This was first published on KSL.com
After 20-plus years as a life coach and human behavior expert, I have discovered some interesting patterns in the way we humans react to situations. I believe there are three basic types of reactions to offenses, and understanding these reactions could make it easier to find the best response when you get bothered.
The three basic reaction options are:
Where the fear comes from:
I wish I could say that the trust and love response comes naturally to us, but it usually isn't. People-pleasing and defending yourself are hard-wired into most of our subconscious programming. Let me explain why.
In prehistoric times, people lived in groups and depended on each other for survival. If you were rejected it could literally mean death. If you were kicked out of the group or tribe, you probably wouldn't survive on your own. In my experience working with people as a master life coach, it appears that this has left us all with a deep subconscious need for approval and acceptance by others.
I believe this is why what others think of you feels so critical or important: You are hard-wired to believe that your life depends on approval (even though it doesn't). This means, there might always be a part of you that desperately wants to be liked, accepted and get along with others. This part of you might be so scared of conflict it would rather allow others to mistreat you, than risk rejection.
It is my experience that you are also subconsciously programmed to feel unsafe in the world and believe that you must protect and defend yourself from threats all around you to survive. I believe, again, this is a deeply wired survival mechanism but one that causes a great number of problems in relationships.
You have a part of you that is always looking for mistreatment, slights, danger or threats in the people and situations around you. You might even get defensive too easily and be quick to jump into conflict because it feels safe to protect yourself.
These two types of reactions are so deeply wired into your subconscious programming that they can happen fast. Your brain doesn't need to think about either of them; they are immediate reactions.
You may also notice that one of the two fear reactions is more dominant in you than the other. You might still do the other on occasion, but you are more likely either a defender or a people-pleaser. Which behavior is more frequent for you?
What your 3 options look like:
Now, let me show you how understanding the three reaction options will help you in a real-life situation.
Let's say your partner does something that offends, bothers or hurts you. You will have one reaction that shows up immediately as your dominant fear response. Don't do this. Take a minute and step back; before you say or do anything, see if you can identify all three options and what they would look like in this situation.
Option No. 1: Fear-of-failure response
You can react with fear-of-failure behavior allow yourself to be mistreated. You could silently resent the other person, be bothered by them, get quiet, sulk or talk about them behind their back. You could see them as the bad guy and play the victim.
If you choose to react this way, you may get some sympathy, love and attention when they notice you are sulking, but your spouse may also lose some respect for you. This immature behavior, over time, cam damage the relationship.
Option No. 2: Fear-of-loss response
You can react with fear-of-loss behavior and confront them with anger or get defensive. You could judge them and see them as the "bad guy," seeing them as worse than you. You could accuse them and put them down, which is ego-based fear behavior. This response feels stronger, but there is fear behind it; it is not real strength, and there is no love in it either.
If you choose to respond this way, your ego may feel better temporarily, but you could be slowly destring the relationship as your partner could begin to resent you.
Option No. 3: Trust and love response
You may actually have a couple of trust and love, balanced behavior options in these situations: You might choose a "let it go in love" response or a "talk about it with love" response. If done without fear, in a balanced place, seeing you and the other person as equals, either of these options could be a good choice.
The "let it go in love" response is where you recognize that their bad behavior probably wasn't intentional, wasn't really about you, or wasn't meant to harm you. Because you recognize that, you choose to forgive it or let it go and hope they will do the same with your small, unintentional mistakes. You can do this from a place of strength when you know they can't actually diminish you or your value and that whatever happened was your perfect classroom journey anyway. You can respond with love toward them and yourself, with no resentment, and completely let the offense go.
However, if this is something that happens frequently and/or you know you can't let it go without having a conversation about it, you can do that. But you must have this conversation without judgment, defensiveness, anger, emotion, fear or criticism. You must start the conversation by seeing the other person as an equal, not the bad guy. You have the same value as your partner no matter what either of you does. You must not talk down to them in any way. You must strive for a mutually validating conversation that comes from a place of love, accuracy, kindness and respect.
You should first ask your partner what was going on with them in that moment, what their intention was, and what they thought and meant. You then get to listen and strive to really understand them. Following this exchange, you can ask permission to share what you experienced and ask for what you would like them to do differently next time or moving forward.
