Archive for August, 2011

Spousal Communication About Touchy Subjects Calls for Caution and Expertise!

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

     Communication with a spouse, even in the best of marriages, can be challenging.  Some topics are avoided.  Possible reasons are:

1. Who needs another fight.

2. Who wants to get hurt.

3. Who wants to hurt the other.

4. Who wants to lose.

5. Who wants to sleep with the dog.

     Because of the above reasons, and others, individuals in a marriage too often stuff their feelings, concerns and wants.  They don’t talk about what bothers them. Some people can’t communicate well when intense feelings come up.  Others can’t think fast enough on their feet to present an opposing view when challenged.

     Let’s look at a different communication scenario.  Picture this:  You have been working at a company for over a year. You have received some compliments on your work from your boss, but no raise.  You are frustrated and ready to speak up for your raise. This is a touchy situation. What might you do?  Hopefully, and probably, you would think it through, figure out what you want, put it on paper, practice what you want to say, schedule an appointment, sense what kind of mood s/he is in, and then respectfully state your case.  When the objections come, you will have anticipated them, and will calmly give a rationale why the objections are not pertinent.  Perhaps a time of reflection for both of you might be called for, so you request a follow up meeting.  If push comes to shove, you probably will be prepared to compromise so that a harmonious relationship can continue that will allow the boss to continue to appreciate your good work and respect your assertiveness.  This may well lead to greater success down the line.

     Perhaps some of the same principles and practice are applicable for communicating with your spouse on a touchy subject.  Once you know how you feel about something and what you want, try this:

1. Tell you spouse that you have something you want to discuss with him/her.

2. Ask what would be a good time for such a meeting.

3. Being respectful, you state:

   a)What you see going on.  Your perception.

   b) How you feel about it.

   c) What you want

4. Depending on the spouse’s response, be prepared to meet objections, schedule a follow up, compromise if needed.

     Bottom line, always put the relationship first. Most disagreements, concerns and problems pass on and become irrelevant over time.  But if the communication about such things is not handled well, the relationship is severely damaged.  Life is about priorities.  Unlike business, changing spouses is a whole lot more difficult than changing jobs!

Do You Have a Controlling Personality? Involved with One? Take This Test and Tally Your Score

Friday, August 26th, 2011

     Personalities are described by various theories and nomenclature.  An interesting descriptive paradigm is the Pleaser-Controller continuum.

     Pleasers and Controllers usually end up together, resulting in polarization, tolerable compromise, or synergistic union.  Pleasers are reactive personalities, avoiding conflict, and usually are emotionally retentive.  Controllers mostly are energetically expressive, go-getters, often with anger overtones.

     It can be helpful to know if you are a Controller – or married to one. Controllers are both male and female.  The following Controller inventory by Dr. Deepak Chopra is taken from his book, Ageless Body, Timeless Mind.  The following inventory should be helpful to determine if you are a Controller or if someone important in your life is one.

Give yourself a point for each one of which you can answer with frequently, most of the time, or almost always:

