Listen, Learn, and Love - 3 Keys to Harmony

Dr. Joan's Advice

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Dr. Joan's Advice

Date: 06/14/2013

By: Dr. Joan

Subject: Fruitless Arguments Kill Love

Dear Love-Killer:

First of all, you are going to have to pick a different name. Love-Killer is too scary, although I agree that your description of the killer arguments between you and your partner are murderous, indeed. But yes, you will kill all love if you continue bickering. So, secondly, instead of killing love, kill the arguing.

Look, this habit between the two of you has to stop now if you wish to continue the relationship and enjoy any reasonable degree of health within it. The stress levels for each of you must be astronomical. Love cannot breathe such clogged air. Love will die.

Here’s what I urgently suggest: Immediately sit down with your partner and explain what I just said. Then pick one thing on which you and your partner can agree. It doesn’t matter what the point of agreement may be. Just write it down, set it out on the table, look at it, memorize it, study it together, and then let it grow. Believe me, a point of agreement is like a plant. If you water it, give it light, give it love, talk nicely about it, and honor it, it will indeed grow between you as a positive concept that links you together. And as time goes by, your points of agreement will multiply.

For example, a simple point of agreement might be that you both love babies. I say that because you revealed that you have a young baby whom you both adore. Get a paper and write down: "We both love babies, especially our baby." When you start to argue about who will change the baby, who will get up in the night for feedings, how to prepare the bottles, how much fresh air the baby should have, etc., STOP and look at your paper which by now should be plastered on your kitchen cabinet door or on your bathroom mirror. "We both love babies, especially our baby." Instead of arguing about the mechanics of caring for your child, focus on your mutual love for the sweet new life that has joined your family. You both love the baby, and you both want the best for your child.

Finally, get an authoritative book on babies and read about the topics which seem to cause disputes between you. Reading about an issue is like inviting a third person into the mix. Then find a compromise way to move forward and care for your baby. Remember that what lies at the HEART of the matter is that you both love the child.

Just as a point of agreement is like a plant which thrives when it is cared for and acknowledged, so also is love the same. Love is like a living tree which thrives with tender care. You are the caretakers of your love tree.

Promise me you will try my suggestions. Please let me know if you experience fewer disagreements or perhaps none at all. Keep love alive, nourish it, for the sake of your marriage and for the happiness of your beautiful baby.

Dr. Joan’s Harmony Key: Love thrives like a healthy tree when it is tended.

Date: 05/28/2013

By: Dr. Joan

Subject: Constructive Criticism Is Your Ally

Dear Crushed by Criticism:

So your boss called you in for an unscheduled evaluation and you felt panic ripple through your heart. Let me assure you, instant reviews happen all the time. Why? Because any grumble raised by anyone must be addressed and a record kept of how the complaint was handled as a matter of protection.

Who are supervisors and managers protecting? Well, they’re protecting themselves, or course, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But first and foremost, they are looking out for company well-being, aiming to improve quality of service, upgrade production output, increase revenues, and/or improve company morale, to say nothing of a whole host of other business parameters possibly affected by whatever caused them to conduct an unscheduled evaluation with an employee.

But they are protecting the employee as well, by explaining the complaint and helping the employee to make an adjustment, as needed.

That being said, I want to address your specific case, but I will change your circumstances to protect your anonymity. Your boss revealed that a customer complained about your use of casual language during a sales call. I will assume that casual language does not include obscene verbiage, swearing, or any type of offensive references because that type of communication would be a sure way to lose the sale. The term casual language could mean, for example, that you substituted “yeah” or “uh-huh” for “yes” or said “nope” instead of “no.”

My advice to you, dear friend, is to rethink your reaction to the surprise evaluation. Instead of feeling crushed, take the suggestions from your boss as constructive criticism. Surely you would want to know that your word usage offended your client. Now that you realize how your words sounded, you can tweak your language style. Ask someone to remind you each time you say “yeah” or “nope.” Then simply correct yourself. Practice, practice, practice. When calling on your next client, you will have increased confidence and you will make the sale.

The next time you have an opportunity to speak to your boss, please thank him/her for telling you the truth.

