This was first published on KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — I had a reader write to me recently complaining about a friend who is always talking about the hard things going on in their life. Their question revolved around when it was justified to complain about your life and have a friend listen and show up for you, and when it becomes an issue of playing the victim card to get sympathy love and might not be a positive thing.
Talking about your struggles and woes is not necessarily a problem. For some people, it is the only way they learned to get love. They might subconsciously play the victim card without even realizing it; and when friends listen and show they care, it probably does make them feel cared about, important and loved.
The only problem is that there can be a cost to this behavior that you might not realize you are paying. While friends and family care about you and feel sorry for you, they may also be losing respect for you.
Before I get into how to check yourself and make sure you aren't in an unhealthy victim mentality, let me just say how important it is to have supportive friends and family around you — and to share your difficult experiences with them. Everyone needs that kind of support, and there is no shame whatsoever in talking about your struggles and getting support, help and love from the people in your life.
Your sharing or complaining only becomes a problem if you are sharing for one of the following reasons:
I have a dear friend who is battling cancer, and I love how she shares the challenges and hardships of the experience with me but never misses an opportunity to ask about my life and my challenges too. She never uses the hardship to manipulate others, and she always acknowledges that other people have it worse.
She shares her experience and lets her friends support her, but she has never had a victim mentality. I have to say, though, there are days she is very entitled to a good long pity-party cry — and occasionally she has one, as they are healthy and called for.
Here are some other ways to watch for victim behavior and change it:
Write it down
Write a description (on paper) of what your mindset and behavior would look like if you are playing the victim: How would you show up? How would others see you? What kind of energy would you be putting off?
Write about the payoffs you might get from rehearsing your struggles and stories. Are the payoffs so great they are worth possibly losing the respect of other people? Write about the ways you might be seen as weak, complaining or needy. Are there ways you share your experiences without coming across with these descriptions?
Examine your past
What stories about your past might you talk about too often? Do you have any beliefs about your life always going bad, or bad things always happening to you? Do you believe, "no one cares about me"; or "no matter how hard I try, things always go wrong"; or "people should let me off the hook for bad behavior because of how bad I have had it in the past"; or "I will never get anywhere no matter how hard I work."
Own any victim stories and beliefs you have and figure out why you might hold onto them. What do they give you when you believe they are true? What do they cost you? Is there something else (more healthy) that you could replace those beliefs with? Rewrite some better beliefs and post them somewhere you see them daily.
Explore letting go
Figure out who you could be if you let go of the victim identity. What would your mindset be? How could you respond to life if you saw yourself as strong, blessed, capable, fortunate and whole? What if you see yourself as a champion instead of a victim? This may take a while to clearly see yourself as a victor, but you can do it.
Write down the qualities and attributes you want to embody. How do you want people to see you? What qualities do you want to be known for? You cannot become something you can't even see. The first step is to get clarity on what you want.
Stop the blame game
Stop blaming others or circumstances for the way you are feeling. You are responsible for how you feel. Emotions do arise that you can't control; but once they arrive, you do have the power to process through them and choose your mindset. (Unless you are suffering from clinical depression or an anxiety disorder, which can make choosing your attitude difficult to impossible to do by yourself. Seek help from a medical professional.)
Most of us do have the power to choose our perspective, and our perspective determines how we feel. If you don't know how to use that power, you may need a counselor or coach to help you learn how. It is a skill and can be taught to most people.
Change your perspective
First, choose gratitude. In the very moment you are dwelling on what's wrong in your life, there are many things you could focus on that are blessings. Your blessings always outweigh the challenges. You may need to start a gratitude journal to help you focus on the good every day.
You can also work to change your perspective about how life and the universe work. Most of us have a subconscious belief that the universe is a dangerous place where we can lose, get hurt, or be cheated and unfairly treated. We see the universe as "against" us, messing with us, and even trying to trip us up. With this perspective, we are always a powerless victim who is blown about by chaos and bad luck.
