Love is the most powerful healing emotion. It has been described as a bio cognitive healing field that improves our health and well-being. Love is not just a feeling; it is a way of thinking about ourselves and others. Practicing the act of loving will increase our happiness, confidence, relationships, and health. This article describes how love improves our lives phsyically and emotionally. More importantly, it presents a tool to live a life of love; regardless of the problematic circumstances and people in our lives.
George Solomon’s research reveals that thoughts and emotions influence our immune system. Negative emotions narrow our focus to being more self-centered (i.e. “what’s bothering me”). While positive emotions expand our focus to a more inclusive and warm “we.” The field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) reveals that positive emotions allow us to better remain focused in the face of set-backs and frustrations of life. These positive emotions also produce a direct impact on the functioning of our immune system.
Research on forgiveness shows that it decreases the physical damage that stress does to our body. We are much less likely to experience the physical wear and tear on our bodies in repose to life stressors when we cultivate positive emotions like love. Forgiveness is extending love to ourselves and others.
Dr. Mario Martinez, a leading PNI researcher, is so convinced of by the evidence of emotions impact on our health, he states our immune system operates according to a “moral code that favors love over fear and compassion over hatred.”
Self-compassion is a critical component of love. We can not give to others, what we do not already posses. So self-compassion becomes a core requirement for healthy relationships. But self-compassion is also required to help us reach our optimal health and our optimal levels of success in life.
Self-compassion produces positive mental health outcomes. A study published in the journal Body Image showed that people with higher levels of self-compassion are less likely to be depressed. They have lower rates of eating disorders and are less likely to experience body shame . Another study of college students showed that self-compassion served as a protective layer against academic burn-out. Under normal conditions that would produce burn-out, those students with higher levels of self-compassion didn’t experience the burn-out. Research also shows that self-compassion leads us to more healthy behaviors (e.g. healthy eating, regular exercise, good sleep habits, and stress management) which supports our long-term physical well-being.
Loving ourselves creates positive mental and physical health. Too often we try to improve our physical health or productivity by “shaming” ourselves into good behavior. We imagine that being a hard task master on ourselves will force us to get our act together and perform our best. Yet, research shows the exact opposite. We feel and perform our best when we practice loving ourselves on a daily basis.
It is easy to love people who are kind to us, but how do we love those who are not? How do we show love to the driver who cuts of off, the rude cashier, or family member who has just made a hurtful comment to us? We’ve already discussed how important love is to our health and well-being. As well as how critical love is in reshaping our relationships. So we can not allow our quality of life to be diminished by the action of others. We must learn to love at all times, especially when it’s difficult.
In their book Tools, Phil Stutz and Barry Michels introduce us to powerful tools of visualization that help us to create a successful life. Often we think of ourselves as helpless and subject to our current feelings or circumstances. In the book Tools, we learn how we can actively create the (inner and outer) reality we seek.
These tools are built on a combined 60-years of psychoanalytic practice with hundreds of patients. The authors remind us that theses tools are not just cognitive exercises. The exercises position us to access the power of the spirit realm to strengthen and shape our daily life.
Personally, I’ve practiced the tools since reading the book and have found it very effective in restructuring my reality. I’d like to share with you the second tool (Active Love) to help you increase your capacity to live a life of love. Stutz and Michels describe the tool of active love as having three important components: concentration, transmission, and penetration. In the section below, I walk you through the three steps of the visualization of active love.
Get into a relaxed position, either sitting or lying down. Close your eyes and focus on breathing deeply. Breathe so that your belly rises and falls with each breathe. Listen to your heart beating and the flow of your breath. Now visualize your heart soaking up all of the love that is around you. Your heart draws love to it like a magnet. As your heart attracts love it is growing larger and larger. Watch your heart grow in size and power with the fullness of love.
Now visualize your heart directing the full strength of its love outward like a laser beam. Your heart is pulsing a laser beam of love. The love flows in a steady and powerful stream from your heart.
Next visualize the person to whom you want to direct that love. It could be the cashier person who was rude to you, the family member who made the hurtful comment, or even the driver that cut you off on the road. Even if you have not seen the person’s face, make up a face for that person. Visualize them standing directly in front of you, facing you. If the object of your anger is an abstract idea (e.g. poverty, a nation, religion), visualize that entity as a person.
Visualize the pulsating beam of love emanating from your heart going directly to the heart of that person. Watch it pierce through their outer layers and penetrate to the deepest parts of them. Feel the point of contact and connection with that person. Feel you giving them a transfusion of love. This love comes from you, but does not start with you. This is the love you have freely received and you are sharing with this person.
Watch the laser beam of love fill their hearts. Watch it circulate throughout their entire body. Visualize it flowing from their heart to their head. Watch it flow into their arms, legs, fingers and toes. Every part of their body is washed in this flow of love. Now watch the flow of love completely envelop them in a bubble as they float off into distant space.
Open your eyes and notice how you feel. You have just given that person, and yourself, the gift of love. You have played an active role in promoting physical, emotional, and spiritual healing in our world. Love is the gift that keeps on giving. When you give away love, you wind up with more than when you began. Practicing the tool of active love increases the healing power of love that you experience.
Although this exercise only takes a few minutes, it produces substantial changes in us and in our world. Some of these changes happen immediately and some occur over a longer period of time. It is important for you to know that what you have done matters. Practicing active love is an important way of changing your life and changing your world.
