How Do I Make A Decision?

Many people who come to my office say they have a difficult time making decisions. I have developed a process to help my clients master this skill. I recommend that people follow these four steps:

1.    Identify the real issue. For example, you are trying to decide which movie to see, but you are having a hard time agreeing. As you talk about it, you realize that the real issue is that you simply want some time to be together in a quiet place where you can talk. Going to a movie does not address this issue.

2.    Identify the available options. In the above example, the options might include going to a quiet restaurant, taking a drive, or walking on the beach.

3.    Evaluate the available options. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each. Evaluate how well each option addresses the real issue.

4.    Implement the decision. Make a choice and carry it out.

Even though most people make dozens of important and complex judgments every day, few of us have actually been trained to make good decisions. We started making basic decisions when we were young children, and we continue to follow the same simple process as we get older, even though the issues have become much more complicated.

We learned to make decisions by watching our parents and learning in school. Mostly we learned by trial and error. Our first decisions were pretty simple-to choose pizza or hamburgers, to play softball or soccer, to wear the pink headband or the blue one. These decisions pretty much boiled down to choosing between X and Y.

According to the authors of Smart Choices: A Practical Guide to Making Better Decisions, most of us continue to choose between X and Y without making certain that we are addressing the real problem in the first place.

A second common mistake is rushing into a decision, hurrying to get it over with. We rarely step back from the decision and view it in a broader context. While it is more difficult and time-consuming, it is better to take your time and be sure you are seeing the big picture and the key issues.

Strategies for Making Better Decisions

Here are some decision-making tips:

1.    Take your time making important decisions. Some situations require a deliberate and careful decision-making process.

2.    Once the decision has been made, carry it out without hesitation.

3.    If you can, delegate decisions to those who will carry them out. Authors Heller and Hindle (Essential Manager's Man-ual) advise managers always to be on the lookout for ways to push the decision-making process down a level. If you are making decisions for your family, consider how you can involve your kids in the process.

4.    Making decisions requires both intuition and logic. It's important to trust your gut, but be sure you are thinking logically.

5.    Unless the situation is pretty straightforward, it is a good idea to generate as many ideas as you can. Learn the principles of brainstorming (see box) and throw lots of options into the hopper.

6.    Look at the issues from different points of view. How do they look to the different groups they might affect? For example, if a teacher asks his students to wear Native American clothing tomorrow, will the kids' parents have the time to help them prepare on such short notice?

7.    Consider the immediate and long-term implications of each solution, including its impact on other people.

8.    Consider the worst- and best-case scenarios, as well as the possibilities in between.

Deciding Yourself versus Involving Others

Involving others in your decision-making process helps you avoid the tendency to rush into a decision, hurrying to get it over with. When you take the time to consult others, you force yourself to step back from the situation and see it in a broader context. While it is more difficult and time-consuming, getting the advice and support of others can help you produce better decisions.

Consider these points when seeking advice:

1.    Determine whom to involve in the process. If it's a simple, low-risk decision, you may not need to involve any one else.

2.    If you do ask others for advice and suggestions, be prepared to respond to their input.

3.    Determine who will need to approve your decision, and get that approval.

Consider these points when seeking support:

1.    Think about who might resist your decision, and have a plan to manage that resistance. For example, you want to allow your daughter to have her friends sleep over on a weeknight during the summer, but you expect your husband will object because he has to get up for work the next day and doesn't want his sleep disturbed. Think about how you could plan the evening in a way to avoid disturbing your husband.

2.    Identify ways to increase the chances that your decision will be supported. In the sleepover example, you could ask the girls' friends to bring sleeping bags, and set up the basement for them to sleep in.

3.    If your decision presents any risks, look for ways to minimize them.

Make This Work for You

Rules of Brainstorming

    1.    Write down the question you are addressing. For example, "Where shall we go on vacation?"

    2.    Think of as many ideas as you can.

    3.    Write down every idea, no matter how wild it seems.

    4.    No one is allowed to judge or evaluate any of the ideas in any way. This includes making faces, rolling eyes, and sighing.

    5.    The goal is to think of as many ideas as you can. Quantity is more important than quality.

    6.    After everyone is finished suggesting ideas, take a break.

    7.    After the break, discuss the ideas and edit the list. A solution will emerge.

Identify a situation in your life right now. Be sure to choose something important and challenging. Apply the steps we have been exploring to this situation.

    1.    Describe the situation.

    2.    What is the real issue here?

    3.    List the pros and cons of each option.

    4.    What do you need to consider when seeking advice?

    5.    What do you need to consider when seeking support?

    6.    What are the best options?

    7.    Who needs to be involved?

    8.    What should be delegated? To whom?

    9.    What resources would need to be secured?

    10.    What steps need to be planned, and what is their timing?

 

 

 

Fine Tune Your Relationship

Why do some relationships last forever and others fall apart? Here are some ways you can make your partner feel appreciated again and prevent your relationship from becoming a casualty.

 

    1.    Treat your partner as you would your boss, best friend, or best customer.

 

    2.    Think about what your partner wants and give it to him or her.

 

    3.    Think of ways you can do the unexpected and be thoughtful. Remember how you acted when you wanted to win your partner over.

