Find Your Wings and Fly Little Bird

Find your wings and fly little bird. See what for most is impossible.

Be intentional about your life.

Feel the wind in your wings.

Hear the lullabies of the crickets at night.

See what most don’t see in the details of nature right in front of you like the mysterious needles on an evergreen that keep their color all year long.

SING! Touch hundreds of other lives with your song.

Explore the heavenly earth.

Admire who you become through your adventures and recognize your strengths.  Yet work to understand other creations knowing their instincts may be different than yours.

Be wary of the lurking hawks. When your wings need rest or your vision doesn’t allow you to see the light, return to your nest. Yet don’t let fear keep you from soaring to new heights. There are new days ahead.  You are important to others in your flock.

Look at how far you’ve come from being just a little egg. See the miracles of your life so far. Keep following your instincts and the best of what your devoted parents taught you when they sacrificed their life for your care.

When you are mended, stretch your wings once more and keep flying little bird.  Find your wings and keep flying.

For podcast:

https://anchor.fm/findjoy/episodes/Find-Your-Wings-and-Fly-Little-Bird-e54ef6

Dear Daughter,

Dear Daughter,

Work seems to have never-ending demands. All of these years I have strived to find balance.  It’s hard to not want to be the best at both career woman and Mom.  As I look back I hate when works’ demands and running the household made me choose to work over putting you first on my list. There were so many times I wished I could quit in order to have more time with you.  Sometimes it makes me bitter, however, I realize my career has always also been a part of me. 

Now as you go off to college I wonder where all the time has gone.  My biggest concerns are what impact I’ve had on you. What lessons have you learned from how I have parented you and what I have valued? Has my ambition for my career and drive for success in my career negatively affected you?

Time seems to be running out and I find myself quickly trying to fix all the things I may have broken in you. Teach you all you need to know before you move out of the house. I want to pour out all my knowledge and life lessons to make your life easier, more fulfilled and joyous than my own.

Sometimes when I am trying to teach you all of these things or try to help you live life better, I go about it all the wrong way. I see that when I try to control your actions and your choices you do not react well.

I noticed the change in your tolerance of control around 13. You entered the time of your life where you were trying to understand yourself. You started to desire the freedom to define yourself and not let others try to define that for you. You started transforming from being a kid to an adult. Sometimes you still feel needy and yet you don’t want to feel you need anyone.

I was once like you.  I know you want to make your parents proud but also want to be true to yourself. Some days are better than others and you still struggle with who you can trust. You want to have the freedom to make mistakes as you are learning. You want to be able to have your own money and not let that be the way others have control over you. You take pride in earning it even though you would prefer to do things where you don’t have to take on adult responsibility.

There are so many things I want to know about you. So many things I want to understand regarding your individual path of life.  What are your fears, struggles, hopes, and dreams?  I want you to feel safe to share these things with me.

I want to share all my own struggles and make myself vulnerable to you so you know you are not alone. I have and still make mistakes too. I know I am not perfect. I am on my own journey of life as well. The more I can understand you and you about me the better our relationship and lives will be.

I promise to work on not controlling you. Instead, I strive to work to influence you to make the best decisions for your future. I will work to make it safe for you to share who you are with me.

All I ask is, talk to me. Trust your Dad and me with our wisdom. Count on our love for you to coach you on decisions that are for your long-term well being. Get me to listen to you, understand you and ask for guidance when you need it. 

Know that I am so very proud of you and that I love you no matter what!

Mom

I had written a similar letter to that of the above to my oldest daughter over a year ago. She is the one that said I should publish it. It was healing for me to write to her and healing for her to know how I felt. It helped bring us back together when I felt I was losing her.

Many working Mom’s ask themselves, “Have I:

-put my work ahead of my kids and made them feel less important?”

-set such high expectations of them the measuring scale seems to be perfection?”

-overcompensated to make their life easier and instead made them take things for granted?”

-taught them to find balance in their life and happiness within themselves?”

The second-guessing list goes on and on. If you are struggling as a Mom, know you are not alone. May this letter inspire you to write a letter of your own and help you find your own healing as your kids grow and start lives of their own.

