Dealing with Poor Communicators

Anyone who has achieved a level of success, whether someone in a career job, in a relationship, in education or as a business owner, has dealt with any number of challenges in their journey to get there. One of those challenges has to do with communication.  We’ve talked before about how essential communication is and that everyone screws up on communicating from time to time.  Communication is also something that we are (or should be) learning and working on from the day we’re born to the day we die.

The communication challenge that I want to talk about today is dealing with people who are poor communicators. These are people who refuse to justify their thoughts, just speak from the hip and never consider what they’re spewing out of their mouth, or talk about you behind your back (i.e. post a negative review about you/your service/your company without even trying to resolve it, complain to a supervisor and don’t try to discuss it with you etc.).

The first step to success in these situations is something that everyone can do whether they’re skilled at communication or not, is the practice of patience.  The second is something we’ve talked about in the past, and it’s the skill of asking questions.  When you put even just these 2 skills together, you’ve got the ability to work through many challenging communications.  Add to that some solid communication skills and you’ve got a better chance at either navigating the challenge, or dealing with the aftermath and coming out less destroyed than you might.

Some people are just happy to vent and really don’t care if things get resolved.  Some people just like to find problems and issues and again, don’t care about a resolution.  Fortunately I’ve found that both of those types of people are in the minority, and that given the chance most people do want to resolve things and are open to talking things through.

I’m not a communications expert yet, I’ve got lots to learn.  But with each new conversation I have, blog post I read, and video I watch I’m being exposed to lessons that I can learn from and apply to my life and conversations in the future. What have you been learning in your conversations lately?


Getting Past Anger and Conflicts

Every relationship has challenges, whether we’re talking romantic relationships (aka partnerships) or that of a relationship between parent and child or even the types of relationships between friends or between boss and coworker.  One of the greatest obstacles that a person has to overcome in a relationship is the challenge of conflict and choice to respond in anger, or to just give up because you’re afraid of conflict. Today’s Dr. Wayne Dyer inspiration is a simple but powerful one:

“It is impossible for you to be angry and laugh at the same time. Anger and laughter are mutually exclusive and you have the power to choose either.”

It can be so tempting to just let things get worse and worse.  It’s almost too easy to hang onto our anger and the feelings of frustration, rage and irritation that fill us when we’re angry.  Most of us don’t have the gift of holding onto laughter.  We get looked at as not taking life seriously if we’re laughing all the time. Sometimes we laugh so we don’t feel the pain or to avoid our responsibilities, but all too often we don’t laugh enough, or at the very least we’re not happy.

Many of the kids TV shows and movies, both past and present, do a good job of showing both the happy and the challenging.  There’s usually an obstacle or two to overcome, but there’s a lot of fun to be had too.  Somehow that’s one of the things we seem to forget as we get older: that life can be fun and isn’t just about the responsibilities (but the responsibilities can’t be forgotten either).

But back to anger: I believe too many of us let anger rule our lives.  We let it get in there and it sticks.  So this weekend and coming week I challenge you to take notice when your anger starts to rev up and take a step or two back instead of letting it take over.  Ask for a moment, take a physical step away, or finally take action on what you’ve let stew for a long time so that you can get to truly living and enjoying life.

Educating for Convenience?

We live in an age of modern conveniences. I’m a big fan of many of them, especially grocery stores, email and indoor bathrooms. It’s great to be able to use a search engine and get a bunch of instant responses to your question (hopefully you’ve input the right question and the right results show up). However, I’m concerned by something I see increasingly in adults (and kids) with all of these advances and instant responses: laziness. Now, I’m not against taking time off or relaxing or necessarily even shortcuts. However, I am not a fan of the people who expect to have everything handed to them causing extra work for others when they could easily find the answer or do it themselves in about 5 seconds.

As a parent part of your responsibility is to teach your kids to fend for themselves. That means giving them the education and tools necessary to be equipped for whatever life may throw at them. One of the most valuable tools my parents passed on to me was my reading skills. TV was definitely a thing when I was a kid and I have learned a lot watching it, but I have learned so much more from reading. Reading has given me more power and knowledge than the TV ever could. Reading has empowered me to ask questions, to learn to research and even the lesson and value of patience.

