Category: Boundaries

The good news: It’s the holidays! The bad news: It’s the holidays! This time of year can have you going from one extreme to another. Parties, family, friends, spiritual gatherings, shopping and oh yes, work. There are a lot of demands on your time and energy. The only way to happily navigate this time of year is to set boundaries that you can feel GOOD about!

If you are like me, you may have grown up hearing how setting your boundaries is essential, only to feel that “setting your boundaries” may feel like a generic term for “something doesn’t feel quite right, but I don’t know what it is or how to change it.”

There are boundaries for everything. You have to know what they are, when to use them and how to communicate them. There are a lot of moving pieces in boundary setting. Even when you know your boundaries, expressing them with firm compassion is often a challenge.

Simply put, a boundary is a limit. There are different kinds of boundaries; below are the two types you may be most familiar with:

• A physical boundary defines who can touch you, when, how and where that will or will not happen.
• Emotional boundaries are the limits you set on how people will treat you.

Your values and priorities guide your boundaries. You have to decide, “what’s most important” to you when you choose, say, how you are going to spend your time during the holidays. Once you know your limit, then you have to know when it is about to be or has been reached. The way you know this is through your feelings and emotions. When you feel bad, guilty, resentful, etc., it’s usually a boundary issue. Keeping all this in mind, below are a few tips for communicating with compassionate firmness to keep your boundaries intact.

1. Start with a list. What needs to get done? What can you delegate? What can you cut out or postpone?

2. Decide the top actions or activities you want to do (not that have to get done). You just cannot do everything, nor would I suggest you try. Decide what makes you happy and start here first.

3. What actions or activities make you feel guilty, resentful, inadequate, depressed, anxious, etc.? Put those on the bottom of the list.

Make these lists short and simple.

4. Once you know your limits, you have permission to say “no,” “maybe,” or “yes” or something else entirely.

5. Lastly, setting your boundaries is about communicating expectations (yours and theirs), adjusting if needed (not giving in) and acknowledging the invitation or request by thanking the person and then expressing your response.

Here’s a short example:

Bob: My mother just called, and she wants us to come over early on Christmas and help with cooking, set-up, and clean-up.
Susie: Of course! I love your mother and am happy to help. And…I feel like every year I end up doing the bulk of the work. What if we told her we can come over between 2-3 and would be happy to help with whatever still needs to be done?
Bob: I’ll try, but you know how mom is and how nobody else helps.
Susie: Yes, that’s the problem. Let’s tell her how much we appreciate what she is doing and that we are happy to come over by 2 p.m. and that it’s a great opportunity for other family members to step up and help her.

Period!
No more dialog. That is the conversation. Communicate it and repeat it verbatim as needed. The gem is the repetition! If you are not used to using compassionately firm language, practice saying it to yourself and out loud.

Happy Holidays and enjoy setting some new boundaries.

Julie Hawkins, is the Biz Psychic and Women’s Boundary Coach. www.juliehawkins.com

 

Mother & Daughter Relationships

Over the last 6 years I’ve used all the skills I have (and I have many) gotten help from others and have still been unable to reconnect in what I call a meaningful relationship with my daughter. The results of my efforts often feel painful and disappointing, yet I persist; she is and always will be my daughter.

Recently I gave several readings with a mother/daughter theme so I paid attention. I wondered what I insight I could learn from other people’s readings that would provide some peace for my own relationship.

My daughter Rachael & I

Here’s what I learned in general:

Mother/daughter relationships are challenging for many reasons, no matter how close mother and daughter were during the child’s minor years, there just seems to be a natural “parting of the ways” in adulthood. Never having had my mother in adulthood (my mother died when I was 15) I do not have the benefit of this perspective. It may very well have happened the same way for my mother and I. I imagine that daughters want to grow up and be on their own and don’t want to rely on or confide in mom at some point. Ugh, that’s a dagger in the heart! But I guess they just don’t need mom like they used to, unless they have children (that’s a whole other topic).

