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Is the Doom and Gloom Getting You Down?
If you‘re like most people, listening to the news these days can be quite stressful. It’s hard not to worry about the impact of wars around the world, and the constant anxiety about the economic situation is bound to fill your mind with images of doom and gloom.
Do you ever want to relieve some of this stress by talking to a friend about these issues, but you avoid these talks for fear that simply bringing up these politically and emotionally charged topics may turn into a debate, or even a full blown argument?
If so, it’s time for you to take back the power to have meaningful, enjoyable conversations with your friends. This starts by learning to overcome the fear that prevents you from talking about these issues in the first place.
The worry that wells up in us when we think about discussing such important, but emotionally charged issues, is rooted in the “Us Against Them” thinking that permeates our society.
When this kind of thinking is in charge, even simple differences of opinion can easily spiral down into the locked horns of an endless battle to determine who is right and who is wrong about the issue.
"Whenever two good people argue over principles, they are both right." ~Marie Ebner Von Eschenbach
Discover the Freedom Found in a "WE Mindset"
You can root out this “Us Against Them” thinking by establishing a “WE mindset“. This mindset allows you to have conversations about sensitive topics from a new, shared perspective—even when you have differing opinions.
A “WE mindset” starts by developing a sense of alignment with the other person—a shared sense of what is important about having the conversation in the first place.
The first step in creating this alignment is to get clear about what’s important to all participants in the conversation. This is done by creating a foundation for the conversation based on what each person values—not about the ISSUE, but about HAVING the discussion.
We suggest that before you have any important conversation, STOP and ask yourself these questions: “How would I like this conversation to go?” and, “How can we focus on what everyone values, rather than just debating our opinions?”
The way to maintain a “WE mindset” in your conversations is to focus less on the actual opinions you each hold, such as whether or not it’s best for the US congress approve a specific tax policy, but instead by exploring the values are underlying your opinions.
You may be surprised to find that, even though you may hold very different opinions, each of your opinions expresses a commonly held value such as (for example): safety, security, or prosperity.
Notice Alignment in Underlying Values
It’s often surprising to find, when you go beyond people’s opinions and discover their values, how often you find common ground. In our experience, you’ll frequently discover that what others value is very similar to what you value.
This alignment forms a wonderful foundation to explore any topic, and provides a valuable landmark to keep the discussion friendly and supportive, rather than it turning into a battle. And isn’t that really what you were hoping for in the first place?
Discovering the alignment in your values allows you to have discussions where everyone’s ideas are heard and respected, and where the purpose is to exchange information and gain clarity, rather than debating who is right about the topic.
Another benefit of an alignment based conversation is that everyone ends up feeling more satisfied. Everyone knows there is an opportunity to be heard and discover what’s truly important to them. Creating this initial alignment is an essential element for enjoying the benefits of a “WE mindset” in your conversations, and in all your relationships.
Improve Communication - Ask Two Questions
The way to start this conversation is by letting let the person know you’d like to have a talk about an issue, and that you’d like to hear what’s important to them about the topic. In addition, let them know that what’s MOST important is that you’d like each person to be heard and understood about what’s important to them about the issue. Then ask if that kind of conversation would be enjoyable for them as well.
You can get clear about this by having each person answer these two questions: “How do we want to treat each other during our conversation about this issue?” Followed by: “How can we find out what we each value that creates our opinions, rather than just arguing our side?”
Taking the time at the beginning of a conversation to acknowledge the values of each person involved, will establish a “WE mindset” that creates the possibility of much more meaningful, and enjoyable conversations with your friends.
If you want to have more meaningful conversations and more satisfying relationships you can start by learning the fundamental tools that will help you improve your communication.
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Remember, the shortest path to a happy life is found through conscious choice.
Does it sometimes seem as if the people in your life walk all over you?
Do they seem to expect a lot from you and give little in return? If you‘re feeling confused or frustrated, and you don’t know how to change this situation, you‘re not the only one.
Most of us care deeply for the people close to us. We want to see them happy and we want their love, respect, and acceptance. Unfortunately, in trying to achieve these things, many of us overextend ourselves without considering our own needs. Then we become resentful of what we see as the other person’s demanding behavior.
