Tag Archives: communication

Little Children Come Out to Play

26 Jan

It would be nice if they would ask our permission, but they don’t. Our little children come out to play without any warning at all. I’m not talking about our sons and daughters. I’m talking about that outer child we all have. the outer child that protects the inner child inside of us. Sound confusing? Maybe but you know the one… they are always causing problems for us. They get in the way of happy, healthy relationships.

One little comment to a grown up can come off one way but once the outer child hears it, it becomes quite the problem. Not because the comment was anything big and not because the outer child is overly dramatic. It is solely because the outer child feels the responsibility to protect the inner child also known as the wounded child. And they are hurting – always. They lie beneath our surface and wait. When they hear anything that sounds remotely like the hurtful words of our parents or they see something happening that reminds them of the hurts and fears of childhood, they call on the outer child and well let’s just say it is downhill from there. As adults we can no longer see clearly or think rationally. We are overtaken by the tantrums and fits of our outer child. We operate from a place of hurt and start moving further and further away from healing. Who knew these little people could do so much damage?

The bad news is the inner child and the outer child are a part of us now and forever. The good news is they are not strangers to us. We know them well and they are close enough to call on and speak directly to. First you have to make sure you recognize your outer child is there. Go back to a previous blog called Identifying Your Outer Child and see if you recognize yours.

The next step is to get to know them a little better when things are calm. Start talking to them now before they jump out and yell at your partner on your behalf. The irony is they think they are helping. They go into attack mode to try to defend because they are protecting the hurting child inside of you. It gets even more complicated because as it turns out, they weren’t really yelling at your partner at all. They were fighting with your partner’s outer child. Now we’ve got multiple children who have come out without permission and they are really getting into it. It can be ugly.

The best way to get to know your inner and outer children is to start talking to them. Be kind, because they are typically in a state of hurt most of the time and only have the reasoning of children. Be patient when they are immature and not listening to you or your partner. Then… lay down the law. For example, I had to start by explaining to my inner child that she is safe because I am a grown up and I will take care of her. That job belongs to me I will never abandon her. I am here, always. I tell her that I understand she needs attention and that I will work hard, in a grown up way, to get it. I explain that fits of crying and sarcastic comments from the outer child will not help me and my partner. I tell my outer child that she needs to stay quiet and let the grown up part of me take care of my relationship. I tell my inner child that I love her but that I’ve got this and she is not to send out the outer child and start causing problems. Most of the time she listens and the grown up side of me gets to stay happy and healthy.

But there is something else that is really important. It’s not enough just to see your own inner and outer children. You must recognize that there is a wounded child inside your mate. That child was told ugly things and hurt in ways you may never fully understand. You don’t have too really you just have to keep your outer child at bay when dealing with your mate’s “children.”. The grown up in you can step up and soothe their inner child. You can say kind things to build them up or calm them down. See the child, be the grown up. You would never yell at a hurting child on purpose but that is essentially what is happening if we are not clearly seeing who is standing before us, our grown up mate or their outer child who has come out without permission.

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A New Twist on Old Advice

9 Jul

I heard some great advice the other day. It wasn’t new advice and it didn’t come from a stranger. It was a twist on old advice from someone I greatly respect and get advice from all the time. For whatever reason, on this day, I heard it differently. It was simple really. She said, “You’re behavior is all you’ve got. Hold on to it.” It was a twist on, “You can’t control other people, only yourself.” or even, “You can’t control situations, but you CAN control how you respond to them.” I hear this advice all the time. I give this advice all the time.

This time though, it was more about recognizing when other people’s behavior is out of control or at best, not to my liking, I always have the option to control my own behavior. I can make a conscious choice not to get caught up in their rage. I can ignore their “f” bombs rather than throw in my own. I can hear them escalate and soothe myself rather than join them in their chaotic world. If I can manage that, I might even choose to throw in a little prayer for them or at least a “Bless their heart.”

Behavior is observable. We see it and therefore, we judge it. We decide if it’s good or bad and whether or not we like it. What I have managed to forget is that while I am busy judging, my behavior is simultaneously on display and living in the land of right or wrong for others to see. What would they say? Could I defend myself? Am I modeling appropriate behavior for younger eyes that are watching?