 

    4.    Pay attention to your appearance. Dress nicely; get into shape.

 

    5.    Express your thoughts carefully. Being married doesn't give anyone permission to let it all hang out.

 

    6.    Spend regular time together alone.

 

    7.    Look for ways to compliment your partner.

 

    8.    Hug when you say hello and goodbye. It feels good and it makes people feel loved.

 

    9.    Learn and practice communication skills. Relating successfully to another person requires a set of skills that can be learned.

 

    10.    Be polite. Just because you are married doesn't mean you can forget your manners.

 

    11.    When you want something, say please.

 

    12.    When your partner does something for you, say thank you.

 

    13.    When your partner comes home after a day at work, greet her at the door and say hello. Ask how her day went.

 

    14.    When your partner leaves for work in the morning, say goodbye and "I love you" or "Have a good day."

 

    15.    When your partner faces a challenge at work during the day, ask how it went when you get home.

 

    16.    During your evening meal together, avoid the temptation to watch television or read the paper or mail. Look at your partner and have a conversation.

 

    17.    If you want to make plans that affect how your partner will be spending time, check with him first and make sure it's convenient.

 

    18.    When you ask your partner a question, make eye contact and listen to the answer.

 

    19.    When you disagree with something your partner says, pay attention to your response. Do you express your opinion without putting her down? You can express your opinion assertively rather than aggressively. For example, you can say, "I have another opinion. I think we should wait until spring to have the walls painted," rather than, "That's silly! We should wait until spring."

 

    20.    Pay attention to how much of your side of the conversation is asking questions versus making statements. If you tend to be the dominant one, ask more questions.

 

    21.    Ask open-ended questions to encourage your partner to open up and talk. Open-ended questions begin like this:

    a.    Tell me about...

    b.    What do you think of...

    c.    What was it like when...

 

    22.    Have you become passive with your partner because that's the easiest way to avoid conflict? Over time, this is not a good idea. You will inevitably begin to build up feelings of resentment because you are stifling your feelings, thoughts, and opinions. If you think you are choosing passive behavior too often, think about discussing it with your partner and asking him to help you be more assertive.

 

    23.    Researchers have found that people whose marriages last the longest have learned to separate from their families of origin (their own parents and siblings) and have appropriate, healthy boundaries. They value and honor their own privacy and separateness as a couple. This means they have regular, appropriate contact with their extended family, but that it is not excessive or stifling. How do you compare?

 

    24.    Check your communication with your partner and beware of using "You" messages. These are statements that begin with you. For example:

You need to come home by 6:00 tonight.

You shouldn't do that.

You should call me from the office and tell me when you'll be home.

Here is what you ought to do.

"You" messages are damaging because they make the other person feel bad or disrespected. It feels like you are talking down to him or her.

 

    25.    If you want to demonstrate to your partner that you respect and esteem him or her, try speaking with "I" messages instead. When you start your statement with "I," you are taking responsibility for the statement. It is less blameful and less negative than the "you" message.

You can use this formula: Your feelings + Describe the behavior + Effect on you. This is how an "I" message sounds: When I heard that you'd planned a weekend up north, I was confused about why you hadn't asked me first, so I could be sure to get the time off. It takes some practice and you have to stop and think about what you are going to say, but your marriage deserves to be handled with care.

 

    26.    Make a list of your partner's positive qualities. Share them with him and tell her why you think each is true.

 

    27.    Ask your partner to do the same for you.

 

    28.    Respect each other's private space. Over time, many couples let this slide.

 

    29.    As the years pass, many couples begin to feel like they are living in the same house, but have parallel lives. Their paths cross in fewer places. What is the trend in your relationship and what do you want to do about it?

Check out: Connect With Your Partner: A Practical Activity Guide For Couples http://a.co/5t74ez6

Increase Self Esteem

What Is Self-Esteem?

 

Self-esteem literally means to esteem, or respect, yourself. Having high self-esteem means that you have a positive image of yourself. Let's look at where such a positive self-image comes from.

 

In her classic book Celebrate Yourself, Dorothy Corkville Briggs makes a distinction between the real you and your self-image. She says that the real you is unique and unchanging. Most of your self-image-what you think is true about yourself-is learned. It is not necessarily accurate at all!

 

Where are your beliefs about yourself drawn from? Where did you learn them? If you think about it, you'll see that they came from:

 

·    What others said about you

·    What others told you

·    What others did to you

 

Your self-image is the result of all the messages you heard about yourself as a child. These messages added up to a set of beliefs about who you are. It may have nothing to do with who you really are.

 

For example, you may believe things like:

 

·    I'm not very smart.

·    I'm naturally passive.

·    Girls aren't any good at math.

·    I'm too old to start over.

·    All of the women in the Breski family become doctors.

·    I'm painfully shy.

·    The Hurleys never lie.

 

In addition to learning to believe certain things during our early years, there are certain situations that make most people feel inferior or lacking in self-esteem.

 

Some examples are:

 

·    Being criticized

·    Not being loved

·    Being rejected

·    Experiencing failure

 

What Low Self-Esteem Feels Like

 

In situations like these above, it is not uncommon to feel emotions such as:

 

·    Sadness

·    Inferiority

·    Anger

·    Jealousy

·    Rejection

 

Cognitive Therapy

 

Cognitive therapy is one of the most successful methods for helping people feel better about themselves. Cognitive therapists help depressed and anxious people feel better by identifying how faulty ways of thinking are making them feel bad. They believe that faulty thoughts cause us to feel bad, which makes us feel bad about ourselves.

