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Control: Compete or Compliment

Mankind has been given a wonderful, albeit dangerous, gift called free-will. With this free-will we make choices that self-determines outcome. To use personal control is within one's scope to compete (disconnect) or to compliment (connect) with others.

You cannot control another person’s actions. Not only can you not control another's actions, you cannot control how s/he thinks or feels. To project your thoughts and feelings onto another is to magnify your own frustration.

For every leader who steps forth and takes charge, there’s a behind-the-scenes person who needs to be shown what to do. To denigrate either is failure to appreciate their unique place in this universe. The follower is no less valuable than the leader; s/he just likes the shadows better.

The same is true with those who openly show emotions and those who are hesitant to connect. It does not mean their love is any less deep; it means their way of expression is more subdued.

Everyone is such a wonderful mix of personality traits, chemical make-up and genes combined with life experiences, education, age differences, skills, talents and opinions that it is a wonder any of us get along. Our interaction with others is hard-wiring as well as conscious choices. The personality who races through life like the hare can be an irritant to the individual who prods along like the turtle. And vice-versa. Yet both cross the finish line. Each gets the job done.

A line in the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi is, “Lord, may I seek to understand more than to be understood.” As we choose to honor another’s humanity, his differences become less stark. As we choose to appreciate another’s creativity, her disparity becomes less important.

The opposite is also true. As we choose to honor our unique gifting without one-upmanship or one-downmanship, we find our place in the universe. As we appreciate our quirky personality without sanction or denial, we understand how others relate to us. As we develop our own shadow side, we increase our tolerance. As we balance give and take, we grow in compassion.

To accept what is, is to live in the moment. To accept what is, is to be a problem solver rather than a complainer. To accept what is, is to give yourself choices in your response. You can keep the pressure on and destroy relationship. You can detach completely and dissolve the relationship. You can work with what is and modify your involvement. The less energy you spend on fixing another, the more you have for self-improvement.

Acceptance does not mean approval. Acceptance means the only person’s actions, thoughts or emotions you can control are your own.

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Speak Up

It happens almost unnoticed. You overlook a discrepancy in an attempt to be nice. But it keeps happening. Rather than speak up about the real issue, you make cutting remarks or unpleasant facial expressions. You begin to “mind-read” about his/her meaning or intentions. The relationship becomes strained.

You do not effect change by remaining passive. Making a decision and speaking up does. Prioritizing your life and sticking with it does. Stepping out of your comfort (discomfort) zone does. Taking a risk to ruffle feathers does. Look at the larger picture and pick two or three things you want to be different. Concentrate on those and add to as you gain strength to be your own person.

You cannot control another person but you can take back control of your life. This upsets the “business as usual” routine and, by default, the other person does change; either for the better, for the worse, or a casual no big deal.

Think through your position by giving careful consideration to both sides. What the deal-breaker is and how you may have unwittingly allowed it to progress. Even so, carefully worded phrases may be misunderstood. No matter your clarity in expressing your desires, you cannot control how the other party will receive it. Or what will be said in return.

Remaining passive is not peacemaking. Sometimes making peace requires roiling the waters for scum to come to the top to be skimmed off. At times, things need to be disturbed so they can be settled. There may be accusations of your inconsistency. Be willing to listen and consider without automatically defending self.

Addressing the issue shows you will not remain silent and just take it. It helps to set needed boundaries. It shows you have guts and will not allow the disregard to continue. It demonstrates you are reasonable and willing to solve issues. It expresses your value in the relationship.

Please share your comments or experiences.

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Overcoming Criticism

Nobody likes to be criticized, yet there are times when critical input is, well, critical. When do you want to know that the boat won’t float? While it is still ashore? Or when it is in the middle of the ocean?

Even though the critique may be hurtful, one can respond in a manner that fosters relationship as well as self-improvement. When we graciously handle the initial sting, rational thinking returns.

Disconnect to reconnect. When you feel you are attacked, give pause. Take a deep breath to expel pent up emotions and reconnect with unbiased thinking. Reply with civility and tempered emotional detachment.

Help the critic to rethink his position with a suggestion such as, “Should we scrap the project completely or are there parts that are salvageable?”

Respond rather than react. Reacting is like pushing the “send” button too quickly. It is gone and you can’t take it back. Responding is giving rational thought before defending or denying. Responding is the willingness to be open and vulnerable.

Reframe the situation. In old black and white negatives, black is shown as white and white is shown as black. Rather than automatically dismissing a critique, give it the benefit of the doubt.

