Shutting the Pie Hole – 10 Tips to Being a Better Listener

Have you ever had a conversation with a person who looks like a fish out of water when you’re speaking?  The one whose mouth keeps opening and closing as they attempt to say what they need to say even though you’re not finished yet?  Annoying, right?

Listening can be so hard but it is so important.  Everyone has great words of wisdom to impart on others.  But in our rush to help, solve or just provide evidence of our superior intelligence to others, we may miss the best parts of what someone is saying.

This lack of listening is not always done with bad intentions.  For instance, I used to frequently (and still do occasionally if I’m being honest) try to finish people’s sentences.  I did (do) this to either help them out if they were struggling to find a particular word or to show that I was (am) paying attention and TOTALLY got what they were saying.  The only problem with this was my accuracy was only like 90%.

I didn’t realize how annoying this was until other people started doing it to me.  I also became hyper-aware of people doing it to others.  (The ‘fish out of water’ analogy is based on these observations).

People have so much to say, blah, blah, blah.  Shutting the pie hole is THE BEST way to learn where another person is coming from. And if you need to influence them in some way with your words, you really need to know where they’re coming from. Here are 10 tips to help you become a better listener:

  1. REMOVE ALL DISTRACTIONS – silence cell phone, hold calls, close doors (if possible) and tell any unexpected visitors you’ll catch up with them later.
  2. MAINTAIN EYE CONTACT – this communicates that you are intently focused on only the other person.
  3. KEEP YOUR BODY LANGUAGE OPEN – uncross arms and legs and lean towards the speaker.
  4. NOD YOUR HEAD to indicate understanding and attention.
  5. GIVE VERBAL CUES that encourage the speaker to continue – like ‘mmhmmm’, ‘yes’, ‘right’, ‘I see’, etc.
  6. TAKE NOTES only if appropriate – this includes what they are saying and any responses of yours you don’t want to forget
  7. DON’T INTERRUPT! – no matter what you’re feeling, allow the speaker to share their perceptions and feelings.
  8. START YOUR RESPONSE WITH A QUESTION – once the other person is done speaking, FORCE yourself to start your response with a question.  This could allow for further elaboration (ie: “When you say ‘yelled at you’ do you mean increased volume or tone of voice?”) or to confirm you understood them correctly by paraphrasing (“If I understand correctly, you feel belittled when you raise an argument. Is that accurate?”).
  9. AVOID COMPARING your similar ‘story’ to theirs – this is not a competition.  Avoid trying to ‘one-up’ them with your ‘bigger’ story.
  10. KEEP YOUR DEFENSES DISENGAGED – how they feel and perceive things is NOT up for debate.  Defending your actions, thoughts or feelings is unnecessary.  Listen to the other person and share your perspective tactfully without trying to counter their perception.

There are times when simply acknowledging the other person and their perception can be enough to avoid any escalated issues.  So never disregard or minimize what another person is feeling.  Perception is reality to that individual.  Respect that.

Odds are that if a person feels heard and understood, they will be much more open to considering opposing perspectives.  “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  – Stephen R. Covey

Your turn:  Share in the comments section a time you listened fully and how this helped prevent an ‘issue’ from forming!

Love You or Love You Not?

This can be a crappy time of month for those who are single or in an unhappy relationship.  Pink and Red hearts and cupids are EVERYWHERE.  Flowers, candy, cards and jewelry are advertised as the ultimate social proof of being loved.  Stupid.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a chick after all and certainly love me some flowers, candy, cards or jewelry! My aggravation comes from the insinuation that you are validated on this day ONLY if someone gifts you with an “I love you” gift.

For those who are single or in unhappy (or un-gifting) relationships, this can be rather depressing.  IF they buy into this that is.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how much you are loved by another human being if you don’t love yourself.  There are too many people who need this validation from someone else in order to believe that they are worthy of love.

How about proving your worthy of love by loving yourself?  Need some help?  Here are 7 ways to give yourself a little love this Valentine’s Day:

  1. Write a Valentine’s card or letter to yourself.  And don’t be lame.  Write about all those great qualities you possess, nice things you do, good intentions you have.
  2. Buy yourself a bunch of your favorite flowers and put them in a place you’ll enjoy them frequently.
  3. Take yourself out to dinner.  You can do this alone or make it a ‘Friends Date’.  Make sure you get your fancy on – dress to impress! (impress yourself of course!)
  4. Wear some sexy and daring underthings beneath your everyday attire (or for that matter, wear nothing underneath) to remind yourself that you got it goin’ on!
  5. Get yourself a treat like a box of chocolates, bottle of wine, 12 pack of beer or the fixin’s for a Cosmo, then enjoy slowly and lovingly.
  6. Go check out some jewelry stores and buy yourself that piece you really love.  Maybe it’s a ring, or pendant, watch or cuff links.  Go ahead and spend a little extra, you’re worth it, remember?
  7. Hit the spa and get a manicure, pedicure or massage.

