Let your speech be always full of grace, seasoned with salt. ~ Colossians 4:6
Have you ever started an innocent conversation with someone only to have it disintegrate into anger or frustration? We sometimes try to pinpoint where it all went wrong; but a more useful starting point may be, “What can I do to prevent it?” Other than those lopsided encounters with someone who talks as if there’s no tomorrow, most conversations include a give and take in which we alternate roles of speaker and listener. Following are “ground rules” that can be helpful in any interaction. The focus here is on the speaker role and, in particular, those talks in which you need to address an area of conflict, a sensitive topic, or something that bothers you. By “speaker role” I mean times when you have a complaint against someone as opposed to those situations when someone’s pointing out a problem he has with you.
Is this really an issue?
It’s amazingly easy to get caught up in drama. Before you go charging into a fray, ask yourself, “Is this important, or am I making a big deal out of nothing?” It’s so tempting to convince ourselves that we’re dealing with a real problem. Put it on hold for a day or two before addressing the issue. Allowing your emotions to take over is counter-productive; approach the situation as calmly as possible. By taking a long deep breath you enable yourself to be objective.
Resolve to be respectful with the other person. In order for you to be effective it will help a great deal if you aren’t critical. Being negative or condescending will alienate others and make it difficult for them to listen to your perspective. Rather than point out how he’s wrong, focus instead on a goal. It’s easy for a person to feel defensive. If he does, let him know that you simply want a new outcome.
Being direct is probably the most difficult of all these guidelines. Too often we tiptoe around an issue and don’t say exactly what we mean. This doesn’t mean you should “just be honest.” We sometimes use honesty as an excuse to be mean. At the same time it’s important that you get to the point. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that being direct is offensive; it isn’t, if your intention is one of compassion and respect. A great way to be direct is to take responsibility for your choices and thoughts. Rather than saying, “I don’t think what you’re doing is right,” say, “I want you to stop what you’ve been doing.” In the first statement you place the responsibility on morality – right and wrong; in the second statement you take the responsibility yourself – “This is what I want.”
You can get off track in thousands of ways. Regardless what the other person says, remember the reason you brought up the discussion; return to the topic anytime either of you veers off course. If the other person makes some kind of counter-argument, acknowledge it when true; but return to your original issue. Don’t get caught up with tangential problems.
Be willing to listen.
Finally, sometimes it’s important to change to the listener role. Learn how to ask questions, see the other person’s point of view, and create a connection. Make connection your primary goal rather than resolution – communication first, solution later. Your efforts to become a better speaker and listener can create the foundation necessary for problem solving and result in deeper, richer relationships.
Please see my article on listening Effective Communication & Listening.
Life Coach Austin, Texas
Effective Communication – Speak Respectfully & Directly – Article © 2009
Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves, and, under a just God, cannot long retain it. ~ Abraham Lincoln: Letter to H.L. Pierce, April 6, 1859
Relationships are sometimes a quagmire of emotion, misunderstandings, and unmet expectations. Rather than feeling free and joyful, we often find ourselves feeling trapped and frustrated. I sometimes hear people lament, “I was really happy before we got together. I think I’m better off alone.” Despite the challenges of relationships, we all have boundless opportunities for intimacy and joy in a partnership. It’s just a matter of practicing what really works and giving up those things that get in our way.
The main ingredients of healthy partnerships are effective communication, compatibility, authenticity, commitment, and love. The “secret” element, however, is acceptance; it’s a hidden but integral part of every other ingredient. Acceptance truly helps all relationships because it is a gift of freedom.
Living in Austin, Texas, can be difficult in the summer heat. Interestingly, when I ask people about it, they generally have an easy-going attitude. The reason for this is that they see it as a “natural” occurrence, a fact of life. Yet those same people don’t see relationships in the same light. When we think about it, people agree that failures and emotions are a part of life. We intellectually understand no one is perfect and that even our best friends will sometimes let us down or get angry with us. Unfortunately, when it actually happens, when one’s spouse or girlfriend becomes highly emotional or behaves contrary to his desire, the response is frequently frustration, surprise, and resentment. Emotions and mistakes in relationships are natural but we often don’t see them that way.
