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Get the Patch or Take the Pill: Simple Tools to Enhance Relationships

One great feature of any cruise is that there are several excursions available at  different ports of call.  In St. Maarten, Royal Caribbean offers one called Snuba. “Snuba” is basically diving that doesn’t require certification. A tank sits on a raft and there are several tubes coming out attached to breathing regulators. Each person gets a regulator and can dive up to 20 feet.

On the day my family decided to “snuba”, the sea was a little rough. My wife, Wendy,  has a tendency to get seasick and she had mentioned that fact several times. But she was ill-prepared. There are several methods to avoid sea-sickness but Wendy chose to ignore them all. As we rode out to the snorkel and snuba spot, the little boat started rocking. I watched as Wendy’s complexion changed from normal, to Casper the Friendly Ghostish, to a not so flattering Incredible Hulk green. There were others who were a bit worse, but Wendy had it pretty bad.

The point is that in any relationship there is always a solution. There is always something that can be done to insure everyone’s best interests are met. This can be as challenging as sitting down for hours to hash out an agreement; sometimes it is as simple as agreeing with the person sitting across from you. If people are willing to be patient and take the time to communicate and work together, a solution will be found. Even if the end result is the relationship coming to an end, with preparation and communication the solution settled upon will be best for all concerned.

For example, those who are doing well in the current economic climate are people who get themselves out of the worrisome, scarcity driven mind set and ask for help. People who seek solutions rather than wait for disaster to strike before taking action. The businesses in which people take the pill or put the patches behind their ear are experiencing more success because they are prepared and take preventative measures. Individuals who are motivated by moving forward and creating relationships based in love and positivity find people who support their success. They are driven by solutions more than they are driven by fear.

Keep yourself prepared, that’s what “Get the Patch or Take the Pill” means. Just like Wendy could have easily avoided becoming sea sick, any person or business can steer clear of unnecessary conflict by taking simple measures:

  • Be clear about your definition of success and happiness
  • Make it a priority to surround yourself with people who support you and provide you with accountability
  • Evaluate your relationships regularly

Creating happy and joyful partnerships isn’t always as daunting a process as it seems. Most of the time it simply takes clarity,commitment, and flexibility. When situations are more complex, having a positive attitude can make the difference in how quickly a resolution is found. Your mind-set is something over which you always have control.

Don’t Get Caught Buck Naked (or Nekkid)

“Don’t Get Caught Buck Naked.” Sounds like some pretty sound relationship advice, doesn’t it? In fact, this tool is effective in just about any relationship you can conceive; professional, friendship, parent to child, child to parent, or (unfortunately) some marriages and romances. I learned this valuable lesson, and how to apply this technique in relationships, through an embarrassing and avoidable situation.

How We Got There

In March of 2009  I went on a cruise with my in-laws Bob and Joy,my wife, and daughter. We had adjacent staterooms so we asked the attendant to open the divider between our balconies in order to have a mega-balcony for everyone to enjoy. This set up worked out great with the exception of one unfavorable encounter.

The Situation

When I get dressed I tend to take my time and dawdle a bit. This is especially true if I’m going to be wearing a suit. On one of the formal nights I had the room to myself and was just out of the shower. I took advantage of the opportunity to take my time and air dry. There I was, walking around buck naked not even considering the possibility of someone walking by the sliding glass door. I didn’t look to see if the blinds were closed. The last thing I expected to see was Bob standing at the door, frozen in place. But that is precisely what I saw. As our eyes locked, I realized the current physical state I was in.  I suddenly became conscious of the situation and immediately dropped to the floor yelling “Naked!” as he turned his back to the door.

The Lesson Learned

Of course, we never spoke of this again but I was able to learn some valuable lessons.

  1. In  any relationship, clear and honest communication is critical. The only way another human being can be aware of our wants, needs, or our boundaries is to be clear in our communication. Had I communicated clearly to my in-laws that they may want to knock before popping in front of our door, we could have avoided an embarrassing situation.
  2. If you are up front and clear with people you engage on any level, there are no misunderstandings.
  3. To have successful  relationships you must know where your partner stands and what is important to them.

For any relationship to work, the lines of communication must be wide open. This can’t be a one-way street. Both sides need to be open and both sides must listen. That way no one gets caught buck-naked.

Three Techniques To Improve Listening Skills: Listen to Connect

There is a time and a place to share your opinions. You have developed your perspectives from the many experiences you have gathered throughout your life. The lessons you have learned allow you to be of service to others who may benefit from your knowledge. In order to impart this information effectively, you must first be able to listen.

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”

~ Ralph Nichols

I am willing to bet you have never gotten into trouble for listening too much! In fact, your ability to be consciously attentive is what enables you to connect with those you love on a much deeper level. When you take the time to truly listen to whoever is speaking to you, the necessary response (if any) becomes clearer. Clarity is created for both of you when you are present for someone who needs to talk.

Connections are more easily made by effective listening

Techniques to improve listening:

  • Make eye contact, or if you are on the phone, turn off the TV, computer and take time out during your conversation to give your full attention.
  • Don’t try to “read between the lines.” If you aren’t sure about something, ask for clarity. Curiosity can create clarity for both of you.
  • Let go of any judgment you may have about the conversation. See it as an opportunity to connect with another person, instead of a debate.

Listening is a skill to practice. It can be difficult at first, so go easy on yourself. Just keep practicing because if close connections are a priority for you, it is definitely something worth doing well.

Photo by: bisgovuk via: Flickr

Intellect Over Emotion: Successful Business Relationships


As an employer, I depend upon my employees having a 100 percent commitment to their jobs. They depend on me having a 100 percent commitment to mine. As a result of these commitments, we have strong work relationships.

A successful business is built on strong relationships.

Whether it is the employer to employee, co-worker to co-worker, or the business’ relationship with its clients, a business cannot succeed without all of these relationships functioning in a positive manner.

A business relationships’ success is predicated on an individual’s ability to be 100 percent committed to it. If the relationship was viewed as 50/50, one party would be in a position to do nothing but react to what the other party is doing. When people are reactive, their emotions are overriding their intellect. As a result of this dynamic, solid decisions are more difficult to make.

Intellect before emotion!

Business relationships sometimes begin as a result of emotional attraction. However, an honest assessment of compatibility must be made. As in any other relationship, the emotions are only one consideration. Here are some simple questions to answer when evaluating a business, or any other, relationship:

  • What value do I bring to the other person, what do I have to offer?
  • What value does the other person offer me?
  • How will this partnership benefit everyone involved?

Having the ability to answer these questions honestly will have a dramatic affect on your success. Any relationship should provide benefits to all involved parties.

Achieving a balance between emotional motivation and sound judgement is a challenge. Without finding this balance it is difficult to build and maintain relationships that have merit. Take the time to think through why you are involving yourself with something or someone. Know what your values are and stick by them. In your business and personal life these attributes will benefit you.

Lessons From Modern Technology


So I was having one of those mornings. The kind where a series of events unfold that challenge your ability to stay peaceful and serene. You know, those times you shouldn’t be permitted to interact with other humans. Allow me to explain:

This week, after months of diligent research and the purposeful delay of gratification, I purchased a MacBook Pro. This was a wise purchase, by the way, the computer is awesome. However, there have been some hiccups along the way.

First of all, the package holding my new prized possession arrived on Wednesday. I had eagerly tracked the shipment and expected its prompt delivery. U.P.S. is the best. As I excitedly unwrapped my newest instrument of technology, visions of new found creativity ran through my head. I couldn’t wait to connect the old computer to the new one and unleash the power I knew this beast of a machine would deliver. What I didn’t anticipate was…… a different size FireWire oulet.

Seriously, my long awaited date with my BRAND NEW COMPUTER was being delayed by having the wrong size cord (insert your own joke here)! “Oh well, what’s another day,” I said to myself.

The next day, yesterday, I drove to the local Apple Store with complete confidence that they would have the precise cord I needed. After all, they had always stocked any product I was in search of in the past. I love that store. Much to my chagrin, they were out of the 6-9 FireWire cable. This was a travesty. The young lady at the Apple Store was kind enough to recommend a couple of electronic stores who may carry the cord I sought. After three more stops, the cord was mine!

Yesterday afternoon I began the process of information transferal. With my brand new, right sized cord I began. I was proud of my patience, it’s usually difficult for me to temper my excitement. After a few hours the transfer, registration, and other odds and ends, were complete. My speedy computer journey had begun!