 

Cognitive therapists call these faulty ways of thinking "twisted thinking." Cognitive therapy is a process where the client analyzes his or her thoughts and beliefs, and learns to substitute more healthy ways of thinking and believing. These therapists help their clients feel better in four steps: First, identify the upsetting events that cause bad feelings; second, record your thoughts about the event; third, identify the distortions in your thinking process; and fourth, substitute rational responses. When the client successfully completes these four steps, the client usually feels better about him- or herself.

 

Thinking the right kinds of thoughts is one way to feel good about yourself. Now let's talk about a second way to increase your self-esteem: by taking a look at your life environment and seeing whether it supports you feeling good about yourself. You may find that some nourishing elements need to be replenished. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

 

Do you have people in your life who:

 

    1.    Treat you with love and respect?

    2.    Encourage you to do and be anything you want?

    3.    Help you find out what you want to do, and how to do it?

    4.    Encourage you to explore all of your talents and interests?

    5.    Are thrilled when you succeed?

    6.    Listen to you when you need to complain?

    7.    Help you bounce back from failure without making you feel bad?

 

Take a moment to think about each of the items on this list. Note where your environment is providing adequately for you, and where it is lacking. This can give you clues to how to build your own self-esteem.

 

 

 

Strategies for Esteem Building

 

1.    Pay attention to how you are feeling from moment to moment. Tune in to what your five senses are experiencing. Take it down to the most basic level of "I feel warm right now," "I feel light-headed," "I feel a tightness in my stomach."

   

2.    Revisit your interests and goals. Make a list of things you'd like to do and learn. Today, take one step toward learning more.

   

3.    Spend less time with critical people and more time with those who appreciate you.

   

4.    Spend some time with yourself at the end of each day. Review what happened and how you were feeling. Write about it in a private journal.

   

5.    If you are feeling bad about yourself, consider finding a therapist to help you get your life on a positive track.

How To Build Self Confidence

Signs of Self-Confidence

 

Let's explore the meaning of self-confidence by taking a quiz. Read the list of statements below and check which ones, in your opinion, are signs of self-confidence.

 

1.    Admitting when you are wrong.

2.    Being flexible when change is needed.

3.    Talking about your accomplishments.

4.    Describing negative events in positive terms. For example, "We didn't make our target, but we sure learned a lot."

5.    Dressing to please yourself without worrying what others will think.

6.    Using a strong handshake.

7.    Using casual language in an effort to avoid sounding too "corporate." For example, "You guys did a cool thing."

8.    Speaking very fast.

9.    Smiling often.

10.    Learning new skills.

11.    Putting yourself down in order to sound humble.

 

 

 

Low Self-Confidence

 

Part of defining self-confidence is thinking about what low self-confidence is, what it looks and sounds like. Test yourself now. Circle the statements that convey a lack of self-confidence.

 

1.    "I may be wrong, but I think the answer is ten."

2.    "Thank you for the compliment. We're very proud of our work."

3.    "That was really stupid of me."

4.    "I forgot my business cards. I left them in the car."

5.    (Responding to a compliment) "Oh, I've had this dress for ten years."

6.    "I would have gotten into the program, but they don't like to take people with my background."

7.    "That sounds like a challenge. I'm sure we can figure out how to solve it, though."

8.    "I'm sorry to interrupt, but I wonder if I could have a minute of your time."

 

Compare your answers:

Answers to Quiz #1

 

Items 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, and 10 are generally signs of self-confidence. The others could be seen as self-sabotaging behaviors.

 

Answers to Quiz #2

 

Items 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8 communicate low self-confidence. (Of course, there are no 100% right answers, since many of the statements depend on context, tone of voice, cultural interpretation, and other factors.)

 

Where Does Self-Confidence Come From?

 

Self-confidence is not something people are born with. It results from a combination of factors:

 

1.    Learned skill: Self-confidence is a combination of skills, not just a single quality. People are not born with it or without it. It can be learned.

2.    Practice: Self-confidence comes from practice. It may appear to be spontaneous, but it isn't.

3.    Internal locus of control: Self-confidence results from what psychologists call an internal locus (central point) of control. This means that people who are self-directing, who accept responsibility for their own results, have greater self-confidence.

 

8 Self-Confidence Builders

 

There are many concrete, specific things you can do to feel more confident in challenging life situations. Make note of those that will help you develop your own sense of self-confidence.

 

1.    Follow your strengths. Self-confidence comes from being the best "you" possible. It doesn't come from trying to be someone else. It is the result of following paths like these:

    ·    Do what comes naturally.

    ·    Develop your talents.

    ·    Follow your convictions.

    ·    Express your own style.

2.    Plan ahead. Many people are surprised to hear that self-confidence comes from something as ordinary as planning. But think about it; let's say you are going on a job interview, almost always an anxiety-producing experience. When you are prepared, you feel more confident.

3.    Take action. Confidence comes from taking action. Break your challenge down into small steps and take that first step, no matter how small it seems.

4.    Study. The more you know about your subject, the more confident you will feel. In fact, the lack of self-confidence almost always stems from a lack of information. We've all had that sick feeling that we don't fully understand what we are talking about.

5.    Act the part. The following tips will help you begin to present yourself in a positive way.

    ·    Find a role model. Look for someone who is already successful in your field. Observe him or her and identify for yourself what behaviors convey self-confidence.

