Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How to Start and/or Stop an Argument

Being a part of any relationship for a period of time affords an individual the opportunity to learn what works and what doesn't with each respective person. I may be able to discuss politics with Uncle Joe but Aunt Sue? Never! He's open minded to other people's views and enjoys a lively debate. Aunt Sue, on the other hand, is opinionated, is a right-fighter (one who always has to be right as Dr. Phil refers to them), and becomes nasty with those who disagree with her. I can joke around with my husband and refer to him as my "hairless honey" but my friend Steve is very sensitive about his lack of locks.
One of my favorite topics to discuss is God. I'm madly in love with Him and like a teenage who's fallen in love for the first time, I can't stop thinking and talking about Him. But try to have a discussion about our Lord with a defensive non believer and you may be in for a rough ride. (I learned that lesson the hard way on facebook - some of them can get down-right ugly!)

We all know what topics we can discuss with certain people and which ones to avoid. We also know what turns a harmless discussion into a vicious argument. (A disagreement is not synonymous with argument by the way. The first is simply a difference of opinion. The latter engenders hostility and sometimes aggression.) Granted, there are those who love the drama - they seek out opportunities to incite a good fight. I'm not one of them. While I enjoy a good debate, I abhor arguing and will do my best to avoid it. Then, too, there are some who engage in a discussion and wonder why every conversation results in quarrelling and hurt feelings. "People are so sensitive! Everything you say they take the wrong way." They fail to recognize their own contributions to the contamination of the dialogue. 

Here are some surefire tips to convert any conversation into an argument:
  • Know what issues the other party is sensitive to or passionate about. Engage one of those topics for discussion.
  • Know what to say or do to provoke them, being certain to push their buttons whenever possible.
  • Infuse a hefty dose of criticism, sarcasm, and insults. Insert a few expletives and round it off with a threat or two for good measure.
  • Always be right. Never admit to being mistaken about anything.
  • Be as arrogant and close minded as possible. Never listen to or consider the other person's position.
  • Exaggerate and embellish whenever possible. This will certainly destroy your credibility.
If you would prefer to keep things civil, try the following:
  • Refuse to engage in highly sensitive or provoking topics. Don't initiate or participate in them regardless of how much the other party persists.
  • Stay out of other people's business. If it does not concern you do not be concerned.
  • If necessary, walk away before the conversation turns nasty.
  • Remain open and respectful of the other person's position. Acknowledge their feelings, beliefs, and needs even if you don't understand or agree with them.
  • Be sensitive and kind but firm when necessary.  When speaking, be crystal clear and judiciously concise.
  • Carefully choose your words, tone of voice, and attitude. Always consider how they would sound to you if the other party said them.
  • If the situation becomes heated, know what to say or do to calm things down. A simple validation is often enough. "I can see how important this issue is to you."
  • Don't take personal offense to what the other party is saying. Their behavior mirrors their inner self and is in no way a reflection of you.
Discussions are a vital aspect of every healthy relationship and enable individuals to acquire greater knowledge of one another, the issue at hand, to find resolution whenever necessary. They also serve as a means to  strengthen the rapport between all parties. With a few simple techniques and a bit of restraint, anyone can keep a dialogue civil and productive. 

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ten Tips For Keeping Peace in an Out of Control World

I don't know about you but to me the world keeps getting crazier. Nothing makes sense anymore. I sometimes feel as though I've fallen into the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. In an age of endless technology and societal demands, I am acutely aware of the ever constant pressures of living in an out of control world. What used to come naturally to me now requires a conscious effort to remain peaceful and calm. Here are ten tips that you can practice in order to maintain your sense of serenity in a chaotic environment:

1. Remain emotionally detached from the drama and chaos. Someone coined the phrase, "You don't have to attend every argument you're invited to." This holds true for drama as well.  Make a commitment to never initiate or engage in it. 

2. Remove yourself from the discord whenever possible. You have free will and Divine rights. If something is not benefiting you, you have every right to walk away from it.

3. Put everything into perspective. Some humans have a sad habit of making a mountain out of a molehill. Is this situation really so serious that drama is a natural component? A life-threatening injury or natural disaster perhaps; everything else not so much.

4. Set boundaries and limits with drama queens. You are not required to be subjected to the havoc they generate. 

5. Practice mindfulness -  live in and enjoy the moment. Let go of the past - it's yesterday's news; do not worry about the future - it never arrives. Remain focused on where you are now and what you are thinking, feeling, and doing. Concern yourself only with the now.

6. Let go of whatever you cannot control. If it is not within you have no power over it. "Let go and let God" is a wonderfully calming mantra to behold
7. Think before responding. Not every situation requires a response. But if in fact you choose to reply give careful consideration to your choice of words and actions making sure they are calming responses rather than inflammatory. 

8. Have faith and trust in God  remembering that all is as it is meant to be.  Many stressful experiences have a higher purpose. Know that your Heavenly Father will be the Light in your darkness, He will calm the internal storm, and make right everything in your life - in His time, not necessarily ours.

9. It is not the experience that we need to concern ourselves with but rather what it is here to teach us and how we are meant to use it for our own good and the good of humanity. We often put too much emphasis on the event rather than on Divine Purpose.

10. Commit to peace. Make it your way of life. Never allow anyone to distract you or interfere with your right to live in Divine harmony with the world. 

Everything is subjective. I can choose to involve myself in the chaos of the world and allow myself to become infected by all of the drama. Or I can accept my Divine birthright and live harmoniously even in an out of control world. For me, nothing matters more than peace. 

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Creating a Cooperative Company Culture

The latest buzz word in business today is "company culture". It refers, in part, to the overall atmosphere and mission of the company.  Many entrepreneurs begin the best of intentions and hire people who have the same values and commitment to their objective. Yet somewhere along the line, in the day-to-day realities and responsibilities of work, they find that the overall mood of the work environment has diminished.

While businesses need to have a certain level of professionalism about them, the most successful ones also support an element of unity, caring, and to some extent a  family-like mindset. My maternal grandfather, Dominick Sole, emigrated to this country from Italy in the early 1900's. He eventually founded one of the three largest tin can companies in the United States. While his expectations of quality were high, his workers were valuable not only in the sense of how well they could produce a superior product but also as human beings - friends, neighbors, his second family. They were often included in family gatherings. And during the Great Depression in the 1920's, the loans he made to them were later canceled, much as he would do for his own flesh and blood. 

Businesses today would learn much about creating a successful and productive company culture if they followed a few simple guidelines:
1. Recognize each person's unique talents and abilities and discover way to showcase them. In areas where one may be weak, explore ways they can strengthen or develop them.
2. Create a forum where coworkers can share compliments and accolades about one another. Openly celebrate each person's successes as a group.
3. Create a "Getting to Know You" opportunity where new employees are invited to share their history, beliefs, etc. in a safe and welcoming environment.
4. Demonstrate why a cooperative workplace environment is conducive to each employee. Those who have a vested interest in their company and feel valued will most likely be more dedicated to their job."People who help to build a company are less likely to allow it to be destroyed."
5. Encourage workers to reach out and assist one another whenever possible. Lending a helping hand fosters feelings of gratitude, team spirit, connectedness, and mutual respect for one another.
6. Find common ground. How are we similar? What values, beliefs, levels of education, work responsibilities etc. do we share? Commonalities establish a level of understanding and bonding that unites coworkers.
7. Encourage workers to be assertive, speak openly and respectfully to one another, and resolve their differences peacefully. This may require specialized training but it is well worth the investment.
8. When disagreements arise, remember to attack the problem not the person. Each person's position has equal value and must be acknowledged as such even though others may not agree with it.
9. Treat each coworker as though they were your child, for they are someone's for sure. If that sounds unreasonable, treat them as though they hold the key to your success or life in their hands. Remember, the kindness you send out is what you receive back.
 10. Encourage and reward honesty, integrity, cooperation, mutual respect, and fairness on the job. Small acts of appreciation and recognition pay huge dividends.

"Company culture" may be the latest catchphrase but the principles for running a successful business are time-tested and proven. For all owners, CEO's, managers, and bosses: you are all employees working for the same good of the customer. While you may wear different hats, be referred to with a different title or have a key to the executive washroom, you are an employee just the same. Let not your ego dictate your words and actions but rather your recognition of oneness with all who surround  you.  Treat your employees well and you will be repaid tenfold.

"Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than people." ~ Ephesians 6:7

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

You Can 'Thank' Away Anger

I'm a very polite person. I was taught to always say "please" and "thank you" when I was a child, a practice that has continued throughout my adult life. However, I never realized the latter phrase could be used as a means of eliminating anger. You might think it an odd concept but let me explain. There are three areas where this applies:

1. People, Places, and Things: Life is not without it's challenging circumstances, injustices, heartaches, and losses. Many individuals try to navigate their way through these situations as quickly as possible to promptly re establish the status quo where they feel safe and comfortable. Others recognize that challenges make us better people  and so they endure them believing that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. In a tough situation, regardless of the nature of the difficulty, shift your focus from the perceived problem to the value this experience is offering you (a grateful "Thank you, Situation"). This enables one to replace anger with appreciation. 

While one may be able to thank a difficult circumstance for providing an opportunity for personal growth, dealing with an obnoxious person may prove a more arduous task. We seem to have far less tolerance for people than events. It is easy to become angry, defensive, bitter, or resentful when intolerable people disrupt our lives. Trying to work through our anger can be time consuming and exhausting. But what if a simple "thank you" could instantly erase all of the above? A cheating spouse can open our hearts to forgiveness; a coworker who undermines our efforts can teach us to assert ourselves; an egotistical coach whose only goal is to win at all costs can inadvertently illustrate that values and fair sportsmanship are truly the signs of a winner. Thank the really annoying people in your life for they are your greatest teachers.

2. Thanks a Whole Bunch: On rare occasion, I find myself not feeling particularly fond of my husband, more so in the past than of late. Long ago, I devised a mental exercise to relive the moment we first met. We were both at a single's dance and as the close of the evening approached, I summoned my courage, walked over to where he was standing, and engaged in a brief conversation with him. As I left, I thought to myself, That was the sweetest man I've ever met!(First impressions really do matter - in this case they proved to be totally accurate.) However, at times I'd lose sight of who my husband really is and selfishly judge him by an issue he might be struggling with at that moment. This brief exercise instantly restores my feelings of love and appreciation for him. But, I've expanded on this practice. Now, I verbally express gratitude towards him for something he's done or simply for who he is. By saying "thank you for changing the oil in my car last week, or for always allowing me to be who I am without criticism or complaint" immediately alleviates any anger or hostility consuming me and reinstates feelings of love and appreciation in my heart.

 I recommend extending this exercise to others as well: if you are in a bad mood, find someone - anyone - to thank, for any reason what-so-ever. Call  your sister on the phone and thank her for not only being your sibling but your best friend as well. At work, find a coworker or customer and thank them for any small favor. Gratitude is proven to restore our sense of overall well-being and joy. And you cannot be angry and joyful simultaneously.

3. No Thanks: As a child, I was also taught that when asked if I wanted something which I did not, the courteous way to reply was by saying, "No thank you". Although considered a polite way to decline, can that phrase also alleviate anger? Lately, I've been feeling overwhelmed and resentful of the amount of demands others are placing on me. I am the go-to person for anyone that needs physical assistance, a shoulder to cry on, financial help, and so forth. In addition to running my own business (which consists of fifteen hour work days), taking care of a home, a husband, our extended family of seven children and thirteen grandchildren, five rescued dogs, and my 90-year old mom there is no time left for me and no one who offers assistance when I need help. Learning to politely say "No thank you" to something I simply cannot or do not want to do for others prevents anger from manifesting. An act of self-love and respect for my own well-being protects me from being taken advantage of and overworked. In this way, I retain my sanity, can judiciously choose how I allocate my time, and extract more enjoyment from my life.

Apparently being polite and offering a sincere "thank you" if far more beneficial than simply showing respect and being courteous of others. Seems this simple childhood phrase also has the power to heal our anger. And you don't need a Rx for this one. 

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