Are You a Zapper or a Sapper?

I don’t like to listen to someone complain. Do you?

I don’t enjoy hearing someone obsess over something that should not have happened to them. Do you?

I don’t want to spend my time with someone who is criticizing, judging, or pontificating. Do you?

We have better things to do with our lives.

Then, why is it so difficult for us to remember not to subject our listeners to our own monotonous monologues?

Making sure to “zap” instead of “sap” people of energy is a good way to jog our memory.


One of the Most Useful Things I Have Ever Learned to Say

“What could I have done differently?”

The first time I used this phrase was in a case where I felt my partner had not listened to me. When I asked, “Can we talk about what just happened? What could I have done differently to have gotten your full attention?” he relaxed, said he was sorry, and gave me a suggestion that I still use…with unprecedented success!

The phrase removes accusatory language and doesn’t put people on the defensive, thus increasing our chances of staying in dialog and experiencing the thrill of cooperation.

I wish it were not the case, but most of us have multiple opportunities to work through relationship dysfunctions. This phrase is a useful tool.

(Dr. Dean C. Delis has a similar discussion about “No-Fault Communication” in his book, The Passion Paradox.)

A Skill for the Top Ten Percent

Some of us pat ourselves on the back because we avoid difficult people. Some invest time and effort to understand why others may perceive us as being difficult.

Some of us congratulate ourselves for not saying what we really wanted to say to someone. Others learn to say what we want to say in a manner that is non-threatening.

Some of us burn bridges. Others perform regular maintenance on bridges so they may be crossed when necessary.


I often tell new leaders that this one skill will set them apart from all their competitors, but that it doesn’t come naturally. What we instinctively do often makes matters worse.

Learning to speak calmly and assertively when we would rather fight or flee pays off royally in every area of our lives.

New MO

Okay, so I owe an apology to family, friends, teachers, ex-bosses, and all the others who tried to help me grow up.

All that whining.

All that finger-pointing.

All those buts.


But, finally, a new MO.

Yes instead of NO.

Walk not talk.

Hearing instead of jeering.


Struck not stuck.

Cool instead of fool.

Why-I’m-Acting-the-Way-I’m-Acting Reminder

If I hurt your feelings…

If I missed the point…

If I don’t get you…

If I am not excited about your idea…

If I am bored…

If I am irritating…

It may because I didn’t remember that you don’t think the way I think, communicate the way I communicate, or prefer the things that I prefer.

As this pic cleverly demonstrates, we may all be “Legos” but we are all not the same type of Lego.

In the pic, the green (Show Me You Care) block represents the Feelers among us who value compassion and peace-making above all. The blue (Give Me Details) block represents the Thinkers who value accuracy and facts above all. The yellow (Involve Me) block represents the Talkers who value fun, inclusion, and collaboration above all. And the red (Be Brief, Be Bright, Be Gone) block represents the Doers who value decisive action above all else.

Smart Legos don’t roll their eyes. They remember why.

The Illusion of Knowing People

The trick is

Getting still enough to see past the tower 

Of our own shadow

Into theirs

To slow down enough to take a walk

Into their secrecy

Leaving ours

To walk barefoot on their path of fallen leaves

Pushing aside the undergrowth

And the tentacles of our own briars

That choke their young

Untended foliage starving for daylight

A good Friday Question:

How long has it been since we simply admired those who grow beside us…without bringing our pruning shears?


Was Goldilocks a Complainer?

I never thought about what a diva Goldilocks was until my friend Rachel (who is difficult to please) mentioned that her husband called her “Goldilocks.”

After listening to Rachel talk about the temperature of her tea (for what seemed like forever), I said, “I guess it’s okay to be particular, as long as you don’t bore the rest of us by blabbering about it.”

I hope she is still my friend.

But, the whole episode got me thinking about how many of us tend to bore others by talking about random things we don’t like, or want more or less of, or can’t handle, or wish were different.

Image result for picky people meme

Anyway, if I am discontent about something, I think I’ll consider if it really matters to anyone else before I blab about it.

Image result for goldilocks and being particular

Storing Up the Wrong Facts

Mediating an angry relationship between clients, it became obvious that each had been building a case against the other for quite some time.

See if you recognize the pattern:

  1. You hurt my feelings.

  2. I didn’t talk it out with you.

  3. I decided you were cruel.

  4. Everything you did afterward proved it.

Sorting through the bitterness on both sides, I found the list of wrongs committed were miniscule and inconclusive compared to the resulting indictments and dysfunction.  (Unfortunately, that is often the way we humans role; pronouncing guilt without the trial.)

If I want to be better than that, and avoid mounds of pain, I must:

  1. Question my assumptions...because what I think I know may not be so.

  2. Remember that it is impossible for me to truly know another’s motives or feelings.

  3. Give the benefit of the doubt.

“Learning” People

Discussing with a client his need to be completely present with people while they were talking, he said,

“I can fix this if I focus on people in the manner I focus on learning to play the guitar. Learning an instrument requires my full attention. I thought I already knew people.”

Image result for learning to play guitar quotes

Image result for knowing people quote

…just like learning an instrument.

“You’re right.” vs. “I know.”

I say, “I know” too often, especially when people give me advice.

I may “know,” yet the need to voice “I know” says volumes about what I don’t know about listening.

So, I will practice replacing “I know” with “You’re right.” or “Thank you.”

This is a small adjustment for a big change in my willingness to really hear what others are saying to me.

It also changes how I make others feel.

Encountering the wall of “I already know that.” or, cracking the shell of self-deception is not an easy job.

(inspired by July 2013 post)