Monday, December 16, 2013

                     De Fusing Holiday Conversations.

It seems like everyone has an ‘Uncle Fred’ in their closet, the person that you have to see at a family holiday function that’s almost impossible to have a normal conversation with.  Have you ever stopped to consider what is really at the root of this verbally challenged individual? 

I have at least  1 Uncle Fred.  And, I truly thought I did understand.  Until, I recently read a great book where the subject of ‘silence or violence’ was described as a cornerstone for improved communication.  Upon reading this, I understood, for the first time, all the crazy, over reactive, explosive interactions I have had with my father over the past 50 years.

In a nutshell, here’s what I learned.  During this holiday season, when you find yourself in the middle of a difficult conversation (whether anticipated or by surprise) instead of getting caught up in it (which you kind of knew was coming) be mindful of 2 very common, and easy to detect, indicators that your communication has totally derailed.  Silence or violence.  Both of these conversational behaviors are a true indication that your conversation has become a monologue, one person talking the other not listening.  It is the sign that they feel unsafe. 

This was a true eye opener for me.  A violent response means they feel threatened?  What about me?  I’m the one being shouted at?  The truth is their reaction is a long standing, learned defense mechanism to feeling unsafe.  And, although it takes time, and patience, you can work within any conversation to make someone feel safe, if you choose to.

So, how do we end this vicious verbal dance we’ve been doing for years?  By following this proven practice:

  1. Watch for the first signs of impending silence or violence, in existing relationships, this is generally easy.  We all know who we butt heads with on a regular basis.  In other circumstances, just be mindful of the possibility.

  1. At first signs, (crossed arms, looking away, set jaw, change in breathing)  mentally stop!  Take a breath, releasing all tension and expectation from your mind and body.  Recognize that unless you change something at this very critical moment the conversation is over.  Let go of being right, heard, or respected for just a moment.

  1. Set about making the person feel comfortable and safe again.  Remind them of how much you value their opinion, beliefs, desires or choices.  Think of something you can say that validates who they are, what they want or believe.  Acknowledge them, maybe even several different ways, followed by “and, (never but) I’d like to explain why I ...(feel the way I do), (need what I need) etc.”

  1. If you are met by silence or violence again... you’ve trampled on their safety, again.  Go back to #2.  Repeat this process until you can have the interaction you hope for.  

Please don’t be mistaken into thinking that this is a 1-2-3 fix.  If you’re lucky, it might be, especially with strangers or those you rarely engage in confrontational conversations.  For those long standing, turbulent relationships this will take time, and a mindful practice.  But, wouldn’t it be great if it paid off?

You can defuse those stressful holiday interactions by noticing when someone is withdrawing from a conversation either by silence or violence, accepting that you unknowingly made them feel unsafe, re-establishing the status quo, and moving on.

Happy Holidays.  May your conversations be authentic, joyful, and calm!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Age : The Golden Attribute

I saw the above post on a FB page today and I was immediately inspired to write.  This is a subject near and dear to my heart...that of the limitations of age.  Here's what I believe...

If you hear yourself saying 'if only I were younger' or  'I’m too old to...’ you are not living the life you were meant to live.  You are shortchanging yourself of many fantastic experiences.  I believe the issue is more one of size, rather than action.  Meaning, at 18, when I took up skiing, much like an unrestrained toddler I threw myself on the slope.  I was young, resilient, no thought given to broken limbs, concussions, or lost wages.  Life was meant to be lived, here, now and big!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What's Keeping You From Marrying A Young Italian

Expectation is a powerful force. Combine that with preconceived notions and you have the potential for a huge and unnecessary hurdle.  I was reminded of this the other day when I was watching an old movie with Olivia De Havilland called Light in the Piazza. It’s a sweet tale of a mother who’s daughter becomes mentally impaired after suffering a serious injury in childhood.  The daughter, now aged 26, and mother take a holiday in Florence.  Very watchful and protective of her extremely lovely, yet equally innocent daughter, Olivia is surprised and concerned to find her daughter has sneaked away, met a young Italian, and in 1 afternoon fallen in love.  Although she makes every attempt to keep the 2 apart, the boyfriend, played by the dashing George Hamilton is overcome with amore for his lady love, delighting in her innocent, childlike nature, joie-de-vive, and purity.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sometimes You Gotta Cry to Reach Your Dream

For awhile I stopped writing my blog because I didn’t feel I had anything inspiring to offer, after all that is what this blog was designed to do.  But lately, life has thrown me for a loop, putting extra stressors and challenges in my path at every turn.  I have hidden this away not wanting to share a side of me that struggles and isn’t standing strong all the time.

