Blog Posts

Show Your Enthusiasm for Other Humans

Dog owners know the sheer joy of being greeted by their incredibly excited dog when they come home. Their shaking bodies and wagging tales leave no question they love to see their human friend.  That’s why there are so many dog lovers!

The friends who welcome you with open arms, excited voices and smiling faces are the friends we are always excited to see.  They can turn around a bad mood in an instant.

However, have you ever went up to someone you had not seen in years and were so excited to see them based on an amazing memory with them that your energy was bubbling over until they greeted you back? Once you said “Hi!” and you quickly realized they were less than enthusiastic to see YOU or didn’t even remember your name, how did that make you react? If you’ve ever experienced this you know how deflating it can be. Doesn’t it make you want to dial back your excitement next time?

However, why DO we dial back next time? Maybe it was just that person’s problem, not ours! Why do we let the fact that they don’t remember us deflate us or put up a shield? It can be so hard to concentrate on the simple fact of how we may have made that person feel super special even though we just let them make us feel like crap.

Many years ago at a work event while alongside one of my inspiring mentors, I excitedly went up to someone who I was looking forward to introducing to him. Upon saying hello, my mentor witnessed my response to how her enthusiasm was not shared. I must have shown the disappointment in my body language because my mentor later advised me to not let that stop me from greeting every other person I was excited to see with that same enthusiasm!

Yet, as much as I still tell myself to listen to my mentors’ words of wisdom, when rejection happens it is hard to not revert back to dialing back. The fear of being disappointed if the reaction is not reciprocated makes me modify the true feeling I have for the person. I sure hope I have not been that person who may have deflated someone else. For inside I was thinking:

  • “I am surprised you remember me!”
  • “I wish I could remember your name! It is just my brain isn’t working!”
  • “Oh, I called that wrong…you ARE a hugger, I am too!”
  • “Are they being real?”

Why is it we sometimes guard ourselves so much from being hurt that we forget to live? Who knows, they may have wished they could have remembered our name and feel bad for their not so great memory! When we can authentically share our love for another human being and we find they feel the same we find the most joy!  How are we to discover that if we hold back?

Be authentically excited to see other humans who you adore! Risk yourself to let others know they are special and held dear! Don’t hold back. Be excited to say “hi” to people even if they may not remember you. Remind them of your great memories with them! The more you show you admire others the more you will be remembered whether they reciprocate the enthusiasm or not! Becoming more vulnerable leads to connecting more and becoming fulfilled!

Have Courage

img_0785Off on a new adventure! It took me an hour just to find a working bike rental system. It only gave me 30 seconds to remove it from its automated lock and it was stuck. It took me three tries to unlock the rented city bike with a basket.  

After figuring out how to free the wheels, off I was down the Rabbit Trail. What a beautiful and freeing feeling to ride with the breeze flowing in my face and not being strapped down to obligations at the moment. It was quiet and the trees and flowers were coming to life from their dormancy of Winter. 

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Amongst the new green grass, budding trees and blooming flowers were colors of purple, pink, yellow and white.  The sounds of the river rapids next to the trail were calming and lightened my spirit.

As clunky as that bike was, it sure put a smile on my face to bust through the fear of being a little woman going somewhere unknown, alone and unprotected. While it may seem like a simple experience to many people, stories of kidnapping and people going missing had been close to home for me and thoughts of not being so lucky next time raced through my head.  However, if we live in fear we are not living.  While we must take precautions it is exciting to discover a new path.

Nature was awakening. The birds and sounds of Spring made me no longer feel so alone.  They replaced the noises in my head.  My gut was feeling safe so I decided to listen to the truer voice.  The voice of reason.

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Sometimes we lack the courage of trying new things for fear of the unknown. However once we do discover there is nothing to fear, that freedom renews our energy and confidence and brings a new life to us much like nature comes alive in Spring. When was the last time you were held back by unnecessary fear?  If you listen closely to your gut, you can sense the difference between moments where you need to use precaution and other moments where you need to shut off the negative voice and go for it.  Next time, have the courage to listen closely.

Lion Statue taken near Reedy River Falls in Greenville, South Carolina 2019

Surprise Yourself!

Being a soft-spoken person, there have been many times where people didn’t believe in her.

1. In elementary school, someone close said she didn’t see that shy girl going to college but she did.

2. That little girl’s best friend said she was surprised at how competitive she was in sports in Junior High given her timid nature.

3. Bullies in Junior High were surprised when she fought back.

4. Classmates were surprised at her performance in speech class.

5. Her track coach admitted he didn’t expect much of her because of her little build yet she broke a record the first time she was placed on the relay team.

6. Her guidance counselor in High School thought she could not make it in advertising and thought she should be an accountant. Yet advertising sales gave her the chance to meet amazing people, challenge herself, have fun and make money.

