This was first published on KSL.COM
I have had the great privilege of writing close to 550 LIFEadvice articles over the past 11 years, but this will be the last in the Coach Kim series for KSL.com.
Most of the questions that have been submitted over the years have been about people problems or improving relationships. The following are my last and most important suggestions for understanding each other better and improving our relationships. I hope they help you.
Human behavior is all about seeking safety
You may think human behavior is complicated, but it is actually pretty simple. Most of our behavior, if you take the time to look, can be traced back to a desire for safety and security. Everything we do is driven by either our value system and what we love or by what we fear.
Unfortunately, a lot of our behavior is about fear. We buy new clothes because looking better makes us feel safer and helps us believe we are "good enough." We work hard at our job to gain security. We fight with our spouses because we don't feel safe and are trying to remedy that.
Human beings are constantly seeking safety from two simple foundational fears: the fear of failure and the fear of loss. I have written about these two fears extensively because they are key in our understanding of human behavior.
When you understand how fear of failure and fear of loss affect you, you will start to see yourself and the people around you — especially when they are behaving badly — as scared. People are not jerks, show-offs, gossips, aggressive or territorial; they are just scared human beings whose fear is bringing out their worst behavior.
Seeing human behavior this way will make you more compassionate toward the people around you, and that will improve your relationships.
We look for safety in all the wrong places
Human beings seek safety in the wrong places because we erroneously believe our value must be earned. We believe human value can change day to day, and that some people have more value than other people. We all erroneously believe our value comes from these five places:
The problem is no matter how hard you try to perform, look good, buy nice things or win approval from others, you will always find people out there who still appear to be better than you. This chase to find value will always leave you feeling like you aren't good enough and you still won't feel safe.
You must understand an important truth: You cannot find a sense of safety outside of yourself. A real sense of safety can only come from changing your foundational beliefs and believing that your value is intrinsic and unchangeable. If your value is infinite, you cannot fail nor be "not enough."
See all humans as having the same intrinsic value
Nothing will improve your relationships and your self-esteem faster than choosing to see all humans as having the same value as you. Choose to see life as a classroom, not a test. See it as a safe place where you don't have to earn your value. See it as a place of learning where the universe brings perfect lessons and your value is never in question.
This one change will take half the fear that drives your worst behavior off the table immediately. You will feel safe and good enough in the world and will find it easier to show up with love for the people around you. Changing this belief will require effort, though. You must constantly remind yourself that nothing changes or diminishes your value and that you always have the same value as everyone else.
Forgive everyone and everything
I have written 20 articles and one whole book on forgiveness because I believe it is the most important lesson we are here to learn. If we can't forgive other people, life, God, or ourselves, we will be miserable and scared our whole life.
The way out of this suffering lies in choosing to trust that everything that happens is your perfect classroom journey. Instead of resisting what is, we can choose to trust the universe knows what it's doing. We can see life as a wise teacher who is co-creating with us, bringing us the perfect classroom journey we need in each moment. This mindset creates strength, resiliency and a real sense of security. When you choose to trust the universe, you will also find forgiveness is much easier.
Forgiving others is the key to loving yourself
Every time you judge another person for their mistakes, you are giving power to the idea that value must be earned and people can be "not good enough." If you feed this belief, it will also drive the way you see yourself. If you see others as not good enough or not worthy, you will always see yourself the same way.
The key to loving yourself lies in choosing to love and forgive others. You must allow every human around you to be flawed, make mistakes and have faults, and still have infinite and unchanging worth. When you give every other human infinite value, you will start to accept it for yourself too.
The people you dislike can be the most important teachers in your life. They show you the limits of your love and help you to stretch. If you will work on loving these people as they are, with their faults, it will improve your self-worth and bring a feeling of safety to your life. I promise this works.
See everything that happens as your perfect classroom journey
Choose to believe the classroom of life has one main purpose: to grow you and make you more loving. Every experience in your life is here to stretch your ability to love God, yourself or other people. Every experience that shows up in your life is here to serve you.
Every time something happens, ask yourself this powerful question: "What is this experience here for? Is it here to help me trust God more, help me love myself more, or to love other people at a higher level? There is always one of these three lessons in play.
If you choose to see your life this way, you will experience real gratitude for everything that happens — the good and the bad — and this will make you feel safer in the world. If you want to have more access to your love, just choose to see the universe as on your side and constantly conspiring to serve you. This will make you feel safe and give you the bandwidth to show up for others.
Seek out professional help with your mindset
Having healthy beliefs, healthy thinking skills and tools for processing life is what ultimately creates happiness, success and good relationships. The problem is they don't teach these things in school. So, unless your parents taught them to you, you likely don't have the skills and tools you need to create healthy relationships. You are going to need to seek them out on your own.
Find a professional whose job it is to teach these skills, like a therapist or a life coach. This kind of help makes the work faster and easier. Getting professional help with your mindset, limiting beliefs, negative thinking and people skills is the most important and advantageous thing you could do for yourself and your family. Spend the money and invest in your mental health. It will be the best money you ever spend.
You can do this
For 11 years, I have ended every article with the phrase "you can do this." I did so because I want you to know that you have all the answers inside you. You are innately loving and good. You are meant to grow and learn through whatever is happening to you because that is the purpose of everything. You are, at your core, nothing but love. You were made by love, through love and as love. You are good enough as you are right now. You are right on track in your perfect classroom journey. You have nothing to fear.
You can improve and change things in your life, too. If you don't like the way your life is going, you can change it. You have the power to do this, you might just need a little help. Seek out the help and invest in yourself and your life.
I have loved writing for KSL and I deeply appreciate all the letters you have sent me over the years. I hope my articles have helped you in some way because they have sure helped me. If you want to continue to follow me, you can do that at coachkimgiles.com and claritypointcoaching.com.
Thank you to all my readers for your encouragement, appreciation and feedback!
This was first published on KSL.com
In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares a few suggestions for changing the cycle of offense and blame and making your relationship richer.
I love your advice on KSL and it's helped me a lot, but my question is how do you stop feeling offended when people disregard you or make you feel unimportant? My spouse says our problems are my fault because I get upset too easily. I think our problems are his fault because he is so often thoughtless. We keep having the same fight again and again because of this issue. I know I get offended often, but I think it's his behavior that needs to change and he thinks I just shouldn't get mad. If I don't get mad, though, he will keep treating me this way. I feel stuck in this cycle and we can't get out. Any advice on this?