Either of these responses might be the right one for you and you should pick the one you feel most capable of doing from a place of trust and love, without fear or judgment. Next time you get offended, try identifying each of the three options and see if it helps you rise and be your better self.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
Believing your own views are right is a troublesome tendency that we each must watch out for. It shows up as an overattachment to our own ideas and opinions and the tendency to see other perspectives as wrong.
When you get overattached to your opinion, you also tend to look for reinforcement confirming that you are right. It's called confirmation bias and you are drawn to shows, articles and books that confirm your current opinion over things that challenge it. You subconsciously seek this confirmation because it has a positive effect on your self-esteem.
Feeling like you are right doesn't actually increase your value; it just temporarily makes your ego feel better than other people whom you see as wrong.
If people struggle to see value in themselves, they often seek what I call "group self-esteem." They align themselves with a group of people who see themselves as superior to another group, and because they are a member of this superior group they get a little self-esteem boost.
The temporary benefits
But again, thinking you are right is only a temporary ego boost because being right doesn't actually give you more value than the people on the other side. Many people believe their ideas, opinions and beliefs do make them the "good guys" and more valuable than people with different views and beliefs. You can see this happening all around us.
People need to believe that their opinions make them better than others for two reasons:
1. They need the self-esteem boost that comes from feeling superior to others
This often happens when they don't get enough self-esteem from their appearance or performance. So, taking a strong stand on their views becomes their "thing" that sets them apart and makes them feel valuable. These people will talk about and share their views liberally because it reinforces their sense of value. They are overly committed to being right because it makes them feel better.
2. They get a sense of safety from their strong opinions and ideas
Feeling sure about their views gives them a sense of solid ground to stand on. Their opinions and views can make them feel in control and provide some stability. Beliefs can create our sense of security in the world; the problem is that when we rely too heavily on our opinions for security, we can become stubborn and stop learning, growing or experiencing people and ideas outside of those views.
There are some benefits to being overcommitted to being right, but there are also some troublesome consequences from being this way. Here are a few of them:
1. You only see life from your own perspective
You cannot help seeing the world through your own lens — a lens that was created from all your past experiences and knowledge. Yours is a very unique lens, too, because no other person on the planet will ever have your upbringing, your family, and your life experiences. You are literally the only one who can see life through your lens.
This is important to understand because your lens is also not accurate. It is all you know and can see, so it feels accurate, but it is — and will always be — just your perspective. There is an infinite number of other perspectives from which things look totally different. This is why any number of witnesses can watch the same event and see it very differently. This is why witness testimony can be unreliable. People always see the world through their skewed lens.
Recognizing this and understanding that all you can ever see is your own skewed opinion, perspective, and views means being open to honoring and respecting other people's right to see the world from their perspective. It is also all they can see, and from their perspective things will look very different from yours.
There is great wisdom and compassion to be gained when we step out of judgment and our need to be right and experience, listen to and learn from other people's perspectives. If you only watch your perspective's news program and read books that support what you already believe is the truth, you will miss out on the richness of the human experience and all its diversity.
2. You don't learn anything
A funny thing happens when you think you're right in your opinions and views: You stop asking questions and you stop learning. You subconsciously believe you know all there is to know, so you don't care what else is out there. It is only when you are willing to question what you know, and are truly open to being wrong, that you can learn. Wise people know that the more you learn, the more you understand you have more to learn.
There are always going to be more questions than answers. Being willing to question your views and knowledge makes you intelligent, a perpetual student, and ensures you're always growing. True wisdom is always questioning what you think you know.
3. You don't connect with people
If you are overly committed to your own opinions, you will miss opportunities to connect with other people — primarily because they won't share their perspectives with you. They can feel that you aren't open and don't provide a safe place to share, so they will keep their views to themselves.
There are billions of amazing humans out there with interesting stories and experiences, many that are beyond your ability to comprehend. Because you have never experienced life in their shoes, you don't know what they know. The more different they are from you, the harder it can be to cross the divide and connect with them; but when you do, you grow in incalculable ways.
This is why people say travel to faraway places changes you. Taking time to get to know people, who are vastly different from you and honoring and respecting their right to their views — even if their views bother or offend you — will help you gain compassion and wisdom. Spending all your time with people who agree with you gets you nowhere.
