another bad listening trait. Sometimes the other persons sharing is woven into the conversation so creatively that afterwards you forget what your original thought was!  My hope is that you don’t have too many friends doing this too often.  This would make for very one-sided friendships.

This can be so frustrating.  Being that I have training in how to be a good listener, I find it somewhat amusing when someone does this to me.  I am hyper-sensitive to it and find it amazing when a person seems so oblivious to what just occurred and seems content to go on.  I typically entertain their interjections for a time and that is it.  I simply shut-down.  I keep future conversations superficial and tend not to spend too much time with them.  But not everyone picks up on these conversation table turners.  I have heard many people in my office talk about their supposed close friend who they feel they listen to more than talk to.  The person knows it is one sided, but allows it to go on.

If you have someone in your life that you value but you feel they talk more than listen, you can try to address this. You can express it verbally or in writing.  You might say something like, “I really enjoy when we do things together, however, I don’t often feel like you listen to what am I saying when I try and share what’s going on with me.”  If the person is able to hear you then there is potential for positive change in the relationship.

If you know you are someone who tends to do this I encourage you to ask yourself why and what.  Why do you so often shift things to yourself and what might be going on with you?  Do you think you might do this because you are nervous and don’t know what to say so you just start talking?  Are you overwhelmed and can’t help yourself?  Maybe this is your way of showing you are listening?  If you want to have mutually satisfying relationships it is important to gain more clarity about this tendency.

How Green Is Your Grass?

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I assume you have heard the saying “The grass is always greener on the other side.” And this is a pit we can easily fall in when we assume from what we observe on the surface that the other situation is better than our own. Or that sort of envy that we wish we had this better relationship, better job, better…you name it.
Recently I saw a different quote which states “The grass is greener where you water it!” I loved it! This is so profound: “The grass is greener where you water it!” I just want to keep saying it over and over! And this is the real truth; no matter what something looks like on the outside the truth is it is always greener where we water it!
This can be applied to many situations. Today I am going to apply this truth to your significant love relationship. When you complain about your relationship with your partner, ask yourself this question “How well have I done nurturing this relationship? Instead of finding all the fault in your partner take a look in the mirror. For many it is easier to focus on what the other isn’t doing instead of looking at their own responsibility in the relationship.
This is something I see often with the couples who come to my office. I have a partner coming in to session in shock that their loved one wants out of the relationship. Usually this person reports he or she had no idea the other was so unhappy. When I listen to the story of this relationship I am thinking “How could you not know?” And these are very intelligent, smart individuals who right under their nose didn’t realize how dried up and under nurtured their own garden was.
Ask yourself, have you been more of the nurturer in your relationship or are you more of the taker? Another way to ask this question is: have you been more of the one over functioning or under functioning in your relationship? If believe you are the one who does more of the watering and watering and watering; nurturing, nurturing and nurturing with little return then maybe for you it is time to turn the spout off and sit back and start thinking about your own needs.
If you have been the one that has been taking and taking and taking, and when you’re honest with yourself have not been providing consistent nurturing to your relationship in the way your partner needs, you would do yourself and this relationship a great service if you would pause and genuinely take ownership of this truth. Not for a brief period of time but for the long-term.
There is almost no excuse today to not do this. The resources for men and women to learn how to be better people, better partners are overflowing. There are many books, CD’s, workshops and therapy available. There is really no excuse. So if you think the grass is greener in some other relationship ask yourself; look in the mirror and ask “Have I really done everything I can do to nurture my own garden?”
And if you know that you have been giving; that you have been over functioning, maybe this is a time of grief for you. I time to let go; a time for you to take a risk knowing that your partner may not step up to the plate.
And if you can own that you have not been actively nurturing your relationship are you willing to take a look in the mirror? Are you willing to get the help you need to learn how to nurture the relationship on a consistent basis? If you have allowed your garden to dry up too much it’s not reasonable to expect to give it a little taste of water and then just bloom and grow. The relationship has been imbalance. To mend this you will have to continually give and give before expecting too much in return. This is how it works. Most in the under functioning expect immediate returns on their giving. That just isn’t the case, nor should it be your expectation. You may not like this, but these are the facts.
I hope this message gives you hope. If this message rings true for you, I hope you will take responsibility for your role and make the needed changes. Everyone around you will be blessed from this action.