Acceptance in relationships says, “People in my life, including those I’m closest to, are going to make blunders, and more than occasionally will be angry, sad, depressed, or scared. I accept this as natural. I don’t condone the mistakes of others, but I don’t judge them either. Instead, I practice compassion and seek to understand them. I see emotion as part of the tapestry of life, something we all are learning to deal with. I don’t shy away from emotion; it’s life. I’m also not a doormat: I practice dealing with the ups and downs of others as effectively as I can. I speak up about wrong-doing. I listen to others’ frustrations with me with a willing ear, but I don’t tolerate abuse.”
Acceptance leads to freedom in relationships because one is no longer tied down by the bonds of expectation and demand. A person can still desire and hope for certain outcomes; but with acceptance, he frees himself from the result, whatever it may be. Acceptance is the gift of freedom to others and to oneself.
Life Coach Austin, Texas
Freedom in Relationships with Acceptance – Article © 2009
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. ~ Robert Frost
Every now and then, someone writes a book, prophesies a future, or reveals a truth of nature with startling insight and pristine clarity – books such as “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the prophets Moses or Edgar Casey, the revelations of atomic theory, forgiveness, relativity, or the unity of life and the universe. In a rush to maintain our notion of reality, we frequently vilify the messenger; later, people see the truth of the message and … the world changes.
The point isn’t about changing the world; it’s about changing ourselves. In “Selections from the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna,” author Andrew Harvey says, “We are all heading into a whirlwind of catastrophe, war, heartbreak on the one hand, and, on the other, of unprecedented opportunities for real transformation, on a massive, world-altering scale.” Isn’t that what humanity has been experiencing for millions of years? We will continually face war, pestilence, and destruction on the one hand, and, on the other, the possibility of peace and transformation. That’s not news; it’s reality; and it’s not going to stop happening – ever! It’s change and evolution. We make a mess of life and then make it worse, or we learn and then make it better. Life happens and we screw up, or not; and then it happens again; each time we’re on the threshold of heroism, villainy, or cowardice. We have choices to make.
The point isn’t what happens on the world stage; the point is, “what are you, personally, doing with your life?” The real message of the great men and women of history is not so much what they discovered, but the lives they led that opened their hearts and minds to those secrets. We each have within us that same spark of eternal wisdom patiently waiting to be ignited. Yes, life can be cruel and merciless; but it is also nurturing, benign, and lavish. In “War of Art,” Steven Pressfield presents us with “a rogue’s gallery of” evils lurking within each of our minds to sabotage our every attempt to take life by storm the moment we take a single step in that direction. His word for these evils is “resistance.” The endless list includes resistance of addiction, procrastination, drama, and self-doubt. The truth is you can overcome them; but to do so you must be the warrior – vigilant, diligent, and bold. Then, and only then, do you taste the sweet nectar of the life of the hero. You will make dozens of choices today. Each one will serve either your passion, the life you were meant to live, or fear.
What are your dreams? Are you living them? Do you want to be the singer in the band, run a marathon, own a bed and breakfast, take a year-long trip around the world, have six-pack abs, or be an interior designer? It doesn’t have to be an opus to change the world, but it has to be your opus. You have to work hard at it, that’s what it means to be the warrior. Are you telling yourself a story right now about how this is a nice idea, very poetic, but not reality? That’s Resistance! Fight it! That’s what the lives of Christ, the Buddha, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Aristotle were about. Daily, they fought the evil in their minds and, more importantly, they defeated it. They were authentic, they were true to themselves, and they were warriors. Take the road less traveled, live your opus, be the warrior.
Life Coach Austin, Texas
Change the World – Change Yourself & Live Your Dreams – Article © 2009
Bhagavad-Gita (from chapter 2)
Hell has three doors: lust, rage, and greed. These lead to man’s ruin. Therefore he must avoid them all. He who passes by these three dark doors has achieved his own salvation. He will reach the highest goal at last.