Almost all relationships get stuck in a fear and blame cycle at some point. It becomes like the chicken and the egg question: which came first and who is to blame? Did he start it with his rudeness or did you start it by getting offended?
The truth likely is that you are both equally responsible for allowing the relationship to become a place of fear and distrust instead of one of safety and love. It is going to take both of you to turn it around. You both must commit to changing yourself, not each other. As long as you are both pointing fingers, nothing will change.
To focus on changing your own behavior, ask yourself: How can I step it up and be more forgiving, loving and kind? How can I take responsibility for my unloving behavior? Your spouse must do the same in committing to work on himself and change his "selfish" behavior.
You must work on your triggers and figure out what beliefs you have that are making you feel unsafe (offended). There is usually a pattern to it, and it's tied to some foundational beliefs you adopted in childhood. You may want to consider working with a coach or counselor to process these beliefs; it's faster and easier with help.
Here are some things you can do to start the process:
1. Figure out what your beliefs are and where they come from
Think back to some of your earliest memories of being upset. Can you remember what you thought or felt at that time? Did you feel unloved, unimportant, worthless, unwanted, mistreated, distrustful toward someone who was supposed to protect you?
Write down your thoughts and feelings about how these early experiences. Did you draw any conclusions from these experiences? Some might include: "People can't be trusted," "I am all on my own," "It's safer not to talk," "I must defend myself because no one else will," "I am not good enough," "I am not safe," or "I don't deserve love."
It is highly likely that these thoughts and conclusions have become your beliefs and that these beliefs are making you feel unsafe a lot of the time. It's not really your spouse who is making you feel this way; you have programs in your subconscious mind that already believed these things before your spouse was even in the picture. You have had these beliefs and thoughts for so long, they are now just easy to trigger and bring out. This is your problem, not your spouse's.
2. Get ready to do the work
Remember, a relationship is a place where two imperfect, scared people come together to work on improving themselves. Your relationship is not a picnic, a dream come true, or a vacation. It is school and it's going to take work and dedication to stay in it and make it work. You both must commit to seeing your relationship — and your disagreements — as perfect classroom material and dedicate yourself to self-improvement.
3. See your spouse as an amazing teacher in your life classroom
As your significant other, your husband is in a unique position to trigger your deepest fears and bring them out so you can work on them. No one can trigger your very worst behavior better than your significant other. No one has more power to hurt you. No one else sees you at your worst and knows the faults that you hide from the world. Because of this, these relationships are often hard and painful, but they can also be the richest part of your life if you are both committed to creating that.
That being said, if you are physically, emotionally or psychologically unsafe in your relationship, you should seek professional help immediately. You might need to leave the relationship until the other person does some work on their side. If you suspect that you might be experiencing abuse, contact a mental health professional and get some support.
When your spouse says or does something that triggers you to feel angry, mistreated or insulted, step back and ask these questions before you respond:
4. Remember, nothing can diminish you
Your value is infinite and absolute. You have the same worth as everyone else, regardless of what others do or say. So, you can choose to see yourself as bulletproof. You could decide to let this offense bounce off. But if you feel you must address this offense with your spouse, do so with the understanding that your value can't change and this is a perfect lesson for you. This will make you feel safer and allow you to show more love for them.
5. Choose to take control and responsibility in this situation
You get to choose how you will experience each situation. You are going to tell yourself a story about what happened and add meaning to it, one way or another. You can choose to be hurt and offended, and have self-pity or righteous anger story. You can use it to cast the other person as the "bad guy" so you can feel superior. You could use this to play the victim. But if you choose any of these scenarios, you will be giving your power away and inviting division into your relationship.
In every interaction with your significant other, you are adding either fear and distrust or love into the relationship. If you snap, criticize, insult, are harsh or insensitive, you are adding fear to the relationship. If you are reacting badly to your partner's behavior and getting offended, you are adding fear. If you keep choosing to protect yourself over showing love to the other, you are adding fear. If you both keep adding fear all the time, there will soon be no love left in it.
You must be responsible for what you are adding to this relationship every day. What can you do to add love into the relationship at this moment? Ask yourself after every interaction: Did I add fear or love? Was I more about protecting myself or loving them? This is the key to making your relationship a safer place for both of you.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
Most of the questions submitted to me from KSL.com readers are about getting along better with family members. When your relationships with your spouse, children, parents, in-laws and siblings are struggling, or there is disappointment, anger, resentment or distrust in the mix, it is terribly painful and can suck the joy from your life.
Most relationships that are in trouble started out with just minor issues, but over time the resentment and distrust have grown. Now that there has been a lot of bad water under the bridge, fixing the problem is much more difficult. Most people wait until a problem is huge before they seek help; they get therapy or life coaching as a last resort before splitting up instead of seeking help at the first sign of trouble, when a problem is easier to fix.
This also applies to your relationships with your children. Parents often tell me how they used to be close to their child and now their child won't talk to them. Most of the time, what has happened is a slow decline in trust, respect, validation, listening and communication. The change can be so gradual you don't realize the relationship is in trouble until it's almost too late.
There are things you can do to avoid these problems and/or address them earlier, but you have to first recognize a problem is happening. The following health checks can assist you in recognizing issues earlier.
Check the temperature of your relationship
Are things 'too hot' with conflict?
Is either of you feeling angry, defensive, confrontational, volatile or bothered? Is there conflict and fighting every week? Does someone get offended a few times a week? Even if this happens once a month, it is a sign that there is a problem that requires attention.
Heat in the relationship often means there is a fear of loss, mistreatment or feeling deprived in play. It could mean you or the other person is struggling with not feeling safe. They might be on the lookout for offenses in order to protect themselves. This is a big sign of trouble, but it's not hard to fix if addressed early.
You might show your partner this article and say, "I think we run hot. What do you think?" Ask questions about how safe they feel in the relationship and just listen. Don't defend yourself or try to fix it; just be willing to listen to how they feel and validate their right to have those feelings today. You could say "I can understand how you might feel this way. Thanks for sharing with me. Would you ever be open to getting some relationship help with this before it gets any bigger?"