Word of caution:  These acts are not intended to replace or stand-in for someone else.  Do these for no other reason than to show yourself some love.  Really put your heart into it.

Doing kind and loving things for yourself will remind you how awesome you really are.  Giving someone else the task of determining your worth and value is a really bad idea.

If someone happens to gift you with something this V-Day, BONUS!  But get excited about how you’re going to gift you!  Won’t you be your valentine? Post in the comments section ONE thing about you that is worth celebrating!!

What a Perfect Month To…

Now that we’ve caught our breath from the whirlwind of November-January, we are in a prime position to take some proactive action, as opposed to the reactive action many of us have been reeling from.

So what’s so great about February?  Well, as the shortest month, it’s a perfect time to start a good habit or give up a bad one…if only for 28 days.  After all the talk about New YEAR’s resolutions, why not try a smaller time frame?

I few years ago, I really wanted to start jogging.  I also was well aware that I had zero aerobic endurance.  So I went to a biking/walking trail several times a week.  The paved trail had a milestone every 15-20 yards, usually telephone poles.  So I would walk from one to the next, and then jog during the next set, then back to walking and so on.  Each week, the distance I could jog increased.  Having those “markers” helped me push myself just a little further.

I’d like February to be your trail with milestones.  What’s a good habit you’d like to try for 28 days (or 27 as of this posting date)? How about a bad habit you’d like to try to quit?  And don’t overwhelm yourself!  Your February Challenge could be something you do 3 times a week during the month.

I’m trying two Challenges – flossing every day.  (I know, yawn, but hey, like the dentist always says, only floss the ones you’d like to keep!), and eating healthier – via the Paleo diet, (no dairy, sugar, carbs or processed foods).

There is plenty of debate on whether you can create a habit in 21 or 28 days.  I say, who cares?!? Just do something that would benefit you this month.  If it sticks, great!  If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

Here are some ideas for you:

  • No TV during February
  • Walk for twenty minutes every day
  • No alcohol during the week
  • Volunteer at the food bank every weekend this month
  • No chocolate (forget it, I don’t even know who typed that!!!)
  • Go to bed fifteen minutes earlier each night and read that book that’s just been sitting there
  • Start jogging
  • Stop smoking in the house or car
  • Do ab exercises five days a week (bet you’ll be RIPPED!)

You get the idea.  Just try it.  It’s only one month. One short month! Good Luck and Rock On Readers!!!

Thanks to Christine Jette from Inspired Angel Connections for sharing the article that inspired this post.  To read the entire post that inspired this one, click here: http://www.kevinelliottcounseling.com/blog/?p=1928

Tell me in the comments section above, what Challenge YOU are going to give yourself this month.

Carpe Diem

Today would have been my dad’s 74th birthday.  It’s been almost nine years since he passed.  Going through old pictures recently, there were pictures of his 50th and 60th birthday celebrations.  So many people attended these milestones.  He was so happy in all of those pictures.

He did well for a man without a college degree.  After his years in the Navy, he worked for over 30 years, steadily advancing, at the same company, even with it changing hands several times.  He supported his family, was active in the community and enjoyed many leisure activities with his friends and family.

There was one milestone in his life he was really looking forward to…retirement.  He was a very hard-working man and realized that all those years of effort and sacrifice could best be appreciated in the retirement years.  We knew he’d be just as busy “retired” as he was working.

Sadly, this was not to be.  Just six months after his cancer diagnosis and thirty-four days after his 65th birthday, he passed away.

What hurt, almost as much as losing my father, was knowing how disappointed he was.  How unfair it seemed to him.  What about his plans and the accomplishments he had yet to make?

We were so proud of all that he had done.  His obituary was quite impressive for a small town, family man.  But he wasn’t done.  He had banked on having more time.

What accomplishments are you planning on achieving before time runs out for you?  Are you waiting until the kids are older?  Waiting until there’s just a little more in your savings account?  Want to pay off the car or mortgage first?

Please stop waiting.  The perfect time is NOW!  In fact, NOW is all that you have.

I have a challenge for you.  Choose the level you can handle.

Challenge #1 – (So easy even a Caveperson could do it) – Make a list of all the things you want to accomplish before you leave this world.

Challenge #2 – (Only Badass Readers should attempt this) – Write your own obituary.  The way you would like it to read.  Be sure to include awards, certificates, travels and any other aspirations you have.