For when you come to think of it, the only way to love a person is not … to coddle them and bring them soup when they’re sick, but by listening to them and seeing and believing in the god, in the poet in them. ~ Brenda Ueland
The first element of communication, speaking, is impossible without the second, listening; to be a good speaker you must be a good listener. We all want to speak; and even more, we want to be heard. When we become good listeners we create the possibility of a captive audience – people who want to hear what we have to say. In his essay, “The Statesman,” playwright Henry Taylor poetically expresses this idea: “No siren did ever so charm the ear of the listener as the listening ear has charmed the soul of the siren.”
Listening, however, is a big challenge; even when we try hard our unconscious mind still thinks, “Soon it will be my turn.” We swim in an emotional hotbed of thought and experience, and it’s difficult to quiet its demands long enough to hear and understand what someone really means. Add to that the fact that the other person may not be clear about his own message!
Become a listening artist. The art of communication is about creating and strengthening relationships. An adept listener strives first to understand others and second to create a feeling within others of being understood. Your best goal is not to find a solution to whatever problem you may have with someone; the ideal goal is the tapestry of connection which is a result of putting aside for a moment your own frame of reference. A solution is much easier to find once you’re on the same page. To become competent at listening, learn to remain in the listener role until you have a “meeting of minds.” Respond and speak, but remain in the listener role. This means you don’t get to express your point of view! What you have to say may be important, but don’t do it until you’ve created a bond, a sense of oneness.
We sometimes struggle acknowledging someone’s point of view out of fear of losing our identity or fear that we may somehow become compromised. Recognition of someone’s ideas doesn’t require agreement; its intention is a dance of understanding. Acknowledging someone with sincerity puts him at ease, helps him feel less vulnerable, more open. We often become defensive, feeling that someone is attacking us. Approach communication with the notion that another’s beliefs are merely that; they are her personal ideas, and as such don’t have anything to do with you or anyone else. In “The Four Agreements,” author Don Miguel Ruiz says, “Others are going to have their own opinion according to their belief system, so nothing they think about me is really about me, but it is about them.” His “Second Agreement” is concise and powerful, “Don’t take it personally.”
Create listening music. Be curious; ask questions to better grasp the other person’s meaning. Don’t defend, justify, or criticize. Do not explain how your perspective is correct or why your actions were valid. Do not ask questions meant to invalidate another’s thinking or to validate your own ideas. Be authentic, not “sweet.” True listening is not a passive enterprise but an active extension of yourself into the heart of another, which in turn invites and draws him out into a song of rapport.
Listen; you would be wise!
Life Coach Austin, Texas
Effective Communication & Listening – How to Listen Actively (article) © 2009
17”For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.
18Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.”
… striving to find meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man. ~ Victor Frankl
We all constantly deal with an abundance of information, both external and internal. We hear and feel the voices of purpose, anger, sorrow, motivation, greed, joy, fear, hunger, illness, health, intuition, sex – and these are intermingled with a second cacophony of friends’ suggestions, the force and taste of nature, the requests of loved ones, the demands of work, the internet, the pressures of society, an endless profusion of influences clamoring for our attention.
Each voice wants to be heard and acted upon, and it is most important that you find a means to effectively distill and wisely select those that are most helpful and in alignment with your spirit. To do this requires one fundamental decision: to identify and name that which you choose to live by. This may be a single word or a mantra. It may be love, joy, I am a child of God, I am true to myself, I am peacefulness, or I live in harmony with life.
Our minds are often an incessant stream of useless clutter that feeds on itself and creates even more clutter. I call it clutter because the “thinking” we do doesn’t serve any meaningful purpose; it doesn’t help us, but in fact sets us back. We think about things that once happened and over which we have no control. We also daydream about a life that has no basis in reality. I’m not suggesting that dealing with the past or setting goals is useless, I’m referring to the uselessness of going over things in our minds with no true goal. Stop doing this by learning to be present.