Dr. Joan’s Harmony Key: Put constructive criticism to work for your own good.

Date: 05/14/2013

By: Dr. Joan

Subject: When You Feel Trapped

Dear Trapped in a Corner:

I rush to reassure you. There is HOPE. You don’t say why you feel trapped and it does not matter. What I am going to advise that you do, applies to any situation. When we feel like we’re stuck and there is no path out of the corner, we must take action.

Here’s what I suggest you do:

1. Quickly RE-THINK what happened. For example, let’s say your boss blamed you for loss of a client. He accused you of “mouthing off” during a meeting and said the client withdrew his account, giving no explanation. But the boss claimed the loss of business was due to your comments to the client, when, in fact, the only thing you did was offer an alternative idea to a problem. That is not "mouthing off.” You know, in your heart, you did nothing wrong. Your conscience is clear. This RE-THINK step requires very little time. Move to the next step with alacrity.

2. SURVEY your environment. By that I mean, look around and see WHAT and/or WHO is nearby. Believe it or not, there is always a window of opportunity. Your job is to notice the window, open it, and crawl through. Or there may be a person ready to help, someone you least expect. For example, in our illustration, perhaps you can reach over to your desk, pick up the phone, and call the disappearing client. Find out for yourself if he left because you offended him, or if there was another reason that he would care to discuss. If he was offended, this is your chance to apologize. Often, we find that there are myriad reasons a client leaves. It just may be that the former client may have an offer in his pocket for you!

My friend, you will find a way out of the corner where you feel trapped. The critical point is, don’t just stand in the corner. Look for opportunities and take positive action. Remember Little Jack Horner? He sat in the corner, eating his pie (or some such goodie.) He stuck in his thumb, pulled out a plumb, and said, “What a good boy am I.” If you feel like you have been cornered, pull out a plumb.

Dr. Joan’s Harmony Key: Your happiness is in your own hands.

Date: 04/29/2013

By: Dr. Joan

Subject: Think First, Speak Later

To The Observer:

So you reacted harshly to a comment from your partner. There was a lot of yelling back and forth. The argument ended when you ordered your partner out of the house.

Meanwhile, your dog sat in the corner and observed the two of you, barked, then got up and left the room. Your dog probably would have liked to put his paws over his ears, as well.

Your observation was that you had a lot in common with your dog. Once you got your partner out of the house, you wanted to flee the scene yourself, get out, go somewhere else.

We human beings do have much in common with other members of the animal kingdom. But there is at least one major difference that pertains in your situation. Most sub-human animals REACT to circumstances. Most humans tend to PROCESS circumstances before reacting. Now, you could disagree. Some animals, such as apes, chimps, dolphins, dogs, horses, elephants, whales, octopi, parrots, and probably you could add others, have a type of ability to reason. But the basic fact is they cannot process on the same level that humans can process a situation. Perhaps we only differ by degree of intelligence from our sub-animal friends, but we do differ.

You had a huge advantage over your dog when your partner made his comment. But you missed the boat. You could have consciously given yourself time to think about what to say and how to act toward your partner. It sounds as though you reacted INSTANTLY, which is what a sub-human animal might do.

So ... next time, think about how you DO differ from your dog. You have a unique human gift to process a situation BEFORE you react. My suggestion is take a deep breath and think through what you want to say in reply to your partner, before you say it.

You owe your partner an apology. And throw one in for your dog who sat through it all.

Good luck and keep in touch.

Dr. Joan’s Harmony Key: Think first, speak and act later.

Date: 04/20/2013

By: Dr. Joan

Subject: Take Charge of Your Mistakes

Dear Big Guy:

I see a quadruple whammy here and it hit you right between your eyes, just as it should. First, your wife was making plans for a family reunion and all of a sudden you announced you were leaving town. Good grief! No wonder she was upset. Her extensive planning had to be scrubbed. Second, on top of that, your wife was hurt because she has been accompanying you on other recent business trips, and all of a sudden you’re heading out alone. Double trouble. The third insult is that you did not immediately take responsibility for keeping her in the dark. You blamed your boss for scheduling a last minute trip, and then you blamed your electronic calendar for not beeping to remind you to tell your wife about it. Fourth, you blamed your wife for not understanding.