But what if...
rather than only doing things for others, you start asking for what you want? This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how often people simply don’t ask for what they want. Or they think they‘re asking for what they want, but in reality what they‘re doing is wishing, hoping, or hinting about what they want.
“If you don’t ask for what you want, your best supporters won’t know what to give.”
~ Dr. Suzanne Zoglio
Remember, even though it may not always seem like it, the people in your life most likely care about you as much as you care about them. Give them the opportunity to give to you just as you give to them. As the quote says, if you don’t ask for what you want, the people in your life can’t possibly know what you want.
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Gift Giving and Relationship Intimacy
Have you ever had an argument with someone and then tried to find the perfect gift to smooth things over? On the flip side, have you ever received a gift from someone who was trying to make up with you?
Did it make you want to forgive and forget immediately?
While gifts are fun to give and receive, most people experience that they don’t have much power to change the inner dynamics of a relationship. But there is one truly remarkable gift that, if given, can start to improve your relationship immediately.
A Gift Unlike All Others
Yes that’s right, we‘re talking about a gift that can start improve your relationship immediately. What if we told you that this gift had the power to really affect how you relate to another person? Guess what? There really is such a gift—the gift of presence!
Now, we‘re not talking about “presents,” the kind you give for Christmas or birthdays; the presence that we mean is your personal presence—your full attention with an agenda-free willingness to listen to what the other person has to say. Presence is a gift we could all use on a regular basis.
"If you want to be listened to, you should put in time listening." - Marge Piercy
How to Present Your Presence
Before you can truly give someone your presence, you need to take yourself out of the equation. Giving the gift of presence means that you‘re there for the other person 100%, without thinking about how their words or actions affect you. In other words, when they start to talk about their perception of the situation, you can’t take things personally.
It helps to remember that everything everyone does or says is in support of something they value. If you choose to give the gift of your presence and in the middle of it you start feeling upset, try to imagine yourself in the other person’s shoes and ask yourself the question, “What could I be valuing that would have me say or do this?”
As an example, let’s say you ask your relationship partner to tell you what they would like to have in their relationship with you. You ask, “What kinds of things are important to you?” In response, you might hear something like, “You need to stop acting like such a know-it-all.”
At this point STOP -- remember that what they just said is NOT about you and don't take it personally.
Believe it or not, your partner just gave you a precious gift wrapped up inside the message, “I want you to stop being such a know-it-all.” This message is the key to unlocking a value that is incredibly important to them.
Now you can ask yourself, “I wonder what they value that’s missing for them in our relationship?” Doing so allows you to be present to the meaning that is underneath their words. This allows you the opportunity to try and understand what value might prompt them to say such a thing.
For example , you might guess that they value acknowledgment and want some appreciation for all the things they know, or maybe they just want the opportunity to contribute more to the relationship. It's even possible that all they really want is a deeper sense of connection with you. Of course, you won't know if your guess is accurate without checking with them first, so take this opportunity to ask them!
If nothing you suggest strikes a chord for your partner, ask them for help in understanding the value beneath the message. The worst thing that could happen is for them to respond with another judgment or criticism, which will give you another opportunity to identify what it is that they really want. If you guess accurately the first time, continue exploring the things that are most important to them.
"The beginning of wisdom is silence. The second step is listening." ~Anonymous
You've probably heard the old Navaho Indian saying: "The best way to get to know a person is to walk a mile in their moccasins."
As a general rule, people tend to walk about 2 1/2 miles per hour, so it takes around 24 minutes to walk a mile. Try giving your partner your undivided presence for a half an hour.
During this time spend ZERO minutes defending yourself, being right, educating them, giving them advice, or anything else other than focusing all your attention on the things that they value -- the things that are important to them. Once you can identify the values that drive their actions, you'll find it much easier to understand the reasons behind their words.
The best thing about this special gift is that it doesn’t cost a thing and you have a limitless supply. Start giving the gift of presence and see how much you get in return.
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Are you unhappy with any of your current relationships? If so, you may find it easy to blame the problems on the other person. Do you find yourself saying things like: “No one values my opinion,” “We never do what I want,” “My partner doesn’t spend enough time with me,” “If only he/she would change, things would be so much better.”
If any of this sounds familiar, you’ve probably realized by now that you can’t magically change other people. The best way to get the most out of all of your relationships is to start by focusing on yourself. Read on to discover 4 ways to improve any relationship.