Stutz & Michels encourage readers to be critical skeptics. It doesn’t matter if you believe in the power of the tool, it only matters that you use it. As you use the tool, you will see the changes produced in your own life. Ultimately, this is all the proof you need.
I urge you to commit to using the tool of active love this week. Use it whenever you find yourself feeling angry or frustrated. Practice active love whenever you experience feelings of anger, find yourself ruminating on past injustices, or are preparing to interact with difficult people. Whenever you want to promote healing and connection with another person use the active love tool.
Every day will present you with many opportunities to practice the tool of active love. Record your observations and reflections on this experiment in a journal each day. At the end of the week, you will have a written record of some of the immediate impact of the tool of love on your life.
Share below your reflections on practicing love on a daily basis and the difference you see it making. I’d personally like to thank you for supporting yourself and adding more light to this world. Thank you!
You’ve been selected to have dinner with a very special person. This person is worthy of tremendous honor and respect. She is amazingly talented and an important contributor to our world. She is beautiful, both inside and out. How do you feel about this dinner? How will you behave? What will you say?
What if I told you that you will eat with this person every night? What if I told you that you have already eaten with her every night because that person is you?
Are you surprised? This is not a silly trick, it is absolutely true. You are an amazingly talented and beautiful person, worthy of great honor. Yet, many people ignore, disbelieve, or misunderstand this truth.
My goal is to remind you of the importance of honoring yourself. Honoring yourself is not arrogance and does not make you an egomaniac. Honoring yourself is the embodiment of self-love and self-respect. Moreover, honoring yourself is critical for your physical and mental health.
First, honoring yourself means recognizing your worth and committing to meeting your own needs. There is a feedback loop between you and others. As you recognize that you are worthy of great care, you can be fully present in taking care of others and yourself. As you do, you are demonstrating a model of self-care for those you love as well.
Caring for yourself is not selfish and it is not mutually exclusive with caring for others. Rather, self-love is an integral aspect of loving others. They are two sides of the same coin. The entire moral code of Christianity is summarized in the Great Commandment to “Love the Lord with all your heart soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” I suggest that this moral commandment reflects a commitment to self-love and honor.
If you do not love yourself, what kind of love can you show for your neighbor? If you only love yourself, what kind of neighbor will you be? Self love that extends to others. Most importantly, healthy relationships, healthy communities, healthy societies are based on balanced expression of love.
Therefor, honor is the embodiment of self-love and self-respect. People who honor themselves are healthier mentally and physically. They are more likely to be compassionate towards others. They are more socially responsible. In general, people who honor themselves are happier, healthier people.
In contrast to honor, shame reflects an understanding of the self as unworthy. Shame reflects a lack of honor, compassion, and respect for the self. Shame is different from guilt. Guilt suggest negative feelings about problematic behavior. Shame suggests negative feelings about oneself. Thus, shame is more globalized and not limited to specific behaviors.
Because guilt affirms your core value system, it is consistent with honoring yourself. It encourages you to make amends to repair the damage caused by violating your values. Guilt leads to positive behavioral outcomes and is considered a pro-social behavior. But, shame often leads to more destructive behavior directed against oneself and others. Prof. June P. Tangney, a leading expert in the study of shame and a professor of psychology at George Mason University, explains:
“Guilt is a useful emotion, It pushes people to repair the harm they did….But feelings of shame about oneself seem to motivate people more to want to hide, escape, deny or a lot of times to blame other people.”
In her research study published in the Journal Psychological Science, Dr. Tangney found that prisons who felt guilty were less likely to break the law again. Their guilt led them to refrain from future illegal behavior. This outcome was not seen in individuals returning from prison who did not show the evidence of guilt.
In another study of children, adolescents and adults, Dr. Tangney found a clear difference in the outcomes of guilt as compared to shame. Guilt led to constructive behaviors and shame led to destructive behaviors. Shame lead to anger, aggression (direct and indirect), self-hostility, and negative long-term consequences.
Although shame is clearly linked to a host of negative mental health outcomes, the damage does not stop there. Shame also damages our physical health. Subjects asked to write for 15 minutes on a shameful experience, showed physical inflammation. The researchers concluded that shame increased the inflammatory response of their immune system.
We know that shame is damaging to our physical and mental health. Yet, shame also damages our relationships with others and our relationship to ourselves. Shame is a manifestation of devaluing and disrespect for the self. Learning to honor the self is an antidote for shame. Honoring yourself promotes healing, vitality, and happiness.
Dr. Mario Martinez reminds us that positive emotional states improve our physical and mental health. The emotional states that have the greatest impact on our well-being are love, commitment, and loyalty. Dr. Martinez refers to these emotional states as “healing fields”. He teaches individuals how to cultivate these healing fields and promote optimum health.
Honor is an important healing field because it communicates love and respect for the self. Because our immune system operates according to a moral code, honor enhances the functioning of our immune system. Expressions of fear-based bio-emotional states produce visible damage in our physical bodies. Expressions of love-based bio-emotional states promote visible healing and regeneration in our bodies.
This relationship between honor, self-love, and physical healing is documented in the medical research by Dr. George F. Solomon. Dr. Solomon revealed that women who expressed righteous anger toward their abuser were less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, regardless of the presence of a genetic marker. The anger these women expressed was a logical and appropriate response to the violation of someone they loved and valued (themselves). Those women who were not able to connect with this righteous anger were more likely to develop a chronic illness. Thus, there seems to be a connection between protecting yourself emotionally and physically. In both cases the protection comes from a sense of self-love and value. This is an example of the healing field of honor.