Directly tied in with reading as I mentioned is the lesson of patience. Some things have to happen in stages, that’s just the way it is. Yes, we can take some shortcuts and can find ways to speed up many processes, but for many other things the only way or the best way to get from A to Z is by going through all 26 letters. I don’t believe there’s a shortcut that can be taken when building trust, growing relationships or becoming an adult (regardless of whether you’re an ‘old soul’ or not).

If you teach your kids that all the answers are out there if they’re willing to take the adventure, do the work, try new things, find the solutions, have the conversations and do the reading, you’ll equip them to conquer just about any challenge they will face as an adult, whether you’re there to help them through it or not. Don’t teach them to be the person who asks what’s in a “#1 breakfast combo” when the answer is clearly printed on the screen outside the car window, on the menu on the wall or in the printed menu. Teach them to think up ways to create needles that don’t hurt chronically ill kids so much, or get water from Texas to California, or bring back the dodo bird, and empower them to make the world a better place.

Learning Patience

This month our topic is patience.  As I was reading through emails I discovered that I’m not the only one thinking about patience this month, Seth Godin is too.  His post was a great reminder of one of the best things about patience: it can be learned.  So today I thought we’d take a look at this and talk about how we can learn patience.

The first thing that we have to be aware of, and it may seem obvious, is that we are in control of how much patience there is in our lives.  For those of us who are perpetually impatient, it’s a habit, one that you’ve developed over time.  For those of us who tend to be patient, again, it’s a habit that we’ve developed over time.  So if you are tired of being angry and frustrated all the time and want a little more peace in your life, maybe it’s time to develop your patience skills.

Unfortunately I don’t think going cold-turkey is a possibility.  Patience can only be developed over time, one moment at a time.  You can choose to tackle your biggest challenge first or you can start with something smaller.  For example if you’re impatient when it comes to food and always pick the food you can get your hands on the quickest, you can start by picking just one meal/snack of the day to be more patient (and healthy and cheaper) about putting together and build from there.  Of course the big patience challenge for most of us are the people in our lives, those we have personal relationships with and those who we interact with in much more casual ways like at coffeehouses and on the road.  If you really struggle to be patient with people and really want to conquer the patience challenge, pick the place or time where you struggle most and interact with most often, like in the morning trying to get your kids out the door or at night trying to get them to bed or while you’re out driving on the road, and work on being a little more patient each time you face that challenge.

So how can we learn to be more patient? Some of us can just think about it or give ourselves an attitude adjustment.  Other people like to use post-its or other visible reminders in high-stress locations to refocus on being patient (for example by the coffee pot or on your dashboard).  A favorite tactic for stalling and gathering your patience rather than exploding with the usual response is counting to 5 or 10.  Don’t knock it because it sounds childish, do it because it works.  The reason it works is because it gives you the time to back off from the response you were going to give and gives you the chance to respond differently.  And if you’re still struggling after putting up visible signs, giving yourself an attitude adjustment and counting to 10, it’s probably time for an accountability partner, someone who may be working on their own patience challenge, or can just keep you focused on yours.

How will you practice your patience this week?

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

This month one of the topics we’ll be talking a lot about is patience.  Sometimes it’s good and necessary to be patient, other times we should move quicker and/or let go of things quicker than we do.  Today though I want to focus on that classic saying about patience: slow and steady wins the race.  We’re all in a big hurry to get somewhere, get something done, meet someone or even be someone.  It’s not a bad thing to have a goal that you’re working towards and be really excited about getting there. In fact, that’s a good thing.  But sometimes when you’re excited about reaching the finish line you skip over essential steps in the journey, maybe even jeopardizing the end result you were hoping for.

Slow and steady means that first and foremost you’re taking your time to create and follow a checklist or list of steps.  It means that you’re making sure you’re doing things right so that the end result is what you were hoping for.  Cooking is a great example of the importance of slow and steady.  If you do any cooking you’ve probably tried to rush a few recipes, maybe by throwing in a “splash” of milk instead of measuring the exact amount the recipe (or box) calls for.  As a result you may end up watering down the recipe which could alter the other flavors you’ve added, causing you to either suffer through a not-great recipe, or try to fix it by adding other ingredients.  Your additions may help the recipe turn out great, or not so great, but if you had only taken a couple of extra seconds to do the measuring it would have turned out as expected and no fixing would be required.

