True Braveheart

The personality Dot is fascinating, as it seems to be the effort of our True Self to have a safe identity out in the world.  Born into families and cultures with values, and certain behaviors and feelings that are affirmed, we as clever little tykes quickly figure how to get our needs met by developing certain identities. Below is a list of common identities we can use:

Common Compensatory Identities

Why is understanding your Acting Identity important?  Because even though you bring the gift of yourself somewhere in the role, there are automatic reactions from the chosen identity that keep you from really connecting to others and feeling the kind of joy we usually reserve for celebrations and special occasions.

For instance, if you are the Angry One you tend to attack and push your energy/opinions forward or if you’re the Easy Going One you may withhold/withdraw and even though these actions keep you safe in the short run, they don’t make for respectful connections that bring the sense of being understood and loved – because your heart is not open.

So a braveheart for the Angry One: take a deep breath (Holy Spirit time) and truly listen, or for the Easy Going One: take a deep breath (equally Holy Spirit time) and put some words out there. True actions open opportunities for true interactions, and love is found in that space between.


Yes, but…

There are people who listen and people who don’t, and then there are the folks who listen and say, “Yes, but…”.  I vote to kick them out of the listeners’ group. It feels like tires spinning on an icy road, there is no traction. You say something, and they don’t disagree, instead they slant the conversation by comparing what you said with something bigger, better or often, someone worse off.  An observant friend commented that even “No, but…” is a more engaging comment, at least they are tracking with you and have something to add.

In any case, you don’t feel listened to and it’s hard to return to the original point. Sometimes the slant is spoken casually, and sometimes with passion because there is hot spot in the topic for the listener.

Wouldn’t it be helpful if the listener would wave a flag?


This topic = Fireworks!!

I’d like to suggest universal speaking and listening etiquette:

1. Speaker: states topic, opinion or idea without interruption, for up to 3 minutes. (I’ve read where most people can’t listen for more than 17 seconds without interrupting; well my family has broken that record, easily).
2. Listener: summarizes what is said before changing the topic or even asking a follow-up question.
3. Speaker: ‘thanks for listening’ – acknowledge the time/energy spent caring about your thoughts or feelings, this is a gift.

Getting through – the 3 Minute Check In

The ASAP access of social media and instant messaging makes old fashion phone calls seem outdated.  Dialing up someone and waiting for it to ring, then having a conversation where you give attention to one person and what they have to say…  what a quaint notion.


Are there any teenagers or young adults in your life? Try the 3 Minute Check In. My kids will pick up now that I have instituted this format.  There is often a reason for the call, but I have thought about it and have three minutes to check in with them as well, how are they – what’s up recently, and then my idea, request or question.

If you have older friends or relatives that still use the phone to stay in touch, it might be good to think of your own adaptation of the 3 Minute Check In.  If Aunt Martha reports on every physical ailment and condition of her and her neighbors, you might try the 10 Minute Check In.   Just the structure of the time frame might help to eliminate organize topics.

Whether it’s a land line, a hand held or the latest cell phone there is a place for the voice to voice conversations, especially when travelling, to help you feel connected.  Skype was a challenge for this tech resistant caller, until our daughter was studying abroad – then it was a magic portal into her international experience.  How do you best connect with your friends and loved ones?

Cutting out the negativity, 30 day challenge

The Zero Negativity Challenge  was mentioned in a previous blog… a 30 day promise of NO negative messages conveyed through words, body language or tone. My family was game, willing to try after a discussion about humor and talking styles.  It builds a safety zone through respect, and encourages self awareness for needs and wants as you learn to ask, and not demand, things from others. This means that the two people, or in our case four, who sign the agreement will let the other know if they feel respect and understanding, and likewise if they hear/see/notice put downs, criticism or dismissive comments.

Zero Neg
True story – our two young adult kids who live at home were both enthusiastic about signing this agreement with us. Thirty days we would all watch what and how we said things to each other. And as our kids and I turned to leave the den, signed agreement in hand, there broke out a discussion that included some criticism regarding a mutual friend accompanied with eye rolling and the works…  after waving the newly signed paper and they quickly added, “this starts tomorrow!” which got quite a laugh from all of us.