Here’s what else I learned. It doesn’t matter what I do, it’s wrong. Again, I think it’s just a function of a daughter wanting to be her own person. Daughters, no matter how wonderful they are, forget that mothers are human too and have real lives and feelings; feelings that are often more powerful than can be explained or understood unless the daughters too are mothers.

Also, the mother/daughter challenge seems to transcend age. I’ve given readings to women in their 60s whose mothers are living and it’s just as much of a challenge for them as for women decades younger.

Then there are the boundaries, or lack thereof. Listen, I grew up without a mother role model and when I was young my parents thought I could make adult decisions. Oddly enough I could however it did not replace the lack of education in boundary formation and enforcement. I had a very basic understanding of boundaries and did the best I knew how when setting them with my daughter. In turn, I wasn’t very good at teaching her about boundaries. So when my daughter one day said to me that I needed to work on my boundaries, she was right, although I had a different opinion of what that work was.

When you let someone step on your boundaries or don’t have a clear understanding of what or how to set them, you act it out on others. It can be a daunting task to learn how to lovingly set and enforce boundaries. It has taken me a lifetime, which is why I’m so passionate about teaching other women the right way and the right language to communicate expectations and boundaries. I sure hope that one day soon my daughter will see me as the brilliant, supportive and compassionate woman and mother I am and we can work on growing those boundaries together. Until then, I’ll keep working on my book – all about boundaries.

Alexander Pope said, “to err is human, to forgive divine.”

I first heard this saying from my mother when I was growing up. I didn’t realize how important it was until I was much older. Ah, with age comes wisdom…thankfully.

Are you holding a grudge? The truth is we all make mistakes and holding a grudge is not only silly and useless, it can be harmful.

I’m sure you’ve heard astounding stories about a murder victim’s parents forgiving the murderer and you might wonder ‘how do they do that’? How do you forgive someone for taking what’s most precious from you? These astounding forgiveness stories have a common theme. All the forgivers say they felt stuck in never-ending pain and loss. That they couldn’t move out of the pain of the past until they came to some level of forgiveness in the present.

Simply put, forgiveness is healing and moves your life forward.

Holding a grudge simply masks the hurt of the perceived “wrongdoing.” Sadly, it only really has impact on you since the perceived wrongdoer seldom realizes you even have these feelings (nor can they do anything about them). What’s more, living in denial or holding on to your self-righteous anger, resentment, pride, and judgment likely keeps you from the very thing you want most – happy, loving and lasting professional and personal relationships.

Do I sound unsympathetic? On the contrary I have compassion for you and your perception of the “offense.” I understand. I also know that love, acceptance and forgiveness feel better than judgment, pride and resentment. Love, or at least acceptance (non-judgment) is your natural state of being and feeling anger, resentment, fear and other harsh feelings can be brutally debilitating, all because of a story of perceived wrong you have going on in your head.

How do you forgive what seems like an unforgivable act? You have to be willing to look at your own part in the play, which is often the hardest part. Sometimes it means admitting, “I was wrong” without choking on those words. Other times you may feel you have nothing to forgive. That’s fine, but sometimes just taking the perspective of “this person was just doing the best they knew how” (acceptance) is enough to move out of the resentment or judgment of the past.

Here’s what I know for a fact. After watching my partner die a horrible death from cancer I know that every moment counts and every moment needs to be the best it can be. I know that these perceived “wrongs” or misunderstandings are never as bad, intentional, or unforgivable as it may feel in the moment or even upon reflection and that its just a story you have running around your head. You CAN pick a new and healthier story to live in your head. You CAN choose to stop blaming others and take responsibility for your direction.

The Hawaiians have a beautiful forgiveness process called Ho’oponopono. Ho’oponopono means to make things “right” inside because they know the value of working together and working from love rather than anger and resentment.

If you’ve been hanging on to these old stories, resentments and anger then I invite you to choose a better way by downloading my FREE Ho’oponopono meditation. I believe it is so important that I made the meditation available to everyone on my website. Just click any of the links and download your way to the kind of successful relationships you truly want.