People that push our buttons are excellent “baiters.” They dangle the bait right in front of us and it is all we can do to no jump up and take it. We think we’ll be quick enough to grab it and fool them. Get in and get out and we win! The truth is, they catch us, every time. We are hooked and immediately on the behavioral decline right along side them. How do they do it? I’m curious about that, but I know my time is better spent figuring out how not to take the bait. I think I will tell myself that my behavior is all I have…hold onto it. I’m going to hold on for dear life. I am the only one accountable for everything I say and do. I might even bless their heart.

Change a Tire, Change a Heart

30 Mar

Isn’t the universe a funny thing? Sometimes I wonder why I even try to be in charge of my own life.

I met someone recently and over the past month we’ve been sharing with each other the ins and outs of who we are. It was just a few weeks ago when I shared something with him that I share with almost everyone I know. I hate doing “man stuff.” I was referring to the times when I am forced to deal with things that require tools and testosterone. Mostly car troubles, things in the house that need fixing, mastering the pool equipment to keep my pool clean and other things of that nature. So I said to him, “I hate doing man stuff.” As soon as I said it I felt whiney and was sure I should hand over my “equality for women” card. This made me nervous, so I did what I always do when I get nervous, I kept talking… a lot. Thank goodness I did, because I finally said something I needed to hear. It came out of my own mouth. It was my truth. This is what I said. “I hate doing man stuff. It’s so frustrating and I usually end up crying. I mean, I can do these things myself or certainly be resourceful enough to get them done. I just hate doing the “man stuff” because it is a reminder that I am alone.” (Insert Aha! Moment)

Well how about that? It turns out it wasn’t so much the “man stuff” that got me so upset after all. It was that undeniable awareness that I am alone. There is no partner around to do the “man stuff.” There is no other adult in my house to help me navigate the up and down days of my life. It is just me.

So I heard my truth come out and I have to say I was a bit surprised. I am strong. I am independent. I can do a lot of things. These are truths I speak more often. I am familiar with them. This new one was unfamiliar and I wasn’t sure I liked it.

Recently, I shared something with my children and every client I’ve seen in the last two weeks. I talked with them about courage and what it means to have courage. I told them it seems that people these days align courage with acts of heroism. I told them that I believed that courage means being able to speak from the heart, to speak your truth. I said very clearly to each of them, “The bravest and most courageous thing you can do is to ask for what you need.”

Fast forward to this morning. I woke up with a full agenda for the day and a flat tire. Crap! Man stuff! With a heavy sigh I began to problem solve. My first step was sending a text to that same person. I figured this was a good move since I’d already proclaimed my hatred for “man stuff” to him. This would not shock him and he’d be able to tell me what to do.

He replied with a text followed by a phone call. Would you believe he had the nerve to offer to drive across town just to take off the flat tire and put the spare on? I began to think…He must not know I’m strong. He must not know I’m independent and that I can do all kinds of things. Whether he sensed my hesitation or not, he suggested I think about it and said he’d call me right back. And that is when it hit me. Damn you universe! I hear you loud and clear. It’s time for me to take my own advice. It’s time for me to own a new truth that I have so adamantly tried to push on to everyone else. I really didn’t think “I need help” fell in line with “I am strong, I am independent, I can do all kinds of things.” Well it doesn’t, unless you have courage. The courageous ones know that getting your needs met doesn’t make you weak or dependent.

He called back with his offer still standing. I accepted. I also told him how extremely difficult it was for me to ask for and accept help. He said he understood and was on his way. He arrived, he changed my tire and he forever changed my heart. He was the teacher I needed in the moment I needed him. He gave help without judgment and thought no less of me. It turns out that I can do all kinds of things including having the courage to ask for what I need. Thank you universe and thank you James.

You Teach People How To Treat You

19 Mar

As you read the title of this blog, I don’t want you to think that starting now you should begin teaching people about how you want to be treated. The title is meant to inform you, that this is already happening. When you understand that you teach people how to treat you, you can begin to determine your own accountability in relationships, you can stop pointing the finger and you can recognize your role in what went wrong.

When a relationship is in trouble and/or falls apart, both parties can easily agree that something went wrong, but they find it much more difficult to agree on who is to blame for the relationship’s demise. I am not suggesting to you that finding the culprit be your end goal, but if you are going to take the time to look at the two parties involved, you might as well ask yourself if you have done your part by teaching your partner how to treat you.

