This was first published on ksl.com
SALT LAKE CITY — I was recently reading David Richo's book "Triggers: How We Can Stop Reacting and Start Healing" and was impressed with what he calls the five A's. These are 5 elements of a secure environment, which create a place where children (no matter their age) can feel safe and secure in the world.
The five A's are: attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection and allowing.
In his book, Richo encourages readers to examine their own childhood and see if these five factors were present while you were growing up. If you were lacking in one or more of these elements, he says it might have created some shame, fear or feelings of inadequacy that you battle with today.
The truth is no parent ever does these five things perfectly, so we all feel unsafe in the world to some extent. Just take stock of which elements were missing in your childhood and think about how you can give yourself that element now. As an adult, you have the ability to heal yourself of anything you missed out on. All five elements are things you can give yourself every day.
Understanding Richo's five elements can also help you consciously parent your own children better and create an environment where they grow up feeling safe and secure. As you read about the five A's, don't focus on the ways you might have failed to give them to your children in the past; you have been doing the best you could with what you knew at the time. Instead, focus on what you can do today to make your child feel safe and "good enough."
You will also find that your spouse or significant other wants and needs the same five elements each day. Consciously focusing on giving the five A's to everyone in your life could drastically improve all your relationships. Every day, ask yourself: "What can I do to make the people in my life feel some attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection and allowing today?"
Everyone wants to feel seen, heard and known. We all need to know our loved ones see us, but without judgment or criticism. We need attention that isn't about monitoring or watching for what needs correction, but attention that is just honoring our right to be the amazing human we are, exactly as we are.
Children: Your children need to have you ask questions about how they feel and what they think; they need you to take the time to actively listen and strive to understand and know them. You might want to consider setting aside one-on-one time with each child, each week, just to listen and ask questions. Taking them for a treat or meal is a great time to do this.
Partner: In a personal relationship, you might also set aside some time to give your partner your undivided attention each week — time where you ask questions and listen so they feel seen, heard and understood weekly, too.
Everyone wants to feel accepted as "good enough" as they are right now.
Children: Children experience a great deal of correction, and this can sometimes make them feel inadequate, broken or unlovable. They need a great deal of validation about their unchanging worth to counterbalance all that correction. They need to feel you aren't trying to change them; they need to know that who they inherently are (without any effort) is amazing and perfect.
Acceptance can be hard to give to children, but it is so important that they be allowed to be who they are. The more you validate their right to be who and where they are, the more motivated they will be to improve. If they are constantly told they need to improve, they can resist changing.
Partner: In a personal relationship, you might also make sure you see the differences between you and your partner and honor your partner's right to be different and have the same value. Click here to read an article about honoring your partner's right to be different.
Everyone wants to be acknowledged for what they do right, as well as for their character and who they are as a person.
Children: Make sure the validation you give your child is not always tied to behavior or obedience. They need to receive some validation for simply being who they are. While you should acknowledge and appreciate any effort and accomplishment, you should also appreciate them just being in your life. One family I knew went around the table every night at dinner and told each person something they appreciated about them. Doing this daily made sure this need was always met.
Partner: In a personal relationship, you might also tell your partner regularly all the reasons you love them. Mention all the qualities you admire and the things they do for you and the family that you appreciate. Take time to do this on a regular basis, even if you think they already know. They need to hear it frequently.
Everyone needs physical touch, hugs and kisses to feel truly secure in the world; it is a powerful form of validation and love to receive physical contact from another person.
Children: Showing affection through physical touch is easy when children are young, but it often gets harder as they grow. Look for opportunities to give your children a hug or a simple touch on the arm every now and then. Make sure your child feels some contact daily. If you come from a family that doesn't express affection through physical touch, this might be something you have to consciously work on.
Partner: In a personal relationship, physical touch is vital to the health of the relationship. Intimacy with your partner is what connects the two of you and keeps the bond strong. If you struggle with motivation for intimacy, it may be because there are problems that need to be addressed in the rest of the relationship. Seek professional help at the first sign of trouble here. Be willing to do some work and make some changes yourself if you want this to improve. Click here to read other KSL articles on improving intimacy.
Everyone needs the freedom to become who they want to become. They need to be free from control, to some extent, and not feel forced into being something that isn't authentic.
Children: Children need to feel some freedom to explore the world around them and experience different things. They need encouragement to set their own goals and be allowed whatever interests spark a light in them. When parents force too much behavior or conformity on children, it can send the message that they can't be loved as they are. By contrast, unconditional love allows them to make choices and choose their way in the world without judgment, which builds confidence and teaches them to trust themselves.
Partner: In a personal relationship, it's helpful if you allow your partner to have the freedom to make some choices without your input, be the version of themselves they choose to be, and know that it's OK to be different from you. Some people need control to feel safe in the world, and they may inadvertently try to control their spouse to gain a feeling of security. Could this be you? Think about how you can trust yourself and your partner and let go of some control. You may need to seek professional help in this matter.
You might write these five elements on a piece of paper and tape it to the fridge as a reminder to make sure they each happen in your home every day.
