stress less and find more peace, manage stress

Stress Less -for the holidays and anytime

Wish it were automatic to stress less and still enjoy the season?

Maybe that feels like a tall, ridiculous order. It might seem that you’re either ALL in for the holidays or taking a complete vacation from them altogether.

Most people want something in the middle. They want less stress and more enjoyment, more meaning, and more peace.

Let’s get you that.

Identify the Biggest Stressor

Is it travel to four different places? Maybe you especially stress about that ONE event. Feeling overwhelmed by obligations? Is it pressure you put on yourself to produce a Martha Stewart scene? Is it that you two seem to get into so many more arguments this time of year and you’d love to side-step it this year?Pick out the biggest one for you.

And yes, it’s personal, specific to you. Your spouse does not have to agree that this it THE THING. What stresses you may be the most important thing for her (or him) or for the kids… but we’re not talking about that right now. (Are you stressed because you’re alone? Here’s some help for that: read HERE or HERE.) We’re talking about what is MOST stressful for you. Identify that.

Having trouble identifying it?

Ask these questions to tease it out more effectively:

  • What one thing, if it disappeared today, would have me sighing with relief?
  • If I had to miss one part of the holiday, what would I skip out on with NO regrets?
  • Fantasize the perfect imaginary holiday. It looks like… (go ahead and get really specific and write it down.)

Don’t spend time evaluating this either. Don’t listen to the guilters or the naysayers even if they come from your own brain! It’s not time to judge your stress. If it’s stressful, it’s stressful. we’re going to solvee that. Next…

1. What’s the ONE CHANGE that will minimize that Stress?

You are looking for a rule, guideline, or principle you can adopt that keeps that stressor at bay.

Here’s an example:

For me, it’s shopping. I refuse to do any last minute shopping. And last minute for me means anything after I am on holiday break from work. That means if it’s not done before December 20, too bad, baby.

That one guideline eliminates 80% of the stress for me.

There may be part of this “area” you like.

Keep that.

Look, I am not a shopper. Never have been, never will be. (In fact I DREAM of having a personal shopper to whom I can say, replace these, I need that, I’m looking for this particular thing…and not spend one second of my time finding it!)

But I DO enjoy stuffing those stockings with quirky, unique, thoughtful, fun surprises.

I shop end-caps, kiosks, dollar aisles, clearance bins, and specialty shops…before December 20th… to thoughtfully purchase little gifties for ALL my lovies.

If there’s some part of the greatest stressor you DO like, keep it.

There may be related, smaller stressors

Eliminate these right alongside the other.

For instance, I also keep my gift wrapping simple anymore.

I did not always. I actually glued beads to wrapping paper, wove folded paper strips into gorgeous art before folding it over gifts, hand-stamped my paper, made my very own bows. Heck, we had seven trees one year, each with their own theme. I was a crazy person, tipsy with useless ideas.

I don’t do that anymore. Thankfully. It went bye-bye forever right along with all the pressure for more shopping right up to the minute.

It’s your stress.

It’s no one else’s stress. They don’t have to agree with you or find the same thing stressful.

Many years ago, on several Christmas Eve days I was shopping at the Mall of America with my ex-husband. That was super stressful for me. Was it fun for him? I actually think, yes, it was. (Go figure!) 

But I’m a grown-up. So are you. I own my stress.

I do not like to shop. Shopping on Christmas Eve or anytime but especially when  I am supposed to be resting from my labors is no longer acceptable. So I don’t do it.

2. Find the deeper reason

Spend a little time reflecting. Do you know what that drive behind the stressor really is? Why haven’t you abandoned it before now?

Could it be obligation or guilt or people pleasing, trying to be good enough, buy love, keep up appearances, or with the Joneses, or make up for something, disguise some lack?

I bet if you dig deep, you know what this is really about.

I certainly know what was driving me. Letting it go was key to my health. And that’s the next step.