4. You don't experience love at the highest level
I personally believe — though I am open to being wrong about all of this — that differences are a perfect part of our life's journey because they stretch our ability to love others and ourselves. Differences trigger fears in us and push us out of our comfort zones. Think about some people in your life that you have a hard time loving or even liking. What are the differences that create these feelings? For some reason, your subconscious mind that has decided these behaviors in these people make them unworthy of love at some level.
The problem with letting these feelings go unchecked is that as long as you see their faults as making them unworthy of love, you will also see your own faults — though they may be different ones — as making you unworthy of love. You literally cannot love yourself except as you love your neighbor. If you stay in judgment of them, you will also stay in judgment of yourself. If you want to truly love and accept yourself, you must work on seeing every other human being as equal in value and worthy of compassion. You may never understand their perspective or behavior, but you know that's because you cannot see the world through their lens.
Being open to understanding and learning from other people takes you to a higher level of love and creates a wiser, more open and beautiful way of living. But you cannot get there if you are stuck in your need to be right about your current views.
Opinions vs. morals and values
I also want to say that opinions and views as I have addressed them in this article are different from your morals and values. Morals and values are beautiful choices you make about the rules you want to guide your behavior choices. They are still made from your perspective, but they are the consciously chosen systems to live by. What you want to avoid is pushing your value systems onto others — because they have the right to choose their own — and being closed off to changing your values as you grow and learn.
You could choose to stay open and question everything including your values, your views, and your opinions, and constantly measure them against love. There are so many dimensions to the human experience, and nothing is ever fully black and white, but love for yourself and other people may be a good measure in choosing values that create positive things in your life.
These are, of course, just my perspective and ideas, but I do like the results that are created in my life when I choose to see life as a classroom — purposefully designed to stretch my compassion and ability to love. I also appreciate the comments to my articles that challenge my ideas and premises and I am always open to being wrong.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
About a year ago I found out my spouse had not only been looking at inappropriate things online, but she has also been leaving comments on posts and videos of other men. It has completely destroyed me. I feel betrayed. I feel like I'm not good enough. She, of course, says that it meant nothing to her. But when I try and tell her how much it has hurt me, she doesn't get it. We have been fighting over this for over a year, and the only way to stop fighting is for me to just act like I am over it. I AM NOT OVER IT! In fact, I'm still sick about it. But the more I think about it, the more I think that maybe I am the one overreacting over it. I'm so lost and confused. ... Can you please help me? She did delete the app she was doing it on, but I feel like the damage is done and I don't know how to move forward.
I'd like to address your question by giving you a procedure you can use whenever you get offended or have a fight or a problem with anyone in your life. This is especially helpful when trust has been broken and you don't feel emotionally safe with your partner.
In a situation like this, you only have two options in response. It is very important that you understand the consequences of each option and make a conscious decision about which is right for you. If you don't make a conscious decision, your brain will make a subconscious decision by reacting and you will probably make the situation worse, not better.
Here are your two options:
1. Respond from a place of fear
Understand that you cannot show up in love and fear at the same time. If you choose fear, your love goes out the window and your focus is on protecting yourself. This means your behavior will be selfish. You will not do or say things that show love and compassion for the other person; you will say and do things that make you feel safer.
The other person will feel the selfish energy around what you say, and they will likely not feel safe or loved by you. They will then focus on protecting themselves, too, and they won't be loving toward you. If you both show up in fear often, no one will be giving any love and it's less likely that the relationship will work.
2. Respond from a place of love
This means you choose to respond with love toward yourself and the other person. You can only access your love and respond this way if you have first chosen to trust that you are safe. You will need to trust that the universe is on your side, that your value can't change, and that you cannot be "not good enough." This will help you have the capacity to choose to show love, compassion and forgiveness to the other person.
When you respond with love, you can choose to allow the other person to make mistakes and still be worthy of your love because you want the same grace for your mistakes. You can forgive their past behavior completely, seeing it as just a lesson for both of you and not part of who they are. Choosing to forgive and love the other person is likely to make them love you more and create the best outcome.
How to respond from a place of love
Having said that, the love option isn't easy to choose; fear is a lot easier. Fear comes naturally with no effort whatsoever. Choosing love and forgiving the other person can feel much harder, but there are some things you can do to make it easier.
