Category Archives: relationships

Innovation: Why We Need to Connect with Each Other

Click on this post to view a short fun video that shows us that the connected mind is where good ideas come from.

A Brief Lull? Use It!

I was inspired by a couple of blogs on what to do during boring meetings or conference calls. I agree with the writer that if you don’t need to be there, you don’t need to be there. Solve that.

Even in worthwhile, non-boring meetings there are lulls. At a conference, waiting for a talk to begin. A break between phone meetings. The time to sit and think while taking a bus, train, or plane. An alternative to fretting while waiting for that slow download.

The BNET blogger, Laura Vanderkam, got me started with one of her suggestions for a meeting: “Look around the room and think of one genuinely positive thought about each of the participants.” I like that one. You will feel better and you can bet you will have better rapport in your interactions.

You are an energy source. You can take that moment of lull to be aware of the energy you are holding. If it is not what you want to feel or share, take the moment to breathe, listen to your inner dialogue and notice your mental images.

Ask what is needed to shift your mindset. Maybe what will come up is a problem to solve or an irritant you can re-frame or address. There may not be an immediate answer. At least you can label and file it for creative solutions later. Then free your mind to be in the present.

It’s true that changing the inner conversation produces a change in results. Nonetheless, I sometimes find I can’t get much change working at the level of my conscious internal dialogue.

In moments of quiet I may be able to pick up the smaller voice, the little nag or self-criticism that is so familiar I don’t even notice it. Catching that thought during a lull in what I’m doing can lead to a hidden treasure in the form of old programming that I am ready to release. Later I can take time to journal or reflect or counsel with someone to help me let go of the deeper self-sabotage altogether.

Here are a few other handy fallback thoughts for when there’s a lull.

Gratitude List. What am I grateful for today? Right now?

Top Priority. What is my main focus in work or personal life? Keep it in mind in random moments.

Messages to send. To whom do I want to send good wishes, a thank you, just a thought?

Intuition. Open to the sense of knowing, receptive to a deeper awareness. What idea or wisdom comes in as a thought or image? Maybe jot it down or ask further questions and let answers arise.

And the best of all: just breathe and be present. Enjoy being alive in this moment. Put attention on what you are experiencing with all your senses. Hush the voice that says you should be doing something more “productive.”

A brief lull gives us a chance to remember that, as a favorite prayer says, “In this moment, all of my needs are met.” Ahhhhh.

Lucy Freedman interview March 16

Tune in to my interview on Hollis Polk’s internet radio show,
“Your Life, Your Relationships”
on Wed., 3/16 @ 3PM PDT!

Listen live at Progressive Radio Network!

Afterward you will be able to download the podcast at that address.

We will start off with the topic of my latest blog on Integrity –
and who knows where we will go from there!

Also, Hollis takes phone calls from listeners during the show.
Hope you can join us.

Balance: Where’s Your Sweet Spot?

Most of us want to live our lives in a harmonious flow, not underachieving or overdoing. Balancing our goals, the demands of others, what we have to do and what we want to do, is our own personal recipe for satisfaction — or dissatisfaction. It’s good to find the ‘sweet spot’ – the right amount of give and take – to keep ourselves in balance.

We strive for that flow in our day-to-day management of time and priorities. With so much to attend to each day, we have to make a conscious effort to make time to step out and re-balance. That may mean talking with a friend or advisor. It may mean taking a walk or meditating to hear our own inner voice and feel our center.

Balance is a dynamic process, guided by our inner compass of what is important. When in balance, we thrive. We are able to meet our own needs and be responsive to others.

We are thrown off balance when we buy into these myths:
I can (should) make others happy.
Others can (should) make me happy.

The way we get hooked is when these faulty expectations are not met. For instance, we get exhausted by saying yes to make someone happy. We get depressed or angry when others aren’t doing what we want them to. We can go into a spiral of dissatisfaction.

We begin to make a case inside our minds. Either we, or they, are at fault.

Whenever I find myself in an internal dialogue of justification – “She was unreasonable in what she asked; she should know better; it’s not my fault…” – it’s a good clue that I am already out of balance. When I wake up and observe myself in that conversation, it’s an opportunity to go back and see where I lost track of my own values. That will bring me back into balance a lot faster than finally settling whose fault it was.

Of course it does matter how our actions affect other people. People who succeed at relationships AND results are those who balance FOCUS – i.e. keeping your eye on the goal – with FLEXIBILITY – i.e. taking the current situation and other people’s perceptions into account.

At work, sometimes we go off balance with too much focus on our goal and not enough input from others. Sometimes we go off balance with too much flexibility: consulting everyone and not forwarding the action. Consider how implicit beliefs about making each other happy or unhappy may be creating an imbalance.

Actions that create balance take the form of clear requests and agreements. Asking and saying yes or no are skills to cultivate in personal life as well as in business.

The way we know that we have found the right balance for ourselves is that it feels sweet!

"That’s Not What I Meant!"

Impact – Not Intent – Is What Matters

Most of the time, we really don’t want to irritate or upset the people with whom we communicate. Misunderstandings and hurt feelings happen anyway, and we have our own personal syntax that shows up in how we respond to them.

In a conversation at O’Reilly Media’s Web 2.0 Summit last week, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg spoke about how they are managing privacy and user control issues as Facebook becomes nearly ubiquitous. It provided an interesting angle on the impact of our communications on other people.

On Facebook or any electronic messaging system, you make judgments about who will want to receive what messages. The Web 2.0 Summit discussion focused on who gets to control ‘opting in.’

If your friend wants to send you something – or put you into a group where any group member can send you something – the friend is gauging what you want to receive.

This weekend I received about 20 messages in a language I don’t speak, because a friend included me in a group of mostly Croatian psychologists. It was a curiosity, not a nuisance, to me, illustrating the ripples we send across our global network. If it multiplied I would for sure be opting out!

On Facebook, we can opt out, often without letting the sender know. We may have to set controls in order to keep some sanity in our inboxes. Our friends may or may not know whether or how their messages are received.

At a personal level, when we are communicating face-to-face or voice-to-voice, we are gauging our listener’s interests and state of mind as we express ourselves. People may opt out and we can probably tell when they do!

Whatever our intention, sometimes others will respond in an unexpected and possibly unhappy way. It’s part of being
human that we can’t always gauge how our listener will take something.

A big differentiator of mature communicators is being accountable not just for your intention, but for the impact on the other person.

A friend confided in me about a breakdown in a new dating relationship. When the guy insisted she had confirmed a date that was only tentative in her mind, she checked with a third party who heard the conversation to ensure that she remembered it correctly. Even though she was right, he hadn’t heard it that way.

Surely, if he consistently hears something she hasn’t said, she may want to opt out altogether. In the short term, what is important is the impact, not her intention.

Being right in this case would just continue a dispute that is probably unnecessary. Right and wrong are pretty much irrelevant in misunderstandings. What’s relevant is to clear it up going forward, not going backward.

As you spend time with people you know well this week, you may want to be especially aware of your impact. If you hear yourself beginning to defend your intention, “That’s not what I meant,” consider reframing and putting your attention on what the other person received. That is what will determine how the communication proceeds from there.

To get the ball rolling, a gentle, “What did you hear me say?” (NOT accusatory, please) can tell you what the meaning of your communication was for the other person.

For good communication, it’s impact, not intention, that matters.

Communicators’ Rule No. 1

What is the biggest obstacle we face when we are dealing with a communication breakdown? Whether it’s the spouse not doing XYZ when they said they would, the boss who isn’t hearing how overloaded we are, or the customer being difficult, we can be blocked by the “common cold” of communication: making someone wrong.

In our own thinking, we document our side of the case and its reasonableness. Of course we are right. That means the other person must be wrong. What is up with them?

Discussions intended to prove our position and clear everything up – just speaking my truth, you know – don’t have a high rate of success.

Years ago I learned from master teacher David Crump, in his famous Essential Experience Workshop, to remember Rule No. 1.

It is simply, “No one is made wrong.”

