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.
Coach Kim, I am in a very difficult family situation. My mother and her sister have a bad relationship, and my mom feels her sister is toxic and avoids her at family gatherings. I completely respect my mother’s decision; however, she expects me to also not have any relationship with my aunt. She says if I was loyal and loved her, then I wouldn’t have anything to do with my aunt either. This puts me in a hard spot because my aunt has always been kind to me. I don’t like confrontation and I don’t want to ignore her at family gatherings. It’s hard being caught in the middle, and no matter what I do no one wins. Thank you for any advice you can give.
The real question behind your question is: When forced to choose between doing what feels right to you and pleasing someone else (sacrificing yourself to make another person happy), what should you do?
This is a situation we all find ourselves in on a regular basis. It is the reason we need boundaries, or rules to protect us from our tendency to over give.
I’d like to give you a simple procedure to break these situations down and help you make the right choice. If there is another person involved in this situation, take a minute to answer the following questions:
Write down as many possible options as you can think of, then write an ego/fear-driven way to carry out each option and a trust/love way to do each option. Finally, cross out all the ego/fear-driven options.
I will take you through this process in your specific situation.
The fears in play
I think your mom has both fears in play. She is likely having a fear of loss issue because she is trying to protect herself from further mistreatment. She could also have fear of failure in play, which is saying she has to be right about her sister being the bad guy or she will feel inadequate or flawed. These fears cause her ego to step up to protect her.
Whenever we feel hurt or offended, our ego’s job is to create stories that make us feel safer. It often suggests stories that cast the other person as the villain so we can see ourselves as the victim.
Understanding the other person’s behavior as fear-driven will bring compassion into the picture. They aren’t messed up, broken or bad; they are just scared.
Ego tells us to hold onto our anger toward the other person or we won’t be safe; it keeps us in a defensive position and stubbornly insists on staying there to make us feel safe.
Understanding the other person’s behavior as fear-driven will bring compassion into the picture. They aren’t messed up, broken or bad; they are just scared. This is easy to see, too, because all bad behavior is driven by fear. (If you haven’t seen the truth around this yet, keep looking. It’s there)
When you see your mom is scared of failure and loss, you will also see what she needs: validation and reassurance. Your mom is afraid of mistreatment and afraid of being wrong. Her ego needs you to justify she is right in her anger because that would make her feel safer. If you can reassure her that she is loved, valued and safe in the world, that would help her.
It sounds like you have some fear of loss in play, as well. You don’t want to lose your relationship with your aunt and you don’t want to lose your relationship with your mom, either. You also don’t want to lose your agency and the right to choose behavior that is best for you. This is why the situation is causing you so much angst. You will feel better if you trust the universe will use this situation to bless and grow you, no matter what happens.
You also have every right to choose who you have relationships with, and your mom should honor that, but her fear and ego would feel safer if you would join her in anger. This isn’t fair, but you can understand why it happens. A sense of safety is our most foundational need as human beings. When we don’t feel safe, we are incapable of caring about others. Your mom is struggling to see your needs because fear keeps her overly focused on her own.
Ways to respond
As far as your options in this situation, I can see three (but notice that each option can be done two different ways, so really there are six):
Cross out options 1, 3, and 5 because they are fear-motivated and you shouldn’t make any decision for a fear reason.
Look over the love-motivated options and choose the one you feel the most capable to do or the one that feels right to you. Personally, I think option 2 or 6 are the best.
Executing your response
When you are ready to talk to your mom about this, start by asking her questions about how she is feeling about your aunt. Give her room to make her case and vent all her pain and fear. Do not agree or disagree, just validate her right to be where she is and feel how she feels. Tell her you can understand why she feels this way.
After she feels fully heard, ask if she would be willing to let you explain your decision on your own behavior. Ask her if she would honor your right to feel what you feel too.
Using mostly “I” statements, not “you” statements, explain to your mother that you must honor your truth and choose a love-motivated response to this situation. Explain that you love her, but you can’t reject or give a cold shoulder to other people. Having said that, you would never judge or condemn her for feeling what she is feeling. You honor and respect her right to be where she is, and you hope she can give you the same back.
Then, after you have spoken your truth and honored your own boundary, what she says, does, or thinks about you and your decision is not your problem. If she chooses to be mad at you, keep being loving toward her anyway. Do not let anyone else’s bad behavior stop you from being loving toward them. Stay consistently kind to everyone and, in the end, though her ego might be mad, she will respect your strength and maturity.