Instead, you can choose to believe the universe is ultimately on your side. It is a wise teacher, constantly using what happens to create your perfect classroom journey. You could believe that everything that happens is used to grow you and make you stronger, wise and more loving. Things don't happen to you, they happen for you. At least, you could choose this mindset if you wanted to and you would find your outlook would be more positive.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — I work with many couples who experience conflict in their relationships and who want to change that. Often, these couples fight over small things that hinge on misunderstandings of intent.
Most of us don't take the time to understand "the why" behind another person's behavior or their intent before we react. We don't ask questions about why our partner did what they did. We must start doing this if we want a healthy relationship because the intent matters.
When we don't know someone's true intent, there will be many unintentional slights, misunderstandings and assumptions of wrongdoing when wrong isn't even there.
Seneca, the author of "Moral Essays" said, "A gift consists not in what is done or given, but in the intention of the giver or doer." The same could be said about an offense: People can do the wrong thing for the right reason, and it changes the thing.
If couples can learn to stop before getting upset or offended, and take the time to ask questions and really understand why their partner behaved the way they did, they can nip most conflicts in the bud.
But this means watching yourself for anger and stopping yourself before you say or do anything. It means deciding — in the moment — to ask kind, understanding questions to get more information before you jump to conclusions or add meaning to their behavior.
Let me give you an example. Sally had asked Tom to pick up something at the store for her on his way home from work. He forgot the item because he was in a rush and had left work deeply upset about something his boss had said. When he got home and Sally realized he had not done what she asked, she was upset and felt unimportant and unsupported. She took the offense personally and got angry at Tom for what she viewed as mistreatment.
What I want you to see in this example is Sally's reaction to the events came from intent she was assuming or applying to what happened. Tom forgot to stop at the store for her. Those are the simple facts. She added meaning and intent to the facts by telling herself forgetting meant he didn't listen, care, want to help or support her.
Those were not the real reason he forgot to stop. Tom forgot to stop at the store because he was preoccupied with fear about his own situation and he inadvertently let it slip his mind. This had nothing to do with Sally and how he feels about her.
I can understand her frustration, though; and if this was something that happened a lot, it might have other meaning attached to it. But this one time, his intent wasn't malicious or about her.
In a recent article, I suggested that when someone offends you, you should try and figure out which of four possible reasons might be behind the behavior. The four most common reasons people behave badly are:
If you still feel justified to have an angry and reactive response, you might stop and ask yourself why you want to be angry. What is the intent behind your anger? The why behind your reaction is just as important as the why behind theirs.
Asking kind questions with the purpose of understanding and getting to know this person feels very different than asking defensive, accusatory questions. Here are some examples.
"Why did you not do the one thing I asked you to do Tom?" That is an accusatory question that doesn't show a desire to understand.
A better question might be: "I noticed you forgot to stop at the store, are you OK? What's been happening today?"
The most important skill a couple can have is the ability to have mutually validating conversations that are focused on understanding each other. Unfortunately, a lot of people listen with the intent to reply, not the intent to understand.
The key to communicating in a way that validates both parties and leads to understanding and compromise (instead of conflict) lies in following a few simple rules.
Don't speak down to your partner
Never speak down to your partner from a high horse position, where you are the good one and they are the bad one. If a conversation starts this way, it will never end well. Remember that you both have the same intrinsic value and deserve to be respected. Always speak to your partner as an equal and in a respectful tone. Let them know that you are not coming from a place of judgment, just a place of wanting to understand and know them better.
Don't start with your feelings
Never start the conversation with all your thoughts and feelings. Start with asking questions about what your partner is thinking and feeling. Set your thoughts, feelings, opinions and ideas aside in the beginning; you will get the chance to share them later on. If you start by listening, your partner will be less defensive and they may actually feel safe enough to share with you.
Understand your partner's core fear and core value system
I have mentioned them in previous articles, but their core fear is either fear of failure or fear of loss; their core value system is either connection, tasks, things or ideas. If you understand how your partner is wired at this level, you can usually see the intent behind their behavior.
