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.

 

When to Make a Job Change

All of us have heard the phrase, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Many times people have made changes for the wrong reasons and it has not ended well. Therefore when you are at a crossroads in your career how do you choose what path to take?

If you are making a change because of money, or because of too much change within an organization, then that is NOT a good reason alone. Also if you are in the valley of hard times within your job, that is not the time to make a career decision.

I once heard it is when you are on the mountaintop. When things are going well for you in terms of your performance is when you will have the most clarity to make decisions for the right reasons and not just to escape.

Ask yourself are you running away from something or towards something? If it is running away, what is it you are wanting to leave? Have you gotten in a rut? What do you see is needed to get out of your rut? When you no longer have the passion for what you are doing is it because of burnout or is it time for a new growth opportunity?

If you have lost your energy and feel you are not on the path to your life goals, that is a telltale sign you need to examine the path you are taking. What is your life purpose? Are you able to bring your purpose to your work? Does your work allow you to have time for your passions?

How do you know when you need to stick it out or truly need to change but have gotten too comfortable?

Start writing. Jot down your thoughts and see what answers you give yourself. When you listen closely to signs of emotion that stir within you, what is your heart telling you?

If you start seeing a trend and it prolongs for a consistently long period of time you may be stuck. You may need to realize that your energy is gone because you need new challenges. Have you given up on your dreams and your most important goals? If so ask, “Why are you staying stagnant?”

Change is very scary. Our self-talk can scare us to death of failure and keep us paralyzed. Think back regarding your changes in the past. What were you feeling before the change and what was the core reason you decided to change? How did it end up? Why did it end that way?

You have a choice. Either start bringing your life purpose to your job or search for a new opportunity based on what your gut is telling you.

Only you can make the decision. It may take digging deep, lots of self-discovery and listen closely to your inner self.

Photograph taken at Virginia City, Nevada

Shine Bright

Have you ever met someone who has such a spirit about them that it is like they are shining from deep within? It is as if they have never done something wrong and love everyone around them. They have such inner peace and love that they seem to feel weightless and you can’t stop admiring them.

It is like a child at Christmas time where the light and joy is expressed in their eyes and beams to all of those people around them. You see it in their smile and feel it in your heart.  They make you feel like the most important person in the world when you see them.  When you are feeling heavy they make you want to lift your burdens and grab on to their joy to feel inner peace.

Has your light gone out?  Have the burdens of the demanding life you have created taken over making it hard for you to feel happy? Sometimes I can feel alone in the darkness and think it is just me.  However, I know by the massive amount of people drawn to Oprah Winfrey, Rachel Hollis, Brene Brown, Christianity, and grateful children at Christmas that many of us are also drawn to people who “shine brightly.”  All the addictions people are facing also show much resort to unhealthy ways to find their happy.

It seems we have common core culprits for our darkness. For me it is usually one of the following:

-when I have no goal

-have given up on my dreams

-have let my mistakes make me feel like I was not worthy of joy

-let the financial burdens weigh me down

-feel physical pain and let myself feel sorry for me

-felt I had to focus so much on the never-ending pursuit to find the happiness that I became blind to all the beauty around me

-stopped exercising

-forgot to be grateful

Pause for a moment to recognize what it is that makes you feel heavy. If you are having trouble recognizing it, start a journal. Write what is on your mind daily.

If you have watched the movie  “Seven” you may think of the 7 deadly sins: greed, lust, gluttony, sloth/laziness, wrath, envy, pride. It graphically pronounces the seven deadly sins. It also portrays them in the most severe states that aren’t relatable to most people and also makes you feel worse if you have been guilty of any of them.

Rather than expand on them, let’s focus on what we can do about finding grace, hope, and joy.

First, think of a time in your life when you felt that love for life, hope, optimism.  Luckily for me, the most joyful time in my life was captured in a Christmas picture of my sister and me by the Christmas tree when I was about four years old and my little sister was around age two.  If you have a time in your life when you can grab a hold of a vision where you felt like you were shining from the inside out and beaming on to others, hold onto to that image and let’s focus on getting that back!

Second, recognize that you weren’t born as a dark cloud with a load weighing you down. Every one of us was meant to be a gift to the world. Every one of us has a purpose.  Every one of us has a choice to let our sins bring us to darkness or to overcome the battles and still choose to bring light. Every one of us has a choice to stop the negative chain.  Stop letting those deadly sins ruin your life.  The mistakes you have made don’t need to define you. Change can happen if you are willing to change. Start making positive statements to yourself and then do things based on who you want to become. Randy Creamer at Southbrook says, “Bring to the world what you are drawn to in others.”   It makes perfect sense!

The tough part is working on yourself. Which leads me to the third step. Think about what it is that is destroying that peaceful feeling for you.  Is it hurt? Anger? Anxiety? Fear? What have you done so far to heal?

At Southbrook Counseling I have learned about core interventions used spiritually and through professional psychology through Randy Creamer’s lessons that dig deep into working on you.  There are ways to work on each of the following areas of struggle.