You can do this.
I have received some questions recently asking how to set better boundaries. Many of us try so hard to be a nice person that we end up being a doormat, and this is something we must change if we want to be emotionally healthy and have good relationships.
Practicing self-sacrifice all the time is not sustainable. You must learn how to have a balance between caring for others and caring for yourself. This shift is probably going to push you out of your comfort zone, and it might make the people around you (who are used to you not having needs) get bent out of shape. They may not like it at first, but you have to start making your own needs matter.
In order to change this behavior, you must figure out why you don't enforce boundaries and make your own needs important. It is usually one or more of these four fear-based beliefs that are behind the behavior:
Once you understand the fear behind your weakness (and over-giving), you can write some new, more accurate rules of conduct for yourself. You must officially give yourself permission to change these beliefs and adopt some more accurate ones. The following new beliefs will help you to do this:
Using these principles to guide you, create some specific boundary rules for yourself and your life situations. Decide how you are going to enforce them and why it is healthy to do so. Write these new boundaries down on paper, don’t just think them. Writing them down makes them more concrete. Here are some examples of great (permission for self-care) boundaries:
Taking the time to write out, on paper, exactly how you are going to choose to feel and behave helps you to own these new boundary rules. You are creating official policies for yourself and your behavior. Read your new policies often and practice enforcing them with love and kindness. You can be strong and loving at the same time; and when you practice doing it, you will find your power and your love.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
I was asked recently what changes in your people skills that would most improve your relationships. This is a great question, because your ability to create healthy relationships is the key to happiness in life. You can’t feel happy, fulfilled, and good about life, if your relationships are stressed, unsafe, or confrontational.
This is especially true with your significant other. If that special relationship is strained or in trouble, it can suck the joy from every other part of your life.
Below are my top five people skills tips that would improve your relationships fast:
I realize this may be a new and even mind blowing perspective for some of you, which might even take a while and some work to understand, but it is the path to amazing relationships and greater happiness.
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
I am often asked: “What can I do to make my relationship better?” In this article, I want to share some of the basic tendencies of human behavior, which will help you understand the dynamics involved in your relationships and how to improve them.
In other articles, I have written about the two core fears and the four basic value systems, that drive human behavior, and I use them with my clients. The two core fears are fear of failure (I am not good enough) and fear of loss (I am not safe). We all experience both of them every day, to some degree, but each of us has one fear that is more dominant than the other. Thus, we are fear of failure dominant or fear of loss dominant.
It will be a game-changer in your relationships if you understand your own dominant fear as well as the other person’s. When you know their core fear, you will understand their most sensitive trigger — the one that brings out their worst behavior — and what they need to feel safe with you.
Safety is the most important factor in the success of a relationship. If you don’t feel safe with the other person, you cannot show up authentically and you cannot fully love them or yourself. If you don’t feel safe, the other person will always feel like an enemy, at some level, and you will often be at odds. When someone feels safe, they need nothing and have more to give.
2 core fears
Here are the two core fears, and how to make a person who is dominant in each fear feel safe:
Fear of failure dominant
If a person is fear of failure dominant, their worst behavior is triggered when they feel criticized, judged, insulted, unwanted or abandoned. These experiences make them feel they aren’t good enough and put them out of balance.
When you have some feedback for these people, you should deliver it gently. You should also make sure they feel secure about how you see them. To make them feel safe with you, you must give them lots of validation and reassurance. If you can do this — and they see you as a cure to their fear, not a cause of their fear — they will thrive in the relationship.
Fear of loss dominant
If a person is fear of loss dominant, their worst behavior is triggered when they feel taken from, mistreated, disregarded, or that people aren’t showing up for them the way they should be. These people need a certain amount of control over their environment to feel safe.
You must make sure they feel heard, respected and appreciated, and let them be in charge as much as you can. To make them feel safe with you, you should let them be the boss as much as possible, reassure them things will be OK, and take their advice without feeling criticized by it. Understand when they give suggestions or advice, they are only trying to help.
4 value systems
Understanding the other person’s core fear is only half the equation, though, so let me explain the four value systems and what people from each group value most.
Values people and connection: These people fill up by socializing with others, and they get most of their self-esteem and safety in the world from connection and relationships. If you are in a relationship with someone like this, you must understand their great need to communicate and spend time with you. They need more of your time and affection than you would, and they need you to listen to them, be affectionate and let them have lots of socializing with other humans to keep their bucket full. If they get these things they will feel good and have more to give you.