It's important to note there are some situations when the loving thing to do is love yourself enough to leave. If you truly believe the other person has no intention of changing or improving, you might feel leaving is the best thing for you. Only you are entitled to know if and when you have reached this point. Trust your heart and you will know. This is also a love-motivated choice, not a fear-motivated choice.
You may also want to work with a coach or counselor on your self-esteem. Work on letting all human beings have the exact same intrinsic value as you and giving up judging other people and seeing them as less than you. This is the secret to feeling more worthy and loveable yourself. If you see faults and mistakes in others as making them less, bad or unworthy, your own faults and mistakes will also make you feel less, bad and unworthy. If you let every other human make mistakes and still be worthy of love, you will start to see that you are too.
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
I often hear from readers who have to deal with someone in the workplace who is highly defensive and combative in their communication. This person might be a co-worker, employee, manager or even a client.
Everyone will have to communicate, at some point, with someone who is upset, offended and on the offensive, so I'd like to give you some tips on how to best handle these difficult conversations.
When a person comes across as combative or defensive in their communication, I believe one or both of the following things is happening.
If this person is a co-worker, client, family member or boss, you will need to find a way to work and communicate with them without things becoming ugly. Fortunately, there are some things you can do that could make them feel safer and give you a better chance of having a productive conversation:
Work to be emotionally calm and balanced
If you go into a conversation scared about having it, the other person will get defensive before you say a word. Make sure you know your intrinsic value cannot change no matter what happens in this conversation. Remember, in the end, this will be an experience that will serve you, teach you or grow you. You are safe here. Throughout the conversation, keep reminding yourself there is nothing to fear. This is just a conversation and you are just going to try to show up for this human being and be kind.
Care about the person first and the topic second
Your only goal upfront in the conversation is to show this person they are important, cared about and worth listening to. If you have another agenda you need to accomplish, it must come after you take the time to show this person you care about them. If you take the time to validate their worth by asking questions, and then honoring and respecting their thoughts and feelings first, they will be less defensive when it's time to address the issue.
Have an exit strategy and a time limit
Set up this conversation when you have a very natural time limit (like with another appointment). Have an assistant or someone come get you at the end time to assure the conversation stays within these boundaries you've set.
Set some rules of engagement and pick your battles
Let this person know that because you are short on time, you only want to discuss one thing and clarify any issues that you don't want to talk about today. Know ahead of time what the most important issue is and be sure it's important enough to be worth the effort. Know exactly what you hope to achieve at the end. It helps to write these things on paper and get clear of your intention ahead of time. Make sure that making this person feel cared about and heard are your first and foremost goals.
Establish the enemy is an issue, not a person
Sit on the same side instead of across from each other. This makes it feel like the two of you are against an issue or problem, not against each other. Clarify that you want to find a way to create a win for all involved.
Calm their fears with validation and reassurance
Make sure you have validated them and talked about all the things they do right first. They need reassurance before you tell them anything negative. This should help quiet the fears that usually drive bad communication behavior.
Ask a lot of questions and listen
The most important part of a difficult conversation is the beginning, when you make it all about them by asking what they think and feel about the issue. Spend as much time as possible here. The deepest way to show you value, honor, and respect another person is by listening to their views, fears and concerns, and really respecting their right to feel the way they do. If possible, see if you can ask enough questions that you can get them to tell you everything you had wanted to say. It's always better if they figure it out without you telling them.
If you are personally attacked, don't defend yourself
Instead of fighting back against a verbal attack, ask more questions like, "Tell me more about that?" or "What makes you feel that way?" Dive into the attack instead of fighting against it. Just because they think this about you doesn't make it true. Listening to their views doesn't diminish you. Let them get it all out and share all their thoughts and feelings about you. They may be shocked to find you open instead of fighting back. Show them you can handle an attack and are still not scared. None of this affects your intrinsic, unchangeable value.
Put yourself in their shoes
Try to see things from their perspective and look for common ground you can agree on. Don't try to convince them of anything. Focus your attention on trying to understand them. Even if you cannot possibly understand their views, the fact that you are trying will come through.
Use 'I' statements, not 'you' statements
When you do need to share your views, make sure you use "I" statements and focus on your own perspective, observations, thoughts and feelings. Avoid attacks that start with "you" do this or that. Instead, say: "In my opinion," "I have observed," "I feel," "I believe." You are always entitled to your perspective and it's harder to argue with.