When we honor ourselves, we love and protect ourselves on every level. On the cellular level, we promote healthy immune functioning to take care of our cells. When we honor ourselves, we care for our bodies with healthy nutrition and exercise. When we honor ourselves, we choose only to be in relationships with people who treat us with love and respect. Dr. Martinez reminds us that:
“We never abuse what we mindfully love.”
Practicing small and large acts of honoring yourself is a way of mindfully loving yourself. It communicates to you and others that you are to be loved and respected. It triggers the holistic healing fields that promote your spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being.
Here are simple, yet powerful ways, that you can practice showing honor to yourself. Remember, honor is a healing field. As you take part in the activities below, you promote your health and well-being on every level. You can honor yourself by:
When you honor yourself, you commit to meeting your needs rather than waiting on others or the circumstances of life to do so. Relying on others to meet your needs leads to feelings of disappointment and depletion. It also often creates conflicts in your relationship with others. The other person may feel inadequate or resentful that they are unable to meet your needs.
Yet, relying on yourself to meet your needs leads to feeling energized and confident. It also gives other people permission to do the same. When people see you loving yourself it inspires them to do the same. Charity begins at home. Give yourself the love and care you give to others. You are worthy of love and admiration.
Think about where you are currently feeling emotional dissatisfaction. List three emotional needs that are currently unmet. What would you need to feel satisfied? For each emotional need you identify, think of one way that you can give yourself the gift of meeting that need.
Honor rituals are important reminders to yourself that you are worthy of honor. You can create a series of habits that you do on a daily basis. The goal of these actions is to remind yourself that your are someone of tremendous value and worthy of great respect and honor.
For me, the rituals I create around the celebration of my birthday are important ways in which I honor myself. In next week’s blog post, I’ll describe in more detail how you can turn your birthday into a celebration honoring your life.
Yet, there are also simple daily actions you can take to honor yourself. For example, the Sanskrit greeting “Namaste” translates to “The light in me salutes the light in you.” What a wonderful daily reminder that you are worthy of honor. It also reminds you that every person you meet throughout the day is worthy of honor as well. What a double blessing!
I’d love to hear about your large and small honor rituals. Please share below how you remind yourself of your tremendous worth. Let our community know how you practice giving yourself the love and respect you deserve.
You do not have to wait for others to love, care for, and honor you. You can do that for yourself. Commit to honoring yourself by meeting your core emotional needs today.
“Every woman that finally figured out her worth, has picked up her suitcases of pride and boarded a flight to freedom, which landed in the valley of change.”
― Shannon L. Alder
When you understand your value and power, you develop boundaries to honor yourself and protect your freedom. Emotional boundaries in relationships aren’t a set of legalistic rules that constrain our freedom. Boundaries are the guardrails that protect our happiness and the security of our relationships.
If you are feeling emotionally exhausted, frustrated, or resentful, chances are you need to strengthen your boundaries. Many people are still unclear about what it means to establish boundaries. They’re also unsure about why boundaries are important and how to do it properly. As you read on you will learn the answers to these questions. You will also gain a quick, easy method for setting healthy emotional boundaries. Protecting your boundaries will increase your level of happiness and satisfaction in your relationships.
Emotional boundaries are the psychological acceptance of the uniqueness, dignity, and freedom of each individual. Boundaries are what separate us from another person. We recognize that while we may love and strongly identify with another person, we are not the same. Thus, we do not have to feel or act the same.
Through establishing boundaries, we give ourselves and other people the freedom to be unique. People without emotional boundaries need conformity as a demonstration of love. These people often expect you to take responsibility for their emotional state and “fix” their problems. Neither of these interpretations of reality are true or possible. No two people can be exactly the same no matter how much they love each other. No person can fix the emotional state or manage the life of another. Lack of boundaries create unhealthy expectations and behaviors. These unreasonable expectations drain the life energy out of people and their relationships.
Women are particularly vulnerable to ignoring emotional boundaries. We are socialized to think of our identity as primarily determined by our relationships. There’s nothing wrong with valuing relationships. But, this value can easily morph into unhealthy thinking such as:
“I’m nothing without this relationship”
“I need to do all that I can to remain in this relationship. Even if it includes sacrificing my freedom, dignity and value.”
A subtler expression of unhealthy boundaries is the thought that:
“My biggest contribution to the world is that accomplishments of my child or partner. “
Such distorted thinking places tremendous pressure on your child or partner. You expect them to live out your dreams of success and accomplishment. It also robs them of the freedom to spend their time and energy discovering and living out their own life dreams.
Accepting responsibility for your emotions and behavior without taking responsibility for the feelings and actions of others is a healthy emotional boundary. Emotional boundaries also mean giving others the freedom to not like your feelings or choices. Boundaries are a core component of emotional intelligence. As such, they contribute to our health and happiness.
If you can not tolerate other’s disapproval of your feelings or choices or if you can not tolerate others possessing emotions and actions with which you disagree, you are in desperate need of setting emotional boundaries. The decision to not set healthy emotional boundaries damages you and your relationships.
People without emotional boundaries have a distorted view of their own power. They either understand themselves as completely powerless or all powerful.
People who understand themselves as powerless, play the victim role in their relationships. They rely on others to manage their life and emotions. This is because they consider themselves incapable of making their own dreams come true. Victims see the relationship as the source of their security and happiness. Thus, they seek to maintain the relationship and the other person’s favor at all cost. This promotes people pleasing behavior for the victim.