Values tasks: These people fill up and get self-esteem from getting things done. They need to accomplish and finish tasks, and have good performance in those tasks, to feel safe in the world. If you are in a relationship with someone like this, you must understand their great need to work and get projects finished. They treasure time alone to get their work done, and they need you to notice and validate what amazing workers they are. If they get tasks done and feel accomplished they will feel better and have more to give you.
Values things: These people get their sense of self-esteem from what they create, build or own. They are artists, inventors, business builders and beauties, and they highly value appearance and how things look. If you are in a relationship with someone like this, you must understand their need to look good or create amazing things. This may require time away from you, but if they get the time to create things or make themselves look amazing they will have more to give you.
Values ideas: These people get their sense of self-esteem from knowledge, principles, morals, doing things right and knowing answers to problems. If you are in a relationship with someone like this, you need to validate their knowledge and expertise in the subjects they are passionate about. This will mean listening to them a lot (even if you aren’t interested in that topic) and giving them the control to make sure things are right. If they have the chance to share, teach or learn more about what they care about, they will be happy and they will have more to give you.
Working with fears and values
The magic happens when you put these ideas together and figure out your partner’s core fear and value system.
For example: If they are fear of failure dominant and value tasks most, they are someone who needs validation about the work they do. Don’t compliment this person on their appearance; tell them how productive, brilliant and hard-working they are. Allow them to be task-focused, have time alone to work, and don’t ever make them the bad guy for being wired this way. Honor the fact that this is who they are and see them as amazing, and it will pay off big.
If a person is fear of loss dominant and task-focused, they need control much more than they need validation. Let this person have some things they can control. Understand that if you don’t get tasks done or if you do them wrong, they could feel mistreated or taken from.
If a person is fear of loss dominant and ideas focused, they need control and to be right as much as possible. They need you to listen to their ideas or knowledge and validate that they know their stuff. Make sure if you think they are wrong, you handle that gently and validate how smart they are.
Are you starting to see how the fears and values go together? When you understand the other person at this level, you will understand their wiring and it will be much easier to make them feel safe.
By the way, having the same fears and values doesn't necessarily make a relationship more successful. The success of a relationship really comes from how mindful, emotionally intelligent and in control of their own fears the parties are. If both people are working on their personal fear triggers and learning how to make themselves feel safe, they won’t expect their partner to do that for them.
No one can cure your fear issues but you, and you have to stay responsible for your inner state and happiness. If you are both learning how to stay balanced, happy, and out of fear, you can work through most issues maturely and will get along great.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
Many couples who are having problems in their relationship get stuck because they are both holding onto resentment over past wrongs. This resentment can build up for years around a long list of slights, offenses or mistreatment. Even if you both learn new relationship or communication skills and start behaving better, the long-held resentment can still trigger your ego to keep some distance.
Your ego rises up to protect and promote you; that is its job. It thinks it’s helping you by holding onto anger or past hurts. It thinks this resentment protects you from further mistreatment, but it’s actually making things worse. When you get stuck in resentment, you are creating a relationship that is distant, passive-aggressive, divided, lonely and cold. This is not the relationship you want.
Take a minute and think about the kind of relationship you do want. If you got to design it and create any dynamics, feelings and behaviors you wanted, what would it look like? Would it be safe, full of trust and love, unselfish, giving, kind and understanding? Would it include both parties forgiving quickly and letting the other be a work in progress? How would you handle disagreements and conflict? Take the time to write down on paper what your dream relationship would look like.
Now, remember you are creating a fantasy and real-life can’t ever live up to that, but you also can’t create something better if you can’t see. So, figuring it out is the first step to creating it.
Next, what kind of behaviors would you need to adopt if you wanted to create this? How would you need to show up differently? You don’t have control over the other person, so you have to start by changing your own behavior. You may want to ask a friend, coach, or counselor to help you figure this out if you can’t see it.
Here are some suggestions for making that happen:
1. Remember life is a classroom and your romantic partner is your greatest teacher
You have attracted this person into your life to help you grow and become smarter, wiser and more loving. Their job is to push your buttons and trigger your fear issues, giving you opportunities to see them and work on them. That is why every relationship is a perfect storm of fear. Your fears create behaviors that trigger their fears, and their fears trigger behavior that triggers you even more. Around and around you can go, getting more distant, unsafe and divided.
