The Value of Learning Communication

This week I was talking with a friend I see a couple times a year about the current political situation and the US President (no, this won’t be a political post). We’ve talked about it since he was elected and we’ll probably talk about it after his term ends. The one concept that we both appreciate is his willingness to talk directly to the people. Regardless of whether you think it’s a good thing that he tweets all the time or not, it has removed a significant barrier that has existed since the country began as far as anyone having the ability to hear from and talk to the president himself.

With kids around the country going back to school, one of the longstanding debates I have with the current education system is whether or not it really prepares anyone for what adulthood holds. I have no use for knowing cell names or literary history for example in my work or life, other than extremely rare clients in those specific industries, and when I do have those types of clients any research I need to do and answers I need to find are just a few clicks away typically.

But the one thing that is still being taught in schools and is incredibly important for every adult are communication skills. It’s more crucial than ever to be able to communicate your worth and stand up for yourself and also to be able to communicate yourself out of a difficult situation (without resorting to violence). Good communication skills allow you to harness any and all of the great communication tools online that can help you share your message with the world, and they also make your in-person life a lot better and more fulfilling.  One of the biggest keys to having more and more successful victories is learning how to communicate in the good and challenging times.

So what about you? Are you willing to put yourself and your thoughts out there for the world to see or are you hiding your thoughts from the world and those closest to you? If you’re not speaking up because you don’t feel you’re a good communicator, there are lots of courses and other ways of educating yourself. If you’re waiting for the right moment, don’t because you don’t know when you won’t have more time.

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The Summer of Simple Relationships

It’s summer so many of us are living slower, simpler lives. We don’t feel like eating heavy meals, we do less, we take time off and we do more of what we enjoy. All of this got me thinking about relationships and applying slower, simpler summer principles to our relationships.

It starts with the why. Why do we live in miserable or less-than-awesome relationships? Sometimes it follows the ‘boiling frog’ concept, that it snuck up on us and now it seems like it’s too late (it is too late for the frog but not necessarily your relationship). Sometimes it’s a situation of you never really being right for each other but trying hard anyway. Sometimes it’s a case of poor communication or mis-matched expectations. But really, if there are simple things we can do to fix or improve our relationships why don’t we do them?

Why do we resist doing what our partner has asked? Maybe we forget, maybe we don’t want to do it or maybe we just can’t stand that they asked us to do it the way they did. If you or your partner honestly forgets, it’s time to implement a visual to-do list, whether it’s a text, app or piece of paper. If your partner doesn’t want to do what you asked them to do but you physically can’t do what you need done, and you’ve explained why you need them to do it and they still won’t, it may be time to hire someone for that task. If you/your partner doesn’t want to do what you/they asked, see if there’s something you can trade from the other person’s to-do list so you’re both doing work but not something you don’t enjoy doing.

If you can’t stand how your partner asks you to do something it may be indicative of a larger communication issue, one that may be resolved with some dialogue regarding how you communicate with each other, how that communication (including method and tone) makes each of you feel, what’s working and not working, and what you can do to improve your communication and thus your relationship. Communication is a great topic to work with a life coach or relationship coach on, they can help the conversation go in the directions it needs to go and help keep the peace.

Getting back to the topic of simple summers, what if you just did what your partner asked you to do? What if you told them you didn’t want to do something or physically couldn’t do something instead of just letting it go? What if you took time to communicate with each other throughout the day with texts, emails, calls and in-person time? What if you talked about expectations, goals, needs and challenges on a regular (at least yearly) basis? What if we took off some of the requirements that are hurting your relationship instead of helping like they’re supposed to? What if you worked more frequently on love and forgiveness instead of stress?

Making one simple change or adjustment each day can put you on the path to a healthier and happier relationship, what will you do today?

Rebuilding or Repairing?

Today’s inspiration comes from a quote I read earlier this week from Richard Whately: “…that it is the neglect of timely repair that makes rebuilding necessary.”

In my life I’ve done a lot of rebuilding-sometimes because I didn’t make the right decision, and sometimes because I made the right decision, but it was just the more difficult road. If you think about the number of marriages that end in divorce, those couples have gotten past the point of timely repair, to where they can’t even rebuild their lives, or they choose not to.