Don't be afraid that things will get worse, scarier or more complicated if you seek help — it won't. Learning new skills and tools can actually turn things around quickly. Heat in a relationship is something to watch closely and remedy as soon as you can. Reassure the person that you are on their side and have their back and want this relationship to thrive. Seek some professional help and get some skills and tools to help you resolve conflict in a calm, mature, less emotional way.
Are things 'too cold,' meaning quiet or distant?
Is there distance between you? Do you feel there is a wedge of some kind in play? Is something dividing you? This is something you want to address right now, while the distance is narrow. If you let this issue fester and grow, it can become as large as the Grand Canyon, making it almost impossible to cross.
If one of you has the habit of getting cold and quiet when bothered, this is not healthy relationship behavior. It could mean you don't have the skills and tools necessary to talk about the issue or you don't feel safe enough with your spouse to try talking about it. Either way, you need to learn how to make yourself feel safe so you can address issues and problems in the moment, and not stuff them.
Again, I recommend you seek professional help on communication, strength and self-esteem. Don't wait for years of coldness to pass by and freeze the relationship up.
As you know, a healthy body temperature is on average 98 degrees Fahrenheit. But even a tiny three-point increase means you have a fever of 101 and are really sick. It doesn't take much to knock your relationship out of balance, too.
A healthy relationship temperature is one where both parties feel safe with each other and there is mutual love, respect, admiration and appreciation. Check the temperature every day and don't let heat or cold continue untreated. I have written many articles on solving specific relationship problems in the past that you can find searching KSL.com
Take the relationship blood pressure
What direction is your relationship pressure going? If it is not rising/improving, then it is going down. Just like blood is constantly on the move in your body, your relationship is always moving. It is either getting stronger or it is weakening.
What are you doing to move it forward and improve it right now? Are you reading books together, engaged in life coaching or counseling, spending quality time together, asking questions and listening, validating each other, doing nice things, planning dates, making time for intimacy, or showing that you admire, respect and appreciate your partner? Check your blood pressure and make sure you are doing something each day to keep the relationship rising. See if your partner is on board to work on this together.
How much does this relationship weigh?
Is your relationship heavy or light? Is it a place that feels sluggish and weighted down or is it light, happy and fun?
You might have gone through some heavy stuff together, and this adds burden and strain to your relationship. If this is the case, you may need some professional help to give you skills and tools for coping, being resilient and bouncing back.
In the meantime, commit to bringing more joy and fun into the relationship. Make it fun and light to be with you. Plan fun activities together, watch funny movies, go outside, have some adventure, and start choosing some joy every day. If you or your partner are struggling with depression and this sounds nearly impossible, get some help with this. Don't let the heaviness become a permanent thing.
Check for investment in your relationship health
For any relationship to be healthy it requires investment. It might require you to invest some money — for dates, activities and fun together — and it will absolutely require an investment of time and energy.
Your time is your most limited resource and there are many things competing for it. You have many responsibilities and demands that make it easy to lose track of what is most important, but your relationships with the people you love, in the end, will always be the thing that matters most. Ask yourself how you can invest in making sure your relationship is healthy.
There are many options that don't cost a lot. You can read relationship books from the library. You can go on free dates like hikes or picnics. But all of these require you to invest some time and energy into it. I promise it will be worth it.
All your relationships require investment to maintain, and even more investment if you want them to thrive. This applies to spouses, partners, children, parents, in-laws and friends. You can health check all these relationships daily to help you see where extra TLC or attention is needed.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
Think of some people in your life that you struggle to get along with, judge, dislike, or who have behaviors that push your buttons or drive you crazy.
These are very important people in your life because they show you things about yourself and your values. They show you parts of yourself that you struggle to love, and they can be amazing teachers if you decide to see them that way.
These people typically bother or annoy you for one of three reasons.
The 4 basic value systems
Intrinsic value system (focus on people)
If this is your dominant value system you highly value relationships, people, personal growth, connection, communication and spirituality. You would rather spend your time connecting and talking with people than anything else. You value the things in the other three categories, but you might undervalue getting tasks done, time efficiency, strict rules, systems, order and structure.
You tend to be bothered by people who are arrogant, selfish, don't listen, get angry, are narcissistic, oblivious, discourteous, unfriendly or are cold or rude to other people. You don't understand people who don't put connecting with people first.
Extrinsic value system (focus on tasks)
If this is your dominant value system you highly value tasks, getting things done, time efficiency, hard work, creation, creativity, discipline, organization and accomplishing goals. You would rather spend your time getting work done or accomplishing goals than anything else.
You also value the things in the other categories, but you might tend to undervalue strict rules, systems, communication, connection and listening to people. You value the people in your life most, but you don't always show it because you are so busy getting tasks done.
You tend to be bothered by people who give unsolicited advice, are bossy, arrogant, critical or controlling, and rule followers, as well as people who don't pay attention, seem entitled, lazy, messy, or consistently late, unorganized or irresponsible. You don't understand people who talk for hours don't get tasks finished.
Extrinsic value system (focus on things)
If this is your dominant value system you highly value material things, quality, beauty, creativity, art, building things, competition, success and being the best at what you do. You would rather spend your time earning and buying things, being creative or productive, or building things.
You also value the things in the other categories, but you might tend to undervalue communication, connection and listening to others, organization, rules, systems and learning things that aren't useful.
You tend to be irritated by or judge people who don't care about appearances, seem lazy or messy, are competitive, don't value success, don't work hard, or are irresponsible or inconsiderate.
Systemic value system (focus on ideas)
If this is your dominant value system you highly value organization, knowledge, learning, systems, rules, processes, principles, values and doing the right things the right way. You have strong moral values and love sharing ideas, teaching and learning. You would rather spend your time learning, creating systems, teaching processes, doing good work, caring for family and doing the right thing.
You also value the things in the other categories, but you might tend to undervalue listening, empathy, acceptance, connection, appearances, material things and creativity. You tend to be irritated by or judge people who act like know-it-alls, have to be right, are overly opinionated, don't listen, interrupt, are oblivious or discourteous, don't pay attention or are careless, lazy, irresponsible or inconsiderate. People who do wrong or who disagree with your moral principles also really bother you.