If you have relationships in your life that are not going quite the way you want them to, you’ve possibly had arguments about what’s not working. You might have attempted talking calmly about the problems to see if you could make some changes. You might have even tried ignoring what was going on all together in the hope that the problem would just work itself out. If you think you’ve tried it all, and you‘re still dissatisfied with a relationship in your life, don’t give up yet... here are four steps that will help to improve your relationships from the inside out.
One – Identify What You Value
In order to have healthy, satisfying relationships, you have to know what is important to you; to go deep inside and discover what it is you most truly value—what you want to experience in your relationships.
When we asked a woman in one of our seminars what she valued, she said that she valued it when people didn’t fight.
We asked her why it was important to her that people not fight, and she said, “I feel very tense when people fight and it doesn't seem to get them anywhere."
So then, we said to her, "It sounds like what you really value is harmony and effectiveness." She looked at us very excitedly and said, "Yes, that's it!"
We use this example to point out that strategies are different than values. If you believe that the only way for you to have harmony and effectiveness in your life is for people not to fight, then experiencing what you value is at the mercy of others. On the other hand, if you understand that your strategy is driven by your value for harmony and effectiveness, it’s possible to identify other strategies you can use to experience that value in your life.
Two – Knowing What You Want
Along with being able to tell the difference between your strategies and what you value it's also important be able to identify what you "do want" instead of what you "don’t want." You may think that it’s six of one, half dozen of the other, but they are actually quite different.
You may have heard this joke: A man is talking to his co-worker, “My wife told me she didn’t want me spending so much time at the office, so I joined a bowling league.” A funny line, but it’s also the perfect example of the importance of expressing what you “do want” and not what you “don’t want“. What the wife really wanted (and could have said) was that she wanted her husband to spend more time with her.
It’s important to remember that knowing and expressing what you "don’t want" will NOT get you what you "do want." The next time you find yourself saying things that start “I don’t want ...” stop yourself and let the other person know what it is that you do want from them or from the situation. Combine this with your ability to identify what you value, and you’ll begin to notice a real change in the flow of your relationships.
Three – Exploring What They Want
Once you‘re clear about what you value and want in your relationship, it’s time to start thinking about the other person’s point of view. Understanding what someone else values and desires is critical to creating genuinely satisfying relationships. Taking this initiative is something that you can do that will immediately improve the quality of your communication and in turn, your relationship.
Of course, one way to find out what they want is simply to ask them. It’s a place to start, but it’s not always the most effective way of getting to the truth about what a person really values. As we pointed out above, people often think in terms of their strategies as opposed to focusing on their values.
If you ask them what they want in your relationship you may hear things like, "I want you to _" (fill in the blank).
spend more time with me
stop being such a know-it-all
listen when I’m talking, etc
Clearly, these statements just tell you what they want you to do, not what they value. Getting to the values hidden in these statements may require a little detective work on your part. Don’t just take their answers at face value; dig down beneath the surface to find out what values are at the base of what they want. Once you have an idea about the other person’s values and what’s most important to them, it’s much easier to relate them to your own values and identify ways you can work together for mutual satisfaction.
Four – Be Gentle With Yourself
When you‘re struggling with a relationship, self-doubt and recriminations can often aggravate a situation. While trying to sort things out, it’s very common for the past to creep in and trigger that little voice in your head to start whining, complaining, judging, and criticizing the relationship. You tend to focus on how the other person is acting, how you‘re acting, how it’s been in the past, etc. You’ve probably also become resigned to the idea that things will never change and may be depressed about what the future holds.
This is a common reaction, but the trick here is to avoid taking the things that the little voice in your head says personally. Remember this the next time you start feeling discouraged, “everything that everyone does or says (including this little voice in your head) is in support of something they value; they are trying to meet some need.” Instead of giving in to what your inner voice is saying, ask yourself: “What do I need that is causing me to think this way?” Try to get underneath what you‘re saying and identify what you value that is missing in the situation.
In other words, be gentle with yourself. The point here is that you commit to taking the time you need so that you can keep your attention focused on what you value, your deepest desires for the relationship, and creating mutually satisfying outcomes with the other person.
