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The official blog of familyWORKZ™

May 19, 2010

Valuable Arguments

Filed under: Couples,divorce,Families — Tags: — admin @ 12:23 pm

One thing we all have in common is that we don’t always get along with everyone. While our wildest dreams can imagine that we “should” get along with everyone all of the time, such dreams never come true.

So, what we know is that sooner or later, likely when we least expect it, a wedge will be driven between ourselves and another person. Typically the wedge issue erupts into an argument. That is, we will disagree.

Now, the problem with arguments is not that we have them, but that they often lead to further disruption and bad feelings. In this way, the arguments have a way of driving the wedge even deeper. What drives the wedge down is our tendency to judge the other person. When our minds go into “judgment mode,” we stop learning. Stated another way, when our mind judges, it closes down and, in this way, our mind stops working. That is, when the mind has made up its mind, it believes itself to be right and becomes stuck with its knowledge of knowing that it is right.

When the wedge becomes obvious, the key is to do the opposite of what the mind always does. Instead of closing down and becoming judgmental, it is important to open up our minds and learn. In this way, learning is the opposite of judging. When an arguments arises, try opening up your mind and try something valuable – try doing what is best for the relationship.

February 11, 2010


Filed under: Couples,Families — admin @ 11:57 am

Referencing Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking-Glass. When Alice asks Humpty Dumpty what he meant by “glory,” he replies, “I meant there’s a nice knock-down argument for you.” Alice protests that this isn’t the meaning of “glory.” “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty answers, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

Sound familiar?

In the context of relationships, many times, when one person says something (sends a communication signal), the other person improperly receives the message – resulting in a disconnection or invalidation or both.

Once disconnected, either or both people have a tendency to become disjointed, annoyed, frustrated, or otherwise psychologically distressed. What we desire most during these times of disconnection is connection and help. What we often receive, by contrast, is further distance and isolation.

Stated another way, instead of turning to the wisdom of Humpty Dumpty (stand up for self without putting the other person down or meaning what we say without becoming mean), we experience mounting intolerance and end up feeling like either jumping off the wall ourselves or wanting to push the other person off the wall. Either way, someone is bound to have a great fall.

August 25, 2009

The Value of Time

Filed under: Couples,Families,parenting — Tags: — admin @ 11:21 pm

Values are beliefs that influence people’s behavior and decision-making tendencies. That which is important in our lives, directly and silently guides our actions.

At one level, on the surface, we know what is important. It is likely our children, our family, our spouse, or our pets come to mind. Yet, at a much deeper level, when we are pressured or stressed, that which is most important is not readily reflected in our actions or behaviors. Under stress, our kindness toward those we most value interestingly diminishes. This conflict illustrates one of our uniquely human frailties – selfishness. That is, while “others” are highly valued most of the time, when things get tough our minds rapidly retreat back to our “self.”

Don’t beat yourself up if this is happening to you. Instead, take a breath, examine your values, and then ask yourself,” What am I willing to do about this situation?”

If you experiencing a conflict between your stated values and your actions, then reflect on The Value of Your Time. This is done by becoming more conscious about how your values and time collide. Here is an exercise to rebalance yourself.

Exercise: Over the next week, consider your values (e.g., work, important relationships, leisure time activities, community, family, spirituality) and ask where you are willing to DEVOTE MORE TIME, DEVOTE LESS TIME, and DEVOTE THE SAME TIME. By doing so, it is likely you will be more “in-control” of your values, rather than being “controlled” by time.

June 15, 2009

Time Juggling

Filed under: Couples,Families,Individual,parenting — admin @ 10:33 am

Without even noticing, one of our greatest challenges is how we juggle time.

Time is, at once, ever present and invisible. It simultaneously helps us to keep our lives organized while making us feel pressured and full of doubt. In this way, time is fickle and judgmental – it is something that can be either on our side or against us. Time can “run out,” exist in ample supply (“don’t worry, there’s plenty of time left”), or it can be something that we have too much of (“will this never end?”). Time can run fast or be idle – as in “standing still.” Time can disappear (“where did the time go?”). Time can mysterious (“does anybody have any idea what time it is?”). Time can be deceptive (“I had no idea it was getting so late”). Time can even be elusive (“where did the time go?).

In this sense, time is tricky.

To get a grasp on time, think of time as three balls. Next, give a unique name to each ball. Call the first ball the “past,” the second the “present,” and the third the “future.” Now, ask yourself, “are you good at juggling time?” Or, do you occasionally drop the ball? If so, which ball are you most likely to drop? What is the cost of dropping one or more balls? How would your life be different if you became better at juggling?

If there is a fourth ball (I think there is), what name would you give it? Hint: think Einstein.

April 29, 2009

Micro Aggressions

Filed under: Couples,Families — Tags: — admin @ 7:40 am

The concept of conflict is familiar to all of us. It typically occurs when another person fails to meet our expectations. Sometimes, these failures are obvious and mean-spirited. At other times, the conflict is subtle and ambiguous. It is during such times of low-grade conflict where micro-aggressions occur.

A micro-aggression is a hurtful act, intentional or otherwise, that doesn’t appear too bad on the surface. Such micro-aggressions can come the form of absence – such as being ignored, neglected, or not chosen. Examples of micro-aggressions that come in the form of presence include criticism, complaint, or comparison. Either way, any one micro-aggression can typically be tolerated. The problem arises when an accumulation of micro-aggressions occur. What happens is that these micro-aggressions pile up until they force us to our breaking point. Then, things get ugly quick. 