When you see your relationship as your perfect classroom, you will see “perfect lessons for you” in every past mistreatment. Those weren’t slights; they were triggers to give you a chance to improve yourself. How did you do? Did you react badly and further damage the relationship? What could you have done differently to turn their fear-driven bad behavior around and stopped the cycle? If you focus more on your own past bad behavior and work on fixing that, you will get a lot farther than you would by holding resentment about theirs.
2. See every moment as your chance to forgive and grow
When you see your spouse’s bad behavior as your own school class, you harbor less resentment and handle situations better. You will also feel more motivated to rise to the occasion and take the high road — because the issue isn’t really about mistreatment; it’s about your growth.
I have written many articles on forgiveness for KSL.com. You should look some of them up because every really good relationship is made of two people who are good forgivers. If your relationship is full of resentment, you aren’t forgiving. You might hold onto past hurts because you think it punishes the other person or protects you from future pain, but this isn’t true. It actually creates less love and more mistreatment. Your partner feels the wall you have up, and this makes them afraid for themselves, so they put their wall up.
You will always create exactly what you fear. In focusing on protecting yourself, you are giving no love and you won’t get any back. When you set aside resentment and forgive, and start giving love (even if it’s undeserved), your partner will genuinely want to love you back.
3. Take responsibility for your fear issues
You must take responsibility for your bad behavior in the relationship. Your insecurities and fears (and the bad behavior they create) are your jobs to fix. Try to name your fear triggers when they happen. Are you feeling fear of failure and not feeling good enough? Do you feel taken from or mistreated (which is fear of loss)? Can you tell which fear your spouse is battling? When you can name them, you will also know what you and they need (validation and reassurance).
When you get triggered, instead of either shutting down or exploding, you can say, “I need you to reassure me and love me through the insecurities this has triggered in me. Could you do that?” Or ask, “What do you need right now to make you feel safer with me?” If you can learn to quiet each other’s fears, the relationship will improve fast.
Your partner probably needs you to listen, honor and respect their right to think and feel the way they do. They also need you to own your past bad behavior and apologize for it. Even if you think they behaved worse, own your part and say sorry. Being vulnerable and humble creates a safer space where they are more likely to own their bad behavior too.
If you get angry and fly off the handle (regularly) you are, again, having a fear issue and it is your job to fix it. You only get angry or offended when you fear failure or your fear of loss and feel either insulted, taken from or mistreated. If anger is an issue for you, identify the fear trigger that gets you most of the time and start practicing getting a handle on it, all by yourself. Choose to trust your value cannot be diminished by anyone or anything. If your spouse gets disappointed or frustrated with your behavior, there might be some good lessons there, but you still have the same intrinsic value as everyone else. If you see yourself and your value as unchangeable you won’t get angry as often.
Then, choose to trust the universe that you are safe all the time and can’t fail or lose anything unless it serves you to lose it as part of your perfect classroom. If you choose a perspective of fearlessness and safety, your spouse will no longer be a threat, and you won’t get angry or offended as often.
Resentment is by far one of the most dangerous emotion in your relationships. It can build walls and create disconnection that can even become permanent. Instead of worrying about the past, focus today on showing up with love and kindness, quiet your spouse’s fears with lots of validation and reassurance, show them you see their goodness more than their faults, and be quick to own and apologize when you do wrong. Nothing erases resentment faster than a sincere apology.
You can do this.
Coach Kim Giles is a human behavior, people skills expert. She is the CEO and founder of 12 Shapes Inc and provides Team Building and People Skills Training for companies and individuals.
This was first published on KSL.com
I recently went through a divorce and it was really hard on my kids and myself. To make matters worse, the people, especially neighbors, who I thought were our friends have really disappeared and let us down. They act like divorce is a disease and they are staying away so they don’t catch it. My kids are finding fewer people who want to play with them, and invites to or neighbors houses aren’t coming our way anymore. What is going on with that? These people I thought were my friends, apparently are fair-weather friends and they are nowhere to be found, even though we need friends more than ever. I had heard of this happening to other people but somehow thought my neighbors were different. What can I do, besides moving, to get our friends back in our lives, especially for my kids? How do I handle this?
“Mr. Rogers did not adequately prepare you for the people in your neighborhood, did he?”
