Jul 01


The new movie “Inside Out” is getting a lot of attention and seems to be educating many on the purpose behind all emotions.  In the movie, “Joy” competes with “Sadness” and looks for ways to contain, ignore, or shut out that negative emotion.  Without ruining it for all who haven’t seen the movie, there is value in sadness too.  When we suppress our negative emotions we also subdue our positive feelings.  If you haven’t experienced sadness then you can not fully appreciate or value happiness.  Although everyone feels emotions, some choose not to share their feelings which limits their connections to other people.  As with most things in life, we only recognize the benefit of those connections when we either lose the person or experience the opposite feelings.

Often we grow, mature, and heal the most during those dark and difficult times.  The realization that negative emotions motivate and/or require change often creates new habits and behaviors.  All emotions are good, the question is what do we do with our feelings?  Can we allow both sadness and joy to have a voice and be heard?  What value can sadness have in your life?  Having lost both parents at an early age and experienced much sadness, I’ve appreciated joy even more.  I’ve also been able to use my sadness to understand and have increased compassion for others’ loss.

When we share our feelings with others we also enable them the opportunity to comfort, help, and connect with us.  Ironically the more we self-disclose and allow ourselves to be vulnerable, the greater the likelihood that others will share about themselves.  Of course, we have to be selective about who we share with and our level of openness depending on the relationship.  The bottom line is that talking about our feelings, both good and bad, will allow for a fuller breath of experience.  We connect with others through our emotions, so decide to share your feelings to increase the depth of your relationships.

Jun 24


How do we decide what to do for a living?  There are many influences on which profession we choose, of course, but does our personality type play a role?  Furthermore, does our career choice influence our personality or do we purposely choose a career that fits with our character?  For example, are people changed by success or do their traits drive them to prosper?   Based on my clinical experience, personality characteristics often determine our career choices.  For example, those choosing to work with computers may not enjoy interacting with people and prefer dealing with machines.  Some people enjoy high intensity jobs like working in the emergency room, while others prefer crunching numbers and having a consistent routine.  Our personality can also contribute to the spouse we choose, friends we attract, and places we live.

People who select careers that match with their personality types tend to be happier, more productive, and receive greater fulfillment. However, there may be negative consequences when aspects of our personality are reinforced and rewarded at work, but have detrimental effects on aspects of our relationships.  For example, being driven, intense, critical, and perfectionistic may be positive characteristics for our job, but not bode well for our marriage.  In fact, the very same traits that  propel people to achieve success often create destructive patterns in their relationships.  Marriage and career require different attributes that are sometimes conflictual.

The key to healthy relationships is working towards a good work-life balance, finding the middle ground, and accepting differences in personality types.  It also helps to be able to successfully transition from work to home and avoid treating family like employees/staff or carrying home the office persona.  Recognize that aspects of our personality can be adjusted or modified in different environments.  Healthy relationships require teamwork, joint decision-making, and mutually agreed upon solutions to resolving conflict.  Even though our personality contributes to our career choice, we shouldn’t assume that it works in all situations.  Reflect on your personality and consider which aspects work only in your career and which ones enhance your home life.  Decide to bring those relationship building traits home and leave the others at work.


Jun 17


What value do you place on your friendships?  If you are like many, not enough.  Many of us don’t appreciate the value of people until they’re gone.  Sadly, my college track buddies and I lost a good friend about six weeks ago.  His energy and enthusiasm for life were contagious which accounted for his large friendship base.  He had been coordinating a track reunion with another member of the team, but lost his life before the reunion happened.  While we still went through with the gathering, as he would’ve wanted, his absence was deeply felt .  Over the weekend we shared stories of our friend and agreed that he found his purpose in helping and serving others.  His loyalty as a friend and integrity as a person garnered him tremendous respect and love from others.  He showed us how to be a good friend and is sorely missed by all of us.

Friendships take effort, energy, and time, especially when people relocate to far away places.  While social media can make staying connected easier, research has shown that we are more disconnected than ever before.  The problem with social media is the connections are often limited and superficial.  Friendships grow from face to face interactions with meaningful and significant conversations.  Sharing thoughts, feelings, and listening intently creates connection.  Real friends are there for the good and bad times, and know when to listen versus guide.

