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Archive for April, 2011

Sometimes when we asked others for help or their opinion we must be open to suggestions.

I wrote a letter the other day outlining a business plan. I gave it to my husband for proofing, something I do when I want his input or I think I’ve written an exceptional letter and I want his “Atagirl.”

After reading the letter, my husband said, “I don’t think this is up to your usual standards.”

I asked, “What’s wrong with it?”

He said he wasn’t sure, but it didn’t work for him.

I said, “I need more information. What doesn’t work?”

He said he wasn’t sure.

I then took the letter and reread it. Since I couldn’t see what he could, I asked if he would go over it line by line. He countered with, “How about if I look at it again and make margin notes.” I said, “Fine.”

A half hour later I looked at his notes and told him he didn’t understand the situation. He shrugged and said okay. I took the letter and went back to my computer and again revised. As I was writing, I could see my letter improving based on his suggestions. When I finished, I proudly handed the letter back to my husband. He read it for the third time and said, “It’s still not right.”

When I asked what was not right, he said he couldn’t exactly say.

Unfortunately, I then told him I was the writer in the family and I had seen some goofy letters he sent out. With that I picked up my letter and went back to the computer.

After an hour of revisions, I contritely went back to my husband with letter in hand. I told him I was sorry for what I’d said and asked if he would please read the letter again because I did value his input. And further, no matter what he said, I would be good.

Being a very patient and kind-hearted fellow, he once again read my letter and proclaimed that it was fine.

Yesterday a woman telephoned all in a stew. She had received a bad performance review after working at her company for 25 years. She was afraid this review was the beginning of the end. She had written a letter in response to her review and wanted to know if I would look at the letter. I said, “Sure, what’s your time frame?”

She said she thought she should respond by tomorrow. I said, “Fine, fax me your letter.” She said she didn’t have a fax. I suggested she go to a copy place because they have fax machines. She asked if she could just read the letter over the telephone.

As she got into the letter, it was obvious that it needed a good deal of work. I gave her a number of suggestions. I could hear that she was becoming annoyed with my suggestions, since each suggestion meant more work for her. I said I had to leave but I would call her later and we could work on it again. She said she would fax the letter.

I asked that she make the changes we had discussed. She agreed. Four hours later when I looked at the fax, I found the changes had not been made. She had not worked on the letter. I could see that the letter was becoming my responsibility.

This all leads me to the following:

When you ask for feedback on a project, be appreciative. Understand that the feedback you get may be negative. Understand that it may mean more work for you. And keep in mind that the ultimate responsibility for the project is still yours. Don’t try to get the other person to do your work simply because he or she has noted some problems.

Doris Wild Helmering, “Mother of Reason”

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Deciding if you are setting yourself up for disaster.
Victim of circumstance or victim by design?

Mike lost his second-biggest account three months ago. Several weeks later, his 17-year-old son was involved in a serious car accident which resulted in two surgeries, a three-week stay in the hospital, and ongoing physical therapy. One morning on his way to the hospital, Mike’s car died in the middle of the highway. Adding stress to stress, the part the dealer ordered got lost in the mail. That same week a skunk made her home under his house and the pest people couldn’t seem to do much about it despite repeated tries. A few days later, Mike received a letter informing him that his septic tank is located on his neighbor’s property.

On listening to what befell Mike, one of his religious friends proposed that he was being tested. Another friend said, “What’s new? Everyone has chaos, and on a regular basis.” Someone else theorized that people often cause their own crises because they are bored or need an energy boost. Or they may make a crisis to avoid dealing with a more significant issue.

I’m not so sure about being tested. I tend to think catastrophes are random. It’s true, however, that we all seem to have one problem after another. And sometimes we subconsciously make ourselves into victims.

Take, for example, the guy who knows his roof has been leaking for a few years but does nothing until the water starts pouring in one rainy night. Or how about the woman who knows she has a tooth problem but does nothing until one day she finds herself in excruciating pain?