Julie Hawkins is The Biz Psychic, Women’s Empowerment Coach and Psychic and Spiritual Studies teacher. www.bizpsychic.com

I recently spoke at my spiritual church about How to Say “No” Without Guilt (aka Boundary Setting) and boy was it good! It is a timely topic, although, I believe it is the perfect topic all year round. Since I am still writing my book of the same title (I’ve been lagging), it always reinvigorates me to speak about this topic.

Boundaries - Gold text on black background - 3D rendered royalty free stock picture. This image can be used for an online website banner ad or a print postcard.

Right after my talk a woman came up to me and said I had described her to a tee. She had so much resentment built up she was ready to divorce her husband. I asked her “do you really want to divorce him or do you want things to change?” Her response was she wanted things to change. Now listen, when you’ve been married for a long time and the patterns are ingrained it’s gonna take some work to make things different.

I am a recovering “people pleaser.” If you are not, you are lucky! I will say that in my experience about 90% of all the women I meet and hear from possess some degree of this characteristic. I personally believe it is inherent in the female genetic code (not to mention centuries of behavioral oppression and socialization). I grew up believing if I just went along with my family or boss or whomever, things would eventually sort themselves out. This is a myth! The more you sweep your frustration, anger, resentment, fear and hurt under the rug, the more it piles up. Then eventually there is a bigger mess to clean up.

People pleasers do not want to disappoint others or engage in confrontation. Generally speaking, people pleasers simply haven’t learned the specific language skills to say “no” and set empowered boundaries for themselves. There is good news though. You can learn these new language skills and the more you work on them the smaller the resentment pile becomes.

Whether it is a spouse, co-worker, friend, family member, or other, if you have the “people pleasing” characteristic it is important to work on it because otherwise you will always wrestle with your self-worth.

I’m going to state up front that you need to be realistic about your expectations. You cannot make these changes overnight. If you try to chew off too big a bite, you may suffer a setback and this is not helpful. So here is a simple strategy to get you started.

  • Start small. Work on your awareness. When do you say “yes” when you really want to say “no”? Look for this specific pattern and once you find it the next step is to change it.
  • You must begin to deliberately and consciously make a change. WARNING: Since you are a people pleaser and don’t want confrontation, switching from your “knee-jerk yes pattern” to an empowered “no” is unlikely right away. You need what I call a “stop-gap” response and I have the language for you start using.

Here are my 7 magic words: Hmm, I’d like to think about this.

Why are they magic?  You’ve been agreeable for a long time. The phrase, hmm, I’d like to think about this gives you time to think about how you feel about what’s being asked of you. When you immediately respond with your knee-jerk “yes,” you are repeating your disempowering pattern. My 7 magic words are very purposeful and specific so DON’T change any of them. Memorize this just as it is.

This phrase is non-confrontational. In fact it is a very respectful response and if someone balks at it you can say to them “well don’t you want me to give you a thoughtful and respectful response?” That should stop them, if it doesn’t simply repeat it all again. You may need to repeat yourself several times. This is FINE!

I tell my students and clients to practice this phrase ad nauseam. Do it until you and everyone around you is sick of hearing it. You need to do this because your subconscious mind will try to play tricks on you and get you to say “yes” because it is your old pattern. You must change the pattern.

Lastly, don’t confuse this phrase with the word “maybe,” it’s not the same. You obviously want to use it where it makes sense. Just do your best and remember, hmm, I’d like to think about this will give you the time you need to be considerate about your responses in the future rather than automatic and this is the first step to freeing yourself from being a people pleaser.

Julie Hawkins is the Biz Psychic and Women’s Empowerment Coach. www.juliehawkins.com

38592094 - boundaries stencil print on the grunge white brick wall

When I worked as the manager of investor relations at a high tech software company, one day the controller strolled into my office and during our conversation he began to discuss how the CEO and CFO were cooking the books. I stopped him and said I didn’t want to know any more because I wouldn’t lie if I were ever subpoenaed. He left and needless to say that company no longer exists. I knew in that moment I needed to find another job and shortly thereafter my dream job fell into my lap.