Sometimes we neglect our friends or harbor bad feelings, but like all healthy relationships, forgiveness and releasing negative emotions enables friendships to survive times of conflict.  Research has shown that the support of friends can add years to your life.  The benefits and value of having deep, personal, and intimate friendships strengthen our physical, emotional and spiritual being.  Decide today to develop, nurture, and grow your friendships.  Life is too short and our connections become our legacy.

Jun 10


Have you ever discussed your expectations or needs with your spouse?  Did you discuss them before you got married?  Most couples don’t have this conversation until they are deep into the relationship.  We wouldn’t accept a job position without knowing the company’s expectations and reviewing the job description.  Why should it be any different in a marriage?  It’s good to know ahead of time whether our significant other can meet our needs and if our expectations are aligned.  Maybe physical intimacy is very important to one person while security and compassion are at the top of the other person’s list.  The issues that most couple have conflict over are children, money, work, chores, and sex, not necessarily in that order.  All relationships have conflict, but how you handle it determines the outcome.

Marriage is about giving and receiving, about “you scratch my back, I scratch yours,” but it’s important to know where each person’s itch is.  People tend to scratch the place that itches them without asking their partner what their they need, assuming that they both have the same needs.  Recognize that we all have different needs and expectations that should be shared openly so that our spouse can work at meeting those needs.  Ideally, before marriage we’ve established realistic and agreed upon expectations.  Better yet, healthy couples discuss their shared values, priorities, and provide each other with mutual respect.  The key is communicating directly, assertively, and honestly so that your partner doesn’t have to read between the lines and guess at your expectations.  Ask your partner “what are your needs or expectations in this relationship” or “describe the elements of a good relationship.”

Listen and pay attention to your spouse’s needs since meeting each other’s legitimate expectations creates connection.  Accept that we are different people and can have different needs.  What’s important to you may not be important to your spouse, but remember that marriage requires sacrifice and compromise.  Often I encourage couples to select a need from their partner’s list and work on meeting it without telling them which one and see if they can identify the need you selected.  Lastly, discuss where your expectations came from and healthy ways to meet them.  Remember don’t expect what you can’t deliver.

Jun 03


What impact does cynicism have on people?  Previous research has found that cynicism negatively impacts physical health, psychological well-being, and marital adjustment.  More recently, the American Psychological Association conducted national surveys on cynical beliefs and found that a high level of cynicism was associated with a lower income.  Our attitude can have a tremendous impact on our approach to relationships and people and even on our earning potential.  The researchers concluded that cynical individuals are less trusting and avoid cooperation opportunities which limits their collaborative efforts.  Cynical people are less inclined to ask for help, delegate tasks, and work as a team which can undermine their economic success.  They assume that others have mean or ulterior motives making it difficult to share ideas, visions, and goals.

Unfortunately, our culture and the media bombards us with cynical, negative and distressing news. This triggers fear which leads us to tune in more often, creating the illusion that security comes from knowing more news.  As I mentioned last week, information doesn’t always provide wisdom.  The problem occurs when we absorb and project the negativity onto others and create an “us against the world” mindset.  We also seem to be drawn to negative media for some twisted comfort in knowing that someone else is worse off than ourselves.

Negativity and cynicism are pervasive and feed off each other.  Our attitude can be contagious both at work and home.  The energy we project can influence others in a big way.  We can all benefit from checking our attitude and recognizing the ways we impact others with our words, actions, or inaction.  Our attitude is something we have control over, yet we tend to focus on the things we can’t control.  An attitude adjustment might simply be letting go of past hurt, forgiving a friend or family member, or deciding to stop trying to fix others.  Try focusing on the positive things and people you have in your life and be grateful for today.  Remember the past is history, the future a mystery, and the present a gift.  Focus on the gift of today!