Then, GET GOING!! Take the necessary steps to make those aspirations, accomplishments.

We all have loved ones that aren’t with us anymore.  Honor yours by living fully NOW.  Today I’m going to reflect on all the lessons my Dad taught me, both during his life and after his death, and wish him a Happy Birthday in heaven.  Then I’ll get back to work…there’s a whole lot more I want to accomplish!

Carpe Diem Readers!  No regrets, no woulda, coulda, shoulda’s!  Post in the comments section what you are going to get started on achieving.

Let It Go and Forgive

We’ve all been screwed over.  Just when you think you know someone… they lied, cheated or done ya wrong!  I’ve been there.  It tore me up.  Every time.  “Never again!”, I said.  “No one will ever get that close to me again!!”

I’ll admit it, I felt hatred (or something akin to it!) and I HATE hating!  But there were a few moments where I’m pretty sure I fed the “Hate Monster” a crumb or two.  I fantasized that this evil wrong-doer would be exposed to the world, break down and cry in front of this planet-sized jury and admit and apologize for all their transgressions against me.

And then what? I don’t know, I didn’t think beyond that.  I just replayed this scenario over and over again.  Wallowing in my victim status. Questioning my judgment.  Vowing to never be vulnerable and open with another human being.  And then what?  I don’t friggin know, I said!!

And then it made sense.  Hating really DOES only hurt the hater.  Think about it.  Haven’t you hurt people in your life?  I know I have.  Not because I wanted to hurt them.  It was just an unfortunate result.  In retrospect, I could have handled it differently, but at the time, I did what I thought I had to do.

What are you holding onto this year?  Who hurt you?  Are you allowing them to “drive your bus?”  Is the hurt they caused, navigating how you live your life?  Please, kindly take back control of your travels.

I bet they did something awful.  I bet they were inconsiderate and hurtful and selfish.  All of that is on them.  You don’t need to live in that space.  It isn’t serving you to live there.  Let. It. Go.  Forgive them for being a stupid human.  (We’ve all worn that badge a time or two!)

You should forgive them NOT to do them any favors, but to release them from your current life.  Maybe you’ll allow them in again one day, but not right now.  You may love them, but know they are not contributing to your path right now.

Release the baggage of hating them and reliving your victimhood.  Put those bags down, release that balloon of resentment.  Let it all go.  It’s not your “Now”; it’s your “Then”.

Surround yourself with positive energy and release all negative energy.  It’s a new year and you don’t want to waste a single moment on someone else’s shortcomings and wrong-doings.  You’ve got your own to worry about.

Forgiving and releasing is better than hating and hanging on.  Standing still in time will not change a thing.  Progress forward…leave them behind.

Share in the comments section how forgiving someone helped YOU!

3 Easy Steps to Writing Your Personal Mission Statement

I was always a “go with the flow” kinda gal.  An Eternal Optimist.  In my youth, I was so open to whatever was coming, that I didn’t seize opportunities.  I stumbled upon them.  Or rather, they stumbled upon me.

This is a great way to live…when you’re 20, but not as effective beyond this.  At some point, we need some direction.  A plan.  A goal.  Something to live up to and become.  So this year, how about, instead of “going with the flow” of life, you create a mission and purpose for the year?  Nothing too specific.  A “theme” if you will.  C’mon…I’ll help you!

The key to making a great mission statement is to keep it short and to the point.  You should be able to memorize it pretty quickly.  It will provide just enough information to help you determine when you’re on or off track.

  1. What are you committed to?  I am committed to…
  2. How do you achieve this? By…
  3. Why do you do this? So that…

That’s IT??? Yup, that’s it!!

Here are some examples of what some might look like:

I am committed to living more healthfully this year by eating and preparing more natural foods and increasing physical activities.  I will do this so that I set a good example for my children and feel better.”

I am committed to improving the quality of time spent with my family by having more family meals together, day trips and more focused attention when communicating with them.  I do this so that my family knows I love them above all else and strengthens the bonds we have with each other.”

I am committed to investing in my own personal needs by meditating every day, reading more often and planning alone time.  I do this so I am able to be more fully present in the other areas of my life and feel less stress.”

You can expand on these if you wish, but make sure you can remember your statement.  It should be broad enough to allow for many opportunities that contribute to your mission.

Post it in places where you’ll see it regularly.  Share it with friends and family.  WARNING: Do not get upset or angry when you make choices that conflict with your statement.  It’s not about perfection, it’s about the big picture.  If you are aiming to eat more healthfully, and you do this most of the time, don’t feel bad when you opt for that special treat.  It’s a marathon, not a race!