People pleasing sets unrealistic expectations that the victim will (or should) always agree with the martyr. Because the victim does not feel comfortable saying no, s/he often agrees to actions that are personally undesirable. Yet, the victim often does not follow through, or execute well. This inconsistency makes the victim appear even more helpless. The inconsistency is actually the victim’s ineffectual way of acting on his/her own desires.
These “victims” often associate themselves with “martyrs”. Martyrs have an over-inflated view of their own power. Martyrs take on the responsibility of managing their own life as well as the lives of the victim. They accept responsibility for the other person’s emotions and work diligently to “fix” the other person’s life. The martyr denies the victim the freedom to choose and feel differently. This seems appropriate to the martyr because the victim is “clearly” incapable of managing life. That’s why the victim needs to trust the martyr’s judgment over his/her own. The martyr is left feeling overwhelmed with the responsibility of managing two people’s lives. S/he is also frustrated that the victim doesn’t just “go along” with the plan.
Both martyrs and victims eventually feel frustrated and resentful of the other person. This codependency prolongs the unhealthy relationship dynamic. It also promotes physical and psychological dis-ease in both parties.
The key to establishing healthy emotional boundaries is to embrace your own power. This is true for setting boundaries in leadership, marriage, parenting, and friendships.
People pleasing is giving away your own power. Playing the role of a martyr is accepting responsibility beyond the constraints of your personal power. As you embrace your personal power, you learn how to say no to things that do not honor you and your life purpose . You also learn the importance of saying yes to those that do.
There are only two things you need to do to establish healthy boundaries. First create the boundary. Second, give others the freedom not to like them. Many people give up their power out of fear or a misunderstanding of love. But, as you follow the steps below, you reclaim your power by setting healthy boundaries.
Real power comes from focusing on what’s important to you. To exercise control over your life, you must first see yourself as worthy. You need to see your uniqueness as something to be treasured. This perspective helps you to see the value of protecting your difference in the face of social pressures for conformity.
As you get clear on your unique contribution, your motivation for protecting that purpose increases. You recognize that this gift has been invested in you and needs to be advanced by you. Power is acknowledging what you have to offer to the world and behaving in a way that demonstrates your faith in yourself and your gifts. Learn to align your life 100% with what’s important to you.Embrace your ability to act
Real power is a process, not a destination. No one is completely helpless. There is always something that you can do for yourself. When you act in your own best interest, you feel and are powerful.
Power as a destination is understanding power as a finite object. It is something that you have and that can be taken from you. Power as a noun refers to differential amounts of power. Someone may have more or less power than you.
Yet, power as a process describes your capacity to act. Taken from the word Anglo-Norman French word “poeir” and the Latin word “posse”, power means “to be able”. This version of power is something that everyone has and can not be taken away. As you change your understanding of power, you immediately see that you always have the capacity to do something.
Whatever the situation, you can put your gifts into action toward accomplishing your goal. This is your power. As you act in your best interests, you increase your capacity to do so in the future. As long as you are alive, your power is there for you to use.
No one else has your gifts or unique combination of experiences. You show your power by embracing your gifts and sharing them with others. You have a role to play in this world that only you with your unique gifts and experiences can play. To downplay your power is to reject your gifts and your purpose in the world. Living out your purpose in the world means that you are willing to show up and embrace your unique contribution. No one else can take your place. If you don’t do it for you, it won’t be done.
The real measure of power is your ability to choose for yourself what’s important to you and ignore the rest. Owning and reclaiming your power means using your power to support your dreams, needs and wants.
Boundaries breathe life into broken relationships. Reclaim your power and individuality. Acknowledge and respect the power of others. Choosing to establish and maintain your boundaries will increase your happiness and relationship satisfaction.
Comment below your thoughts about boundaries, personal power, and healthy relationships. What shifts occur within you when you see power as the process of living into your gifts rather than a destination?
“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” – Bryant H. McGill
Listening is the best way to overcome relationship problems and to keep your relationship healthy. This is easy to say, but difficult to do. We all know that we should listen well, but many times we miss the mark. Poor listening habits create many of the problems we experience in our relationships. In this article, I describe the qualities of effective listening and provide simple techniques to help you listen better.
The willingness to listen is the hallmark of the most successful people and relationships. Effective leaders in businesses and organizations are defined by their strong listening skills. Parents who listen well maintain close relationships with their children throughout the tumultuous teen years and well into adult years. Romantic relationships with strong listening skills maintain intimacy and commitment across years.
The YouTube video below is a funny example of how important effective listening is to romantic relationships. Even though you may think you know how to fix the problem, what the other person wants most is just for you to listen.
Effective listening requires more that just hearing what the other person is saying. It involves seeking to understand the other person’s intent and desire. Understanding the other person’s goal in the conversation, will create connection, trust, and cooperation.
Here are 8 techniques to help you become a better listener.
What are they telling you? Regardless of the content of the conversation, the speaker is communicating something to you about who they are and what matters to them. Listen for what is NOT being said.
Use your comments and questions to help you better understand the other person. Do not use this time to make a request or communicate your perspective. There is a time for that, but it follows deep listening. Ask questions or restate what you are hearing in your own words. This reflective listening will allow the speaker to elaborate or correct your understanding.
Do you know all the parts of the story? Ask for missing information. Build on the facts you know and ask more questions that will help you fill in the blanks. The more shared facts you have, the more shared understanding you experience.