Tom, in the example above, might have fear of failure as his core fear. His fear of failing at work may have had him so consumed that he forgot everything else. Or maybe he values connection most and was so upset about the bad conversation with his boss that a task slipped his mind. He just values people more than tasks. Understanding your partner at this level could be a game-changer.
Focus on your partner's feelings
Ask kind, supportive questions about what your partner was feeling when the offense happened. Make sure these questions aren't an attack or pointed at making them wrong but are instead focused on understanding them. Spend the time to explore their state of mind, thoughts and feelings. You might be amazing at what you learn that you didn't know.
Remember intent matters
Remember intent matters, words matter and tone matters. Choose carefully.
Ask to share your feelings
Ask if your partner would be willing to let you share where you were and what you were thinking and feeling. Don't assume your partner should listen to you; ask them if they are willing and able to really listen and understand you. Ask if they would be willing to not interrupt and let you fully explain your side before they say anything. Ask for exactly what you need from them to make you feel heard and understood.
Use 'I' statements
Use "I" statements not "you" statements. Say things like, "I believe, I think, I feel, I experience, I react to, or in my opinion. Avoid saying, "You always," "You never," "You didn't care or try." As you can see, "you" statements feel like an attack. Keep your comments all about yourself and don't talk about your spouse. Let them speak for themselves.
Practice makes perfect
Repeat these steps until you gain understanding or come to a compromise.
Try this week to ask more questions and pay more attention to intent. Show your partner that you can give them the benefit of the doubt, and that most of the time offenses are unintentional. Give them room to be distracted, self-focused because of fear, and sometimes miss things. Be willing to forgive most garden variety slights in favor of a healthier, happier relationship.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
As a master life coach for the last 20 years, I have discovered some tricks to helping people make meaningful changes that last. Here are some things to keep in mind this month as you think about making changes in 2021.
1. Be honest and open to feedback
Be honest with yourself about what needs to change and be open to objective feedback from others. Sometimes the things you most need to change are the things you can't clearly see in yourself. Asking people who know you well to share what behaviors they see in you that are holding you back, or causing problems, might yield valuable information.
As a coach, I often ask clients if they would be open to an observation about the way they showed up in a situation, or to look at their behavior from a different perspective. Having a caring coach or friend who will be honest about where you are can be a huge help.
It's a powerful practice to ask the people close to you for some feedback on how you can improve or show up for them better. Plan to do this on a regular basis, maybe even weekly.
2. Figure out who you want to be
Figure out who you want to be over what you want to accomplish. The "be" is much more important than the "do."
Think about the different roles you play in your life. What kind of parent, spouse, sibling, aunt or uncle, worker or boss do you want to be? What would it look like to be that kind of person? What would it feel like to be that kind of person? Write your answers to these questions down in detail so you know exactly who you want to be.
The truth is, you cannot do better until you become better. When you focus on who you want to be first, you raise the bar on your behavior and accomplishments get easier.
3. Focus on behaviors and habits that will require change
After you identify who you want to be, focus on the behavior and habits that will need to change. What do you do now that makes you who you are now? What habits would you need to change, or what do you need to start doing or stop doing to become the person you want to be?
Get crystal clear on what these behavior changes are. You may have very ingrained habits that need to change. This process will take time and support, but you can do it.
4. Learn new skills or gain needed tools
Sometimes you cannot change the behavior or habit without first learning some new ways of showing up. You may not be able to change a habit until you learn a new procedure for handling these situations. You might need to learn how to cook healthier meals. You may need new communication skills, a new system for processing emotions in a healthy way, or a new procedure for handling offenses.
This is where some professional help can make a huge difference and help you make changes much faster. When you know better, you can do better.
5. Commit to change
Commit to changing and find a love-motivated reason to keep you committed. Don't change for a fear-motivated reason. Don't lose weight to stop feeling less valuable than other people; lose weight because you love yourself and want to be healthy and strong.
Find a strong love-motivated reason to stay driven toward the goal. Do it for your children so they will have a healthy parent who is active and strong. This will help you stay on task when things get hard or frustrating.