Learn to focus on the reality of the present moment:
- Focus your attention on your breath. A problem with many of the things we “see,” is that we have preconceived ideas of them. Breathing is something we’re likely to be neutral about.
- Hear the actual words that are being spoken. We generally interpret what others say because of expectations and their emotions. We can however learn to focus only on their words.
- Respond to events with peacefulness. Even though you may feel a certain way about events, you can learn not to respond emotionally but with curiosity. Curiosity can help you see things as they really are.
Practicing these simple ideas will help quiet your mind. As you do so you will find yourself increasingly in harmony with people and experiences. This in turn brings you in alignment with your spirit and your true destiny.
Today, right now, seek and name your destiny. Use this simple and powerful action to serve as a guide to inform all your choices. It doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes; it isn’t a panacea but a beginning in taking charge of and finding meaning in your life. It is a clear identification of who you aim to be.
Life Coach Austin Texas
Seek the Truth: Aim for Destiny © 2009
Seek and you will find…
Everyone sees the unseen in proportion to the clarity of his heart, and that depends upon how much he has polished it. ~ Rumi
Be clear in speech. Clear speech and sincere listening are as essential to one another as giving is to receiving; without one the circuit is broken and what remains is potential rather than realization. Together they lead to connection and understanding. Don’t assume that you are misunderstood because of other people’s shortcomings. Instead, make yourself a model of conscious listening. The result will be clarity of speech, which is truth.
Be clear in thought. Lack of clear thought feeds unconscious fears and leads to darkness. Guard your thoughts well and practice quieting your mind. A quiet mind is a focused mind. You can achieve this by immersing yourself in those things which deeply engage your mind, your heart and your physical being. They include creativity, love, beauty, prayer, gratitude, contemplation and physical and spiritual activity. Your thoughts, conscious and unconscious, are your tools of manifestation. Clarity of thought leads to fearlessness and wisdom.
Be clear in your heart. Your ego suggests you’re awesome or pathetic but it’s important that you seek the truth. Assess your life honestly and acknowledge both your strengths and shortcomings. Practice self acceptance and resolve to overcome your weaknesses. From love of self comes a desire to live in helpfulness, compassion, and understanding of others. The fruit of love is joy.
Be clear in action. Dreams are beautiful and can inspire but are empty without action. To fulfill your destiny take conscious action now.
Be clear in prayer. Ask not that the world may be healed; ask instead for courage that you may help heal the world through your own transformation.
Be clear in intent. Decide to live in alignment with your highest self. Regardless what you do, your destiny is a joyful life. A conscious and ongoing focus on peace and truth helps make it a reality. Integrity: an alignment of speech, heart, mind, action and spirit makes you a beacon of light and hope in the world.
Life Coach Austin Texas
Clarity in Your Life © 2003
2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
But what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads? ~ Albert Camus
Integrity is often defined in moral terms but we can also think of it as wholeness or oneness. In this sense, a person of integrity is one in his entire being: his thoughts, emotions, speech, actions and spirit are all in alignment.
Many of our struggles in life are seemingly a result of external circumstances and relationships. Regardless of the source, a confused response to hardship, a lack of internal unity, will almost certainly make matters worse. Saying one thing but thinking differently or feeling one way but behaving opposite is difficult for us and integrity at these times can appear daunting and impossible. However, the uncertainty and pain are much worse. What keeps us stuck is the familiarity of the feeling. Despite the pain it’s often more comfortable to remain with that which we recognize than to face the unknown.
You’ve lived there too long! We all have. The fear of change is only an illusion. Choose integrity today, be one within yourself. This way lies freedom and joy.
Life Coach Austin Texas
Choose Integrity Now © 2008
Tao Te Ching (from chapter 42)
Ordinary men hate solitude.
But the master makes use of it,
embracing his aloneness, realizing
he is one with the whole universe.
