5 posts from September 2011

September 26, 2011

Getting Unstuck (Part II): Taking Steps

IStock_00optionsll Last week I wrote a post about the difficulty of getting unstuck in life and relationships.  Although many people know they need to make a change, few actually take steps to do so.  Below is a quick cheat sheet to getting unstuck.  If you’re unhappy in your job, relationship, living situation or life, take these steps to get unstuck:
1.    Get clarity about why you’re unhappy.  Name it, write it down and be specific. Don’t just say you’re not happy in your job or relationship, state why you’re unhappy.  Is it because of a difficult co-worker, a tyrannical boss, your partner’s affair, lack of communication, harshness or (Fill in the blank).  Get specific.
2.    Brainstorm your options. Start from small to big options.  Small options may include having a conversation, making a comment in the moment, making a request.  More difficult steps may include: setting a limit, getting into couples counseling, giving an ultimatum, asking for a raise, reducing your hours, looking for another job, etc.  Do not judge your list—just write it uncensored.  Don’t worry yet which option is doable or not, there is plenty of time for that.  Think outside the box and be creative about your options—there are often several options for any given problem.
3.    Brainstorm all the things you’re doing that are not serving you in this.  This list may include: being too reactive or aggressive, silencing, speaking hesitantly, procrastinating, doubting yourself, talking too much and saying little, being defensive, being passive-aggressive, escaping via alcohol, drugs or an affair, etc.  Now is not the time to pretend you are perfect—look at what you are doing that is not helping the situation.  We all do something and until we take off our blinders we will continue to do the same move getting us into the same bad place time and again.  Look at your piece--don’t run from it.
4.    Choose a step and take it NOW. Look over your options list and decide which action step you are willing to take no matter how small.  It is best to have this behavior somehow correspond to the list pertaining to what you’re doing that is not serving you.  Choose one to two options to implement and do so.

Change is hard and there are seldom any guarantees.  Too many people wait to take a step until they have everything in place—which seldom happens.  Do not wait until all your ducks are in a row—there are always a few defiant ducks that don’t like to tow the line.  Proceed without perfection and… PROCEED!

Challenge: Choose a problem where you are stuck and go through the above four steps.  Once complete, go back to your two brainstorming lists and circle the behavior that is hurting you the most as well as the option that corresponds to it.  For example, if you are not speaking, you could circle “talk to my boss/partner/friend.”  Focus on this change and see what you notice.  If you are not ready to choose that change, pick the smallest change possible on your list and start there.

September 21, 2011

Getting Unstuck in Life and Relationships

IStock_0change2ll "Leap and the net shall appear." -- John Burroughs

Change is often scary.  In fact, it can be so scary that people feel paralyzed by the thought of it.  Even when things are going poorly in a person’s life and they know they need to take steps to change things, they can be rendered helpless.  The fear of changing feels too great.  What if they take the steps to change the situation and things get worse?  What if they aren’t strong enough, good enough or wise enough for this change?  What if others will be sad, angry or disappointed as a result of the change?  What if they make the wrong decision?  The what ifs can be countless and debilitating. 

The reality is that we seldom know where our decisions will take us or what the ripple effect of change will be.  What I do know, however, is that doing the same—will get me the same results.  This is true at work, in our friendships, romantic relationships and in our lives.  If we know we are unhappy in a situation, but fail to try to change it, then we will continue to be unhappy.

Getting unstuck requires that we take a different action.  I’ve seen too many people stay in toxic jobs for years, miserable relationships for decades and dead-end situations for lifetimes.  These people get stuck in the what ifs, in their fears and in their undying hope for change.  They lose sight of the here and now and instead get trapped wishing for guarantees.  They want to know for certain that if they take the step it will be the right one.  They want assurance that taking the step will lead to a new and brighter tomorrow.

Continue reading "Getting Unstuck in Life and Relationships" »

September 11, 2011

Remembering: A Tribute to 911

IStock_0policecarsll One tower hit, soon to be two
A beautiful day now tragic and askew.
The sirens ring, the towers fall,
The people scream and loved ones call.

Another plane down, another to go
What the hell is this?  The world wants to know.
Fathers, mothers, children and friends,
Down in the ashes never to rise again.

The tears and sorrow are so hard to bear,
The result of man’s hand—so much desperation,
Even more despair.

Ten years later we look upon the scene,
We watch as unnamed heroes flash across the screen.
We’ve survived the evil, we’ve risen from the fall
A nation torn apart tries to make sense of it all.

Remembering the pain while continuing to move on,
An entire nation touched and striving to be strong.
The unborn children of ten years past,
have risen from the ashes, they’re healing from the blast.