7. Her friends and family have said they have been amazed at what she has been able to accomplish given how little she spoke around the dinner table growing up.

8. One of her first teammates in her first sales jobs questioned the manager for hiring her on one of the first days on the job. Yet that same person has worked with her for a third time because he saw what she was truly capable of achieving.

9. While even her husband who has believed in her even when she did not believe in herself, jokes now about how he thought they would be poor. He could care less about her career success though. It isn’t him that didn’t believe in her.   It was the girl who didn’t believe in herself.  That girl is me.  It can still be me when I let self-doubt take over.

If you are a soft-spoken person you have likely felt the same way. If you haven’t surprised people yet, then what is stopping you? Even if you are not soft spoken for all of you who don’t believe in yourselves, ask why? Why can’t you do what you want to accomplish? You are capable if you have a strong desire! Have courage! Remind yourself every time you have been able to accomplish more than you or anyone else thought you could.

Make a list. Write down all the nonbelievers in your life and who you welcomed to the club of people who thought you couldn’t yet you showed them they were wrong about you! Recall all the times you even didn’t think you could but did!

Start preparing your mind through positive self-talk. Whether you are soft-spoken, little, not as … as you wish you were, think again. Instead, when anyone underestimates you, think to yourself “watch out!” Be energized by showing them what you can do!! You may be able to climb mountains! You will blow them away!  Most importantly, set out to surprise yourself and have glory in being amazed by the one person that matters most! All you need to do is believe in yourself! You’ve just been taught how!

 

Photograph taken of Half Dome Mountain at Yosemite

How to Get Someone to Listen

How many times have you caught yourself reacting to someone’s problem with giving advice and found the person quickly shut down on you? It has likely happened to all of us. Often times the more we force our fix on people the more they push away. Also the more we feel the regret in our own lives, the more we want to push someone else not to make the same mistake.

Recently while talking with a young 30 something about to have her first baby girl, I asked her how long she was going to take off work.

She replied, “I am not. I have set up a crib here at work and since it is a family business my Mom is going to come in and help watch her here.”

I wanted to reach over the table and grab her and say, “What are you thinking!! Listen to me! You need that bonding time with that little baby. You need to just hold her and do nothing else. You won’t be able to get that time back!!” It saddened me to think of her missing out on that time.

While I did refrain from reaching over the table to grab her, I did not stop my outburst. With a caring yet forceful voice I said, “from hard-working career mom to hard-working career women I urge you to take that time. You will not get it back!”

As you can imagine, it was not well received. She replied with her reasons for not being able to afford to take time off given she did not have those benefits.

“Your world is about to be rocked!” I remarked. Obviously, I let my internal regrets go too far.

Instantly her body language shut down and signaled to me my comments were unwanted. I quickly realized I had forgotten how I had perceived similar advice of people trying to get me to take twelve weeks instead of six when I had my daughters. I had reflected on how I had worked from home, packed for the newly built house we were moving into, then returned to work upon her being six weeks old. I had returned to work the Monday after the move an emotional wreck.  The stress of all of that had lead to eye twitches, exhaustion, and depression. While I did have some time to bond it had not been enough between all the packing and distractions.  All I had wanted to do was hold my baby girl. She is now 18 and about to leave for college this year. My own internal ugliness and regret was pushed onto her.

While all of that was so real to me I forgot to view how advice from a stranger likely sounded like I thought she was naive. As much as I already knew how important it is to not shove my own mistakes and experience onto someone else, I didn’t approach her as I had been trained.

Sharing wisdom can be a difficult balance. If we don’t share it we feel we aren’t helping. If we do share it before the person is ready we get a reaction from their pride saying to us that they aren’t as naive as we must think they are. We can then take offense when people do not listen to us. So what are we to do with the knowledge we have gained from our own experiences? What can we do to prevent others from hurting by making similar mistakes?

In this instance, after realizing I had reacted versus responded I apologized and asked her to please forgive me. I shared how I remember being in her shoes and hearing all kinds of advice and how it had annoyed me at the time. I went on to say I had just spoken out of my own regrets of not listening to people trying to get me to take twelve weeks instead of six. I didn’t mean to force my opinion the way I did. I explained my story of working from home and moved and how I had wished I had taken that time. When my approach was through a story of my own experience rather than an aggressive instruction, she replied, “It sounds like we do have things in common because I am trying to move into a new house too.”

Her nonverbal cues showed she understood I was speaking out of sincerity and my experience was better received. I then had to let go and know she would choose her own path.

Oftentimes we assume by us telling someone what to do that person will change their outcome. We may think there is something wrong with us that they don’t want to listen to our advice. However, in reality, they are just sitting from a different viewpoint. They may even need time to process what we have shared.