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Do you have relationship issues that you want to work out? Would you like to get along better with the people in your life? In the personal growth and self-help fields, there’s a lot of talk about core values. Most of the teachers and coaches will tell you to identify your personal values in order to find direction and purpose for your life.
This is true, but there are other reasons for discovering your personal values that are essential for creating a happy life and successful relationships. In this article, you’ll discover why we don’t just automatically know what our core values are, and how to use your newly discovered personal core values as building blocks to create the life and the relationships that you’ve always wanted.
You may have heard of a book, written by Robert Fulghum, called, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” While the book is both cleverly written and humorous, there are some serious truths beneath the cute exterior. Some of the things he talks about learning in kindergarten include:
• Play fair
• Put things back where you found them
• Clean up your own mess
• Say you‘re sorry if you hurt someone.
You might think the lessons above are rather obvious, but at their heart, these are profoundly important understandings. Of course we all learned them at a surface level in kindergarten, but no one told us why acting in these ways is so important—we were never made to understand the values that are embedded within these behaviors.
What would be possible if, in kindergarten, instead of being told, “Nice little girls and boys share things with each other.” we were taught these behaviors by being asked questions such as, “Is sharing important to you?” “How does it feel when you share something with other people and they seem so happy?” or “Do you like it when people share things with you?”
Imagine what could happen if we were asked to look inside and recognize how these behaviors enrich our lives? How different would the world be if children were taught what was important about acting in these ways, and how their choices could positively affect their lives as well as everyone around them?
Unfortunately, in our society there is very little attempt to align cultural values embedded within these behaviors with our personal values. We are raised in a culture where these behaviors are taught to us using a system of punishment and reward. You either do it or you will be punished!
From a very young age we are trained to focus our attention on figuring out who is good, who is bad, who is right, who is wrong, and what is appropriate, or inappropriate behavior. “If you don’t say you‘re sorry, you are bad and wrong.” “Share everything, play fair, put things back where you found them, clean up your own mess,” and on and on it goes.
We are taught that doing these things makes us good little boys and girls. And if you don’t do as you‘re told or do something else instead, you‘re punished and told that you‘re bad and wrong.
The concepts we learn in kindergarten, and the methods used to teach them, cause us to interact with one another in very predictable ways. Even as adults, when someone doesn’t share, play fair, or put things away, there are consequences. They might be judged as inappropriate or inconsiderate. They could be criticized for not being a good friend, neighbor, brother or daughter. In extreme cases, they may even end up alienated from their community or family.
But there’s good news... at any point you can decide to make sure your actions are a reflection of your personal values rather than an attempt to avoid consequences. To do this:
1.Look inside and discover your personal values.
2.Investigate whether your actions are in harmony your personal values.
3.Recognize how your actions can enrich your life and the life of others.
4.Turn your attention away from right and wrong thinking.
5.Think about the values that may be motivating other people’s actions.
How Do You Take These Actions?
To begin living in harmony with your personal values, you must first know what they are. You can discover your personal values in many ways. One way is by asking yourself questions such as: “What is most important to me?” “What is the one thing I would miss in my life above all else?” Once you have your answers, distill them down to the quality that defines them. Another, more structured, way is to participate in a standardized values exercise. You can get one as our gift by visiting our web site. (Find it in the free stuff section.)
Once you have identified your personal values, the next step is to investigate whether the actions you’ve been taking are in harmony with those values. Is sharing in harmony with values you hold dear? Is playing fair important to you? Why is cleaning up your own mess something you personally value? Start answering these questions for yourself. Make sure that all your habitual actions are in harmony with your personal values. If they are, you will discover a renewed excitement about taking these actions. And if you should discover that some of the actions you were taking are not in harmony with your newfound personal values, it’s time to re-examine whether you want to continue taking that action.
Once you have examined your current behaviors, you can look forward to the future. Each time a new choice becomes available, it will be easy to determine how this action will enrich your life and the life of the other people involved. Will it support more closeness and connection? Will it create more trust and intimacy? When you move in the direction of making your life more wonderful, we promise that your happiness will extend to the lives of the people around you.
As we said before, from a very young age we are taught to focus on right-wrong thinking. This thinking creates unpleasant “us” against “them” interactions with the people in your life. Are we playing together so that everyone is having fun? Not with that kind of focus. To start interacting with others so that everyone can be satisfied with the outcome begins by shifting the focus of our attention from who’s right and who’s wrong, to getting to the values that motivate our actions.
