Apr 01

Honesty

Is honesty, saying exactly what is on my mind, always the best policy? All of us have experienced an outburst from someone who is reacting and has not stopped to think – that does not feel good! When do I say what I think and when is it good to hold back?

It is important to acknowledge emotions and feelings; they are telling us something. It is however, not always wise to act on them. One thing to notice when we are upset is our body language and the tone of the thoughts running through our heads. Is my body tense and rigid, perhaps ready to strike a blow, or is my stomach just in knots? Are the thoughts running through my brain thoughts of “I’ll show him a thing or two,” or “Yeah, well you did this, and this, and this.” Those examples are clear signals that it is wise to take a breather and hold off on any type of response.

What I am feeling tells me something important but, before responding it is wise to ask myself why I feel tense or why I want to scream at someone. Feelings are the first indicators of what is first needed before handling an upset. Reacting in the moment is rarely wise and often situations escalate when we do.

Taking time to calm myself down is an important step in handling any situation well. By calming myself with deep breathing, or some other form of relaxation, I increase my oxygen levels and stimulate blood flow to my brain. Calming down also lets me to set some distance between matters, allowing me time to think about my response.

STAR                                breathing_star1[1]

Stop

Take a deep breath

And

Relax

 

In the heat of disagreement that clearly is headed nowhere, it is appropriate to say, “I know we need to talk about this, but right now I am too upset to think calmly and speak in a respectful manner. Let’s take a break and we can talk about this when we are both calm.” It is hard to argue with logic like that.

When I have calmed down I will be in a much better state to think about moving a situation towards win-win. (Win-win was discussed in the PIC blog on February 20th and 26th). In short, all our thoughts and emotions tell us something and it is wise to listen to them. Unfiltered emotions or thoughts rarely are wise to share. Instead, it is wisdom to view my response through the lens of relationship – how can I work with the other person, respectfully, and grow our relationship through this conflict? If you are a parent this is an excellent time to model and teach this valuable life skill to your children. This kind of modeling will serve them well as they grow and enter into more complex relationships. The good news about conflict is that life provides multiple opportunities for growth and improvement in our relationship skills.

Growing together with you, Judith

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mar 19

Parenting and Leadership

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A couple of weeks ago the Parent Information Center blog provided food for thought when addressing an issue with someone you are in relationship with. This week I want to take a look at addressing issues in a little different light – as a parent or leader. Parents and leaders are called to guide and direct in relational situations and at times it is not appropriate to ask if the person is willing to learn something. It is wise and appropriate to look for good timing and to teach with kindness.

There is more. Both parents and leaders have a primary call or task to live out our responsibility in a way that invites others to live out and become who they are meant to be. I appreciate the wisdom of an invitational aspect here; we are invited to invest in the lives of those entrusted to our care and supervision. There are many skills in parenting and leadership, how often do we consider the calling to help others develop into who they are meant to be? What an incredible honor and challenge that is to us! Leading well and wisely always begins with me and how I lead.

We are all wired with mirror neurons and the manner in which we relate is seen through the eyes of the person we are relating to. The first thing we can bring to any situation is a calm presence. Parenting and leading often call for us to instruct and teach. No one will receive from us the intent of our skill or lesson if we are angry and possess a voice or body language that is anything other than calm and inviting. Relational instruction requires our calm as we enter into instruction with our children.

Care is crucial to relationship instruction. The person on the other end must feel safe and cared for in order to begin to receive what is being said. Change in any situation begins with a willingness to understand the need for it and then working through to process what does this journey of change look like. Underscored here is the importance of giving time, time. Change is a journey and a process. The wise parent/supervisor knows the value of loving guidance and consistent support during the process of change. Our job is often to teach and reteach, and then teach again.

A child in the early stages of reading is a good example of the change process. Parents model reading to their children – books have stories. As the child grows parents begin to point out words and associate words with pictures, this might be followed by sounding out the letters in the word, and then showing that words make sentences and sentences make up the stories. This example is quite simplified, but represents the progression of sequence, and the time necessary to teach in such a way that helps the child get a solid grasp on the reading process. Once the child has the foundations of reading the process of understanding comes into play.