This is critical. The conversation feels cold and distant if you listen for facts without affirming the speaker’s feelings. That would feel like a police interrogation. When we state our observations about the speaker’s feelings, we show our concern for the person and his/her feelings. It also helps others to become more aware of their emotions. Many times people’s behavior is motivated are by feelings that they are not even aware of. By stating the emotions you are observing, you help the other person better connect with and understand their own emotions. It also provides an opportunity for them to clarify or correct your observations about their emotional state.
When you see there’s something that the other person is not comfortable sharing, acknowledge the elephant in the room. Make sure that your suggestion is open and allows the other person to amend or correct your understanding. You might want to say something like “I could be off here, but I have a feeling …..”.
Whenever the person says something you agree with, do so. Agree with body language such as a head nod. Agree verbally such as “ummhum” or “yes”. Every time you agree with the other person, you communicate to them that you are on the same side. Of course, you can not agree on everything. But the more you can agree on, the easier it will be to discuss the points on which you don’t agree.
Reflect back what the other person is saying using your own words. This translation allows you to ensure that you actually understand their perspective. After you’ve paraphrased the other person’s point, look to them to confirm that you’ve done it correctly. If they correct some part of your paraphrase, accept that graciously and try again. Keep paraphrasing until the other person’s response is “yes.”
You’ve heard the saying “music is the space between the notes”. Well, emotional connection is the space between the words. There is important emotional work occurring in the silence. You do not want to disrupt this emotion work with unnecessary words. Many times we speak to reduce our anxiety about silence. Take deep breaths, mentally recite an affirmation. Whatever it takes to get you comfortable with silence. The deeper the conversation, the more valuable the silence.
My grandmother would always tell me “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.” What an important lesson! How well you listen is much more important than what you say.
Practice strengthening your listening skills this week. Choose at least one conversation each day to practice listening. Focus on better understanding that other person and the feelings they are experiencing. Set aside your own concerns, thoughts, and opinions. Just listen. You will be amazed at the positive results for both you and your conversation partner!
Comment below with questions about effective listening or success stories. What are the times when you have truly felt listened to? How did it make you feel? What are the times when you focused solely on listening to another person? What was the result? How did it make you feel to be a deep listener?
Are you looking to resolve relationship conflict and improve the quality of your relationship? Does it take longer than it should to get a task accomplished because the people you are working with don’t trust your intentions? Do you long to experience intimacy and connection in your current relationships? Practicing courageous conversations can address all these relationship problems allowing you to create the intimacy, trust, and cooperation necessary for quality relationships.
Relationships are an important determinate of the quality of our lives. The quality of our relationships predicts our health and mortality. The quality of our relationships with our co-workers determines our productivity and effectiveness. Thus, if we want to improve our health, career, and quality of life, we can begin by improving our relationships.
I’d like to share with you a secret to immediately improving all relationships in your life. You can use this technique to improve any relationship that is important to you. Your relationship with your children. Your romantic partner. Colleagues and business associates. Family and friends. Better yet, you can start this today and it’s totally free. Ready?
The best way to improve your relationship is to improve the quality of your conversations.
The quality of your conversations determine the quality of your relationship. Superficial and conflict-laden relationships are filled with small talk and one-sided conversations. There is little revealing and sharing of the true self because the person does not feel it is safe to do so. Cooperative relationships are built on trust and need openness and a willingness to truly see the other person. Emotional intelligence, vulnerability, and courage are necessary for effective communication. This is what I call a “courageous conversation”.
Courageous conversations build trust, cooperation, and intimacy within our relationships. Most people in our culture do not practice courageous conversations. But, this communication style is seen among great leaders and people who have high quality relationships. I’ve listed below the structure of a courageous conversation to help you practice this skill in your relationships.
Courageous conversations consist of five distinct parts. 4/5 of a courageous conversation involves listening to yourself and the other person. Only 1/5 of the conversation is actually about speaking. Too often we get this ratio backwards and focus more on speaking than listening. To have a conversation that really builds trust, intimacy, and cooperation, the primary focus needs to be listening.
A courageous conversation first begins with listening to yourself. What are the stories you believe about yourself, the other person, and the situation? Stories are our unique way of understanding the world around us and they included our assumptions, attitudes, biases, and beliefs. The stories we already believe about ourselves and the situation limit the possible outcomes. For example, believing that the other person is unreasonable and irrational, leads us to be defensive. That defensive posture closes off any possibility of cooperation and mutual benefit.
Recognizing the stories that we already hold allows us to shape them to our benefit. We can challenge the stories that are not serving us. We can also develop better stories that will create the opportunities for trust and connection that we seek.
Our emotions are a direct result of our thoughts. Thus, as we reshape our stories to be more in line with our relationship goals, our emotions will follow. But, it takes time to fully internalize our new stories. Meanwhile, our emotions can quickly become activated within the conversation.
Focus on becoming aware of your emotional state. Making sure that negative emotions do not hijack your goals for courageous conversations. Take responsibility for your feelings. Connect with your highest intention. Practice courage.
Recognize that you alone are responsible for your feelings. You choose how to respond to those feelings. The other person does not “make” you angry or happy. That is your choice.
Connecting with your highest intention focuses you on your goal of building trust. It prevents you from falling into a tit for tat banter. This is particularly important when you are feeling hurt, angry, and frustrated. At these times, ask yourself “What is the highest intention I have for this conversation, this relationship, this person?” Let that highest intention guide your behavior and not your temporary emotions.