6. Identify goals but focus on now
Clearly identify your long-term goals, but focus on the first step now. What's the next step you need to take toward the long-term goal? What would it look like to make just a 5% improvement this week? A small-step goal means you aren't trying to be perfect now.
If you are going for perfect, you are setting yourself up to fail. Instead, just make a small, realistic change this week. This allows you to experience some success and feel proud of yourself. Set yourself up for a win every week with a realistic next-step goal.
7. Identify the practice that will create the new way of being
The secret to making changes lies in three R's: repetition, reinforcement and reminders. The hardest part of changing is remembering to choose the new behavior instead of letting your old subconscious programming (your autopilot) run. You are programmed to behave the old way, and this behavior will continue until you can interrupt it and choose differently over and over again.
What practice can you repeat daily? What reminders or reinforcement do you need to keep it in the forefront of your mind to choose differently? Many of my clients use reminders on their phone, or they change their wallpaper to something that reminds them to practice the new behavior. This works because they look at their phone so many times a day.
8. Have some accountability
Find a coach, friend or partner who knows what your goal is each week and will supportively hold you to it. The reason coaching is the most effective way to change is because you get to work on small goals with new skills and tools, and you have weekly accountability and support. I have spent 20 years in the personal development field and I haven't found anything that works better than working with a coach.
9. Interact with those you want to emulate
Interact with people who are the kind of people you want to become. Avoid time with people who support your old behavior. They often don't want you to change because they are comfortable with you as you are. Find a crew of people who inspire and lift you to grow and be your best.
It's been said you become the five people you hang out with most. Do you need to find some people who will raise your game?
10. Don't get discouraged if change is slow
Changing behavior is hard, especially when it's driven by subconscious programming you've had since childhood. It's a process and it takes time. This is why I recommend working with a coach or counselor for three to six months, at least.
Lasting change doesn't happen overnight or from reading one book or attending one seminar. Lasting change can only happen when you learn something new and then practice it with consistent, committed effort while consciously choosing a different way of being again and again.
I have seen many people completely change the way they behave, the way they feel about their lives, and the way they show up in relationships — and faster than you'd think possible. In six months' time, your life could look and feel entirely different from how it does today.
Bonus: Get professional help
To make this happen, though, I highly recommend finding a professional of some kind who can help you recognize what you need to change, give you new tools and skills, and support you through the time it takes to practice and work, one small step at a time. There are resources out there no matter your budget. If you need support don't stop looking for resources until you find them.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSl.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — For the last eight years, I have written a special New Year's article in which I have given you the one resolution that would have the biggest positive impact on your life.
This year is one of the most interesting New Year's days in history, in my opinion, as we are dealing with unprecedented challenges, loss and conflict. We are in worse shape mentally and emotionally than ever before. So, I have been thinking about what we need at this unprecedented time and place. What would help us to start healing the conflicts, lifting the isolation, and restoring the loss? Is there one thing that would make a difference?
What immediately came to my mind was listening. Listening to others more (and talking less) could be life-changing for all of us this year.
What every human being needs this year is to have their experiences, feelings and struggles validated. When I say validated, I don't mean always agreeing with them; rather, the people around us need to know their feelings, beliefs and values matter. This is always the first step to resolving conflict. You must give all parties room to express their feelings and allow them to be right about how they feel.
I have been busy during 2020 working with couples and families who have experienced more conflict at home than ever before. They have been fast to get offended and act too often from a defensive position instead of a loving one. The pandemic has, to some degree, made us all more afraid of other people. This has put us all on guard, watching for slights and being quick to protect ourselves from others.
Has this created or added conflict in your relationships? Are you functioning from a fear-of-loss state, where you feel protective of yourself and see others as a threat — maybe even your spouse and children?
This has been a hard year for everyone. We all need the chance to talk about how 2020 has been for us and share our experiences and feelings, and there are many levels to listening better and they would all serve us greatly. This year, make a goal to listen better in the following ways.