  1. I like to be in control of work situations and am much happier working alone than with others.
  2. When I’m under pressure, the easiest emotion for me to show is anger or irritability.
  3. I rarely tell anyone that I need them.
  4. I tend to harbor old hurts.  Rather than telling someone that he hurt me, I would rather fantasize about getting even.
  5. I have quite a few resentments about the way my brothers and sisters relate to me.
  6. The more money I spend on someone, the more that means that I love them.
  7. I keep to myself how unfairly others treat me.
  8. If a relationship starts to go bad, I secretly wish I could take back everything I bought that person.
  9. If it’s my house, the people in it should follow my rules.
  10. I find it hard to admit being vulnerable. I don’t often say “I’m wrong” and mean it
  11. It’s better to nurse my wounds than to show someone that I’m weak.
  12. I’m a better talker than listener.
  13. What I have to say usually is important.
  14. I secretly think others don’t take my opinions as seriously as they should.
  15. I have a pretty good sense of what’s good for people.
  16. At least once in my life I got caught opening someone else’s mail
  17. People have called me cynical or negative.
  18. I have high standards, which others sometimes mistake for criticism.
  19. I tend to be a perfectionist.  It bothers me to let a sloppy job go out.
  20. I feel uncomfortable if someone gets too close to me emotionally.
  21. After a relationship breaks up, I look back and think I was mostly in the right.
  22. I’m neat and orderly.  I like my way of doing things and find it hard to live with someone who is sloppy.
  23. I’m good at scheduling my day and put a high value on punctuality.
  24. I’m good at caring for other people’s needs, but then I get disappointed when they don’t think as much about mine.
  25. I have a logical explanation for the way I act, even if others can’t always accept it.
  26. I don’t care that much if other people don’t like me.
  27. In my opinion, most people don’t usually express their true motives for the way they behave.
  28. I’m not good at handling noisy or rambunctious children.
  29. I still blame my parents for a lot of my problems, but I haven’t told them so.
  30. When I get into an argument with my spouse or lover, I can’t resist bringing up old grievances.


Total score_______

Evaluating your score:

0-10 points.  Your personality isn’t dominated by an excessive need to be in control.  You are likely to be comfortable with your feelings and tolerant of other people.

10-20 points.  Being in control is a frequent issue with you.  You have more fears and hurt feelings then you let on, but you don’t work hard to resolve these feelings.

Over 20 points.  You are a controlling person. You feel that control is necessary because people hurt your feelings a lot, and your memory of this goes back into your painful childhood.

     This inventory can be a meaningful instrument to heighten personal awareness and can serve as a valuable tool for dialogue with your significant other.  Control is an important dynamic in all relationships.

Why Do You Look at and Describe People the Way You Do?

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

     All of your thoughts and conversations have been recorded!  They are on file.  Want to access them?  I’m not so sure you do.

     Over the course of our lives we develop, perhaps modify, an orientation as to how we see people, including ourselves. We then think, and may say, certain comments about our observations. What percentage of these observations/comments would you say are positive?  Negative? 

     Why is it that too often you look for, find, and comment on the negative of another person?  I can think of four reasons:

1. Your model:  that is what you saw and experienced in your family growing up.  Parents often focus and express what’s wrong with their child.

2. Self esteem:  if you do not feel good about yourself, you may cut yourself down, or others.  Some people need to find something wrong with the other person in order to get themselves up.  They then can feel superior.

3. Competition:  There certainly is a place for finding the weakness in your own or your competitor’s business.  The American way is competition.  However, in your personal life, if you need to thrive by making the other person less, you are coming from weakness. People often keep a “dirty bag” of junk about another person and bring it out if they feel defensive and/or need to put someone down.

4. When you are considering letting a person in to your personal life, family, etc…  You do not want to be hurt or someone you love to be hurt.  Therefore, you look closely at that person, hopefully seeing the good as well.

     The message is:




     I would encourage you to do the following two exercises:

1. Write down all the positive qualities about yourself that you can think of.  Also, ask someone who knows you well to write all the positives that s/he can think of about you.

2. Think about, and write, all the positive attributes of someone else that is in your life. You may even choose to give the list to that person.  What a nice gift!

     These exercises will lead to good feelings and positive energy within yourself and with other special people in your life. Seeing the good in people and sharing those thoughts with another is a better way to live!

Men Cuss. Women Giggle: Stereotype Perspectives Presented

Friday, August 19th, 2011

     Men and women are different.  How’s that for insight?!  But how and why are men and women different in various behavioral manifestations?  Some differences are more obvious and understandable, others are more mysterious.  I present one stereotypical stylistic oddity to give food for thought. 

     I’ve been involved in various sports all my life.  I have enjoyed participating, coaching and being a spectator.  Typically boys/men and girls/women approach sports with significant differences in style and mannerisms. The emphasis here is how each sex responds to his or her own mistake or error while playing the sport.