Mike certainly had nothing to do with his son’s accident. I can’t imagine how he might have invited the skunk problem. And the title search when he bought his house didn’t cover the septic tank. I do wonder what kind of warning Mike had that his car was about to give out, but the part being lost in the mail was out of his control.

Moving from Mike to yourself, what troubles, misfortunes, or disasters have befallen you recently? Name three or four.

Did you have any idea they were coming?

Are any of them partly of your own doing?

To avoid becoming a victim, run through the following list of actions. These forecast trouble. Check off any that you are guilty of.

-Driving too fast

-Not having savings to supply extra cash for emergencies

-Trying to provide too much for your children by buying them a car you really can’t afford, loaning them money when you yourself are strapped or signing up for too big a wedding

-Overspending on recreation, clothes, jewelry, home improvements

-Starting a house project when your life is already on fast-forward

-Not paying your quarterly taxes

-Stopping your blood pressure medicine because you feel fine and you don’t like taking it

-Not looking for another job when you know your present one is ending

-Ignoring your child’s poor school performance and his lack of respect for curfew

-Entertaining the idea of having an affair or actually having one

-Trying to wing a presentation or failing to study for a test

If you find yourself heading for trouble, change lanes, put on the brake, take a different route. Not all disasters can be avoided. But don’t be a victim by design.

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Lots of tools for raising a healthy, happy child. Family time is important.
Are your children happy?

Even though happiness is genetically linked, only about 50 percent of happiness is driven by genes. The other 50 percent is driven by what happens to a child on a daily basis.

One of the most important contributors to a child’s happiness is doing things as a family. Nothing feels so good as when a family goes biking, hiking or spends part of the day at the zoo.

I know one family who has designated Wednesday nights as family night. This is the night nothing interferes. They have dinner and then play board games. Even the 17-year old participates. “Once you set a night and stick to it month after month, year after year, it becomes the expectation,” says the mother, “and our children look forward to it.”

Another happiness ingredient is working together. Spending four hours cleaning the backyard, the basement, and the house each Saturday morning encourages a feeling of camaraderie and a sense of being part of the team. We’re a family. We’re in this together. One for all and all for one.

Research shows that children tend to be happier when parents set expectations and rules. Children do better when they have a set bedtime and when they are expected to do certain chores each week, pick up after themselves, control their language, and show respect for other family members. When parents have expectations, it conveys to a child that he has worth. And meeting these expectations helps a child feel more in control of his own destiny.

Feeling happy and content is also a by-product of feeling loved. Pats on the back from parents and “I love yous” sprinkled throughout the week are essential. Applause for a job well done recognizes a child’s accomplishments.

Happiness involves living in the present. Everyday should be a time to build family relationships. This means: “Let’s talk as we do dishes.” “Let’s put on a CD and dance.” “Let’s watch a movie and enjoy each other’s company.” Too often parents put happiness till later, saying, “Next weekend when go to your cousins…” or when we go on vacation….” Children feel happier if they have God in their life. God is someone to talk to when they feel anxious and stressed. Or when no matter how good they try to be, they can’t change something in their lives.

Children are happier if family members get along and are respectful of each other. This means no screaming matches, no name-calling, no constant criticisms. Nor should a parent use a child as a confidante, telling him the other parent is not okay. It means an older or younger sibling is not allowed to tyrannize the family.

If you want to raise a happy child, ask yourself if you are following these guidelines. And if you’re lacking in some areas, now’s the time to make changes. Most parents want to raise and live with a happy child. If you follow these guidelines, you can succeed.

Doris Wild Helmering, “Mother of Reason”

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Being critical with your mate may not be the wisest course of action for your relationship. Sometimes Silence Is Golden.
She and he are drying dishes. She clangs the dishes together and he says nothing. He clangs the dishes and she says, “Can’t you be a little noisier?”