Importance of the value systems
Understanding what you value and undervalue helps you understand why you are bothered by certain people. You may not realize it, but you subconsciously believe that the way you are (and what you value) is the right way and everyone should be like you. But the world needs people who are different from you; it needs people with different strengths to make everything run.
We need people who place listening to others above getting things done. We also need people who put getting things done first. We need rule followers and we need rule breakers to push limits. There is a place for everyone.
People who are different from you can also provide amazing lessons. They show you the things you need to work on and change because you always judge people who have the same bad behaviors you have but don't like about yourself. These people serve as mirrors for you and they can help you to both forgive yourself and make needed changes.
People you don't like also give you the opportunity to stretch the limits of your love, which helps you learn to love yourself. Your ability to love others with their faults and flaws is tied to your ability to love yourself in spite of your faults and flaws. As you learn to accept and appreciate them, your ability to love yourself improves.
The 4 A's
Below is a 4-step process — The 4 A's — which help you practice accepting both yourself and the people who bother you.
Notice the bad behaviors in yourself and the bad behavior in others that bothers you. What is it really about? Is it tied to your value system? Can you understand why this behavior pushes your buttons? Does this person threaten your sense of safety? You can't work on changing this until you gain awareness around what it is. Write down a list of the people and behaviors that bother you and commit to working on shifting your mindset around them.
Practice honoring and respecting each person's right to be the way they are. They are on their unique, perfect classroom journey, which is very different from yours. We have different value systems, life experiences and personality traits, but we all have the same intrinsic value as every other person on the planet. We all have things we need to change and work on, but we have a right to be where we are in our unique process of growth. Allow every person to be where and who they are, and have tolerance, compassion and respect for them.
This is about accepting these people for their differences, variety, interest, adventure and lessons they provide you. You can embrace the experience of having these interesting (yet challenging) people in your life. You can accept them as perfect teachers in your classroom and even embrace them. As you practice this and truly send love and compassion their way, you will find your capacity to love the darkest parts of yourself will increase. The more you accept others, the more you will accept yourself.
Everyone has something to teach you and is making a contribution to your journey. Maybe it lies in causing your problems that you then get the opportunity to work through and solve. Maybe it lies in pushing your buttons so you get to work on patience, flexibility and compassion. Whatever it is, each person is serving you in some way. Work towards feeling grateful and even appreciating them for the role they play in your classroom. You must also work on appreciating your own faults and flaws for the beautiful lessons they provide: They keep you humble, make you less judgmental and give you opportunities to grow.
This doesn't mean you have to be friends, hang out or have relationships with the people who bother you. It just means that you practice seeing them as the lesson they are and appreciating them from afar so you can have more positive feelings than negative ones.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
Question:I read your article about different ways people do religion and in my family, the problem is a little different. I have some children who are very religious and some who have left our church and are choosing not to be religious at all. There is tension and awkwardness at family gatherings when anything spiritual or religious is mentioned. Everyone gets uncomfortable, and then I have children in both camps who feel judged by the others. Our religious children see their siblings as wrong and gone astray. The nonreligious ones think the religious ones are wrong and even stupid for not questioning what they've been told. Knowing they both think this way, it's hard to foster mutual love and respect. Do you have any advice for how can we be comfortable together when we all have such different, yet strongly held beliefs?
When your religious beliefs are different from the people you love, it can trigger some fear in both of you. The discomfort you feel is that fear showing up; in fact, all differences create fear.
Whenever there is a difference between two people — be it race, religion, culture or color, or preferences of any kind — you both tend to believe that someone is right or better and the other wrong or worse. You do this because you are subconsciously programmed to compare everything.
If someone gives you two apples, you will immediately notice which is better, bigger or brighter. If you see two people, you will likely see one as better and one as less, even without meaning to.
"It is impossible to meet someone and make zero internal judgments about them," says Marwa Azab, an adjunct professor of psychology and human development at California State University, Long Beach in an article for Psychology Today.
None of us want to be this judgmental, but unconscious biases make us compare and judge. Our brains are just wired for judgment.
When you are around another human, you are immediately going to feel either feel comfortable with them because you see them as a peer, intimidated by them because they seem better than you, or superior because you see them as less than you. The more different they are from you, the more likely it is that you will see them as less. This is a harmful human tendency we all must constantly watch for; it is the core of racism.
Differences in religious beliefs can be weighty differences, too, because people often see them as having grave, eternal consequences. This means these differences create a great deal of fear.
Here are some common fears that arise with religious differences:
Here are some thoughts you can choose to have to make these relationships better:
What you (or they) believe is not a fact
Belief in God and in any particular religion is based on faith, which Merriam-Webster defines as "a firm belief in something for which there is no proof." This is what makes religion tricky: There is no way to prove or disprove anything. When you have religious differences with people you love and care about, it is easy to forget that whatever you believe, you can't prove you're right — which means you could be wrong. Never forget that.
What you believe feels like truth to you, but the other person is probably having the same feelings about their beliefs. So, instead of saying, "My church is the only true one," maybe go with, "this is the right church for me" or "this church feels like truth to me, though I know it doesn't feel that way for everyone." You might even want to make this clear to your family and acknowledge that you respect everyone's right to their personal faith and beliefs.
Every person as having their own perfect classroom journey
This means the perfect classroom for you is probably not the perfect classroom for everyone else. Trust that God and the universe are wise teachers who know what they are doing, and each person is right on track in their unique classroom. They are learning different lessons than you are, and you cannot compare journeys on any level.
Allow each person their unique path and trust that God loves them and has them safe in his hands on that path. There is nothing to fear. Choose to believe nothing exists that God did not create for the purpose of our education on love, and this includes differences and different religions. They are here for a reason and we need not fear them.
No one group has the market cornered on God or spirituality
People all over the world, with a vast number of different belief systems, experience a higher power, spirit, intuition, connection with divine and spiritual experiences. It appears that if there is a source of divine power, it is no respecter of religions. God speaks to everyone and his spirit is found everywhere. Never think because someone has different beliefs from yours, that they are less connected to God than you are. They may have a different type of connection to spirit, and it can be different without being less.
Think before you speak about religion or spirituality
Think a minute before you say anything. Ask yourself why you want to make this comment, tell this story, or talk about this thing. Is it going to just make you look or feel good? Does it serve anyone else? Is there anyone here who it might make uncomfortable? Do you really need to say it? There is not always a need to talk about your religion, your ward, or your spiritual experiences at every family function. Before attending a family outing, think about some other topics or questions you can ask others to give them a chance to shine.
