Poodle Science

I have to write a blog post about this video. It is so clever- and body image issues are really important to talk about. Body image impacts how we relate to ourselves, our loved ones, our families, friends, and the world in general. It’s obviously a major issue worldwide, and it is a very complex, and often vulnerable issue for many people in the world. I have personally experienced the range of body image, from insecure to secure and everything in between. Thankfully, through God’s grace and a lot of healing, I am engaging in the world from the lens of body image through a much more gracious and secure place. My insecurity still visits, but doesn’t stay as long and is no longer a permanent resident.

To start with, I think one of the main contributors to body image is our need for external regulation. It’s really tricky with body image, because when we try to make our bodies a source of external regulation, unlike other external regulators- we are bound to our bodies, we can’t escape our bodies (unless we die, which isn’t a good solution), and we can only change our bodies so much, and a lot that we don’t have control over with our bodies…so when we look at our bodies as an external regulator for how we are doing in the world, how worthy we are, we are placing a value on something we only have so much control over naturally. A person may want longer legs, but there isn’t a way to make them actually grow longer, for example.

So when we start to look at our bodies as the statement to the world that tells us we “are good enough” we start to play with fire. Our culture obviously doesn’t help, as we are inundated with ads that are unrealistic in regards to body expectations for both male and female. The other problem is that these advertisements oversimplify the issue. They make it seem like everyone in the world can be tall, muscular, and slender. This doesn’t take into account genetic ancestry, or even survival elements. We start to divide ourselves into camps that say slender or curvy is the best. Putting down the bodies of other women and men in order to promote the sense that our body type is the “right” body type. This happens pretty subtly too. We then can become proponents of our own suffering by heaping criticism on our bodies because they don’t look the way we are told they should.

If I were to tell you a story about a relationship between two people, and I told you that one of those two people was constantly examining the flaws of the other person, wishing they would change, putting them down, controlling them, you would probably say that’s really unhealthy right? Well, we are in relationship with our bodies too. Our bodies respond to our thoughts processes about them, the same way a person you are in relationship with would respond to your attitudes about them. If we are constantly slamming our bodies with insults and finding all the flaws, how could we ever expect our bodies to thrive?

Body image work is very complex, so know that I am not trying to oversimplify it. Much of the work around body image comes from identifying the lies that we believe about ourselves. Especially the subtle ones. The common denominator between discerning what is a lie and what is truth is whether or not the statement moves you inwardly toward a place of felt worthiness or a place of not feeling worth enough. Here is an example, you might say something like “I have to exercise to stay healthy”. This statement can have two effects depending on your mental state and attitude toward your body. The first is that it can simply be true. Exercising helps you to stay healthy, and the statement comes from a feeling of being enough, and worthy. However, this same statement can easily move a person into a place of feeling “not good enough” because of how they view themselves. The goal is to try and uncover the subtle thought processes that wind up serving as self-deception that ultimately chips away at your inner person.

It’s also really important to then align with the truth and to start looking at your body and giving it the respect it deserves. This is the beginning of moving toward utilizing your body as an external regulator, and moving toward internal regulation, ultimately becoming an ally with your body. It’s amazing how many millions of processes occur in our bodies every single day. Each one taking a whole degree of education to understand, and still so much remains a mystery. Our bodies, even in our limitations, are an absolute miracle. They are working unbelievably hard for us, and doing the best they can to keep us alive and functioning well. Honor that aspect of your body, and try to focus more on what it is, than on what it isn’t.

It is always a challenge to write a smaller post on such an in depth and personal subject, but the hope here is that is starts the process of stirring your thoughts and see if there are areas where you may need healing around your body image or treatment of your body. Getting help from a professional is a great first step in accomplishing this. Remember, you are a miracle and you are worthy, you are one of the most complex creatures on the earth, and you are unique. You are one of a kind. Embrace that, and my hope for you is to find freedom.

 

 

Internal – External

 

internal external regulation

 

This post is written from both an educational intention, but also from a pragmatic angle, as I will likely reference internal and external regulation throughout my blog posts in the future. It is really helpful to understand this concept from a psychology perspective as we continue to grow and mature as human beings in the world. Also, these are brief and more simplistic explanations, so it’s a good starting point for the purpose of basic understanding, but know that this blog post is far from exhaustive on discussing this topic.