Patience, and the concept of slow and steady, doesn’t mean that you have to stop.  It is more about being more intentional about the steps you take and how you do them than waiting and not doing anything.  If you’re waiting around patiently for things to happen, make sure that you’re not supposed to be doing things at a slow and steady pace, or that there aren’t other things you could be doing.  For example if you’re patiently waiting for a job (and filling out applications on a daily basis whenever possible and going on interviews), there are probably lots of things that you’ve been putting off doing around your home or in your life like balancing your checkbook, cleaning and organizing or exercising or hobbies, or even super relevant activities like learning things that can boost your resume.  So in between patiently doing and waiting for applications and interviews, get going on those other things because you’ll feel better about yourself and better care for yourself, and won’t feel as frustrated about not working because you’ll be using your time well.

Let’s take this month one day at a time!

Making Time for Quiet Time

Life has been a little crazy these past few weeks and my work schedule has definitly taken some hits.  How do you deal with it when life gets crazy?  You know, when your kids get sick the morning of a big presentation, or they have this big project you knew nothing about that’s due at the end of the week, or when your partner suddenly has a trip to take for work and leaves you with things you were going to do together.  Basically: life.  And heaven forbid if you have something going on in your life too on top of what goes on with your family like being sick or extended family stuff, right?!

I was reading an article the other day about how a family vacation almost never is a real “vacation” where people relax and rejuvenate, it’s only when couples go alone or people go alone that it is a real vacation.  I think family vacations are very important and some of my best memories of growing up are of family vacations.  But I also remember the times when we were dropped off at my grandparents for a week and my parents had some alone time, even if they were just at home without us.  We all enjoyed those times too.

A big part of life is learning to navigate the lumps and bumps, the relationships, the interpersonal differences, the questions of kids and all the unpredictables and unknowns we can’t anticipate.  If you can’t learn how to deal with it or manage it, it will manage you and sooner or later you’ll look around and wonder where your life has gotten to without you.  With school winding down and summer coming up soon you’re probably thinking about time off, whether you have kids or not.  Take time to be alone this summer.  Set up time each day that you have a few minutes alone, and if possible get your kids to do the same.  Maybe they’re too old for naps but that doesn’t mean that can’t read for 30 minutes or an hour or do a puzzle or color or another quiet activity, and give you some time alone.  Don’t feel bad or like a failure for needing alone time and making time to be alone, it’s healthy to be with people as well as to have time for yourself.

Thankful to Wait

Today I want to talk about a funny topic: being thankful for having to wait.  I know, this sounds like it belongs on my Friday “Reality Reflection” blog posts, and maybe in the future it will be a topic there.  But today I wanted to share about being thankful for the times we have to wait.  Waiting isn’t easy and it’s not always fun. More often than not we have to wait when we think that things should move much quicker than they are.  But waiting has a purpose that in our impatience and fast-living society we forget about or ignore.

We wait because food doesn’t grow instantly.  We wait because we can’t all have green lights.  We wait because we can’t all check out at the store at the same time.  We wait because a baby isn’t instantly fully formed.  We wait because if we had everything all at once we’d have a lot of expense and no reason to keep living.  We wait because trust isn’t instantly built.  We wait because if we were just handed everything we wouldn’t learn how to do things for ourselves.

Waiting can teach us lots of great things if we’re open to learning, but most of us get so frustrated with the waiting that we miss out on the lessons.   Waiting teaches us how to do things, it teaches us patience, it gives us the chance to cultivate relationships and it gives us the chance to enjoy life.  But when we get so wrapped up in being frustrated or thinking that we have to wait to get anything waiting turns from a tool and resource to something we trip over and try to avoid.

So today, yes, I’m thankful because waiting gives me time to get perspective and take a step back from barreling through or into situations I’m not ready for.   I try to take advantage of the waiting time that is inevitable whether in being productive or just enjoying being alive.  The next time you have to wait for something try to stop yourself from panicking or rushing and find something to be thankful for.

Mistake Mentors

In life we all make mistakes, I discovered a few of mine in the past few days and have been working to rectify them, so today I thought I’d share some inspiration about not being perfect, about working with what went wrong and about accepting yourself for who you are, mistakes and all.

