“I Thought Complaining Made Me Appear…Intelligent”

“I thought complaining made me appear sensitive, insightful, and intelligent.” I actually read this confession in a Carlos Castaneda book.  But, unfortunately, he is not the only one who has held this erroneous belief. From reading Facebook and blog posts, it seems most people believe it, or else they don’t care if others know how petty and immature they are.

Sub-consciously, I must have believed complaining sounded smart too, because I certainly never missed an opportunity to populate the airspace with my static. It took massive energy to learn to check my negativity at the door and keep conversations productive, but what a difference it made…for those who had to listen to me.

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Charging or Wasting the Air Space?

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I’m tired of hearing myself drone on about the same ole things. I’m tired of chiming in when complainers start complaining. I’m tired of wasting the airspace with words that fall lifeless to the floor. I’m tired of sucking the energy out of conversations by being ho-hum, critical, or negative.

I was born for more than this. I was born to uplift, to rise above my circumstances, to give hope, and to electrify instead of fizzle.

What a day this can be!

You Are So Predictable

We can be so naively unaware how our words can be mind-numbing to those who live around us. We often use worn out phrases and clichés without even thinking about it. For example:

To be honest with you… (really? what were we being before?)

I can’t believe this… (because we prefer to live in denial?)

If you will… (what the heck does that mean? if I will what?)

Nobody’s perfect… (like we need to be reminded?)

I don’t have time for this… (and we are going to save time by complaining?)

So boring. So predicable. So ho hum.

If we listen to ourselves, we might find we are just parroting other people, trying to sound cool, or just filling up the airspace. We might find that we are talking from a small place instead of a large place; stealing energy instead of giving it.


What if we all made a commitment (for at least 24 hrs) to only say the most meaningful words?

Seeing the Other Side

I thought I was communicating. Everyone else thought I was just talking.

You thought you were confident. They thought you were arrogant.

I thought I was being flexible. He thought I was indecisive.

You thought it was humility. She thought you were weak.

I thought I was showing self-respect.  They thought it was annoying self-pity.

He thought it was candor. You thought it was painful criticism.

She thought it was cooperation. He saw it as compromise.

She thought she was helping. You thought she was interfering.

You thought it was love. She thought it was co-dependency.

By failing to define the fine line between these character traits, we invariably put our relationships, career, happiness, and productivity at risk.

Only the wise 


the other side.

Don’t Know What to Say?

Okay, you decided you wanted to make a difference for someone but you didn’t know what to say? And, because you didn’t know what to say or how to say it, you didn’t say anything? Then you got depressed or frustrated because you didn’t say anything? And, now, every time you think about how you didn’t say anything, you feel worse?

Big COMMON problem.

So big, and so common, that every year, it sends multitudes into arguments, addiction, therapists, and the grave with bad consciences. Ugh. So sad.

So sad, especially because all of the pain could have been prevented simply by saying this,

“I don’t know what to say or how to say it, and I feel so awkward, but I want (or need) to express my (sympathy, concern, apology, appreciation, admiration, support, interest, etc.)”

That’s it.

Authentic. Genuine. Refreshingly rare.

authenticity keep it real

Ugh! They Drive Me Nuts! 2

Case 1:

Shannon told me she was a very accommodating person, always wanting to help: to get along with everyone. It came as a great surprise that her husband Bryan thought she was the b-word. “How could he think that?” she asked. “I always tried to go along with whatever he wanted.” Unfortunately, Bryan’s communication preferences included:

  • an aversion to manipulation (which he felt Shannon was doing when she said, “Whatever you want.” instead of stating what she wanted.)
  • a dislike for people who were always trying to please or avoid confrontation
  • appreciation for very direct communication with no beating around the bush

Shannon had no idea that the communication strategies she was using to make peace were exactly what was driving Bryan away from her. She was dealing with Bryan the way she wanted to be dealt with, not the way he wanted to be dealt with! Two completely different things.

you don't get it

Case 2:

Jason is a very charming person with the best financial results in his region. Even though he is well liked, he has never been promoted. He complained to me that office politics have limited his opportunities and accused his bosses of being jerks who don’t communicate well.