All we can really do is listen ourselves, ask thought-provoking questions, rephrase what we hear them feeling about their situation and how we understand.  We need to discover if they have already searched for answers to their own problems. Once we show we care enough to understand them, only then can we ask if they are open to suggestions. After sharing our experience we then have to let go of what they choose to do with that wisdom. We can not let ourselves get affected by the outcome given that is out of our control.

On the reverse end, when someone gives us advice, we need to remember that it is being served based on that person’s own regrets and experience. It is also typically being shared out of their sincerity and concern so remember to keep our pride in check.

Consider thanking them for their insight and say, “I hear what you are saying and will give some thought to your advice.” We may even want to consider asking them what it is about their experience that makes them feel so passionate as we could learn something from another’s life story.  Ask internally, “is their advice something I should consider?”

In either situation when we actively listen we end up being more connected to other people which gives deeper meaning to life. We also end as healthier versions of ourselves!

Photograph on way to Lake Tahoe from Reno, Nevada

Make Peace With Your Parents

Every five to ten years it seems most people go through a life examination. Typically during those times we work on a deeper understanding of ourselves and examine our childhood and where we want to go in the future.

In counseling, it is common practice to have someone share their childhood memories to help them understand their challenges of today. When you review your own upbringing you may also see areas where your parents may have influenced root pain where you struggle in adulthood. However, you are responsible for healing from that pain rather than causing a chain reaction to the next generation.

As you look back on your childhood, recall moments that instilled your currently held beliefs. Some good and some not so good.

Write down what those moments are for you. When you write them, are there open wounds that you have not repaired? Are there areas that still require healing? If so, what has prevented you from facing that pain in order to heal and live a healthier life?

If you have dealt with abuse or trauma, then please seek professional counseling. If your experience was not severe, a good practice for working on healing is to write a letter to the person you feel caused that pain. However, do not send it. Just write. Express your raw emotions on paper.

Now write down all the positive things you can remember. Are there more than you typically recall?

While I was very fortunate to have a good childhood and upbringing, there were times in my life where I longed to have my Dad be something he was not. I had wanted him to be interested in me by asking about my life. It would have been nice to hear him say “I love you” back. However, after looking harder at trying to understand him, there were many things to appreciate about him. It brought healing to me to let him know how he was valued.

The letter explained to him how it was understood he wasn’t raised in a time where men were involved in deep conversations with their kids. He also had ten of us!  The letter let him know how he taught me to work hard and it was noticed when he had to eat alone at night after a long day of working in the fields. He taught me values at a young age to be respectful, to be mindful of cussing, not quitting, and doing what was right.  Memories of him teaching me to fish and telling stories even for the 5th time are still cherished.  He is still telling those stories.

Many people live in anger and resentment and don’t realize until it is too late how hard it is to be a parent. They don’t view their parents as people who were raised in a different time and could be fighting their own battles. They don’t get time to share what they do appreciate about their parents and then live in regret for unspoken words.

Why choose to live as a victim when you can be the person who initiates the healing yourself? For me writing that appreciation letter brought healing for me and my Dad too. Ironically receiving that letter inspired him to say he loved me back when it had originally been so hard for him to do. Maybe the same peace could happen for you!

Photograph taken at the Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina

How to Turn Anger into Inner Peace

Compassion is the road to forgiveness and turns anger into inner peace.

So often we get caught up in our own jealousies and anger of other people and forget what they may be feeling or facing. If you are someone who feels weight caused by others and wish everyone else would change, then start looking inside yourself. Realize the solution may be within you.

If you find yourself being quick to anger, think about why that situation made you blow up. In the psychology lessons I continue to study in order to counsel myself and others, I have learned anger comes from unexpressed communication, a hurt from our past or the lack of the ability to forgive either yourself or someone else.

What is it for you? Likely you deal with something that makes you quick to anger as it seems everyone does. For me, it is in the evil parts of perfectionism. As a perfectionist, I beat myself up and always try to do the right things. I work so hard at it that it can lead to harboring resentment for others who seem careless. I can grow bitter for the endless work and strict rules I have worked to try and follow, especially when I let myself be a pessimist. I can get swallowed by my self-pity when someone else is rewarded for their little effort.

However, in reality, no one else has put those rules on me. That is me putting those strict guidelines up thinking if I just follow all the rules nothing will go wrong. By recognizing my anger is coming from how I am viewing the situation and not because of the other person, I realize I can do something about dealing with the bitterness. I have no right to build up resentment or force change on those who are more carefree. What I need to be doing is learning from them. The more I strive for excellence, not perfection and more importantly remember to have fun, the happier I become. Also laughing at myself could do me some good!