May 27


In today’s society information and knowledge rule.  Everyone seeks to explain, understand, and accumulate facts, but those things are not necessarily wisdom.  Some say that wisdom is applied knowledge, while others define wisdom as the synthesis of knowledge and experience which enables a deeper understanding and insight.  Maturity can bring wisdom since aging provides us with experience.  Unfortunately, many of us have access to an abundance of knowledge and information, but still lack wisdom.  Is there something that gets in the way of relying on wisdom?  Why is common sense not so common?

Often times clients of mine will suggest that my recommendations are just common sense, which at times is correct.  However their ability to apply wisdom and common sense to a situation doesn’t always work out.  What often gets in the way is negative emotion, conflict, and unresolved issues.  Finding the root of psychological issues and helping a client to confront and heal from the pain is what therapy is all about.  Wisdom can come from age, but it also comes from awareness and insight.  Knowing yourself and being sensitive to other’s needs and emotions can also increase one’s wisdom.

In practical terms, wisdom is knowing when to “shut up” and when to “speak up.”  Timing, tone, and tact can make or break a verbal exchange.  Being wise requires patience, self-control, and kindness, which are some of the fruits of the spirit from Galatians 5:22-23 and facilitates wisdom.  Seeking to understand others before demanding to be understood evokes wisdom.  When we communicate assertively and respectfully without interrupting or talking over others we are manifesting wisdom.  Author, speaker, and pastor, John Maxwell has a great quote, “people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  Treating others with respect, even those that you dislike, takes humility and maturity which also breeds wisdom.  Learning to let go of the pain from the past can also promote wisdom.  Lastly, wisdom comes from the intangibles in relationships so pay attention to others’ non-verbal cues, trust your instincts, and rely on your heart not just your head.

May 20


A recent study done at Ohio State University found that when couples have their first child, both spouses think that their workload has increased by equal amounts.  The highly educated, dual-career couples in the study actually overestimated their increased workload, but by widely varying amounts.  As it turns out, in actuality, women end up bearing the larger portion of work that comes from a new baby.  Prior to the baby being born, many of these couples shared equally in the household chores.  After the child is born neither parent is cutting back on their paid work, but women are assuming the bulk of the childcare.

How often do couples keep score over tasks or conflicts? Unfortunately, this is a common issue in couple’s counseling since many of the people I work with are competitive, stubborn, and strong-willed. Often couples argue over who has done more around the house or who contributes more to the relationship. The conflict often digresses quickly into arguing about past behaviors. Before long couples are using “always and never” to emphasize their point and create a better argument. Ironically, when couples argue, the reality of the situation is quickly distorted and each side has either magnified or minimized the problem to support their position.

Scorekeeping doesn’t work!  It results in resentment and detachment over time.  Instead, work on being a team, reinforce  when your partner is helpful, and request help when you need it.  The key to this process is the approach, timing, and attitude.  Speak respectfully to each other using requests rather than commands, and appreciate the efforts that are made by your partner.  We all have different talents, different needs, different personalities and different expectations.  Accept your differences and stop trying to make your partner more like you.  Remember the “Golden Rule,” treat others like you want to be treated.  We can accomplish more when we work together rather than competing with each other.  Whether facing the demands of children or other issues, getting on the same team will result in a more peaceful life.

May 13


How do you and your partner deal with conflict?  Often the simple answer is very differently.  Many prefer to avoid conflict and believe that a disagreement or argument is always bad in a relationship. Some grew up in households filled with conflict and never saw anything good come from it.  Others didn’t see much conflict at all and never learned the necessary skills to resolve it.  Perhaps conflict triggered fear which resulted in avoidance or detachment.  All relationships have conflict, but how you handle it determines the effect. What prevents you from dealing with conflict directly?  Some worry about hurting the other person’s feelings, others fear the response, and some lack the necessary skills to deal with conflict.

Ironically, men are less comfortable with conflict than women.  We seek to solve the problem so that we can limit the discussion and fix it quickly.  In general, women would prefer to process and discuss the conflict before moving to solve the issue.  Of course not all men and women handle conflict according to their stereotypic gender approach.  Either way, believe it or not, conflict can actually be a good thing in a relationship and lead to positive change, growth, and a greater level of connectedness.  The key is handling it constructively, appropriately, and effectively.