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” Marilyn Monroe

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”  Judy Garland

“If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire—then you got a problem. Everything else is inconvenience. Life is inconvenient. Life is lumpy. Learn to separate the inconveniences from the real problems. You will live longer.” Sigmund Wollman

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” Elbert Hubbard

“It was when I found out I could make mistakes that I knew I was on to something.” Ornette Coleman

“That’s not serious, it’s just human.” Jerry Kopke

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” John Powell

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Albert Einstein

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” Walter Elliott

“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.”  Harriet Braiker

“It is very easy to forgive others their mistakes; it takes more grit to forgive them for having witnessed your own.” Jessamyn West

“Make bold choices and make mistakes. It’s all those things that add up to the person you become.” Angelina Jolie

What are your wise words on making mistakes?

Discovering the Whole Story

Every story has two sides, or at least those that involve just 2 people do.  I’m a big believer in the truth, I don’t like being lied to and I don’t really see the point of beating around the bush most of the time.  Yes, sometimes a little lie or partial truth is the way to go rather than being in your face honest about some things, but that’s usually because we’re not really good with our words and haven’t learned how to put things diplomatically, or we haven’t learned how to take criticism and honesty, but most of the time it’s just better to go with the truth.

But all too often we assume that things are true for everyone because they’re true for us. However I may believe that the world is better because dogs are in it and you may prefer casts.  Just because my belief is my truth, doesn’t mean it has to be your truth. Which is why it’s so important when you’re in a relationship that you learn not to jump to unfounded conclusions, but rather to check in with your partner and make sure you’re on the same page.

All too often it’s a difference of just a page or two that can cause the most difficulties.  Divorce rates are so high not because people have become completely different than they used to be when they first entered the relationship but because of the little things: the continued failure to communicate the little things, the chores that go undone, the requests that fall on deaf ears, the apathy towards the needs and desires of their partner.  It’s not desires to move to Alaska or Africa or become a Buddhist monk or stripper that breaks up most couples, it’s little things that just get piled on top of each other time and again.

If we really want our relationships to succeed and we really want to be happy together we need to spend more time in making sure that we’re hearing what the other person is saying and in need of.  When you’re able to work together and have come to compromises and created action plans on how the most important things will get accomplished you’re able to not only stay together but be happy together.  But if you or your partner aren’t willing to change or to accept that there is always another side to the story it won’t work.  Will you be brave enough to get the truth from your partner this week?

“In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story.” Walter Cronkite

Daily Steps to Success

Kids have so much to learn all throughout school. We are having them learn things earlier and trying to cram even more things into their brains than ever these days. I’m glad we’re trying to prepare them, but they’re put under a lot of pressure. I often wonder if they have time to just be kids, and what that really means anymore anyway. They have to get up and go to school whether they feel like it or not, just like we do with work. But the truth is that you have a choice: what you will do with today?  Will you do your best to make it better than yesterday or will you let the fates roll the dice for you?

As I was thinking about our attitudes this week, I ran across this quote from Brian Tracy:

“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.”

We are really all very blessed in 2014. There’s more running and clean water around the world, health care has made such amazing strides, and that doesn’t even touch on the technology that has made it possible for us to connect with others around the world instantly. But there’s still lots of improvement to be had, just look at CNN or the nightly news and you’ll see lots of people still intent on screwing up the good that we have.

I think a big problem that we’re facing around the world is people who aren’t able to be grateful for what they have. I think this is where a lot of unhappiness and craziness starts: with not being able to be grateful for what you have. That doesn’t mean you don’t want to become more or have more, but I think an important step people are missing in this journey is accepting and even more being actually thankful for where they are and the progress they’ve made.

Each week I send out a newsletter called Personal Victories. I titled it this because I recognize how important it is to celebrate those amazing moments that in little daily steps bring us closer to our goals. Our big victories are ultimately made up of little ones that are like stepping stones from the place where we are to the place we want to go. We can’t climb the mountain in one step, we have to work our way up it. And the only way we get there is with little victories along the way.

Celebrating and being thankful for those victories is an important part of this because it means that we recognize how far we’ve come, but it also is about accepting that you’ve done good and can do good again. It’s not just about the destination, but about the climb as well as what it teaches you for you to use in your life going forward.  What will you choose to celebrate and be thankful for today?