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Crisis text: 741741

If you live in the Dayton, Ohio area, schedule free counseling by email: counseling@southbrook.org

To share inspiring stories or be referred to a Professional Counselor email: everythingforthesoul@gmail.com

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!

“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” – Paul Boese

Photograph taken at the Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina

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.

 

Find Freedom from Controlling Behaviors

It was August of 1997.  I was 24 years old, extremely motivated, and trying to make a living in sales. A business client had called for an appointment and gave me an address regarding where to meet. When I arrived, I said to myself, “This can’t be right.” The address is a house. I called the number again.  The client verified that was the meeting place. According to my notes, there were supposed to be multiple people in this meeting. Again, I said to myself, “Why aren’t there any cars? This doesn’t feel right.”  Convincing myself that I needed the business, I went to the door anyway.

I knocked on the door and the client answered.  I felt somewhat relieved that he answered the door.  I knew him. He had gotten married recently and was very happy when I worked with him a year ago. We had made small talk waiting on the other people to arrive.  He recognized my discomfort due to his shaven head and twitching face. He shared he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and it was very serious.

As time started to lapse, I looked at the clock.  My fiance was going to start wondering where I was.  I had grown even more uncomfortable as time passed.  I wondered how much longer it would take for the others to arrive.  After declining his offer for a glass of water, he asked if I wanted to see the blueprints for the business. Again, I ignored my instincts.  I entered the room to look at the architect table. There was nothing on the table. When I turned to look at the client, he was holding a revolver.

Rather than listening to myself, I ignored my inner voice. As he said “I am not going to kill you or rape you” I turned my head to see the revolver pointed at me. Instantly, I went into hysterics. He closed the door and moved me towards the back of the room.

“Take your clothes off.” He said.

I immediately envisioned myself taking off my clothes and that not being enough for him. I saw images of him asking me to do things I did not want to do and him eventually taking my life. I saw my dead naked body lying on the floor, and my loved ones finding out I was found lifeless and without my clothes in some strange house. I felt if he wanted all that he would have to take my clothes off after I was no longer alive. I said to myself, “My life is not ending this way. I have so many more dreams to fulfill.”

Somehow, I found the power within and decided to reason and plead with him. “Why are you doing this? What about your wife? I am not going to… You can kill me first.”

He replied, “I will cripple you.”

I said, “I don’t care if you kill me or cripple me.”

As he started to explain himself, “It is just that this tumor…” Right then, his twitches in his face and clicks of his head that I had witnessed earlier came back. I continued to plea and refuse to give in to his demands. I noticed that I was emotionally getting to him.

Suddenly, he turned the gun on himself.  While frightened he would take his own life in front of me, I saw my window of opportunity to escape.  Quickly, I went towards him as he backed himself up towards the door.  I grabbed the doorknob with my left hand and was able to wedge it open enough to get my leg in through the opening. Meanwhile, I pushed my right hand towards his face in an attempt to move the gun away from his own mouth. Somehow I was able to get out, grab my bag and keys and run out the door to my car while my whole body was shaking. He did not follow me.  I began driving and frantically called 911. They directed me towards a local fire department for safety. I repeated the story multiple times of how I ended up in that house.

In the end, after police had surrounded his house and tried to get him to come out for hours, he ended his own life that night.

I had made multiple very risky decisions that day.  I was thankful to be alive. I questioned myself. I worried about what people would think.  I thought, “Why was I so gullible? Why did he pick me?  Was there something I did that made me seem vulnerable?” I could never even face his wife to see how she handled all of it. I felt sad for her and envisioned him being sorry for what he had done to me. Truth is, I will never really know why or fully understand. Why would anyone choose to sabotage someone else’s life?

Often times, people attempt to control others when they feel powerless in their own lives.  The more we feel we have lost control, the more we want to try and control others.

After talking to my sister-in-law who is well versed in mental health, she helped me understand it was not my fault.  Being able to talk with someone helped me be able to focus on what could come from the experience. She helped me understand that some brain tumors cause irrational behavior. It was not about me. I was proud of how I had been brave enough to escape. I also learned that I need to listen to my gut instincts.

When sharing my story, some questioned why I didn’t just do what he said. You may even be questioning some of the same things and wonder why I am sharing this story.