     I remember well watching the girls on my daughter Brittany’s softball team.  If one of the girls missed a ball or threw to the wrong base, she would immediately giggle and say “sorry!”  Not the same reality when observing my son Kris’ baseball team!  If one of them made an error he usually would growl and cuss. Often, this would be followed by some attempt to blame someone else for his error.

     So, too, does this style often persist into adulthood.  I see the same behaviors in most men and women not only in sports but also in various other challenging situations. This stereotype does not hold for all men and women. Usually the male ballet dancer or alto singer is not cussing, nor does the woman college basketball player or professional boxer giggle.

     Stereotypes do exist.  To what extent are gender differences genetically or culturally based? Were boys taught to cuss and blame? Were girls taught to giggle and apologize?  It is a challenge to try and understand why people behave the way they do.  To what extent do genetics and environment effect the outcome?  To what extent does choice exist?

     Too many people are ignorant of the complexity of these issues and stay stuck in stereotypical prototypes learned early in life.  The reason for this article is to ask you to look at each individual as a unique person who has a certain genetic input and orientation, acculturated by the environment in which s/he lives.  May all of us see and enjoy the uniqueness of each person and not be too quick to lock someone into a stereotype, especially one that is negative. 

     One of the privileges of my profession has been the opportunity to see the person beneath the obvious presentation. Sometimes we may have to dig a little deeper to find the goodness and positive qualities that each person possesses.  May you be open minded and scratch below the surface to connect with people that you may not be inclined to want to know.

     Such openness will allow our community to get beyond separating differences and bond with our common strengths.

Your Life Choices: Have They Been Good? How About a Moment of Reflection and Direction

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

     I’ll admit it.  I am fascinated by what makes people tick.  Why are human beings the way they are, or appear to be?  Why did they make the choices they did?  Personal and career choices can go in many directions. Were the choices made from strength and conviction or settling from fear and weakness?

     More specifically, how did you get here in life – August, 2011?  Where were you born?  What choices have you made to end up here, doing what you do, with these people in your life?

     What choices have you made to live in various places that ultimately led you to the Lake Oconee area?  What jobs have you had in your career that led you to the one you now have, or retired from?  What lovers have you rejected, or been rejected by, to have you today living with him/her?  Or alone? (This question is not meant to be shared with your current lover of choice).

     And there are more choices to make.  Life goes on. You have many, or a few, years to live.  With whom? How? Where? Doing what? Happily?

      Do you feel free to choose the next step of your life? Do you have a high quality life with a lot of satisfaction and joy that gives you optimism with regard to its continued existence? Or are you trapped – sentenced to a benign boring existence, plodding through the day, with superficial friends.

     I was talking with a man the other day.  He had moved here alone from a distant place. He’s not found this area to be a right choice for himself.  He’s moving on, hopeful that he will find more happiness in his next location.  He’s made another choice.  He’s chosen not to stay stuck where he currently is. May this be the right one for him.

     Myself.  I’ve been fortunate that through the detours and occasional poor choices, I’ve ended up in this paradise with a wonderful wife, kids within driving distance, doing what I love personally and professionally with people I respect and, in some cases, care deeply for. (I’m reminded of a popular song by Rascal Flatts, (now there’s a name for you) entitled “God bless the broken road that led me straight to you”)

     The recovery community has a wonderful saying/reminder:  “Just do the next right thing”.  This imperative gives hope that in the various choices before us, that if we just focus on “doing the next right thing” that we will be blessed with good outcomes. 

     Choices involve an analysis and then a decision.  MLK gave me insight with this quote: “Every decision involves an incision.” What do you choose?  What do you cut off to move forward?

     The point of all of this is that continually we are called upon to make choices.  It is important to understand the choices we have made, learn from them, and then make good or better choices for the future.

     May all your choices be the right ones for you, and for the special people in your life!