I set a clear boundary with the controller. He’d stepped over my ethical line and I knew this was just the beginning of bad things to come unless I took clear and confident action to change it.

A boundary is a line you set that states: “this is my limit. Step on it or over it at your own peril.” That can sound ominous though. Boundaries need to be communicated clearly and without negative emotions such as anger, fear or resentment. They don’t have to be aggressive or confrontational and in fact it’s much easier to set them if you keep that in mind.

A boundary not only keeps you from harm, it helps you to grow and evolve. If, for example, you want to keep your workday to fewer than 14 hours then you may have to set a boundary. But how do you do that with your boss and still feel like your job is safe?

Communicate your needs in a non-emotional and a here-are-the-facts manner. You need to get your emotion out first so it doesn’t come out during the conversation. I suggest practicing what you want to say before you have the conversation with your boss. Then your boundary may sound something like this:

“I know we are still in a personnel crunch so overtime seems like the norm. However, next week I’ll be working my regular hours again. I know this is tough so I’d like to brainstorm with you how we can solve this problem without me working 14 hour days and burning out.”

That statement serves several purposes:

  • It says you understand and acknowledge the current staffing situation.
  • It conveys your clear boundary with professionalism, confidence and no emotion.
  • It declares that you are offering to help solve the bigger problem (and nobody can argue with that).

Both parties come away feeling heard, acknowledged and understanding the clear boundary.

If you have a boss who isn’t a skilled leader, they might balk at this. Keep firm and keep your emotion out of it. A manipulative manager will “smell the fear” and instinctively try to get an emotional rise from you. Keep calm and acknowledge their response then reiterate your boundary (above) again. Use the same language. Most people have to hear your boundary 3 times before they actually hear and acknowledge it.

While a boundary is a limit it can often set you free to grow, be productive and happy.

Effective and non-emotional boundary setting can take a lot of practice. Keep at it!

 

Julie Hawkins is a women’s empowerment coach, psychic medium and author of the forthcoming book How to Say “No” Without Guilt: 5 Simple Steps to Eliminate Overwhelm, Reclaim Your Life and Have What You Want. For more information find her at www.juliehawkins.com.

I like when themes show up with my clients; it means something similar is happening for a lot of people at this snapshot in time. Recently, every client I worked with had the similar theme of “how hard do I have to work to make IT happen?

That’s such a great question and the simple answer is that it’s NOT about working harder, rather, it’s about slowing down and thinking about the action you keep taking. If the actions you keep taking don’t yield the results you want, why do you keep doing them? Well, you do them because when under stress it is your default or knee-jerk behavior. It’s what you know how to do best. It worked at some point in the past but is no longer effective. Like an outdated software program that is not responding, so are your outdated behaviors and beliefs.

In one of my previous careers I was a corporate paralegal (this is so counter to who I am, but that’s another story). I worked with another legal assistant who worked in the litigation department. Litigation is a whole different kettle of fish because it is often driven by statutory filing deadlines. Talk about hard work and pressure. I’d often watch Sahara (not her real name) run around like the house was on fire. She’d photocopy, fax, sign documents, call the courier service and talk to me all at the same time. It was simultaneously scary and amazing to watch. When the crisis was over I would ask, “how do you do it all”? Her reply was, simple: “the busier I get the slower I go” (I guess that was slow in her world). That was over 20 years ago and It has stuck with me ever since.

Here are 4 of my favorite secrets for making “IT” happen:

103Secret #1: S-L-O-W down and deliberate before taking action! 

Action is only good if it’s the CORRECT action and yields you the results yo u want. If you are not getting the results you want the answer is NOT more action, it is less action and  more introspection. Any time you want to take MORE  action ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is the purpose of this action?
  2. How does the action impact me (and/or others)?
  3. Am I getting the outcome I want?