For you, it could be something much worse. Many people have shared stories with me where I can’t help but get mad with them. If you have deep-rooted anger due to the cruelty of the unimaginable, please seek professional counseling. Get coaching on how you can write letters without sending them to express the hurt those people caused you. Just admitting the source of my anger in writing draws my attention to working on it. It will help you heal too. Begin to write out the anger directed toward the appropriate parties. Then work through a process of understanding the situation from their viewpoint. It helps you to be compassionate. Forgiveness is not excusing what was done. It is instead a way for you to find healing for yourself.

In most cases, when you identify who or what it is you are blaming or directing that anger towards, it brings an awareness that makes it easier to bring light to a solution for peace within yourself. There may be cases where it makes you realize the root cause for someone else being hurtful to you was the aftermath of someone else not dealing with their pain in a healthy way.

Maybe they are dealing with a trauma that is unfathomable to you. Doesn’t that change your perspective of your anger towards them? When you dig deeper and see that person’s hurt or your own struggle from other perspectives you can take ownership of controlling the anger and finding your peace.

If you are someone who experiences a lot of road rage, and a driver around you does something stupid, rather than cussing at them for their carelessness, ask “I wonder what is going through that person’s mind?”. That person could have just found out their parent passed away or received various other amounts of bad news. Or they could have made a mistake and maybe apologizing in their own car to you right now. It doesn’t excuse their bad driving. However, when we look at options rather than first assuming the worst, doesn’t that make for a healthier version of you? Also, Randy Creamer at Southbrook Church teaches counselors to ask those with road rage, what is it about others driving that makes you angry? Is it you putting your own expectations on them to be perfect? Is it their carelessness? Realize everyone is fighting their own battle. Mistakes happen.

If it is a person that makes you angry, instead of getting angry or frustrated Kyle Maynard a mixed martial arts athlete, Mountain Climber, Author, and Speaker who is quadruple amputee says to ask yourself to look deep within them as if you are looking into their soul and ask yourself what it is they need? What great inspiration to start YOUR compassionate journey to forgiveness.

How to Improve Your Relationships

In “Winning with People,” John Maxwell says the best way to be interesting is to be interested.

When is the last time you had someone really listen to you? Who is it that makes you feel heard and interesting? Who gives you their full attention and makes you feel understood?

The person who takes an interest in you makes you feel incredible, don’t they?  You feel heard and seen, finally understood and important! Yet people who have a genuine interest in hearing your life story, digging into the layers of who you are, and work to understand you beyond the surface are hard to find. When you do find them, don’t they make you want to be around them all the time based on how they make you feel?

In counseling, active listening is the key element in what makes people feel better. Just being able to talk with someone who will really listen, not judge and help them feel understood can be a huge step toward healing them. It is very rewarding to see the effects an interested person has on them.

When you first met your spouse, remember how it felt when they wanted to get to know you and you looked directly into each other’s eyes when talking rather than dealing with all the distractions such as a TV, kids interrupting and work demands taking your full attention away from them?  Remember how interested you were in their stories for the first time and how you made the other feel?

As a parent, when you give your kids their full attention and don’t start immediate lecturing and stop to listen fully to them, it is amazing the difference you see in your child.

At work, when a manager listens to an employee’s problems and finds out if they need support or direction many times the employee has solutions to their own problems or may just have needed a sounding board.

When salespeople get a client talking about their business they can go on and on about their passions. Salespeople who show a genuine interest in their client’s business and their life story make the prospect want to see that salesperson again.

On the contrary, lack of listening is one of the key reason’s for marital disputes, children not feeling important to their parents, leadership mistakes and why some salespeople fail. Don’t you hate it when someone does not look into your eyes when you are trying to talk with them? Also, the natural tendency is for people to wait for their turn to talk. We have all been guilty of bad listening and yet hate when someone else doesn’t listen to us.

Active listening is when you are truly engaged in someone else’s story and you seek to understand them. Rather than replying with your own story, instead respond with “it sounds like you (then share what you hear them feeling) are really passionate about x.” You may hear that person say, yes!  That’s right!  I do feel…  If you got their feeling wrong, then you can then have them clarify rather than make the wrong assumption.  The next time someone tells you something, look at what they are telling you like a flower where there is more to discover underneath the petals. When you show you are hearing how that person is feeling watch how it ignites them as they realize you get them. That, in turn, solidifies a connection. Who doesn’t love feeling connected to other people?

You may be asking, but how do I teach other people to listen to me?  Wisdom from many books and therapists say the best way to influence others is when we lead by example. I know it can be frustrating.  Yet isn’t it worth it to improve our relationships?

While active listening can be very hard, it can be learned. It requires being intentional and also takes practice. When we make the concentrated effort to practice this way of listening genuinely and not for manipulation purposes, we will find more fulfilling conversations. We will also see a response in people that will help us enjoy other people’s stories and develop deeper more connected relationships.

Would you like to learn and practice your active listening skills? Join me in becoming a better active listener and please share if you would be interested in participating in a workshop.  Please note in the comments the best times and hours that would work for you.