You can create statements for any area of your life: romantic, professional, parenting, spiritual.  It can also be a fun exercise to create a “couple’s” statement or a “family” statement.

Here’s mine for 2014:

“I am committed to stretching my comfort zone this year by taking more risks and meeting new people.  I will do this so that I accomplish more successes and learn more about myself and others.”

If you’d like to share yours or offer any tips you have, click above in the “comments” section just below the title.  As always, thanks for being here!! <3

 

5 Tips to Achieving your 2014 Resolutions

Happy New Year!! Ahhh, the New Year.  Time to answer the age-old dreaded question…”What’s your New Year’s Resolution?”  The Couch Potato says, “I’d like to lose 28 pounds and run a 5K…in March.”  Uummm, hmmm, ok.  The Jaded One says, “I don’t believe in resolutions.  It’s just another day.”  Oh, well, ok.  Then there are the Greater Middle.  We want to lose weight, get fit, save money, enjoy life, etc. etc. etc.

Déjà vu?  Didn’t we all say that LAST YEAR?  Worry not!  This year CAN be different.  Here are my five tips to achieving this year’s resolution.

#5 – Accountability Buddy – We need some skin in the game!  If you just think about what you want to change and improve, there’s no risk in failing.  No one else will know, right?  C’mon, I don’t know about you, but I can rationalize just about anything that disrupts my comfort.  Find someone who will hold you accountable and see through the BS you’re dishin!

#4 – Clear Measurements – Those wishy-washy, half-assed, conveniently vague resolutions are lame.  “I just want to be healthier” or “I just want to love more” are weak UNLESS you have clear and concrete measurements.  You must answer the HOW then answer it again and again and again.  How do you want to be healthier?  Lose weight. How are you going to go about doing that?  Working out at the gym. How often will you go to the gym? 4 times a week. How are you going to measure your progress? BMI and weight loss. See where this is going?

#3 – Make it Fun – If you didn’t work out for 9 of the 12 months last year, what on earth is going to make that different this year?  It’s got to be fun.  If you hate vegetables, that’s not the route to take to lose weight.  If you love Designer purses, vowing to give them up isn’t going to save you money (because you’ll buy them anyway).  Like jumping on a trampoline?  That’s a great workout…get one.  Wanna save money? Brown bag your lunch and make your own damn coffee for eight or twelve weeks, then reward yourself with the Coach bag you would have bought anyway!

#2 – Several Small Steps – Resolutions have become a pass/fail test.  So if you committed to working out 4 days a week, then skip one, or two, you have now FAILED!  Game Over!  Maybe next year.  Where are the cheese and crackers? Stop this!  Make a list of several small steps you can take every day that contribute to your ultimate goal.  If your fuzzy, wishy-washy goal was to be healthier, make a list of actions that contribute to this.  Eat a healthy breakfast, walk for 20 minutes every day, eat a salad as one of your meals, etc.  This way, if you skip some, you’ve got others that you’ve accomplished, so you don’t feel like a total failure.

#1 – Resolve to Succeed Program – A little self-promotion here…This program that I’ve designed will do all of the above and TONS MORE!! This customized 90 day coaching program will ensure that you achieve your resolutions and goals this year and give you a framework to achieve any others going forward.  Bottom line- I am going to bust my ass making sure your goals become your accomplishments! Here’s the link to learn more:  http://authenticlifechronicles.com/services/resolve-to-succeed-program/

Ultimately, if you are in the great minority and can follow the first 4, you can make this happen for yourself.  But if you suspect that you will rationalize yourself right out of it, (raise your hand if you’ve been there!) then check out #1 and enroll in my program!  No matter what, I wish you NOTHING BUT SUCCESS in 2014!!

Share below your resolutions and the steps you’re going to take to achieve them!

2 Must-Do’s Before New Year’s Day

As you prepare to end the chapter for 2013, is it how you hoped it would finish?  Did you accomplish all you set out to this year? Are you disappointed in missed opportunities?

One thing I have learned over the years:  Beating yourself up about past shortfalls, changes NOTHING.  So, I hope you’ll focus on what you HAVE accomplished.  Because surely you’ve grown in some way; intellectually, professionally, emotionally, physically, psychologically, spiritually, somehowally?

Next week will focus on how to REALLY accomplish the resolutions and goals you set for yourself.  But let’s not jump ahead.  I want you to do two things this week.