    ·    Look and act powerful. Watch people who create a powerful impression. It could be a TV anchor, a character in a movie, or a coworker. Imagine yourself behaving in a similar way.

    ·    Be aware of nonverbal behavior that detracts from presenting yourself with confidence. Ask for feedback from a trusted friend or watch yourself on videotape.

6.    Rehearse for success. One of the most important ways to boost your self-confidence is by rehearsing important conversations and presentations. You can never be too prepared. These ideas will help you practice so that you really understand your subject:

    ·    Manage your anxiety. Feeling anxious is normal when you are in a challenging situation. The key is learning to manage anxiety so it doesn't paralyze you or diminish your effectiveness.

    ·    Get organized. When your materials are prepared and well-organized, you will feel better about your ability to access them. Having information scattered in too many places makes you feel out of control and undermines your self-confidence.

7.    Persist. Self-confidence is the result of a lot of hard work. The process takes time. It has been said that success is 99% persistence and 1% talent.

8.    Enjoy your success. When you reach your goal, don't forget to give yourself credit for working hard. Be proud of what you've accomplished. Here are some ways you can do this:

·    Look in the mirror and say to yourself, "Good work. I'm proud of you."

·    Think of a way to reward yourself.

·    Tell others about your success.

·    Write yourself a letter or explore your accomplishment in your journal.

·    Draw a picture expressing your achievement.

Assertiveness Communication

Most of us know that assertiveness will get you further in life than being passive or aggressive. But few of us were actually taught how to be assertive. Here are some helpful tips.

 

1.    Choose the right time. Imagine you're dashing down the hall on your way to a meeting. Lisa passes by. You call out, "Can you have the Microsoft project out by Tuesday?" Because you haven't scheduled a special time to bring up the issue, Lisa has no reason to think your request deserves high priority.

   

2.    Choose the right place. Discuss important issues in a private, neutral location.

   

3.    Be direct. For example, "Lisa, I would like you to work overtime on the Microsoft project." Whether or not Lisa likes your request, she respects you for your directness.

   

4.    Say "I," not "we." Instead of saying, "We need the project by Tuesday," say, "I would like you to finish the project by Tuesday."

   

5.    Be specific. Instead of, "Put a rush on the Microsoft project," say, "I would like the Microsoft project finished and on Joe's desk by 9:00 Tuesday morning."

   

6.    Use body language to emphasize your words. "Lisa, I need that report Tuesday morning," is an assertive statement. But if you mumble this statement while staring at the floor, you undermine your message.

   

7.    Confirm your request. Ask your staff to take notes at meetings. At the end of each meeting, ask your group to repeat back the specifics that were agreed upon. This minimizes miscommunication.

   

8.    Stand up for yourself. Don't allow others to take advantage of you; insist on being treated fairly. Here are a few examples: "I was here first," "I'd like more coffee, please," "Excuse me, but I have another appointment," "Please turn down the radio," or "This steak is well done, but I asked for medium rare."

   

9.    Learn to be friendly with people you would like to know better. Do not avoid people because you don't know what to say. Smile at people. Convey that you are happy to see them.

   

10.    Express your opinions honestly. When you disagree with someone, do not pretend to agree. When you are asked to do something unreasonable, ask for an explanation.

   

11.    Share your experiences and opinions. When you have done something worthwhile, let others know about it.

   

12.    Learn to accept kind words. When someone compliments you, say, "Thank you."

   

13.    Maintain eye contact when you are in a conversation.

   

14.    Don't get personal. When expressing annoyance or criticism, comment on the person's behavior rather than attacking the person. For example: "Please don't talk to me that way," rather than, "What kind of jerk are you?"

   

15.    Use "I" statements when commenting on another's behavior. For example: "When you cancel social arrangements at the last minute, it's extremely inconvenient and I feel really annoyed."

   

16.    State what you want. If appropriate, ask for another behavior. ("I think we'd better sit down and try to figure out how we can make plans together and cut down on this kind of problem.")

   

17.    Look for good examples. Pay attention to assertive people and model your behavior after theirs.

   

18.    Start slowly. Express your assertiveness in low-anxiety situations at first; don't leap into a highly emotional situation until you have more confidence. Most people don't learn new skills overnight.

   

19.    Reward yourself each time you push yourself to formulate an assertive response. Do this regardless of the response from the other person.

   

20.    Don't put yourself down when you behave passively or aggressively. Instead, identify where you went off course and learn how to improve.

Fine Tune Your Relationship

Why do some relationships last forever and others fall apart? Here are some ways you can make your partner feel appreciated again and prevent your relationship from becoming a casualty.

 

    1.    Treat your partner as you would your boss, best friend, or best customer.

 

    2.    Think about what your partner wants and give it to him or her.

 

    3.    Think of ways you can do the unexpected and be thoughtful. Remember how you acted when you wanted to win your partner over.

 

    4.    Pay attention to your appearance. Dress nicely; get into shape.

 

    5.    Express your thoughts carefully. Being married doesn't give anyone permission to let it all hang out.

 

    6.    Spend regular time together alone.

 

    7.    Look for ways to compliment your partner.

 

    8.    Hug when you say hello and goodbye. It feels good and it makes people feel loved.

 

    9.    Learn and practice communication skills. Relating successfully to another person requires a set of skills that can be learned.