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
SALT LAKE CITY — There are always people in your life who you take issue with or who rub you the wrong way. There may even be some humans you just can’t stand.
It is important that you take stock of these people and why you have strong feelings against them. Maybe they did something that offended you, or they just have personalities that irritate or annoy you. Whatever the problem is, these people are triggering you for a reason, and figuring out the reason behind those triggers is important.
The people who rankle you hold clues about your beliefs, judgments, shame and inner pain. They provide opportunities for you to learn about yourself and heal. But in order to use these experiences to heal yourself, you have to recognize that they aren’t just annoying people; they are perfect teachers in your classroom.
The most important thing they do for you is show you the limits of your love. You are a loving person with love to give to everyone around you, right up until you get to THOSE people. Then, you hit a limit. Your love doesn’t extend that far. This is a place where some really amazing growth can happen if you are willing to ask yourself some questions.
What does the person represent?
Think about one of these teachers in your life who is showing you the limits of your love. Then ask yourself the following:
This is where the work starts
Now you get to explore the part of you that feels unsafe by the trait, behavior or fear this person represents. Why do you feel "not good enough" or "not safe" in the world if that trait, behavior, or fear is in play? What healing needs to happen for you so you can heal that part of you?
You may want to find some professional help from a coach or counselor for this work, but whatever you do you cannot keep projecting the problem on and blaming this other person for the way you are being triggered. They are only in your life as a teacher to help you see the place you need to heal so you can work on it.
This idea may be one you have to process and think about before you believe it’s true or worth the work. It will always feel easier to keep blaming and shaming someone else. Your ego will really want to keep making it about other people and their issues because this feels safer. The problem is that teachers will keep coming and this problem will not go away. It will keep showing up until you are ready to work on you.
Everyone you dislike holds a secret of healing and help for you if you are willing to look for it, but there is something else even more helpful they can also give you.\
Learning to love yourself
Another crucial thing you must understand about the people that bother you is they also show you the limits of your love toward yourself. You can only love yourself as much as you can love your neighbors, and you can only love your neighbors as much as you can love yourself. You may not be aware of this connection or want to believe it, but I believe it’s true. If you hate the darkness in yourself, you will hate every bit of darkness you can find in others. If you are hateful toward others, you similarly won’t be able to love yourself.
As long as there are people whose darkness (bad behavior or faults) seem to you to make them unworthy of love, there will also be parts of yourself that you will also see as unworthy of love. It’s like there are two options when it comes to love, and you are going to have to choose one. If you don’t consciously choose one, you will subconsciously choose one, so you have to choose. The two options involve how you determine the value of all human beings.
Option 1 – People can be not good enough. This mindset means you see human value as changeable and something that must be earned. This means life is like a test and you gain points or lose points based on your appearance, performance, property and what others think of you. This also means that some humans have more value than other humans and that judging who is better or worse makes sense. If you choose this option, you will gossip, judge and criticize other people because you need to see them as worse than you to feel better about yourself. You will also battle a terrible fear of not being good enough (and have low self-esteem), no matter how hard you try. You will always find people who have things about them you don’t have and you will never feel good enough. You will also see all human beings as different from you and you will feel separate from them, and this will encourage you to make more divisions and groups, trying to find some group identity that would give you a sense of safety (even though that safety comes only from hating or condemning other people). Can you see this happening in our world right now?
Option 2 – All people are always good enough. This mindset means you see human value as infinite, absolute and unchangeable. This means all humans (without exception) have the exact same intrinsic worth and there is nothing anyone can do that gives them more value than any other human being. There is also nothing you can do to have less value than any other human being. No matter what anyone does they have the same intrinsic worth as the rest of us. This will make you feel connected to the whole human race and you won’t need to form groups and declare some people better or worse. You will understand that we are all equal but different. The more you allow every human being around you to be a struggling, scared student in the classroom of life — just like you — the more compassion you will have for yourself, too. When you allow others' value to be unchangeable and you see them as good enough and worthy of love, even when they are flawed, this also lifts your worth. You will start to have stable, solid self-esteem because there is no possibility of failure. Life is a classroom, not a test, and mistakes create the lessons we need to learn, but they don’t change our value. This mindset makes you feel safer with others and could literally create more peace on Earth.
You get to decide about 20 times a day, which mindset you will choose. Every time you are tempted to judge or find fault in another person you are choosing a mindset. If you choose condemnation and judgment, you must understand you are also choosing that for yourself. If they are not good enough, you aren’t good enough, either. The option you choose for them you also choose for yourself. You can’t have it both ways.
We are on this planet to evolve, grow and learn. Every experience you have here serves that purpose, even feelings of dislike toward other people. Take the time to pay attention and think about these interesting people in your life, I promise it will serve you.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
I had a client ask me about the anatomy of the argument they keep having over and over throughout their marriage. They have noticed that other couples say the same thing: they always argue over the same thing or around the same basic issue. So, I thought that maybe I would explain a simple way to take apart that argument and see what is really happening.
The first thing you need to understand is that fear is in play. I believe there are two fears we all battle with every day, and have done so since we were small children. They are the fear of failure (that I might not be good enough) and the fear of loss (that I am not safe). We all experience both of these, but each person has one that is more dominant.
