Relationships

The #1 Question I Get Asked

I get asked this question ALL. THE. TIME:

“How do I help X person in my life get a better perspective? How do I help them be more resilient?”

It’s a tough question, because there’s not a perfect answer. You can’t GIVE somebody else perspective.

But because everyone seems to want to know the answer, I’ve done some research and some thinking, and there are 3 things you CAN do to help.

#1 is probably the toughest, because it requires vulnerability that we may not want to show.

If there’s someone in your life (your child, your employee, your sibling…) who could stand to be a bit tougher, check out this 4 minute video on what you can do to help them find resilience.

How to Tell Your Partner You’re Mad Without Causing a Fight

When it comes to love and conflict, we believe a lot of weird things:

“Love is supposed to be easy.”

“If it’s true love, you’ll fit together like puzzle pieces.”

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

WRONG!

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here’s my helpful guide to saying “I’m upset,” without it spiraling into a big fight.

Because the truth is, life is hard. And that can make our relationships stressful. But just because you’re frustrated, it doesn’t HAVE to mean you’re going to get into some big fight with your spouse or partner!

So I have a extra-special secret phrase you can use, to communicate something that bothers you, WITHOUT starting a fight.

How to Protect Yourself from an Emotional Bully

Bullies don’t always stop at the playground.

Most adult conflict happens when two people hold different (but at least somewhat valid) opinions, and they butt heads. But SOME people weren’t taught healthy conflict skills, and some of THOSE people end up just plain mean.

If you have an emotionally bully in your life who won’t leave you alone, there’s a 3-step process for handling yourself and dealing with them in a healthy, productive way.

Physical Distance

Most people dealing with an emotional bully will have the instinct to put space between themselves and the bully. Follow that instinct! The more physical distance you can have, the better it is for your mental health. When I was in my mid-20s, I had a good friend who used to get upset every time something good happened for me. If I got a new job, she complained I didn’t have enough time for her. If I got some recognition for work or my volunteering, she would make some undercutting remark. I don’t even think she realized she was doing it! But every good thing that happened in my life made her uncomfortable, and she’d start to beat me up for it.

There are two problems with this first step, though. The first problem? Most people stop there. They think physical distance will solve the problem, but usually an emotional bully isn’t deterred by a little space. Which brings up the second problem: that you can’t always put enough physical space between you and someone trying to get under your skin. Especially if the bully is a colleague, for example, you can’t just quit your job and run far away. So that’s when you deploy the second step…

Emotional Detachment

Getting emotionally detached is a tough one for me. I have what my family calls a “justice bone,” this innate piece of me that wants people to REALIZE when they’re being unkind, admit it, and knock it off. But with true emotional bullies, that’s a pipe dream. They may NEVER clue in, and you’ll be waiting a long time. (Spoiler alert: I’ll probably be waiting right there next to you on the bench!)

What I learned when I worked with a very scary bully (see this blog post here for a little more background) is that the best thing I could do when I HAD to interact with him was to be as unfazed as possible. No matter what ridiculous thing he suggested to make my job harder, I would nod and say “Mmmm… interesting thought.” If he’d say something vaguely threatening, I’d reply “Fascinating.” If he said something insulting: “What a strange thing to say.” The less I replied, the more he turned his focus to someone who would give him a more emotionally charged response. It’s just like my mom taught me when I was fighting with my brother as kids: “if you give him a reaction, he’s just going to keep going.”

Practicing emotional detachment works in two ways – it hopefully makes the bully back off because he’s not getting the payoff he wants, plus it keeps you from being quite as frustrated, because you allow yourself to be less invested in “fixing” the bully. 

Healthy Outlet

No matter how good you are at emotional detachment in the moment, you’re still going to have some feelings come up. And you’re for SURE going to need to deal with those feelings. It’s important to find someone who is NOT a part of the environment where the bully is, to be your sounding board. Depending on how severe the situation is, I highly recommend going for at least a few sessions with a professional. The strategies I’ve learned for how to manage MYSELF (and the other person) in these situations have been incredibly valuable.