 

    10.    Be polite. Just because you are married doesn't mean you can forget your manners.

 

    11.    When you want something, say please.

 

    12.    When your partner does something for you, say thank you.

 

    13.    When your partner comes home after a day at work, greet her at the door and say hello. Ask how her day went.

 

    14.    When your partner leaves for work in the morning, say goodbye and "I love you" or "Have a good day."

 

    15.    When your partner faces a challenge at work during the day, ask how it went when you get home.

 

    16.    During your evening meal together, avoid the temptation to watch television or read the paper or mail. Look at your partner and have a conversation.

 

    17.    If you want to make plans that affect how your partner will be spending time, check with him first and make sure it's convenient.

 

    18.    When you ask your partner a question, make eye contact and listen to the answer.

 

    19.    When you disagree with something your partner says, pay attention to your response. Do you express your opinion without putting her down? You can express your opinion assertively rather than aggressively. For example, you can say, "I have another opinion. I think we should wait until spring to have the walls painted," rather than, "That's silly! We should wait until spring."

 

    20.    Pay attention to how much of your side of the conversation is asking questions versus making statements. If you tend to be the dominant one, ask more questions.

 

    21.    Ask open-ended questions to encourage your partner to open up and talk. Open-ended questions begin like this:

    a.    Tell me about...

    b.    What do you think of...

    c.    What was it like when...

 

    22.    Have you become passive with your partner because that's the easiest way to avoid conflict? Over time, this is not a good idea. You will inevitably begin to build up feelings of resentment because you are stifling your feelings, thoughts, and opinions. If you think you are choosing passive behavior too often, think about discussing it with your partner and asking him to help you be more assertive.

 

    23.    Researchers have found that people whose marriages last the longest have learned to separate from their families of origin (their own parents and siblings) and have appropriate, healthy boundaries. They value and honor their own privacy and separateness as a couple. This means they have regular, appropriate contact with their extended family, but that it is not excessive or stifling. How do you compare?

 

    24.    Check your communication with your partner and beware of using "You" messages. These are statements that begin with you. For example:

You need to come home by 6:00 tonight.

You shouldn't do that.

You should call me from the office and tell me when you'll be home.

Here is what you ought to do.

"You" messages are damaging because they make the other person feel bad or disrespected. It feels like you are talking down to him or her.

 

    25.    If you want to demonstrate to your partner that you respect and esteem him or her, try speaking with "I" messages instead. When you start your statement with "I," you are taking responsibility for the statement. It is less blameful and less negative than the "you" message.

You can use this formula: Your feelings + Describe the behavior + Effect on you. This is how an "I" message sounds: When I heard that you'd planned a weekend up north, I was confused about why you hadn't asked me first, so I could be sure to get the time off. It takes some practice and you have to stop and think about what you are going to say, but your marriage deserves to be handled with care.

 

    26.    Make a list of your partner's positive qualities. Share them with him and tell her why you think each is true.

 

    27.    Ask your partner to do the same for you.

 

    28.    Respect each other's private space. Over time, many couples let this slide.

 

    29.    As the years pass, many couples begin to feel like they are living in the same house, but have parallel lives. Their paths cross in fewer places. What is the trend in your relationship and what do you want to do about it?

Find out your partner's love language to find out how to meet your partner's specific needs. Go to www.5LoveLanguages.com to take a short quiz.

12 RULES FOR CONSTRUCTIVE COMMUNICATION

Destructive communication erodes self-esteem and harms relationships. Such communication patterns may be destructive, but, sadly, plenty of people fall into the trap of indulging in them. If you and your relationship partners follow these rules and steer clear of the traps of destructive communication, you will almost certainly feel better about each other and your relationship.

1.    Use I-messages instead of You-messages. You-messages sound blaming and accusing. With an I-message, you can convey the same message without sounding blaming. For example:

You-message: “You left the dishes in the sink again.”

I-message: “When you don’t clean up after yourself, I feel taken advantage of.”

2.    Communicate the entire message. According to McKay et al. in their excellent book Couple Skills (see Suggested Reading), complete messages include four components:

Observations: neutral statements of fact

Thoughts: your own opinions and beliefs

Feelings: descriptions of your emotions

Needs: a statement of what you need or want from the other person

Here is an example of a complete message: “The weekend is coming up. I hope we can go to the movies together. I would like to spend some time with you.”

An incomplete message leaves out one or more of these components. It might sound like this: “I hope we can go to the movies this weekend.” There isn’t really anything wrong with this statement, but the first one is more complete and will more likely result in the speaker getting what he or she wants.

3.    Don’t use your feelings as weapons. Just describe what you are feeling as objectively as possible, not aggressively. Be as specific as possible and keep your voice under control. For example:

Objective: “I felt really hurt when you said that I probably wouldn’t pass the bar the first time.”

Aggressive: (yelling) “You are such an idiot! How dare you insult me like that!”

4.    Use specific language. When you have a complaint, be specific. For example, “I’m upset that you left the food out on the table” is clearer than saying, “Thanks for the mess you left me.” The first statement is less likely to produce defensiveness and leaves little room for misunderstanding.

5.    Focus on the problem, not the person. Consider how different these two statements sound:

“You are such a complete slob.”

“I wish you would take your stuff upstairs.”