First, identify the conflict in terms that you can agree upon and seek to understand and express your feelings tied to the conflict.  Being able to validate, acknowledge, and accept the other person’s feelings related to the conflict can be half the battle.  Discuss possible solutions, negotiate options, and possibly compromise as part of the process of dealing with conflict.  Lastly, implement a mutually agreed upon solution and let it go.  Sometimes agreeing to disagree is the best you can do.  While conflict is a part of everyone’s life, keeping it inside will consume thought, energy, and negative emotion.  Decide to deal with it rather than hang on to it.


May 06


What does it mean to be a servant leader?  The term was first coined by Robert Greenleaf based on his paper written in 1970 which stated “good leaders must first be good servants.”  He has since written several books describing this leadership style and sharing his wisdom on leadership.  Unfortunately, many of our leaders tend to be power-driven and focus primarily on the perks, pay, prestige and power they receive from their role.  Their style of control including commanding, criticizing, and self-serving dominates their persona.  Many devalue the work of others and focus more on what will get them ahead in their career.  Ironically, self-centered people tend to be the loneliest and most joyless people.  We’ve all had bosses like this at some point in our careers.  Servant leaders have a very different attitude and mindset.

The focus for a servant leader is both purpose and people.  In other words, they seek a greater purpose in their work than themselves and look at the big picture.  Instead of being self-driven, servant leaders are others-driven.  They help people find their strengths, purpose, and position them accordingly.  Servant leaders look to build others up so that they can fulfill their goals and be passionate about working on a team that values its members.  How do you become a servant leader?

Intensely listen to your employees, treat them with respect, trust and delegate, and reward them for good work.  Servant leaders accept feedback from their staff and seek to learn and grow from other’s constructive criticism.  They recognize that people are the greatest asset to any organization which is why they get to know their people.  Servant leaders are patient, humble, authentic, and accountable which enables them to build greater connection with their team.  They seek to add value to others not just themselves and give credit more often than taking credit.  Often servant leaders have high emotional intelligence which enables them to be more compassionate, sensitive, and understanding when people are struggling and can effectively guide them back to the right path.  Remember that leadership is a verb and requires action.  Lead by example both in words and actions and others will be more inclined to follow.

Apr 29


How important is it for leaders to have emotional intelligence (EQ)?  In essence, EQ is an awareness and sensitivity to others’ emotions.  Beyond that, emotional intelligence refers to an ability to self-regulate your own emotions, be compassionate of others’ feelings, and exhibit good interpersonal skills.  Researchers have found that emotional skills are especially valuable for leaders.  Being able to read people’s emotions and react appropriately can serve leaders well in any business.  A recent study done by Chris Mott, a University of Florida doctoral student, evaluated the emotional intelligence of leaders along with connections to diet and exercise.  He concluded that leaders with healthier lifestyles also had higher emotional intelligence.

Leadership for many doesn’t come naturally, but the good news is that these skills can be learned.  We can develop emotional intelligence skills to better understand, empathize, and influence other people.  Leaders sometimes ignore subtle cues and signals from others or even themselves that can help them negotiate, manage conflict, and react constructively.  Learning people skills is even more important today since many rely on technical knowledge exclusively to communicate.  As John Maxwell points out: “people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  Good leaders help people identify their strengths and position them accordingly.  Discerning others’ needs to bolster their abilities is part of being an emotionally intelligent leader.  Effective leaders create an environment of collaboration and cooperation.

An essential skill for a leader is the ability to listen.  Unfortunately, many leaders focus more on speaking than listening and never learn how to motivate and inspire their team.  Active listening requires patience, thoughtful reflection, attentiveness, and empathy.  The ability to positively influence another’s life and grow a person through your actions and words is an important accomplishment.  Great leaders mentor and cultivate budding leaders with similar work values, integrity, and skills.  Leaders build relationships as they help others find their purpose in their career.


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