It is really difficult to go a day, yet less a month without letting hurt, disappointment or resentment creep in via criticism or sarcasm. This agreement is really a challenge to self regulate, or as the ancient philosopher said “know thyself”. In your day to day, when are you being dishonest and saying Yes to something you really don’t have the energy or motivation to fulfill? When are you past the point of hunger and your blood sugar is wavering or you’re tired and instead of taking a break, you soldier on? Then within moments your voice tone gets snappy or louder or feeling resentful/put out the criticisms or put downs come sliding out because your feel overwhelmed and underappreciated?

Come on, try it. Just for a day – encourage each other and build each other up. It’ll make them wonder what you’re up to. 🙂

The Art of Gift Giving

Gifts = little surprise parties in colorful paper and ribbons, and some of us like gifts more than others.  It took years for me to realize… I don’t really like surprises, and often appreciate a shared experience over a wrapped present.

According to Gary Chapman’s book “The 5 Love Languages“, there are five main ways that people give and receive love.

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Acts of Service
  • Gifts
  • Quality Time
  • Touch/affection


A thoughtful gift is a pleasure to receive, especially if you happen to want or need the item at that time.  What about the times when your good friend is so excited to give you something he just loves but you are not into, at all?  This makes gift giving a land mine of potential hurt feelings.  Then there is the forgotten birthday that your sibling or spouse can’t seem to forgive, even when you try to get them something later in the month.  Or the time you got something perfect but on sale (no returns) so when  your friend hinted it was the wrong size/color/style you still didn’t tell them.

There is an art to gift giving, to know a person and their likes and tastes to the degree that you have a good chance at getting them something they would truly enjoy. Even then, there are timing issues.  If your child is pre occupied with other Christmas gifts they may not squeal over the ‘show stopper’ bike you wheeled through the living room.  Or if they had a bad day at work, the romantic gesture of flowers isn’t appreciated as planned.

There is also the art of gift receiving – “just what I didn’t know I wanted” is a light-hearted way of expressing ambivalence  about what you hold in your hands. But there are times if you aren’t honest, you’ll get the same thing later, different version again and again. “You shouldn’t have” can be a very honest reaction!

To show appreciation for the gesture and still communicate that the gift (food, clothes or sports equipment) is not something that you would use is a real accomplishment. Recently, an old friend said “thanks, but I have something like this at home, why don’t you share this with someone else who would enjoy it?”  And although it took me back for a few minutes, her gracious tone and touch on the arm expressed her gratitude and I respected her honesty.

A simple, “thank you for thinking of me” can cover a myriad of gift situations.  And sometimes a gift receipt is  the most thoughtful part of the exchange!


What’s in a tone?

Have you ever noticed some of your work skills and talents aren’t rewarded at home like they are in the workplace?  Part of my job as a former therapist, and now as a Life Coach is to analyze, notice patterns and offer suggestions.  Our young adult kids don’t appreciate unsolicited analysis, go figure.  My husband is employed with a large shipping and transportation company, and his ability to cut to the chase, and effectively get tasks done each day gives him a nice paycheck but does not develop his empathy, patience or listening skills.

A good friend of ours is well paid to find potential flaws and risks, but his family doesn’t much appreciate those same skills applied directly to their ideas and opinions.  Another takes care of people, attending to their physical needs with skill and kindness, but as her kids grow up and become more independent she has found that they don’t always welcome that kind of hands on help. They can do it themselves, thank you.


So how can we remind each other that an effective work skill is not needed in the love and bond of more intimate relationships?  One of the most gracious people you will ever encounter would smile sweetly when her husband directed her or the kids in a bossy voice,  and would say “please don’t use your ‘Boeing tone’ at home”.   What a great reminder, and even though we don’t all work for the world’s largest aerospace company, repeat as needed!


image – 400 × 339Search by image