This is your mess, Big Guy. It is not the fault of your boss or your electronic calendar, for goodness sake! Aren’t you the one who makes it beep? Did you put the trip in your calendar so it would beep? Least of all, it is not your wife’s fault that she is disappointed and upset.

When we try to blame our mistakes on someone or something else, like last minute changes in plans, or some mechanical screw-up, then we are not able to take responsibility in a mature fashion. Also, we are using a form of "control" over others when we try to cast blame onto our partner for not understanding that we are very important and have an extremely busy work schedule.

It doesn’t matter how the mistake occurred. What matters is that we take responsibility for making the mistake. When a person is adult enough to take responsibility, then that person is easy to be with and is viewed as trustworthy. That same person is able to talk about the mistake openly and make it right.

OK, you have taken the first step toward repairing your relationship with your wife. You admit here, in this forum, that you made a mistake. Now admit it to your wife, pronto, and ask her forgiveness. Make it right.

Gabby Douglas, the Olympic gymnast, observed, "You always have the opportunity to turn the upside down around and make it right side up!"

Dr. Joan’s Harmony Key: TAKE charge of your misTAKE.

Date: 04/12/2013

By: Dr. Joan

Subject: Your Feelings Belong to You

Dear Hurt Feelings:

I hope you are feeling better about yourself. It may help you to think about a simple fact. When we feel slighted, rejected, disappointed, left-out, ignored, or insulted, we tend to blame someone else for “hurting our feelings.” In reality, it is we who allow ourselves to feel injured. Think about it. You have complete control over your own feelings ... no one tells you how to feel. No is inside your brain ... just you. No one else processes the circumstances to which you react. It is all you, my dear! You are in the driver’s seat. You are in control.

So, when your partner told you that your new hair style was in need of combing or brushing, you say that you reacted by locking yourself in the bathroom. You felt “hurt” and cried. OK, then what did you do next? Did you look at yourself in the mirror? What did you see? Was your new hair style quite different from your previous style? How long did you remain in the bathroom? When your partner knocked on the door and apologized, what did you do? What happened next?

I’m not trying to make light of your feelings which you label as “feelings of being rejected.” What I want to emphasize is that you are in charge of your own feelings.

The next time you feel sad or rejected, and you have the urge to escape, stop yourself. Instead of running away, try these five basic steps, dear friend, and let me know how you get along.

1) Face the person and look directly into the person’s eyes.
2) Thank the person for the comment or the action.
3) Ask for clarification.
4) Express how you feel. Start with “I feel ...” (e.g., “I feel that my hair is my responsibility.”)
5) State your plan. Start with “My plan is ...” (e.g., “My plan is to continue trying various hair styles.”)

Dr. Joan’s Harmony Key: Your feelings belong to you; take possession.

Date: 04/04/2013

By: Dr. Joan

Subject: Quash Your Fear of Listening

Dear Afraid to Listen:

You are lucky! Why? Because you realize you have a fear of listening to others. Some folks don't even know they harbor such a fear. Many people block out what others are saying because they are afraid that what they hear may be a mind-changer. In other words, if I listen carefully to you, your ideas may be so spot-on that I will change my opinion. Your ideas may cause me to change my mind about something. And changing one’s mind can be scary.

But here is the reason you must get control of your fear and become a person who listens carefully from the heart. Listening to each other transforms our relationships. Good listening habits help us build healthy, supportive, loving, and long-lasting relationships with our family members, our friends, our co-workers.

Here are some tips on how to quash your fear of listening and improve your listening skills:

1) Prepare yourself. Tell yourself that you are flexible in your opinions and willing to consider other viewpoints.
2) Look at the person who is speaking (if you are in the same space) - concentrate on his/her eyes
3) Fold your hands and don't fiddle with your fingers
4) Take a deep breath and let it out slowly - not with a whoosh which may give an impression you are bored. Do this every 30 seconds or so to keep your mind revved with oxygen.
5) When the speaker is finished, remind yourself that you are flexible.
6) Count to 10 before you give feedback.