Find the fear
When thinking about your most common argument, it’s important to figure out which fear is in play for each of you. Ask the following questions to determine which fear is dominant for you, and then for your partner.
Fear of failure questions
Fear of loss questions
Study the fight
The reason it is important to know a person’s core fear is that once you understand where their fear is based, you also know the key trigger that knocks them out of balance and brings out their bad behavior. Most of your arguments will be the same basic fear getting triggered.
People who are fear-of-failure dominant get offended when they feel judged, criticized, rejected, unloved, abandoned or insulted.
People who are fear-of-loss dominant get offended when they feel taken from, mistreated, disregarded, disrespected or like they are losing something.
Think back on your most common argument or disagreement you have with a person. Which one of the above offenses happened first? Someone started this argument when they felt one of those things. Can you see which fear was in play first?
When their first fear was triggered, the person reacted and behaved in a way that triggered the other person’s fear. Can you see which fear that was?
Whenever you react from fear, the behavior that results is almost always selfish and focused solely on protecting yourself. This behavior makes the other person feel unsafe. When you are so focused on protecting yourself, you are not going to be thinking about protecting the other person. It is important that you can see behavior that the first person displayed, or what they said that got the second person triggered, too.
What did the first person’s behavior make the second person feel? Did they feel ...
See the solution
It is critical to understand the anatomy of these arguments so you can see the solution. At the end of the day, you both just want to feel safe, loved, respected, admired and wanted by your partner. This argument is really about the fact that you don’t feel that way.
So, the answer to ending this argument for good is to learn how to make your partner feel safe, loved, respected, admired and wanted when they first get triggered.
What if you could pause right at the beginning of the argument, when the first trigger happens, and ask yourself:
Mary and John
Let me give you an example of how this works:
Mary and her husband John live on a tight budget and are very careful in stretching their paycheck to the end of the month. John opens the fridge and finds a bag of salad that has gone bad and has to be thrown out. He turns to Mary and in anger says "That is just great! Why didn’t you use this before it sat in the fridge and rotted? What’s the matter with you?" Mary yells back, "Why do you have to be such a jerk? You are the worst husband ever." The argument escalates from there.
Let’s take this one apart: This argument started when John got triggered by fear of loss. He was already worried about not having enough money this month, and seeing food go bad triggered that fear. But notice that he doesn’t see it as a money fear problem; he inaccurately sees it as Mary’s problem. So, he aimed his bad reaction right at Mary, insulting and verbally attacking her.
This, of course, triggered Mary’s fear of failure, as John was accusing her of being careless and wasteful. But instead of recognizing what John’s fear was really about (the money fear), she goes on the defense and attacks him back. Now, both John and Mary feel unsafe with each other and instead of addressing the actual fear issue, they have made the argument about each other.
The truth is that most bad behavior is a cry for help, love or reassurance because the person is scared of something; it’s always more about the person’s fears about themselves than it is about you.
People who are grouchy and rude and attack you for small mistakes, or right out of the blue, are usually battling a huge fear that they aren’t good enough; however, they aren't conscious of that, so they project their self-hate onto you, which is easier for them than facing it.
Many people who feel mistreated, taken from, or are easily offended are really angry at life for disappointing them. They can’t punish life for their losses, so they project the problem onto everyone around them. If you can start stepping back and looking at each argument through this filter, you will find they are easier to understand and resolve than you think.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
I have received numerous questions lately that involve stepfamilies or blended families, and I understand why. All family relationships can be hard, but these families face many more challenges than a biological family. Additionally, people who haven’t been in a blended family before are often unprepared to handle them.
Many couples marry thinking their love will be enough to make the family work, but they soon find out that’s not true. To create a successful blended family you will need to learn about the challenges and gain some new skills.
I share the following statistics from Pew Research and the Stepfamily Foundation not to discourage you, but to motivate you to get some help, education, skills and tools so your blended family can beat these odds.
Fortunately, that last statistic is changing, as there are more resources today than ever before. I highly recommend that couples who are in a blended family or are thinking about getting married, find a coach or counselor who is familiar with the challenges. You should also find every book, conference or seminar you can on the topic and read them together. These steps can considerably up your chances of making it. Knowledge and awareness of the challenges make all the difference.
Tips for blended families
Jeannette Lofas, an author and stepfamily expert, says the No. 1 factor in the success or failure of a blended family comes down to getting outside education, help and resources to deal with the inevitable challenges. Here are some important facts about blended families, from her book “Step Parenting,” which I highly recommend.
1. A blended family is very different from a biological family.
The issues that arise in a blended family will be some you haven’t ever had to deal with before. In a birth family, there are natural roles everyone falls into; but in a blended family, these roles can look very different.
No stepmother can fully replace the child’s actual mother (even if she is deceased). The stepmother role is a unique one that most people have never had before. The rules are completely different, and the same goes for the father, mother, stepfather, and even the oldest child, who now might not be the oldest anymore.