Then you can discern if you need to change up your action plan and how.

Secret #2: Be humble and coachable.

Consult a wise and knowledgeable coach, mentor or therapist. You don’t need to do this forever, just long enough to identify the old outdated “software” you are using and replace it with a modernized useful program (new thoughts, beliefs and actions). Brief coaching interludes with my clients helps them to slow down and focus on the correct actions so long term work is not usually necessary. That doesn’t mean ongoing work is not important. It is!

Just remember: If you want a different outcome, you need to do something different to achieve it.

Secret #3: STOP working so hard at what DOES NOT work.

205When someone doesn’t speak the same language as you do communicating is a challenge. Have you ever watched two people who speak a different language try to have a conversation? Sometimes people will speak slower or louder, while saying exactly the same thing, thinking this will get through to the other person. It usually doesn’t work. What would work is to pull out a bi-lingual language dictionary and look up key words and phrases in the other person’s language.

STOP doing the same same. Gain a completely and entirely different approach or perspective (just one of the benefits of coaching). Be flexible like Gumby!

Secret #4: Stay FOCUSED! 

125This can be a challenge, especially when all hell is breaking loose. Contrary to your urge, you do NOT need to do everything at once! Here are some easy reminders to get centered.

  1. Breathe…differently. Paced breathing is centering. Find a type that works for you. I recommend “HA” breathing.
  2. Remember and connect to a really GOOD feeling, one you’ve had in the past of something BIG that you accomplished.
  3. Slow down and prioritize your tasks and actions. Do the first or top priority item on your desk or list – ONLY. Don’t even think about looking at the rest of the list!
  4. Turn off your phone and close your email just for 15 minutes. Before you know it, that illusive project is done.

By the time you’re done with 1-4 above, your fear, panic, overwhelm, frustration or other immobilizing feelings will have passed and you can then move on to the NEXT item on your list.

Take a break between tasks to acknowledge your accomplishment (this also reinforces your new skill).

Implementing these 4 secrets will be sure to start you on the path to getting the outcomes you want.

 

Clarity and insights come from many different situations.

I recently ran into a problem with my tenant’s washing machine. This unit is just about 2 ½ years new and shouldn’t really have problems. Sigh…Alas this is not the case. Being the great landlord I am, I called Frigidaire to come and check it out.

I realized after talking with Frigidaire that my warranty was NOT through them but a third party service so I contacted the warranty company and scheduled an appointment to come out.

The repairman came. After pushing buttons for 3 minutes he concluded my cold water hose was clogged, even though he NEVER looked at the hoses. (Was he trying to manipulate me?) When I asked how much it would cost to remedy he told me $240 and was NOT covered by the warranty. I declined his offer of service (although I didn’t quite say it that way).

manipulationI talked to my neighbor the plumber who told me it was probably the water intake valve. I contacted Frigidaire again and during our conversation she told me it was probably the water intake valve. I knew of another very reputable repair service I’d used about 7 years before but I couldn’t remember their name to contact them.

I belong to a couple of online networking groups so I knew if I put out the request for the name and number of the appliance repair service I’d used, someone would have it. In my request I asked NOT to be cc’d to anyone as this wasn’t really a referral. There are some networking groups that thrive on (and would just about “kill” to get credit for) giving a referral to someone else in their group. I know this because several years ago I was in the specific group that does this. I got a couple of wonderful responses with the info I needed and one very interesting reply. Here it is:

“Did you know that it is normal referral/business practice to cc the other party when referring someone so they too are not blindsided by an email or call”.

What? When was last time you heard anyone say they were blindsided by a referral? Pleasantly surprised maybe but I doubt blindsided would fall into the category of referral.

As an NLP trainer and someone whose business is all about language, I noticed immediately what her reply was: a response to an objection. She used her response to try and reframe me. In therapeutic circumstances a reframe can help to provide a different context so as to diffuse the emotional charge or trigger that may already exist with relation to the issue. In specific instances a reframe can be empowering.

tasThis woman’s response was for her benefit, not mine. She was likely taught this phrase in the networking group as a way to overcome the objection someone might have to their contact info being given out to the referral.