So, the next time somebody does something you don’t enjoy, don’t automatically defend yourself and justify your position. STOP, don’t take it personally, and remember that their actions are being motivated by something that they value. Try instead to be curious: “Wow, I wonder what’s going on with them?” Imagine yourself in the other person’s shoes: “If I said or did that, what might be going on with me?” See if you can guess. This practice will create constructive interactions with the people in your life that end up being more fun and that leave you much more satisfied.
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Big or little, voiced or silent, major upsets or minor irritations... Have you ever noticed how much time and mental energy you spend complaining? Or how tense and uncomfortable it leaves you feeling? Complain long enough and you can end up feeling cynical and resigned to the fact that things will never change.
WHY DO WE COMPLAIN?
We are taught at a very young age that there are right and wrong ways to do things, and good and bad ways to act. So, when something happens, our first tendency is to decide if the action is good or bad, and who’s right or wrong. Consequently, when something happens that we don’t enjoy, or someone does something different than we asked, or says something we don’t like, we judge them as inappropriate, and their actions as unacceptable.
We do this in an attempt to keep ourselves safe. If we are able to justify our position about being right—figure out why the other person is the one that’s wrong—there will be no reason for other people to judge us.
All these internal judgments inevitably turn into complaints, and we end up spending our time complaining to ourselves about the situation or the person involved. However, because complaining actually makes us feel bad—and, as human beings, what we want most is to feel good—we end up sharing our complaints with other people. Our hope is that if we talk to others about our complaint they will agree with us and we will feel better.
COMPLAINING TO OTHERS?
Complaining to someone else tends to go one of two ways: Either they agree and start complaining along with us so we both feel tense and agitated, or else they may disagree and have ideas of their own. When they disagree, often the other person will form judgments against us and end up having their own complaints about listening to our complaint. Either way, complaining to one another very rarely supports either person in feeling any better. Also, when you‘re spending your time complaining—either to yourself or to someone else—you‘re not in action doing anything to fix the situation that caused the complaint.
“Realize that if you have time to complain about something, then you have the time to do something about it.”
~ Anthony D‘Angelo
We have gotten so good at complaining about what happens, we tend to miss seeing the reality of the situation. When we keep our attention focused on blaming, judging, and complaining, it keeps us from being able to see just the facts of the situation. It becomes impossible for us to separate the reality from all our judgments and stories about what has happened.
“There is a gap or a space between stimulus and response, and the key to both our growth and happiness is how we use that space.”
~ Steven Covey
WHAT‘S THE HIDDEN VALUE IN YOUR COMPLAINT?
What if every complaint occurred to you as an opening to identify what’s important to you, and an opportunity to get in action creating things the way you want them to be?
We believe that every complaint is an incomplete expression of a deeply held value. Your complaints can be the keys to your happiness when you have the skills to use a complaint to unlock the judgments holding your values captive.
When things happen that are in harmony with your values, you enjoy what happens. When you aren't enjoying a situation, it means that something you value is missing. Complaining about others, or yourself, only serves to distract you from the things that you value and puts you at the mercy of your circumstances.
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
~ Abraham Lincoln
5 KEYS FOR TURNING COMPLAINTS INTO SELF-GUIDANCE
1) Download our free Values worksheet to help you identify what you value.
2) The next time you hear yourself complaining, stop and ask yourself, "How would I describe what happened if I didn’t have any complaints or judgments about it?" You can do this by pretending you are a video camera, what would the camera see?
3) Using the Values worksheet, identify what’s important to you that is missing from the situation. Some examples would include statements like: “I really want to have more FUN when I visit my family” or “I’m so tense and I want to feel more at PEACE when I come home after work.”
4) Ask yourself, "How would this situation be different if what was important to me—what I value—was present in the situation?"
5) Finally, ask yourself, "What can - I - do in this moment to help create what I want most in this situation?"
"Be the change you wish to see in the world"
BE AN EXPRESSION OF WHAT YOU VALUE
Being able to create who you are from your values is one of the outcomes people experience as a result of doing our courses. If you‘re ready to learn how to do this for yourself and discover additional “self help