In reality, Jason’s bosses have considered Jason for promotion but decided he…

  • was argumentative with leadership and had loyalty issues
  • was too concerned about being liked by his team and wouldn’t communicate the importance of accountability
  • would side with the employee instead of leadership when it came to profitability

Jason’s boss is “task-focused” in his communications. He appreciated Jason’s “people-focused” communications, but needed Jason to be equally focused on results even when it caused temporary discomfort for his employees. Without that, he feared Jason would never communicate strongly enough to push people to their highest level of competency.

If Jason would have understood the personality-driven differences in communication without condemning them, he could have gotten his promotion much earlier.


Ugh! They Drive Me Nuts!

bang head here

Today, I heard the well-worn, my coworkers-drive-me-nuts complaint yet one more time from a seminar participant. And, as always, my first thought before I responded was, “I wonder what aspect of your communication is driving them nuts?” 

I wasn’t being heartless. It’s just that everyone is being driven nuts by the manner which someone else communicates, and many times it is our own clueless communication habits that are behind the “crazy-maker’s” behavior.

For example, take the “My-husband-wife-boss-kids-or-coworker-won’t-talk-to-me” complaint…

People shut down or shut us out for a number of good reasons. Here are the most common ones:

  1. We talk too much
  2. We pound them with questions
  3. We don’t give them enough space or time to think
  4. They are introverts and we are extroverts
  5. We are nagging them
  6. We have ceased to delight in them and they can tell
  7. We are insincere or they think we are
  8. They think we don’t listen so it is a waste of their breath to talk to us
  9. They have lost hope that anything will ever change with our behaviors
  10. They don’t know how to tell us without starting a fight or hurting our feelings
  11. They need alone time
  12. We make them feel crazy or suicidal
  13. We have hurt or offended them

While, all along, we thought we were just doing the right thing, you know, trying to entertain them, show interest in them, or get them to interact with us! How dare they!

Much of this communication dysfunction comes from believing and expecting that everyone should communicate just the way we do. Based on the number of times I have wanted to kill someone for what they said or didn’t say, I imagine that  ignorance of these differences in communication preferences is probably responsible for the majority of homicides in this country (not to mention addictions, breakups, and breakdowns!)

More about fixing it, one communication screw-up at a time, tomorrow…

(FYI, my daily Two-Minute Tune-Ups have been 130 words or less for five years. I have worked very hard to keep them short for readers who “don’t like to read.” This one is longer for two reasons: 1) The subject matter required more words 2) So does Google.)

“I Knows It All”

After discussing how we could continuously improve our relationship, my husband told me he found the source of poor communication, producing a can of energy drink. “I-NOS-IT-OL (I-knows-it-all),” he said, “I have too much of this in my bloodstream.”

can pic

Hmmm, I thought, he does drink a can every day. That could be it. Yet, I never drink it, so how do we explain my “I-knows-it-all” problem?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could drink humility from a can and eliminate arrogance with a simple diet modification?

Since we can’t, I’ll have to work on listening to, learning from, and delighting in the presence of those with whom I share the planet. While I do, it’s so nice to have a partner who doesn’t take himself too seriously. Ahhh…how refreshing.

Some Have It. Some Don’t.


Those who have a lot of confidence wonder why all the drama with those who don’t. Those who don’t have a lot of confidence wonder how those who do can be so arrogant.

Contrary to popular opinion, this is not a gender-driven trait, but a personality-driven trait.

The following (overly simplified) chart shows Feelers and Talkers to be “people focused” and Thinkers and Doers to be “task focused.” The people-focused tend to worry more about how others perceive them. The task-focused tend not to think about that too much. That effects confidence.

Half of us are born with it. Half are born without it. Whichever half we are in, it’s our job to learn the best of the other half, not to criticize it.

personality quadrants for book

Why Do You Ask?

I get irritated when people hog the airspace and go on and on about themselves, but I dutifully pretend to care…and…ask them questions with the hope that they may reciprocate. They usually don’t.

Today I realized that my pretending to care was not really caring and my “polite” questions were not really questions, but merely prompts so that I could talk about myself. So, maybe the other person has work to do, but it looks like I have some too. Busted!

“Real” questions are not launching pads for my own judgment or my own performance, but conduits of connection to another soul.