 

What is external regulation?

External regulation, from a relational and attachment lens is anything that we use as human beings to help regulate our emotions that doesn’t come from ourselves. It is anything outside of our person-hood that helps us to calm down, or feel rested and safe, or move from being bored to amusement. Developmentally, external regulation is critical to understand, as it relates to our primary attachment and caregivers. When a baby is born, it doesn’t possess a complex ability to regulate itself, it requires it’s mother or caregiver to take care of the baby’s needs (such as being fed, held, soothed, diaper changed, thermal regulated etc.) and from Erickson’s theory of development, it is important that the primary caregivers meet these needs for the baby to develop a sense of trust in the world.

As a child grows, it still requires its primary caregivers or parents for regulation. This occurs through a process of attunement, which means that the caregivers or parents are in tune with the child to know when they are needing help, encouragement, structure, guidance, etc. They are then able to console the child, and stand in the gap when that child is unable to do those things on its own. If this is not present, anxiety and mistrust takes its place, and the child often emotionally shuts down or disengages, or can also act out as a means to engage their parents in helping them. The child will also often look outwardly and form stronger attachments to material objects as a result.

Other external regulators develop for this child as they progress through life. They go from having their mother, father, caregivers be their primary reflection for whether or not they are doing “good” or “bad” and if they are safe, to a whole world of other people that tell them all kinds of things about themselves. They may have a nanny, they may have teachers, other children they play and learn with, sports coaches and teams, etc. They also have material goods. This is prolific in first world countries. They are then told they are “okay” or “good” or “worthy” because they have the latest XBOX game, or the newest cellphone, they have the right brand of clothing, or wear their hair the right way, and you start to get the picture. Another huge source of external regulation if the child attends traditional schooling is academic grades. A, B, C, D, F. Those letters are all it takes to tell a child if they are “okay” or “good” or “worthy”…they also have the power to tell that child “you are smart!” or “you are not smart”. Even if they are smart, but performing badly, these letters blare out a reflection of whether or not that child is intelligent. In a nutshell, that child starts to gather a host of statements, information, material collections, friends, etc. that say to them you are “okay” or “good” or “worthy”. This can become a foundation for control, and equation based thinking—if I do this, I will get this. Which may be helpful for behavioral purposes (consequence based learning for example), but is often unhelpful for the gray areas of life, especially if the equation doesn’t pan out.

As the child grows, it is in their adolescence that something starts to shift. They start exploring, experimenting, often rebelling, and defining their lives. This is also a time in which they will develop empathic responses, and they will also start learning social dynamics and utilizing their peers as their strongest source of external regulation and influence. While this can be a tumultuous and messy process, what is starting to emerge is flicker of internal regulation.

Now, what is internal regulation?

Internal regulation is a human’s ability to self-soothe and maintain a sense of self and identity in lieu of external validation. This is a person who is often securely attached in their relationships. They are connected with their emotions, and do not reject negative feelings. If you have seen Star Wars, this is what a lot of the Jedi training is moving Luke toward 🙂

An internally regulated person who knows who they are and what they stand for, and is not dependent on circumstances to tell them if they are “good” or “worthy”. You don’t have to go to a monastery, or become a Jedi to be an internally regulated person. What you do need is the ability to define yourself in regards to what is true. Often this can be a process, as many of us assign lies to ourselves or make up stories that are not actually true or helpful as we grow, but often serve the purpose of self-protection. This occurs especially when our parents are not good external regulators. Developmentally, internal regulation starts to emerge in the adolescent years for some, but often is centered on the 20’s as a person continues to grow and cultivate their identity. But this is important, becomes sometimes this ability never develops, or it doesn’t become strong. Age is not a very good indicator of a person’s ability to internally regulate or self soothe. Some people remain more dominant on external regulation their entire lives, and this often results in a lot of insecurity and anxiety given the fluctuation that are bound to occur circumstantially. However, our economy counts on this, as it promotes brand names, clothing styles, makeup, and technology to help people feel like if they purchase something or look a certain way then that means they are “good” or “worthy”. An internally regulated person is also capable of making decisions that make contradict their former external regulators (for example, a grown child choosing to take a job in another state even if their parents disagree).

So that’s the most important element, internal regulation comes from the person knowing that they are “good” or “worthy” or “safe” without others people or things telling them this, and when they are distressed they know how to calm themselves down again. They are aware and attuned to their inner world, or person. Instead of looking outside at the world to them they are “okay”. They know they are “okay” or “enough”, and they also know the things that make them unique and the strengths they have. From this, they are able to look out at the world and say “I’m okay” and then help others to come to the same realization. This is why it is really important to develop internal regulation as a parent. Without the ability to internally regulate, it is very difficult to regulate another person, and to not become reactive when they are reactive.

Internally regulated people may still receive external regulation and consolations. This isn’t an either/or in regards to internal and external regulation, it’s more of what’s the exception and what’s the rule. The idea is that the rule would become that a person is able to become more internally regulated, and that the exceptions are when they need help now and then, or reminders of who they are. If external regulation is the rule, then a person will constantly need outside affirmation to function, and it will be rare when they are able to self-soothe without a person, thing, or substance. The idea is that the more internally regulated you become, the more that you are actually able to enjoy the people and the things around you. This is because they are no longer being used to define you. They are additions to a well-formed foundation, instead of the foundation itself.

Spirituality is really important in the development of internal regulation. This topic will need to be a blog post for the future, so stay tuned!

Essentially, these are explanations in a nutshell version, and will hopefully be helpful as a resource so that you have a better idea of what I am referring to in future posts. Thanks for reading!

 

Trusting Intuition

Jamie Leach Counseling

If there is a life lesson that I would like everyone to learn the easy way, it would be trusting intuition.

Now, let’s get clear- What exactly is intuition?

Here is what Merriam Webster has to say about it:

Intuition:

A natural ability or power that makes it possible to know something without any proof or evidence: a feeling that guides a person to act a certain way without fully understanding why

1:  quick and ready insight

2a :  immediate apprehension or cognition

b :  knowledge or conviction gained by intuition

c :  the power or faculty of attaining to direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference

 

Any hunter could tell you that observing a deer is one of the best ways to understand what intuition is. If a deer feels that danger is present, it will start running. Sometimes even without an external stimulus involved (like the sound of a snapping twig for example). Further, when a deer sees or senses another deer running, that deer starts running too. This intuitive reaction is often what will save a deer from being killed by an animal higher up the food chain- ones with guns, and ones without. Deer do not possess the “self-consciousness” that humans do, and therefore they are able to respond to their intuition without the fear of being socially unacceptable, rude, or heaven forbid- wrong. Deer do not suffer from pride. Plain and simple. If we think they do, that’s only a projection.

Now, imagine a scene where a deer feels the intuition that something is wrong or even dangerous. But instead of running, takes a moment to gather its thoughts. The deer looks around at the other deer surrounding it and they are simply grazing. The deer then thinks to itself “why are none of the other deer running? I am picking up on a seriously dangerous vibe, but none of the other deer are moving…I guess I must be overreacting, or over sensitive, or something—or maybe I am just feeling “off” today…I think I’ll just keep standing here uncomfortably, and see if one of these other deer start running, then I won’t look so foolish if I am off running by myself and they all stay here…I mean, what a walk of shame that would be, to first run, by myself, and then have to come back while all the other deer stare at me…” well… that deer just got an invitation to dinner, and not because it was such a socially acceptable deer that would make a wonderful guest, but because it became dinner.

This is meant to be little comical, but there is a serious undertone to this parable, which is how dangerous life can get when we choose to ignore our intuition about circumstances and other people. You may be wondering to yourself- and saying something like “well isn’t that just a deer’s instinct… to run”. Let’s talk about instinct, as it is often used (wrongly) synonymously with intuition in common dialogue.

