Missing Out on Communication

I’m back to a topic that alternately frustrates and excites me: communication.  This week I dealt with several non-responsive clients.  These are people who have already put money on the table to work with me and yet can’t be bothered to respond to my multiple communications with them over the course of several days. It results in a very frustrating experience for me, and they’re missing out on all they initially believed I could help them with by not responding. It boggles my mind to think that people pay good money for goods and services yet they don’t actually seem to care that they bought it. It’s like going out to the store, buying bananas and just putting them on the counter to turn brown because you think they look nice sitting there, meanwhile ignoring the facts that you’ll soon have fruit flies, you’re wasting money and (the big one) you’re actually allergic to bananas. Yet many people do this every day, and not just in the course of purchasing things.

My partner and I have a great relationship. It’s taken a lot of communication, time and effort to get there, but we’ve made it work. One of the things we’ve realized is important for us to do is to communicate if we’re not going to be reachable for a while. For example I have one client who doesn’t have good cell service at their location so I remind my partner each time I go there that I won’t be reachable for several hours (I’ve also learned that he forgets that I’ve told him and calls anyway, but that’s another story). But there were times when we would get frustrated because the other person wasn’t responding to texts and calls only to find out there was a nap going on or a phone was left in the car.

If we just take the extra 30 seconds to communicate an answer life would be so much less frustrating and we’d miss out on fewer awesome opportunities. No, you don’t have to have an immediate response to someone, that’s what society wants you to think with the fast food and super-speed internet. A response within a reasonable period of time or a heads up if that’s not going to be possible is all that’s necessary. I encourage you to be more attentive to your communications, and the people who matter to you.

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The Best Version of You

Self improvement has been a thing for quite a few years now, and something that people have always done even if there wasn’t an official name for it.  I think it’s part of who we are that we try to improve ourselves and become better people, that as we physically grow it’s part of that process or journey to grow mentally as well.  It’s good to want to improve our skills, knowledge and productivity, but sometimes there’s something else we have to focus on first.

Sometimes in our life journey we pick up some bad habits and sometimes our bodies or minds get the best of us and as a result we may struggle with ourselves, our self confidence, and our relationships with others. As a result people may think of you as an “angry person,” a “debbie downer,” a “serial dater,” a “violent person,” someone with a short temper, or someone can’t hold down a job. It’s not easy to admit that these titles may fit you, and for many it’s even harder to get over being them, especially when being angry or violent or just throwing away relationships is your default.

It may not be easy, but it will not only improve your life but also the lives of those around you. Think about the last time you were out at a store and listened to someone lose their temper at their kid or at someone they’re on the phone with. It was probably embarrassing for you to listen to, but it may also hurt to think about how the person on the receiving end may be feeling. Yes, self improvement is about growing personally and making your life better, but in this case it’s also about being aware of the world around you and how you are impacting the lives of others.

This week I encourage you to work on the habit or personal challenge that’s not only holding you back from victories, but also is negatively impacting others.  Addressing this issue will not only help get you on the path to a better you, but also improve your relationships and the perceptions that other people have of you.

Reality Reflection: Strength and Beauty

This past week in the UK there was another royal wedding, Princess Eugenie married Jack Brooksbank. One of the big stories of this event was, unsurprisingly, about her dress, but not for reasons that people typically discuss it. Her dress made a point of showing her back scars from her surgery as a child.  You would have to be close to see the scar, it’s not something that’s noticeable from a distance, but it’s certainly there to see if you’re standing close to her.

Yes, it’s brave and makes a clear statement for all children who have surgery or deal with an illness. It shows them that it doesn’t matter who you are, anyone can have to deal with physical challenges, and anyone can overcome them to live a happy life and get married or be in healthy, committed relationships.  But it also shows a huge measure of confidence and self acceptance she has for herself and her body, something that many people who don’t have visible scars struggle with.

I don’t know what I would do in her situation, whether I would want to go with something that covered it or show it proudly to the world.  I might want to cover it not because I was ashamed of it but because I wouldn’t feel the need to show it off.  But at the same time it would be a part of who I am and my life story, so it might be something I would want to show, like someone would pick a dress that would show their tattoos.

Ultimately, it’s a celebration of two people committing to spend their lives together, and the outfit choices are strictly their choice and should be whatever makes them feel most comfortable and look their best on their special day.  It’s our job to celebrate with them, and love them for the people that they are.

Appreciating Your People

This month we’ve been talking about some of the simpler things in life, and over the past week again I’ve been reminded how important the very simplest thing is to appreciate: each other. We’re surrounded on a daily basis with people whether we’re watching TV, going to work, on the internet or doing countless other things. Sometimes we take retreats and separate ourselves from others, but it’s really hard to get away from the other people who share this world with us. Which I think can be a good thing and a bad thing.