If you really feel prompted to share a spiritual experience with another person, ask permission to do so first. Ask if they would be open to letting you share a spiritual experience or if they would prefer not to talk about religious stuff. Give them a wide, safe, window to decline. This is respectful and will strengthen the relationship.
People might judge, but that doesn't change your value
Remember, people will always judge — they subconsciously can't help it — but you have the same intrinsic value as every other human on the planet and nothing, especially the opinions of others, can change that. Your value isn't in question, cannot be earned or lost, and is based on your uniqueness as a one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable human soul.
Never let anyone's opinion change your opinion of yourself. You are safe, bulletproof and good enough no matter what others think, say or are experiencing in their classroom.
Members of your family who are different from you are your perfect teachers
Everyone around you who is different from you has the potential to stretch you, grow you and expand your ability to love. It is easy to love people who are the same as us; it is much harder to reach beyond those boundaries and love people we don't understand or like. These people show us the limits of our love and the places where we have work to do.
If you don't like a person or aren't comfortable around them, jump right into that and commit to the work of loving them anyway. Show up for them, ask questions to get to know them and who they really are. Choose to see them as amazing, unique, beautiful souls having a different journey than yours. They can teach you so much. Instead of dreading seeing them, ask God to help you feel his love for them. Work on finding love inside yourself to replace the fear. Other people are, for the most part, just like you: scared, struggling, students in the classroom of life.
You get what you give
Choose to trust God that your value is unchangeable and your journey is perfect for you, and theirs is perfect for them. Trust that you are in each other's lives to bless and grow each other. Choose to love them where they are and don't allow differences to matter.
Despite the differences you have, you and the other person still have much more in common than you think. You are both scared and you both want to be loved and seen. You both need validation and want to feel accepted. Remember, you get what you give and the more you give all these things, the more it comes back.
More helpI am hoping this article will help, but I wrote another article on KSL a few years ago about not letting religion define people, and it would be worth the time to read too. I recommend maybe sharing both of these articles with everyone in your family. Let them know that your only desire in sharing these is to have everyone feel safer and more comfortable with each other and honor and respect each other's beliefs.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSl.COM
This week I want to share some interesting things about human behavior that will help you understand yourself and your loved ones and why we behave the ways we do. I have been teaching people skills and coaching people through relationship problems for over 25 years, and in that time I've come to realize that whatever bad behavior you are seeing in another person (or yourself) it is being driven by their (or your) fears.
If you read my column regularly you've heard that before, but today I am taking it a little deeper because there are some other important truths about human behavior and fear that might also help improve your relationships. Here they are:
Fear always wins
What I mean is you subconsciously make decisions from your fears, way more often than by love or values. Your need for safety is your most basic need. Maslow didn't agree with me on this when he created his hierarchy of needs though. Maslow put food and water as the most basic need and then safety after that, but I think he got it wrong.
This is because, if you are starving but at the same time you are being chased by a tiger, you wouldn't stop to eat. Your safety comes first. Once you were safe, then you would worry about food and water. This makes sense if you are being chased by a tiger, but it doesn't work well in your personal relationships, when you are choosing between fear and love.
When your spouse offends you, you will automatically react from fear and protect yourself before you will respond with love. It's your natural programming to do so. I wish this wasn't true, but your subconscious fears will almost always override your love, values and intentions, unless you consciously choose otherwise.
Behavior driven by fear is inherently selfish and void of love
This is because you cannot do love and fear at the same time. Fear-driven behavior is all about protecting yourself and seeking safety. It is not about the other person and what they need. All bad behavior is driven by fear for ourselves and this selfish, loveless behavior creates a divide in relationships.
When you show up in fear you trigger the other person's fears, too
When you show up in a relationship in fear (instead of love) you trigger fear in your partner. They can feel that you don't love them in that moment and that scares them. They feel unsafe and they automatically respond back in fear, to protect themselves. You will then feel this lack of love in their response and you will be triggered further.
This is the vicious cycle I see in almost all relationships. Can you see it in yours? One person gets scared and responds in fear and this triggers the other to respond in fear and soon, there is no love showing up?
We can change our fear-driven bad behavior and choose love
This fear-driven behavior is something we can work on and change, but it takes a great deal of mindfulness, awareness and practice. Everything I write and teach comes down to recognizing when fear is driving, choosing to feel safe in that moment, and choosing to show up in love not fear. I will be the first to say that it isn't easy, though, because we are subconsciously wired for fear. We do have the power to watch our behavior and thinking for fear reactions though, and consciously choose love-driven responses.
Here are some examples of how fear over love reactions happen:
Example 1: A child loves his parents and wants to make good choices for himself, but he also fears not being accepted by his peers. He might be fear of failure dominant, which means he needs acceptance and validation so badly, he might choose to follow his friends and make poor choices in order to feel safe and accepted. His fears around acceptance will drive his choice, and he will choose safety over love for himself.
The parent loves this child but also fears losing them and failing them. When the child makes a bad choice, the parent gets fear triggered. They react badly, yell, scream, ground the child for a year, or punish them in whatever way will make the parent feel safer again. They might become controlling, if this feels safer. Their parenting behavior is fear-driven though and it is all about them, not what the child needs right now. The parent will put safety before love, the same way the child did.
The answer here is to help the child build their self-esteem and have less fear of rejection, so they don't need approval from their friends so badly. He needs help making choices that are love driven for himself. The parent needs to learn to trust their child's journey and see life as a classroom, not a test. They need to have less fear and more trust in their value and journey. This will help them parent from love and wisdom, doing what's best for their child, not what feels safer for themselves.
Understanding each other's fear-driven behavior brings compassion for why they did what they did though. We understand it because we have the same fears and they drive our bad behavior too.
Example 2: A husband loves his wife, but he has a great deal of fear around losing or wasting money. When he sees the wife has spent money on food that didn't get eaten and went bad, he gets angry and upset with her, even treating her badly. He subconsciously thinks being angry and unkind to her will teach her to be more careful with money, which will make him feel safer. This is fear-driven bad behavior, and he is obviously choosing to act from fear not love.