Be realistic about what to expect
Realize that people who are deep in a state of fear are only concerned with one thing: their own safety. They don't have the capacity to show up for you, but they might be able to do what you ask of them — if you ask in a respectful way and focus on only future behavior. Use statements like "Would you be willing to do this a little differently moving forward?" or "Next time that happens, would you be open to handling it this way?"
These tips will give you the best shot at a productive conversation, but there are some people you just won't be able to work well with. Don't take this personally. It is not about you.
If this is the case, you will have to avoid dealing with them as much as possible or take the problem up the chain of command. You can also use this opportunity to work on yourself and grow. Try working on staying calm, strong and confident in the face of attacks. It's great practice.
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
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.
This was first published on KSL.com
This may seem like an obvious question, but I'd like some advice on how I break up with my girlfriend without hurting her too badly. She is great, but she isn't right for me. I know that she is probably going to take it hard, is there any soft way to do it?
I'd like to answer your question in a way that is relevant to anyone delivering bad news. This means situations like firing someone, giving negative feedback, or ending a relationship.
In each of these cases, the bad news is going to be the catalyst for some pain, fear or shame happening in the other person. There is no way around that. Rejection and criticism experiences are painful for most people, but there are some ways you can soften the blow and — even more important — change your mindset so it is easier for you, because being the one to deliver bad news can feel terrible, too.
Here are some things to keep in mind before you deliver the bad news:
Use some empathy
Take a minute and put yourself in their shoes. Imagine how they feel now and how the news is going to feel for them. Think about what you would want to hear and how you would want to hear it if you were in their position. This will help you to handle it with more kindness. You can also tune into God's love for this person and it will help you to come from love when you speak to them.
Find the right time and setting
Ideally, you'll want privacy, time and space for the other person to either be alone or to go be with other people who can support them. You might want a setting where it is easy for them to leave and not have to face you afterward. For example, don't break up with your girlfriend on a trip where you have to be together for two more days, and don't do it in public. Breaking up with someone in their home is best because you can leave and they feel safe there.
Remember: You are not responsible for their happiness
While you are responsible for delivering the bad news with clarity and kindness, you are not responsible for any part of what the person goes through next. That might sound cold, but you cannot be responsible for something that is out of your control. Place the person in God's hands and let go; he is responsible for their life journey and experiences.
Understand your part
The universe has set you up to be the one to deliver the bad news and facilitate this part of the person's perfect classroom journey. This person wouldn't be here if it wasn't their perfect journey to be here. They have in some way signed up for this "class" (whatever experience this bad news brings). Your perfect classroom journey placed you here to be the one to deliver this news because it is the class you are signed up for. Your part is to be kind, honest and straightforward. After you deliver the news, your job ends and God will take it from there.
End the relationship quickly
Put an end to the relationship as soon as you know it's not right for you. Don't keep dating someone because you feel bad hurting them. Be responsible and caring enough to be honest and tell them how you feel as soon as you know can.
Focus on a few positives first
Take some time and validate the person for the things they do right or their amazing qualities. Make sure they know you see them accurately and see their goodness, but don't spend too long here or they may get confused about how the bad news fits.
Use 'I' statements
Especially when breaking up with someone, don't focus on their faults or negative traits. Focus on what you are feeling, looking for or experiencing. They can't argue with your feelings because you are the only one who truly knows how you feel. Just state your feelings and what you need. Avoid statements about what they do or don't do.
Don't use cliches
Avoid saying things like "it's not you, it's me" or "I don't think I am good enough for you." The truth is probably "the chemistry isn't there for me at the level it should be" or "I know in my heart this relationship isn't right for me."
Be as kind, honest and as straight forward as possible
Deliver the news with respect, honoring the other person and their intrinsic worth. Be honest and speak the truth plainly. Don't beat around the bush, be direct and clear. Speak the facts with as few words as possible so there is no misunderstanding. Bad news is worse if you drag it on trying to get there carefully without hurting the other person. The sooner you give them the clear facts, the sooner they start on the road to healing.
If they get angry or sad, validate their right to feel that way
Don't try to talk to the other person out of their feelings; they are always right about how they feel. Say things like, "I totally understand why you feel this way." Tell them you are sorry but the conversation has to be over now. Don't allow them to drag out this part of being upset with you. You will actually help them start healing faster if you rip off the bandage and then give them space.