In the last few days I have come to recognize the strength it takes to keep muddling through.  I have come to acknowledge that it’s OK to feel weak (something I absolutely abhor), to give in.  It's OK to feel defeated provided  I only choose to visit this place and not 'live' here.

Four years ago I set out on a path to menopausal nirvana, the land of purpose and fulfillment after motherhood.  I wanted to ‘get it right’, to make choices that were the very best for me, (taking into account that I am happily married).  In that time I have:

Faced and overcome a lifetime of feeling stupid due to undiagnosed learning disabilities by attaining my personal training certification (a self taught program including a text book of 500 disability is dyslexia).  

I have attended countless networking meetings populated by women in suits (hugely intimidating), where I felt totally ill equipped to even show my face let alone stand tall and proud introducing myself and my business. 

I have forced myself to be a presenter at a dozen or more meetings hoping I could inspire women to see themselves in a better step into their greatness, while I was trying to step into mine.

I have floundered in my search for a passion and purpose, desperately seeking something I could really dig my teeth into, to feel inspired by, to call my own and share with others.

And, after 4 long years I HAVE found my voice.  I have spoken about my emotionally and verbally abusive father.  I have taken back my power and am creating programs to give women a voice.

Yet, as I am writing this, I am crying.  I am tired.  I am tired of climbing out of the place I used to live it.  I want so much more.  I can see bigger things.  But, each dream and each vision requires more courage and tenacity.  It requires more dedication, more guts, and more hard work.  And, I’m tired.

So, I have decided to start blogging again.  Because I want other women to know that although it looks like I am smoothly navigating this journey, I go forward with fear and doubt, and that’s OK...because, I will go you can go forward.  I will take time to re-fuel because no matter how quickly I want to get ‘there’ I need to take care of me, right now.  My heart and my mind need to rest.  I need strength to be courageous and that requires enormous amounts of self care and patience.  It’s OK to rest.  It’s OK to cry.  It’s OK not to have all the answers.  It’s OK that it’s not happening now.

I will continue to write because I want to inspire.  This is a challenging time, going from over attentive mom and wife to an independent woman of power.  But, there are so many great things that have come out of this journey.  I have some of the best friends I have every had in my life.  I am filled with purpose, knowing I have something to offer the women of the world.  I have a better understanding of the gifts that I have and a way that I can share them.  

So even though my business is in it's infancy,  that I will eventually changes women’s lives with my vision, I know that I am a enormously different woman than I was 4 years ago.  Because 4 years ago I didn’t even have The Dream.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bingo at the Beach

I’ve been on vacation at the beach for the past 8 days.  The weather has been gorgeous, the temperatures perfect for beach play and porch revelry.  As the breeze whispers over my sun baked skin I wonder why I can’t relax. Why is it that in this most pristine of settings my stomach is all a-flutter. 

Sadly, I realize I have let a work issue glom all over my vacation  

As I ponder, I feel as though I have done everything I can do to ‘fix’ this slightly messy predicament.  As I go through my mental checklist I can say an unequivocal yes to all the ‘Did you...?’ questions that arise in my head. Still perplexed, and quite frankly tired of the butterflies inhabiting my mid-section in this most perfect of settings, I said to my husband ‘I don’t understand. Why can’t I let this go?’  And he replied, in his most Buddha-like fashion ‘It’s because you care so much and you want everyone to be happy.’  

Ahhh..... Bingo!

I think, as women, we are so innately wired to be caregivers that we frequently don’t even recognize we are carrying the burden of other’s happiness.  And, the reality is, as rewarding and fulfilling as it can be, it’s not our job.  

So, with my ah-ha moment came a little peace.  I’m reminding myself (several times today already) that I have done my best.  I have offered what I can with kindness, care and grace.  I can’t fix, or even smooth the way for all the individuals involved.  I can’t create their happiness. I can only do what I can do.  And, that’s enough.