Ways to Communicate without Anger

In 2014 I wrote this post based around a client of mine going through a holiday get-together that most of us are all too familiar with experiencing.

I was recently was asked to re-publish this post and as I went through it I thought about how relevant this particular issue is today more so due to the presidential election coming up and the emotional state of  our country as a whole. So now I wonder…

If there was truly a way to work through  this post issue, anger, how would you want to learn to manage it and use what you learn in your small corner of the world? Maybe this will spark some ideas…..

Key West

There are times when the ocean is not the ocean – not blue, not even water, but some violent explosion of energy and danger: ferocity on a scale only gods can summon. It hurls itself at the island, sending spray right over the top of the lighthouse, biting pieces off the cliff. And the sound is a roaring of a beast whose anger knows no limits. Those are the nights the light is needed most.” M. L. Stedman – The Light Between Oceans

What I’m learning is that the light is in the asking of the questions and the heart of every human being. The answering is the communication where peace can begin. But I think it matters to go back a little step and start by asking:

Why do people get angry?

Why does anger live so long within us?

Are anger and communication based only on defending, judging, criticizing and/or withdrawing?

Are there rules to communication so that anger can be lessened?

“Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” Aristotle

On a coaching call this week my client talked about wanting to better understand and get control of her anger toward her in-laws each and every time they all get together. She started out our session absolutely dreading the upcoming holiday. Her dilemma revolved around the criticism and judgments thrown at her by her in-laws and her own sensitivity to it all. She did not grow up with this kind of self-centeredness and judgment. Logically she knows that people bring their own pasts and life experiences to the table (no pun intended) but she just felt helpless to look at their way of communicating in a non-judgmental way. The overall feeling of anger toward her in-laws was coupled with the knowledge that this was driving a wedge between her and her husband and creating more problems than they both knew what to do with.

So why do people get angry?

Ryan Martin, Ph.D. wrote an article for Psychology Today about the scientific study of anger. In his article he references Dr. Jerry Deffenbacher’s 1996 model of anger by defining what Dr. Deffenbacher calls the trigger event; the event that happens right before someone gets angry for example, perceiving an insult or being cut off in traffic.

“The implication is that those kinds of events caused the person to get angry directly. If that were true then we would all react the same way to such situations.”

There are more than trigger events at play when anger sets in. Individual characteristics such as personality traits and the individual’s pre-anger state are 2 things that matter.

“Competitiveness and low-frustration tolerance are some ways in which a person’s personality characteristics play into anger. As for the pre-anger state of a person just before the trigger event, physiological and psychological situations play heavily into this arena. Feelings of being tired, anxious, stressed out, nervous are considered to be pre-anger triggers. A nervous person already has an elevated heart rate so he/she doesn’t have far to go to become angry.”

Ryan goes on to explain:

“Dr. Deffenbacher’s model of anger is mainly based on the appraisal of the situation by the person on the receiving end. When a person appraises a situation as blameworthy, unjustified, punishable, etc. it pushes buttons with in that person to react with anger. If the person interpreted the situation a little differently he/she wouldn’t have become so angry. The important thing to remember about appraisal isn’t necessarily that the person’s reaction is inaccurate but there are always 2 sides to every story.”

The next question then is how do we communicate effectively so that anger doesn’t show up or take over?

In his outstanding and amazingly insightful book, Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life, Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph. D and author tells of his preoccupation with 2 questions and his attempt to find the answers:

“What happens to disconnect us from our compassionate nature, leading us to behave violently and exploitatively and what allows some people to stay connected to their compassionate nature under even the most trying circumstances?”

“When we give from the heart, we do so out of the joy that springs forth whenever we willingly enrich another person’s life. This kind of giving benefits both the giver and the receiver.”

While getting deeper into the coaching session my client started to become aware of her own compassionate nature and how she deeply desired to live on that plane and not engage in anger and despair. She is by nature a giving, loving, and curious person and realized that she always wanted her marriage to be one of love out loud and as an example to others of what real love looks like. That realization turned the whole session around. But how to get through the inevitable anger she will feel at some point during the holiday visit?