It takes time for everyone to understand and master their new roles. This cannot happen overnight and the road will be bumpy. All parties must be patient, easy-going, and slow to get offended or defensive. Everyone has to give everyone else some slack to learn and get comfortable with their new roles.
2. Love is not required, but respect is.
You cannot force your child to love a stepparent, but you will need a firm rule about respect, consideration and kindness. These are required from all parties all the time, even from the adults toward the children.
Everyone has the right to be honored, respected, heard and thanked for what they do. If a child or adult is struggling with giving respect, that is a sign that a conversation needs to happen where they can express their frustrations, pain or fears around the situation. As the adult, you must be able to listen to the child’s feelings and honor their right to have them, even if they are attacks at some level.
Everyone has the right to their feelings, but being disrespectful is not an option. If the adults are behaving emotionally or defensively, they need to seek some professional help with processing their own fears and feelings so they will be able to show up mature and stable and earn the family’s respect.
3. Your individual emotional intelligence is vitality important.
If you struggle with strong emotions, losing your temper, feeling mistreated or offended, you may want to seek some professional help to work on your triggers. Do not wait to see if things improve. Get professional help at the first sign of trouble. Every expert I talk to says this is the No. 1 thing they recommend. It is so much easier to fix relationships and families at the onset than to wait until things get really bad.
4. Blame the stepfamily situation, not the people involved.
Lofas says "One of the greatest mistakes is blaming yourself for the feelings and difficulties of the stepfamily situation. Such blame only makes you feel helpless, and it often keeps you from taking steps to deal with the problems."
It is not easy for anyone to be a stepparent. It is not easy for any child to have a stepparent. The entire experience is complicated and, at some level, can be scary or threatening. Everyone needs someone to talk to and resources to help them sort through the emotions involved.
5. Remember that transfer moments can be painful.
Every time children go from one home to the other (these transfer moments), all the pain around the divorce is brought to the surface again. Expect children to struggle and have emotions that can lead to behavior issues at these times. Overlook most of this and give them some room to feel bothered and even act out to some degree, because this type of behavior is natural as they process loss.
6. Everyone will have feelings of guilt.
Parents feel guilty for breaking up the family and loving someone their kids don’t like. Stepparents feel guilty that they can’t feel loving feelings toward these children that don’t belong to them. Children feel guilty for liking the stepparent or for disappointing the parent they aren’t with.
All this guilt leads to feelings of failure, which creates all kinds of bad behavior. A trained professional can help you process the guilt and, again, blame it on the situation, not on yourself.
7. Stepcouples should set rules together — alone.
Stepcouples must spend a great deal of time having validating conversations about rules, consequences, boundaries and who will do the disciplining and how. Do not have these conversations in front of the children. These things need to be worked out in private and then facilitated the right way (usually, this means having the biological parent do the discipline when possible).
Everyone must have a voice and feel heard and validated about their feelings. Even if you disagree, it will go over better if the other party at least feels heard. If you don’t have the skills to have these conversations in a validating and productive way, seek some professional help to learn how.
These are just a few tips and tricks to shine the light on some of the challenges stepfamilies face. In upcoming LifeAdvice articles, I am going to share advice and tips for fathers, mothers and stepparents in their unique roles. There is also a conference on blended families coming to Utah on Jan. 21 that I highly recommend you attend if you have, or are considering having, a blended family.
You can do this.
Family gatherings can be very painful experiences when you are going through hard things in your life. These well-meaning people who haven’t seen you in a while are probably going to ask questions about your relationship status, how your career is going, and where you are in your life. If you don’t have good answers to these questions, this can trigger feelings of failure and loss.
Here are a few do’s and don’ts for surviving family parties in a healthy way:
Keep fears in mind
If you have relatives who are hard to get along with, remember their bad behavior is often driven by their fears about themselves. If you choose to see them as scared (versus just being a jerk), you will have more compassion and will be less likely to take their comments personally.
Be sensitive about what your relatives might have experienced this last year and be careful what you say or ask. People who are struggling with something can be delicate and easy to offend. This year has been a rough year for many, so keep that in mind.
Create an emergency signal
Create an emergency hand signal and arrange with your spouse to rescue you from annoying relatives.
Be a strategic host
If you are hosting a holiday dinner, use place cards and arrange seating to keep touchy family members away from one another.
Be kind and let things go
Be patient and let unkind comments roll off. Remember, all bad behavior is a request for love. The worse the behavior, the more that person needs love and validation. Treat them with kindness, even when they don’t deserve it.
Don’t take anything personally. If someone says something mean, let it go. It’s not really about you; it’s about their fear and low self-esteem. They may feel like they have to put down others to feel good enough. Choose not to be offended and let them keep their negative energy to themselves.
Be a good listener
Ask lots of safe questions and let other people talk. Allowing another person to do the talking makes them feel valued at the deepest level. Be someone who cares enough to listen.
Avoid telling a story to top someone else’s. Let them have the spotlight and practice not needing it yourself.
Pay lots of compliments. Compliment everyone at the party. If you focus on giving validation to others, you won’t worry about yourself as much.