Some people are famous for keeping the peace. They say things like, “Whatever you say, Dear” and “No, really, I’m fine.” The reality is these peacekeepers are not feeling very peaceful on the inside. As they stay tight lipped to avoid conflict and drama, a storm begins to brew. The resentment builds, the anger increases and before you know it they say something ludicrous like “He never listens to me or considers my feelings” and “She doesn’t even know when I’m upset.” Hmmm… I wonder why.

Boundaries. They are not recognizable to others when we don’t enforce them. In fact, they become invisible and unknowingly trampled upon.

Feelings. They are not understood by others when we don’t communicate them. In fact, they become lost even within ourselves.

Thoughts. They are not valued by others when we do not share them. In fact, they disappear and are replaced by the thoughts of others.

Expectations. They are not appreciated by others when we do not express them. In fact, they slip away and often leave us feeling disappointed by others.

While it can be scary to set boundaries, I assure you, the boundaries you set will serve their purpose in bringing some people closer and pushing away the ones that needed to be pushed. When your boundaries are clear, people will know how to be in a relationship with you.

I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, we leave in a world of “doing” where only behaviors can be seen. Unfortunately, behaviors live in the land of judgment and in the land of what is right and wrong. Most people are not trained to see the thoughts, feelings, and expectations behind the behaviors. There is a function to every move we make. There is a feeling behind every behavior. I guess it’s an option to leave it up to your partner to try to guess the function of your behavior, why you might be stomping around the house mumbling under your breath, or why you quietly cry yourself to sleep at night, but I wouldn’t recommend it. In fact, I’d say it’s unfair. Chances are, they’ll guess wrong, that will likely stir up another feeling inside you that you aren’t willing to share and then the cycle continues. It sounds exhausting to me. For those of you living this way, I bet you’d agree that it drains you on a daily basis.

I wonder what it would be like to find your voice. What would it mean to share your thoughts, feelings and expectations? What might happen if you established and enforced some personal boundaries? Wait… I know this one. You would be teaching people how to treat you.

What Happens When One Person In A Relationship Changes

21 Oct

With the divorce rate as high as it is today, I often wonder what is happening to couples.  I am especially intrigued by the divorcing couples that have been married for 15 plus years.  They’ve been together so long, some since they were sweethearts in high school. What changed?

I am reading a great book by Harriet Lerner that is helping me understand the mystery of relationships.  One of the reasons relationships end up in divorce is because one partner in the relationship changed.   Even if one partner changes for the better, it can be met with great resistance from the other.   This can play out in families as well.  According to Bowen Family Systems Theory, in all families there is a powerful opposition to one member defining a more independent self.   Here are some of the reactions toward the changing individual:

  • “You are wrong,” and they go on to list their reasons to support this.
  • “Change back and we’ll accept you again.”
  • “If you don’t change back, these are the consequences,” which are then  listed.

In couples and in families, the person changing will likely see some counter-moves.  They may catch some verbal backlash and be accused of being disloyal, selfish, and having little disregard for others.  Their partners and families may threaten to terminate the relationship with them.    These are some pretty devastating consequences for a person who is simply trying to better themselves.

If you are the one who his changing, consider this – “Counter-moves are the other person’s unconscious attempt to restore a relationship to its prior balance or equilibrium, when anxiety about separateness and change gets too high. ” (Lerner, p.35)  In other words, people are not making counter-move to be controlling or chauvinistic.  Whether they have those qualities are not is sort of beside the point.  counter-move are an expression of anxiety , as well as of closeness and attachment.

If you are the one changing – it is really important to keep clear about your own position.  It is not your job to try to prevent the counter-move or tell that person they should not be reacting that way.  Let it be.  Focus on their feeling behind their behavior.  It’s how they feel and you can’t argue with that.

More often than not, depending on how one proceeds with their changes, it can really enhance  and strengthen their relationship rather than threaten it.  There is no way to predict whether or not you’ll be met with a counter-move, but when you are, now you will understand what is going on and that the person is likely afraid of change and mostly afraid of losing their relationship with you.  Communicate what the changes will mean for both of you and offer assurances when you can.

Don’t be afraid to change, just be ready for the counter-move and handle it with grace.

If you’re interested in more about Harriet Lerner’s perspective, Her book – The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships has been really eye-opening.