While I was not a victim of rape, I felt the extreme case of having someone try to control me by force at a relatively young age.  I felt the side effects. My purpose is not to gain pity here. My purpose is to increase awareness and help you prevent being controlled. To teach you how to stop your own ineffective habits of controlling behaviors.    There are some lessons to be learned from this story, and others I have experienced in my life as both the victim and the controller.

Through professional help and research, I have learned how to identify signs of controlling behavior,  the reasons behind it, how to overcome situations of being controlled and recognize when I am the person doing the controlling.  By sharing my findings, may you learn some skills to find freedom from this controlling behavior as well as know where to go for additional resources that go beyond my experience.

Let’s start by helping you identify situations where someone has tried to control you or you have controlled someone else.  Can you think of times when someone used force, guilt or fear to get you to do something? How did it make you feel?

For example, as common as someone saying:

“If you can’t do this, then you must not want to be the best and accept mediocrity.”

“I have done so much for you, you mean you can’t even do this for me? Guess I don’t mean enough to you.”

Have you been the person who has tried to force your power over another person by saying things like:

“If you don’t I will…”

“Do …because I said so.”

To help you identify controlling behaviors, Andrea Bonier Ph.D. has as a blog in Psychology Today where she states: “Controlling people often know how to fly under the radar and how to make themselves look good. They can be skilled in manipulating the people they are dating into thinking that their friends and family must be wrong or jealous or overprotective. Controlling people may try to leave trails of “evidence” that they are good partners, and fool you into thinking that they only have your best interests at heart. And they can be adept at making you doubt and second-guess your instincts when your alarm bells do finally go off.”

Here are the 20 signs from Dr. Bonier that indicate your Partner is Controlling:

1) Isolating you from friends and family.

2) Chronic criticism—even if it’s ‘small’ things.

3) Veiled or overt threats, against you or them.

4) Making acceptance/caring/attraction conditional.

5) An overactive scorecard.

6) Using guilt as a tool.

7) Creating a debt you’re beholden to.

8) Spying, snooping or requiring constant disclosure.

9) Overactive jealousy, accusations, or paranoia.

10) Not respecting your need for time alone.

11) Making you “earn” trust or other good treatment.

12) Presuming you guilty until proven innocent.

13) Getting you so tired of arguing that you’ll relent.

14) Making you feel belittled for long-held beliefs.

15) Making you feel you don’t “measure up” or are unworthy of them.

16) Teasing or ridicule that has an uncomfortable undercurrent

17) Sexual interactions that feel upsetting afterward.

18) Inability or unwillingness to ever hear your point of view.

19) Pressuring you toward unhealthy behaviors, like substance abuse.

20) Thwarting your professional or educational goals by making you doubt yourself.

To give you an understanding of the scale of people who may have experienced controlling behaviors, I would like to share data from Hotline.org.  In January 2019,  nearly half of all women and men in the United States reported that they have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime (48.4% and 48.8%, respectively). This does not include physical abuse.  1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year according to Loveisrespect.org.  NCADV reports on average 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.  On a typical day, 20,000 phone calls are placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.

In business, I have witnessed many situations that left me appalled.  Once, a manager called in his female subordinate into his office after failing to get me to tell him he was good-looking.  He said to her, “Tell me I am incredibly handsome.”  She did and he found entertainment in his power to get her to fulfill his demand.  He thought he was funny. After she left that company, I ran into her later and she said that was the least of the demeaning requests she had to deal with while working for him.  He may not have realized that his humor was only funny to him. There are many other stories of women in sales who have to deal with clients who make inappropriate requests in order for the client to buy their product. I will refrain from sharing the vulgar details. With the “me too” movement, it is no secret.

In a Moneyish article, seven women tell Moneyish how they handled harassment and assault on the job — and what they wish they’d done differently.  On October 17, 2017,  Meera Jagannathan reports: “About 40% of women report experiencing unwanted sexual attention or coercion at work and nearly 60% say they’ve endured workplace gender harassment, according to a 2016 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report.” At the time of the article, there were over 52k likes on Alyssa Milano’s Tweet feed based on her request for people to speak up.