Alas, this morning my entry into the world of technological superiority received a severe blow. The machine operated slower than my first IBM word processor. It did not respond to anything. In my annoyance, frustration, and disappointment, I called on my knight in shining armor, my wife Wendy. Any sophisticated technological issue I have ever had, she has been able to solve. Wendy is much brighter than me. As she patiently called Apple customer service, I paced the room like an expectant father outside of  a delivery room. To relieve my angst, I picked up my guitar to strum for a minute, a little creative stress relief. Of course, the guitar was horribly out of tune. As I turned the keys to bring the strings to their optimum pitch, the high E string snapped. IT SNAPPED. All I wanted was five minutes of mindless relaxation after a severe bout of disappointment and helplessness, but the six year old, overly stretched, and under-used high E string had the AUDACITY to snap. Unbelievable.

Wendy knows me very well. She saw me gently (yeah right) place the guitar on its stand and get up. She then gave me a look. I immediately took a breath and calmed down. It wasn’t a look of anger or an expression of fear. It was simply an understanding, “Dude your being an idiot” kind of a look.She knows me very well and I was able to quickly recognize what I was doing and change my behavior.

I learned a lot from this entire situation. Here are a few of the more valuable lessons:

  • the MacBook Pro is awesome and worth the wait
  • U.P.S. kicks serious a**
  • when I build up too much expectation and get overly excited I set myself up to react negatively
  • my wife knows how immature I really am and what a tool I can be
  • it is really important to let the people in my life know me well because my wife isn’t always there

From the simplest situations come the greatest lessons. It is fun to see the areas of my life in which I need improvement. I am grateful to have relationships with people who are as interested in loving their lives as I am. It leads to a lot of excitement and many good times.

Photo Credit : CCBImages via Flickr (although the photo kind of looks like me, it isn’t me)

Commitment is the Key


Elena found herself in an extremely difficult situation. After making the decision to change the dynamic of a relationship with a long-term supplier, she realized it would be a tough sell. Elena wanted to alter the connection because she had noticed a degree of mistrust in her dealings with the supplier, and she thought she knew why.
Elena had completed “Relationships for the Intimately Challenged” and decided to seek consultation from me in order to improve her business relationships. Particularly interested in examining relationships, Elena had discovered when interactions are viewed as 50/50 someone is always in a state of reaction and someone is always keeping score.
“It is impossible to maintain a true attitude of trust and service if both parties view the relationship as 50/50,” Elena explained, adding “I knew this supplier viewed us with a degree of paranoia. From their perspective, they believed if a problem ever arose, we would simply take their expertise and find a cheaper alternative to rectify the problem.”
Because Elena was aware of the supplier’s fears, she came up with a simple plan.
“I knew that I would need to be very clear in the explanation of my company’s commitment to their service,” Elena said. “I worked very close with the supplier to create some shared objectives, which I knew would illustrate that we were partners and show my 100 percent commitment to our shared success.”
This relationship included several components, such as equipment, processes and maintenance. Several people were involved. However, my client knew if the department heads were on the same page and dedicated, they would be able to work together.
The first time there was a major problem – an equipment breakdown – these new commitments were put to the test. The knee-jerk reaction was to start finger pointing and determine who was to blame. Was it the supplier’s responsibility for providing faulty equipment or systems? Was it my client’s company’s fault as a result of poor maintenance?
Of course it was important to figure out where the problem started, but both sides realized that in order to have a true partnership they must work together to identify the problem and develop a solution.
“The initial conversations were a bit contentious,” Elena said. “But, because I was aware of the supplier’s fears, I was able to reiterate my commitment to our relationship. I realized it was a little difficult for the supplier to completely buy what I was saying, so I put it in writing and sent it to him.”
Elena believed it was important to shift the nature of the relationship and create a system of accountability. As a result of her clear assurance, the supplier was able to relax. But the supplier’s change didn’t stop there.
“After receiving my written explanation, the supplier was a little blown away,” Elena explained.
“They were so impressed that they agreed to replace the equipment at a reduced cost and provide additional support. I wasn’t necessarily seeking this kind of solution, but I certainly took it!” she continued.
This story illustrates the importance of viewing any relationship as a commitment. Although Elena would have been disappointed had the partnership dissolved, she would be able to walk away knowing she did everything in her power to make it a success. Because of Elena’s commitment, the supplier was able to build trust, which made the supplier willing to go the extra mile to provide quality service.
Always be aware of your level of commitment in a relationship. When you focus on your value, commitment and strength, you will create an atmosphere of trust and mutuality. In the end, everyone is a success.