Ask yourself, “What type of micro-aggressions do I do toward my partner or children?” or “What type of micro-aggressions do others do toward me?”

Getting to know your micro-aggressions can help alleviate a lot of conflict.

March 20, 2009

Ground Rules

Filed under: Couples,Families — Tags: — admin @ 11:02 pm

People in crisis keep doing the same thing over and over again because they don’t know what to do other than what they always do. Interestingly, under conditions of crisis, individuals are unable to remain indifferent and apathetic. Instead, our nature is to take action. To test your crisis savvy, contemplate your answer to the following question:

“When you don’t know what to do, what do you do?”

If you are stuck and feeling overwhelmed, exhausted or helpless, the way you answered the above question likely helps explain the situation you are in right now. To begin finding your way out of an impossible situation and getting yourself UNSTUCK start by exploring and redefining the “ground rules” that influence your circumstance. For example, when life gets the better of you and feel put down, do you get even? If so, try for one week following ground rule #1.

Ground Rule #1 – Surrender the right to get even and see what happens next.

Another example: when nothing seems to be going right do you retreat to safety and give up? If so, try following for one week ground rule #2.

Ground Rule #2 – Take risks and be willing to make new mistakes.

Another example: when you feel overwhelmed by circumstances or just the hassles of everyday life, do you stop dead in your tracks? If so, try following for one week ground rule #3.

Ground Rule #3 – get up, get going, and start anywhere.

What ground rules can you think of that once chosen will change everything?

February 8, 2009

Loyalty Logic

Filed under: Couples,Families,parenting — Tags: — admin @ 10:46 am

What is invisible yet binds people together beyond reason and without question?  The answer to this riddle helps explain some of life’s most befuddling situations.

Throughout many facets of our lives, situations arise that leave us puzzled as to why people do what they do, rather than what they should be doing. Bewildered, we are often left shaking our heads and walking away from the situation not knowing how to make sense out of what doesn’t seem to make any sense. When this occurs, our minds rapidly and reflexively to turn one our favorite interpersonal tools – judgment. That is, since our minds are programmed to remain on task until the riddle is solved, somehow our minds must make sense out of nonsense. It is in this type of situation that judgment saves the day. It is judgment that allows our minds to relax, having come to some type of resolution, so that our lives can move forward. Unfortunately, our minds are not always right. The mind, once it has made up its mind, has a very bad habit of believing that it is right – always.

When a person begins to understand the roots of a riddle, it is then that the mind begins to expand and the person has a chance of gaining a new perspective. This new perspective may garner a more robust sense of balance, which then allows the person to make different choices and experience life with fresh win in its sails.

Then answer, of course, is loyalty. Loyalty lies buried beneath generations of personal influence and tradition. Loyalty is bundled with internalized expectations and social obligations. Once loyalty is appreciated as being a bone-deep commitment from which people must actively and persuasively pry themselves away from, then the mind stands a much better chance of make MORE sense out of what doesn’t make much sense at all.

February 3, 2009

Putting Your Foot Down

Filed under: Couples,Families — Tags: — admin @ 3:51 am

Learning how to put your foot down (standing up for something you believe in; for example, a principle) while holding your head up high (believing in yourself, clinging to competence and sustaining confidence) involves gumption – a form of psychic gasoline. 

Putting your foot down predictably, when someone does something that crosses a line, teaches people to take you seriously. It all starts with having a reasoned or emotionally honest opinion. Next, framing this opinion with a few choice words (such as, “I disagree,” or “That’s not my cup of tea,” or “We see things quite differently”). The key is to make your stance well known by living out loud with generous and kind-spirited intention. 

Staying open to feedback strengthens your reputation.

Connect to Communicate

Filed under: Couples,Families — Tags: — admin @ 3:45 am

Standing up for yourself without putting the other person down. This involves bravely and squarely standing on the shoulders of the relationship so to gain greater persepective. Once sufficiently elevated so that you gain a three-way perspective (your view, your partner’s view, and the view of the relationship), your next move is to connect with the other person by stepping into their emotional reality. Remember, without connection, communication is nearly impossible. 

Once connected, your next move is give voice to your internal experience. Be factual and emotionally honest. Weave into the story elements of your truth about what is missing. Nothing is wrong with explaining your sadness or showing your anger or revealing what scares you so much. Just remember to attach your truth with a dash of three-way perspective. When you give dimension to your most basic emotions, you are sending a direct invitation to the other person to reenter your life. This is how our greatest desire is met. This is the heart of intimacy – connecting in order to communicate.

January 10, 2009

Three Worlds

Filed under: Couples,Families — Tags: , — admin @ 12:26 pm

Life gets tough at times. When overworked, overstressed, and overwhelmed, our tendency is to shut down and retreat inwards. This is the seed of many mood disorders, such as depression, anxiety, etc. To find our way out of this trap it is important to know about three very different worlds. First, there is the OUTSIDE world. This is where “they” live and where many forms of stress come from (work, marriage, children). Second, there is the INSIDE world. This is where our emotions, thoughts, memories and bodily sensations live. Unfortunately, when life gets tough, the outside and inside worlds do not interact, there is no bridge that connects these two worlds. This is where the third world comes in – the SHARED world. When a person steps on the bridge and crosses over from the outside world into your inside world, a connection is made and life gets a bit better. Knowing how to step onto and walk along the bridge involves a degree of relationship savvy. Although tricky to learn, by mastering the third world, we experience a level of connection that brings about much anticipated peace.

Perhaps a bit like when we were much younger, learning how to “share” is key to a great relationship.

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