3. Let it go.

Look, you are a grown-up. It’s about time those subconscious drives from forever-ago stopped running the show. You get to do what you want with all that baggage.

And if it’s not serving you, let it go. Breathe in, say you’re letting it go and then expel it with your exhale. You don’t gotta. Anymore. So don’t.

Just let it go.

You’re not a bad mate or parent, sibling, or child. You are all grown-up and if it’s not adding to your life, just don’t do it. Let it go.

I know that can be harder to DO than to want to do.

For some of you, it’ll be easy. Just reading through this has given you clarity and been a great reminder. You actually will follow through, change things up, and have a different experience this year.

But all of us could use a little help and support to make that change.

That’s what I’m here for

Let me help. I walk people through this all the time. I’m here for you if you need me. Give a call or send a message. Let’s get started on your best holiday season ever.

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boundaries between people

Good Boundaries – at holiday time and always

When facing time with family, good boundaries will serve you well.

But first, let’s be clear: good boundaries are not “I just can’t take it ANY.MORE!” limits. They’re not demands you hope others will fulfill. They are not cold, hard brick walls.

Good boundaries are more like standards you have that keep YOU peaceful, safe, and at least relatively content.

Good Boundaries in action

Here’s an example: I have a standard that I don’t get yelled at. If, at any time, someone were to start yelling AT me, I would remove myself. Right away.

I don’t yell back and usually I don’t reiterate my standard unless I do it with super-low, measured energy. I just go away from it. Or get off the phone. I leave the room or ask the other person to leave- in that same measured, low-level energy.

I don’t do yelling matches. Period. About anything. Ever.

Those days are gone.

Because I now have standards about what I will and will not have in my life. And yelling AT me is one thing I will not have in my life.

Here’s a thing to remember:

You set a boundary, you get to keep it

Having a boundary and setting it is NOT about the other person, it’s about you. If you set a boundary, then it’s yours. You are the one who gets to tend and maintain the boundary.

You only get to control yourself.

Don’t try to use “boundaries” to control other people. That will never work. Those are actually demands. Those types of boundaries can be manipulative, plus they’re kind of screechy, shrill, and above all, ineffective. (More about this everywhere I’ve written about communication: HERE and HERE. You can check out the podcast episode HERE or search for episode 7 of Midlife Love Bytes anywhere you find your podcasts.)

Don’t be surprised when others push them or cross your good boundary.

They’re new. Like a dog and an electric fence, people need to discover and learn from the boundary. Of course they’re going to get tested.

Don’t get upset when YOUR boundary gets tested.

There’s no need to go to war over them. If the boundary or standard is not negotiable (that is the nature of real boundaries and standards- they are not negotiable) then don’t stand there and negotiate the boundary.

Yes, you can explain your boundary

But do this at a time when it’s not being tested, pushed, or crossed. You can say something like “hey, just so you know, I don’t stay engaged when people yell at me. It doesn’t work for me. I don’t like it. I feel bad and I just don’t tolerate it.”

End of talking. You don’t have to defend the boundary. Or unearth it’s family of origin or ex-spouse origin. If it’s a boundary and it’s your boundary and you mean to live by it, then you don’t really need to explain it or justify it or talk it to death.

That someone understands where the boundary comes from or how it came to be a boundary for you is way less important that YOU having it, being clear on it, and knowing that it’s YOUR boundary.

Assertiveness is different than aggression

Assertiveness comes from a place of strength; aggression comes from an attempt to get more of it. In other words, aggression is a reaction because of lack while assertiveness is just an assertion of that strength.

Assertiveness does not lord it over someone else or tell them what to do. Assertiveness puts the truth out there and then follows up when necessary.

Apply your good standards and boundaries

Heading into the holidays, identify a thing you know you won’t tolerate. Then make a plan for how you will respond to it. Then do it.

That’s all there is to it.

Don’t want to be around your drunk uncle? Make a plan to leave when that threshold gets crossed.