Dr. Rosenberg says:

“There are 4 steps to express anger: (1) Stop and breathe, (2) identify our judgmental thoughts, (3) connect with our needs, and (4) express our feelings and unmet needs. The key to all of the anger is empathy. Empathize with the other person so that he/she will be better able to hear us when we express ourselves.”

The coaching session concluded with awareness that although my client can’t change how other people behave and communicate she can change how she behaves and communicates. By showing up fully for her husband and not giving in to her personal feelings she will be able to create an ally in her husband. More than anything she wants him to know how much he means to her and how much she understands that the holiday get together is equally difficult for him. “Living out loud the loving, caring and supportive marriage I always imagined having is so much more powerful than giving in to the anger and judgments of others.” She now has a plan of action and tools to help her achieve her ultimate goal of making this family holiday one in which she will cherish and not regret. My client says:

“I can’t believe how I am feeling at this moment realizing that it is so much easier to love not only myself but my husband and our child. It feels freeing to know that I can choose love rather than defensiveness and anger toward difficult people. I don’t know for sure if love will bring about a more positive atmosphere all around us but it will bring about more connectedness and compassion in my marriage and therefore to my child.”

Whether we are face to face or in communication through email or text messages or any other social media venue we are always in a position to respond with empathy and heart.

I often find myself wondering when I read the comments section of other blog posts or I read text messages or I witness a negative conversation what was going on in the responder’s mind at the time of a negative comment. What life circumstances pushed that person over the edge?

All of this leads me to take a stronger, more open-minded approach to reader responses whether it be to a blog post, a comment to someone else’s writing or a face to face exchange.

Here is what I’ve learned so far:

Communicating needs and feelings without creating defensiveness and anger can be successfully accomplished by using “I” messages. For example: “I feel taken for granted when the laundry isn’t put away” or “I am having trouble managing my worry around our finances and as a result I am not sleeping very well.” These messages are to the point and simple; they are not blaming or accusing.

“Reflect your thoughts and watch others mirror them back to you.” Stephen Richards

Don’t respond immediately to the comment or letter. Take a deep breath, re-read the response or think through the exchange and think about how it truly applies to what was originally said. Time can be your ally. Take your time to respond. Be thoughtful.

“In quiet places, reason abounds.” Adlai E. Stevenson II

People are not bad inherently. Sometimes their life circumstances have caused them to form habits that are difficult to deal with. It’s not personal.

“The sound of the words as they’re said is always different from the sound they make when they’re heard, because the speaker hears some of the sound from the inside”David Levithan, Every Day

A really great coaching tool that has worked for many of my clients is when I have them do an exercise called purging. In the case of an email or text or letter, sit in a quiet space and hand write every single feeling you are experiencing and use every single word that will make you feel justified if you were going to be utterly, no-holds-barred honest. DO NOT SEND THE WRITTEN RESPONSE. Save it. Wait a few days and re-read your own response. Be aware of how you are feeling as you re-read. Are you still so enraged? Has your own anger or shock lessened? How would you like to communicate now? The point is to not meet on the impulse level of the reader. Rise above by getting out of your system all that you are feeling and let those feelings go. As a final step, rip your letter to pieces or stomp on it or just throw it away.

“Transferring my anger and pain onto paper turns it into something tangible, something that can be shredded or burned, or at the very least, sealed shut in a box. ~Call Me Tuesday”Leigh Byrne

If you were seeing the anger from face to face interaction how would you respond in that moment? Would you want to also be seen as someone losing his cool? Think about your own tone of voice and how you would like to sound or how you would like someone to talk to you about their concerns.

“We do not have control over what happens to us in life, but we do have control over how we chose to respond.”
Bryant McGill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life    

If it is important that the other person hear from you right away simply send a follow-up email or text or comment right in that face to face moment by stating that you will respond more fully when you are in a better frame of mind.

Your life mainly consists of 3 things! What you think,  What you say and  What you do! So always be very conscious of what you are co-creating!”
Allan Rufus, The Master’s Sacred Knowledge    

If your response is only in the form of writing then before your response goes out to anyone have someone you trust, someone who knows your heart and intentions, read your response before you send it out. The objective person will be able to stay out of the emotional end of this negative situation.

