Posted in food, gifts, know better do better, marriage, mindset, thoughtfulness

Sweets for your sweetheart

Valentine’s Day is coming up (if January ever ends)…

A gift that provokes anxiety or guilt (or both!) is not a good gift.

If your partner is reducing or eliminating junk food, buying chocolate, cookies, candies, etc. is not a thoughtful thing to do.

Likewise, if you’re reducing or eliminating junk food, don’t ask for or expect junk food. Unless this is a special occasion.

In any of these cases, perhaps have a conversation ahead of time about it so everyone is on the same page.

“I know that you’ve always gotten me this fabulous box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day, but I don’t want to have that much chocolate on hand any more. How about [a smaller portion/ something else/ we just go out] instead?”

Surely there are ways to show and receive love that aren’t filled with sugar? Maybe even aren’t edible at all?

Posted in know better do better, marriage, mindset, parenting, socializing, thoughtfulness, tips

And instead of but

When a sentence has two parts—the first part positive and the second part negative—the conjunction makes a big difference in how the complete sentence is received.

“You played that song really well, but this note should be two beats.”

“You played that song really well, and this note should be two beats.”

“You played that song really well. Next time, play this note two beats.”

Those sentences feel different as the receiver.

“But” in the middle negates the first half of the sentence.

“And” in the middle leaves both parts of the sentence intact.

This trick (that is easy to do but and hard to remember) improves message reception in nearly any context: work, spouse, kids, friends, teammates.

Of course—there is a boundary on your responsibility for your message being received as intended. And there’s context. Simply using and instead of but doesn’t change those variables.

Someone who is programmed to reject praise and focus on negative isn’t going to hear the goodness up front, regardless what follows. (That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.)

Someone whose work is never good enough or who has been pounded with criticism perhaps should be offered only the compliment, with the second half saved for just before the next attempt. (“Remember when you do this to include xyz detail.”)

And, because I have a child who is That Age, I can’t write a post with that many “but”s in it without thinking “chicken butt!”

Posted in connections, know better do better, marriage, mindset, parenting, podcasts, thoughtfulness, tips, vulnerability

Apologies

Apologies.

We tend not to be good at them.

We tend to force children to mutter them insincerely.

We get in the habit of muttering them insincerely, if we mutter them at all.

The first place I heard an excellent, clear explanation of what an apology should be was in Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture at Carnegie Melon. (To be clear: I wasn’t there; I saw it online.) It was given and recorded in 2008 and the linked video has almost 20 million views. But the one I saw was a reprise on Oprah. It’s much shorter; you can watch it here. (It has a lot of good stuff in it.)

He says (starting at 7:40 in the shorter clip) that a proper apology has three parts:

  1. I’m sorry.
  2. It was my fault.
  3. How do I make it right?

A long time later, I heard an episode of Radiolab that was all about apologies. Legal, religious, secular. The history of apologies. It was fascinating and infuriating and frustrating and well worth the hour. (There’s about 5 minutes of business at the front end that might not interest you.)

But what prompted me to put this out to you today was this article from the Harvard Business Review that a friend texted to me the other day.

Like Pausch’s lecture, it includes three components of a good apology. The three pieces are a little bit different:

  1. Admit you were wrong and you’re sorry.
  2. Show them you understand the effect it had on them. (This would be amazing as a receiver.)
  3. Tell them what you’re going to do differently in the future so it doesn’t happen again.

But what really made this article impactful was the story it told prior to getting into the general “this is how you do it” part. (As per yesterday, it’s always the story we connect with…)

In the end, with mediation, someone at work apologized to someone else at work for being a jerk, and the man being apologized to broke down and cried. Because he had never been apologized to. For anything.

Part of me finds this hard to believe, but much of me sees life as it is, sees people as they are, sees my own experience, and believes that this is true.

So … own your shit. (This seems to be less and less lately.) Acknowledge it to the appropriate person or people. See what you can do to fix it, whether in the present or in the future. Make the world better by making your connections better.