A wise parent/supervisor looks for signs of understanding and asks questions before moving ahead with the next layer of instruction. The reins belong in my hand to lead and guide with support and encouragement. When we lead in this manner not only does learning and growth take place, but relationship grows as well.

Growing together with you, Judith

Mar 13

Wise Words During Upset & Conflict

This week I am sharing wise words from Dr. Becky Bailey, founder of Conscious Discipline. Expressing our feelings is a life long journey in acquiring a skill set that allows us to process and understand, in an appropriate manner, what is happening inside during moments of upset and conflict. This week it hit home as my grandson was struggling to articulate what was happening in his four year old world. In frustration he said, “I hate this family.” “Understanding there was more to what he said than his words, my daughter chose not to chastise him. Instead she asked him why he was upset and wondered with him what he was thinking. It got me to thinking, too. Becky addresses this very thing; I would like to share it with you:

Saying “I hate you” is one of many typical ways that preschoolers express feelings of frustration and anger. The ability to know what you are feeling at the time you are feeling it is the key to all emotional intelligence. Young children have not yet acquired the ability to label their emotions (I feel anger) or manage them enough to express them in socially acceptable ways.

Emotional intelligence allows us to manage our feelings, resolve conflicts and basically get along with one another. Emotional intelligence, like cognitive intelligence, takes decades to mature and requires certain experiences to bring about that maturity. Many adults, regardless of age, still have trouble identifying, managing and expressing their anger in helpful ways. Just think about your response when your own children are not ready to leave the house on time or your attempts to have children do their chores fall on deaf ears. Our own expression of anger can be very blaming and attacking. “What did I just tell you? Am I talking to thin air? Why can’t you just listen?” are all adult forms of “I hate you.” Our expressions of anger and response to children’s attempts at communicating their anger will lead to or impede their growing emotional intelligence.

Young children have immature emotional systems. There is a huge difference between feeling an emotion (sad, happy, disappointed) and expressing that feeling in a socially acceptable manner. Young children feel the emotion but lack the social and emotional skills to express what they feel. That’s where our emotional coaching comes in! It becomes our job to help children express their feelings instead of act them out (tantrum, stomp off, throw things, hide, etc.). It also becomes our job to help them verbally express them in helpful instead of hurtful ways.

Many children attempt to control their world so that everything goes their way in order to minimize the upset they feel and must deal with. Unless we help them deal with their feelings of frustration, anger and disappointment, they will grow more skilled at control and manipulation than at emotional intelligence. Without the skills of knowing what they are feeling, they will not learn to manage those feeling nor be able to empathetically recognize those feeling in others. In short, they will have trouble with close relationships throughout their lives.

Many adults give into children’s inappropriate expressions of emotions, giving them the illusion that acting out will make the world go their way. When we do this, we unconsciously teach them that hurtful actions yield positive results. These children grow up attempting to control others instead of modulating and expressing their own feelings. The ability to express their feelings is dependent on how we teach them through our modeling and responses to their upset. So when a child says, “I hate you,” overlay this expression with a socially acceptable one such as, “You seem angry? You were hoping/wanting ______.” (Fill in the blank with the desire you think they are blocking.) End by validating their feelings and encouraging them, “It’s hard to ________. You can handle this.” Remember to speak from the heart.

With warmest spring wishes for a fabulous week, Judith

Mar 05

The Test of Three

Last week, my sister Colleen replied to the blog sharing how our win-win sister relationship came about. I loved hearing from her viewpoint the manner in which we reconnected as adults. This week’s blog reflects thoughts of things I learned when it comes to sharing my insights or thoughts with another person.

Have you ever shared something you thought would be helpful to a person, or situation, and found yourself feeling like you just put both feet in your mouth? I have at times been left wondering, “What just happened here, what went wrong? I was trying to be helpful and something backfired.” First of all, we have all done that, thought we had insights into something, and perhaps we did, but our thoughts were not welcomed. What I have learned, and research shows, is that often times we may have an insight, but more than insight is needed when it comes to sharing our perspectives with others.