Attacking someone’s personality or character—rather than a specific behavior—is different from simply expressing a complaint. A complaint focuses on a specific action. Criticism is more blaming and more global. It sounds like this: “You always screw the budget up. Can’t you do anything right?”

Behavior like this is damaging to a relationship because:

•    Criticism is destructive rather than constructive.

•    It involves blame.

•    Criticisms are global and tend to be generalizations (you always, you never, etc.).

•    Criticisms attack the other person personally.

•    It feels overwhelming to be on the receiving end.

6.    Stop bringing up ancient history. It’s more constructive to focus on the issue at hand, not bring up past hurts. When you are upset with your partner and add past issues to the discussion, it can only escalate the conflict. It feels unfair and can never be productive. If you still have feelings about past issues, it is important to resolve them and move on, not use them as weapons every time you have a disagreement with your partner.

7.    Watch out for mixed messages. Keep your statements clean, avoiding the temptation to mix compliments and complaints. For example, let’s say that you meet your friend at a cocktail party. You think she looks nice, but her dress seems a little too provocative.

Straight message: “You look very nice tonight.”

Mixed message: “You look so pretty. I would never have the nerve to wear that.”

8.    Pay attention to your body language. Your words are only part of the message you communicate. If you say “How nice to see you” while frowning, your message becomes unclear. Think about what message you want to convey and be sure that your body is in harmony with it. Watch out for things like these:

•    Rolling your eyes

•    Crossing your legs and arms

•    Tapping your foot

•    Clenching your teeth

9.    Pay attention to your emotions and keep from becoming overwhelmed. If you are calm, you are less likely to say things you’ll later regret, things that could be destructive to your relationship. You will be less likely to become defensive and shut your partner out. Examples of ways to calm yourself and keep from getting carried away with emotion include the following:

•    Pay attention to your physical responses. Is your heart racing? Are you breathing faster? If you are, take a time-out.

•    Leave the room. Go for a drive. Do something relaxing. Listen to music or do relaxation exercises.

•    Make a conscious effort to calm yourself down. Say things to yourself like:

“I’m very upset right now, but it’ll be okay. I still love her.”

“Even though we disagree, we still have a good relationship.”

“We can work this out. We’re partners.”

10.    Resolve negative feelings. If you have bad feelings about your partner, take steps to resolve them. Don’t let them grow into feelings of contempt. When you engage in behavior (verbal or nonverbal) that conveys a lack of respect, you are placing your relationship in serious danger. This includes obvious abuse, and also insults, making faces, and name-calling. Any relationship that is plagued by abusiveness and negativity will have a very difficult time surviving.

11.    Don’t be defensive. It is understandable to react defensively when you are in a conflict situation, but it can be dangerous to a relationship. Defensiveness tends to escalate the conflict and does nothing to resolve it. Some examples of defensive behavior include:

•    Denying responsibility (I did not!)

•    Making excuses (I couldn’t help it; traffic was awful)

•    Ignoring what your partner says and throwing a complaint back (Yeah, well, what about the mess you left yesterday?)

•    Saying Yes, but…

•    Whining

•    Rolling your eyes or making a face

12.    Don’t shut down. In Why Marriages Succeed or Fail and How You Can Make Yours Last , author John Gottman describes the dangers of shutting out the other person. He calls this behavior stonewalling and says that it means refusing to communicate, storming out of the room, or any kind of withdrawing. When a person is stonewalling, communication is impossible because he or she is refusing to participate. When it becomes a regular pattern of communication, stonewalling is very damaging to a relationship.

Managing Perfectionism

Perfectionists aspire to be top achievers and do not allow themselves to make even a single mistake. They are always on the alert for imperfections and weaknesses in themselves and others. They tend to be rigid thinkers who are on the lookout for deviations from the rules or the norm.

Perfectionism is not the same as striving for excellence. People who pursue excellence in a healthy way take genuine pleasure in working to meet high standards. Perfectionists are motivated by self-doubt and fears of disapproval, ridicule, and rejection. The high producer has drive, while the perfectionist is driven.

Causes and Characteristics

Fear of failure and rejection. The perfectionist believes that she will be rejected or fail if she is not always perfect, so she becomes paralyzed and unable to produce or perform at all.

Fear of success. The perfectionist believes that if he is successful in what he undertakes, he will have to keep it up. This becomes a heavy burden-who wants to operate at such a high level all of the time?

Low self-esteem. A perfectionist's needs for love and approval tend to blind her to the needs and wishes of others. This makes it difficult or impossible to have healthy relationships with others.

Black-and-white thinking. Perfectionists see most experiences as either good or bad, perfect or imperfect. There is nothing in between. The perfectionist believes that the flawless product or superb performance must be produced every time. Perfectionists believe if it can't be done perfectly, it's not worth doing.

Extreme determination. Perfectionists are determined to overcome all obstacles to achieving success. This is also true of high achievers, but the perfectionist focuses only on the result of his efforts. He is unable to enjoy the process of producing the achievement. His relentless pursuit of the goal becomes his downfall because it often results in overwhelming anxiety, sabotaging his heroic efforts.

The Costs of Being a Perfectionist

Perfectionism always costs more than the benefits it might provide. It can result in being paralyzed with fear and becoming so rigid that a person is difficult to relate to. It can produce contradictory styles, from being highly productive to being completely nonproductive. Some examples of these costs include the following:

Low self-esteem. Just as low self-esteem is a cause of perfectionist behavior, it is also a result. Because a perfectionist never feels good enough about himself or his personal performance, he usually feels like a loser or a failure.