Merely because you have got something to say that may be of interest to others does not free you from making all due effort to express that something in the best possible medium and form.” [Letter to Max E. Feckler, Oct. 26, 1914]” ― Jack London

Here is where curiosity comes into play: If you sense that your colleague is angry or accusatory ask that person if you are interpreting their response correctly. Don’t assume to know for sure what you are reading or hearing.

“Every man, it seems, interprets the world in the light of his habits and desires.” Richard Wright, The Outsider

Whenever possible don’t write but talk, face to face, person to person. Effective communication is most achievable when we are in the present moment. Stay clear of bringing up the past. Stick to what is happening right now.

“When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time.” Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak

There is no substitute for real, live interaction. Your body uses every emoticon there is. Effective communication keeps anger at bay when we remain as calm as possible. Body language can have the same anger inducing affects as something we write. Create breathing space between the parties speaking, reframe when possible for better understanding, keeping advice and opinions to ourselves unless asked to offer that input. These steps all aid in a successful communication process.

We never can completely know what is going on in someone’s life to help us fully understand why they react the way they do. Everyone has something going on that feels overwhelming. Whenever possible put yourself in their shoes and summon a more compassionate you.

Call to Action

How can you begin to speak with your heart so that anger is kept at bay?

Words Are Windows

(or They’re Walls)

I feel so sentenced by your words,

I feel so judged and sent away,

Before I go I’ve got to know,

Is that what you mean to say?

 

Before I rise to my defense,

Before I speak in hurt or fear,

Before I build that wall of words,

Tell me, did I really hear?

 

Words are windows, or they’re walls,

They sentence us, or set us free.

When I speak and when I hear,

Let the love light shine through me.

 

There are things I need to say,

Things that mean so much to me,

If my words don’t make me clear,

Will you help me to be free?

 

If I seemed to put you down,

If you felt I didn’t care,

Try to listen through my words,

To the feelings that we share.

–Ruth Bebermeyer

Help Wanted

Needed

 

“One day, I decided to help wherever I could, & it was almost like magic because I was exactly what the world needed everywhere I went. Step right up!!”

I just absolutely LOVE this website: www.storypeople.com

“Five truly effective prescriptions to remedy a bad day: (You can’t overdose.)

—Pray; discuss your troubles with God.

—List your blessings. (The blue sky, soft cookies, warm socks, etc.)

—Call your mom.

—Visit an animal shelter and hug a lonely dog.

—Visit a nursing home and hug a lonely grandparent.”

Richelle E. Goodrich, Smile Anyway: Quotes, Verse, & Grumblings for Every Day of the Year

 Whenever I am having a day that is off the rails or I feel lost or detached or things seem to be going all wrong I try to do at least one good thing for someone else and instantly my bad day is conquered.

 All of us can be more powerful and empowering just by giving of ourselves toward the betterment of someone else. As an example to my children and to my clients I decided to volunteer at a hospital, the absolute last place I ever would have imagined myself to volunteer. In all honesty and with great enthusiasm I can tell you that it has been the best thing I ever did. The experience of volunteering allowed me to think about a different way of employment and I now work as a temp breezing in and out of many kinds of jobs just like a volunteer. I am needed to fill a spot for a short period of time and get a job done. Then I am off to another job and helping fill another need. Although as a temp I do get paid the mentality is the same as if I were volunteering. People are always happy to see me, happy to help me in return and happy that I was able to be of help to them when they needed it. For the first time in my life I feel purposeful and I feel a sense of honor to be contributing to the betterment of someone else’s life.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Call to Action

What else can you add to the list above?

What was the one thing you did for someone else that you instantly knew made a fabulous difference?

In what ways do you notice your mood getting better because you helped someone?

Journey On and be needed………

If you would like to explore more about personal growth, building and strengthening your success characteristics, or discovering what more you have inside of you please call for a free discovery session in my Art of YOU coaching program.  Not ready yet? Please visit my website at www.journeyoncoaching.com. You can reach me by calling 203-560-3061 or send an email to: lisa@journeyoncoaching.com.

A Passion for Compassion: 8 Thoughts to Kick Start Compassion

Compassion says, “I know how you feel.”