When people I know or in the news share their story, they express feelings of shame, not knowing what to do, and inability to express how it made them feel. In many situations, people feel trapped.  In work environments, people feel if they report it they will be seen as weak.  In cases where women have taken their case to Human Resources, the problem has not always been solved.  There are stories of legal services even discouraging women from filing lawsuits as it goes on public record and then deters future employers from hiring them.  In 2016 Cynthia Shapiro, a Human Resources expert and author of “Corporate Confidential’ published an article in ABC News Opinion section: What You Need to Know Before Filing a Sexual Harassment Complaint.  She wrote, “even though sexual harassment is strictly illegal, many companies tell employees to notify right away because they want to get ahead of, and hopefully squelch, a potentially damaging legal issue for the company.”  She goes on to say, “The harsh reality is that many employees who file claims of sexual harassment find themselves discounted, sidelined and even managed out or fired.”

Now that you have seen some statistics to show the massive amount of people who have been a victim of abuse and unwanted sexual attention, imagine how many more people have been impacted by controlling behaviors.

In order to be able to respond to the behavior, you must first seek to understand why the person is trying to control you. To do that, Sarah Newman M.A. MFA Publisher of Psych Central in her blog “Why Would Anyone Want to Control You” says:

“People who can’t control themselves turn to control others. This happens on an emotional level. A person full of insecurities has to exact a positive sense of self from other people because their self-esteem is too low to do it for themselves.”

“People control because they are afraid of being abandoned. They don’t feel secure in their relationships and are often testing to see if they’re about to be betrayed. The paradox is that their behavior creates exactly what they fear the most.”

When you recognize it is about them and not about you, it gives you a power within to figure out the person’s motivations. It stops you from giving in to their demands. In the situation with the person who was suffering from a brain tumor, he had no power over it and therefore possibly wanted to exert power over someone else in hopes it would make him feel better.  In the situation of the client needing to hear he was good-looking, it was truly because he was going through a divorce and was not feeling secure in himself.  He needed boosts to his ego. In other sexual assault cases, there are obviously more issues involved that I am not prepared to address.

In most cases, once you recognize the root of the problem with someone who you notice is controlling, you can start identifying what will work best. Preston Ni M.S.B.A. lists the following excerpts from his book How to Successfully Handle Aggressive and Controlling People in his blog which I highly recommend and can be found in my resources section:

1.    Keep Your Cool and Maintain Composure

2.    Keep Your Distance and Keep Your Options Open

3.    Depersonalize and Shift from Reactive to Proactive

4.    Know Your Fundamental Human Rights

5.    Put the Spotlight on Them & Reclaim Your Power

6.    In Relatively Mild Situations, Display Superior Composure Through Appropriate Humor

7.    In Serious Situations, Set Consequences to Compel Cooperation

Preston says in his blog, “to know how to handle aggressive, intimidating, and controlling people is to truly master the art of communication. As you utilize these skills, you may experience less grief, greater confidence, better relationships, and higher communication prowess.”

In the case of the client who needed to hear he was good-looking, I could have better handled the situation by asking, “why do you need me to say you are good looking to feel like you are?”  In instances where someone has tried to demean you, you could say “I do not deserve to be treated this way, is there something bothering you?”  If the behavior continues, set a boundary by saying something like, “If you continue to talk to me disrespectfully, I will begin to avoid you.”

In more severe situations that I have witnessed in the counseling sessions where the individual has shown controlling behavior or even abusive behavior, it was common that they handled all the finances and safety was a concern.  In these extreme situations, the control seeker has wanted a spouse who does not work so they have financial control over them. The women then stay in abusive relationships because they don’t have the ability to move out financially.  If you are in a situation like this, make sure you become informed and are at least aware of account balances, account numbers, and passwords.  It is crucial you stay educated.  If that is not possible and you are one of those women in a living arrangement where you feel you are in danger call for help.  National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE.

If you are stuck with an extremely controlling person in a business situation and none of the above methods of communication have worked, look at your options rather than suffering and doing things that conflict with your value system.  If it is a client, go to your manager and explain the situation and see if there are options for account transfers.  If the manager doesn’t support you then report it to your Human Resources office.  If your company doesn’t have one or you are afraid of the repercussions, then look for other positions.  In my experience, if the manager is someone who cares about you, they will work to help you.

