Archive for May 2011

Embracing Change

May 26, 2011

(For this week’s audio podcast, click here.)

We recently went into escrow on our house, but don’t yet have a new house to move into.  As excited as we are about our move (just across the San Francisco Bay from Concord to Marin County), it feels pretty scary to not yet know exactly where we’ll be living next month.

With this big change and a few others coming soon, I’ve been noticing how I deal with and relate to change.  I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship to change.  I love the excitement, growth opportunity, and newness of change.  But, at the same time, I can easily fall into states of worry, fear, and overwhelm when facing change, especially big ones.

How do you feel about change?  While it may depend on the specific change (i.e. one we want versus one we don’t want, or one that seems exciting versus one that seems hard or even “bad.”), most of us seek and fear change simultaneously.  Even positive changes can be unsettling or even downright upsetting. And, while each of us has a unique personality and perspective, many of us tend to be creatures of habit.

Change is one of the main “constants” in life, ironically.  However, we don’t usually spend all that much time thinking about our relationship to change or specifically expanding on our ability to adapt to change – we usually deal with it from a place of survival, reaction, or necessity.

What if we embraced change more consciously and learned how to not only “manage” it, but thrive through it.  Whether you’re someone who enjoys change and handles it quite well, or you hate it and get totally stressed out by it, all of us can benefit from embracing change more deliberately and supporting those around us as we all go through the big and small changes of life – especially these days.

Here are some things you can do and think about as you deal with change in your own life – so as to more effectively and peacefully deal with it when it shows up.

– Become consciously aware of your relationship to change. Knowing how you deal with change, what stresses you out about it, what allows you to navigate it most effectively, what kind of support you need as you move through the change process, and more, are all important elements of embracing change.  It’s rarely the circumstances themselves that cause us stress or difficulty; it’s our relationship to them. By altering our relationship to change, we can become much more peaceful and successful in dealing with it.

– Acknowledge and express your true feelings (especially your fear). When change occurs, there are usually a number of different emotions we experience.  We tend to focus most of our attention on the details, specifics, and circumstances, not so much on our emotions. However, it is our emotional experience and reaction that dictates much of our effectiveness (or lack thereof) in dealing with change.  Whether it’s something we consider “good” or “bad,” fear is almost always associated with change, because we’re moving into something unknown and often uncomfortable.  By acknowledging and expressing our fear (and other emotions) in an authentic way, we can take back our power from the situation, get real about how we’re feeling, and move through it with more ease and grace.  There’s nothing wrong with any of the emotions we experience during change, the problems begin to arise when we don’t express our emotions authentically.

– Get support. As with most things in life, change is much easier to deal with when we get help.  We don’t have to go through it all alone and there are probably many people in our lives who have gone through similar changes before and can support us in the process.  Asking for and receiving help from other people can be challenging for many of us and can feel quite vulnerable.  However, one of my favorite sayings is, “The answer’s always ‘no’ if you don’t ask.”  Getting support not only makes dealing with change easier for us, it allows other people to be of service, which is something most people love to have the opportunity to do in life.

– Look for the gold. There is “gold’ in the midst of every change – even the most painful and difficult ones.  When change is more “positive,” it can seem easier to find the gold in it. However, positive change can also be tricky because we don’t understand why we still may experience fear or discontent and sometimes won’t acknowledge these and other feelings due to our own embarrassment.  With change that is more “negative,” it can often be hard to find or see the gold.  When dealing with difficult changes in our lives, being able to authentically get in touch with the gifts, blessings, and growth opportunities available to us can help as we navigate our way through the experience and also allow us to evolve in the process.

Have empathy and compassion for yourself and others in going through change. It’s not easy for most of us.  By embracing change we become not only more effective in dealing with it, but more peaceful, present, and powerful in our lives.

How do you feel about change? How effective are you in dealing with change?  What can you do to embrace change in your life in a more peaceful and positive way? Share your ideas, commitments, thoughts, dreams, and more on my blog below.

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The Importance of Live Conversations

May 12, 2011

For this week’s audio podcast, click here.

Have you ever had a conversation, disagreement, or conflict escalate over email?  Do you sometimes find yourself engaging in difficult or emotional conversations electronically because it seems “easier,” only to regret it later on?  If you’re anything like me and most of the people I know and work with, you can probably answer “yes” to both of these questions.

In the past few months I’ve had a couple conflicts with important people in my life get blown way out of proportion, mainly because I engaged in them via email, instead of talking live to those involved.  As I look back on these and other similar situations I’ve experienced in the past, I can see that it was my fear to connect live and my poor judgment in using written communication that contributed to the increased conflict and lack of resolution.