Be the love in the room. Be there to make others feel loved and valued. Don’t worry about whether they love you, just be there to give.
Consider not attending
If you can’t be around certain people without feeling discouraged, depressed or upset, it’s OK to decide not to attend the party at all. Start a new tradition and do something different instead. Get friends together and spend the holidays with the people you choose to be around.
Young adults would rather you didn’t ask about personal matters such as school or whether they are dating anyone. It’s better if you ask what they do for fun or what great movies they have seen lately. These topics are safer and less likely to embarrass them.
Don’t try to convert or lecture anyone on your ideas, beliefs or opinions. This party is not the right time for a debate. Obviously, don’t bring up controversial topics like politics or religion.
Drink too much
Don’t drink too much, especially if it tends to make you more confrontational or easily upset. Avoid sarcasm, correcting or criticizing anyone.
Remember, you are not responsible for other people’s happiness. If others choose to complain about the food, gossip about others, or share their woes too freely, leave the room, ignore them, or change the subject.
Give anyone the power to hurt you
Dealing with family members can be tricky because you care more about what they think than others. These are people who should love and support you, so when they don’t it hurts. Decide before your family event to trust that no one can diminish your value in any way. You have the same value as every other human soul and nothing can change that. This will make you more bulletproof.
If someone offers unsolicited advice, just smile and thank them. People often give advice to make themselves feel important too. It’s not really about you; don’t waste time being bothered by it.
When your family is hard to deal with, remember that these people are in your life for a reason: to help you become a better person. Their job in your classroom (life) journey might be to push your buttons and bring your fears and bad behavior into the light so you can work on them.
Ask yourself what dealing with your specific relatives could teach you. How could their annoying tendencies give you the perfect opportunity to practice being more loving, mature and calm? If you see them as your perfect teachers and try to use these experiences to grow and learn, you will at least feel good about yourself on the way home.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
I have heard from lots of people who are worried about family holiday gatherings and dealing with difficult relatives.
We all have some complicated family relationships that can trigger tension, defensiveness and fear because of what they do and say. During the holidays it is difficult to avoid these relatives, so it's helpful to work on becoming more resilient and "bulletproof" before these parties happen.
Note: The following advice is not advice for dealing with abuse or trauma. This advice is meant for people who have some annoying, rude and disrespectful relatives who say hurtful things or treat you in a judgmental way. If you are dealing with abuse, trauma or really toxic people, avoiding family gatherings might be the best call.
For the rest of your people-problem situations, I have one powerful truth that can help you to stay balanced around your challenging relatives and hurtful things they might say this year.
'I can be hurt by nothing but my thoughts'
A Course in Miracles lesson says: "I can be hurt by nothing but my thoughts."
This is a tricky concept that might take some thinking to understand, but it means it is not someone’s words that hurt you, it is the thoughts you have about their words that hurt you.
If someone makes a hurtful remark to you — something that triggers pain — it can feel like a poison dart fired straight to your heart. It will sting for sure, but how long it stings and how badly it stings is something you do have some control over.
Do you ever let a dart stay in causing you pain all day or all week? How often do you pull the dart out and throw it on the floor so you can move on, but then later pick it back up and stab yourself with it again and again — for months, years, or even decades? It’s over and it happened a long time ago, why do you still think about it when it just causes you pain?
When the event is over and you are still feeling the sting, it has become a self-inflicted injury. You have the power to stop the stinging if you can change the way you are looking at what the other person did. If you can change the way you look at it, you can change how you feel.
This is high-level emotional intelligence, and it might take some work to get it right. So don’t be discouraged if you are not here yet. The more you read, practice and learn, the easier it will get. This is not victim shaming, though, because the fault does lie with the other person; however, at some point, you have to process the situation and decide to stop letting it hurt you. You have to take your power back. You do this by thinking about words, thoughts and opinions that come from other people. What are they? What are they made of? What power do they hold?
They are nothing. They are wisps of ideas drifting through people’s minds and out their mouths. They have no form and no matter. They do nothing. They mean nothing. They have no power unless you give them power.
Your thoughts about what the person said or did are what create the sting, and you are so powerful you can create that sting from almost nothing. This is especially true if you have some deep negative beliefs about yourself in play — beliefs you have had since you were a child. These old subconscious beliefs are your open wounds; they are spots where others can barely touch you and it hurts.
I have a deep fear that says, “I am not good enough.” Because I have had this fear my whole life, it is my problem. It belongs to me. But just like an open wound, it's a place where it’s very easy for other people to hurt me.
These other people are completely responsible for any unkind things they say or do, but I am responsible for my original fear issue that makes their comments hurt me so much. I am also responsible for the thoughts I have that intensify and prolong the hurt.
Your ego thinks stabbing yourself with these old darts for decades is a good way to protect you from further pain. It thinks the constant stabbing will remind you to protect yourself from that person in the future, but the cost for this perceived protection is decades of pain anyway.
Instead of allowing thoughts that make mean comments hurt longer than necessary, practice the following:
1. Trust that your intrinsic value as a person is infinite and absolute.
Nothing anyone says or does can diminish your value. No matter what happens to you, you still have the same value as every other person on the planet. When anyone makes an unkind comment, remind yourself that it doesn’t have any power and changes nothing. You are still intact and fine. Imagine the dart bouncing off and landing on the ground. Then, leave it there.