Whether a friend, family member, or a professional, find someone whose advice-giving style aligns with what you’re looking for. If you just want some sympathy, don’t turn to a well-known problem-solver. You’ll both be frustrated. Before you start the conversation, lay out clearly what you’re looking for (just to vent, advice, someone to be in your corner, etc.). Dealing with an emotional bully can feel lonely, so getting someone on your team is a critical part of the coping process.

Even as adults, we may still run into bullies sometimes. I like this Inc. article’s list of the 5 types of adult bullies. Dealing with an emotional bully is draining, so take these three steps to protect yourself mentally, so you’ll have the energy you need to keep focusing on what YOU need to get done.

Caught on Video: My Favorite Moment of 2018

Here’s a personal look at my favorite moment of this past year!

The reason I loved this moment SO MUCH is because I had planned this surprised for months, which triggers a psychological mechanism called “savoring.” When we anticipate an exciting time, it helps us feel enjoyment even before the event happens, giving us double the good feelings!

As you head into the new year, look for ways you can savor and enjoy the things you have planned for 2019. The more you savor, the happier you’ll be.

 

How to Handle Your Kid’s Post-Christmas Meltdown

For many parents, the thought of seeing your kids’ faces light up on Christmas morning has been keeping you going for the past several busy weeks. But now Christmas is over, the gifts are unwrapped, and for many families, the trouble is just beginning.

 

If your family is starting a post-holiday meltdown, and you’re counting down the days until school is back, don’t worry! Here are some ways to combat the most common after-Christmas behaviors in kids.

 

Being Wild

For younger children, the threat of Santa watching can encourage good behavior for several weeks leading up to the big day. But once that red-suited incentive is removed, there’s QUITE a lot of pressure built up in your little ones, just waiting to explode! Instead of being frustrated at what feels like an about-face in their behaviors now that Santa isn’t watching, give them physical outlets to get their sillies out now that the day has passed (yes, even if it’s cold outside!). It’s practically a biological certainty that there’s going to be a rebound effect after prolonged effort to be good, so don’t get caught off guard, and be prepared to intervene with lots of active games to channel the wildness.

 

Being Lazy

On the opposite end of the spectrum, some kids get ridiculously lazy after Christmas has passed. This can happen for one of two reasons: First, many humans (of all ages) experience a health dip after big events. Don’t you remember those days when you managed to power through college finals but then get the flu break? Our bodies sometimes just give out on us once it’s “safe.” The second thing that could be happening is a bit of situational depression, where your child may be experiencing a “let-down” now that Christmas is over. If your kid is channeling a sloth, it’s best not to take it too personally. Chores have to get done and showers must be taken, but what’s wrong with a little rest time (other than how jealous it makes you!) Just keep an eye to make sure that seasonal or situational depression doesn’t linger any longer than that.

 

Being Sassy

Cookies aren’t the only thing left over after Christmas. You may find that the holidays have left behind a seriously smart mouth on one or more of your kiddos. Older children may not have been behaving nicely because of the threat of Santa, but they likely DID feel the pressure to get along and be sweet, because “that’s what Christmas is all about.” Kids see and internalize that societal pressure for family harmony at the holidays. Once Christmas is over, then, there can be a rebound effect. You don’t have to accept rude treatment ANY time of the year, so ignore the proximity to the holidays and just address the behaviors the way you would any other time of year, without adding in any extra “but it’s Christmastime” guilt. Kids who internalize that everyone has to get along at Christmas just because can grow up into adults who make themselves crazy at the holidays trying to make everything perfect.

 

Christmas can be an amazing time to look at the world through the eyes of a child. But December 26th can be meltdown city, so be prepared in advance with strategies to head off these common post-Christmas behaviors.

“I Want a Divorce.” Here’s What He Said That Made Me Realize It Was Over

It turned out to be our last session with the marriage counselor.