“Both friend and enemy reside within us. One lives by the rule of compassion, the other by the rule of hard knocks. Though potential influence of either extreme is inevitable, our actions bear witness to the one we embrace.” –T.F. Hodge

It’s simple really: What makes you feel more authentic and genuine; when you reach out to hug someone or when you wait for someone to hug you first? What if we dropped our defenses and just reached out first? What are we so afraid of?

The dictionary defines compassion as a feeling of deep sympathy and/or sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

That definition sounds tragic but it is exactly what I did today. I met a former co-worker while at the grocery store and she told me about another former co-worker who is going through an awful health tragedy with her husband. I came home and immediately wrote out a card to her acknowledging her and her husband and express to her that she may never need my help in any physical way but that I am here to do whatever I can and to let her know that the one thing I could do for her right away was keep her and her family in my prayers.

Is it true that the only way for compassion to show itself is in the presence of a tragedy?  What is a tragedy? Each of us has days when even the most mundane of bad news or events can be perceived as a tragedy. Perspective makes it so. What I find really comforting is that although we may not go through universal life experiences all at the same time, we do go through universal life experiences at some point in each of our lives. Knowing that someone out there has experienced the feelings I am going through right now is of great comfort but would be of even greater comfort if I found a way to connect with the person who would understand. By reaching out and asking for help or by reaching out and saying to someone, “I know how you feel”, connects us on a human level that no other species can do.

“The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.” –Mahatma Gandhi

I just have to say that bowing in prayer may be the simplest act of kindness when doing something physically is not possible. Kindness shows itself in so many ways. Do something, don’t do nothing at all.

I was walking out of an art supply store the other day and a mom was looking around the parking lot with her daughter in tow. She was confused because the bakery that they usually stop at on their Sunday errands was no longer there. Her voice sounded so distressed. It was really back ground noise to me at that moment because my mind was consumed with thoughts of how to make the next story time project really fun and exciting for my little library visitors.

As I was walking back to my car I replayed the distant voice in my head and let my ears hear what was going on around me. It just so happened that this mom and I passed each other in perfect synchrony and I was able to tell her exactly where the bakery had moved to. You really wouldn’t believe how incredibly thankful and relieved she was to know that not only did the bakery not go out of business but that she knew exactly where it had moved to once I asked her about her bearings.

Clearly there was no real life shattering suffering or sorrow going on regarding the woman and the bakery however, the distress in her voice and the way it touched my heart was enough to draw out empathy and compassion.

Children are really great at compassion. What comes to mind for you when you think about how children show compassion? Who is their go to receiver of compassion? There are 2 actually. The first is a favorite doll or stuffed toy and the second is animals. If you want to get to know the heart of a child and how to cultivate and mature their compassion watch them with these 2 receivers. In most cases it is a natural occurrence. Sharing with another child is not necessarily a natural occurrence but compassion is an inherent human quality and with proper nurturing, practice and encouragement it can root itself in the hearts of children and grow and mature as they mature. What a wonderful world that would be.

I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL

Each life experience we go through creates a connection to someone else; a sense of commonality, whether we know the person or not. We create connection through our flaws, mistakes, humanity, solidarity, and understanding. We are more able to see into the nature of love and suffering all at once simply because we live and learn and feel.

David DeSteno, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University and a co-author of “Out of Character: Surprising Truths about the Liar, Cheat, Sinner (and Saint) Lurking in All of Us” conducted a compassion study. The results were positive and uplifting. “The results of this study suggest that the compassion we feel for others is not solely a function of what befalls them; if our minds draw an association between a victim and ourselves, even a relatively trivial one, the compassion we feel for his or her suffering is amplified greatly. Simply learning to mentally re-categorize one another in terms of commonalities would generate greater empathy among all of us and foster social harmony in a fairly effortless way.”

Have you lost someone special? I was told a story about a man that lost his mom not long ago. He was very close to her and not having her in his life now, especially now that he has young children, has been a heartache that is at times too much to bear. Who among us cannot find commonality in a story like that? Even if you have not lost a mom or dad or that special someone you can put yourself in the shoes of the person that is grieving and wish to alleviate the pain or be a help through it.

And what of self-compassion?