What’s Wrong With My Lover?

romantic love
Life is an interesting journey. It seems the older we get the more twists and turns come along. For many of us finding a partner, a mate, has been our main agenda. In our younger years we assumed we would grow up and meet a wonderful mate, get married and live happily ever after! What has happened?
As we all know from the divorce rate, marriages are not doing well. Couples, whether married or not, are having trouble staying together through the many challenges life brings into their relationships. The story we always imagined for ourselves is not reading the way we had hoped.
What is going on? I want to discuss one significant issue that I believe has a great impact on our relationship’s success or failure. I often say to clients that the two greatest things we do in life are being a partner and/or being parent, yet there is no training required for either. That is amazing! The only preparation we usually have is from our family of origin and our past love relationships. I strongly believe one of the best things we can do for our relationship is to become healthier ourselves prior to getting seriously involved with someone.
So what about those of us who are already in a committed relationship, divorced, or remarried? It is never too late. Often you need to start with yourself. It’s easy to become very discouraged and negative with our significant other. While many of your complaints may be valid, the only person you have control over is you. Check out your expectations. What are they? Where did they come from? Are they realistic? I remember growing up my favorite fairytale was Cinderella! (That really set me up for failure!) Think about the music you listen to and the message it is sending you about love and what it should be like!
Often we have many of our own unmet needs. Maybe you never felt loved as a child. Maybe you never felt you were good enough for one of your parents? Consciously or unconsciously we often expect our partner to fill our voids. Often they do initially, but fall short down the road. Address the parts that are about you. Become clear on what you need to heal within yourself, and what aspects of your relationship need improvement. I understand this is often a fine line but, it is one worth exploring before you make a decision about beginning or ending a relationship. The person you have the most influence over is you! Best to look there first.

Jumping off The Drama Triangle!

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Knowing what you think, feel, need and want is an essential key to staying of the dysfunctional drama triangle. Today is the promised follow-up to last week’s blog which gave you a brief introduction to the Karpman Drama designed by Steven Karpman. Please review that blog prior to reading this.

My initial advice is that you become more familiar with the positions on the drama triangle so you will be more attuned to patterns in yourself, your relationships and others. Most importantly, be clear about your primary; or starting gate position. Know more about the specific ways that you can be hooked in to that position. This is especially challenging with on-going relationships where you may have been actively functioning in your primary position and are now making conscious attempts to discontinue that way of relating to the other.

For the rescuer one of the primary ways of being drawn into your role is guilt. Guilt is a good cue to you that you may be falling back into your helper-fixer role. Give yourself permission to feel guilt without having to act on it. The person or persons you have been rescuing are likely to make statements that will produce the guilt feelings. Learn to handle being uncomfortable. Remind yourself that it isn’t your responsibility to always be available when someone asks for something. You can say no.

Also important for all positions including the rescuer is to start identifying your needs, feelings and wants and begin to ask for you need to be met. Ask for help when you need it. Admit that you do sometimes need it. Allow yourself to form mutually vulnerable relationships. Learn that your needs, wants and desires are okay and not selfish.

Getting out of the persecutor role is often a great struggle for the person in this position. It involves a great amount of risk. You have learned to survive by using strong denial skills. You will need to stop blaming everyone and everything else. You will need to begin to face yourself and your vulnerable feelings. You will need to take responsibility for yourself and feel your uncomfortable feelings. Taking ownership of how you have hurt others is also difficult for many. Learning to build relationships that you can feel safe enough to take the risk of being human and being someone’s equal.

You are capable and worthy would be a new tune to hum for the victim. It is time to start taking responsibility for your life; your choices etc. You may need to seek professional advice, read come good self-esteem books or join an empowerment group of some kind. Building confidence in yourself and your decision making abilities is essential. This isn’t about being perfect. Life is a process of trying and then trying again.

Being conscious of the dynamics of the drama triangle is a wonderful tool to help create and maintain healthy relationships. As long as you continue with this dysfunctional way of relating you will never truly be happy. We each come alive to our self when we see and honor who we truly and what we rightfully need and deserve.

How I Relate To You!

drama triangle
One of my favorite tools I use on a daily basis to monitor my interactions with others is called “The Drama Triangle,” by Stephen Karpman. While it is nearly impossible to give full credence to this wonderful perspective in a short blog, I will do my best to give a concise overview.

All dysfunctional relationships take place on the Drama Triangle. It describes specific ways one relates to others. There are three positions on this triangle: persecutor, rescuer and victim. While only one position is called victim all positions are actually victim positions of sort. We each have a primary position that tends to dominate our interactions. The “starting gate position,” as named by Karpman is the one we learn from our history and shows up in most of our relationships.

Imagine an upside down triangle. On the upper part of each side of the triangle are the persecutor and rescuer. On the bottom is victim. The persecutor and rescuer are on top because they are both one up positions. Both of these positions require a victim to sustain their position on the triangle. The victim is in a one down position.