Give them closure
If you know this person isn't for you, then don't say you want to "take a break" or see where you both are in a few months. Care about them enough to walk away cleanly so they can start healing and getting over you. You cannot be part of their support system after the break-up. They need you to walk cleanly away and let other friends and family support them through it.
Allow them to vent a little
Allowing the other person to vent their feelings shows you care. If they have things to say to you or about you after you deliver the bad news, be willing to listen without getting defensive. They may lash out verbally as a way to make themselves feel better. This is them projecting their pain, and it would be best if you could listen to it while not getting upset or absorbing it. Allow them to vent a little and say again, "I understand why you feel that way." Validate their right to their feelings and then end the conversation.
What if they try to change your mind?
If the other person tried to change your mind, be willing to listen and validate their feelings but let them know that there is no changing this. Be clear, direct and honest. You are doing them a favor by staying strong because it puts them on the path to healing sooner.
It is never fun being the bearer of bad news and making other people feel bad, but it is part of life and we all play this role from time to time. Remember that it's not you making the person feel bad, it's the reality of this part of their perfect classroom journey. This experience is a perfect lesson for both of you in trust and love.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
This one is a tough one for me. We have 6 kids (plus several spouses/boyfriends/girlfriends) in our family that we adore. They all live nearby and we love having them come visit for family holidays. I'm in a pickle here, though, and need your advice. I'm an avid news and science follower and have followed the COVID pandemic closely. Unfortunately, my sister even passed from COVID last month so I am really concerned about it. The problem is that my husband says he has had enough of this pandemic and the isolation and has invited all the family to come for Thanksgiving. We've had lengthy conversations about it and he knows I think that we should visit remotely as instructed by our leaders. What do I do given that we disagree so strongly about this? I know I am sensitive because of my sister's passing, but I worry about the health and safety of ALL our loved ones. Shouldn't we be setting a good example for our family and following guidelines?
The short answer is yes, of course, you should absolutely follow the guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when you celebrate Thanksgiving, which include hosting a remote gathering or wearing masks and practicing physical distancing, among other things. Having said that, I think your real question is: "How do I convince my spouse to follow the COVID-19 guidelines, and how do I handle the disagreement?"
The answer to that question is simple because it's the same answer no matter what the disagreement is about. You need to have a mutually validating conversation with them, where you both feel heard, understood and valued, and you need to come up with a compromise that honors both your feelings.
I believe knowing how to have mutually validating conversations is one of the most important relationship skills we need to have because it means you can talk about anything and not digress into a fight.
Here are some steps for how to do that:
1. Let go of your need to be right
If your goal is to convince him he is wrong and win the argument, he is likely just going to get defensive. A mutually validating conversation is not about being right and getting your way; it's about making both parties feel heard and understood, actually understanding the other person and their feelings, and honoring and respecting their right to feel the way they do. This requires you to be generous and caring as you go into this.
2. Make sure you see the other person as the same as you
This means you don't see yourself as smarter, wiser, more educated, more morally right, or above the other person in any way. You remind yourself that you have faults, too, and you both have the same intrinsic value all the time — that cannot change. This prevents you from talking down to the other person, which will always offend them. It also should prevent you from feeling intimidated or less than another person.
3. Set your agenda and feelings aside upfront
This means you are going to start this conversation with only one goal in mind: to ask questions, listen, understand and make sure the other person feels fully heard, honored and respected for their right to think the way they do. This conversation must start all about them, and not at all about you and your views. I sometimes need to set my feelings, opinions and agenda in another room and shut the door before going into a conversation like this. You must dedicate yourself upfront to just caring about how the other person feels.
4. Ask the other person questions about their thoughts and feelings
Ask your husband if he would be willing to talk to you about Thanksgiving and help you understand how he feels about it. During this step, you will ask great questions that show your desire to understand and give the him space to share all the details about his views. You want to spend as much time here as possible because this is the step that makes the other person feel safe with you, heard and valued. Make sure you don't agree or disagree with anything your husband says. This is not about you yet. This part is just about listening and caring about how he feels.