The distinction between past, present and future is only an illusion, however persistent. ~ Einstein
Time is a measure of change. It is like many wonderful inventions that help us better communicate and interact with each other. Law, government, money, space, time and countless other ideas can be useful in making sense of the world, our relationships with each other and life. Time is a man-made idea. It has no intrinsic existence – in reality, time does not exist – only the present moment is real.
The past, like the future, exists only in our minds. It certainly does one good to study history and to review one’s past but only as an aid to experience peace now. Instead, our egos endlessly recreate perceived wrongs by others and our own failures and shortcomings. We imagine moments long dead and thereby imprison ourselves in anguish. In the same way, it can be useful to plan for the future, set goals and focus one’s energy on manifesting a joyful life. Rather, we drown in fearful and egotistical illusions of futures unreal but in our minds. We abuse life by fashioning times that are not real.
Only in this moment do you have the opportunity to seek the truth, experience reality, take heroic action, find love and know God. No other time exists.
Life Coach Austin Texas
Time Is in Your Mind There’s Only Now © 2008
Who forces time is pushed back by time; who yields to time finds time on his side.
Marriage is our last, best chance to grow up. ~ Joseph Barth
Marriage brings great rewards of loving intimacy and heart-wrenching emotional turbulence. We frequently cope with this apparent conflict with ambivalence, which makes true joy in marriage impossible. Concerning love, you cannot be of two minds and yet hope to experience her riches. Time and again we discard commitment in marriage before we’ve unearthed its great treasures of self awareness and humility. We opt for divorce as a means of dealing with the pain. Yes, there is a time to let go and a time to remain. But know that emotional pain is not the problem; it’s the symptom. It’s a call for healing, growth and understanding. Make a commitment to oneness and you create the possibility of experiencing true love. You can move beyond the doubt and hesitation by looking honestly into your heart. As you deal with your own fears and failures you will see your partner with greater clarity and compassion. This is the path of surrender and vulnerability that leads to joy in marriage or letting go in peace. Your commitment to love lights the way past suffering to wisdom. We are all connected in love and marriage is our best chance to manifest that truth.
Life Coach Austin Texas
Marriage – Dangerous Ambivalence or Joyful Commitment? © 2007
1 Timothy 1:5
…love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
The greatness of a man’s power is the measure of his surrender. ~ William Booth
Concerning relationships, surrender does not mean giving up or defeat but a commitment to love. To yield is not always a sign of weakness – it can be an indication of great strength and wisdom. This is because a fearless refusal to fight rests in the awareness that hostility is a formula for pain and suffering. Regardless who wins in a war everybody loses.
Most of the fights we experience are with friends and family. Confident surrender – especially in these situations – says I love you and I refuse to fight or hurt you. It also says I refuse to believe that you mean me harm. The interpretation of attack is one of the biggest mistakes our egos make in relationships. Surrender acknowledges one’s own shortcomings and other’s, and it either atones or forgives. Its power is in its ability to heal and create peace. We all have the power to surrender; we need only the courage and discernment to practice it and to realize its effectiveness.
Life Coach Austin Texas
The Power of Surrender © 2007
Bhagavad-Gita (from chapter 18)
Give me your whole heart,
Love and adore me,
Worship me always,
Bow to me only,
And you shall find me:
This is my promise
Who love you dearly.
I know what it’s like to want to die. How it hurts to smile. How you try to fit in but you can’t. How you hurt yourself on the outside to try to kill the thing on the inside. ~ Susanna Kaysen, Girl Interrupted
You were violated and then blamed yourself and others. You’ve lived with shame, confusion, fear and guilt. You felt powerless and may not have understood the experience. The uncertainty and self loathing has clung to you and you have become your own worst critic. You feel depressed, angry, defeated and inadequate.