The wife loves her husband but has a deep fear of failure and feeling attacked and criticized triggers her badly. She doesn't at this point feel safe with her husband. So she pulls back, gets silent and stays away from being close to him. This is also a fear-driven bad behavior that means she is choosing fear over love. She thinks she is safer pulling away.
The husband feels his wife pulling away from him and not wanting to be close to him. This fear-driven behavior of hers triggers more fear of loss and anger in him. Instead of showing up with love at this point, he gets more angry, because that subconsciously feels like it's protecting him. This further triggers her. This vicious cycle of choosing fear over love can continue until there is no love left in the relationship.
The real answer here is for the husband to get help around his fears of loss, waste and money. He most likely has fear issues around being mistreated and disregarded, and these are his fear issues to solve and manage. He must learn to see loss and recognize that acting from fear won't create what he wants in his marriage. He has to learn how to handle situations with love and respect, if he wants love and respect back.
The wife hopefully can see why her husband behaves the way he does and understands that when he lets fear dictate his behavior, it's not really about her, it's about his own fear of loss issues. She must learn to manage her fear of failure issues, so when she is criticized, she can see it's about his fear and not take it personally. She must learn to make herself feel safe so she can show up with love and forgiveness when he is scared.
Here are the core principles from all this:
This was first published on ksl.com
I recently got out of a relationship where I was dating someone that really loved me, but I was not sure what I was feeling at that point. I had a lot going on in my mind, so we decided to call it good and part ways. However, we left the door open to getting back together in the future. As time went on, I started to have clarity of my feelings. I love this person with all my heart, but I also realize we both have things to work on in order to have a healthy relationship. When I needed space, my partner would instead give me a lot of love and affection. I would then push him away. Now that my life is in a better place, I am trying to get rid of this self-defense mechanism. I started therapy and I am also on medication for depression. I reached out to my partner a few weeks ago and he requested some space, which I am giving him. So my questions are: How can a couple get through phases like this? What is the best way to approach reconciliation between me and my partner?
It sounds to me like you and your partner have different attachment styles. One is pushing while the other is pulling away, and neither of you feels secure in the relationship. The first step toward reconciliation would be to understand what happened last time so you don't repeat it.
Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel Heller wrote an interesting book on attachment styles called "Attached." In the book, the authors explain there are three basic attachment styles and we are all functioning from one of them all the time. But your attachment style can change with different life experiences, they say. Your attachment style is your way of functioning in relationships and with intimacy at any point in time.
What is your attachment style?
Understanding your attachment style can help you to see why you behave and react the way you do. Here are the three attachment styles Levine and Rachel discuss:
The anxious person believes no one loves them and the avoidant believes love is smothering, the authors say. They each fulfill these beliefs for the other. These relationships are also the most difficult because the natural reactions and behaviors of an anxious person are the perfect triggers for the avoidant person and vice versa. This cycle isn't a healthy relationship for either party.
Changing your behavior
Here are some of the game playing, bad behaviors each type can display that triggers the other:
If the answers to those questions are "yes," then you need to decide what you both need and want in a relationship. You must do this without your partner because with them you might just list things you think your partner wants to hear. By working alone, however, you can be honest about your needs and what you think a healthy secure relationship should look like. Then be honest about whether you can really provide this for each other.
If you are avoidant and your partner is anxious, you both have some work to do on your fear triggers before this will work. Here are some things each of you can work on:
Anxious people can:
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
I love your book "Choosing Clarity." I work in it every morning and plan to for the rest of my life. I have a problem with my spouse, though. She goes on and on with negativity and has for 30 years. She claims it's a fact she is a loser and a failure. I just don't want to hear or validate that anymore. I could listen for hours, and she never moves to a more positive place. She recounts over and over every failure she can find. She is never interested in trying to see it a different way. She won't read your book or try anything to feel better. She has post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. How do I proceed from here? I am so tired of it, and now she says I don't listen or care. I am just so tired of the same conversation that is so negative. What can I do?
This is hard since you cannot fix or change another person. No amount of begging, pleading or trying to solve it will ever change someone until they want to change. This can be discouraging and exhausting.
The good news is there are some things you can do to maintain your own positivity and encourage your partner to want to change themselves. Here are a few suggestions:
Don't try to fix it or be responsible for it
Most negative people want understanding about the pain they are in; they don't want a solution. They simply want you to know they are in pain, scared and unhappy. Your natural instinct will be to find a solution, but all they need you to say is "I am sorry your hurting. It sounds painful. I hate knowing your hurting because I love you."
Don't offer any solutions, especially if you have offered solutions in the past. Allow them to be where they are and be responsible for it. If you offer solutions, they may think that you're partly responsible for fixing it, which you cannot be. It's not your problem to fix, it is theirs.
Just affirm that you love and care for your spouse. If they ask why you aren't offering solutions anymore, tell them you realized they are the only person who can change it, and it's best to just love them where they are.
Stop trying to change them
The more you try to change someone, the more they will dig in and insist on staying where they are. They want to be loved and accepted where they are right now, even when they are really hard to live with. If they can feel you are disappointed in them and wish they were different, they will resist any change even more.
Stop saying or acting like you want anything different. This creates a space where they will be more open to change.
Use the encouragement technique
You cannot change another person, but you can encourage them when they want to change themselves. This is how it works: Imagine the way you want your spouse to think and behave. Make a list of the qualities you wish they possessed and the way you wish they behaved if they were being their best. Then, look for any signs of that kind of behavior. When you see it, make sure you mention how awesome they are.
Be specific and tell them how wonderful it is that they are acting more positive and happy now. Tell them what an upbeat, positive person they are being.
The goal is to show them this is the person you see when you look at them. People always want to live up to your highest opinion of them, so they may decide to be like this on their own. Just make sure any comment you make is positive and don't respond to the negative behavior at all.
Change your belief about human value and make it the language in your home
The only way this person will feel different or think differently about themselves and their life is if they do some work to change their beliefs.
We all currently have a belief that we might not be good enough. It sounds like your partner even believes she is a total failure. This is not a fact, just a belief. It comes from a deep foundational belief that human value can change and has to be earned. As long as a person believes that, they will always feel "not good enough."