Don’t want to be compared to your brother? Leave the conversation if that happens. Go to a different room.

Tired of the girls doing all the work while the guys watch football? Ask for help. Use Clean, Non-Blaming Communication (TM) or (CNBC). “I feel frustrated. I don’t want to do all the work and clean-up. Can you help with that?” Or assert it as a standard: “I feel miffed. I want to watch football and take a nap.” Then go do it. 😉

Hard to imagine the last scenario?

It could be that’s not an area for a boundary.

Sure, it’s something you feel piqued about and you’ve grown bitter about over years and years and years.

Could be, asserting a boundary about that one is really about changing things up way ahead of the game, or just getting over your irritation.

You gotta pick your battles.

If you’re having trouble identifying what might be true boundaries, (think standard) versus demands or attempts to control, I can help. I can see what might be a blind spot for you. It’s what I do.

Maybe you don’t have any experience asserting a boundary and they come out being pretty aggressive expressions. I know how to help with that too. I love supporting people as they grow stronger.

You could be super frustrated around your previously thwarted attempts with good boundaries. I can help with that.

Let’s get you prepped and set for more peaceful, happier holidays (and life) this year.

Get in here and let’s get started. Give me a call.

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expert relationship help yields a useful harvest

Expert Relationship Help for the Win

Some clients come to me for expert relationship help feeling already defeated, sensing this is their last-ditch effort.

They’ve tried everything else.

That puzzles me sometimes. Why did they wait so long? How did they let it get this bad?

And yet, I get it. I spent years and years trying real hard, endeavoring to figure it out. Every single book – ALL THE BOOKS- I read them ALL. I was going to fix it: fix myself, fix him, fix the dynamic, fix the family. I could figure this out.

Smart People are the worst for this.

I’m a smartie.

I know you’re a smartie.

And successful. You more-than-survived. You have arrived! You’ve worked real hard. You’ve amassed wealth, achieved a lot, navigated incredible challenges.

Besides that, you take care of business on the regular. You juggle life expertly. And here you are with a very fine resume behind your name. You are smart, dang it, and you. can. figure. this. out.

So you try harder. And most times, the harder you try, the more trouble you get into. (Like quick sand!) Pretty soon there’s so much anger and tension in the relationship on a daily basis, you relent, cry “uncle,” cave, and, feeling defeated, decide to reach out for help.

Or worse, sometimes you determine it’s HIS problem or HER fault, so you send him (or her) in for me to “fix” that problem. (That’s rarely accurate, by the way, never the whole picture, and while individual therapy IS appropriate, helpful, and CAN shift a relationship, it happens best and proves more lasting when two get involved voluntarily.)

Asking for Expert Relationship Help is a WIN

I know I won’t instantly convince you. But it IS a win. It’s what smart people do. They enlist the help of experts to show them what they need to know.

Even in an area they know LOTS about.

You might like investing, but you trust your wealth to experts, right?

You might like numbers and accounting, but you don’t do your own taxes, do you?

(I don’t know, maybe you do. I did mine every year from 1986 up until last year when all the rules and forms started looking insane and complicated. See, I can be stubborn and have trouble trusting too.)

I know excellent athletes who pay a trainer. Why do they do that when they know a lot about their sport?

Because they’re smart, that’s why! They know how to really win!

I thought I was a relationship expert before

After all, I’m made for relationship. I am a woman. I am naturally #heartfirst. (If you don’t know what that means, I write about it in my books, described HERE.) I love and value people and relationship and always have. I’ve been studying and observing and reading, reading, reading for decades.

I wanted credit for all my effort. I also wanted some good results. Yet, there were some things I just could not see or reach on my own.

Finally, exhausted and feeling quite defeated, I enlisted the help of an expert.

Now I know I truly am an expert

And yes, I paid for some of that in my own blood, with pain, sweat, tears, and unnecessary suffering. It was over two decades of “walking heartache.” Talk about learning the hard way!