Her response was manipulative. What she wanted to do was to narrow my choices to only her referral. If she had cc’d the company I’d then have to deal with them and it would make it harder for me to say NO without feeling guilty or bad. I wasn’t having any part of it!

Because manipulation can be sneaky or framed to look like something else, here is my short list of some of the signs.

The situation likely involves manipulation if…

  1. You notice feeling any sense of fear or intimidation or other negative emotions such as guilt, shame, embarrassment, anger or resentment.
  2. You “give in” in order to avoid conflict.
  3. Although it may sound like “it” benefits you, it really seeks to fulfill someone else’s agenda first,
  4. What is happening causes you to feel like you have NO choice.
  5. You feel confused, like the Tasmanian Devil whirled in, spun you around and left you thinking “what just happened here”?

Generally speaking, manipulation is learned behavior. We don’t instinctively seek to overpower or control someone unless we feel threatened or out of control in some way, then it can drive our behavior. It can be complex.

So the next time someone seeks to “help” you, notice how you feel about it? Do you feel good? Supported? Empowered? Or do you feel resentment or like you have no say or choice and you were just paid a visit the Tas?

Here’s the rub, when you are manipulated, you seek to regain your control and center and may find yourself inadvertently doing the same thing to someone else. It’s OK. The next best action is to just notice that’s it’s happening so you can make a different choice the next time.

 

Last time I talked about how feeling bad can keep you from feeling good. Obvious right? But it’s also a really complex cycle. It takes some thought and action to interrupt these old patterns. A great way to start is with the acronym I’ve used below.

R.O.W.S.

  • Recognize your triggers so you can begin to create and plan a different response that feels better.
  • Observe your own thoughts and behaviors. Remember, the feelings are yours, which means so are the triggers to these emotions.
  • Ask yourself: What do I want? What’s another way to get there?
  • Small, doable actions so you gain confidence.

For many people negative emotions like frustration, depression, anxiety, judgment, pride, stubbornness, self-righteousness, resentment, etc. can fill your conscious and unconscious thoughts, and these drive how you act. These negative emotions are symptoms and coping mechanisms. If what you’ve been doing isn’t getting you the results you want, it’s time to do something different. This is where so many people freeze up. Have faith and read on.

Start with a bridge.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-4E_QthErw2A/TsEq7uRcWqI/AAAAAAAAIqY/I_m_zVgJXII/s1600/plank%2Bbridge.jpgI like the metaphor of getting from one side of the Grand Canyon to the other by jumping across it. This is a great big DUH, of course you can’t do this but people try jumping huge personal chasms all the time like this. I like the metaphor of building a bridge across the Grand Canyon, because sometimes the challenges in life can feel that BIG! this is much scarier than the bridge you likely need to build! When I talk about building bridges and developing skills, it’s one step (plank) at time, starting with the above steps.

Your bridge is a new starting point. Once you start with small, doable and repeatable steps, you become familiar with the feeling of confidence, safety, achievement and awareness; all really good feelings. This is where the next step is so VERY critical.

Getting on a NEW train – a radical action.

Imagine this. You get up and get ready for work or appointments or whatever project is happening that day. You have the same morning routine; then you take the same route to your destination. For the sake of this metaphor let’s imagine you take a train to your destination. You go to the same train station, same platform and the same route every day to get to your destination. It’s predictable, you need predictability so you get where you need to go. This is great when the destination (the results) is what you want.

One day, you decide this destination isn’t quite what you want anymore. So you go to the train station and look for another train. Aha! There is one. It’s a different model and color, has a different name and it stops at different places along the way. It’s near the same place you were going before, but it’s still different. You get on it and ride it. You do this every day and it even feels different because you arrive one track over from the previous train you were riding. Eventually though you realize that even though it’s one track over, you are really still in the same place. Then you say, “I don’t get it, I know it was a different train.”