What do our friends Merriam Webster have to say about instinct? Understanding the basic definition may help us to differentiate between what is intuitive and what is instinctive:

Instinct:

a way of behaving, thinking, or feeling that is not learned : a natural desire or tendency that makes you want to act in a particular way

: something you know without learning it or thinking about it

: a natural ability

1:  a natural or inherent aptitude, impulse, or capacity <had an instinct for the right word>

2a :  a largely inheritable and unalterable tendency of an organism to make a complex and specific response to environmental stimuli without involving reason

b :  behavior that is mediated by reactions below the conscious level

 

Instinct is more of something that you do, and most often in response to a stimuli, or a need to perform. If you are trying to distinguish between intuition and instinct, a helpful hint might be that intuition feels like something pressed upon your inner person, like a message inside of you, or an alarm going off trying to get you to pay attention. Instinct, however, feels more like something opens up, or unlocks inside of you that was always there to begin with, in essence it feels natural. Metaphorically, instinct feels like family, and intuition feels more like a new house guest—A very valuable house guest, that may at times even save your life.

The house guest needs to turn up the volume sometimes, or better yet, we need to quiet ourselves more to be able to hear it. Intuition is something we can’t control, but we can better cultivate our interactions with intuition through our self-awareness. If you aren’t in touch with your own feelings regularly, your intuition may have had the mute button put on it. Start by interacting with yourself, and your emotions from the stand point of an authentic observer. Stop being judgmental of yourself, and pay attention to what you are experiencing when you interact with new people or situations. An example might be this: you are talking to someone new at a networking event, as you converse, you start to feel your body tensing as if you are bracing yourself. You have this gnawing inner sense that they are kind of creepy, but you can’t really figure out why because they are smiling, attractive, and saying such nice things—they are also well dressed and smell good…how could they be creepy?

Here is the best way to know you are picking up on something intuitive. You are getting the intuitive signal that this person is creepy. Yet, instead of ending the conversation or finding someone else to talk to you, you start to argue with yourself! You even develop a theory that actually contradicts when you have been picking up on. You may even convince yourself that this person is in fact trustworthy. So, you stay in the conversation, you may regret sharing too many personal details within the next half hour, and when you get home, guess what’s missing- your wallet.

In order to yield to your intuition you have to stop arguing with it. Listen, and pay attention, and follow your intuitive responses to people and to situations. If you feel like you want to guard yourself when you walk past a stranger in public- do it. If you are walking home from the park and have this sense that you should start running to get inside- do it. If someone is talking to you, and the internal warning alarms are going off, kindly find a reason to end the conversation and move on. If you leave your house, but have a sensation come over you to go back and check on whether or not you actually blew out that candle, go back and check. Stop wasting time arguing with your intuition. Your rational brain is there for a reason, and it’s important to honor the ability to think things through logically. But if your intuition is going off about something dangerous or “off”. Shelf your reasoning or intellectual arguing, and take the precautions you need. Better safe than sorry over a victimized socially acceptable person. Like the quote above, don’t let the servant become the master. Rather, master listening to your own intuition and allow your rational self to serve your intuition.

One last thing, have grace on yourself. If there was a time in your life that you had an intuitive reaction that you didn’t listen to, and later regretted, don’t shame or scold yourself. That’s not helpful. What is helpful is to learn from it. I have had numerous times where I have ignored my intuition, and lived to regret it. The beauty is that each time helped me to better pay attention for the future, and learn what my intuition feels like, and sounds like. These disadvantages have then resulted in the prevention of many subsequent situations that could have turned into major problems for me. Probably even more than I can say because I didn’t stick around to find out the ending.

If you have been traumatized as a result of not listening to your intuition, I have great empathy and compassion for you and want you to know that I share in that with you. I deeply advise you to do the trauma work around what happened with a with a trustworthy therapist, and to continue to listen to your intuition as you heal. You did not deserve or cause your trauma because you didn’t listen to your intuition. If you were victimized, it was not your fault. This blog post is not meant to be condemning. Period. It is meant to help build the gift of intuition, and not to make anyone feel bad for times they could have listened and didn’t. I encourage you to continue to cultivate the trust of your intuition, as it will continue to be a good friend throughout your life.