Breaking Bad News To Your Kids

14 Oct

Have you ever felt ill-equipped to communicate with your kids when something bad has happened?  Have your found yourself looking for a book about it so that you can just read to them instead and hope they get the message?  If you’ve felt like this, know that most people do.  It’s awkward, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s nothing short of painful to see your children hurting.  Most people are at a loss for words when a pet runs away, a divorce is pending, or a grandparent dies.  While it may be your natural instinct to want to protect your children from painful experiences, it’s not what is best for them.  Life is full of painful emotions, so here are some guidelines for you to help your child navigate through them.

The first and most important thing to do is to check your own emotions about the situation.  Get a handle on them before addressing your children.  The last thing you want is for your children to worry about taking care of you. It’s understandably harder when it is an emotional issue for you so determine if perhaps there is someone more appropriate to deliver the message to your children.

Be open.  Kids may react in a variety of ways in which you did not expect.  They may cry, laugh , get angry or do nothing at all.  Don’t worry too much about initial reactions, some kids just need time for the news to sink in.  Be there when it does.

Make sure you give information according to your child’s age.  The younger they are, the less information they need.  Your teenagers will need more information and will likely have more questions for you.  Answer any and all questions as they come.  Don’t be surprised if you get blamed for the bad news.  Children don’t have a lot of life experience yet and simply don’t understand that sometimes bad things just happen.

Reassurance is important.  Remind your children that you love them and you are there for them.  If you are uncertain about how long you are able to be there for your children  (such as when you recieve a terminal prognosis), make sure they know of other caring, trusted adults who will be there for them.

Talk about what the bad news means for them personally.  Be specific.  Will it change their life a lot?  Not at all?  Be willing to talk about details with your older children so they can know what to expect.  If you are concerned that your child isn’t talking to you about it,  make sure other adults in their life are aware of what is going on.  Talk to coaches, teachers, youth group leaders and anyone who can offer support.

In the midst of breaking bad news, do your best to stay positive and talk about how to hang in there while dealing with the situation.  This is a great time to model healthy coping skills during times of stress.  Your children are watching you and following your lead whether your eat or drink your way through stress or surround your self with a support network to lift you up.

Bad news is part of life and your children will come to recognize that as they grow up.  Now is the time to equip them with the skills to handle whatever comes their way.  Talk to them – I’m wishing you the very best!

Leave a comment if you can offer some strategies for breaking bad news to kids.

*This blog was pieced together with information on breaking bad news to your kids found on www.parentfurther.com.  It’s an incredible resource for parents!

Are You Congruent? Communication Stances That Protect The Self But Hurt The Process

4 Oct
 

Communication Stances are body positions that indicate the style of communication being used by an individual.  There are five distinct stances, the leveler, the blamer, the placator, the computer, and the distracter (Satir, 1988).

The leveler is the only one of these stance that is congruent, which is when internal states match what is communicated externally (Satir, 1988). The leveler has an open stance, arms open, legs in a relaxed open stance, and facial expression and tone match internal happenings.

Blamers defend by pointing the finger at someone else. They use words like “you should have” or “if you would try harder, then I wouldn’t have to…” Placators defend by trying to marginalize conflict. They sound like “please, won’t you just listen” or “now, it wasn’t that bad,” and the posture is one of pleading. Computers often position themselves with their arms crossed and words they use are super reasonable, like “I tried to tell you”, or “according to so-in-so.” They defend by ignoring feelings and other information, relying on logic to sound all put together. Distracters attempt to derail the conversation when they are uncomfortable, the postures being more like rapid movements, or perhaps laughing at inappropriate moments. Words they use sound like “not to change the subject but” or “did you see that new movie?”

Satir saw these stances as protective of the self when it feels threatened (Piddocke, 2010). Instead of asking to be loved, the stances say ‘I’ll do anything’ (placating); ‘I’ll make you feel guilty’ (blaming); ‘I’ll detach from reality’ (be “super­reasonable”); ‘I’ll deny reality’ (be irrelevant). When a person has high self-esteem and the self is threatened, they may say ‘I am loved by self and others’ and maintain a congruent stance. They will do what fits, respect differences, and accept the context. Systemically, stances are indicative of how the system functions when the status quo is threatened.

Leave a comment and let me know if you relate!