Though it’s funny, the truth is real people and their behavior are a lot more complicated than we think. People are complicated because we are all wracked with fears about making mistakes, causing trouble, losing things, losing reputation, being uncomfortable, and being seen in a bad light; these fears produce behavior that is selfish and unloving.
Humans are typically not capable of loving behavior when they are in fear and scared about their own well-being. Love and fear are like light and darkness: they can’t both exist at the same time, in the same place. People who are scared for their own safety may have nothing to give anyone else.
It is important you understand this about human behavior because it will help you to see their pulling back from you as their issue, not yours. It is coming from their fears about themselves.
Here are some common fear issues that friends and neighbors might feel when someone they know gets divorced:
They are afraid they will say the wrong thing.
They may be uncomfortable with your situation, because they don’t and can’t know what was really happening behind your closed doors. This leaves them terribly afraid they will say the wrong thing, and unfortunately it feels safer to them to avoid conversation at all.
Their loyalty feels split because they probably like both of you.
Because they don’t really know what was happening in your marriage, they aren’t sure who the bad guy was, or if there was one. They don’t know whose side they should take (it would be nice if they didn’t take sides at all, but they often feel they should). This again leaves them feeling safer and more comfortable staying away from the whole thing.
They are afraid the same thing could happen to them.
Have you noticed if someone close to you has child or spouse die, you suddenly realize that type of tragedy really happens, and could happen to you? People are afraid the same is true with divorce. If it happened to you, it could happen to them. That reminder is scary, so again, it feels safer to stay away from it.
They might be afraid your values have changed.
Often divorce happens because someone made some mistakes, and your neighbors don’t know if something like that happened, or may wonder who was at fault. Since they don’t have that information, they aren’t sure who changed. So, it might feel safer to stay away from both of you. This is terrible to treat people like this, but most of the time it isn’t a conscious decision. They are likely just reacting this way and pulling back subconsciously.
They might think they don’t know you as well as they thought they did.
Most of the time you were pretending you were all right, and no one knew what was really going on in your home. This makes them feel they didn’t really know you, and they are suddenly not sure if the friendship was real either.
I tell you about these fears not to excuse their behavior, but because I want you to see it isn’t about you. They are uncomfortable and scared, and that is their issue not yours. Work to forgive them for being scared, struggling students in the classroom of life, who have much more to learn. Forgive them for being here, because you are also a work in progress.
Here are a few more ideas:
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
I am very frustrated with my mother and some of her answers to things. I find that she lies or tells me things she doesn’t mean all the time. I just want her to tell the truth, even if it’s not what I would like. I think she tells me what she thinks the right answer is, instead. Like when I ask if she is going to go to something, she says no probably not, then she ends up going. Or she says she will talk to my sister about something and then she doesn’t. I have asked her repeatedly to just be honest, but this keeps happening. How can I get her to be honest?
This might be happening because she doesn't feel safe enough with you to tell you the truth. Before I explain how to make her feel safer, I want you to understand some things about human beings. I believe, there are only two types of people on this planet:
1. Fear-of-failure dominant people
2. Fear-of-loss dominant people
All fear-of-failure dominant people are severely challenged at speaking their truth, they avoid confrontation, shy away from conflict, and prefer to keep everything and everyone peaceful, no matter the cost. Because of these tendencies, they are often doormats and their tendency to people please can cause a lot of relationship problems.
All fear-of-loss dominant people are very good at speaking their truth, they usually win in confrontation or conflict, and they don’t mind a good argument. Because of these tendencies, they scare the crap out of group one.
From your email, I am fairly confident you are the latter group and it might be hard for you to even imagine why speaking the truth is so hard. It’s always difficult to understand people who are vastly different from us. But fear of failure dominant have a strong subconscious program that says, “It is safer not to speak up.”
Here are two reasons some people lie:
1. They might want to avoid responsibility, trouble or punishment.
2. They don’t feel safe enough to tell you the truth because they are afraid of your reaction.
It sounds to me like your mother is a fear-of-failure dominant person who is terribly afraid to speak her truth to you about some of these issues. This might be because you have had a tendency in the past to react badly, react selfishly, question her motives, argue with her decisions, and otherwise dishonor her right to be where she is and want what she wants.
It is not your job to fix your mother's problems with fear, people-pleasing and lying. But you could do some things to improve the relationship and start making her feel safer with you.
You can do that by doing the following things. (These suggestions would also apply to any relationship where you want the other person to feel safe with you.)