Gloominess. Since a perfectionist is convinced that it will be next to impossible to achieve most goals, she can easily develop a negative attitude.

Depression. Perfectionists often feel discouraged and depressed because they are driven to be perfect but know that it is impossible to reach the ideal.

Guilt. Perfectionists never think they handle things well. They often feel a sense of shame and guilt as a result.

Rigidity. Since perfectionists need to have everything meet an ideal, they tend to become inflexible and lack spontaneity.

Lack of motivation. A person who expects perfection may never try new behaviors or learn new skills because she thinks that she will never be able to do it well enough. At other times, she may begin the new behavior but give up early because she fears that she will never reach her goal.

Paralysis. Since most perfectionists have an intense fear of failure, they sometimes become immobilized and stagnant. Writers who suffer from writer's block are examples of the perfectionist's paralysis.

Obsessive behavior. When a person needs a certain order or structure in his life, he may become overly focused on details and rules.

Compulsive behavior. A perfectionist who feels like a failure or loser may medicate him- or herself with alcohol, drugs, food, shopping, sex, gambling, or other high-risk behaviors.

Eating disorders. Many studies have determined that perfectionism is a central issue for people who develop eating disorders.

 

The Perfectionist versus

The High Achiever

 

People produce many of their best achievements when they are striving to do their best. High achievers, like perfectionists, want to be better people and achieve great things. Unlike perfectionists, high achievers accept that making mistakes and risking failure are part of the achievement process-and part of being human.

Emotionally Healthy High Producers

You can be a high achiever without being a perfectionist. People who accomplish plenty and stay emotionally healthy tend to exhibit the following behaviors:

·    Set standards that are high but achievable.

·    Enjoy the process, not just the outcome.

·    Recover from disappointment quickly.

·    Are not disabled by anxiety and fear of failure.

·    View mistakes as opportunities for growth and learning.

·    React positively to constructive feedback.

Once you are aware of the ways by which you expect yourself to be perfect, you can start to change your behavior. In my next newsletter, I'll offer some tips to help you get started. Until then, begin the change process by thinking about which causes apply to you and writing down examples of these perfectionist behaviors as you observe them.

Build People Skills

Build Your People Skills

 

How would you like to get along even better with others in your personal relationships and in the workplace? Getting along well with people sounds kind of general and is difficult to do much about, so let's break it down into some manageable and specific skills. By building the following skills, you will get along well with others:

    1.    Build others' self-esteem.

    2.    Show empathy for others.

    3.    Encourage people to cooperate with each other.

    4.    Communicate assertively.

    5.    Ask productive questions and demonstrate listening skills.

    6.    Respond productively to emotional statements.

People skills (which are also known as emotional intelligence) can be thought of as six specific skills. Let's take a brief look at each one.

    1.    Build others' self-esteem. When you are in a situation where you are made to feel good about yourself, you feel good. You can do the same with others by doing the following kinds of things:

    a.    Make eye contact with others.

    b.    Call others by their names.

    c.    Ask others their opinions.

    d.    Compliment others' work.

    e.    Tell people how much you appreciate them.

    f.    Write notes of thanks when someone does something worthwhile.

    g.    Make people feel welcome when they come to your home or workplace.

    h.    Pay attention to what is going on in people's lives. Acknowledge milestones and express concern about difficult life situations such as illness, deaths, and accidents.

    i.    Introduce your family members to acquaintances when you meet them in public.

    j.    Encourage your loved ones to explore their talents and interests.

    k.    Share people's excitement when they accomplish something.

    l.    Honor people's needs and wants.

    m.    Take responsibility for your choices and actions, and expect others to do the same.

    n.    Take responsibility for the quality of your communications.

    2.    Show empathy for others. Empathy means recognizing emotions in others. It is the capacity to put yourself in another person's shoes and understand how they view their reality and how they feel about things.

Being aware of our emotions and how they affect our actions is a fundamental ability in today's people-intense workplaces. People who are cut off from their emotions are unable to connect with people. It's like they are emotionally tone-deaf.

No one wants to work with such people because they have no idea how they affect others. You have probably met a few people who fit this description.

    3.    Encourage people to cooperate with each other. Whether you are managing a family or a work group, there are some specific things you can do to create an environment where others work together well:

    a.    Don't play favorites. Treat everyone the same. Otherwise, some people will not trust you.

    b.    Don't talk about people behind their backs.

    c.    Ask for others' ideas. Participation increases commitment.

    d.    Follow up on suggestions, requests, and comments, even if you are unable to carry out a request.

    e.    Check for understanding when you make a statement or announcement. Don't assume everyone is with you.

    f.    Make sure people have clear instructions for tasks to be completed. Ask people to describe what they plan to do.

    g.    Reinforce cooperative behavior. Don't take it for granted.

    4.    Communicate assertively. Assertive communication is a constructive way of expressing feelings and opinions. People are not born assertive; their behavior is a combination of learned skills. Assertive behavior enables you to:

    a.    Act in your own best interests.

    b.    Stand up for yourself without becoming anxious.

    c.    Express your honest feelings.

    d.    Assert your personal rights without denying the rights of others.