  1. Unforgiveness: feelings of hurt and pain, resentment and bitternessHow to Turn Anger into Inner Peace
  2. Low Self Esteem: poor body image, self-rejection, no purpose or value click here: https://everythingforthesoulcom.files.wordpress.com/2019/02/c1d2d-trueprofiletemplate.pdf
  3. Communication Problems
  4. Critical: defensive, withdraws, difficult relationships
  5. Emotions and behavior out of control: confusion about why and how they behave
  6. High levels of stress: blames things on stress
  7. Can’t say no: overwhelmed, tired, anxious
  8. Conflicts (download app: Conflict Guide for Couples)
  9. High levels of anxiety, panic attacks
  10. Relationships are controlling and hurtful Find Freedom from Controlling Behaviors

If you are in the Dayton-Cincinnati area, email counseling@southbrook.org to schedule an appointment with someone who can help you through the interventions above at no charge.

If you don’t live in the area, find some spiritual guidance or call a professional counselor in your area.

 

Photograph Taken in Omena, Michigan

 

Coping with Technology Rage

What is it about operating new or slow software that can leave us so frazzled?!  As I started with a whole new set of processes and organization system and new computer hardware and software, new calendar syncing and internet access issues I ended my day yesterday with tightened muscles and a short fuse. I had a long list of things I wanted to complete and my computer was not cooperating.  I felt irritated, helpless, annoyed, technology handicapped and frustrated for not getting everything accomplished on the timetable I had in mind.

Wait! I have been there before! As I reflect back on my first days of every new job, I can recall tensing up over technology every time! Every memory, in the beginning, includes me losing patience with not learning the technology as fast as I would like. Blaming it for not allowing me to be as speedy and productive as I had in mind for the time I allotted. The more tension I built up each time, the worse I struggled to figure it out.

What is this all about? No matter how much faster the software is today compared to 30 years ago or how much faster the speed of the internet is compared to dial-up, I still get worked up that it isn’t fast enough. What an aha moment! It isn’t the technology that has the problem. It is me!  Can you identify with me?

I am typically someone who forgets to come up for air. I start down my to-do list like a blazing train that doesn’t have any brakes and then suddenly combust because the engine wants to shut down. I drive myself harder and harder to a point of wanting to beat it up for not doing what I want it to do. I need help.  Does this sound like you too?

If you have found yourself in similar situations go through some self-coaching questions (Based on InsideOut Coaching and counseling lessons):

-What issue do you want to work through?

-What is your SMART Goal:

(Specific, Measurable, Aligned, Realistic, Time Phase)

– What are the consequences if you don’t take action?

Reality

– What’s been happening?

-What have you tried before?

-What were the results?

-What are your roadblocks?

-Is your goal attainable?

Options

-If a friend were experiencing this, what would you advise?

Next Steps

– How can you put a plan in place to ensure you don’t end up here again?

As an example of how to answer these main questions, my goal is to not allow myself to get all worked up and tense and destroy my own peace and productivity due to things out of my control. I want to keep my joy. If I don’t do something about this I could damage my relationships and work productivity.

In my reality, I have kept doing the same thing and tried harder and harder without taking a step back. I stop breathing and allowed tension to grow. By the time I call support, I have already lost my patience and start my deep breathing after someone else is involved.

To answer the question on whether or not my goal is attainable, I do see it is realistic given technology support people can maintain calmness and they deal with technology frustrations all day long.

If I were coaching a friend or family member through this problem I would say:

– Ask yourself, do you have time to take a break from this? Hit the pause button and do any of the following:

-Some deep relaxing breaths.

-Go to lunch away from your desk

-Take a quick walk

-Switch to a different task

All the above can give you time to refresh your mind and relax your muscles.

Like you would a friend, tell yourself:

-Stop pushing yourself so hard.

-Schedule in time for breaks throughout the day so you don’t burn out.

-Lighten your daily to-do list.

-It is okay to call for help before losing your patience.

-Stop your negative thinking by pausing to look at the big picture and read some positive messages to give yourself a better attitude to relieve some tension.

-Learn to laugh at yourself and the situation.

For so many of us, technology is hard to understand and therefore it puts us over the edge because we can’t control how it malfunctions. We also can’t try to influence our devices. All we can do is look at how we handle ourselves and manage our reactions as well as the habits that lead up to our tensions and explosions.

Go through the series of questions above when you find yourself facing a roadblock. This exercise can help you see solutions you weren’t originally able to see.

For me, this series of questions made me approach my next day differently.  By scheduling in breaks for breathers and stretching and making my daily to-do lists more realistic, I ended up accomplishing much more. It also helped to take time for lunch away from my desk. Everything went smoother!

When you hit a problem that starts to frustrate you, divert your attention to something easier that reduces tension for a short time. Then revert back to calling for help with the problem after you have tried again with a more relaxed mental state and where your muscles aren’t all tight.

We can choose to allow technology to help us become more efficient or let it take control of our lives. It is up to us to choose how we respond.

If you have other helpful tips to not letting technology take away your peace, please share.