Relate Well! Blog

Addressing the all-important and often perplexing topics and issues related to enhancing your personal growth and professional development

Never Give Up!

I often smile when I see the cartoon of the frog about to be swallowed by a pelican. All you can see are the frog’s hind feet sticking out of the pelican’s mouth and his hands wrapped tightly around the pelican’s throat. The caption reads: “Never give up!”

I often counsel people who want to give up because they think their problems are insurmountable and their heartache will never subside. They are exhausted and discouraged, often for good reason. Their spouse may have just left them, they received a poor prognosis from their doctor, their children are in trouble or for some other reason, their hope and optimism have all but disappeared. During times like these, we can all be tempted to just give up. After all, wouldn’t it be better – or at least easier – if we could just go to sleep and wake up in Heaven with no problems? While many people look forward to that day to come eventually, if you’re reading this blog, chances are...

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Bright Spots: A Simple Way to Navigate Challenges

We all encounter challenges of one size or another on a daily basis. Many are somewhat insignificant while others can seem confusing, dark and insurmountable.

Regardless of how big your challenge may be today, here’s one practical strategy that can increase your chances of successfully navigating it: Simply take a few moments to reflect back on a time when you faced a similar challenge and overcame it successfully. Those times are what I refer to as “bright spots”.

Perhaps it was a time when you weren’t getting along with your children or spouse. Maybe it was a time you managed to get through a financial crisis or physical illness. Think for a moment about the things you did or thought about that helped to make the former challenge a bright spot in your life. Was it at a time when your faith was stronger? Was it when you made a more consistent effort to stay connected to friends? Perhaps you were in better physical condition due to regular exercise and a...

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Have You Mastered These Leadership Practices?

How do you know if you are a leader? If someone is following you, you are a leader! It may be an official part of your job, or it may be a volunteer endeavor, or maybe you’re a parent, with children following in your footsteps. In my study of leadership, I found some of the best information in the research conducted by James Kouzes and Barry Posner and documented in their book, The Leadership Challenge.

According to the authors, no matter what areas of life you lead in, there are five practices that strong and effective leaders consistently engage in.  And in order to incorporate these practices you’ll need to make some key commitments associated with each. Here are the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership:

1. Model the Way – Modeling the way is the most fundamental way in which leaders earn credibility and trust. You will never be an effective leader if you are unwilling or unable to walk your talk. If this first competency is not mastered,...

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If You Care, You Can Help!

People who are facing difficulties sometimes choose to talk with a “professional” about it – a psychologist, physician or pastor. But more often, people go to their friends first. If a friend in need calls you, don’t panic. I understand that having someone share difficult issues, painful experiences or intense emotions can be intimidating because you don’t think you know enough to help. But the good news is, when a friend comes to you and pours out their heart about a problem in their life, you don’t have to have all the answers. The most important thing is that you care.

The listening and caring professions are thriving because people have a deep need to be heard and understood. Sometimes factual information and intervention are needed in order to solve a problem, but many of the issues people face in their relationships just need to be talked out with someone who cares. Parents of toddlers or teens need to be able to talk to someone who knows...

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Do You Worry About What People Think?

It’s been said that more people are held captive in the prison of their own minds than in all the jail cells in the world… and Worry is their warden. There are countless things that may weigh heavily on our minds, but I have worked with many people who significantly struggle with worrying about what people think about them, and they always pay a price.

Many of the decisions you make on a daily basis, like what to wear, the music to listen to, what to say in a conversation, or who to associate with are governed, in large part, by a goal-directed conscious or unconscious process that attempts to influence what people think about you. We call this process impression management.

As humans, we all have needs for belonging, significance and acceptance. To not think about how others perceive you to some extent is to deny these needs. Unfortunately, many people are trapped by a powerful impulse to over-engage in impression management. In other words, they are overly...

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The Power of Wise Decision-Making

One evening when my youngest daughter was five-years-old she asked me if she could go outside and play. I told her, “No, it’s too dark out.” She defiantly replied, “I’m going to go outside anyhow.” I then replied that she could choose to go outside without my permission, but if she did she would suffer the consequence of being sent to bed early. After giving her options some thought, she stated, “I’m not going outside because it’s just too dark.”

In that moment, I enjoyed watching Kathryn exercising good judgment and wisdom for someone so young. She had considered the facts – that her Dad had a habit of following through on what he said, and that going to bed early would make her miss her favorite TV show and her bedtime snack. Weighing these harsh realities against what would happen if she made the right choice brought her to the conclusion that it was in her best interest to do the right thing.

For most of us, once...

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Are You an Optimist?

What do you think? Is the glass half-empty or half-full? Do you usually anticipate the worst or more often think that things will turn out okay? The way you answer those simple questions can give you insight into whether you are more naturally a pessimist or optimist. Once you see what your natural tendency is, consider the impact it has on your life. In particular, which view of life do you think makes you more attractive and enjoyable to other people?

We all know certain types of people we prefer not to spend a lot of time with. For me, it’s the person who possesses a pessimistic attitude. You know the type; they look like they just ate a lemon and every time you come up with a new idea they give you five reasons for why it won’t work. If you say it’s a beautiful day, they say, “Yeah, but it won’t stay this way.”

I much prefer to be around positive, optimistic people – those individuals who tend to find the good in others and believe that...

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Do You Struggle with Difficult People?

Difficult people are everywhere. You can find them at work, in your neighborhood, at the local store, in government offices, in customer services and even in your own home. Now, to be honest, we can all be difficult at times, but today I’m talking about what I refer to as chronically difficult people – the people whose behavior is often obnoxious, rude, aggressive and just plain frustrating. In other words, their behavior is predictable… predictably difficult!

Difficult people come in a variety of styles with behavior patterns that fit some classic categories. The Tanks bully their way through every situation, steamrolling anyone who stands in their way without considering how others feel. The Exploders use “shock and awe” to get their way by blowing up so others learn to tiptoe around them or give in to prevent an angry outburst. The Know-it-All has to answer every comment and conversation with information designed to make themselves look...

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Communicating Affection Without Talking

I frequently hear women express concerns about their husbands not communicating affection or what they think and feel about many topics – especially about them, personally, and their marriage. The husband usually responds with comments like, “You know I’m not a talker” or “I can’t communicate as well as you can.”

Although most men do have the ability to effectively communicate with their wives they often don’t, and there are many different reasons that we won’t go into now.

Before we go farther, let me clarify that there are some couples in which it’s the wife who has the greater challenge with communication, but since the majority of “non-talkers” are men we will assume this in order to keep it simple. If you are/have a quiet wife, feel free to apply the information as it suits your situation.

When I’m working with couples who are frustrated about one-sided communication I often recommend a specific tool...

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Are You Addicted to Approval?

Did you know that the less compelled you are to prove yourself to others in order to gain their approval, the more peaceful you will feel inside? And the less you worry about whether people like you, the more they will enjoy being around you?

Those statements seem contradictory at first, don’t they? People who are unable to internalize these truths may actually be addicted to approval.  This addiction is characterized by the irrational belief that your worth, value and significance comes from the approval and acceptance of others.

If you make a conscious effort to inform people of what you have accomplished, shouldn’t they admire you? If you try hard to be likable, shouldn’t they like you a lot? The reason these behaviors fall short is because trying too hard comes across to others as desperate, needy, insincere and inadequate. Simply put, the harder you try to appear popular and successful, the more people will believe you’re hiding insecurity and a...

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