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Archive for December, 2008

Say What You Need

Monday, December 29th, 2008


A three year old sat crying in her bed and her mother let her cry, thinking she would eventually fall asleep. When the crying continued, her mother went to comfort her. “How can Mommy help you?” the mother asked. “I need you to hold me,” the girl said, stating clearly what she needed.

As adults, it’s easy to get caught up in the games and patterns that we have learned growing up. These have become our tools for survival, the masks we wear. But do they work?

Protecting ourselves with unclear communication becomes more apparent in romantic relationships. It sounds like this: “I can’t believe you worked late again tonight.” When in reality, the true message is, “I am missing you and want to spend more time with you.” The first statement can sound accusatory, leaving the listener feeling defensive. The second message gives more information, where true feelings – even vulnerability – are revealed.

Somewhere along the line, we learn to say something different than what we want. It’s as though we are playing a game of strategy. If we say this, then the other person will do that. We guess and second guess, until we have strategized so much that our communication becomes convoluted and unclear. Whether the intention is to protect ourselves or hide what we really want, wouldn’t it be easier to be clear not only to ourselves, but to the people in our lives?

As an example, one of my clients, Teri, wanted to be coached around a situation in her office. One of her co-workers had alluded to the fact that she receives special privileges because she has a flexible schedule to help accommodate her needs as a single parent. Their relationship began to suffer as the co-worker made biting comments to her face (with a veil of humor) and behind her back (to other staff members).

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She was irritated, but didn’t want to communicate with him for fear that he would know that his comments were getting to her.

“What do you think he is trying to communicate and who should he be communicating with?” I asked Teri. She thought for a moment and said, “It sounds like he feels he is being treated unfairly and should probably be talking to our boss.” It seems obvious when you break it down, but we don’t often do that. Instead, we react to the co-worker’s negative comments, or worse, say something behind his back. The problem only grows from there.

I asked my client, “What do you want, how can you communicate that…and to whom?”

“I want my co-worker to quit saying these comments to me and have the boss address the situation directly.” We worked through how that might sound and she even practiced saying it to me. We came up with an action plan for the week and created accountability: “What will you do, by when and how will I know?”

Teri addressed the problem that week by communicating what she felt and asking for what she needed both from her co-worker and her boss. She opened herself up to being real (and possibly vulnerable) and the dynamics of both relationships changed for the better.

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By asking the simple question, “What do I need?” and finding a way to say it, you gain clarity with the people in your life. Wouldn’t it be nice if people said things directly and quit playing games? The only “people” you can control is you.

Coaching Challenge: Identify three situations this week when you are not clearly communicating what you need. It could be something at work, in a romantic relationship or with someone in your family. Usually the intent behind your current form of communication is to protect yourself and not appear too vulnerable. It is helpful to use ‘I’ statements when communicating your needs. This can make the other person feel less attacked and genuinely speak to your feelings and needs. Your first step is to identify these situations.

Second, ask yourself what it is that you want. And third, communicate what you need to the other person. Even if it doesn’t turn out perfectly, you have identified what you need and clearly communicated to the other person. From there, continue to be real in the relationship and speak your truth. Isn’t that better than wasting your energy playing the game?


Resolutions Made … in 4 Simple Steps

Monday, December 15th, 2008

As January 1st draws near, it is the perfect time to ask yourself: What do I want more of in my life? And what do I want less of? Isn’t that the core of New Year’s Resolutions?

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One of my clients recently asked for help in defining and keeping her resolutions. She had one of the most popular resolutions: to get in shape. It seemed very important to her, fueling her desire to make changes and move forward.

By asking a few questions, it was easy to determine where she was and help clarify her goals. The more specific she got, the more excited she became. It was as though imagining it and talking about it took her one step closer to achieving it. Putting forth intention and the energy behind words can be very powerful and a great first step. To make it even more concrete and do-able, we got even more exact. I asked her to clarify the following:

  • Goals – What do you want to happen? What is the outcome? Make sure your goals are measureable, specific and attainable.
  • Resources – What supports you in this area?
  • Red Flags – How do you know when you are not in line with this goal?
  • Affirmations – What statements help you move towards this goal?
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Here’s how it looked for her intention of “getting in shape:”

  • Goal — Workout at least three times per week for 40 minutes, combining weight training, flexibility and cardio-vascular conditioning. Lose 10 pounds of fat in 8 months. Decrease my body fat percentage by 3 points.
  • Resources – My health club, a personal trainer, a nutritionist and my favorite fitness magazine.
  • Red Flags – When my clothes begin to feel snug; I feel lethargic, and I start to gain weight.
  • Affirmation –When I take care of my body, it takes care of me.