5. Ask permission to share your thoughts
After you have spent a lot of time listening, and you can tell your husband feels heard and understood, you may ask him if he would be willing to let you share how you feel about it. You might want to ask a couple of permission questions so you can create the safe space you need. This might sound like:
6. Speak your truth without attacking the other person
You will do this by following two rules:
Avoid bringing up any behavior from the past by saying things like, "I feel like you never care what I think, remember last Christmas?" Instead say, "Would you be willing to care about what I think about this, this year?"
Make sure you don't insist on making the other person be wrong; you just have different perspectives, and both deserve to be honored.
7. Find ways to compromise
Obviously, though, only one plan for Thanksgiving can happen. Some kind of compromise must be reached. You might ask if there is anything you could do to make your husband feel like the family is there with you while gathering for the meal remotely.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
My spouse and I keep getting in these fights where she does something like ignores me when I am trying to talk to her, and this offends me and I get angry and slam a door, which really offends her and makes her feel attacked, which starts a big fight that lasts all week. The fight morphs and quickly becomes about who treats who worse. And in this drawn out fight, no one wins. After days of being mad and miserable we will start to move past it, but only until one of us offends the other again. What can we do to break this cycle of offending each other?
The root cause of these fights is you both functioning in a fear state where you feel unsafe with each other, and this is making you wear what I call "mistreatment glasses." Mistreatment glasses means you are subconsciously looking for mistreatment and offenses that will prove that you aren't safe with your partner and that they are the "bad one." Whatever you are looking for you will find. If you are looking for mistreatment, you will find it. If you are looking for proof your partner loves you, you will find that too.
Unfortunately, almost all of us feel unsafe in the world (at the subconscious level), and this keeps us on the defensive a lot of the time. When you feel unsafe, your ego steps up to try and protect you. It does this through defensiveness and casting the other person as the bad one. That is why it feels like a win (to your ego) when you can show that your partner treated you worse and you are the victim. But this is really not a win; no one wins when you get offended by small things and always see your partner as the enemy.
Below is a process you can use when someone offends you. Following it will help you step back out of ego to see the situation more accurately and respond more maturely.
Note: In this article I am only addressing how to deal with the garden variety of arguments, not situations that involve abuse. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has information on how to identify the warning signs of abuse and how one can get help.
See the other person's bad behavior accurately
When someone behaves badly or offends you, there are four possible reasons for this behavior. Knowing them will help you accurately access what is happening in each situation. The four reasons people behave badly:
If this offense happened for any of the other three reasons, you must step back, stop taking this personally, and choose to not get offended — because it isn't about you. They don't feel safe in the world, and a person who doesn't feel safe has no choice but to focus on finding a sense of safety; they aren't capable of anything else. They may need some professional help to work on their fears around not being good enough and things not being right. So, the negative coping behaviors can be negated.
Be responsible for your response to the offense
You are responsible for your reactions and responses, and this should be your only concern. It is the only thing you have control over and the only thing that matters now. You must choose to respond with love, not fear.
If you get defensive and respond from a fear state, you are now doing the exact same thing the other person did to you. You are demonstrating fear-based bad behavior, and responding badly back is just as bad as responding badly first. It's the same bad behavior driven by the same cause.
Respond to an offense with love
Offenses and your reactions happen fast though, so you will need to practice and prepare ahead of time to be able to remember these steps in the heat of the moment. You might want to read through this procedure daily or replay past offenses that you reacted badly to, running through these steps to see what you should have done.
Procedure for reacting to offenses:
You and your partner may also need some coaching or counseling to work on the underlying fear issues that cause you to feel unsafe with each other. I find most couples who fight a lot need individual coaching to get their subconscious fears under control before they can create a healthy relationship. Always be willing to take this on and work on yourself.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
I have noticed lately that many of the men at work and in other meetings I attend interrupt me, cut me off, or talk down to me and the other women in those groups. I am just curious to know if you think there is anything we can do to garner more respect and/or change this? Should we say something when this happens or try to ignore it?
Women are often talked over, interrupted or shut down in conversation, especially in environments where they are outnumbered by men. A study from George Washington University found that men were 33% more likely to interrupt women than they were to interrupt other men.
Another study, from researchers at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, found that this even happens to female Supreme Court Justices, like the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Researchers examined 15 years of court transcripts to see how often men, either justices or advocates, interrupted the female justices. Over the last 12 years (when women have comprised only 24% of the bench) female justices being interrupted by men accounted for 32% of interruptions, while female justices interrupting men accounted for only 4% of interruptions.