2. Trust that every person around you is in your life for your own good.
Everyone who surrounds you is there for one reason: to help you grow and become stronger, wiser and more loving. Some of these people help you by pushing your fear buttons, to give you a chance to work on your insecurities and issues. When you see them as teachers in your classroom who are giving you chances to practice being strong and loving, you won’t take their comments as personally.
3. Remember that thoughts or words other people say about you are irrelevant.
These words mean nothing and do nothing. They are wisps of energy that are immediately gone and have no power to sting you. You can only have pain if you think about their actions stinging you. Instead, send them on their way with this thought: “Thanks for giving me a chance to practice being strong, but I am done with that lesson and moving on.” Send them on their way (figuratively) with a blessing and hope for their own growth and learning.
4. Focus all your energy on being the love in the room at your family gatherings.
Find others around you who need validation, love and support, and spend the whole party giving these things to them. Turn your party into a focused, giving love session instead of a minefield of offenses and insults. Go into it with a mission in mind and don’t let anyone knock you from that focus.
Love works miracles because you cannot do love and fear at the same time. If you are focused on love for other people and yourself, you don’t have time to be offended.
You can do this.
I hate family holiday parties because there is one person who completely ruins them for me. They are negative and critical, and they never fail to insult me in some way. Do you have any advice for managing this situation, since I am expected to attend like it or not?
You are not alone in dreading this part of the holidays. Many people find family gatherings trying. If it’s not annoying relatives, it’s dreading the questions people will ask about your life (and your lack of good answers). Most families today are made of people with different beliefs, values, standards and ideas too, and these differences can create conflict, defensiveness and arguments.
There are a couple key things to remember to help you survive these parties:
1. Differences don’t mean better or worse, or right or wrong — they just mean different
The reason differences might scare us and make us feel judged and criticized by others is we might assume someone is right and better, and the other is wrong or worse. That's not true, it's just a perspective option, but it’s not your only perspective option.
You could choose to believe that all human beings have the same, unchanging, infinite, intrinsic worth — no matter their differences. This means different can’t make anyone better or less than anyone else. If you choose this perspective, you can be bulletproof at family parties or any other social setting. No one can judge you as less or worse and hurt you with their opinions, unless you let them. You can choose to believe you still have the same value as they do. If you choose this though, you also have to give up judgment and stop seeing them as bad or worse. Can you do that? Can you give infinite, absolute value to everyone else? If you can you will at the same time choose it for yourself, and no one can hurt you with their opinions again.
2. Give up judgment of others and let them all have the same value as you
You may subconsciously like being in a place of judgment toward certain family members and like spending the holidays complaining about them. You may do this because placing blame on these “bad people” makes you feel superior in some way. If you have low self-esteem (and are afraid you aren’t good enough) blaming or judging others might be part of your coping strategy. Be honest with yourself. Is there an ego part of you that likes complaining and gossiping about this person? Or are you ready to change yourself to feel better?
3. Choose to see life as a classroom and your relatives as your perfect teachers
I believe the real purpose for our being on this planet is to learn and to grow and the most important lesson we are here to learn is to love ourselves and other people. If this is truth, it means every single thing that happens to you here is a lesson on learning to love at a deeper level.
It also means the annoying, hurtful, bossy, rude people in your life might be here to serve as teachers and bring your fears, defensiveness and weaknesses to the surface so you can work on them. It's really important you see your family as your perfect classroom. It's no accident that this person is in your life and you are in theirs. Think about that annoying relative and ask yourself how they could be the perfect teacher for you. Do they trigger a fear or insecurity that you need to work on? Do they inspire you to be different than how they are? In what way could they possibly be here to help you grow? When you see them as here to serve you, you might be less bothered and more compassionate toward them.
4. Everyone is in their own perfect classroom journey experience, learning different lessons from yours, but they still have the same value
This also helps you stay out of judgment and stop comparing your life with theirs. The lessons you need to learn are different from theirs, so your experiences and struggles will be different too. Allow them room to be a work in progress with much more to learn (just like you).
5. Ask yourself these questions to help process your feelings toward this annoying relative:
Do this because it’s the kind of person you’ve decided to be. Spend your time at the family party asking questions and listening to others. Show people you value them at the deepest level and see their infinite worth. The more you do this, the better you may feel about yourself.
During those family parties, remember no one can hurt or diminish you because your value is infinite and absolute. Don’t give anyone the power to take away your peace and joy.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a life coach, speaker and people skills expert.
This was first published on KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares a fresh perspective on why we disagree and how to resolve it.
I live in a small planned unit development with four families. This is the second year we have lived in the community, as it is a new development. The control box for the sprinkler system is in my backyard. The park-strip grass we all share is watered by a valve in that control box. Every summer, I consult the water conservation website for irrigation frequency, and follow that guideline. This means that the grass is not lush and green, but rather, closer to yellow in color.