I recently had a birthday and my family wanted very much to celebrate me while I did not feel like celebrating. My self-compassion was quite low at the time but I am the kind of person that doesn’t like to disappoint people, especially people I love so we put a plan together and made a night of it. We had a great time and it felt fantastic to smile and laugh and let go. I realized that it was wrong for me to treat my family with the same lack of enthusiasm as I was treating myself. I was glad for the awareness to put someone else’s needs above my own even though it was hard to feel inside of myself for myself. After all, isn’t compassion just another word for love, kindness, curiosity, empathy, tenderness and presence?

“Unfortunately we treat others as we treat ourselves. We should try being genuinely kind to ourselves and the rest will come naturally, like a Platinum Rule; far greater than a Golden Rule.” –Erica Goros

Simple gestures like when someone holds the door open for you or stops to pick up something you might have dropped or lets you cut in front of them on the express grocery line because you don’t have as many items to check out as they do. Those are small acts of compassion; knowing what it feels like and hoping to alleviate the negative. Just like going to the gym to maintain physical health and well-being compassion, when practiced regularly can be cultivated and maintained with amazing internal benefits. Sure, it may feel awkward at first but give it a month and see how you feel inside and what manifests itself on the outside. I predict you’ll be hooked and have a passion for compassion.

Suffering in any way is inevitable and I daresay necessary. Without suffering on any level we would not appreciate kindness, love, connectedness and compassion. The enemies of suffering are outnumbered and outmanned by compassion. Will you become an enemy of suffering or an ally?

Here is a short example of what I mean. What can you do to show compassion/kindness?

 8 Thoughts to live by

Start where you find your own sense of compassion. You will never know how much deeper your compassion can grow until you start to plant your own seeds.

“Compassion is not a virtue, it is a commitment. It is not something we have or don’t have, it is something we choose to practice.” –Dr. Brene` Brown

Open your heart. A closed heart can never grow and an open heart can never close.

“I could really use someone else’s smile today.” –Richelle Goodrich

Once you realize that other people matter you have created compassion.

“The solution to nearly every problem in the world comes down to greater awareness, compassion, and empathy.” – Bryant McGill

I’m here for you.

“Three of the ten principles governing the City of Joy are:

-Tell the truth

– Stop waiting to be rescued

– Give away what you want the most.” – Eve Ensler, In the Body of the World: A Memoir

Call to Action

How can you start to grow your compassion?

When in your life have you had a passion for compassion?

What experiences have you had that let you know compassion was alive and well?

Where do you witness compassion most?

Who hugs first? Where does the hug start from, the heart or the head?

If you would like to explore more about personal growth, building character strengths, or discovering what more you have inside of you please call for a free discovery session in my Art of YOU coaching program. You can reach me by calling 203-560-3061 or send an email to: lisa@journeyoncoaching.com.

 

 

Are you the adult you want your children to become?

baby jessica 001 Whispers from my Wallpaper…..

                     Are you the adult you want your children to become?

Dr. Brene` Brown, a shame and vulnerability researcher, author and teacher, asks this very important question in her book, Daring Greatly. If you haven’t read the book I highly suggest you do. Go directly to chapter 7 and read through this enlightening chapter on “Daring to be the parent we want our children to be.” It helps if you read the book from the beginning but if you are a parent struggling with this crazy, mixed up world and feeling that perhaps your way of parenting seems like it is just not enough then read this chapter first.

I never thought twice about becoming a parent. It was just the natural, expected course my life would eventually take. I, like so many before me, wanted to do things a bit “better” than my parents did it while also putting my own stamp of parenting that was  a bit different from how they parented, but overall I hoped that I would be as good at parenting my own children as my parents were for me.

Joseph Chilton Pearce writes, “What we are teaches our children more than what we say, so we must be what we want our children to become.” Our job is to love ourselves and accept ourselves first if we want the same for our children. This is a hard thing to do, accept and love ourselves in order to be accepting and loving toward our children? I do have the capacity to love and be loved and I want to love and be loved by those that I hold most dear. I really feel that what is most important is empathy. To be able to feel and understand what others are feeling.