Then I got real expert help and paid for it in the right kind of blood, sweat, and tears: I extended trust and did what was helpful and quit doing what was biting me in the ass.

Before too long, I went to school and got a couple degrees and started actually helping people. (I continue to learn and grow and develop all the time. That’s why they call this business a practice.)

Do I regret my stubbornness, distrust, and pride?

Oh yeah, baby.

I also love, understand, and forgive myself (which took a while in and of itself) and I’m so grateful to the people who showed me grace and extended their patience along the way.

But it cost us all a whole lot more than it needed to. I DO wish I had spent my time, energy, and money more productively way back when.

I’m just a human, a fellow traveler

Yet this is my thing now for real. It’s my area of expertise. I’ve been in the trenches. I’ve been in the crazy and distress of a painful relationship and I found my way out. But I did not do it all on my own. Not by a long shot.

You don’t have to trust me. You don’t have to let anyone else take a look and tell you what they see.

By golly, you never have to listen to a relationship expert about how you’re contributing, prolonging, and ensuring your very own suffering. But if you’re smart, you just might want to.

There are known and traveled pathways to healing, healthy relationship, and happiness. I’m not the only one who knows them, but I do know them and I’ll help you each step of the way… if you let me.

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losers fight make love not war

Losers Fight

Losers fight and fighters always lose.

When it comes to intimate partnership, fighting means you both lose. There’s no losing the battle but winning the war. If there’s a war, you lose, my friend. Period.

Fighting achieves exactly nothing.

Did you know research clearly shows that debate is not effective in changing others’ perspectives, convincing them to think differently, or persuade them to a different view? It’s super-not-effective at getting people to do something against their nature or opposed to their self-interests.

(Other methods of rhetorical persuasion and manipulation are effective, hence the posturing and ninja-skills of politicians and the like.)

But in intimate relationships, fighting is REALLY NOT effective in providing connection or allowing either person to feel heard and understood.

So why do people fight?

I’ve come to believe it’s just one thing really. Not a bunch of different things and not even the combination of this person plus this person equals conflict.

It’s an individual thing. An inside job. A very human, universal, and understandable failing each of us carry with us. (Me included.)

Call it your Should Monster.

The Should Monster shoulds all over.

All over you. All over other people. In your home. At work. On the highway. About the government. On the other.

This gigantic beast makes quite a mess!

Another word for this is expectation.

Losers fight because of expectations.

I’m NOT saying have no expectation in order to avoid disappointment. That’s hogwash as well.

“Expectation” is NOT the same as having a “standard.”

We have standards for how we will and will not be treated, what we accept and do not accept in relationship. It’s healthy to have standards.

Kindness is a standard. Accountability is a standard. Honesty is a standard.

But expectation is a demand, a requirement, and it usually comes with an inherent (and harsh) ultimatum.

I have standards.

Because they are healthy. Not because I’m trying to get my needs met and that is a HUGE distinction. I have standards because they are helpful.

For example, one of my standards is that couples do not fight in my office. You don’t need to pay me to watch you do that. Trust me, I already know how it goes.

(Also, don’t pay to argue with me, either. It’s all counterproductive. And frankly, you can’t pay me enough to make it worth my exhaustion. But we might explore what’s going on with you that you feel the need to do stuff like that!)

Most importantly, it’s not healthy for you to do more fighting, perspective arguing, or score-keeping. It won’t solve anything, and it’s a waste of our time, energy, and your money.

So, it’s a standard. There is no fighting in my office.

I wish I could magically transfer that standard to all my clients’ living rooms and bedrooms, automobiles, and lives!

Let’s get to the heart of solving this.

Despite my knowledge that fighting is counter productive and that debate is ineffective as a means to sway anyone (and especially an intimate partner) I still get tripped up by my own Should Monster. Like anyone, I can catch myself imposing a should on someone else: you should do more of the driving, you should share your feelings more, you should do half the work in relationship, you should be more empathetic, you should spend more time with me.