Assertive behavior is different from passive or aggressive behavior in that it is:

    a.    Self-expressive

    b.    Honest

    c.    Direct

    d.    Self-enhancing

    e.    Constructive, not destructive

Assertive behavior includes both what you say and how you say it.

    5.    Ask productive questions and demonstrate listening skills. Listening skills help you show that you are hearing and understanding another person and are interested in what he or she has to say.

    6.    Respond productively to emotional statements. A communication skill called active listening is especially useful in emotional situations because it enables you to demonstrate that you understand what the other person is saying and how he or she is feeling about it. Active listening means restating, in your own words, what the other person has said. It's a check of whether your understanding is correct. This demonstrates that you are listening and that you are interested and concerned.

Active listening responses have two components:

    a.    Naming the feeling that the other person is conveying

    b.    Stating the reason for the feeling

Here are some examples of active listening statements:

"Sounds like you're upset about what happened at work."

"You're annoyed by my lateness, aren't you?"

"You sound really stumped about how to solve this problem."

"It makes you angry when you find errors on Joe's paperwork."

"Sounds like you're really worried about Wendy."

"I get the feeling you're awfully busy right now."

Actively listening is not the same as agreement. It is a way of demonstrating that you intend to hear and understand another's point of view.

The ability to get along well with people in your personal relationships and in the workplace is a set of learned skills. No one is born knowing how to build others' self-esteem, show empathy, encourage cooperation, communicate assertively, ask productive questions, or respond productively to emotional statements. These skills can be learned and developed with some practice. By taking the time to develop these skills, you will be able to build better relationships at home and at work.

Journaling For Self Discovery

33 Ways to Use Your Journal for Self-Discovery and Self-Expression

 

As a therapist, I often suggest to clients that they explore their feelings and thoughts by keeping a journal. Sometimes clients ask for a bit of direction with this process. Here are some journaling ideas if you're not sure where to start:

 

1.    Write down what happened today and how you felt about it.

   

2.    Write a letter to a person you are angry with. Say everything you are feeling and wish you had the nerve to say.

   

3.    Draw a picture of the person you wrote the letter to in #2.

   

4.    Make a list of all the things you are grateful for. List all the big things, all the small things, and everything in between that you can think of.

   

5.    Circle the three most important things on the list you made in #4. Write a paragraph for each, expressing your appreciation to the person who had the most influence over it. If possible, turn this into an actual letter and send it.

   

6.    Make a list of the things that you feel upset about right now. Write down as many as you can think of until you can't think of any more. Then choose the top five.

   

7.    For each of the top five things you identified in #6, list 10 things you can do to gain control of the situation. Circle the top three from each list.

   

8.    Make a timeline that represents your life. Fill it in with the most significant events that have shaped you: your early years, your teen years, and each decade that has followed. Draw pictures or icons next to the most important events. Use crayons or markers if you wish.

   

9.    Write a few pages about your feelings about the timeline.

   

10.    Describe how your life would be different if          had or had not happened.

    Here are some examples:

a.     If your parents had divorced

b.     If your parents had remained married

c.     If your parents had been married

d.     If your mother hadn't passed away

e.     If you hadn't moved to    

f.     If you had gone to college

g.     If you hadn't gone to college

h.     If you had gone to      College

i.     If you had never met        

j.     If you hadn't broken up with            

11.     Make a list of all the things you wish you could do before your life is over.

   

12.     Make a list of the things no one knows about you.

   

13.     Write about your junior year in high school.

   

14.     Write about what life was like before you became a parent.

   

15.     Write about what you wish you had known before you became a parent.

   

16.     Make a list of the things you still want to learn about being a parent.

   

17.     Describe what it was like when you first met your partner.

   

18.     Write about what you wish you had known about your partner before you married him/her.

   

19.     Write about what you wish your partner had known about you before (s)he married you.

   

20.     Write a letter to yourself as you were at age 10. Tell yourself:

a.     What your life is like now

b.     What you have learned since you were 10

c.     What you want him or her to know

d.     What you want him or her to beware of

e.     What you want him or her to enjoy every moment of

21.     Write a letter to your own parents. Tell them what your life is like now.

   

22.     Write a letter to someone from your childhood or adolescence who didn't appreciate you or who misunderstood you. Tell the person what you want them to know and how you feel about the lack of connection between you.

   

23.     Think of someone you never acknowledged for something important. Write that person a letter and acknowledge him or her.

   

24.     Think of someone who never acknowledged you for something important. Write them a letter and tell them what you want them to know.

   

25.     Make a list of five miracles you want to happen in the coming year. Write a paragraph or two describing each one and how your life will be better if it happens.

   

26.     For each of the five miracles, make a list of:

a.     Five barriers or forces that block or prevent it from happening

b.     Five positive influences, things that encourage or support its happening

c.     Five things you can do to reduce the barriers and strengthen the positive influences

 

27.     Write about the five things you most like to do.

   

28.     Write about the five things you most dislike doing.

   

29.     Make a list of five places you'd like to visit. Describe what you imagine them to be like.

   

30.     Write about three things you most regret doing or not doing. Describe what happened and how you feel about it.

   

31.     Write a letter to your children, even if they have not yet been born. Tell them what you want them to know about you.

   

32.     Write a letter to your grandchildren, even if they have not yet been born. Tell them what you want them to know about you.

   

33.     Write a letter to your descendants one hundred years from now. Describe what your life is like today.

   

34.     Add your own ideas here: