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July, 2008:

If There’s Trouble, You Can Resolve It

      Most relationships that go sour are usually sabotaged by poor communication. Whether it is due to someone’s inability (or unwillingness) to be openly expressive or a misinterpretation of emotions, with better tools we can not only salvage certain relationships but enhance all of them. In my book, Relationships for the Intimately Challenged, I provide an overview of how people’s faulty belief systems and scripting lead to the repetition of useless and negative habits. I also point out the value of having a personal definition of success and happiness based on your individual experiences and beliefs rather than on scripts or other limiting codes of behavior. 

     In the series of workshops that I am facilitating right now, I provide some insight into ten techniques that I believe can help resolve most conflicts that come up in any relationship.

·      Pause before speaking

·      Listen to the other person…….no, seriously listen to the other person

·      Avoid accusatory statements based on assumptions

·      Avoid ”should” statements

·      Discuss rules/guidelines rather than impose rules/guidelines

·      Communicate concerns rather than attempt to arbitrarily control behavior

·      Understand the other person’s perspective (kind of an extension of #2)

·      Be willing to walk away to allow emotions to calm

·      NEVER speak out of anger

·      Own your behavior first

       If you are experiencing conflict in any of your relationships, try one or more of these techniques. If you are willing to take action and make the necessary changes in your life you can find the joy you seek in any significant relationship. Never limit yourself with beliefs that no longer serve you.

Walk Thy Talk

Last week I was fortunate to be able to spend a week with my family and fifteen other families on a remote island in British Columbia. When my wife initially approached me about the trip, I was interested in going but I had very little idea of what to expect. I had never been to the northwest or to Canada before and many of the people attending this event I had never met or knew very little. The entire trip involved me stepping outside of my comfort zones. 

From the time we arrived in Seattle my little mind was blown. It’s one thing to be familiar with certain scenes through television, movies, or pictures but to actually SEE Mt. Rainier in the distance is amazing. I had always heard what a beautiful city Vancouver is but now having been there I understand why people describe it that way. As a counselor I constantly advise people to take risks and stretch themselves emotionally so it is wonderful when I am able to walk my talk and put myself around people with whom I am unfamiliar.

I have been on my share of retreats and campouts. They have all been rewarding in their own ways. Each experience has been unique. Each year my family attends at least one conference with other families with whom we can connect, share ideas, and gain validation. But from the first moment, last week was special for me. It combined the escapism of a good retreat or campout with the fellowship of a good conference. The setting provided a beautiful backdrop for what for me was a spiritual experience. Laughter, conversation, and different activities allowed everyone there to be vulnerable with one another. Many were able to share their unique talents for others to enjoy. For my family and me, it allowed us to become even closer to each other and begin some new relationships.

I talk about this a lot, so I will say it again. Take some risks. Do something that you would not normally do. Even if no one else knows about it, make a decision to step out of your comfort zone every day. Say hello to a stranger, take a vacation to somewhere you have never been, or seek advice from someone with whom you have never spoken. Do you really want to make the world a better place? Then do something different!

Learn, Live, Love

Recently I have been in a position to learn a ton of new skills. I have expanded what I do professionally into areas that are relatively unfamiliar to me. What is exciting about these new ventures is the reminder that as human beings we never stop learning. Many people, myself included, fall into patterns in which we feel we have mastered a skill and reach certain plateaus. When this happens we can tend to draw security from the fact that we have “made it.” While I do believe that it is important to develop certain skills in order to provide for oneself and make a positive contribution to society, I also believe that people should not limit themselves.

Learning is exciting. It is an ongoing process that we can either choose to participate in or resist. Certain ideals I felt very strong about 10 years ago have changed. Some have been galvanized. When I reflect on my life, that has always been the case. This is because my experiences, my knowledge, and my perspectives are always evolving. 

The key in the learning process for me is having an open mind. When I have an open mind I am willing to listen to ideas that are different from mine. I am able to see other people’s points of view without becoming immediately defensive. I don’t feel the need to attack those whom I don’t understand. My mind is closed when I live in fear. Fear breeds anger, resentment, and self-righteousness. These negative emotions, which we all experience at times, keep us living in a place that is wrought with self-pity. No one deserves to be this limited and alone.

One of the most self-loving actions I can take today is to stop and listen. When I stop and listen I become aware of those around me. When I am aware, I learn. When I learn, my entire life experience is enhanced. A suggestion I can make that really works for me today is to pay close attention to what you think and talk about. Are your thoughts and words angry? Are they self righteous? Do you find yourself having to angrily prove your point? Do you seek ways that you can be of service to people? All of these questions are important because they will provide a great deal of insight into how you see yourself and others. As you are able to see yourself and others in a more positive light, you will be able to open your mind and learn. Enjoy this experience!

That Which Weighs You Down

I am fortunate to spend the majority of my time around very forward moving people. People who are interested in improving their lives emotionally, spiritually, and emotionally. As a result of this motivation they are able to remain idealistic and positive. There are some common characteristics that people I look up to and respect possess. 

  1. A desire to find a way to learn in any situation, positive or negative
  2. An ability to see the good in people
  3. A drive to recognize the deficiencies in their lives so that they can fix them
  4. Willingness to laugh
  5. Never blaming other people, or their past, for their current situation

I have allowed plenty of people and situations to run my life as a result of my fear,anger, and resentment. The problem is that I never feel good when I am choosing to hold on to these negative emotions. Today I know that my  life is a manifestation of my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.  In my opinion that which weighs a person down more than anything is the unwillingness to let go of past hurts, angers, or resentments.

Most people who are unhappy remain so because of they do not allow themselves to move forward. Sometimes letting go of the past is extremely difficult. I can think of plenty of situations that I believe I was treated unfairly or wrong. There are plenty of people with whom I have disagreed. In order for me to be truly free and happy I have had to let go of the idea that others must change first. I must be willing to own my successes and failures. I must be able to forgive. No one has to live feeling weighed down by fear or negativity. Anyone can let go at any time they choose. It’s a matter of being willing to make that choice.