My youngest son is going through a hard time right now trying to figure out himself and his place in the world. Life is changing very rapidly for him, taking twists and turns that he, in most cases, has no control over. As I watch him struggle, I worry whether I’ve given him all the skills he needs to live as an adult, and I spontaneously feel guilty for what I see as my failures. This was the vibe I was getting from my son. I was feeling guilty thinking that I had done something wrong in how he was raised and I wanted to “check in” with him on this. Where is his sense of belonging, worthiness, self-confidence right now?

According to Dr. Brown guilt says, “I did something bad” as opposed to shame which says, “I am bad.”  When we apologize for something we have done, make amends, or change a negative behavior into a positive behavior in order to better align with our own values, the influence on ourselves, our children, and our world is positive. Getting our thinking and our actions back to zero, back to “normal” is like finding the level playing field. Just because our bodies have matured on the outside and we are now labeled “adults” doesn’t mean our insides have kept up. When our children feel shame or guilt and display behaviors that make us feel embarrassed we very quickly go back to a time in our own lives, in our own story when we remember feeling that too.

“The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” –Carl Jung

As parents we have the choice, but more importantly, the obligation to show our children that it’s okay to screw up sometimes by turning mistakes into successes through learning from them. We show our children that they are not alone in the life struggles they go through by telling them stories of our own struggles with a simple “me too” which opens the door to great communication and safe spaces. When we share our guilt and vulnerabilities with our children we not only mature our own adult insides but we make it normal for our children to let life’s experiences and vulnerabilities be okay. Their stories and our story help their insides mature as well. We are telling them that it is so okay to have chapters that don’t quite feel so good. Ultimately, it is what can be learned from each experience, good and bad that makes the story worth telling.

Reading through Dr. Brown’s book I had to ask my son if he feels doubt about himself in any way, if he feels vulnerable, if he feels like he has made mistakes that he is letting define him now, if he feels like he belongs with us as a family member, because I know he doesn’t feel like he belongs at school or with the kids he goes to school with. Dr. Brown talks about “belonging” as requiring us to BE who we are. Well how do we know how to be who we are if we don’t really know who we are?

“ Belonging”, says Dr. Brown, “is being accepted for who you are; being somewhere where you want to be and where the people around you want you to be; getting to be “you” no matter what is happening in your life or the decisions you make.” My son and I talked at length about these definitions and I am so happy to say that he does feel like he belongs, he just feels like a disappointment sometimes. I get that. I’ve felt that way a time or seven in my lifetime. I was so happy to be able to normalize his feelings with a resounding , “me, too.”

I needed to help my son know that disappointment was okay and that it was a good measuring stick to help shape his road map toward becoming the best adult, the best person he can be. The relief on his face was palpable. His sense of “belonging” to the outside world will come as he moves through it and works with the world. But I needed to make sure he understood that he unconditionally belongs with us – his family, his foundation. Disappointment will happen throughout his life but it will diminish to “every once in a great while” instead of the “oh so often” feeling he has right now.

“Let your face speak what is in your heart.” –Toni Morrison

When your child walks into a room do you first notice what he/she is wearing and make judgments and criticize or do you light up at the miracle that just walked in the room? Actions do indeed speak louder than words even if your actions are as simple as a smile, a welcome hug or an expression of belonging and worthiness.

There is a body language to parenting that we sometimes forget to incorporate into our job as a parent. Our bodies need, no, must remember to speak with emotions like compassion, engagement, empathy, attention, “me, too” and “I get it”. My mom said to me just before my daughter was born, “never forget what it felt like when…..” I have taken this to heart and let it guide me through every age and stage my children have achieved. It was this way of thinking that helped put me in my son’s shoes to get the conversation started about where he is at right now.

We can’t be perfect parents, husbands, wives, children, etc. because there is no such thing as perfect but we can be perfectly imperfect with the love we express. We can be messy and we can be ourselves and we can be our story. Let your face speak what is in your heart. Journey On with your children through the rest of your story and show them that their story is just as great and can be greater.

If you would like to learn how coaching can empower you to live life with purpose and perspective please write to Lisa for a complimentary 30 minute coaching consultation to lisa@journeyoncoaching.com and watch for Lisa’s forthcoming book, “A Leap of Faith.”