Is Your Gratitude Inadvertent or Deliberate?

A contemporary philosopher once said that one of our greatest weaknesses as a people would be ingratitude.  In the week in which we celebrate Thanksgiving, it is appropriate to contemplate all that we have been given.  All of us have had successes, failures, defeats, and victories, all of which afford us the opportunity to learn, grown, and improve our life’s experience. As we reflect on these gifts and experiences, I’d like to focus on different ways we experience gratitude: inadvertent gratitude and deliberate gratitude.  Inadvertent gratitude comes to us as a reaction to experiences that cause us to stop and think...

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Dad Blew It

Last night I had an opportunity to shoot video segments for a book trailer in preparation for the launch of my new book, Overcoming Fake Talk. After the shoot was over and everyone had left, I had the chance to sit and visit with the producer and creator of our video segment, a very talented man I became friends with years ago when we were both river guides on the Colorado River. I had not seen my friend for 35 years until the evening of the videotaping, so obviously we had some catching up to do. Our talk eventually turned...

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How Do I Create Engagement When Someone Won't Engage?

Sometimes you must admit to yourself that no matter what you say or do, no matter what feeling you convey, you can’t make another person engage in conversation. You can lay out the welcome mat and invite them in, but that doesn’t mean they will accept your invitation. And why not? They are uncomfortable, perhaps even afraid. But their reticence says more about them than it does about you. That’s why it is important to never give up on those who are slow to engage or who won’t engage at all. Whatever holds them back is a reflection of perhaps...

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Are You Aware and Conscious?

I was absolutely stressed out yesterday. You know--when emotion overcomes you, when people have violated your expectations, when everyone wants a piece of you, when problems are raging out of control like forest fires, and when there just doesn't seem to be any relief in sight. Such a day is not only emotionally draining, but seems to push one to flip the “autopilot” switch. We end up focusing more on task completion in those days than we do on what’s happening in the moment. In a sense, we lose our conscious rationality.  In the midst of all this, someone came into...

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Are You Living Your Legacy?

Finally, it’s about that time of the year when we slow down, give a sigh of relief, and become more aware of where we are at the moment. You can look back at the year and see where you have been and where you seem to be headed, with the goal of determining whether the path you are on will take you where you want to go. It is not often that we stop and look at ourselves to assess the value of our activity in light of what we claim is most important.   I had an opportunity to do this...

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Prepare or Beware

Q: I heard you speak at a conference recently, and you mentioned that it is important to prepare to hold a potentially difficult conversation. You didn’t elaborate, though, and I would like to know some specifics about how preparation can help a conversation be more successful.   A: Preparing to hold a potentially difficult conversation will dramatically increase the success of the conversation. Sometimes the way our brains work can sabotage our interactions; people who don’t prepare just might fall prey to their thinking. Three different aspects of the brain play a big role in a conversation: the unconscious, subconscious, and conscious...

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How Do You Manage a Blamer?

Q: I have a coworker who is quite negative. In fact, he is always blaming me when I don’t meet his expectations. Sometimes I am shocked to learn--after the fact--what his expectations were! What could I do to defuse this person’s blaming behavior? A: I want to address your coworker’s negativity, emotional reacting, and blaming behavior. Understanding Negativity You need to recognize that this person’s negativity is really an outward expression of what is going on inside him. Like the rest of us, your coworker can’t see past what he knows--the negativity you hear from him is expressing his wants and desires in terms of...

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Giving Feedback to the Clueless

Q: I am an internal consultant. A Senior Executive in our organization asked me to provide feedback to one of his leaders who scored poorly on the company’s 360° leadership evaluation. The Senior Exec wouldn’t allow me to view the leader’s feedback report--he told me to just deliver the negative feedback to the leader so he can improve.

 To make matters worse, the poorly performing leader really has a blind spot about his leadership ability. I mean he is really clueless about how he comes across to others! I can totally imagine him saying something like this to me at the beginning of the session: “I did great, didn’t I?” 

I feel like there’s no way that I can really make a difference with this leader. What would you do in this situation?

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The Lost Opportunity

I have been haunted this year by an event that occurred in January. I am a member of a men’s service organization that meets weekly to learn from each other and plan service activities in our community. One of the elder members suffers from a pseudo-Parkinson’s disease. Over the years, I have watched his condition deteriorate from using canes, to a walker, to a wheelchair and most recently to a motorized wheelchair. You know what they look like--a seat out of a Star Wars fighter mounted on wheels and controlled by a small joystick that allows the driver to turn right or left or to move forward or backward. On the day in question, he and I arrived at the door of our meeting rooms at the same time. I smiled and patiently held the door for him as he nervously worked at navigating

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Why Does Giving Advice Sometimes Backfire?

Q: My spouse tells me that I am too quick to give her and our children advice. She says it feels like I am always telling her what to do. That’s certainly not my intention, but whenever I offer my opinion, she accuses me of “advicing” her. Is it wrong to give advice? Or is there a way to give advice without creating so much defensiveness in other people? A: Giving unsolicited advice is what causes problems. Advice is necessarily preceded by a judgment or evaluation--which is based on our interpretation of the situation. Although you may sincerely intend to help or assist someone, giving unsolicited advice sends a variety of underlying messages which are all based on...

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Sarcasm Signals Disagreement

Q: I have a dear friend who seems to relish taking verbal “jabs” at me. Over the last couple of years, the number of his sarcastic comments has really increased. Probably because I have become more sensitive to my friend’s verbal assaults, I have started to notice that a couple of my teammates are using sarcastic comments in our meetings. Why all the sarcasm? Is there anything I can do about it? A: “Sarcasm” was first defined in the 1500’s as meaning “to tear flesh, gnash the teeth, or speak bitterly.” In our day, sarcasm seems to be used for a...

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How Can I Discover the Source of My Anger?

Q: I am the person that you wrote about last month! My children and my spouse have told me that I am always angry. When I have asked for examples, they have told me that I am “too direct, too blunt, and cold.” I really didn’t accept what they were saying until some of my close associates at work started asking why I am so upset all the time. Finally I’ve had to admit that I need to listen to their  feedback and begin to believe them. How can I learn about the source of my anger? And is there...

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Why Are Some People Always Angry?

Q:  I have a manager who is always angry. She gets angry when I do as she has asked. She gets angry when I don’t do as she has asked. It seems like she is always angry at everyone all the time. Everyone on our team goes to great lengths to avoid her. In fact, the first thing we do every morning is assess the level of her irritation before the day gets under way. Why are some people always angry, and is there anything you recommend that would help the situation?   A: Let’s take a moment to define “anger.” Anger...

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Handling a Criticizer

Q: I am a team leader, and I have an individual on my team that I wish would keep his mouth shut. He is constantly making snide remarks about his teammates or openly criticizing their performance. When he does this, there is always an awkward silence followed by less engagement and participation afterward. It’s like he wants to show that he is Mr. Know-it-all. What would you do in this situation?   A: Unfortunately this is a common occurrence on many teams. Failing to address the situation will continue to impact collaboration and erode teamwork, and may even work to undermine your...

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The Gift of Ourselves

I was dashing through the Atlanta airport to catch a flight out West. When I finally arrived at my gate and had a moment to pause, I started to notice what was happening around me. People were hiding behind their newspapers, texting on their smartphones, or standing shoulder to shoulder like a mass of penguins. I was shocked by how few people were actually talking and connecting with those around them. I thought, “Certainly on Thanksgiving weekend, people would show a little more cheer.” Little did I know, I would soon have an opportunity to connect with another person. I boarded...

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