The best way to change self-esteem for every member of your family is to teach them a new, better belief – that all human beings have the same, unchangeable, intrinsic worth and there is nothing they can do to change that. Talk about this new belief often with your family and make it the language in your home. Your partner will start to get it if you talk about it often.
You could also offer to encourage them to work with a coach or counselor if they want to better understand the principle. It's better to let them learn it on their own with their private coach than for you to try to teach it to them.
Encourage your family to have compassion for others
The way you judge other people is always tied to the way you judge yourself. If you are hard on yourself, chances are you are also hard on others and quick to see their faults as diminishing their value. As long as you do that, you will also see your own faults as diminishing your value. So, if you encourage compassion for others and really work on seeing them as good enough, you will also grow in love for yourself.
Help your family to trust the journey as your perfect classroom
Share with your family the idea that we are on the planet to learn and grow, and the universe is a wise teacher bringing the perfect lessons we need every day. This means when we have failures, they don't change our value; they are just lessons here to teach us something.
Talk about this principle often in your home and let your spouse hear it. Don't preach it or try to teach it to them, though. Just talk about it as something you believe.
Understand this partner can be your perfect classroom
We tend to surround ourselves with people who can become good teachers in our journey. I wonder if this partner struggling with this issue can be the perfect spouse for you. What can you learn?
If you keep asking this question, the universe will provide an answer. Maybe it's to learn to love others when they are hard to love. Maybe it's about loving yourself or trusting God more. When you see your spouse as part of your perfect classroom, you can have more patience with and compassion for them.
(Note: This suggestion is not meant to be applied in situations that involve abuse. If you feel unsafe because you experience emotional, mental or physical abuse, you must seek outside help.)
See your spouse as scared, not negative
By attaching negative labels to your spouse, you're more likely to have less compassion for and experience more frustration with them. It would be more accurate — and more helpful — to see them as scared and lacking some skills and tools than to see them as a negative person. Your spouse is just a person who is struggling because they don't know a better way to process their life, but that doesn't affect their value at all.
Have some boundaries when you need them
Lovingly tell your spouse that you are sorry they are hurting and you love them. But it's also OK to let them know you can handle about five more minutes of negative talk, and then you'll need to either focus on some positives or leave the room. Make sure they know this isn't about them, but about what you need to stay balanced today yourself.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
I work with many couples who are struggling to get along, handle conflict and feel safe with each other. When they tell me about the disagreements they have, I can always see some simple questions they could have asked that might have stopped the fight before it started.
It might help you apply this article to yourself if you could think back to a specific fight or conflict you have had in the past and replay it in your mind. Then imagine what might have happened if you had tried the suggestions below.
Conflict usually begins when someone says or does something that makes the other person feel insulted, criticized, taken from or disregarded. I call this the triggering incident. When these incidents happen, the other person then feels they must defend or protect themselves, and they often respond with a defensive response or counterattack.
The best time to stop a fight is right when the triggering incident happens — before you get defensive or make a counterattack. But it is difficult to stop and think clearly when you have just been offended.
Stopping at the triggering point is going to take some practice and some battling with your ego — because your ego always wants to react defensively or attack back. Your ego shows up to protect you any time there is a perceived threat, but it's important to remember your ego is fear-driven and not capable of love-driven behavior. If you let your ego respond from fear, you are always going to make the situation worse.
The other thing to keep in mind is that most triggering incidents are unintentional and driven by our own fears. When people feel unsafe they behave selfishly and carelessly, and most of the time it isn't really about you at all.
So here are some questions to ask yourself that will help you pause, get out of ego, get more information and respond to triggering events in a more mature, balanced way:
What am I feeling?
The moment a triggering incident happens, walk away, close your eyes, ask for a minute to get your head clear, or just pause and pay attention to what's happening inside yourself. What are you feeling? How did that trigger make you feel?
Don't stop asking questions here, though. You don't want to let your ego make these emotions bigger. Before you start ruminating about the offense, ask some more questions.
Am I applying meaning to what was said or done?
For example, maybe you're thinking: "My spouse making that comment means they don't care about me at all." Does it really mean that? Take the meaning away and just look at the content of the comment or action alone.
How am I perceiving this?
Ask yourself: Is there any way that I am hearing or perceiving this to be malicious while it wasn't meant that way? Do I have a tendency to feel insulted or taken from easily? This could mean I see offenses when they aren't really there; own it if this might be true.
You may want to ask the other person about their intent. Did they mean that to sound critical or judgmental, or is that just the way you are hearing it? Give them a chance to explain their intent. Ask this from a place of really wanting to understand the other person, not from a place of judgment where you are talking down to them.
Was it malicious?
Ask yourself: Do I think this person purposefully wants to hurt or offend me? Is there malice in their actions and do they intend harm? Or, do they love me and just say or do thoughtless things because they aren't paying attention?
What is going on with your partner at this moment? Are they tired, hungry, distracted or experiencing fear that might keep their focus on themselves? Could there be another reason they did this triggering behavior, one that isn't even about you and has no malice in it?
What do I want to happen?
Ask yourself: What do I want this day or night to look like? What kind of experience would I like to have with my partner today? Are there reactions to this triggering incident that will create what I want and others that would totally destroy what I want? Consciously choose a response that will create what you want.
How often does this happen?
Ask yourself: Is this kind of offense something that is happening often? Is the behavior creating fear about this relationship not working long term? Is that scaring me? If it is, then you must address the behavior, but you must do that the right way and at the right time. Think about the best time and place to have this sensitive conversation.
Then, make sure when the right time comes, you ask the other person if they are open to having a heartfelt conversation about the relationship. Get their buy-in to do this. Let them know that your intention here is to make the relationship stronger, not poke holes in it. You are not mad at them, and this isn't about attacking each other; it's about understanding each other better. Let them know you love them and give them some validation around all the things they do right.
Start the conversation by asking them questions about how they feel the relationship is going. Is there anything that concerns them or scares them? Is there anything you could do to show up for them better?
Spend time here listening to understand them, how they see things and how they feel. Honor and respect their right to think and feel the way they do. Ask lots of questions and stay here until they feel heard and understood. If you do this right, you will probably learn some things about your partner you didn't know.
Then, ask permission to share something that has been creating a little fear in you. Ask if they would be willing to listen and not get defensive, reiterating that your intent here is to strengthen the relationship and understand each other better.
