Relate Well! Blog

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

How to Guarantee Fewer Problems in Your Life

Do you want to experience fewer “problems” in your life?  Great, keep reading.

I was talking with a couple recently, and they consistently used the word “problem” to describe many of the things happening around them.  This situation was a problem, that person is a problem, etc.  Their words sounded as though life was heavy and frustrating and they felt helpless and hopeless.   As I listened, I was reminded of how the words we choose have such a powerful impact on how we think, feel, and respond to things that happen in our lives – especially things we perceive to be negative or difficult.

I said to the couple, “I want you to consider for a moment that what you have been describing are not really problems, but rather challenges.  No one can avoid life’s challenges, but it is possible to keep them from becoming problems.”  I believe the problems many people experience are in reality challenges that were...

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Real Freedom

As an American I am mindful of the value of being free. When our nation’s founders signed the Declaration of Independence, they were focused on freedom from political and religious tyranny, and I am grateful for their vision and sacrifice. But even though we live in the Land of the Free, we can be held captive by our own tyrants – and sometimes we volunteer for bondage. It may be time to declare independence from one or more of these common captors:

Fear of Rejection – Humans have an inherent need to be accepted and loved. Yes, some are extroverts, and some are introverts so appearances can be deceiving. Extroverts often seem to interact easily with others and their fear of rejection may show up as neediness. Introverts are more likely to withdraw if they’re experiencing fear of rejection, feeling as though it’s safer to avoid contact than to risk it. Free yourself from this fear by remembering that you have intrinsic value that is not based on any...

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My Hope for You as You Graduate

When I think back to high school, I remember a simple ten-word sentence that would instantly make my heart sink: “Take out a piece of paper for a pop quiz.” It seemed so unfair! But my teachers had every right to give us a pop quiz because we were supposed to pay attention in class and regularly study our assignments. If I had always done that, I would have been prepared. 

At graduation I thought I would be leaving pop quizzes behind, but I found out they are a normal part of adult life, and if I didn’t prepare for them, I would face far more difficulties than I had to. 

Adult “pop quizzes” can show up as good news, bad news, opportunities, or emergencies.  So, how do you prepare when you don’t know what’s coming? 

As a clinical psychologist, my training and experience have helped me to understand that the choices you make and actions you take will have the greatest influence on your personal, professional, and relational...

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5 Tips for Dealing with a Bull Terrier Boss

Most people have at some point in their lives had to deal with someone who refuses to lose. No matter how unreasonable their position and how obviously wrong they may be, they clamp down their jaw as instinctively as a bull terrier in a dogfight – and it seems nothing short of death will loosen it.

It’s often not that complicated to deal with this sort of person at a dinner party, where the simplest strategy may be to avoid them or to feign agreement for a couple of hours until you can escape after dessert. But in the workplace, this is seldom possible, and if the bulldog is your superior, you can come away from discussions frustrated, angry and hurt. 

William Ury, author of Getting Past No, provides five steps to surviving an encounter with a bull terrier boss, based on understanding the underlying motivations for their unreasonable decisions and resistance to cooperation. Here are five tips to help you achieve a win-win situation.

1. Control...

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Why Most People Avoid Conflict... and Why You Shouldn't

If you can think and talk, and if you ever encounter other people, there is the potential for conflict. Conflict is an inevitable, completely normal part of the human condition, yet most people readily admit that they intentionally avoid anything that even remotely resembles disagreement or confrontation.  In fact, much of my work in therapy and coaching involves helping people to understand – and even embrace – the value of conflict and overcome the fears that feed their aversion.

There are many factors that can influence conflict avoidance, such as self-doubt, lack of assertiveness, inadequate communication skills, fear of rejection, disapproval, criticism, or loss of security and more.  In other words, people avoid conflict to minimize perceived threats to their self-esteem and sense of well-being. 

Let me be clear – I’m all for avoiding real danger and I never recommend that anyone intentionally subject themselves to hostile conflict or...