Listen to yourself
Listening to yourself means you start trusting yourself, feeling the feelings that are coming up for you and exploring what they are about, and trusting your gut. You have what I call "an inner GPS" that always knows the right path for you. You are entitled to know where your perfect classroom journey goes next.
The problem comes when you don't trust yourself. You might live in constant fear that you aren't good enough, and this makes you think your thoughts and feelings must be untrustworthy. You might constantly ask others for advice because you trust them more. But they are not entitled to know what's best for you. Practice making decisions and sitting in that choice a while to feel if it is right or wrong. If you are making the wrong choice, your inner GPS will not let it go.
Take time this year to sit with feelings that show up. Ask yourself questions about what they are here for, where they are coming from, and what you're supposed to learn. Process emotions instead of stuffing or avoiding them. Not all your thoughts are accurate, but they are there to help you grow.
Take some quiet time every day this year to check in with yourself: How and what are you feeling? What feels right and wrong to you? Start listening and paying attention to how your inner GPS speaks to you.
Listen to your partner
This important person in your life is the one who needs you to hear them more than anyone else. Yet, few people take the time to ask deep questions and really listen to understand their partner at the deepest level. Too often, we listen only as we prepare what we want to say next. That is not true listening.
Your partner likely has thoughts, feelings, fears and concerns that you know nothing about. These are things they won't share unless you create a space that is safe enough and you earn their trust. Make a goal this year to ask questions, to get to know your partner on a much deeper level, and to truly understand them. This will create richness in the relationship you have never experienced before.
Listen to your children
Do you want your children to feel important and valued and have good self-esteem? Do you want to really know and understand them? Do you want a close safe relationship where they will confide in you? These things are all earned by listening more than you talk. Honestly ask yourself which of those actions your children get from you most.
Be a safe place where your children (no matter their age) can share their truth and be respected, honored, heard and validated. Every person has the right to feel the way they feel and have their unique perspective. You don't have to agree with someone else's feelings, but you should honor and respect their right to have those feelings. Make a goal this year to stop talking and start asking questions (without judgment in them) and really get to know your kids.
Listen to your friends and neighbors
You may think you know your friends and neighbors well, but chances are they still feel unseen in some way. They are, as the saying goes, fighting battles you know nothing about. They are carrying pain they won't share because it's messy and ugly.
These people need someone who cares to ask the hard questions like, "Are you really OK?" and "What's the hardest thing you have gone through this year? What's the worst part?" Then give them the time to really share those things they thought no one would care to hear. These are the things they most need to talk about, and this need usually goes unmet.
There is someone around you that needs this kind of love and validation. Make a goal to look for and see these people.
Listen to people you don't agree with
This is the first step to healing our nation after the conflict and division we've felt recently. It is time to truly listen to the people on the other side of every issue. You don't have to agree with them, but you could honor and respect their right to their perspective and experience.
When others say they feel slighted, it is not our place to disagree. They are always right about how they feel; they see the world from a perspective you can't possibly imagine because you weren't there. Your perspective is always missing some pieces. Always stay open to the possibility of being wrong. This keeps you teachable, open to learning, and able to create solutions that serve your entire community and country, not just you.
People who are different from you
Most of us subconsciously lean toward the people who are the most like us and who have the same beliefs, values, race, religion and socioeconomic status. This can make our world small. It shelters us from conflict, but it also hinders growth, learning and incredible experiences.
If you feel uncomfortable around a certain group, this is the year to make a new friend and spend some time really listening to their story and how they got there. Amazing growth can happen when we truly hear other people and understand their unique experiences. Doing so changes and enriches who you are.
Join me this year to listen better than we ever have before by committing to stay open and assume you don't know it all. Stay teachable. Get to know other people on a whole new level and develop compassion and empathy for people you didn't understand before. Decide to be a giver to the people in your home and be more focused on hearing them and understanding their hearts than ever before. They may irritate you at times, but you probably haven't scratched the surface of knowing the depths of their souls and their goodness. All that is required is for you to ask more questions, talk a lot less and care enough to hear them.
You can do this in 2021.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.