Remind them that you love them, then explain the behaviors that are triggering you using "I" statements. Try phrases like "I feel," "when I hear this I experience this," "in my opinion," and "from my perspective."
Try to avoid "you" statements that feel like an attack. Tell them that when they say or do these things it triggers some fear in you and explain what your fears are. Own the fact that your reactions may be more about events in your past than they are about your partner in the present. Talk it through while staying focused on mutual understanding, respect and a desire to know each other better.
The people closest to you typically don't mean to intentionally offend you or put you down on purpose, but it does happen. If they intentionally meant harm, there are a couple of places it can go from there:
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
Most couples say the words "I love you" on a regular basis, but often they don't really mean it.
They might just say "I love you" out of habit or because they want to look like a loving spouse even if aren't acting like it. In the latter case, they are quick to find fault, be annoyed, or criticize the other. There is fighting and defensiveness on a regular basis, and the crux of the problem is usually that they don't feel safe and aren't sure that their partner truly loves them.
I challenge you to commit to loving your partner more fully by understanding what it really means when you say "I love you." Those three words are not a state that you are magically either "in" or "not in." They don't represent a feeling you have for someone; they represent a choice and a commitment. Loving another person is a choice you make over and over, every day.
It might be more powerful and keep us more accountable if instead of saying "I love you," we said: "I choose to actively love you." Then, we would be reminded that loving someone involves behavior way beyond having fond feelings for them. Love is something you do, not just something you feel. Feeling love toward someone is easy, actually loving them is hard work.
If you read this article or send it to your spouse, please do not make it about pointing out the areas where you think your partner is weak or lacking. Focus instead on where you can improve your own behavior and show up with real love for your partner.
Also, I am not suggesting that you must do all these things perfectly. That is not possible for any of us. However, this is a good standard to work toward, and any effort in this direction will improve your relationship.
When you say 'I love you,' it means …
I actively see you
As your partner, I see the parts of you few people get to see — both the good and the bad. No one else will know you at the level I do. You have flaws and faults, because we all do, but I choose to see the good, valuable, worthy and even amazing parts as who you are. I choose to see your intrinsic value and that it cannot change. I see the divine, true, loving parts of you and show you every day that I see you.
I choose to admire you
You don't have to be perfect to have my admiration. I choose, every day, to admire your efforts, your values, your work, your good qualities, and the way you show up and keep trying even when you're struggling. I choose to focus on the best qualities you have, not your faults, because that is what real love does.
I choose to accept you as you are
I choose to love who you really are, with your strengths, talents and habits that I admire, as well as your weaknesses, faults, mistakes and habits that drive me crazy. I accept that you don't think like me or behave like I do. You don't see the world the way I see it. You are wired differently than I am and value different things, but I accept you this way. I do not think you need to change to earn my love. You just need to be who you are.
I choose to be here for you
I choose to support you, cheer for you, listen to you and do whatever I can to make your life better and happier. I don't carry responsibility for your happiness (that is your job) but I will show up and be there to help wherever I can. I do things for you and am your biggest fan.
I choose to respect you
I respect and honor your right to be where you are in your classroom journey. I respect your right to think and feel the way you do, to experience and live the way you do. When you are upset (even if I don't get it) I honor and respect your right to have the feelings you have. I never purposefully talk down, insult or degrade you in any way. I speak kindly and never make you feel small, broken or messed up. If I get bothered with you, I talk to you in a respectful way (like I would to a peer or friend). I may not do this perfectly, but I am committed to the effort.
I choose to trust you
This means I give you the benefit of the doubt, let most of your mistakes go, and always assume the best of you. When you disregard me, I assume it was not intentional. I choose to trust that you love me. This is critical to making our relationship work. If I see unloving behavior in you, I assume it comes your fears about yourself. I talk to you about this from a place of love and compassion. I know that I only have two choices when trust is broken. I can choose distrust, which will doom the relationship and drive a wedge between us, or I can choose to trust you, which will give us a chance. I choose to trust you.
I choose to trust that if you don't love me anymore you will speak up and tell me that. I won't expect you to stay in this relationship if you no longer choose to love me. Until you say those words, I will trust that you do love me and mean what the words say.
I choose to listen to you
I may not always do this perfectly because I get caught up in my own agenda sometimes, but I choose to work at being a good listener and trying to truly understand you. I strive to give you my attention and care about what you think and feel. I know this is a critical part of a good relationship and I choose to be a partner that can set their ideas and opinions aside and listen. If you ever feel I am not listening, kindly ask me if I would be willing to listen and I will remember my commitment.
I am honest and authentic with you
I tell you the truth, even when it is hard. I am true to myself and allow you to really know the real me. If I make a mistake, I own it and get help if I need it. I do not hide things from you or lie about what I am doing. I am an open book and allow you to know the real me on every level.
I choose to forgive you
We both make mistakes and will, on occasion, hurt each other. I choose to forgive you and allow you to be an imperfect, struggling, scared, human in process, just like me. When you mistreat me, forget to think about me, or miss things, because you were focused on yourself, I choose to forgive you. I choose this in advance. We will mistreat and disregard each other; it's going to happen. When it does, I will talk about my feelings and then forgive you. I commit to letting the past go and always giving you the chance to do better.
I have written many articles on forgiving your spouse because it is so critical to the relationship. Click here to read some of them.
It's important to note here that you should never allow any kind of abuse. If abusive behavior is happening, that person doesn't love you. You don't emotionally or physically hurt someone you love. Seek some help and support immediately.
I am loyal to you
I don't need romantic attention from other people. You are my person. I think about how I can make you feel admired, respected, appreciated and wanted every single day. Showing you my loyalty is a priority in my life and I don't do things that would hurt or harm you.
I take responsibility for myself, for you
I won't make you responsible for my self-esteem or happiness. I don't blame you if I am unhappy with myself or life. Those are my responsibilities. I own the responsibility for my thoughts and actions. If I have issues or choose behaviors that hurt you, I will be responsible and seek help to fix them. I will not look for faults in you to justify my bad behavior.
You won't ever love your partner perfectly. You will both make mistakes and mistreat each other, but if you keep coming back to showing up in these ways and love each other at this level, you will create a pretty wonderful relationship.
You may want to read this article on a regular basis to keep your commitment to love fresh in your mind.
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.