According to Jessica Bennett, a gender editor at the New York Times, it is not just men who interrupt women. Other women are also more prone to interrupt women, and people of color and LGBTQ+ people fare even worse. The sad truth is we subconsciously see some people as less valuable or less important, and this shows up in the way we communicate.
I believe the crucial first step is committing to see all human beings as having the same value and demonstrating this belief in how we talk to them. Every person deserves to be heard and respected. We must see all human beings as equals, listen without interrupting, and honor their right to think differently than we do.
Obviously, there are also situations where the opposite is true and women interrupt or talk over men. The point of the article is to make us all better at respectful communication.
Practical ways you can be part of the solution
1. Stop before interrupting someone. If you feel the urge to interrupt someone, ask yourself, "Do I just want to ask a quick question to clarify what they are saying? Am I going to invite them to continue afterward, or do I think what I have to say is more important than this person?" If the latter is is the case, choose to keep quiet.
2. Check yourself before giving advice. Before you advise another person ask yourself, "Is there any chance I am explaining something to this person that they already know?" If you think there is any chance they might already know this information, don't insult them by telling them. You could also ask them directly if they would be open to some advice?
3. Ask permission before you share an idea or suggestion, or give advice. Ask the other person if they are open to hearing your idea and give them a comfortable out if they'd rather not hear it. Respect the answer to your permission question and don't forge ahead without permission.
4. Don't use demeaning nicknames like honey, sweetie, love or babe. These are not appropriate unless you are dating or married to the other person, and even then ask how they feel about these terms and make sure they are seen as a compliment, not an insult.
5. Never correct another person's pronunciation or grammar.
6. Avoid sexist or demeaning jokes and misogynistic statements. Call out other people who use them. Explain to them why their behavior is wrong. Watch for situations that make women or other marginalized people feel uncomfortable and stand up for them.
7. Make a committed effort to listen to other people. In any meetings you attend, make sure all the women and marginalized people are respected and heard. Insist that others acknowledge and hear them out. Stop people who are interrupting them.
8. Believe women and what they say. Insist that others do the same.
9. Don't get defensive if a woman — or anyone for that matter — tells you that your words or behavior were offensive or hurtful. Be open to understanding that from another person's perspective things can look and feel different than they feel from your perspective. Apologize and ask questions so you understand what you should do differently in the future. Be teachable.
10. Be careful not to talk over other people. Don't dismiss others' ideas; and if you cannot wait to make a comment, at least politely ask if you can stop them for a second. Then, make sure you invite them to continue afterward.
11. If you are on a board, panel or team, insist that they include a well-rounded number of diverse people. Invite more women or minorities to participate and be included.
12. Teach young people that being feminine is not a bad thing. Don't use phrases like "you hit like a girl." Challenge stereotypes that place women behind men as the weaker sex. Encourage women and girls to see themselves as equal, smart and capable as men.
What to do if you find yourself being talked down to or interrupted
1. Don't take it personally. Interrupting says more about a lack of manners in the other person than it says about you. This experience doesn't mean you are less important or less worthy of respect; it likely means the other person hasn't learned to be aware of how their actions affect other people.
2. Don't blame yourself or see yourself as weak or insecure. This happens because our entire society has been taught patriarchy as the social norm. You allow men to interrupt you because it is deep in your subconscious programming to see it as acceptable. It will take work and time for you to recognize every time it happens and learn to stand up for yourself. Have compassion for yourself during this time.
3. Whenever you are speaking to men, use confident words. Rose Kennedy, from the Atlanta Journal, encourages women to "speak with conviction using words like 'know' instead of 'believe' and 'will' instead of 'might." She says to "lean in and make eye contact," sighting a 1983 study that found men tend to interrupt women more often when they lean away or don't look at the person they're talking to.
4. Practice assertive body language. Do things like keeping your arms out to take up as much space in the room as you can. This is a power position and it changes how people treat you.
5. Be strong and confident without being defensive or overly forceful. You don't have to be angry and defensive to stand up for yourself. You can stand in your power and still be calm, peaceful and kind.
6. If you are interrupted or cut off, you have the following options to respond (which can all be done standing in your power):
You can do this.
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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.