I realize this more complex than simple, and my goal is to bring intuition to your attention so you can become more aware of yourself, and what you are experiencing. This contributes toward living out of your whole self. We cannot prevent all the things that happen to us, that is definitely not the point of this blog. However, there are times where if we humble ourselves to our intuition, we will be thankful we did in the long run. I personally have never regretted listening to my intuition, but there have been plenty of times when I have regretted not listening to it.

So I close with this lighthearted video, that literally made me laugh out loud in my office (by myself), and I hope you all continue to trust your intuition.

 

 

Training Happiness

I loved this YouTube video! It’s a heartwarming tear jerker, and I wanted to share it in order to talk a little more on the benefits of giving gratitude. I think for most of us, the connection between gratitude and happiness is fairly obvious—and just like a lot of obvious things that make us healthier, it is something so easily forgotten.

I had the opportunity to be able to see Shawn Achor talk about his research at Harvard on positive psychology and happiness. What a gift. I loved his humor and hope infused discussion around happiness research. I also appreciated that he distinguished between happiness and pleasure, as we often think of the two as synonymous. If we are counting on pleasure for our happiness, we will be left empty. It’s also important that we feel a range of emotions, so this isn’t about making happiness the only goal in life. That being said, we are capable of experiencing happiness at higher levels and there are tools that we can all employ to help the neuronal networks in our brains function in greater levels of optimism. Let me help explain what this means using a metaphor:

Think of walking in a field…you decide to walk back and forth from a house to a lake in the field. What will eventually happen? A well-worn path will be created. That path may be helpful as it creates an easier passage to the lake, where you may want to go for a swim, get a drink of water, or use it in a time of reflection and enjoyment. Now, imagine that same house, but this time you walk in the meadow and you discover a dark cave in a forest. You peer into the blackness of the cave and can only imagine what kinds of scary beasts, creepy crawly, or flying rodents might be in there. Filled with fright you run back to the house… instead of moving on and enjoying the landscape and beauty available, you become preoccupied with that cave, and what’s in it. So you start walking to it every day, soon enough there is a well-worn path to the cave. Instead of experiencing rest, relief, or a cool drink of water, you are experiencing fear, fright, and consuming curiosity. You start to understand the picture.

This is a simplistic, yet helpful picture in understanding a part of how our brains function. When we learn something new, or our brains get trained through the imprint of data gathered around us, we will develop well-worn pathways. This is a wonderful attribute for learning and achieving competencies in different arts and disciplines. However, it can have devastating impact if the data that gets imprinted is centered on fear (think about every news program your brain might be subjected to), rejection, or self-deprecation. Pretty soon, the brightness of the world becomes eclipsed, and your brain actually becomes hard wired to look for evidence and data that supports things like “the world is a terrible and scary place” or “I am not lovable” or “why do you have to be so stupid all the time?’. Ultimately, well-worn pathways that do not work in our benefit for the long term.

Given this knowledge, you have to train your brain to start developing new pathways. Optimism is truly a learned trait and we can help our brains to defy circumstance and genetic prescripts. One way to start helping your brain is by using the wisdom of this YouTube video, and simply write someone you appreciate a letter and read it out loud to them. Shawn Achor also gave some really helpful tips in order to help retrain your brain in as little as 2 minutes a day for 3-4 weeks. One of these tips centered on gratitude. While brushing your teeth at night, or in the morning while you sip your coffee, concentrate on three things you are thankful for in your life and why. Each day the three things have to be different and you have to tell yourself why you are thankful for them. For example:

  1. I am thankful that I have access to water anytime that I need it, and that I can take a hot shower in the morning every day because it makes me feel confident about engaging with others in the world when I am clean and hydrated
  2. I am thankful for coffee because it helps me start my day off with joy and gives me energy
  3. I am thankful that my friend has been able to stay sober for a year because I really love how empowered and present she has become in the world and it blesses me to see that

For some more helpful resources, as well as some practices you can use to increase your happiness and retain your brain visit Shawn Achors website.