Finally, managing your emotions requires practicing courage. We often avoid challenging conversations out of fear. Fear of rejection, fear of losing the person, fear that they will no longer think highly of us. You can not let fear determine your conversations, your relationships, or your life. Courage is action in the presence of your fear. You must speak up and engage in the conversation, even when you’re afraid to do so.
Listening is a powerful form of communication . As you listen, practice listening for the other person’s stories. What are their beliefs, assumptions, attitudes? Listening for the other person’s stories helps you better understand their feelings. It will also help you better predict how they might respond to your thoughts or requests.
Listening well also helps the other person to feel better. We all want to be heard and having someone truly listen to us is a great affirmation of our dignity and value.
You must become aware of your own emotions and learn how to manage them before you can effectively deal with the emotions of others. Managing your emotions and deep listening, equips you to effectively respond to the other person’s emotions. Remember to always be respectful, trustworthy, and curious in your response.
By being respectful, you affirm and protect the dignity of the other person. There is nothing that begins or hardens a conflict more than being disrespected.
Allow the person to share opinions that you don’t agree with or like. This demonstrates trustworthiness and openness. This communicates that you value the other person, their ideas and perspective.
Finally, responding to the other person’s emotions requires that you get curious. If someone is furious, get curious. What’s triggered their pain? What value was violated? Anger is a powerful signal of pain resulting from a violation of personal values. We are often so fixated on the anger that we forget to get curious about what’s generating the response.
The meaning of communication is not defined by what you are saying, but rather by what is being heard. Insights about that person’s stories help you to organize your communication. You can now frame your thoughts, questions, and request in a way that can be heard by that person.
In reflecting on how the person will listen, consider their stories and values. How can you connect your comments to their beliefs and values?
Also reflect on your responsibility in creating the current situation. You are not a helpless victim. Taking responsibility for your role creates new possibilities for the future. It also helps you to resist your ego’s desire to prove your righteousness or their wrongness.
Finally, reflect on your highest intention for that person, your relationship, and this conversation. Let that intention guide your thoughts, words, and responses. It may be helpful to write down key points in advance or practice the conversation.
Identify a specific person with whom you’d like to have a courageous conversation. Identify the goal of this conversation. This goal becomes your intention. Continually return to your intention throughout the conversation.
In the beginning, focus your intentions on understanding the other person. Don’t start with a goal of trying to tell them something or get them to do something for you. This will help to distinguish this conversation from the many others before. Previous conversations, when your focus has been on getting your point across, have alienated the other person. This is what has created the conflict and lack of trust you are experiencing now. Setting your intention to understand, lays the groundwork for a different relationship dynamic.
Consider the best time and place to have your courageous conversation. Do not start these conversations when you or the other person is feeling tired, hungry, or pressed for time. If possible, invite the other person for a walk.
Walking will help lower any tension associated with the conversation. It will also give you two a common visual perspective. Many times women assume that the best way to have a conversation is staring into each other’s eyes. But, an unbroken gaze is quite anxiety producing and intimidating. Consider how primates stare down each other to determine who is the alpha male. Walking provides a shared perspective. Each party has the freedom to start and stop eye contact as needed. You become a team rather than opponents.
Before you begin the courageous conversation, take time to reflect on your stories. Consider your stories about communication in general and about this person in particular. What are your assumptions, attitudes, and potential biases? Challenge the validity of your stories. Reflect on whether they are serving you. If needed, create new stories that are more helpful in promoting courageous conversations.
Consider what emotions may emerge for you in this courageous conversation. Identify the emotions and whether it will serve your intention. Consider ways to manage emotions that are inconsistent with your intention. How can you mitigate these negative emotions? How can you prevent them from subverting your intention in this conversation.
Now you have your strategy for implementing your courageous conversation. You have a plan for managing your emotions. You are ready to begin your courageous conversation. Remember to focus on your intention above all else.
Imagining yourself as a writer may help you in seeking to understand the other person’s story. Imagine you want to be able to represent this person accurately in a biography. What is his/her motivations? Points of pain or struggle? What is his/her desire in this current moment? Remember that the most important answers are rarely spoken so pay attention to body language and what is not said.
Equipped with this knowledge, you are now able to speak to their listening. You can communicate to them that you understand and support them and their goal. This is the most important point for you to communicate. If you are not in support of their most immediate goal, try to find a deeper goal that you can support.
If you can not support your teenager’s desire to spend all day playing video games, support the function that those games serve for the teen. Say something like,
“Friends are an important part of our lives. I understand that these people you meet online are valuable friends to you. I support your motivation to get and maintain quality friendships.”
This allows you to negotiate the strategy of developing friendships. You can now have that conversation without the conflict of your teen feeling misunderstood. Keep your intentions at the forefront of your consciousness.
When you take the time to practice having courageous conversations, great things happen. Remember, the quality of the conversations determine the quality of your relationships. Upgrade your conversations and your relationships today!
Let me know how practicing courageous conversations improves your relationships. If you need more support strengthening your relationships, sign up for my newsletter. It is filled with practical tips to help you improve your relationships and improve your life.
Why would the woman who founded Mother’s Day spend the rest of her life trying to end this holiday?
Mother’s Day is celebrated all over the world, but the American version was initiated by Anna Jarvis as an attempt to bring reconciliation between the North and the South after the Civil War. Ms. Jarvis started the first Mother’s Day celebration in 1908 and it eventually became a nationally recognized holiday in 1914. Ms. Jarvis was so disappointed with the commercialization of Mother’s Day that she spent much of her wealth and time in legal battles trying to end the national holiday.