What can we each do that will help us spend more time enjoying life and less time rebuilding? Let’s start with families and significant others. The most important thing to do is communicate. Don’t worry so much how they will react to your honesty, just be honest. Second, make the effort to spend time together as a family, and have date night-just you and your partner- at least once a month.

In our jobs and careers there are things we can do as well. Start with admitting to yourself if you’ve outstayed your capabilities or passion. If you can’t do your job well anymore, it’s beyond time for a change. Maybe it’s a change within the company or in what you do, but still a change.

Personally there’s some daily work to be done as well. If you can’t remember the last time you ate something truly delicious, took a walk in nature, did or read something spiritual and wholesome, did something that only you like doing (a hobby perhaps), or went to bed early because you wanted to, you’ve got to quickly make some repairs-you’re heading for burnout.

This week I encourage you to look at your life. Are you heading down a steep hill towards rebuilding, or are there some repairs you can do starting today to put the brakes on your fall?

A Turn of the Word

We deal with so many unknowns in our life it’s almost funny. Recently I had the check engine light come on in my car and of course that concerned me. But all that light tells me is that the engine needed to be checked, it doesn’t come out and tell me exactly what the issue was, so it was frustrating and a little worrisome, knowing there’s a lot that goes on under the hood of a car, and it could be something serious or something not super serious (but obviously still probably pretty important).

Later I was on Facebook doing work for a client and stopped by my newsfeed to see what my friends were doing and glanced past a friend’s post where she talked about having to make one of the toughest goodbyes in her life. My first thought was that she lost someone close to her, but it wasn’t that serious, the other person was just moving away.

What’s my point with these two stories? They’re more examples of how communication can challenge us, and the impact that the words (or lack thereof), or actions/signs can have on us. But if we look at it another way, there’s incredible positive power in our words, too. Sometimes being positive, or just saying positive things can help turn your attitude, day and life around. Hearing the words “it’s just as sensor” was a big relief to me for my car. Seeing that my friend’s friend didn’t die was a big relief, because she’s too young and you never want someone to die before they’ve lived their life fully.

If you’re struggling to find the silver lining or turn the words around, I thought I’d share some words of encouragement that can lead you on the path to victory from Kendall SummerHawk:

I will try again
I will do something different the next time
I will have learned something incredibly useful
I will say, “How fascinating!”
I will be smarter & wiser because of the experience
I will congratulate myself for trying
I will start over
I will have a great story to share with others, later
I am stronger and tougher than any failure
In my heart, I know I am unstoppable

What great things will you choose to do with your day today?

Dealing with Difficult People

I’ve had conversations lately with some people about interpersonal relationships, especially with regards to dealing with difficult people. Sometimes you have to deal with these people because they’re coworkers or people in leadership at your job, others you can avoid or mostly avoid by not going to the same parties or events or just not being with them at the events. But before we get into dealing with these people I thought it would be important to talk about the ‘what if’ of what if you’re that difficult person?

For some people accepting or understanding that they’re the problem is difficult. Maybe they don’t realize how their words and behaviors affect others (which is usually easier to talk through) or maybe they believe they’re entitled and should be given special treatment and can treat people however they want (which means they may not care that you’re unhappy). It’s also never an easy conversation to have with someone, to tell them that they’re mean or disrespectful or inconsiderate. These types of conversations can go really poorly, they can go well and things can improve, and the conversation can go well but not lead to any real results or make any difference.

While I think everyone has room for improvement in their life, I don’t think we always have to point out to someone that there’s an issue. If it’s an issue that you can just vent to friends or family and you can just deal with it or you don’t really plan to stick around for long, you don’t really need to address it unless you really feel strongly about it.

Most people who deal with a difficult person can’t really lay down the law and be bluntly honest.  If you do it that way it’s a great way to get yourself in a lot of trouble or ruin a lot of relationships, unless that’s something you’re allowed to do, like a tough-love coach or consultant (think of Bar Rescue or some of the other TV shows with hosts who do company renovations).  In those cases they don’t have to be delicate about telling the difficult person how difficult they are. Sometimes they are completely aggressive about it, but typically they have the experience to be able to have a constructive but eye opening conversation with the difficult person about exactly how their behaviors are negatively impacting the people in their lives.