The rescuer is the classic codependent. This person is the savior, mediator, helper, fixer, etc. The rescuer has to have someone who needs them to sustain their position. Helping others is how this person defines who they are. Rescuers grew up not getting their emotional vulnerabilities met or validated. So they hide these emotional vulnerabilities by appearing needless. They secretly keep hoping that if they keep giving and giving, one day someone will be there for them. Their greatest fear is that no one will be there.

The persecutor sustains their one up position through domination. They have to have someone to blame. Hence a victim is necessary for the persecutor to project their unclaimed weaknesses on. Persecutors do this in various ways; lecturing, teaching, blaming, yelling ect. Persecutors are always right. Their greatest fear is being out of control. Persecutors were often raised in abusive shaming households and sometimes take on the qualities of their abuser. This position is often the hardest for one to take ownership of because the persecutor sees them self as a victim who is just trying to protect them self.

The victim position is one in which the person has given up or not claimed their God given ability to make decisions and trust their own competencies. Instead they look to others to guide and lead them. Often victims were raised by a strong rescuer. Victims eat a daily venue of shame and believe they are intrinsically defective or bad. The language of the victim often includes a lot of “yes, but…”

As you read this brief introduction to the three positions on the Karpman Drama Triangle which one do you relate too most? Is it easy to pick your primary position? The ultimate goal is to identify your pattern and learn to grow and change so you don’t fall into these dysfunctional ways of relating to others. Next week I will describe how to get off the triangle.

Valentines Day Beyond The Traditional

Valentines Heart
Valentines Day can be a joyful, celebratory time for many happy couples. Often it is a time to rejoice about the wonderful relationship you share with your partner. The media has made this a very pronounced day for most. However, this year my hope is that you will have a little different perspective on this day. Enjoy and have a special day or evening with your valentine if you have one. However, remember those who may not have a special someone in their life. Reach out to someone you care about and let them know they are special. Send a valentine card or note to your friends, family, children or anyone else that you appreciate. Reach out to that person who recently lost their loved one or is experiencing difficulty in their relationship.

With the “hype” that goes into this day it can have such a negative effect on those that do not share a loving relationship with a partner. I invite you to alter the meaning of valentine’s to extend to all the ones that touch your life on a daily basis. I encourage each of you to reach out beyond just the traditional notion of Valentines Day and spread the feeling of appreciation to those around you. What a gift it would be to touch someone’s heart on this media promoted day of love. It has been said, “The more you give, the more you get.” Give on!

Try Acceptance For A Week!

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Today I have been thinking about the concept of acceptance. The thought of us as a community, as a people, as humans becoming more conscious of being more accepting of both self and others. I do a lot of work with clients on the aspect of being more self-accepting and it is often very sad as I observe how so many people I know both personally and professionally are their own worst critic. And from my view point usually that critic voice is learned very young. So I understand that it is often hard to be accepting of others when we have such a hard time accepting ourselves.

From my experience there is plenty of judgment in the world. Imagine what it might be like if each of us could practice being a little more accepting; accepting of people who are different from us. Maybe the person looks different from us, comes from different background or possible believes differently than us, whether it be religiously or politically. Imagine what it might be like if we practiced learning how to be more accepting of people who are dissimilar from us.

I wonder what makes it hard for so many to accept that others may feel strongly in an opposite direction of what one believes. And wouldn’t it be something if we could allow that person to have their belief even if it is starkly different from our own. I wonder how we would feel inside if we were to practice being more accepting of others. It seems to me that being judgmental appears to be easier for most. Finding the differences between ourselves and others seems to be easier than noticing the similarities. Being defensive with another who believes or feels differently than us seems to be much more instinctual. And I believe being defensive is based on instinct, however, I also believe that each of us can learn to respond non-defensively.

There really is plenty of judgment in the world. I don’t think you have to worry about not being judged, because judgment is just outside your door. And wouldn’t it be nice if each of us felt more accepted amongst our peer group and in general. My encouragement today, this Monday, is to think over your circumstances currently, to be more mindful of your actions with others. To become aware of ways you can practice being more accepting of people who may be different than you in one way shape or form. To be mindful of keeping your opinion to yourself and just allowing the other person to be, without trying to change their viewpoint or trying to convince him or her to feel differently. I encourage you to practice this during the week even though it may be hard. Then, observe what it feels like to be more accepting. Try out this concept of being accepting. I have a sneaky suspicion that not only will it benefit the other, but that it will benefit you too.

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