Please let me know if you feel better about listening to others.

Dr. Joan’s Harmony Key: One who listens fully builds good will in relationships.

Date: 03/17/2013

By: Dr. Joan

Subject: Consider Yourself First

Dear Giving Mom:

As women we tend to put others first: our husband, our partner, our children, our aging parents, our friends, and others who may be in need. From your description, you are a woman who has cared for other human beings, and even animals, all of your life. You started out by helping to raise your younger siblings. Today your immediate and extended family depends on you for loving assistance and you are at their beckon-call. At work, you have a position which calls upon you to give to others daily. You are active in your church which claims large amounts of your free time to give service to others.

I commend you for what you do for others. But you state you are unhappy in your primary relationships. Perhaps I can help by suggesting a small but vital change you can make instantly.

There is one word you must learn to use in more of your sentences: that word is “I.” Repeat after me: “I am important.” “I have needs.” “I have goals.” “I like ...” “I want ...”

Put yourself first in just one of your relationships and see what happens. By setting your goals and considering your needs, you will become more confident and secure in that relationship. Then try expanding the technique of “self-consideration” in each of your relationships. Your happiness will grow like never before and you will spread your joy to all those you love.

Dr. Joan’s Harmony Key: I matter.

Date: 03/13/2013

By: Dr. Joan

Subject: Guilt is a Roller Coaster

Dear Ashamed Husband:

Guilt is a roller coast, my friend, and like the real deal, it gives us butterflies, bruised knees, and sore muscles. It also makes us scream out loud. And after the ride, we feel sick, sick to death of ourselves for what we did ... shame rears its head.

You say you feel so ashamed of your unfaithfulness in your marriage. Let me tell you the truth: shame is something we create within ourselves. Yes, you behaved abominably. You’ve admitted it. You have told your wife the truth, and according to you, she has forgiven you. You are married to someone who wants to stay with you and she is a forgiving person. Count yourself lucky and then count your blessings.

Your first job is to get rid of the imposters called Guilt and Shame. How do you do that? You forgive yourself. Go now, look in the mirror, and say: “I forgive myself. Guilt no longer has power over me. I am no longer ashamed.”

Your second job is to rebuild your marriage. Go back to the mirror and say: “I will focus on earning my wife’s trust. That is where my energies will go from now on.”

Now that you’ve squared things with your wife, and you and she will be very busy re-establishing harmony in your relationship, you must throw guilt and shame out the window, boot them out the door, and tell them never to come back.

Dr. Joan’s Harmony Key: When Truth lives in your house, there is no room there for Guilt or Shame.

Date: 03/07/2013

By: Dr. Joan

Subject: Let Go of Resentment

Dear Teacher:

You say that you are ashamed for feeling resentful of your co-worker. Both of you teach the same grade and your co-worker was selected for an award, but you were not. Let’s explore three questions, get to the bottom of what is bothering you, and help you move ahead.

Question 1. Why do you feel resentful? I’m guessing your answer is that you thought you should have won the award. It may not surprise you to hear that others thought differently. There were judges, I assume, who weighed the evidence, whatever that may have been. Were the judges honest? We must assume they made their decision “fair and square.” This knowledge frees you. You can now set aside your resentment. Knock that chip off, square those now burdenless shoulders, and answer the next two questions.

Question 2. Have you congratulated your co-worker? If not, go to her immediately, extend your hand, and give her sincere congratulations on her award. Better yet, give her a hug.

Question 3. Have you ever sat with this co-worker and listened to her, talked with her, about anything significant? If not, arrange a time to do just that. You might present a problem to her that bothers you and ask her advice. Or ask her if there is a project that the two of you might work on together, perhaps engaging both of your classes in that project. I’m not a betting person, but I’ll bet, if you and your co-worker could team-teach on one unit, one subject, one project, the two of you would develop a lasting bond which would enrich each of your lives ... and the lives of your students.

Let me know, please, when you shake off all resentment and move forward with your life.

Dr. Joan’s Harmony Key: Our load gets lighter as every chip falls from our shoulders.

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