My retired neighbor is extremely unhappy about this and badgers me relentlessly to increase the watering for that area. He has become hostile and abusive. When I called a meeting with the other families to discuss what to do, he went into victim mode, saying that he is the only one trying to save the grass and maintain the appearance of the grounds. He does do a lot of work around the planned unit development, such as repairing sprinklers, fertilizing, etc. He is home and able to do it, and is compensated by the HOA.
How can we find a happy medium? Is it even possible?
Most disagreements like this happen because of differences in values. It has been my observation, as a life coach and human behavior expert for 15 years, that there are four value systems that drive most human behavior. When you understand what someone values most, you will then understand their thinking, behavior, and why they make the choices they do.
We all value all four of these, but we usually have one that is more dominant than the others. Understanding this is the trick to resolving conflicts and disagreements.
Here are the four value systems that create most disagreements:
1. Some of us value people most. These people don’t like to be alone and highly value relationships, connection and feeling wanted and included. They would sacrifice getting things done for time to visit with friends, and they care more about people than things, tasks or opinions.
2. Some of us value tasks most. These people are driven by their “to-do” lists and are constant workers and doers. They care most about getting things done and would rather work alone and be productive than visit with others.
3. Some of us value things most. These people care about how things look, taking care of things and creating things. They can be artists, inventors or good stewards, who carefully manage what they have or are in charge of.
4. Some of us value ideas most. These people care about causes, opinions, rules, politics and the environment most. They are rule keepers and system followers. They are often advocates, teachers and well-educated. They also believe in fairness, loyalty and are community minded.
It sounds like you are someone who values ideas and principles most. This is why you follow recommended guidelines and believe in doing what is right for the community, city and state, not just for yourself. You highly value doing the right thing, even if it means sacrificing some of your quality of life.
Your neighbor appears to value things. He spends a great deal of time making his yard look good. Having a nice yard feels important to him because it creates his quality of life and he hopes others will benefit from it too. I am sure he cares about the community and environment, but it sounds like he cares about things looking nice a little more. He also values hard work and wants to see the fruits of his labor.
The most important thing you need to know in this situation is there is no right or wrong— there is just different. Your value system isn’t better than his, and you both have the right to be who you are and see the world the way you see it. You both have the right to have your value system honored and respected, and you have the same intrinsic value as every other human being. Neither of you can resolve this problem if you continue to see yourself as right or better and the other as wrong.
Whenever you find yourself in a disagreement, the solution lies in having a mutually validating conversation with the other person, a conversation where both people feel respected and honored. There are five steps to doing these conversations right, and if you follow them, you can usually create a compromise.
Steps for a mutually validating conversation:
1. Make sure you see the other person as having the same intrinsic worth as you. Make sure you aren't talking down from a position of better, smarter or more right.
2. Set all your opinions aside up front. Don’t start the conversation expressing your view. Start the conversation ready to listen to them.
3. Ask questions about what they think, how they feel, what their concerns and opinions are. Actively listen and validate, honor and respect their right to see the world the way they see it. This comes from how they are wired, and they cannot see anything else at this time. Make sure at this step you are not agreeing or disagreeing (those are about you). This is the time to make them feel heard and understood. The longer you spend here the better. This kind of listening helps to lessen defensiveness and create a safe space for you to share your views too.
4. Ask permission to share your views. Ask your neighbor if he would be willing to let you explain why you think it’s important to follow recommended guidelines and do what you feel is right for the whole community. Ask if he would be willing to be open-minded and at least consider your view. If he is, then go to step five. If he isn’t willing to hear you, say you respect that and thank him for his time. (You must do this if you want to build trust where further conversations could go better.)
5. Speak your mind using “I” statements, not “you” statements. Tell him about your values and why you see the situation the way you do. Ask him if he would be open to a compromise and suggest something that honors both your values. Maybe you could water more, but do it at night or water a little longer, while still conserving, to some degree.
The trick lies in being willing to let go of the “I’m right and you are wrong” mindset, and being truly open to seeing the right in the other person's perspective.
Remember, they aren’t wrong, they are just different. The world would be a boring place if were all the same, and we need social connectors, get-it-done workers, artists, stewards, advocates and rule keepers to make the world work. There is a place for everyone.
Make sure you validate your neighbor's strengths and talents, and appreciate the work he does on the property. He will really appreciate some praise and validation. If you start the conversation with that, you can resolve most problems.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is a human behavior expert and master coach. Visit www.12shapes.com and www.claritypointcoaching.com to learn more.
I’m a 40-year-old woman and I am truly struggling with the relationship between myself and my parents. From the time I was 19 to now, our relationship has continually gone downhill. I believe this has to do with differing life choices, values and lack of respect for our different views. At times I would like to resolve the issues, but the majority of the time, I’m fine not having a relationship with them. What would be your advice on how this should be handled? Should I try to get counseling with my parents and I? Should I just accept it’s an unhealthy relationship and move on? Avoid and evade them? I acknowledge that I’m as much of the problem as they are ... and that I’m holding on to some hard feelings. So what could or should I do?