Posted in audience participation, ebb & flow, know better do better, marriage, mental health, mindset, parenting, thoughtfulness

Can you go a month without complaining?

A while back, I read a few articles about complaining and how it rewires your brain. Not in a good way.

Also a while back, I used to run 30-day challenges on Facebook.

Two of those challenges have been “life-changing” as per feedback from people in the group.

One was no added sugars (which we ended up doing for 45 days, because we started mid-month) and the other was no complaining.

The no complaining challenge was inspired by a meme challenging the reader to go 24 hours without complaining and “see how your life changes.”

Why not expand 24 hours into a month?

It made us all aware of how much we complain. Several people over the course of the month said it significantly improved their marriages, whether because they had a habit of complaining to or about their spouses.

We had interesting conversations about the differences between talking about negative things and complaining. (How would you distinguish between the two?)

I wrote a bit about my experience at the mid-month mark:

Talking about my no-complaining challenge last night, I was asked if I genuinely feel good, or if I’m just stuffing all the bad stuff. Thought about it, and 95% of the time, I genuinely feel good. The rest of the time, the feeling good does come later. I don’t, after two weeks, feel like I’m accumulating crappiness and am at some point going to explode.

I was thinking about this more, and I think it’s a simple shift in what gets attention. (Simple does not necessarily equal easy, though it’s not been as difficult as I expected. Especially because it positively reinforces itself constantly.)

For example, yesterday, I felt like crap. I’ve been fighting off a cold, and the cold was slowly starting to win. I was slightly stuffy and had absolutely no energy. Something I’d eaten or drunk made my stomach hurt every time I ate or drank (severely bloated), and I just felt miserable.

Any time prior to these two weeks, yesterday, I would have complained to people about not feeling well. I would have complained to myself about not feeling well. Instead, I just did what I needed to do and just didn’t talk about how my body felt. (Not lying, just not bringing it up.)

And you know what? I had a good day. It wasn’t a great day—I felt like crap—but it was definitely a good day. And I don’t think it would have been if I’d been complain-y all day. (I did slip twice, but both short-lived.)

Today? I feel better. Energy is back. Most congestion is gone. Tummy feels better (and I don’t look like I swallowed a balloon).

Happy Friday, everyone!

Recently, I’ve made this adjustment again. Not avoiding complaining altogether, necessarily, but minimizing.

I don’t run the 30-day challenges any more, but I am going to take this opportunity to challenge you to eliminate complaining today. And tomorrow. Maybe the whole weekend? Then see how long you can go.

See what differences you notice.

Report back.

Posted in connections, ebb & flow, know better do better, marriage, mindset, parenting, podcasts, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Podcast quote: problem maintenance

As I mentioned a bit ago, I have been bingeing on Where Should We Begin? by Esther Perel.

The first episode of the second season (“You Need Help to Help Her”), she’s talking with a couple who has a young adult daughter with problems. Most of the details of the episode aren’t relevant to this post, but if you have a child with any sort of mental health issue, you might gain some insight from it.

Basically, there weren’t (known) problems, and suddenly, there were big problems, and the whole family dynamic and structure changed.

At the end, Esther is summing things up, and she says this (emphasis mine):

“When mom speaks of the holistic view, the way I would define it is this. I am a family therapist. I think systemically. I think about problems in context, problems in an ecology, not just what causes them but what maintains them. How is the relationship system, how is the family organized around the problem?”

Maybe you’ve thought about this before, but I’ve never thought specifically about problem maintenance (when the problem doesn’t start as a systemic one).

I’ve been thinking about this and am starting to apply it to my closest relationships.

  • What am I doing that maintains problems? (within my level of awareness)
  • How can I change that? (within my level of control)
  • Where can I connect disconnects to make life happier for everyone who lives here? (within my levels of awareness and control)

Hopefully, in time, we can all connect in to that, but I’m starting first, and we’ll go from there.

Blew my mind.

Problem maintenance.