Be objective by asking yourself evaluating questions such as:

“What may I have overlooked?”

“What is coloring my view-point?”

“What additional information could be needed?”

Choose to value the person.
In any exchange, all we can give is information. His/her information may or may not be valid; his/her personhood always is. We get comfortable with our ideas and mode of expression. “If the shoe fits…” wearing it may be more palpable with a cushion. The decision to make relationship more important than being right can wonderfully lead to both.

Overcoming criticism is a two-sided coin: how to receive the information and how to respond to the informer. Through thought and practice both can be mastered in a win-win approach.

Please let me hear from you. Thank you for your friendship, your business and your continued support. Let’s reach our goals together.

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Leave 'Em Wanting More

Google gives several speculations as to who coined the phrase “leave ‘em wanting more”. Some say it started with show business. If your audience wants more, they will be repeat customers. Regardless, the underlying message suggests stopping while you are ahead. Or stop in order to get ahead.

To give too much renders one under-appreciated.

TMJ (too much information). To unleash excess information on another may be put you in a bad light. Too much complaining, even if valid, makes you appear petty. Too many details, even if your passion, become boring to those with a cursory interest. Too much self-depreciation makes others uncomfortable. Too much self-aggrandizement spurs companions to the exit door.

TMT (too much time). Time is a valuable gift life has given to each of us. How we use it is our gift to others. Giving too much time to a project can produce undue stress. Giving too much time to an individual can breed discontentment. Taking too much time to make a decision can leave one either behind or stuck.

TMS (too much stuff). Giving can be a touchy subject. When gifts are forced, the giver is often resented. How many toys do the grandkids need? Or even want? When gifts are thoughtless they are often under-appreciated. Is your giving in keeping with what you want to give (i.e. want them to have) rather that what the recipient wants to be given. Are you willing to give what the recipient prefers even if not to your liking? Or does it become something to be hidden and displayed only to appease guilt?

TMH (too much help).
Reaching out is a noble attribute and can be an excellent way to show that you care. From the giver’s standpoint, the help may be minimal, but from the receiver’s view, it may be a boundary breaker. Harmony in knowledge and skill sets renders a pleasant exchange. Ask politely before jumping in and doing. If part-way through tension suggests too much, graciously stop without offense.

Psychiatrists Carl Jung said that others are mirrors reflecting us back to us. When you sense tension from another, allow that to mirror a need to self-evaluate one’s own approach.

In what ways might you on the verge of “too much”? Project a little mystery. Not to be difficult, just to be less predictable. It’s to “leave ‘em wanting more.”

I'd love to hear from you. Please comment.

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A Case Against Perfection

Perhaps Ray Crock, the founder of McDonalds, said it best: “It is better to be green and growing than to be ripe and rotting.” Thus is the basis of my case again perfectionism.

Picture it. In your mind see an apple at the pinnacle of perfection. The color is vibrant, the juices are succulent, the aroma is sweet and your senses are heightened. Yet, a mere twenty-four hours later, the fruit is beginning to wilt. To lose flavor. To rot. To be nothing but a past memory.

Relieve the stress. Stress is a natural part of life - a good part - and becomes destructive only when we do not allow recovery time. Nothing and no one can operate at 100% energy and 100% efficiency 100% of the time. Down time is not a waste of energy; it is a regenerator. And recovery time increases creativity to boot.

Good is good. Look at what you have done and see what is good about it. Also look at the areas for improvement. Rather than scraping the whole project, tweak the defects and continue.

Stop beating yourself up; it serves no productive purpose. Self-evaluate? “Yes”. Self-condemnation? “No. Absolutely not!” C’s are passing grades. To celebrate a C motivates to achieve B’s and A’s. To condemn C or B work, disheartens. It places nervous tension on creativity.

Go for excellence. You may question the difference in perfection and excellence as mere semantics. Maybe it is more the attitude in which a job is performed rather than the flawless finished product.

Excellence is doing quality work. Excellence is doing the best you can in an environment of learning so you can do better the next time. To be perfect smacks of getting everything just right or suffering the consequences of failing to measure up.

Excellence releases creativity to try, fail and try again. Excellence releases energy; perfection saps energy.

Enjoy the fruit of your labor. C’s are passing grades, so celebrate. You do not really enjoy anything until you share it. Good enough is good enough. Receive it – in yourself and in others.

It is difficult to get to where you want to go without acknowledging where you are now. Accepting what is mysteriously frees you to inspired action and a positive focus on success. And you begin to see that you are getting better and better.

Now, what do you think? Let me hear from you.

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