 

He said, “There are lots of things I love about Courtney. She’s smart, she’s pretty, she’s kind. I like that she has goals for her career. I find her interesting.”

 

The therapist responded, “I understand that you love a lot of things about Courtney. But I sense there might be a disconnect. The things you’re mentioning aren’t the things Courtney has said are important about herself. Strip all of those things away, and at her core, Courtney is a person with a deep need for connection. The other things about Courtney aren’t really who she is, deep down. Deep down, who she is is a person with a deep need for connection.”

 

My husband looked at her and said, “Yes. I know. And I love her in spite of that.”

 

In spite of that.

 

He loved me in spite of who I was, deep down.

 

That was the moment I knew what to do. And even then, it that painful moment, I knew he wasn’t a villain in this story. This was the guy who admitted to downing a soda in his car on the way home, in order to have a few minutes of energy to try to talk to me after a long day of work. We were both trying, but we were still miles away from middle ground.

 

Since that day, I’ve heard a lot of people say “never change who you are for someone else.” It makes me wonder. I’m now in a fulfilling, equally-matched marriage of many years. But between that day in the therapist’s office with my ex, and my happy life now, I’ve learned a lot about change.

 

I’m worried about the expression “never change who you are for someone else,” because I think it’s been misunderstood. I think lots of people interpret “never change who you are” to mean “don’t change, don’t compromise, just keep doing exactly what you’ve always been doing and if your partner doesn’t like you the way you are, they’re a jerk.”

 

That’s a mistake.

 

Instead, I’ve come to realize there’s a fine line between not changing your BEING, but being willing to change your habits and behaviors.

 

I encourage couples in conflict to try to identify whether or not they have a clash of habits and behaviors, or a clash of personalities. If you have truly incompatible character traits, you may not be able to have a marriage that feels healthy and fulfilling. But habits and behaviors can (and often should!) be changed for people to be compatible partners. You just have to know the difference.

 

Compromise in an a relationship is necessary. For a healthy marriage, be willing and happy to compromise about habits and behaviors. But know that you shouldn’t, and probably can’t, compromise who you are deep down.

 

How to Fix a Conflict Between Your Coworkers

If your coworkers are fighting, it’s hard to get much work done.

But it turns out that most workplace conflict is actually the HEALTHY kind of conflict!

And there are some things you can do, even as a colleague, to help the conflict resolve faster and get your office back on an even keel. Here’s something important you need to know about workplace conflict so you can make it work in your favor!

How to Find Really Great Friends

Meeting people is easy.

 

But making true, lasting friendships? That’s hard.

 

Developing an inner circle of your nearest and dearest requires some work, but it’s SO worth it. Here’s what you can do to identify and cultivate a group of friends you can trust and rely on!

How to Respond When a Loved One Says “I Have Depression.”

What should you say when someone you care about admits to having depression? It’s hard to know the “right” way to respond, but what you say in that moment really matters.

If someone you know starts this conversation with you, here are a few pointers on how to respond in a helpful and loving way, that continues the conversation and supports your friend or family member with depression. Armed with a few of these phrases, maybe you’ll be a little less apprehensive about saying the “right thing.”

This may be one of the hardest conversations you’ll ever have, but it’s also among the most important.

 

“Here’s How I Saved My Marriage” (The Best Marriage Advice I’ve Collected)

I used to think “saving your marriage” was only for dire situations. That “marriage saving” was like last-ditch, life-support, right-after-the-marriage-counselor-and-before-the-divorce-attorney kind of work.

 

And then I grew up.

 

Saving a marriage is like saving a bicycle tire that isn’t brand new: it probably needs to be pumped up regularly. It may even need a patch. If you know how to save your marriage, you can save it BEFORE it becomes an emergency.