The test of three gives food for thought before deciding to provide your perspective on people’s lives and situations. Before the test of three can be applied, make sure the information you wish to share is truthful and reliable.

Is the person inviting you to share? Often times we provide our perspective and insights when people are not yet in a place of being ready to hear; they may still be processing or still sharing what is happening and not at all in a place to hear what you have to say or ready to solve their problem.

Is what you have to say necessary? Is the information you have pertinent to their situation? Often we have a story of something similar happening to us and this is not the time to tell it. My thoughts may be just that, my thoughts. Are they necessary and will they build into the well being of the other person?

Is it kind? At times, without meaning to, people come across as all knowing and on top of things; that kind of information can feel threatening and unkind. Kind questions would be, “How can I help?” “What would help you right now as you are dealing with this?”

It is easy to have a lens on someone else’s life from the outside. From the inside things look entirely different due to a more limited, self only, perspective. In addition, there is the emotional piece that accompanies things happening in our lives. Those things, coupled together can leave people feeling less than open to an outside observation or opinion.

The healthiest of relationships are those that allow people to be where they are in the process of what is happening and us asking how we can support them as they walk this journey called life. Until next week, I wish you sunshine and warm thoughts of spring. Judith

Feb 26

Win-Win Sister Relationship

Dear Readers,

This week I am changing my style just a bit; my best expressions of what I want to say come when writing my youngest sister, Colleen. So, thinking with my writing here, I am going to share as if I were writing to her. I wrote last week’s piece and it was lacking, lacking that personal connection; all ideas and insights without practical application. My sister relationship is one laced in win-win and writing her is most often the truest expression of my thoughts. I want to convey that in my blog; this is my attempt.

Colleen,

Win-win with you is a given. From the start of our adult years, we accepted each other for who we were and looked to see the best in each other. Seeing the best also brings out the best in the other one, funny how that works. I can say anything to you and not be judged, just accepted for who I am. This acceptance allows me to process and reflect openly and honestly, both essential tools for navigating this journey called life.

We are opposites in many ways and alike in many ways. Though we grew up in the same family, we have little in common, except our enjoyment of mineral water and blueberries, a story from long ago; and we both love nature, particularly strolling along the ocean. You live in the middle of the California redwoods in a log cabin house, a self-declared hippie. I reside in the center of suburbia, a conservative school teacher. Most importantly we are kindred spirits with a fierce commitment to each other.

When it comes to family issues, our relationship, or life in general, you are one of my closest confidants. I can count on you to listen well and I trust your honesty and care in sharing with me. You always have my best interest at heart and are invested in my well-being; I know you know it is mutual.

Thinking to last week’s blog – mutual benefit played out has, at its core, trust and freedom to be transparent. In a healthy relationship we are safe and free; safe to be vulnerable and transparent and free to process thoughts without having to guard words. Win-win comes into play every time we write or talk; we seek the best for each other, and together offer better ideas and solutions than either of us could come up with on our own.

A prime example of our win-win relationship comes each time we set up a visit to our parents. We live half way across the country from each other. That means navigating work schedules (and ours do not coincide) kid events, parent schedules, and whatever else is happening at the moment. It is not easy to spend time looking at all the possibilities and arranging and rearranging our schedules. We do it because we want to see each other and spend time with our parents. Of late, you drive almost four hours and pick me up at the airport so we spend an evening together for some catch up time just the two of us. Last spring we had a family illness and both of us jumped into action to be with our sister, Carolyn. Our relationship history in working together played strongly in just how quickly our plan set into motion and we were not only able to be with Carolyn, but spend time together too.

Win-win is an abundance mindset I appreciate greatly; there is always more than enough to go around – more than enough love, more than enough room to include others, and more than enough support for any and every situation.

Thank you for allowing me to share through the lens of this letter to my sister. Until next week, Judith

P.S. Readers: she gets this letter too.