I further encourage you to employ these methods within your close relationships. Share with your favorite people three things that make you grateful for them, and be generous with your words. Take time to reflect on the meaningful things your partner, family, or friends have done for you, and let your brain hold onto those memories and experiences. It can be the first step toward creating greater levels of positivity in your personal community and that can have an amazing impact on the greater community as well.

If you need help making these changes, or feel that you need to do deeper work to improve your mood and health, do not hesitate to work with a therapist in your area, a helpful resource for finding therapist by zip code is through Psychology Today. If you are in Denver, I am here to help, visit my website for more information.

Generous Joy

 

 

generous joy

This past Saturday (September 19th), I was honored to be able to speak in front of the graduating cohort of Denver Family Institute (the marriage and family therapy marvels — denverfamilyinstitute.org). I am the Alumni Board President of DFI, and was asked to give a closing speech to the ceremony. Generosity has been on my mind a great deal over the past several years, and more acutely, over the past several months. I thought it would be a helpful subject to share on my blog, and also so that the graduating cohort can look back to reference if they want to in the future.


What I hope to challenge you, or really inspire you into today is to choose lives of generous joy. The reason I say joy, is that joy is an indicator for generosity. The absence of joy is the absence of generosity. Essentially, there may still be a gift or abundance present, but with it was also tied an expectation or desire for reciprocity. This is okay, but know that if joy is absent, this may point the root reason. This is because generosity is directly linked to freedom, and to give freely will spark joy.

I decided to look into some root words while I was in “speech mode” and this is what I found:

Word: Alumnus

Root: Alere (Latin) which means to Nourish

This root turned into Alumnus, which primarily means Pupil

 

Word: Generous

Root: Gener (Latin) meaning stock, clan, FAMILY or COMMUNITY

Root: -Ous

What forms an adjective

Means HAVING, FULL OF, DOING

 

Ultimately, what was derived is that to be generous is to have or be full of, family or community. This makes sense, as it truly is impossible to do community or family well without generosity–without freely giving into your family or community.

There is a connection between the two words, Alumnus, and Generous. For all of you, today marks the transition from a concentrated time of nourishment at DFI. Generosity is now taking what you have been nourished with and using it for the benefit of other human nourishing. This is true not only in your professional lives, but as you navigate your families and communities. I felt compelled toward this topic today because it takes effort to maintain a generous posture in a culture that might even call you foolish for “giving freely”.

This is why a generous life is also a courageous life.

 

Generosity is not just limited to financial giving. Generally, being generous can be expressed in four ways:

  • Time – giving the only non-replenishing resource
  • Talent – giving what you are good at to the benefit of others
  • Treasure – financially giving
  • Self:
    • being present
    • being generous through your words
    • being vulnerable

There is a range between restriction and compulsion and there is a tension in finding where you feel most generous. So how do you navigate the middle? To help you cultivate your own generosity, I ask you to consider first your Passion, then your Purpose, and ultimately to employ a Plan. If you don’t end with a plan, it probably won’t happen.

The reason I say start with Passion is that the root for the word Passion is Passio (late latin) which means “to suffer”.

Essentially, ask yourself what it is that would make you say “I suffer for this” and give yourself fully to that purpose. As a reframe to the negative view of suffering, see suffering through a lens of generously giving, and there by ultimately, joyfully suffering. Consider your generosity within the bounds of how you were uniquely made to be generous. I give you permission to be fully yourself. Don’t waste time looking at how others are being generous and comparing, spend your time learning how you can specifically and distinctively be generous. Ask what makes you come alive, and then give yourself fully to it. This helps to inform your purpose.

I challenge you to examine yourselves through the lens of generous joy in all aspects of life, not just DFI. Though we hope you will be continually generous with DFI, as DFI hopes to remain a nourishing community for you to have throughout your lives.

I encourage you to move forward today and cultivate your generosity and fight to be a generous person in the world.

I close with this quote, which is partially paraphrased from Marianne Williamson, in her book, A Return to Love.

Our deepest challenge is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be….Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine…It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Go forward into being liberators of generosity! Congratulations.

 

Cultivating Curiosity

question

There is a simple tool to use if you find that you are struggling with making friends, network connections, or maintaining ongoing relationships. Be curious. Simply start asking more questions. Become deeply curious.