The trauma of that day sits in our souls,
We remember the flag waving as it sits upon the pole.
I pray a fire’s started, a new burning flame,
A fire of nations healing, a fire that refuses to maim.


September 07, 2011

How to Stop Being Passive-Aggressive

IStock_0eyerollingll I recently wrote a post entitled, ‘Are You Passive-Aggressive?’  A comment was left on my Facebook page, asking me how to stop being passive-aggressive.  Here’s my answer.
1.    Get conscious.  Pay attention to all the things you don’t say, all the times you make snide comments and all the times you feel annoyed.  If you don’t know when you feel annoyed, pay attention to your eye rolling, sighs and glares.
2.    Speak up, don’t shut up.  Often people who struggle with being passive-aggressive are also afraid of conflict.  In an effort to avoid a fight or disagreement, they stay silent rather than honestly speak about their upset.  Because they keep things in, they end up getting resentful.  Ultimately, their anger then gets leaked out rather than worked out.
3.    Start small.  Speaking up takes practice after years of not being direct, so you need to start to speak up on smaller issues with “safe” people in your life.  For example, begin to be more honest with your closest and healthiest friends before moving to a more difficult partner or co-worker.  The more practice you get, the more courageous you will feel with others.
4.    Have integrity with your word.  If you don’t mean it, don’t say it.  If you say you will do something—do it.  If you do something, do it on time and to the best of your ability rather than doing a poor to mediocre job.  Avoid saying you will do something just to get someone off your back—it will only keep the person on your back longer.

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September 02, 2011

Are You Passive-Aggressive?

  Relationships often struggle when one of the partners is passive-aggressive.  Trust me, I know.  When I was first married, I used to struggle with being passive-aggressive and I know it was not easy for my husband to deal with. I’d like to say that now I’m perfect and never slip into my old pattern, however, too many of you are too bright to believe that.  The truth is, although I’m much better in this area, I will likely always struggle with this if I’m not being deliberate and really on my game.  After all, our edge is our edge—for life.

Chances are there are many of you who also struggle with this issue or have someone in your life that does.  Read the behaviors below to see how being passive-aggressive can show up in relationships:
1.    Sideswiping: When someone is passive-aggressive, they seldom say things directly when it comes to anger or upset.  Instead they often throw out jabs, make biting comments or say random statements that show others they’re annoyed all the while they deny being annoyed.
2.    Avoid conflict: Someone who is passive-aggressive does not like conflict.  In fact, they are often afraid of conflict.  They do not feel comfortable having a direct conversation about anger and will often try to avoid it at all cost—even if it means being dishonest.
3.    Show their anger but don’t speak it.  Often anger comes out sideways with passive-aggression.  For example, when I was first married and was angry with my husband, I would give him a look, not speak to him or be snappy.  When he would ask if I wanted to talk about it, my answer was often “No!” Although I’m not proud of this—I really have come a long way since those days… and I know it was annoying.  With people who struggle with this, everyone around them feels the anger, yet no one is free to acknowledge it or discuss it.
4.    Placating yes. Another common behavior is saying yes just to get someone off his or her back.  I see this a lot with husbands who feel their wives are demanding.  The men will often agree to do something just to quiet their wives down.  Seldom does the thing get done on time or at all.  This naturally leads to bigger conflict, however in the moment, that is not thought about.
5.    Withholding.  Because the person does not deal with conflict or upset directly, there is a lot of stuff pushed under the rug so to speak. The person who’s passive-aggressive therefore begins to feel resentful and withholds affection, connection or even help.  They may do a chore halfway or cut down the wrong tree or respond in one-word answers to questions. In effect, if they are angry with someone, they make sure that person does not get what they want.

Many people struggle with being passive-aggressive. Often this behavior pattern is developed in childhood in response to family dynamics.  It’s common for rage to have been present in the person’s family of origin, which made expressing their own anger near impossible or unsafe.  Whatever the cause though, the fact is that passive-aggression is still aggression.  It may leak out side ways yet it’s just as toxic as overt aggression.

If you struggle with passive-aggression, start looking at this issue more closely in your life.  Avoiding direct conflict often creates more conflict.  Leaking your negative energy out to the world is no more effective than raging.  Learn to speak up in the moment and trust that you can handle disagreement or someone’s upset.

Challenge: Look over the list above and see if you exhibit any of these behaviors when you’re angry, upset or annoyed.  Begin to pay attention to your indirectness and be diligent about being forthright and relational in times of upset. You will feel better as will those around you.

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