This was especially challenging for people who were tapping into anger and disappointment from their childhoods, or people who were certain that if the other person in their life would just change, things would be fine. When we heard stories that would lead us to judge someone as hopelessly and maybe harmfully wrong, David would suggest that we all “take a bath in Rule No. 1.”

Sitting with the intention to make no one wrong eventually produced a deeper, different way of resolving the issue. Often it led to a healing that had seemed impossible.

Most of the time, we run more subtle versions of making people wrong. It’s an easy trap to fall into when something is not working out according to expectations – or when we are not clear ourselves or are afraid of speaking up.

Even more insidious is how we make ourselves wrong. “No one is made wrong” includes us.

Three things to keep in mind about this right-wrong bias:

1. It always has a cost. Whatever your argument, whatever your “rightness” in the situation, being right will come at the cost of someone being wrong. That will come back to bite you one way or another.
2. You do not need to give up your position, your choices, or your perceptions. Knowing that the other person has different perceptions doesn’t mean that one is right and one is wrong.
3. Getting hooked is an opportunity to learn. When you find yourself stewing or feeling old familiar feelings, use the opportunity to catch the thread of one of your own old stories: how you are a victim or how other people don’t measure up. By yourself or with a skillful friend or therapist, follow the thread and release energy that has been bound up in that story.

As a communicator, the first and perhaps most helpful thing you can do in communication breakdowns is to invoke Rule No. 1. The process of adopting it may take a little while. Once people get there, there is room for everyone to be heard. Forward motion becomes more likely.

This is a good time of year to bring Rule No. 1 into our conscious awareness, as shorter days, family gatherings, and work demands may all bring up sensitive feelings and interpersonal pressures.

While you’re feeling buoyant and anticipating the coming months, set yourself a reminder that when things start to get touchy, no one – including yourself – will be made wrong. It’s quite possible that this will lead to a new level of mutual understanding.

What I love about Transactional Analysis (TA)

For those who came of age after the 70’s, Transactional Analysis is probably not even on the radar screen. TA, known for the widespread memes of ‘I’m OK – You’re OK,’ ‘Inner Child,’ ‘Life Scripts,’ and ‘Games People Play,’ had a profound impact on personal growth, psychotherapy, and even the EST seminars which have morphed over time into Forum and Landmark. TA is one of the Communication Models I was studying when I gave the name Communication Modeling to the profession of learning how to make work and personal relationships successful.

Just today in a life-coaching session I rediscovered what it is that I love so much about TA.

My client wants to design a life in which she will be happy. We talk about what is going on now in her life, including visits to her family, which provide insight also into her past.

With TA language, and the knowledge about how we develop our individual personalities against a backdrop of family and culture, I could speak directly to and about the Child, and the Parent and Adult, that form a whole grownup personality. The profound realizations, the next steps for my client as the resourceful woman she is, the understanding of how things make sense from a Child point of view, open doors to designing that life that she wants to lead.

The issues that block her are very clear and workable from this perspective. She can own complete responsibility for her actions and what she wants while I can provide new information that she did not receive the first time around.

Her grownup self can take care of her child self in such a way that she keeps the best of her early parenting and adds new aspects that give her consistent internal support.

Rather than getting caught up in the stories about the others in her life and how they are treating her, we can work from the center out. She can see the concentric circles of how she recreates old patterns. And she can learn what to do about it.

TA is known for simple, direct language. But it is not simplistic; it is understandable and recognizable to real human beings. It takes a decent amount of training to be good with TA, as with anything. It aims at high ideals, at healthy development, ok-ok relationships, autonomy and interdependence.

Although TA did not get a lasting foothold in academic psych, it is being taught and learned by people and helping professionals around the world. Perhaps the people who establish standards for counseling and psychotherapy – not to mention life coaching -are missing out on a major stepping stone when they overlook TA.

The USA Transactional Analysis association is launching introductory TA trainings around the country, as well as co-sponsoring a conference on Redecision Therapy and TA in November in New Orleans (go to www.redecisionconference.org for more info.).
As a coach, therapist, counselor… or modeler of communication, it’s worth checking out.