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Relationship Footprints: What Story Do Your Choices Tell?

Choices are like footprints

Choices are like footprints

On a recent vacation, I spotted these footprints in the sand along the coast of Lake Michigan.  With no other people in sight, I still knew something about the people who left the footprints.  They were heading north.  Under the overcast sky, I had an epiphany… our choices are like footprints in the sand – they tell a story.   And with each choice we make, we move closer to a happier or less happy ending. [Read more…]

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What Can Veterans Day Teach Us About Relationships?

Veterans Day traces its origin to the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.  At this hour, the Allies and Germany agreed to a cease fire on the Western Front.  Although some fighting continued in other areas, it became the date that  the “war to end all wars” ended.  Celebrated as Armistice Day in many allied countries, after WWII, the holiday became known as Veterans Day in the US.   And at 11:00 am on Veterans Day, many people will observe two minutes of silence: one to remember soldiers we’ve lost, and one to remember those who remain.

We pay tribute to military personnel past and present on 11/11/xx because a huge conflict ended on 11/11/18.  Hostilities ceased when two warring parties agreed to stop fighting.  At a moment in time, intentions changed and a war ended…

How could a focus on intention change our relationships? [Read more…]

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Mindful Monday Tip #8: Rescue Relationships with Mindful Communication

Much can be damaged or lost by mindless communication.  Ever feel like you engage your mouth before engaging your mind?  Ever send a seemingly brilliant email, and later realize some of its content may be offensive to the receiver?  Relationships are unintentionally damaged by words, body language, and tones of voice.  Jobs are lost.  Political campaigns end prematurely.  Credibility suffers.  All because of mindless communication.

How does mindless communication happen?  Perhaps Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl,  provides a clue: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.   In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”   Too many times, maybe our communication creates emotional havoc because we ignore the space between a stimulus and our response – we’re not aware of our power to choose a communication response.  Think of a stimulus as anything that triggers an emotional reaction in you: accusation by a spouse, criticism by a coworker,  defiance by a child, overbearing control by a parent.  This week’s tip invites us to recognize and mindfully use the space between stimulus and communication response.

Mindful Monday Tip #8: Mindful Communication

Whatever your stimulus or trigger, use the space before your communication response to focus on two things:

  1. Attention: Recognize and pay attention to your choice of response.   This is how you discover the space between stimulus and response.  Pay attention to the setting and the nature of your relationship to the other person or people.  Can you imagine what their internal worlds look like?  What does your internal world like?
  2. Intention:  Now consider how to bring your communication response in line with what’s important to you.  Ask yourself, What do I want to communicate? Next ask, How do I want to communicate it?  Answers to these questions describe your communication intention.

However you choose to communicate,  respond in a way that reflects your newly discovered attention and intention.

How might relationships change when we embrace  mindful communication? 

 

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How to Improve Communication with Teenagers

Last Friday night, my teen daughter and I watched as Nik Wallenda crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope.  For too many parents, talking to teenagers can feel like walking on a tightrope (minus a safety tether).  How can you avoid this feeling and find a connection with adolescents?

 Here are some suggestions to help keep your feet on solid ground:

  1. Calm your body.  If your heart is racing and your gut is churning, you may need to take a few deep breaths before proceeding to communicate with your teenager.
  2. Be present and tune in to your teenager’s inner world.  You hear and see what she’s doing, but really listen and think about what she may be experiencing inside.   Too often we misread clues: I’ve mistaken anxiety and fear for obstinance.
  3. Maintain your own emotional balance.  Your excessive emotional reaction can incite communication chaos and a rigid cold reaction won’t promote a healthy connection.
  4. Pause before speaking or acting.  This might save you from impulsively putting a parental foot in the mouth.
  5. Face your fear.  During the pause consider if the anger and irritation you feel is driven by your own fear and not your teenager.  Sometimes our parental fears are irrational.
  6. Show empathy.  Try to see the situation from your teenager’s point of view.  Can you sense his intentions and imagine what something means in his mind?

Maybe it’s less about what our teenagers bring to the table and more about how we respond.  We have little control over the former and most control over the latter.

 What helps you communicate with your teenager? 

What are your challenges?

 

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If so, please Contact Me and describe your concerns and we'll discuss how counseling can help.