Feb 20

Win-Win Relationships and Problem Solving

Author Steven Covey talks about the habit of mutual benefit in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People*. The primary principle of win-win is thinking mutual benefit. Thinking win-win is a mindset that sets its goal as a willingness to work together towards a solution that works to meet the needs of each. The win-win mindset respects each person and provides a safety for all in decision making and problem solving.

Last week we discussed how healthy and strong long term relationships require mutual respect; this week we add the component of mutual benefit. Mutual benefit goal setting and problem solving require a spirit of cooperation and generosity towards others, not just what is in it for the self.

Win-win takes a courageous spirit of transparency and a willingness to speak thoughts and feelings; that can happen when we feel safe and respected. Like last week’s blog it also takes consideration in listening. Respect for self and the other person leads to greater likelihood of healthy interactions and an abundance mindset, we work together for the good of all of us.

Setting up a win-win relationship takes maturity, integrity, character values, intention and thoughtful planning. An abundance mindset works for success in relationship; there is enough space and goodness in this issue to create better solutions for everyone involved.

When people feel safe and respected ideas flow and creativity is enhanced, problems are more likely to be resolved where both people feel good about the process and the outcome. I’ve listed some thoughts to consider as you work towards win-win, healthy and respectful relationships.

What does it look like to:

  • Look at ideas and solutions other than my own?
  • Value the other people in this relationship to the point I can look out for their well-being?
  • See the situation from another’s point of view?
  • Identify the key issues in this situation, leaving non relevant issues out of my conversation?
  • Work with others to jointly determine an agreed upon solution?
  • Accept others ideas with openness and fairness?
  • Work together in interdependence, supporting others strengths?

We are all in relationships; win-win allows us to bring our best selves to them, especially in problem solving.

My best to you as you journey this road of life, Judith

* The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; Steven Covey, 1990, Fireside Simon and Schuster Publishers

 

Feb 13

Healthy Communication When Addressing Issues

Most of us do not intentionally find ourselves in the midst of conflict and argument. In fact, it is the opposite, most of us ask, “What happened?” I thought things were going well or I was just going to address this one little thing and it blew up into something way bigger.

Healthy communication takes both good listening skills and talk that is calm and relationship building. How can we set ourselves up to strengthen relationships and communicate with intent and respect?

Good listening begins by giving full attention when the other person is talking and waiting until they have indicated they are finished before responding. Listen to hear the heart of the message and look for repeating patterns. Often we are formulating our responses when the other person is still talking. Make a mental note to listen until they are done. One technique for this can be a talking stick or ball. The person doing the talking has the object until they are done speaking. At the end of what they have to say, the listener receives the object and keeps it until he has finished speaking. This allows us to learn to listen with intent, takes away pressure to hurry, and gives respect for the speaker.

When speaking, it is important to talk about how I feel. For example, “I am feeling sad because I was not included on the decision,” works more effectively than, “You did it on purpose and left me out of the decision.” The first one is about how I am affected, but does not cast blame. The second response makes it about what the other person did and casts blame. We can only deal with ourselves and the blame response sets up a cycle for defensiveness and attack.

Problem solving and anger do not usually go together well. When a person is angry it is best to say something like, “I am upset now and I do want to work through this; let’s wait until I have/we have calmed down.” This preserves relationship and at the same time lets the other person know the issue is not being avoided, just postponed until both people are in a better place to discuss the situation.

When you do begin to discuss the problem a good place to start is something like, “My goal for us is to find a win-win solution that leaves us both feeling respected and understood, and brings resolution to our issue.” One aspect of good relationships is respect for the other person and a willingness to take the time necessary for healthy problem solving and goal setting.

One of Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly effective people is to look for win-win in every situation. Most of the time we think compromise, Mr. Covey’s idea is win-win. We will share ways to have win-win next week.

Feb 06

Unhealthy Responses to Anger

Two unhealthy responses to anger are Attack or Retreat. These common responses to our upset make the situation about me, and what I am feeling. These unhealthy reactions do little to bring about problem solving and resolution. Both reactions create an unhealthy response and are ineffective in dealing with our life issues. Let’s take a look at what is behind those reactions.