It’s also interesting to note that this woman who founded Mother’s Day was herself never married and had no children. Ms. Jarvis founded the day to honor the death of her mother and celebrate the contributions of mothers across the country. Today, many women like Ms. Jarvis (women who are single, women without children, women who’ve lost their mothers) feel excluded and injured from our contemporary celebrations of the holiday.
Rather than working to ban the holiday as Ms. Jarvis did, I propose we adopt a broader view of Mother’s Day that is more inclusive and more in the spirit of Ms. Jarvis’ original intent. This more inclusive view of Mother’s Day focuses on the act of mothering Click & Tweet! , in stead of the status of motherhood. In this expanded focus we are able to embrace all women in our national celebration.
It’s may be hard to believe that Mother’s Day celebrations can be seen as exclusionary and painful for a number of women, but it’s true. As someone who struggled for years to conceive a child, I know first hand how isolating and painful our Mother’s Day celebrations can be. It seemed as if every woman my age was already a mother and that left me feeling even more alone and like a failure because I was not able to achieve this sacred status of motherhood.
Mother’s Day and the days leading up to it are already an emotional challenge for many of the 6.7 million women struggling with infertility. In the Savvy Auntie® Facebook community, courageous women shared honestly about how they feel being childless on Mother’s Day. These women reported feeling:
The painful feelings associated with Mother’s Day are not limited only to women who are childless. Women who have lost a child or are separated from their child also report feeling excluded on Mother’s Day. Women who have put a child up for adoption or have children in prison or in the streets struggling with drug addictions are frequently left out of our cultural celebrations of motherhood. These women’s separation from their children is often thought of as examples of bad motherhood and their own moral failings. Women who’ve placed their child up for adoption or who have children in prison or on drugs experience the pain of not living up to what society expects of you as a mother.
Finally, there is the pain of women who have loss their mothers or have emotionally distant relationships with their mothers. For both these groups of women, celebrations of Mother’s Day can remind them of their loss, grief, and anger. The lack of public acknowledgement of these feelings can result in these women feeling even more isolated and alone.
So how do we help to ease the suffering of these women and include them in our cultural celebration?
Let’s draw a bigger circle of love that can include all these women in our celebrations of Mother’s Day. We can not change the fact that they do not have a child, or their child is in prison, or their mother is no longer living. However, we can acknowledge that we see them and their pain and that we celebrate them and their generous gifts to our world. This more inclusive celebration of Mother’s Day can be achieved if we switch our focus from the status of motherhood to celebrating mothering.Mothering focuses on the act of nurturing others. Click & Tweet!
Motherhood focus on the status of having a child. Mothering is more expansive and allows us to celebrate the ways in which we have been nurtured by our mothers and other women in our lives. Mothering also encourages us to reflect upon and celebrate the ways in which we all have nurtured others- regardless of whether they are our biological children.
When we recognize the potential that is in a person and we give both the encouragement and correction necessary to develop that potential, we are mothering. When we generously invest our time, money, and resources for the physical, spiritual, intellectual, and emotional development of person with no expectation of reciprocity or self-benefit, we are mothering. When we affirm and protect the dignity of a person’s life regardless of their social status in the world but simply because we know that this individual is of immeasurable value, we are mothering.
Sometimes we have the opportunity to mother our own children, but all of us have the opportunity to mother other people’s children. In fact, this public mothering (mothering other people’s children) yields the most benefit to our society and merits a public celebration.
In her groundbreaking book, Black Feminist Thought, Patricia Hill Collins uses the concept of “othermother” to discuss the central role of black women’s activism and community building efforts. Othermothers are sisters, aunts, grandmothers, cousins, neighbors, teachers, or any women who actively cares for the well-being of a child that is not their biological child. These othermothers are a critical source of support for both the child and his/her biological mother. Othermothering includes social activism as a loving action of care and protection of our children. The practice of othermothering builds a network of love and support for children and adults that affirms the value of caring, ethics, teaching, and service.
This connection between mothering and community building was central to the ideas of the original founders of Mother’s Day in our country. Ann Jarvis organized the pre-cursor to Mother’s Day, “Mother’s Friendship Day”, to build community and promote reconciliation between former Union and Confederate soldiers. Another precursor to Mother’s Day, “Mother’s Peace Day”, was organized by abolitionist and suffragist Julia Howe to promote world peace. For these women and many others like them, Mother’s Day provided an opportunity to reach beyond our households, biological families, and narrow group identities to embrace those different from us and to affirm our common connection. This is what we need to reclaim in our current celebrations of Mother’s Day.
The fact that we are still here implies that we are the beneficiaries of some quality mothering. Someone cared for us when we were unable to care for ourselves. Someone invested in us regardless of our ability to pay or reciprocate. Someone cared for us enough to expect greatness from us and to create opportunities for us to see and develop that within ourselves. These acts did not stop when we turned 18. We are always in need of this mothering. And the best way to say thank you for these tremendous gifts is to literally say thank you to your mother and/or othermothers and to continue to extend this gift to others.
Think about the many women who have and are currently mothering you. Write down the names of your othermothers. List the specific memories you have of moments when you could clearly see their generous gift of mothering to you. As you reflect on this list, say thank you. Express gratitude for each of the women who individually and collectively nurture life within you and within our community. Click & Tweet!
Reach out to your othermothers and share your gratitude with them. It may surprise them to hear your comments about their mothering and what it has meant to you. Like many people in our culture, they may only associate mothering with motherhood. Help them to see themselves in the celebration of this day. Help them to experience the the warmth of the light they create in the world through their acts of mothering.