She spills some milk on the counter and immediately takes a dishrag and wipes it up. He spills milk on the counter and she says, “Having a little trouble today?”

She sits and reads the newspaper by a dim overhead light. Later as he reads by the same light, she clicks on the lamp and asks, “Are you trying to ruin your eyes?”

She takes a second helping of potatoes and he says nothing. He takes a second helping and she pipes up with, “I thought you were watching your weight.”

She jams the milk carton into the refrigerator and he says nothing. He jams the carton into the refrigerator and she says, “Here, let me do it.”

She turns the radio on in the car and they ride along listening to the basketball game. He turns the basketball game on in the car and she says, “Are you trying to avoid talking to me?”

The sun is shining, the weather is beautiful, and she sits down to watch television. Two days later, the sun is shining, the weather is beautiful, and he sits down to watch television. She asks, “You’re not going to take advantage of this beautiful weather?”

She runs out of money and says, “I have to stop at the ATM.” He says nothing. When he says, “I have to stop at the ATM,” she says, “When are you going to start planning ahead?”

Incidentally, in these examples, “he” could be “she” and “she” could be “he.”

However, in my clinical experience, more women than men are critical and judgmental. Perhaps it’s because they have been primarily responsible for whipping the children into shape, so it comes naturally. Perhaps it’s because males have more behaviors that demand correcting, and soon the woman is correcting everything.

Perhaps it’s because more women are outer-focused, focusing their attention outward on others rather than inward on themselves. When their mate does something annoying, they immediately feel a need to address the issue. But if they do the same thing, they are not as focused on it.

Regardless of the whys and becauses, sometimes — in fact most of the time — it’s better to be quiet than critical.

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If you are always trying to change the bad habits of the person you are dating, maybe it’s time to move on to someone else.

A woman came for therapy because she had just learned that her boyfriend of several months was still involved with his old girlfriend.

When I asked what she wanted from therapy, she said, “I want the guy to give up his girlfriend and commit to me.”

Since I wasn’t sure if her goal was in her best interest, I asked if she would tell me more about this man as well as her dating history with other men. I learned she had been married twice. Her first husband left her for another woman, and she left her second husband because he was an alcoholic. She then had a long-term relationship with a man who was always on the verge of bankruptcy. “I got fed up with paying all the bills,” she said, “so one day I kicked him out.”

After talking with her about her past relationships, I said my best advice was for her to explore why she kept getting involved with men who left her, either emotionally or physically. I also thought another goal of therapy should be that she would come to like and respect herself enough to move away from any relationship that spelled trouble.

Her situation reminded me of a woman I had seen several months previously. She had come to therapy because she wanted to straighten out a man she had recently met. He had stood her up for their first date and was a half hour late for the second date. Her goal was to teach him to be more responsible. Here, too, my advice was to drop the guy, spend her energies learning to like herself more, and look for a healthier relationship with someone who didn’t discount her.

Certainly when you’re looking for a mate and find someone that you’re attracted to, it’s tempting to ignore the obvious. But pursuing a relationship that is probably bound for disaster is not in your best interest. Here are some danger signs to watch for:

* He’s heavily in debt.
* He can’t hold a job.
* She drinks too much.
* She has no friends.
* He’s rude to the waitress, the car mechanic, the store clerk.
* He’s always finding fault with others or with you.
* He flirts with other women which drives you crazy.
* She’s possessive, wants all of your time, and tries to exclude your friends and family.
* She lies.
* He has a bad temper.
* He’s a sports addict and you hate sports.
* He’s Mr. Frugal and you like to spend.
* You want children and he wants no part of them.
* She has a child by a previous marriage and you dislike this child.
* He’s a slob and you’re a neat nick.

Do yourself a favor. If you’re dating someone and there are signs that you’re headed for difficulties, move on. Don’t get hung up with trying to change the person. Remember that no matter how eager you are to find a fulfilling relationship, “the light you see at the end of the tunnel may be an oncoming train.”

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