Given not all work environments are healthy where some managers and the leaders at the top work to control their employees and put them down versus providing constructive criticism, you may also feel trapped in your job.  You may think it is you.  There may also be times where you do need coaching.   However, good managers will praise in public and critique in private.  If they are saying things that only bring you down in front of your peers and others, that is a sign that the manager may be the problem.  Also if what they say isn’t helpful and beats you down more than coaches you to be better, than you may need to examine your situation closer.  Your gut will tell you if it is truly you or if others around you are experiencing the same problems. You have choices.   First work to address it with the person.  For example, you could say in a one on one, yet safe setting, “I know I have some areas where I can improve.  When you used the terms “…”  what did you really mean by that?   Next time could you help me understand exactly how to get better?”  If you are in an extreme situation where you are feeling controlled to do inappropriate things please see https://www.eeoc.gov.

On the reverse end, I have learned lessons about my own controlling behavior, which I utilized without realizing it and its consequences.  In my counseling lessons at Southbrook Church, Randy Creamer has explained “the more influence you have in a relationship, the less you need to control. And the more control you use, the less influence you probably have.” He made me start listening to how I interact with my daughters. He made me realize there were times I was using guilt as a way to get them to do something or even talk with me. It became obvious that the more I tried to control, the more I pushed them away. When I started to give them the freedom to choose and listened and asked questions instead there was less fighting. I started explaining WHY it was important to do something to get them on board in a positive way.  I worked to show unconditional love regardless of their choice. It is sometimes hard. Yet it is critical.

Randy shared how based on his counseling experience and studies if we control our kids, they will learn to accept being controlled as adults. They will not learn to make choices on their own and it can hurt their self-esteem. So instead of forcing decisions on them, teach them to stand up for themselves, learn self-defense, set boundaries and also model the behavior you want for them.

In addition, it is important to teach children to work to understand the person hurting them.  Getting them to understand “hurting people hurt people” has helped my daughters remember to be compassionate and to not take things personally. They will now remind me of it when I need to be reminded.

As you start to be more aware of areas where you can improve even if you aren’t extreme, know it isn’t too late to change.  I have not always made the best choices, however, I now have techniques I have been practicing that are making differences in my struggles of control. Brene Brown makes a great point in her book I Thought It Was Just Me, but it Isn’t. She says “When we have our self-worth rising on the realization of something that we can’t control, we put our self-worth in jeopardy.”

What do you do when someone doesn’t do what you want? What style do you use with your children? Your spouse? Your employees? If you notice you are controlling as defined above, seek counseling if necessary. Uncover why you feel you need to have power over people.

If you are a manager that struggles with not being able to get their employees to do what is needed, don’t fall back on using forceful, threatening or demeaning remarks. It has negative effects on the person’s morale and kills the person’s desire to want to work for you.  While it is important to hold people accountable, it is ineffective in the long run to add demeaning comments that take a strike at the person’s worth. Rather than saying “you are lazy” a more constructive way of motivating someone would be to say, “You are not showing your full potential.  You are capable of so much more.”

For those in leadership, are you keeping an eye on how your managers treat those working for you?  What about how they treat your business partner representatives?  How they treat people is a reflection of your company’s image and could be costly to your business in turnover, your reputation with customers and maybe even lawsuits.  Be sure to have your employees do anonymous surveys.  Have someone secret shop, play vendor or play undercover boss for the day if you suspect anyone who could threaten your company’s values.

Whether you are the controller or being controlled, help is available.  You are worthy of so much more.  No one deserves to be treated as beneath another person.  You deserve to be treated with respect.  Be sure to look yourself in the mirror and reassure yourself of all your incredible traits.  Make a list of all your great qualities to reframe your mind and maintain your boundaries.  You have the right to have your own value system and maintain your self-worth.  Be brave enough to address the problem.  If safety is a concern, find support.