After my partner Chris died, my adult daughter and I became estranged at a time when I wanted so much for us to be close. I would periodically reach out to my daughter, but to no avail. I would feel triggered and my deep open wound would hurt all the more. I would retreat and continue my grieving and healing process. It wasn’t until I neared the third year anniversary of Chris’s death that I got an epiphany. After reaching out so many times and feeling rejected so many times, I decided I needed to radically change my approach.

trainI got on a completely different train. I decided to withdraw complete contact with my daughter until I could figure out how I could change things. I stopped reaching out sometime in the latter part of the year and well before the holidays. I finally surrendered and fully accepted that I might never again reunite with my only child. This total withdrawal was truly radical for me. My own sister, who is a mother and trained therapist did not understand my behavior. All I knew was that I needed to make a radical change in my course.

After several months I received divine guidance that I could approach my daughter differently. I reached out and texted her almost every day for a couple of weeks and just said things like “Hope you have a good day, love Mom” or “It’s almost Friday, enjoy the weekend.”

I kept texting my one-liners and in between we had an spirited text conversation about what the next steps would be. Still we did not find agreement. Then one morning I got a text from her saying she was in town and could we meet. I was shocked, excited, anxious, and feeling trepidation all at the same time. We finally found a mutually workable place and time and met.

While not perfect (and nothing is) it was a blessed opening. I feared this would never have taken place had I not receded inward to do my own work of processing feelings and thus taking my radical action.

What is a radical action?

Radical actions can mean many things and although I don’t recommend ceasing all contact, in my case this was what needed to happen first. It can mean imagining the most painful thing you can think of, which in my case was totally releasing my daughter. The pain was excruciating and still is at times. Radical change is drastic and major and often profound. To reach profound you have to walk into, face and walk through the pain.

I emphasize radical change because you can be tricked into thinking and even believing you are acting differently. And…maybe you are. Remember the train? There is one sure way to know. Ask yourself: Am I getting the outcome I want? Be honest with yourself. If you are not getting the outcome you want, find a new train, build a new bridge, go to that painful place and face it. You will survive it, It will pass and you will see clearer, behave differently and most of all, the outcome will be different.

When you think of wanting a loving, compassionate relationship (no matter who it is with), what is the pain you’ve been avoiding? This is the painful place you need to visit.

Do you know how to acknowledge someone? Do you know why it’s so important to learn this valuable skill?

In simple terms acknowledgement validates who you are. That’s really BIG so I invite you to sit with that thought for a moment….Validation implies that you are a valuable part of someone’s life, family and community.

I was recently talking to a good friend of mine and during our conversation the word acknowledgement came up. She told me she had no problem acknowledging her friends or family, but struggled with acknowledging her husband. We talked a little bit about it and I explained to her that one of the reasons this may be difficult is that with spouses we come to expect so much more from them; almost too much, so they often seem lacking in our eyes. Hence the holding back of acknowledgment. The irony of course is that the more you acknowledge your partner the more they WANT to do for you. So a lack of acknowledgement simply leads to more lack – period.

Past resentments can also lead to withholding acknowledgment, consciously or unconsciously. Resentments can keep you from having what you truly want; usually a reciprocal and loving relationship. Resentments can run deep and most people don’t have the skills to get to the heart of the issue and release it. But that’s another topic.

Spousal type relationships are complicated. They are the deepest form of relationship one can have on a non-familial level. Your spouse or partner sees you in every kind of conceivably vulnerable situation; or at least that is the hope in a loving and healthy relationship. What’s more, they become a very clever and clear mirror of every part of who you are and it’s not just the standard mirror it’s the magnified version…ughh! Yes, they reflect back to you all kinds of deeply rooted behaviors as well as the superficial idiosyncratic behavior. There is a presupposition in NLP (which stands for Neuro Linguistic Programming, a form of quick behavior change technology) which in essence says: the response you get is a direct result of the communication you express. That oughta make you stop and think. Communication is CRITICAL (again other topic) and acknowledgment is part of communication. So think of acknowledgment as positive reinforcement. When you see your spouse do or say something that you may often take for granted, acknowledge it.