  1. CELEBRATE WHAT YOU HAVE ACCOMPLISHED – We are all just doing the best we can, right?  You made efforts of some sort.  You focused your attention on some good and productive things.  How about you just be nice and say to yourself, “Self…YOU ROCK!”  Write down (really, I’ll wait for you here.  Go get a pen & paper.  Like now.) Write down at least 20 good accomplishments you made this year.  Did you feed someone, make a donation, lose a pound (even if you found it and a few of its friends later), show patience, learn something new, give someone a hug?  This is easy.  You could go WELL BEYOND 20, right?  Yay You!!
  2. NOW WRITE DOWN THE GOALS YOU HAVE FOR 2014 – (if you listened to me before, you’d already HAVE the pen & paper! I’m waiting!!)  Don’t worry about making them look pretty or organized, just brainstorm a bit.  Make a list.  How would you like your life to be different and better next year? I’ll help give you some clarity next week, but prepare a bit now. Go ahead and add to it throughout the week if you’re so compelled, but save the list for next week’s post.

There are times we need someone to light that fire under us, and there are times we need to be kind to ourselves and recognize all that we do right!  This week, as we close out 2013, let’s be kind.  Be kind to ourselves.  Be kind to others.  Be thankful for what we had, for what we have and for what we have yet to attain.

Here’s wishing YOU a Very Happy, Healthy, Loving and Authentic New Year!!  I’d love to hear some of the wonderful things you’ve accomplished in 2013, so please comment below and brag a little, won’t you?

7 Tips to Avoid Family Drama this Holiday Season

Winter, and the holidays that come with it, often result in joining family and friends in confined areas.  with alcohol…and grudges.  This is perfect if you’re a producer on the Jerry Springer Show.  Less so if you’re not.  Nothing brings out passive-aggressive behavior like a good party in the winter.

Here are my 7 Tips to Avoid the Holiday-Drama-day!!

  1. Don’t TAKE the Bait – Those digs and comments are MEANT to get you going.  Let them roll over you like a cool breeze on a hot day!!
  2. Don’t DROP the Bait – Those digs and comments are better saved for a more appropriate time.  You know damn well that you will resolve nothing today, so save it for a private conversation that doesn’t drag everyone else into it.  You know you’re right (at least partially), take that high road.
  3. Set the Example for the Young Ones Present – You are teaching them how to behave in this world.  Whether they are 3 or 23.  Show them the appropriate way to behave with class and dignity.
  4. Easy on the Alcohol – This liquid truth serum doesn’t always support high-roading.
  5. Remember What’s Important – Is getting that barbed-wire comeback in worth ruining a holiday?  Probably not.
  6. Is This How You’d Like the Story to End? – If you or the person you’re spatting with was run over by a reindeer after the gathering, what are the last words you’d like said?
  7. Arrange for Back-up – Ask your partner or a trusted family member or friend to help support your planned “high road” travel.  Ask them to get you to the nearest “rest stop” should you appear to be diverting from the plan.

I know a lot of this is easier said than done, but traveling the high road gives you a great view of those who travel on lower ground.  This means you’ll have some great stuff to talk about AFTER the party!!

Let it roll and just Love this holiday season.  Plus, won’t it be cool to show how “above all that” you are this year?

If you MUST share juicy family drama, please feel free to comment below. 🙂

26 Things I’m Thankful For

“Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.”  -Alphonse Karr

Let any anniversary of loss be a reminder of all there is to be thankful for.  Here are 26 gifts I’m thankful for:

  1. I am thankful for my children
  2. I am thankful for my family
  3. I am thankful for my friends
  4. I am thankful for my enemies
  5. I am thankful for the future – whatever it may hold
  6. I am thankful for every mistake I’ve ever made
  7. I am thankful for laughter
  8. I am thankful to have known incredible people who have passed
  9. I am thankful for the ability to walk and run and play
  10. I am thankful for VIP’s
  11. I am thankful for my insecurities
  12. I am thankful for wine
  13. I am thankful for my pets
  14. I am thankful for a warm home
  15. I am thankful for chocolate
  16. I am thankful for my material possessions
  17. I am thankful for books
  18. I am thankful for stars in the sky
  19. I am thankful for kind strangers
  20. I am thankful for my childhood hometown
  21. I am thankful for my imagination
  22. I am thankful for struggles and challenges
  23. I am thankful for memories
  24. I am thankful for the capacity to love
  25. I am thankful for the sun
  26. I am thankful for change

There were moments of pause, but honestly, I could have continued on.  And I shall. I encourage you to create your own.  When you take a moment to be thankful, the sun just seems to shine a little brighter.

“The unthankful heart… discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!”            -Henry Ward Beecher

Won’t you comment on those things that YOU are thankful for?  I’m thankful for you…whether you comment or not.  <3