So for the rest of us, you want to address it, you’ve got a couple of options. If you think they’re receptive or they give you the opening (“I can’t understand why no one sticks around at this job?!”), you can start to bring it up and see how it goes. If you can’t wait for the potential opening and really feel that you have to say something, I would start with why you’re bothering to bring it up (for example that you’re really committed to the relationship you have with them or to the company you’re working for), tell them you’re not sure if they’re aware of it or not and politely explain how you feel, and then share some specific situations which have impacted you negatively, and what would be helpful to improving the situation.

In all honesty everyone has their difficult moments, but some people choose to make a lifestyle out of them, and some people fall into the bad habit of being difficult frequently.  I encourage you to take a moment this weekend and apologize to some people who you’re hurt recently when you were difficult, or consider if you’re one of those frequently difficult people who needs to make some changes.

Reality Reflection: Know It All

When was the last time you asked someone a question? What were you asking them about? Maybe it was directions or the location of something, or their experience or insights on a situation. Asking questions is something important that we do in our lives, and is an integral part of learning, growing and creating a life that we enjoy. Sometimes there are even the times that someone gives you an answer without you having asked a question! Sometimes it’s interesting, sometimes it’s helpful, and other times we’re frustrated by someone giving entirely too much information or showing off with the information they’ve got.

One of the most frustrating experiences is when someone asks you a question they already knew the answer to because they want to confirm they’re the smartest person in the room, or asks you a question without really being open to hearing what you have to say. There’s a difference between wanting confirmation on something and being a know-it-all about something, and a lot of it has to do with attitude. Some people who give advice for a living feel the need to know everything or be right all the time, but I try to make it really clear with potential clients that I don’t know everything and that I’m committed to growing and learning constantly both personally and professionally.

Being a know-it-all means that you can’t possibly fully experience life. I don’t think you can be exposed to or appreciate the variety and the details that others who are open to life and learning experience. You also run the risk of not being liked by people because of how you treat them or communicate with them. If you’ve ever been called a know-it-all and aren’t totally thrilled with that title, one step you could take would be to slow down and learn to really take things in before passing a judgement that you know it or outright dismissing the other person. This isn’t a step that really threatens your knowledge or IQ, it just gives you an opportunity to create better relationships with those you interact with, and gives you a chance to respect the time and effort they put in to giving you the answer you’ve asked for.

What about you? How do you deal with know-it-all people?

Let’s Be More This Year

I was thinking today about what would make this year better or how to make this year better, avoiding the usual ‘lose weight’ and ‘set goals’ comments you’ll hear at this time of the year. They are great things to think about, but both are kind of vague and often feel like a losing battle or constant tug-of-war. So I thought about what would make my life better this year and what would make the world around me a little (or a lot) better, and is doable for everyone to see victories, and here’s what I came up with:

Be more patient-even just taking an extra 20 seconds to park the car, drive to a destination, meet with someone, listen to my partner, do the job right, or not rush the results can make a big difference to yourself and someone else.

Listen more-we’ve gotten really good at talking and we’ve got more ways than ever to express ourselves, which is great. But if we listened more we’d have fewer issues, better understand each other and be able to make more happen.

Enjoy more-we’re so blessed to be in the world at this time, there are so many great opportunities and so many ways to experience the world. In line with the first idea it’s about more than trying to cram all the stuff you can into this life, but about taking time to savor and appreciate.

Have a better attitude-we can’t avoid all the issues in the world or the fact that things will go wrong, but I think we can learn to approach life better and treat each other better, or at least reserve judgments on each other until the evidence has really proven guilt, and be willing to forgive and let people make a new start.

Take action-dreams and ideas are great, but they can’t be successful if we don’t make a plan and put it into action to fulfill the dreams and make the ideas turn into reality. If we worked to take just one more action each day we’d accomplish more this year than possibly in years past.

Love more-I don’t know anyone who puts on their ‘to do’ list to hate more people, and yet that’s how it seems to go. Each year we’re faced with more examples of people hurting others in a variety of ways, some that come to light from years past and some that happen as the year continues. Loving doesn’t mean you have to like or appreciate everything about someone but it means that you’re willing to see the person for more than your personal opinions or preferences or what you might see as flaws.

What are you going to do or be this year?