Photo credit: Eschipul via:Flickr

Improve Any Relationship (Even Those at Work)

Last week I had the opportunity to facilitate a seminar at Advanced Services, a pest control company in Augusta, Georgia. I was invited by Jeff Annis, the owner, to speak about healthy communication in the work place. Jeff didn’t invite me due to problems at Advanced, he simply wanted to see if there were ways in which they could improve the communication on the management team. Based on my interview with Jeff and his general manager, Pat VanHooser, I developed a plan of action for the day.

I came up with “Five Techniques to Improve Any Relationship (Even Those at Work)”. Over the next month I will go through each technique in a blog post, a short video, and a podcast. This is valuable information and I want to share it in whatever medium is best for you. So check in periodically and you will have the opportunity to learn about these Five Techniques. Here they are:

  1. Listen, No Really Listen, to the Other Person
  2. Avoid Contempt Prior to Investigation, If You Think Something……Ask!
  3. Remember You Don’t Work in a Community of Mind Readers
  4. Warm Fuzzies vs. Real Change
  5. Understand then Be Understood

All of these techniques are tried and true. They do work. They apply to any relationship. I will explain them in a work environment context but don’t allow that to exclude your participation. I’ll check in soon!

Clear Communication


My mother sent me a survey the other day she needed to complete for a school project. The questions were interesting so I decided to share it to see what kind of responses I get. These kinds of discussions provide a tremendous amount of insight into our perceptions of each other and what we think is important. I hope you enjoy answering these as much as I did. Feel free to invite as many people as you would like to participate. I look forward to your answers!

1.    Why do you think men and women have difficulty communicating with one another?

2.    Where or how do you think the breakdown in communication occurs?

3.    Is this an inborn trait or a learned trait? Please explain your response.

4.    Does this problem exist at all ages? Please explain your response.

5.    Do you think that this inability to clearly communicate will ever be resolved? Please explain.

6.    What would be your solution to solving this problem?

Hopefully the questions don’t sound too much like an assignment. Remember to go with your first response, not what you think others would want you to say. Enjoy!

I Turned Out O.K.

In my book, Relationships for the Intimately Challenged, I discuss limiting beliefs that affect people’s relationships at length. One of the main points I get into is negative scripting patterns that families hold on to in order to maintain security and the status quo. These scripting patterns are made abundantly clear through the ways adults view children and child rearing.

One of the most common limiting beliefs, and justifications for the mis-treatment of children, is “That’s how I was raised and I turned out o.k.” First of all, kudos to anyone who is able to rise above environmental limitations in order to create a life which is wrought with success and happiness. People with this kind of transcendent nature are not the ones who use this statement. The”I turned out o.k.” defense is normally reserved for the angry and jealous power hungry adult who yearns for the glory days of yester year when the rod was not spared and the child was not spoiled. You know him(or her), they’re the people with the terminal scowl on their face, their nose ever so slightly turned to the air.

My problem with the “I turned out o.k.” mode of parenting is that anger is justified with “love.”  Emotionally irresponsible adults give themselves permission to act out angrily towards those who rely on them for security because children need to know “who’s in charge.” We all need the security of parameters, no doubt. However, to assume that children’s feelings are less important than those of adults is indeed dangerous.

We learn how to process emotions and respond appropriately as a result of experience in combination with guidance. Children who are raised in an environment in which their feelings are less valid than those of adults will find a way to be heard.If a child chooses this route it is rarely positive. My suggestion is to be in a position in which you are able and have a desire to communicate ( speak and listen) to your children. You will see far more results from clear communication than from adhering to the antiquated “because I’m the adult, that’s why” mentality.

With all due respect to those in denial, the world is a different place today. To pine for the values of generations past is a waste of time and energy. It is also squandering an opportunity to open yourself up to a world which is ever-changing. Younger generations respect older generations because of the wisdom and experience they share. It is not because of the older generations ability to enforce it’s will. Every generation believes the world was better way back when. It wasn’t. It was a time that helped to create the perception of a collective mind-set. One of the keys to effective and loving parenting is the ability to adapt to the world in which we live today.

Tell Me What You Think

I would love to hear your opinions on a couple of questions. Comment and read other’s comments. 

  1. What quality is MOST important to you in a spouse?
  2. What quality do you believe is most important to nurture in children?
  3.  Which of your relationships provides insight into your definition of happiness?
  4. What defines success for you TODAY?

To help out, here are my answers:

  1. Honesty
  2. clear and compassionate communication skills
  3. my relationships at home
  4. mental clarity

Have fun and feel free to share this with others!