Most relationships are worth trying to salvage and improve, especially with your family members. It's hard to avoid your relatives and if you are going to have to interact with them, you will want these hard feelings repaired. So here are some things you could try:
Work on Forgiving all involved (them and yourself) for all your past wrongs to make this easier — work on these 5 perspective shifts.
Get a professional involved to help you have a conversation with them. We do these types of meetings with families all the time, and we have found it works best if we meet with each person separately first, to prepare them for the meeting together. Find some professional who will do this prep work so a family meeting session accomplishes as much as possible. This also makes people more willing to attend this kind of meeting because they have had the chance to tell their side to the professional beforehand.
If family members are unwilling or unable to change
If they feel threatened or unsafe about any kind of conversation or meeting, or if they are unable to accept any fault on their side, or show any willingness to change or work with you, you are then left with two options:
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cunningham are the human behavior experts behind www.12.shapes.com. They host a weekly Relationship Radio show on
This was first published on KSL.COM
I just read your article on adult children rejecting the parent’s religion and I agree with what you’re saying, however, my heart is still hurting. I understand my pain is all about me and that I need to just love them, but I can’t help resenting my son and his wife for causing me this pain. He is my only son and I resent his wife taking him away from the way he was raised. I find myself resenting them and not wanting to hang out with them. I don’t want to feel this way, but my heart is so sad that there will not be baby blessings, baptisms and temple marriages for my grandchildren. I'm just not sure how to bridge the gap, stop grieving and feeling so emotional about it. Thank you for any thoughts on this.
First, we want you to choose a perspective about why we are on this planet. Most people feel we are on the planet to do two things: 1. Learn, grow and become the best version of ourselves we can be and 2. To love and serve others and try to make a difference in their lives. We find these two ideas are consistent with most religions and life philosophies.
If you think these two ideas feel like truth to you, you might consider seeing life as a classroom. This philosophy means that everything that shows up in your life is there for one primary reason — to help you learn to love at a higher level.
We believe this experience might be in your life for that very reason. It has the potential to stretch you out of your comfort zone and teach you to love, forgive and accept people when it’s harder to do. It’s easy to love and accept people that are the same as us, it’s much more challenging to love those who are different. It’s especially difficult if their choices trigger fear of loss in you.
We want to make sure you really understand what a “fear of loss experience” is, as we define it. We believe there are two simple core fears which cause most of our suffering.
The first is the fear of failure and you experience this whenever you feel you aren’t good enough, or get insulted or criticized. This fear causes suffering, insecurity, stress and sadness as it makes us feel inadequate. This fear is easier to understand since you experience it to some degree every day.
Fear of failure experiences give you wonderful opportunities for growth. They can help you practice not caring what others think of you, getting your self-esteem from your intrinsic value instead of your appearance, or trusting that all human beings have the same value.
Fear of loss is also a wonderful classroom opportunity for growth. Loss is triggered whenever this moment or event (that you didn’t want to happen) is taking away from the quality of your life. If you get stuck in traffic, on the way to a big meeting, and you hate to be late — you are having a loss experience.
You can feel loss whenever people mistreat you or take from you, but you can also experience loss when life itself doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to. You can feel robbed by life when you don’t get blessings or experiences other people get. Whenever you find yourself in self-pity around what you have been dealt, you are having a loss experience.
This is the most important part of this article we want to make sure you get this point – Life isn’t fair and no one gets the journey they wanted. They get the journey that fosters their growth best.
If we always got what we wanted, we wouldn’t grow, and that’s the point of the whole thing. One of the best things you can do for your mental health is to throw all your expectations about how your life should look out the window now.
Life is not going to meet your expectations. It’s going to be messy, ugly, painful and even embarrassing at times. It’s going to include some wins and some losses and sometimes it’s going to pull the rug out from under you completely. If you haven’t had those experiences yet, they are probably still coming.
We are not telling you this to scare you, because life is also going to be rich, wonderful, sweet, beautiful, amazing and thrilling too. The point is it’s going to surprise you and if you stay attached to your expectations, about how it should look at each stage, this is only going to create misery.
Instead, we recommend that you choose to trust the journey, the universe, or your higher power that it knows what it’s doing. Whatever interesting twist or turn your life has taken, that you didn’t see coming or didn’t want, it has a purpose for being here, and that purpose is always to serve you.
Having your son leave your religion is definitely not what you wanted, but it’s not as bad as a lot of other challenges you could be having. Talk to some people who have a child with cancer, or a child that died, or people who have a host of other awful challenges that life can throw at people. The truth is that you still have much more to be grateful for than you have loss.
Here are some things you can do to feel better about your situation:
You can see yourself as at risk of having your life ruined, being taken from, robbed or deprived if you want to, but it will only create suffering. Or you can play with seeing yourself as whole, blessed and well. You could actually believe you can’t be deprived because the whole universe is conspiring to bless and educate you all the time. If it is always for your benefit, it’s not a loss. From this place of wholeness, it is a lot easier to love others unconditionally and let go of the pain.
Play with it and see how you feel.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular life coach, speaker and people skills expert.
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These articles were originally published on KSL.COM
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.