Given your experience it makes sense that your life is as it is and that you feel as you do. Self forgiveness, the first step in your transformation, is the realization that you aren’t to blame for your experience and that you’re right to feel angry. It is a realization of both the appropriateness of your emotions and of the necessity to move on. The next step is forgiveness of those who wronged you; not for their sake but for your own peace. It’s time to release the torment and anguish of your heart. Your past is over; it’s time to embrace a new reality. People are often ignorant of how to live in harmony with others, and their actions cause others great pain. Most often those who hurt you were, in turn, hurt by others in an endless chain and always in ignorance. Decide to break the chain rather than perpetuate thoughts of fear and victimization. Forgiveness is the antidote to hatred and self loathing. Today, replace your shame and anger with wisdom and open your heart to the peace that is you birthright.
Life Coach Austin Texas
The Transformation of Violation © 2007
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Freedom lies in being bold. ~ Robert Frost
As children we weren’t able to understand life. Whether it was good or bad, disciplined or chaotic, many of us came to feel trapped and to see life as a conspiracy against us. Now, it doesn’t matter whether we fight, run away or give in; we can’t seem to change things. Others appear to have the luxury of freedom, but it eludes us. Controlling partners, unfulfilling work and inadequate income are among the burdens that overwhelm our sense of freedom.
You’ve imagined your confinement; you’re free. The pain that you feel is your resistance to a life of your own making. Fighting or pleading doesn’t work because you’ve misidentified your jailer. Your prison is your own mind. Discard the lenses through which you see your life and realize that you’ve created your experience. Freedom is the fact that you can decide what to do with your life. You’re free. Create the joyful life that is your destiny. Be bold today, you deserve it!
Life Coach Austin Texas
The Freedom to Choose © 2007
You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
The most dangerous thing is illusion. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Rarely in life are we truly in danger. Nevertheless, feelings of anxiety, stress, self doubt, loss and fear frequently intrude in life. Thoughts of danger lurking around corners are a learned response that has calcified into habit. When you were small the world looked big and scary. It may even have been truly unsafe and dangerous for you. But that’s over; the threat of attack that you are now dealing with is in your mind. The evil you dread is your ego’s fear – of being small, oppressed, discounted and over burdened. Your fear is based on the illusion that you’re weak. The truth is that you’re powerful; you need only to realize that truth. Embrace courage and passion. Put your thoughts and energy into these things and the danger will surely vanish – it was never real.
Life Coach Austin
The Illusion of Danger © 2007
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don’t trust enough. ~ Frank Crane
Trust has more to do with self confidence than with the behavior of others. We generally know what to expect from the people in our lives, so how they behave isn’t the real issue. The point we often ignore is that our fear to love, to forgive or to act assertively in life is a much bigger problem than what others might do to us. Rather than focusing on the shortcomings of others it’s far more valuable to develop strength of character within ourselves. To move from an attitude of mistrust to one of confidence you must know who you are: the one who creates and is responsible for your life. The more you genuinely accept responsibility for your life, without guilt, shame or self punishment, the more you will trust yourself. You will then be free to trust others because you will have confidence in yourself to make wise choices and to handle the vicissitudes of life.
Life Coach Austin Texas
Trust Yourself to Trust Others © 2007
Tao Te Ching (from chapter 33)
Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
mastering yourself is true power.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure . ~ Marianne Williamson
True power isn’t a one way street; it isn’t about mastering or defeating another. That is self-aggrandizement or hatred. When we attempt to enforce our will on others we breed distrust, fear, and antagonism both within ourselves and others. The need to dominate others is indicative of a feeling of lack within oneself and attests to one’s sense of weakness rather than power.
True Power seeks responsibility rather than control because otherwise it degenerates into self-gratification. It encourages and works in cooperation with others. Real power is open, seeks understanding and is willing to yield. This is because one who is aware of his power knows that he has much to give and is not run by fear.
Love has no fear and does not attack but understands and forgives; this is power. Ego, on the other hand, is run by fear and selfishness. We move beyond fear to power by nurturing the abundance of our being as we give freely to others. As we do this, we come to realize our beauty and majesty. The source of my power is the light within my being that is in all people. And power is the shining of that light on the world.
Life Coach Austin
What is True Power? © 2007
Matthew 5:14 (NIV)
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”