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the founder of 12 Shapes Inc. and the host of a podcast Explain People on iTunes. She is a sought after coach, speaker and corporate people skills trainer.
This was first published on KSL.com
I love the way you make understanding people’s behavior simple, because there is a lot of behavior I cannot understand. I have a relative who is such a control freak she can’t even come to a family gathering unless it’s going to be her way. She bosses everyone else around and tells you exactly what she thinks about everything, even your life and family. She has no filter and no qualms about speaking her truth, and it honestly drives me nuts. How can we get her to stop being so controlling and obnoxious? How do I deal with such a control freak when her behavior is making me crazy?
I have explained before that we all — every person on the planet — battles a fear of failure (insecurity about our value) and a fear of loss (insecure or unsafe in the world) to some degree every day. We all have both fears, but we are all a little more dominant in one or the other.
The control freak you are describing is a fear-of-loss dominant person. I know this by her bad behavior. People who feel unsafe in the world need control to make them feel safer. They also tend to be opinionated and feel the need to share their opinions because this also makes them feel safer. In her mind, all of this controlling, opinionated behavior is actually an attempt to be helpful. She means no harm and is trying to create an environment that would be best for everyone. She is trying to help, but I understand why it doesn’t feel that way.
When a fear-of-loss dominant control freak gives unsolicited advice, suggestions, or correction to a fear-of-failure dominant person, it comes across as criticism, insult and control. Fear-of-failure dominant people get very triggered by those things because they add to their already debilitating fear of not being good enough. We (I am a fear-of-failure dominant person, too) often feel attacked, insulted and controlled when these people try to help us. This can feel very annoying.
The trick is understanding this isn’t about you at all. They aren’t seeing you as less valuable or wrong at all. They are controlling because they don’t trust people, the world or life to keep them safe. They think they are only safe if they control it all.
You might try allowing them control as much as possible with things you don’t care about, and then set loving boundaries on the things you do care about. You could also decide to let them be annoying and controlling and just not let it bother you. Stop being annoyed and just be at peace with what is, allowing them to be who they are until it crosses a boundary you can’t live with.
When a control freak is crossing your boundaries or making you feel disrespected or controlled, here is a good procedure for confronting the issue:
1. Find a private opportunity to talk to them
Don't embarrass them in front of anyone else. Ask if they have a few minutes and are free to chat.
2. Ask them about the situation that bothered you
Ask what they thought and felt about it. Give them a chance to express all their ideas and opinions first. If you don’t do this, they will have trouble listening to you. Letting them have the floor first and asking lots of questions will make them feel valued and cared about. They will begin to feel safer with you, which lays a great foundation for a difficult conversation.
After you have spent some time listening and honoring their right to think and feel the way they do, you should ask some permission questions to create a safe space for you to speak your truth.
3. Ask permission questions
Examples of permission questions are:
If they say no they aren’t able to give you that, say “OK, I respect that” and walk away. This shouldn’t happen because you earned this reciprocation by listening to them. If they say yes and are ready to listen, use the following rules to make sure you handle this right.
5. Use “I” statements
It's important to use "I" statements and make sure to only talk about your own perspective, feelings, ideas, concerns, observations, opinions and thoughts. When you talk about your feelings, opinions and experiences, no one can really argue with you. You have the right to see the world the way you see it and feel what you feel. But if you start using “you” statements, it starts to feel like an attack and makes the other person feel defensive.
Try statements like:
If you keep talking about how they behaved in the past, they are just going to get defensive and frustrated because they cannot change or fix the past. If you focus only on their future behavior, this is something they can control. Ask them next time this happens, if they would be willing to handle it differently. I demonstrated this in the example above.
Practice in your head a few times before you have the conversation in real life. Practice to find the perfect permission question and the perfect things you will ask for moving forward.
If this person does get offended by your feedback, that is not your problem. Your job is to speak your truth in the most loving and respectful way you can. How they process the information is none of your business. If they get offended and choose to be mean back, remember nothing this person says or does affects your value and however it goes, it will be the perfect classroom for all involved.
Fear-of-loss dominant people can be scary to talk to because they are fearless, strong, opinionated and often aggressive. For a fear-of-failure dominant person who is already scared of being insulted, wrong or judged, this is really scary. But you can be bulletproof and strong if you trust in your infinite value and perfect journey.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the founder of the 12 Shapes Relationship System - get the app today, take the quiz, invite friends and learn about your fears and your shape at - app.12shapes.com
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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.