One of my favorite movies, takes this concept a bit deeper. In Avatar the indigenous people have a phrase; they say: “I see you.” It is the deepest form of acknowledgement possible because it acknowledges your essence at your very core. It is a heart-to-heart connection. As humans, being acknowledged is a very basic human need because remember it validates your value.

Acknowledgement can take some skill. It’s not exactly a compliment, although it can sound and feel like one. Remember you are simply reflecting back a positive and valuable observation. It is a sign of recognition. Here are a few examples:

  1. I can see that you are are doing your best and I want you to know that I noticed this.
  2. I really see the effort you are making and I truly appreciate it.
  3. I get that this was a challenge for you and I recognize the hard work you put in.
  4. I hear that you are struggling and I want you to know that I can just listen if that would be helpful.

Try them out and let me know how it goes.

I was on my group mastermind Q&A call recently and one of the group members was in the Hot Seat receiving excellent coaching to her question. When the call was over I saw her post a comment in our Facebook group that she “felt bad” because she thought she’d taken up too much time during the call. While I appreciate her humility (because there are people who can self-servingly TAKE extra time) her well-intentioned comment struck me as a “knee-jerk” response. I know, because it’s a pattern and knee-jerk response for me.

Too often I hear women use responses like “I’m sorry” and “oh that’s OK” and “I feel bad” and do you know why? Because somewhere deep down we feel like we don’t deserve “it” or we feel guilty receiving it.

Sometimes we don’t even use these words to describe the knee-jerk feelings underneath because the pattern is so engrained in us as women. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has a motto: to Serve and Protect. Sometimes I think women have unconsciously adapted this motto to be: to Serve and Deny. As women we have grown up learning that we are “good” when we serve others and often learn to “deny” ourselves because otherwise we are selfish. If we do allow ourselves something, we often qualify it by saying ‘I deserve it’ as if we need to justify it to ourselves. I know you know what I’m talking about. These beliefs are powerful forces in our culture and believe me when I say it is a learned behavior.

Now, rather than ask ‘where or how did I learn it’ I like the question, “How do I un-learn it?” because feeling bad about things truly does NOT support you. It is interesting information in that it teaches you that having more resourceful thoughts, behaviors and actions does support you. Like anything you want to change, you must become aware that it is happening, when it is happening and how it impacts you.

How to Un-Learn:

  1. Paying Attention. Begin by becoming aware of when you have the self-deprecating thought, belief, action or behavior.
    1. What do you say in your head?
    2. Where do you feel it in your body?
    3. When does it show up, i.e., what trigger’s it?
    4. How does it impact you?
    5. How do you feel when you say/do it?
  2. One new different action. Once you discover the answers to the questions above, decide on ONE new action, thought or behavior you will take as soon as you notice yourself engaging in the old pattern.
    1. For example: If you notice yourself saying “I’m sorry” for no apparent (damn good) reason, a different action might be to ask yourself “what am I sorry about”? Or to even say “I take that back.” This will interrupt the unconscious pattern that continually plays out. There are tons of different things you can say and do to interrupt this pattern. Just find one that works for you and do it consistently.
  3. STOP beating yourself up! You didn’t learn this behavior overnight and you won’t unlearn overnight. Don’t even go there because it’s too BIG a gap to go from changing an engrained, unconscious pattern you’ve been using for years to not doing it all. There is an old joke: How do you eat an elephant? Answer: One bite at a time. Take one act, thought or feeling at a time.
  4. It’s OK if you slip up, just correct yourself and for goodness sake keep doing it! Falling down is expected.
  5. Take small, adaptable steps that continue to build.
  6. Be consistent. It’s KEY to your success!

Reflection: Taking charge of your life is a process. Applaud yourself on what a great human being you are and how you are striving to make your life better and better every day, it will begin to counteract the self-criticism. There is a fine line between humility and criticism.

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