Let me tell you a story.

I was at a work barbecue for my husband, and the branch manager taught me the value of questions though that was not his intention. My sister joined us for the barbecue, and she had just recently become the Executive Director of a non-profit called Freedom Firm (check them out, they are awesome (http://www.freedom.firm.in/). The barbecue was at the branch manager’s house, and he noticed that he had not met her before. I watched him introduce himself, and begin with the generic “who are you?” and “what do you do?”– We all know how small talk goes. What he did next was marvelous. He started asking her questions. In depth questions. He must have asked her at least 10 or 12 quality questions, and spent a good 15 minutes genuinely getting to know her. He used curiosity to cultivate a genuine connection. He built rapport and made her feel valued, and she will remember him because of that.

We live in the elevator speech world, that tells you to make statements at one another and that’s how you will form connections or get ahead. Contrary to that presumption, ever heard this quote?

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
― Maya Angelou

People want to know if you care about them. One of the best ways to show that is to ask them questions, and don’t just stick to the generic questions (though you can always start there) — again– get curious! Treat every answer as a prize that you have won, because whether it seems like a simple (or possibly boring) answer, the truth is that you just learned something valuable about the person that you are talking to. If you take the time to listen and show interest to a person, I guarantee that the likelihood of them remembering you drastically increased. Not only remembering you, but probably wanting to get to know you too. We are drawn to warmth and openness, and people who are not afraid of rejection. Truly, ask yourself when you have been drawn to someone who is distant, guarded, and focused on self-preservation. My guess is probably not often.

Asking questions helps to increase trustworthiness. Whenever I meet someone new (clients excluded), and often when I interact with people I have met before (again, clients excluded), I take notice of when they ask me questions and what type of questions they ask. If they don’t ask me any questions my inclination is to assume that they are a person who is in the world for themselves. Essentially living in the belief that others are there for them, and they aren’t very interested in serving others. If someone asks me questions back, or asks engaging questions I take notice. That tells me this may be someone who believes they are here for others. The kind of person I want to get to know more is someone who is more interested in serving others over self-promotion. (P.S. It is not actually as black and white as I made it sound, but question asking is a trait that I notice which contributes to my collective first impression.)

Curiosity applies to close relationships as well. Make sure that you get unique with the questions that you ask your spouse, kids, family members, and friends. Maybe instead of asking “how was your day?” you could ask something like “how did you feel most/least loved today?” or “what made you feel something significant today?” or “how did experience success today?” pay attention, and even reflect their answers back to them. It will help to break the generic mold, and make a small step toward greater intimacy with the people that mean the most to you. An added benefit is that you are modeling how to ask questions and you may just find that the people in your life will ask you better questions and get to know you more as a result.

 

The part of this post that is a little funny is that it is hard to ask you (my readers) ongoing questions as an example for the post, but here a few questions I would be interested in hearing from you about:

 

  • Who is a person that made an impression on you when you first met them?
  • What about them made that impression for you?
  • What did you feel when you first met them, what are the initial feelings that came to you?
  • Did you want to be around that person more?
  • Did you get to know them better?
  • Did that person become important to you?
  • How would you like to model that person in your own life?

 

Meet Resistance

Curmudgeon 3

This is harder than I thought it was going to be…

After having a very helpful discussion with a mentor and friend of mine today, I was invigorated into the challenge of facing my own resistance toward starting a blog. He asked me if I could write this blog like I was having a conversation with someone, only with myself. That idea hit a chord, lit a spark, and helped me to at least turn my computer on…and eventually start typing. The first thing I wrote was the question I was attempting to pose to myself “what are your thoughts on…”

Then it hit me…actually it rushed over me…this intense feeling of being overwhelmed. I felt it simultaneously in my brain and the tightening of my chest. What topic do I possibly begin with? Hmm, let’s see…maybe cultural relativism? God? Authenticity? Existentialism? The meaning of life? The simplicity of life? All at once I began to feel an intense block swell over me. I felt the unwelcomed presence, and heard the old familiar voice…resistance was paying me a visit.