The reason I want to talk about today is the idea that because we’re so surrounded with others we don’t often appreciate them. Last week the world lost two great souls, Aretha Franklin and Kofi Annan, and this summer quite a few well-known individuals passed away as well including Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. You don’t know when life will reach an end, when you won’t get to see someone again or talk to them again, or make memories again with them.

I know that it’s cool and fun and exciting to do new things, go new places, try new foods and meet new people, and it’s healthy to do so because we do need variety in our lives, and we do need to work our brains in different ways to keep it healthy. But sometimes we’re so focused on the new and different that we don’t take the time to appreciate what we already have, and the people who are already in our lives. I think this is one of the reasons that our romantic relationships fall apart; we’re so busy trying to keep up with life that we don’t take the time to nurture and love on what we already have.

With these last few weeks of summer upon us, I encourage you to take time to rebuild some of the relationships that you may have let fall by the wayside to do other things in your life. Start with taking a really good look at how healthy your relationships are, and consider if they’re in the condition you want them to be in, or if it’s time to work on them before they’re too damaged or distant to fix. If you’ve got great relationships, now’s the time to let the people in your life know how much you appreciate and enjoy them.

“Sometimes, what you’re looking for is already there.” Aretha Franklin

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?

Building Relationships with Respect

With yesterday being Mother’s Day here in the US, I’ve been reflecting on families and relationships. Every day in the news there are stories of relationships gone wrong, of people letting others down, of people hurting other people and ways that people are destroying our world. But at the same time you can’t ignore the fact that some of those people are bad people. They’re not people you want in your life or around your kids, and they can’t be “fixed” unless there’s an Act of God. But fortunately, there aren’t as many of those people as the news makes it out to be. Most of us just have issues, quirks and traits that may or may not mesh with the people around us.

I do believe that we can learn to get along with just about everyone, whether it’s having a civil conversation or actually developing a friendship with them. But that does take a lot of work, typically from both parties. For some reason some people choose to hold grudges or make snap judgments about some people, and aren’t open in the future to changing those opinions, despite how they or the other person may have changed over the years. And no matter how kind or polite you may be to them, they’re just nasty. I’m not suggesting that you need to be best friends with everyone, but I don’t think we need to have the poor interactions and relationships many people have.

Does it take superhuman effort in some cases to get to that point? Yes, but that’s part of what God can help you with. Yes, the Bible talks about loving everyone, but for some of us loving is a big stretch. So let’s start with two things that are a lot simpler: treating others as you want to be treated and respecting others. God made them just like He made you and I, and I haven’t known God to make anything that was wrong or without purpose. So if for no other reason, choose to respect and treat them based on how you want to be treated, because God loves them. Not all moms are perfect examples, but many moms can run circles around us when it comes to loving and accepting their kids in a way that we struggle to accept and understand others.

This week I encourage you to think about your attitude and how you treat and interact with others, and spend time in prayer with God asking for His strength and guidance in how you can build more relationships and have more interactions that will honor Him.

“Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king.” 1 Peter 2:17

Are You Memorable?

Most of us spend a good portion of our days with other people, whether we’re talking with them thanks to technology or interacting with them in a more physical way like driving the same road, shopping in the same store, working in an office or living in the same house together. It’s both a blessing and a challenge that we’re so connected and have so many people in our lives. Some of the people that you’ll spend time with you may never really know or ever see again after that one interaction, while other people you’ll see again and again throughout your life journey. Most of us meet so many people that we don’t fully remember them, what they said, who they were, their name or where we know them from when we first met them, but if we meet up with them again we may remember them for two reasons: how they acted and how they made us feel.

Some people are just memorable people. Maybe it’s because of how they dress or the accent they have or the funny/tragic/bizarre story of how you two met. Sometimes many years later we’ll still tell the story of meeting that person and what went on even if we don’t ever see them again or know their name. But for most of us the people who seem memorable in the moment quickly become a memory. We move on and meet other memorable people, people who do add to our life journey, experience and lesson in their own way, even if we don’t really remember them.

The people we remember in crystal clarity even decades later are those who made us feel stand-out special or like dirt. Maybe it’s the school teacher who showed such love, grace and compassion on all the students in your class, and you knew that you’d always see a welcome smile on their face and cheery welcome, even if the rest of your life wasn’t great. Maybe it’s the boss who consistently talks down to you, has a nasty attitude towards you and doesn’t accept your ideas even when they asked for suggestions. Both of these situations are such that you have repeated interactions with the person and really get a good idea of who they are, not just the snapshot you get when you meet someone once. But sometimes you will only meet someone once and it’s a lifetime experience, like meeting the CEO of the really big company you work for and they make you feel like you’re not just one of thousands, but that you personally make a valuable contribution to the company.  Or you meet the person who’s been your hero from afar (sports stars, celebrities, leaders etc.) only to be completely dismissed by them.

How do you treat people? How do they feel after interacting with you? What will they remember you for? I know I would rather bring a little sunshine to someone than ruin their day, what about you?

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou