Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Anger on the Defense

In today's show, I shared the story of one of my clients at the battered women's shelter who had an issue with her son and some other children. When some of the mothers  accused her child of hitting and cursing at their children, she immediately went on the defensive in an effort to protect him. She made several critical mistakes in the way she handled this situation:

1. While she admitted her child was not an angel, she failed to acknowledge that he may have actually committed the offense.
2. Rather than deal with her child, she diverted the attention onto the other children, informing their mothers that they are not well behaved. Then she attacked their parenting skills. This was done in an attempt to take the focus off the real issue - her son's alleged bad behavior.
3. This verbal altercation was followed by extreme measures. She decided to keep her son confined to their room, no longer allowing him to interact with any of the other children. And she chose to ignore all of the mothers from that moment on.

Defensive behavior is rooted in fear. When one feels unsafe in the presence of another individual or in a particular situation, they feel the need to protect themselves from harm. Aggressive actions restore a sense of power and control and give the illusion of safety. Real security, however, is achieved when one is confident they can handle themselves appropriately in that circumstance. 

When one feels they are being verbally accused, practice the following:
1. Listen objectively and open mindedly. Refrain from interrupting, defending, or making excuses.
2. Ask questions of all parties to gain a better understanding of what happened and why.
3. Weigh all sources of information: are they trustworthy, unbiased, reliable?
4. Be open to all possibilities, even those that do not conform with what you would like to believe.
5. Reassure the other party(s) that you will handle the issue.
6. Inquire from them what they need to make this situation better for all concerned.
7. Address your own child. Take advantage of the opportunity to teach them a valuable lesson. Impose appropriate consequences if necessary.
8. Thank the other party(s) for their involvement and efforts. Gratitude is a wonderful way to end on a positive note and foster good relations.

My suggestions are not always easy to follow. One must be willing to remove all ego and personal issues and respond in spirit - concern for fairness and the well being of all parties. I've seen this work for others and it has worked for me every time. Give it a try. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Pick up a copy of The Secret Side of Anger at

Thursday, September 20, 2012

We spend nearly 1/3 of our lives at work. That's an enormous amount of time and if the work environment is hostile it can be a nightmare. In the case of my client, he received a promotion within the company that created stress and dissension among him and his workers. Fearing a blow-up at work, he was in need of an urgent solution. However, he was reluctant to accept my suggestions. Referring to his workers as "low life's", the first recommendation I made to him was an adjustment in his attitude and perception. This is the single most critical factor in changing any negative situation.  Here are my recommendations for improving any toxic or stressful relationship:

1. Discuss the situation with your co workers. Ask them how they feel about the current circumstances. Validate their feelings with sincerity, not with a pre rehearsed response.

2. Explain your feelings as well. A transition such as this can be equally as uncomfortable and challenging for the one promoted. Letting them know you are struggling creates a commonality, thereby bonding both sides.

3. Express your concern for their well-being using such statements as "I really want you to feel comfortable working here."

4. Ask how you can make things better for them. Be willing to listen to what they need and do your best to supply that.

5. Convey to them what you need from them that will better help you make the necessary changes.  Make sure all requests on both sides are fair and reasonable.

6. Reassure them that you will give this a 100% effort. Thank them for their cooperation and suggestions.

It is vitally important to remember that a manager's job is to bring out the best in his workers. In order to do that, he/she must put aside their ego (a "me" mentality) and work from a place of spirit (a "we" mindset).

 Listen objectively. Show concern. Seek solutions. Plain and simple. It works with families, too.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

That's All Right

She was only nineteen, a college sophomore, when she started her own sorority. Disillusioned with the superficial behaviors/attitudes of those already on campus, she wanted one that was all-inclusive of every interested female and one devoted to serving the community. Together with a hand-select group of friends, she chartered a unique service-oriented group of sisters. Girls from every corner of this prestigious university arrived to pledge. When two friends applied together, she was eager to welcome both. However, her cofounders had other ideas. The first girl was welcomed with open arms. Her friend, a bubbly, intelligent but severely overweight young woman was denied. The founder was enraged! She reminded her sisters that this was not the premise under which this sorority had been founded. But her voice went unheard.  Heartbroken, the bubbly friend retreated into obscurity. 

The following year, "Founder" took the position of president of the sisterhood with one objective in mind. She searched for "Bubbly" and begged her to re pledge. But "B" was adamant: "I can't. I was totally humiliated and embarrassed. I never want to see any of those girls again." Founder begged and apologized. Not one to take "no" for an answer, she persisted until "B" acquiesced.  Once onboard, it didn't take the others long to warm up to "B". She proved herself to be one of the hardest working and most loved members of the chapter.  End of sweet college story. 

Years passed and Founder, out with some friends one evening, was approached by an attractive woman. "Hi, Founder", she said. A look of uncertainty revealed that "F" did not recognize the woman. "It's me, Bubbly", she explained. "Oh, my God," "F" proclaimed! "I'm so sorry. I didn't recognize you." "That's probably because I've lost over a hundred pounds. I wanted you know that you totally changed my life. I will never forget your kindness. It's because of you, I went on to have a wonderful career, married a fantastic man, and have two beautiful children." They hugged each other tightly as tears rolled down their cheeks. After a few minutes, each continued their respective activities. End of heartwarming young adult story.

Fast forward fifteen years. Founder, now a mother with children of her own, moves to a new location. It's always unsettling to change doctors and find qualified medical care for your children but it is absolutely imperative to find someone you can trust implicitly. Needing a physical for her oldest before he could play football, she made an appointment at a local pediatricians office. As the doctor opened the door to the examination room and looked up from her child's chart, both mom and doctor gasped as they realized who would be caring for the medical well-being of her child - Bubbly. Serendipitous ending to a mid-life story of Divine providence.

In every situation in life, we are given the opportunity to do what others want us to do or to do what is right. Always opt to take the moral high ground - do what is right. The rewards are greater.
I can validate the authenticity of this story. "Founder" is my daughter.

But there is yet another unusual twist. Visit  to read the epilogue to this story.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How to Have a Great President Debate: The Do's, Do Not's, and Never's

Both presidential candidates are facing one of the greatest and most challenging debates in this nation's history. With the current state of the economy and the passion for or against the current president, each has their work cut out for them. Knowing what to say and how to say it is important. Knowing what to avoid saying can be equally as important. Given the opportunity, here are my recommendations for both gentlemen:

1. Before beginning, leave your ego outside. There is no room for insecurities and ego in a debate. It interferes with clear thinking and concerns itself with image and personal desires.

2. Clearly identify each issue and a precise course of action. Be detailed in offering solutions. Explain the reason for the path you have chosen, citing statistics and facts if necessary.

3. Examine all possible solutions and options, taking into consideration the possible unforeseen obstacles and challenges that may occur. Always have a plan "B". 

4. Attack the issues, not the individual. It is easy to confuse the two. Keep them separate and apart. Attacking your opponent is a sign of weakness, fear, and insecurity.

5. Listen carefully and objectively to the other party, responding accurately to what they said as opposed to what you think you heard them say. Leave your own agenda and personal feelings for them out of the equation.

6. It's ok to show emotion. It makes you human and relateable. It's not appropriate to be emotional. That is viewed as weak and out of control.

7. Be authentic and transparent. Do not hide who you are, your weaknesses and faults, and mistakes made. People respect honesty.

8. Be strong, firm, and confident. Say what you mean and mean what you say. And say it without being mean.

9. Deal with facts only. Avoid making unsubstantiated comments. Have documented proof readily available. 

Here is my list of the top Do's, Do Not's, and Never's:

Do: remain calm, be brief and specific, and remain open-minded.

Do Not: embarrass, humiliate, insult, yell at or judge the other party.

Never Ever: assume, exaggerate, lie, distort facts, character assassinate, or blame. These behaviors are all rooted in fear and reveal one's insecurities. 

While these tips can help ensure a respectful and productive presidential debate this fall, they can be applied to everyday disputes that arise between any individuals. Try them. They work.

Share your comments and suggestions.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Healing Anger With Humor

Humor can be a valuable tool for dispersing and healing anger. In part, it diffuses the tension that builds when one is upset or frustrated. Muscles tense, blood pressure rises, and other physiological changes occur within the human body. With the rise of stress hormones comes the increased risk of heart disease and other cardio-vascular issues. Humor boosts the immune system, triggers the release of endorphines (a powerful and natural feel-good  chemical), improves the function of the blood vessels and blood flow, and creates an overall sense of well-being.

While humor occurs naturally in some of us, for others it is not readily found. And yet, according to my guest, Allen Klein, there are ways people can incorporate humor into their daily lives. In his workshops, Allen teaches his students to use exaggeration as a method to reduce anger; "Imagine the worst that could happen," he asks. "And if that occurred, then what? And what would come next? And next?" With each response, the scenario becomes more and more absurd. Looking back at the original source of upset and where it has ultimately led, the subject can better see the ludicrousness in it.

Allen also recommends using props. He carries rubber clown noses with him and when necessary, passes them around to lighten up a situation. When couples argue, he recommends each partner putting on a clown nose. It's hard to be angry and fight when both parties look ridiculous.

Use signs, funny quips, and posters as a source of daily reminders to laugh. And use funny photos of loved ones to remind you of a joyous time. Fond memories will reignite those emotions.

And above all, look for opportunities to laugh - they're all around you in everyday life situations. Allen recommended the following acronym: 

L: Let go. Forgive the past and all those involved. Let go of shame, bitterness, fear or whatever else is holding you back.
A: Attitude: develop one of optimism and gratitude. Be grateful.
U: You are the only one who can do this. It's up to U.
G: Go do it. Ideas don't change the world. Actions do.
H: Humor is all around us. Seek it out. If you can't find it, make some of your own.

Remember, you have a choice: you can be angry or laugh. Look for every excuse to laugh. You'll feel better and those around you will as well.

Visit Allen Klein at or email  him at