I was no longer alone, resistance sat with me as I sat staring at my computer watching the cursor blink annoyingly against the white page as if to say “you –blink- don’t –blink- know what –blink- to say. Nothing you -blink- think of will –blink- be good enough” I felt gumption bleeding out of me. Previously, this swell of emotion would have caused me to accept defeat and close the lid of my laptop, then immediately run away and bury this notion of writing a blog six feet deep. Today, however, I met that cursor with an intense stare down, refusing to be defeated, and I decided to just start writing.

Simply writing the words “this is harder than I thought it was going to be” opened a flow of thought, and I was able to turn those thoughts into writing. Just like that, resistance left the room…its presence still feels oddly close, like the way your skin can tingle even moments after someone has touched it. My chest has begun to loosen and my mind feels clearer. Victory! But even in this moment of celebration, I couldn’t help but notice that resistance didn’t even bother to close the door behind itself, as if to say “why bother, I know I will be back soon.” Initially I feel that’s rude, but from an efficiency perspective, I have to face it, resistance is right—it’s possible it will even be back before I finish this blog post.

So why all of this thought and narrative around resistance? A few weeks ago I was having coffee with a friend and we are both in the process of trying to figure out road blocks in our lives that are contributing to areas of unproductivity.

Side Note 3

After this lovely and inspiring conversation, my friend sent me this quote later that week:

“Resistance is a repelling force, it’s negative, it distracts us and prevents us from our work…it’s what keeps the entrepreneur from making the cold calls he needs…it keeps us from going to the gym…it comes as a little voice in your head telling us not to work today and gives us a reason…this is not self-talk, it’s self-sabotage” quote by Stephen Pressfeild, found from guest post by Kate Galliett on Whole9

This prompted me to think a great deal about the role that resistance plays in my life on a daily, actually more often, moment to moment basis. I agree that it’s not exactly self-talk…but I am not sure that it’s self-sabotage either. It feels like its own entity and essentially an external visitor that I can clearly picture as a little curmudgeonly creature consumed with stealing my time and hoarding it away into nothingness. Resistance is very good at recognizing and snatching up opportunity. We have to become equally good at recognizing opportunity in order to keep hold of it.

This is how creating a relationship with resistance is helpful. Full on rejection of the visitors that come against us often leads to a discouraging dance of “I can” and “I can’t”. What is it that resistance is ultimately pointing to? Like I said above, it’s opportunity. Otherwise, why would the stakes feel so high? And why would anything be so consumed with stealing it? Because it’s precious. Opportunities are precious. They are life-giving, and nurturing—full of possibility. What we do with opportunity becomes the script of our lives.

Sometimes the opportunities are small—like weeding a garden—but they add up. Often, opportunity is relational—for instance, talking to someone who makes you nervous, or experiencing compassion by taking the time to listen to a person that annoys you. Maybe it is investing in time with your family when you would rather watch television, or growing in intimacy through conflict resolution—all are rich with opportunity, and are often accompanied by resistance. Other times, opportunity is a nugget in time bursting with potential to even the change the world—think Martin Luther King Junior.

We don’t need to be afraid of resistance, although it likes to make itself seem more intimidating that it actually is. What may feel like a 115 foot tall giant, is actually a little 3 foot small miser. The more we face it, the more we see it for what it truly is, and the smaller it becomes. Resistance, though frightening at times, is actually an asset. It will never go away completely. However, being aware of resistance helps us to learn from it, use it to our advantage, and become experts at recognizing opportunity. When resistance comes, something precious is at stake. Once we learn to recognize that, much less can be stolen from us, or freely given away by the hands of our own concession.

What do you do with resistance? Look it in the eye and say “thank you” for letting you in on a moment in time that is significant. Next, dive in. When facing a wave, the safest and most effective path is to dive right through it. Whatever is happening in your life, and whatever moment resistance comes to visit you (whether it be now, or again in 15 minutes), that’s the moment to move forward and do exactly what you are about to talk yourself out of. The benefits are significant. Small or large, they are life changing. Dive through the wave. Show resistance the door and shut it, and make that little creature work hard to open it again.