All those things are NICE and I might want them and LIKE the idea of them. And, in fact, I can be perfectly RIGHT about them. But the Should Monster spurs the fight and the fight gets us nowhere.

Slay the Should Monster first.

How do you do that?

It’s easy.

1. Put it in it’s place.

Say something like this to that bad boy: Quiet down, Should-Dude. Take a chill pill. Go sit in the corner. You are in time-out.

I’m serious about speaking directly to it and putting your Should Monster in the corner. That is right where it belongs while the grown-ups sort things out and take care of real business.

2. Step back and take a breath.

Let’s face it ONCE AND FOR ALL: human beings deserve respect. We’re infinitely valuable. That said, humans are sentient beings with incredible will and a whole host of feelings, thoughts, longings, and needs. Every.single.human. (Including your partner..or that person you’re fighting.)

Just take a breath. Your agenda for that other person is really quite inappropriate. Let it go while you exhale.

3. Focus on what is going on with you.

What is behind the drive to get the thing or the behavior or the response you “should” get and the other “should” understand? Do you know why you’re actually expecting them to DO or BE or give that?

After all, your expectations are really about you, your values, beliefs, and rules that YOU live by…and some of them might not actually be very kind…to yourself or to other people.

(I know. It can be hard to figure what’s going on with you all by yourself sometimes. We don’t always see ourselves -or others- clearly, which is why a good therapist can be so helpful. Here’s help finding a good fit.)

4. Let it go.

In the meantime, acknowledge the drive or desire and let go of the tension, demand, and drive behind it. Especially once you realize the expectation is coming from somewhere deeper than that other person, it gets easier to stop demanding in the present moment.

5. Get help if you need it.

Some of you will turn this around on your own. You’ll stop fighting. You already know the fight is a lose/lose strategy. You’ll pause, examine your expectations, realize they are harsh, maybe immature, or come from a history that the other person has nothing to do with.

For those of you who continue to struggle or resist the logic of stopping the fight, give me a call. There is definitely a very good reason you’re having trouble with that part of it. I’d love to help.

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couple in a storm can this marriage be saved?

Can this Marriage be Saved?

People often ask “can this marriage be saved?” They want to know if their situation is SO bad there’s NO hope. Did they marry the WRONG person? Have they totally screwed things up? Are they in all this pain now simply because they got married for all the WRONG reasons?

Yup. Yup, that’s it. There is no hope.

Do I say that?

Um, NOOOOOO, I don’t. But you probably already knew that, right?

Answering “It depends” is a cop out.

Do I say that? Sometimes. Because really, it does depend. But not on the things above. In order to know if this marriage can be saved, we must know what “it depends” means.

First, it doesn’t depend on marrying for the right reasons or the right person. It doesn’t matter how much crud has happened. Solution doesn’t even depend on whether “he’s a narcissist” or “she’s bipolar” or any of the other things people complain about regarding their high-conflict spouse.

Now, maybe you’re not high conflict. Maybe you’ve just “grown apart” or you feel so very blah. Perhaps you’ve found passion and spark with someone else at a time when the marriage seems “long over.” Or your spouse has cheated and one or both of you just wants out.

No matter what the situation, there’s often a big pause before one or the other pulls the plug entirely. You might both have the question, “Hey, wait. Can this marriage be saved?”

Thankfully, it does not depend on anything out of your control, except that you can’t actually FORCE someone else to hang in there and try harder and love you.

You can make it a helluva lot more inviting to hang in there, try harder, and yes, they might have a chance of loving you again. But not by doing the same things you’ve been doing.

Most often I say this TRUTH:

No matter how you each are made, what has happened, and what is the pattern of your relationship, you CAN get to a place of health where your marriage works for both of you.

Your marriage can be safe, connected, and nourishing for both of you.