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Making Your Employees Jolly During the Holidays

I get it – the holidays may be the busiest, most frustrating time of the year for your business. Demand for products and services skyrockets as gift-buying escalates. As lines get long, tempers can get short – on both sides of the counter. Your customers are under pressure to finish their holiday preparations, deal with kids bouncing off the walls and meet all their “joyful” obligations. You need your staff to be extra patient, extra friendly and extra efficient. The reality is, you need them to be at their best when they have all the same pressures, time constraints, plans and problems your customers have.

So, what can you do to help them have a jolly holiday despite the hassles? It doesn’t take a lot of time, money, or effort to keep employees feeling positive about working for you, even during the busiest season – a little of each goes a long way toward job satisfaction and loyalty.

Thank them – When you know your staff is hustling to...

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Principles for Effective Listening - Part II

In our last blog, we shared Part I of Principles for Effective Listening.  We addressed the “how-to” of listening. If you’ve been practicing the techniques outlined, congratulations! Now that you have started on the path to better listening, here are some barriers and obstacles to watch for – and avoid.

Barriers to Empathic Listening 

• Lecturing, Blaming, Moralizing, Interrupting
• Venting, Defending, Explaining, Questioning
• Generalizing, Disagreeing, Fixing, Reassuring
• Changing the subject, Warning, Pretending

Obstacles to Effective Listening

• Drawing premature conclusions

“I’ve heard this all before; it’s always the same story.”
“Now he’s going to tell me it’s all my fault.” 
“This is the part where she says I shouldn’t go out with my friends.” 
“Here comes the same lame excuse he always uses.”

• Reading into...

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Principles for Effective Listening - Part I

Listening is one of the most powerful tools of communication, leadership and relationships. Here are some things you can begin doing today to develop your listening awareness and expertise. Then watch as your relationships and performance improve, too. 

  1. Listening is Active, Not Passive! 

While simply holding your tongue can make you look like you're listening, active listening also involves a conscious, focused effort not only to hear the words but also to discern the complete message the speaker is sending. It takes into consideration the speaker's intent and non-verbal communication, and it's non-judgmental (which, frankly, can be the hard part, so we'll discuss that next time).

To practice active listening, maintain good eye contact and an open body posture. Put down your pen or phone and relax your hands so it doesn't appear that you're just waiting for the speaker to finish so you can get back to "more important" work. Nod your head to acknowledge understanding...

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Are You Putting on an Act?

Lights! Camera! Action! When the spotlight of life is focused on you, what do people see? Are you an actor just playing a role or are you the “real thing?” Are you willing to let people see who you really are? Hollywood actors are paid big bucks to portray a make-believe character on the screen, but there are many people outside of “Tinsel Town” who put on a very convincing act every day without ever being paid a dime. In fact, many of them pay a high price. 

You don’t have to be a Hollywood star or public figure to be concerned with the way others perceive you. All of us are involved in personal image management to some degree, and in most cases, this is perfectly normal. In fact, thinking about who you will be with and what you will be doing is a reasonable way to determine what “image” to put on by dressing and behaving appropriately in a given situation. 

There is nothing inherently wrong with putting your best foot forward in...

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Job Stress – What Can You Do? Part 2 of 2

Last week we looked at the damaging effects that work-related stress can have on your health and life. Today, we will talk about some of the ways you can better manage the stress you feel.

If you are an employer or if you’re in charge of a team or staff working under your supervision, be sure to consider the tips about how you can make the working environment less stressful, too!

Big improvements in stress management take place in small increments and daily habits. Here are some Recommended Daily Habits to get you started:

  • Set realistic goals and expectations for yourself
  • Do something nice for someone
  • Share a laugh or a word of encouragement with someone you like
  • Make a list of things you are most grateful for
  • Take a leisurely bath or hot shower
  • Rest your eyes for 15 to 30 minutes without interruption
  • Relax outdoors, enjoying nature
  • Revisit your accomplishments - even the smallest ones
  • Listen to soothing music
  • Get up 15 minutes early to avoid having to rush
  • Watch a funny...
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