Other resources:

For more help with a controlling partner, I recommend Dr. Bonier’s blog: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/friendship-20/201506/20-signs-your-partner-is-controlling

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/communication-success/201409/how-successfully-handle-aggressive-and-controlling-people

For more help handling Aggressive and Controlling people see Preston’s blog: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/communication-success/201409/how-successfully-handle-aggressive-and-controlling-people:

Southbrook counseling – https://southbrook.org/ministries/

Boundaries By Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend

Www.ndvh.org

If you are a victim of Sexual Violence or Trauma, please seek your local counseling services.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert in the best way to handle yourself in a sexual assault situation or when someone is threatening your life.  Please see http://www.rainn.org or NSVRC. or http://www.cdc.gov

National Domestic Violence Hotline and Avon Partner with Suze Orman to Shed Light on Financial Abuse in Special Video Series “Women Breaking Free: Stories of Strength from Survivors of Domestic Violence”

Teen Parenting Strength

I am not sure anything can prepare you for your kids becoming teenagers and not acting like they need you anymore. Such a painful time as a Mom. I am sure it is hard for Dad’s too. Here’s an area where I definitely don’t have all the answers and could certainly use support.

I witnessed my sisters go through it as my nieces struggled to find themselves in their teenage years as well. Now I see they are back and have grown to be mature loving amazing young women. That gives me hope my girls will make me feel I am nice to be around again someday.

Now I find myself grasping on to those moments where my teenage daughters open up even if it is 1am. In all the attempts to talk during normal hours when I am wide awake, not sure why my teenage daughters decide they finally want to open up when I seem most exhausted? Regardless, I struggle to stay awake just to listen because who knows when the next time will be where she decides to let me into her world.

Then too many times after a night of listening that person who you devoted your full attention to seems to forget all of it the next day and wonders why you even bother to try and give her a hug good morning.

How is it you can love someone so deeply and yet have moments where you can dislike them for their selfish thinking and how they can turn on you so quickly? Then in a moment they return so sweet and you wonder what they want.

It is these years where I would like to be tougher. Where I wish my joy wasn’t so dependent on needing to feel needed other than for money. Or even feel like I matter to them.

Thankfully there are those moments where times get tough they come to you for an ear because they know you will be there for them. Those times when they say “I love you too.” You say to yourself “whew I am doing okay. I haven’t totally screwed this parenting thing up.”

As hard as it is some days. I know I am lucky. I have heard stories from other parents that have made me cry. Stories of parents losing their kids to drug addictions, to mental illnesses, suicide, and numerous other painful stories.

With social media and the pressures kids are under we parents are all searching for help. Searching for techniques to communicate with our kids. To know if you are doing a good job or not. What is the right way? When should I be a friend? When should I lay down hard punishments? When should I set their curfew? What is reasonable? Am I being too protective or too easy?

We have to remind ourselves, no one is perfect. No matter how much you hear about “my kid got a full scholarship” or “my kid did…” no kid is perfect either. They could be suffering from internal pressure and looking for ways to escape it.

All I know is what doesn’t work. When I try to control, I get no where. All we can do is listen, empathize, influence and lead by example.

No matter how much I want to protect, they need to make some mistakes and learn how to persevere. Otherwise they will struggle as an adult. They will let themselves be controlled as a spouse or collapse at difficult times in their life versus rely on their strength to see things thru.

One of my favorite parental advice books is The Highly Heathy Child by Walt Larimore, M.D. It helped me realize at an early time in parenting that kids want to be heard just like anyone. When you give them your full attention and listen for how they feel and show them you want to understand then they are more willing to ask for help and be open to your suggestions. If you give advice too quick they can’t think for themselves or feel you think they can’t handle it on their own which hurts their trust in themselves.

Also if how we label or critic them matters so I try to keep in mind the quote, “What you expect is what you get.”

Some good notes I have taken from Randy Creamer the lead counselor at Southbrook Church to influence rather than control is and reinforce positive expectations are by saying:

I believe in you

I trust you

I know how responsible you are

I know you take care of your things

Your stronger than you think you are

You are capable

I have learned when I say things like it sounds like you were really hurt by … it gets them to open up and feel safe to share what they are thinking “more”.

When mistakes are made it works well to hold them accountable and then finish with ..”I love you no matter what.” That unconditional love seems to always bring them back.

May this post help you and know that you are not alone.

Please check out the resources and links for further help. Or if you have any helpful tips I am sure everyone would like you to share in the comments.

If your child is severely withdrawn and or struggles with the stress of trying to be perfect and their is concern with depression or suicide please seek help.

Hear from a parent who lost her son to suicide and what steps you can take for prevention.

Resources for suicidal teens.