After we had a framework, an action plan and some accountability for “getting in shape,” we then moved on to her second priority, Romantic Relationships.

When we finished looking at all eight areas of her life (Fun & Recreation, Physical Environment, Career, Money, Health, Friends & Family, Significant Other/Romance, and Personal Growth), we had done some incredible work and she had specific milestones to guide and track her progress.

I then took the worksheets and folded them in half. I told her that she could have them back, but I wanted to know the one word that would help her to keep her resolutions. “You already know the word,” I assured her. “The word you are looking for is the basis for truly changing your life. It doesn’t have to do with any particular area of your life. It has to do with you. What is this word?”

She thought for a minute, hesitated and said, “Authenticity.” I knew from the way she said it that this was the word. It didn’t matter what area of her life we looked at, if she approached it with authenticity, she could reach her goals.

And so, after an hour of completing worksheets, diving into all areas of her life, it really came down to one word: authenticity

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. She could use all of her creative ideas and hard work to move forward in each of these areas, but it became very simple. Her ONLY resolution, then, became, “To keep my word: authenticity.” That makes it easy to remember and to measure her progress…every day.



Coach’s Challenge:

Create your New Year’s Resolution by identifying one word that impacts all areas of your life. Here are some examples: honesty, integrity, education, creativity, courage, kindness, efficiency, faith, focus, etc. Select one and move forward keeping this word in mind. If you can post it in several places, it serves as a constant reminder to integrate it into all areas of your life. This then becomes your one-word New Year’s Resolution. Happy New Year!

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Feelings…Nothing More Than Feelings

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

Recently I had the pleasure of spending time with my 2 ½ year old nephew. There is something so simple and pure about being with a two-year old’s energy. As adults we can also learn from that energy the rewards of fully expressing our emotions.

When a two-year old is frustrated, happy, disappointed or elated, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice and name the emotion. At times these raw emotions can test even someone who has the patience of Mother Teresa, but the energy of the emotions is pure.

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As adults, we learn to curb our emotions. Could you imagine sitting in a business meeting and being told that your idea won’t work and throwing yourself on the floor, kicking and screaming until you got your way? In growing up, we all learn “appropriate” times to express our emotions, and that a business meeting may not be the best choice.

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As a life coach, however, I see the price clients pay having shut down so many feelings in their lives. Often there are few (if any) times that seem appropriate to express their emotions. This leaves many of us not feeling much at all, most of the time. Our emotions then become inaccessible.

It may sound safe to shut down “bad” emotions, but by shutting down the “bad,” you also limit the amount of the “good” that can be experienced. As we block things out, we begin to close down and block the flow of energy in our lives.

Think of your life flow as the cross-section of an artery. As emotions are blocked from such typical things as anger, resentment, frustration, denial, etc. the artery begins to get clogged – just like it does in heart disease. As the amount of blockage grows, the amount of life flowing through it decreases so much that we are unable to enjoy or feel the life force coming through. We choose not to feel, go on auto-pilot, and begin to die a slow death.

What can you do about it? Give yourself permission to feel what you feel. Be with the emotions. Feel anger; experience delight; go deeper. What is there? What is anger like? How does it feel? Even if it’s uncomfortable, remember that you are in a very safe space and all you are doing is experiencing your feelings.

Once you begin to feel again, the pain probably isn’t as bad as you had imagined. The uncomfortable feeling may pass in some cases very quickly allowing more life energy to flow through the “artery” and allowing life to open up. It’s being available to your emotions and your life that gives it depth and meaning.

Here’s a disclaimer: if the emotion is based on something very serious or you are extremely resistant or impacted by your emotions, you may need a therapist or counselor. This person can help to dig through these situations and do some healing from the past. Remember, life coaching is about feeling things now, increasing energy flow and moving forward with intent. There is a distinct difference.

The message is to open up and feel what’s happening in your life – both the “good” and the “bad.” You have the freedom and safety to un-clog the artery and live your life fully. Let it flow!

Coaching Challenge: Select something in your life that charges you (people pulling out in front of you, feeling stupid, a comment made by a co-worker or spouse, etc.) and consciously try on the emotions. Choose any way you can to be with your emotions. It could be journaling, simply sitting with them or talking to someone you trust. Fully be with the emotion. Go to the depths, explore. You’ll probably find that it isn’t as deep or as bad and you think. Once you give yourself permission to feel and experience it, see if you can gain back some of your freedom and life flow. As you move forward in life, be more aware of your feelings and experience them fully. Hopefully you’ll find that it isn’t that scary, and once you move the blocks out of the way, life flows so much more freely.