That would be cool, right?

The relationship of your dreams CAN be yours… if you both want it… and you are willing to do the work to get there.

Now, look, that does not mean that both of you know you want it and know you’re willing to do the work to get there. I am realistic. I know that ambivalence is part of the reason you’re in pain right now. Blasting past the reasons without processing that ambivalence does neither of you any good.

So if one or both of you are ambivalent, we’ll explore that first.

There has to be a reason to put in the work.

Because the work itself, is, sorry to say, not the most fun you can have on a weekday between the hours of 9 am and 6 pm.

It’s true, in my office we engage humor on purpose, knowing that none of us benefit from MAJOR, SUSTAINED INTENSITY. Besides, you don’t want to spend time in the same pattern of communication, defensiveness, bad feelings, and utter yuck that brought us all together in the first place.

You won’t be doing any of that yuck in my office, by the way.

We will be doing some of the scary stuff you’ve been avoiding. But not before offering you some hope and underscoring the reasons you personally have for getting better at relationship, even at this very relationship.

If there’s a good reason, most every marriage can be saved.

Big talk, right?

But it’s true.

If there are children you want to raise together, that can be the motivator. If you want to look into the eyes of those same children and one day say, “Mom and Dad figured it out, weathered the storm, and took responsibility,” that’s a good motivator.

Maybe you’re tired of failing at relationship and you just want to get it right. That’s a good motivator.

Maybe you believe divorce is for wimps and the faint of heart looking for a loop-hole and that’s not you. Well, that’s a good motivator.

If, in the end, you just want to say you gave it your very best effort, that’s a good motivator.

You are gonna have to find your reason.

If you don’t already know, a good couples counselor will help you. She’ll listen well, identify your values and concerns accurately, and help you clarify just why you’re making the investment. She’ll explore the motives for each of you.

If one of you wants to stay and one of you wants to go

Keep this in mind: using convincing tactics to persuade a skeptical partner is, not just ineffective, but, ewww, gross, it’s so very unattractive.

Also, it NEVER works.

So, if you are the one who would like to preserve the relationship and your spouse is ready to move on double-quick, get yourselves to a proper, trained therapist who knows how to help you stop doing what’s not working and start doing what will actually help.

Of course, I can be that therapist for the two of you. You might want to give marriage counseling a fighting chance.

If your patience, time, and energy are limited, look into doing a Couple’s Intensive to answer in two days’ time whether it’s time to call it quits or if you have a reason to hang in there and make things work.

Contact me and let me know what’s going on and which option for help you’d like to explore.

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relationship patterns that need busting might mean learning to walk down a different sidewalk

Relationship Patterns Busted

We all establish relationship patterns, sometimes without realizing it. Even when you’re aware you’re doing the same dance (or experiencing the same frustrations) it can be hard to see things clearly from the inside.

Maybe one day you suddenly realize you’re doing all the reaching out. You text and call. You initiate contact. You come up with fun ideas for what to do together. It’s never the other person.

Or you realize you just can’t seem to get what you need no matter what you’ve done to make those needs known. It’s almost like you’re speaking a foreign language. If only you could feel heard. You try harder and get even less!

It could be you’ve loaned more money or paid for an outing or bent over backwards to help and had the same person fade or withdraw over and over. In your frustration, you realize they only surface when they need something. Next time they appear, you appreciate feeling needed, (and you’ve missed them) so once again you give, only to have them do the same thing when they get what they came for.

Your pattern might be something different entirely. Like the more you want connection and ask for it, the more she withdraws. Maybe the more you treat him like a child, the more irresponsible he becomes.

It can take time and insight to recognize relationship patterns.

It’s easy for other people to see what you’re doing. And not so easy to make sense of it or see it clearly when you are the one (or two) doing the dance.

Even if you recognize yourself in one of the above descriptions, (or any other recurrent pattern) it can be tough catching yourself in the middle of it. Besides that, from the inside of the dance you may think you look a whole lot different on the outside.

(Hint, hint, you probably DO look a whole lot crazier to other people, especially those who have witnessed the relationship pattern over and over and over. Remember, just because you look crazy doesn’t mean you ARE. You’re just stuck repeatedly doing something that’s not working.)

Avoiding your relationship patterns’ trap

Ever heard the sidewalk analogy? Your relationship pattern is like a hole in the sidewalk. At first, you just walk down the familiar sidewalk and fall right in.

You might wonder why it’s suddenly so dark and damp, pitiful, and well, kinda gross-smelling in there. But, it’s familiar. You’ve been here before. And the other person is down there in the muck with you. After slipping and sliding a bit, (or a lot) you each claw your way out of the hole, sometimes over the tops of each other.

Next time, you know the hole is there and MAYBE you find a way to go around it. But it’s like a magnetic vortex. You get scooped off your feet and fall down it again. Whoops!

Soon, however, you are recognizing the hole and you develop enough strength to resist its magnetic pull. You deliberately walk out and around it. (Cool!)

The real win comes when you recognize the sidewalk and find a different route entirely. Bonus: the alternate route not only avoids the slimy, slippery hole, it gets you where you really want to be a whole lot faster and without all the slime, stink, and muck of the hole, not to mention there’s zero clawing on the way out.

Shifting the pattern

Picking a different sidewalk requires some serious skill. Usually there are reasons that darn hole is magnetic. Most people need a map, a guide, or a coach watching from the outside who can help them see and understand the pattern, build the strength to resist its pull, and find a suitable alternate route.

Don’t do this alone. You already know falling into the hole is zero fun. There’s no need to spend extra time standing out there on the sidewalk arguing about which way to go.

I know it can be humbling to ask for directions. I know some of you even like your sidewalk. It’s familiar at least, maybe it’s comforting in some way, perhaps it pays off sometimes. (For example, when you beg for attention, sometimes you get it. When you chastise him, maybe he behaves for a bit.)

For some of you, admitting you need an outside perspective is the biggest hurdle. But you know the sidewalk you’re choosing does not lead where you want to be. You know you need directions.

Still, it can be a risk to trust someone else with your life and relationship patterns. You want your investment to pay off, not lead down another dead-end street. I get it.

You could ask any and every passer-by for directions, but a wiser approach is to get a good map. Better yet, hire a personal guide. Heck, you might even need a skilled coach to help you stay out of that hole.

I want to be that kind of effective help for you. Let’s talk and get you on a path that leads to the kind of life and relationship you really want.

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communication is key

Communication is key

You need a communication key. It’s true. And so many people say it when they come to me for help.

But lots of people think communication means more words. And usually it means exactly the opposite.

Use fewer words; say more.

Here’s how this works.

Listen, you already know the words you say are a small percentage of what you communicate (no matter the context of relationship. This goes for that texting conversation too.)

Energy, body language, tone, timing. It all matters. Plus, it communicates so much… way more than the actual words you choose.

It allows and invites and incites inference. (You’re smart, so you already know this.)

It’s how you interpret what the other is going to say next and how conversations become a patterned dance you repeat over and over and over and over.

Stop talking.

I’ve invited many of you to do this. Okay, for some of you , I’ve invited you to stop talking so much. You’re wearing your partner out and giving them WAY too many rabbit trails to follow on your “verbal processing fest.” Honestly, there’s just too much for one person to track sometimes when you’re going at it like that.

One thing at a time, grasshopper.

Ever heard of single-tasking? It actually takes more concentration than multi-tasking. It requires focus, showing up and paying attention. The speaker must practice conscious presence.

This is a GOOD THING.

Doing a verbal dump on your partner (or anyone else for that matter) is a little disrespectful anyway and a lot self-serving. So, literally, stop talking.

It’s hard, right?

Good. It should be a little hard. You’re doing something different than you’re used to. And now that you’ve closed your mouth, go the next step and really listen.

Get curious about what the other person is saying. Not like “why are you saying that?” or “why does he think like that?!” but curious like, literally, “hmmmmmm, that’s interesting.” And then think about it instead of plan the response.  That kind of curious.

Become a quiet observer.

Sometimes what you’re observing is what’s going on with you. Notice this. (You are super interesting.)

Are you feeling defensive? Is something else rising up in you? Are you noticing you want to argue? Do you want to show what you know?

Just notice that. And let it be. Go back to listening.

I know you have a point to make.

And I know you think it’s super important and it’s THE THING that is going to make the difference and that THIS TIME the other person HAS TO HEAR what you are saying and UNDERSTAND you for once.

But they aren’t going to. So get over that. Breathe. Go back to listening.

Someone wise once said

“I never learn anything new by hearing myself talk.”

After all, it’s stuff you already know. So, take a weird risk and actually get quiet. See what happens.

Yes. People worry all the time about talking about those super important issues. There ARE really important topics and hard conversations to have sometimes. Don’t worry.

You will talk about the important stuff.

Most of you don’t have the skill to handle that right now. You’re too entrenched in your usual patterned dance, your regular, tired way of seeing things.

Listen, you’re stubborn for very good reason.

It makes PERFECT sense to you. And it’s very logical for the way you’re made, the way you think, and the way you move through the world.

AND…

you think some things that aren’t exactly true or at least something that isn’t exactly serving you right now. Maybe it’s not healthy…and it’s certainly not HELPFUL.

Those beliefs (we call them limiting beliefs) are not easy for you to spot all by yourself. You might want the help of a qualified and trained specialist. (I’m one, in case you forgot… and there are others too. You might like to spend more time with one of us.)

Find someone who can help you clarify your message.

You want minimum verbage, and maximum inpact. Low potential for arguing or for “trigger language,” for escalating conflict, for taking the conversation out of productive zone and into the fight zone.

You also want to say the very important thing. This includes telling the truth, your truth. Laying it on the line. Really revealing yourself. Getting open and vulnerable.

No one likes that, right?

It feels risky.

You might feel exposed when you actually tell the truth. There’s no telling how the other person will respond, right?

That is the nature or risk, by the way. You step out. You do your thing. No telling what will happen next.

That’s good. It’s a start.

I have couples (in particular) all the time who want to talk through the hard stuff but they have proven that they have no skill, no means, no history of success talking through the hard stuff. But they insist on doing it. If not in my office, then definitely away from my office.

And they usually have “some productive conversation” and very little real movement.

They have just enough “productive” in the conversation to keep them coming back to do the same old dance. Don’t keep doing that.

Tell the truth.

See if you can boil your point down to the very gist of it, the core, the most important and central, integral, bottom-line expression. See if it can be ONE thing that fits this format:

1. I feel… (and ONE emotion word.)

2. I want (or I don’t want) in ONE sentence. Form it without using the word “you” and let it be about what you want or don’t want in your own life and experience.

Get to the bottom line. Go to the heart of every matter.

And make it actually TRUE.

Here are some true and hard things people are actually dying to say to one another:

I feel scared. I don’t want to lose relationship.

I feel anxious. I want to please my mate. I don’t want to feel rejected or disappointing.

I feel overwhelmed. I don’t want to get 10 years down the road and regret staying together.

I feel petrified. I don’t want to have to forgive something I thought I’d never face.

I feel ashamed. I don’t want to live with the weight of what I’ve done.

There’s a lot of power in telling the truth.

Most of us want to fix it. But don’t. For now. Just let the truth (your truth) be the thing. And listen while the other tries to express theirs. See if you can hear the feeling and the want or don’t want in all the words they’re using.

It’s a start. It’s not the only thing, but it’s the first thing.

And let me know how it’s going.

REPORT

You can read more about communication here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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