 

One Panic At a Time

 

The first marriage lesson I learned was my sophomore year in high school. That was WAY too early to start thinking about marriage advice, but TV star Paul Reiser’s book Couplehood had come out, and somehow I ended up with a copy as a gift. I still remember, all the way back to February of 1995, the advice Reiser gave about being upset in a marriage. He said only one member of a couple can be “up a tree” at any time. Only one of you can be upset, frustrated, or just plain losing it. And if your partner is “up a tree,” as he called it, then you have to stay on the ground and be the rational one.

 

I was just starting to experience, at the time, how easy it can be to freak out when your partner is upset. Their frustration feeds your frustration in a big ugly loop, and suddenly you’ve both lost your cool and pffffft! There goes the healthy relationship. (It’s as easy as that when you’re 15.)  As an adult, my husband and I both have been able to cultivate really calm reactions when the other person is freaking out – it’s almost a little unnatural, but it helps us keep the situation from spiraling out of control. One person up a tree at a time, like Paul Reiser said.

 

You Don’t Win Without Him

 

My mentor and dear friend, Lee, is in her 90s. With the life she’s lived, she’s offered me lots of great advice over the years, especially about running my speaking business. But she gave me one warning that really stuck with me: don’t get too big for your britches, or your marriage will suffer.

 

She told me about how, early in her career, she was so proud of succeeding on her own. In her day, women running businesses were an exception, not a rule. Clients were flying her all over the world, and money was coming in. She told me she was getting treated like a star on the road, and when the applause ended she came home to her husband, she couldn’t shake the expectation that she was still The Star. Her husband felt ignored, unloved, and taken for granted. And she didn’t even notice until he warned her to change or he was going to leave.

 

“You BOTH have to win, for it to be a good marriage,” she told me. “Every success of yours, you have to thank your partner, because it’s shared. And if you don’t see the role they played in your success, you aren’t looking hard enough.” Every success is shared.

 

Stop Worshipping At The Altar of Quality Time

 

I’m on the road a lot, which is where I was when I heard this next bit of good advice. I was talking to some audience members after one of my presentations about being excited to go home and spend time with Jamie, my husband. I said “what I really need is some quality time.” Her response surprised me…

 

“Quality time is great,” she said. “But we’re all so obsessed with quality time that we don’t’ realize TIME when we have it. Don’t wait so long for quality time that you miss opportunities for ANY time.”

 

I realized she was right. That nighttime Netflix “Office” binge isn’t time I ever thought of as “quality time.” It’s too short and too late for deep conversation or fun activities. But I can either replace it with something I value more, or turn it into an intentional bonding experience with Jamie (we’re currently going with the latter, and keeping a running list of new inside jokes thanks to the Dunder-Mifflin crew). Thanks to kids, jobs, dishes, and life, you may not get a lot of dedicated quality time, so stop waiting around for the perfect moment and just make meaning out of the moments you DO have.

 

Your Marriage Isn’t Your Dumping Ground

 

The final lesson is one my husband, Jamie, and I learned ourselves the hard way. It had been one of those days. One of our rescue dogs had barked and lunged at another dog on the trail. I had warned Jamie earlier that he wasn’t choking up on the leash enough, so when the dog acted up I immediately launched into I-told-you-so mode. That afternoon we’d run ourselves ragged with work and chores, until it was time to feed the dogs AND make dinner AND put away the dishes, at which point Jamie snapped at me that he couldn’t reach the dog bowl because I had opened the dishwasher in the way. I was about to snarkily respond about how easy it was to just SHUT the dishwasher when I realized…

 

We were taking the stresses of the day and basically making them the other person’s fault. We were tired and busy, and we couldn’t snap at anybody ELSE in our lives, so we turned to the person closest to us and made it THAT person’s problem. Which is a great way to build animosity. The fact that my life is stressful isn’t my husband’s fault. 99% of the time, he makes my life easier, not harder. So it’s not fair to make him my dumping ground for all the blame of the stress I’m carrying around.

 


 

Your marriage doesn’t need white knight on a horse saving, it just needs a gentle, nudging reminder saving. What are you doing to pump up your marriage every once in a while?