Reflect on and renew your commitment to mothering other people’s children. Regardless of whether you have children in your household, we all share responsibility for the children of our world. Mothering provides us to reach beyond the narrow boundaries of ourselves and invest in the care and well-being of others. This is a tremendous privilege and a great responsibility. Our mothering nurtures, protects, and sustains life, dignity, health, and love in this world. Do not limit these valuable gifts to your household, we are all in need of your gift of mothering.
Mothering is hard work. It is unpaid labor and rarely receives the gratitude and appreciation that is due. We would not be able to continue as a species without mothering. Every woman who engages in this critical, life sustaining act should be acknowledged and celebrated this day and every day.
So let me say to each one of you who so generously gives of your time, resources, and attention to lovingly invest in the nurture and development of others, Happy Mother’s Day!
I’d love to hear about the mothers and othermothers you are celebrating, please share their stories below.
So that’s my top ten list of inspirational quotes from Maya Angelou. I’d love to hear which quote inspires you the most or which one you’d like to add to this list.
Have you ever considered what history has to do with your present level of success and the likelihood of future success? It’s more than the proverbial statement “those that don’t know their history are bound to repeat it.” Recent social science research reveals that the knowledge of history improves our resiliency and increases our success Click & Tweet! .
Current social science research reveals that resiliency is a significant predictor of future success. Resiliency refers to our capacity to bounce back from traumatic life events or situations. We know that resiliency reduces emotional stress, increases life satisfaction and increases likelihood of success Click & Tweet! . Whether measuring athletic accomplishments or academic achievement, research shows that resiliency promotes optimal performance. In all areas of life individuals’ who have more resiliency experience more success.
We can not control where we start in life. Life often presents us with substantial challenges and negative situations beyond our choosing. However, Dr. Joy DeGruy’s research documents that knowledge of family history increases resiliency and success for at-risk youth. In other words, the more history a young person knows, the greater likelihood of success in spite of the challenges of the social environment.
We stand here today as the result of great efforts from others on our behalf. Some examples of the individual and collective work done on our behalf include: our family’s efforts to provide for us until we could provide for ourselves, unknown soldiers fighting for our political freedom, and social activists fighting for our social and economic opportunities. Whether they know us by name or not, we are beneficiaries of of these people’s work. This knowledge places responsibility upon us to behave in a manner that honors their investments in us. I can still remember everyday before going to school, my mother’s instruction “Don’t do anything that will embarrass me.” It was clear to me from a young age that my behavior at school and in public did not only reflect me, but my mother as well. My mother is a woman of great pride and dignity who has worked hard to protect this dignity in spite of varied assaults and I would never want to do something that would bring shame to her. Detailed knowledge of the efforts of others for us instills a sense of personal accountability beyond ourselves Click & Tweet! .
Although we may be physically standing in a classroom or boardroom by ourselves, our connection to our family and collective history reminds us that in spirit we are surrounded by a community of supporters cheering us on Click & Tweet! . This awareness provides us with the strength and confidence to succeed in spaces that are not necessarily welcoming or comfortable. It is difficult to be “the only.” The only person of color in a white classroom, the only woman in a male dominated field, the only person from a working class family in an elite profession. Visualizing our family with us is a way of claiming that social space as our own and asserting our right to be there. In situations where you are the minority, there are numerous subtle and not so subtle messages that you do not belong. However, when you recognize that you are not “the only” one and that you have a larger community of people standing there with you, there is a renewed sense of strength and belonging. This provides you with the confidence needed to succeed in the face of others’ questions about your ability.
Reviewing our history reminds us that people have faced similar or greater struggles and have overcome through determination and effort. That struggle could be as individual as your grandmother being left alone to parent eight children on her own but rising to the task and doing her best to make sure every child was fed and loved. Or it could be a collective struggle, like remembering your grandparents who survived the Jewish Holocaust or the Armenian genocide in Turkey. These personal stories remind you that you are not the first person to experience devastating hardship. You come from a people that have experienced intense suffering and yet have been able to survive and transform that suffering into personal triumph. You are a product of their success and you have inherited this legacy of being an overcomer. The same spiritual, social, and emotional resources your family and community used to succeed are available to you at any moment of need Click & Tweet! .
You can now see the wisdom of Carter G. Woodson’s decision to start “Negro History Week”, which later became “Black History Month”. The activities of this month help to educate non-Black people about the value of the Black community’s contribution to America and the world. Yet I believe that the biggest impact of these activities is the strength and resilience it gives to people who identify as members of the Black community. These stories of history infuse Black people, young and old, with psychological and spiritual resources to succeed.
Regardless of whether you are a member of the Black community, I invite you to consider how you can participate in this powerful act of using your history to promote your success. Dr. DeGruy’s research reminds us that intimate knowledge of our personal family history is just as important as knowledge of our collective history in increasing our resilience and success. Take time to learn about and reflect upon your individual family’s history. How can you use these stories to increase your success? In addition, make sure to share your personal history with others as a means of promoting their success. Your experiences and choices have taught you important lessons about yourself and the world Click & Tweet! . These lessons don’t have to packaged in a neat bow or be confined to a particular month of the year; they are gifts of wisdom that can equip others with the resiliency needed to succeed.
If you would like to share a story about the gift of resiliency that fuels your success or the success of others, please do so below. You have no idea of the power of your story until you tell it.