Why do we do this (even though most of us, myself included, know better)?  First of all, email (or other forms of electronic communication – texting, Facebook, Twitter, and more), tends to be the primary mode of communication these days for many of us – both personally and professionally.

Second of all, it can sometimes seem easier for us to be honest and direct in writing because we can say what is true for us without having to worry about the in-the-moment reaction of the other person.

And third, electronic communication (or even one-way verbal communication, i.e. voice mail) takes way less courage than having a live, real conversation with another human being (on the phone or in person).  When we talk to people live we have to deal with our fear of rejection, fear of being hurt, and our tendency to “sell out” on ourselves and not speak our full truth.  Avoiding the live conversation and choosing to do it in writing sometimes feels “safer” and can allow us to say things we might otherwise withhold.

Regardless of why we choose to engage in important conversations via these one-way forms of communication (email, text, voice mail, etc.), it is much less likely for us to work through conflicts, align with one another, and build trust and connection when we avoid talking to each other live about important stuff.

Anything we’re willing to engage in electronically can usually be resolved much more quickly, effectively, and lovingly by having a live conversation, even if we’re scared to do so.  The fear may be real, but most often the “threat” is not.

Here are some things you can do to practice engaging in live conversations with people more often and, ultimately, to resolve your conflicts more successfully.

– Be clear about your intention – Before sending an email, text, etc. (or even leaving a voice mail), ask yourself, “What’s my intention?”  If you’re about to engage in something that is in any way emotionally charged, about a conflict, or important on an inter-personal level, check in to make sure you’re not simply sending the message to avoid dealing with it and the person(s) involved directly.  Tell the truth to yourself about how you feel, what you want, and why you’re about to engage in the specific type and form of communication you’re choosing.

– Don’t send everything you write – Writing things out without a filter and just letting all of our thoughts and feelings flow can be a very important exercise, especially when we’re dealing with a conflict or something that’s important to us.  However, we don’t always have to send everything we write!  It’s often a good idea to save an email in your drafts folder and read it again later (maybe after you’ve calmed down a bit or even the following day).

– Request a call or a meeting – Before engaging in a long, emotional email exchange, it can often be best to simply pick up the phone or send a note to request a specific time to talk about the situation live.  Face to face is always best if you can make it happen, but if that poses a big challenge (i.e. you’re busy and it might take a while to set up) or is not possible (i.e. you don’t live close enough to the person to see them easily), talking on the phone is another option.  A great email response can simply be, “Thanks for your note, this seems like something that would better to discuss live than by email, let’s set up a time to talk later today or this week.”

– Speak your truth, without judgment or blame – When you do engage in the live conversation (in person or on the phone), focus on being REAL, not RIGHT.  This means that you speak your truth by using “I statements,” (I think, I feel, I notice, I want, etc.).  As soon as we move into blame or judgment, we cut off the possibility of any true resolution.  Own your judgments and notice if you start to blame the other person(s) involved.  If so, acknowledge it, apologize for it, and get back to speaking your truth in a real way, not accusing them of stuff.

– Get support from others – When we’re dealing with emotionally charged conflicts, it’s often a good idea to reach out for support from other people we trust and respect.  If at all possible, try to get feedback from people who will be honest with you, won’t just tell you what you want to hear and agree with you no matter what, and who aren’t too emotionally connected to the situation themselves.  Whether it is to bounce ideas off of, get specific coaching or feedback, or simply to help you process through your own fear, anger, or tendency to over-react (which many of us do in situations like this), getting support from those around us in the process is essential.  We don’t have to do it alone and we’re not the only ones who struggle with things like this.

Living life, doing our work, and interacting with the other human beings around us can be wonderfully exciting and incredibly challenging (or anywhere in between).  Conflicts are a natural and beautiful part of life and relationships.  We can learn so much about ourselves and others through engaging in productive conflict and important conversations.

The ultimate goal isn’t to live a conflict-free life; it’s to be able to engage in conflict in a way that is productive, healthy, kind, and effective.  When we remember that live conversations, even if they can be scary at first, are always the best way to go, we can save ourselves from needless worry, stress and suffering – and in the process resolve our conflicts much more quickly, easily, and successfully.

Are there situations in your life that require live conversations where you have either been avoiding or emailing – and they’re not getting resolved?  What can you do to address these situations directly – and have live conversations with those people? Share your ideas, commitments, thoughts, dreams, and more on my blog below.

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