  • Attack:  is a result of Anger and unforgiveness which produces a bitterness that creeps into the corners of the mind, body and spirit. We become unwitting participants in our own destruction. Bitterness and unforgiveness will begin to dominate our thoughts, not just about the situation we are upset about, but often taints many of our other interactions with unnecessary defensiveness and self-protection.  The root of attack is pride and the protection of self-image. Attack responses tend to result in the explosion of our emotions, which often leads to regret and self loathing.
  • Retreat: is not feeling the emotion and running from it. Retreat responses abide by an unspoken internal code, don’t talk, don’t think, and don’t feel.  Those responses are the things people do when they feel powerless over a situation or do not know how to handle the conflict. Rather than deal with the situation, they avoid it. The root of retreat is pride and self-preservation.
  • The problem with both attack and retreat is that neither response provides a healthy resolve to the situation. It may appear that both responses work for the moment, but when the unresolved issue reasserts itself again, it has greater power and more force than the initial problem. Quite often the real issue is forgotten and the anger takes on a life of its own, a powerful and often destructive life. When we are hurt and upset we tend to take it out on others. There is a saying, “Hurt people, hurt people.” Though it is often not intentional, it happens when our upset is not dealt with in a healthy ways.
  • The key to addressing our issues lies with a willingness to acknowledge what is happening inside of me and finding healthy ways to deal with the feelings in a manner that promotes respect, respect for self and respect for the other person.

Feb 03

Anger; A Secondary Emotion

Last week I identified a component of anger; it is a secondary emotion. This week I want to provide a starting point to help recognize what is happening when we are angry. To begin to solve our anger the first and most effective thing we can do is breathe, just breathe. Intense anger causes our internal reaction to be that of survival. Dr. Becky Bailey, researcher and founder of Conscious Discipline, puts it like this, “Our skill set in survival is limited, and we either defend or attack.”  In order to help ourselves, the very first thing we can do is breathe, before we even open our mouths to speak. Breathe deeply until the tension begins to ease and you calm down a bit. When that happens you will know you can begin to look at what is happening.

Breathing allows us to cool down and bring back blood flow from the stem of our brain where it is pooling, up into our limbic system where our emotions reside, through there into our frontal lobe where we can access our problem solving and thinking skills.

Our children learn from us what to do when they are upset. We can download calm into an upset situation by breathing ourselves, and breathing with them. I need to calm myself before I can begin to calm my child.

After I have calmed myself, I can notice what is happening in my child with words something like this, “Your face is going like this. Your arms are going like this, breathe with me, you are safe, you can handle this.” Keep breathing with your child. When you first do this, it may take a few minutes to get your child’s attention, calmly keep breathing and noticing their body actions. They will respond.

One little girl I was working with had her head down and her feet kicking angrily. I noticed her head down and her foot movement and began breathing. It took her about three minutes to hear me. My voice was calm and when she stopped her crying she looked up. She was not ready to breathe, but the first step had been taken, she looked at me. I repeated she was safe and invited her to breathe with me. It took another few minutes before she would breathe with me, but she was calm, and did begin to breathe with me after a few minutes. I then repeated she was safe and together we could figure out what to do in her situation. The total encounter with her took about eight minutes at which time she entered her classroom ready to participate and learn.

Jan 19

Thoughts regarding Anger

Anger is a secondary emotion – underneath lies the primary emotion:  frustration, regret, disappointment, embarrassment, feelings of rejection, sadness, being misunderstood, among other emotions. The anger is a result of something we have seen or experienced and is often the first expression of what lies underneath.

It is not the true feeling. I have learned to ask myself, “Why am I upset?” Identifying why is key to dealing effectively with my upset.

Am I disappointed no one sees my thoughts in this?

Am I sad and feeling left out?

Did I feel embarrassed in a situation?

Did I lose my cool and now regret doing so?

Did I feel rejected?

It takes a willingness to begin to understand what is going on and to acknowledge what is happening in our hearts before a person can begin to appropriately address the anger piece. Notice, anger is about me and what I am feeling, not the other person. To deal effectively with upset, we must first know why we are upset and then own the feelings as ours. Ownership allows us to begin to deal with our emotions.

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