Month: December 2010

Did You Choose Love Today?

Every day, with every relationship, you must choose… you can choose to actively move closer, passively let it sit, or actively push it away.

Two of those choices will lead to that relationship fading away, maybe slowly, maybe quickly, but it will eventually be a thing of the past.  Only one choice keeps your relationship together, moving forward.

This is true in any relationship, whether it’s business, family, friends, and especially your significant other.  The more you interact with someone in a positive, active way, the closer and stronger your relationship with that person will become… that’s why businesses with great customer service also tend to have highly loyal customers, but if that service drops off, so does the loyalty.  The couples with the strongest relationships are also usually the ones who find things to do together that they both enjoy.

Here’s how each of  the choices affect your relationships:

Love (Actively Moving Closer)

The very act of choosing to do something actively with the intention of strengthening your relationship opens you up more to the other person, forming new lines of connection that provide more ways to become closer, more of a foundation to build yet more lines upon.

There is an extremely important phrase in that last sentence that many people will pass right over… with the intention of strengthening your relationship.  If you do something, even something that seems right, for any other reason,  it will be at best passively letting it sit, and can even be actively pushing it away.  Other reasons include everything from feeling obligated to pity to trying to do the specifics of a guide to “getting closer” without understanding the meaning behind the words and actions.

Choosing love can be easy or hard, but it has to be your choice to truly work, long term.  The choices that you make have to have meaning to you… you have to desire to build the relationship, not just follow a set of instructions.

Marriage counseling, for example, can fit into any of the three categories… if you are both choosing to do it as a way to strengthen your relationship, it is choosing love, and it willstrengthen that relationship.  If one of you is doing it out of obligation, or to avoid fights, it is passive, choosing apathy, and does nothing.  If one of you thinks that it is a waste of time (or money), it will actively drive you apart.

Customer service is very similar… if your customer service person actively likes helping people, and identifies with the customer, it will strengthen that relationship.  If they are following a script, like most first level call center employees, it is at best neutral, and does nothing to strengthen the relationship.  If the person resents the job, even if they do the same thing as the first person who loves the job, they are likely to have a negative effect on the relationship between the business and that customer.

The choice of love, of actively strengthening the relationship, brings you closer.

Apathy (Passive)

As the Rush song says, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”  That’s as true in relationships as anything else.

The thing that most people don’t consciously consider, at least not very often, is that all relationships naturally grow apart over time.  That’s because you get close as the people that you are at one point in your lives, but as your lives go on, you change.  You become different people, and without actively forming new bonds, those people are less and less connected… you simply shed some of the pieces of you where the bonds between you are anchored.

This is true in personal relationships from marriage to friendship, and in business.  How strong is your connection to someone you last saw five years ago, compared to someone you saw five days ago?  Which one are you most likely to think of?  Or for business, how much easier is it to sell something new to a customer you are actively involved with (in a positive way, of course) than someone you last spoke to three years ago?

The choice of apathy, or passively not doing anything, leads to weakening relationships over time.

Rejection (Actively Pushing Away)

Unfortunately, it’s very easy to actively push someone away without consciously deciding to do so.

You can do this when you are upset, hurting, or overwhelmed by things that have absolutely nothing to do with the other person in the relationship… you just act defensively, keeping them outside the “safety zone”.  You push them just far enough away to keep them from hurting you, which happens to be far enough away to start the whole relationship moving down the path to being history.

It can be from things like being resentful of where you are or what you feel like you are being forced to do. It can come from things not going right at home (for business) or at work (for personal relationships).  It can come from grief when someone close to you dies, or from simply feeling overwhelmed at all of the things that you feel you need to do (feeling like you are so far from where you “should” be, looking at the end point rather than the path to get there).

Rejection, in fact, is more often unconscious, or subconscious, than intentional.  You are far more likely to “take it out” on someone than you are to choose to push that person away from you.

The choice of rejection leads to relationships weakening quickly… so quickly it’s hard to believe when you look back.

Every day, in every relationship, you make a choice… did you choose love today?  What will you choose tomorrow?

Trying To See Into Someone Else’s World

Every time that we try to talk to someone else, or interact in any other way, we are leaping into the unknown.

There is a well known phrase “Perception is reality.”  The meaning behind it is not that hard to grasp… reality is what you see, hear, or otherwise perceive.  What’s more difficult to understand is the depths to which that affects everything we do every day.

Every person who witnesses an event sees it differently, because each person has their own perception, their own reality through which the event must be processed.  The example that makes illustrates this the most clearly, I think, is when someone says something to another person, who takes it in a completely different manner than it was meant… the words mean something different in the listener’s world than they do in the speaker’s.

Each person basically has their own world, which sometimes interacts with the worlds of those around them.  Any time we deal with another person, everything we do goes out from our world and into theirs.  That includes words, actions, and even inaction.

All people have some overlap in their worlds, some shared perceptions, but which parts overlap change from person to person, and sometimes from day to day between the same two people.  The more you know someone, and the more time you actively spend with them, the more closely your worlds tend to overlap… both worlds start altering to become more like that of the other person.

The amount of overlap of your worlds can also generally be described as your closeness… the more overlap you have, the closer you become, and the more you see things the same, which then reinforces the closeness.

This is true regardless of whether you like the person or not!  When you spend more time around someone actively doing something with them, you will become closer to them, and more like them, like it or not.

That makes it incredibly important to be conscious of whom you are around the most.    Another saying captures this very well:  ”A man is known by the company he keeps.”  That’s because the man (or woman) becomes more like the company he keeps.

Want to be closer to your husband or wife?  Spend more time actively doing somethingwith them.  It doesn’t really matter what. While that sounds ridiculous, it’s true (arguing, however, is not something you do with someone, it’s more something you do tosomeone).  Passive things, however, don’t require your worlds to interact, and don’t bring you closer.

Strangely enough some activities can switch from passive to active (or vice versa), even in the middle of doing them.  Watching a movie is the easiest example… it may start out passive, but if both of you “connect” to the movie, it can easily become a shared, active activity.  A conversation can do the same, if you capture their interest, or the opposite if you lose their interest.

Want to change something that you don’t like about yourself?  Spend less time around people who share the trait, and more around people who have a trait (or traits) that you dowant to pick up.

Try looking at the world like this… try to realize that every other person that you meet has their own world.  It can really change the way you see things, and make you far more effective at anything involving other people.  It can seriously improve your relationships, both personal and work.  It can even help you to make your own world better.


Home Is Not What You Think

Home Is Not What You Think

Where is your home?

The immediate answer to that question is usually an address… maybe to the actual house, maybe just a city.  That’s not really your home, though… that’s your house (or apartment or whatever).

Your home, on the other hand, is the place where you feel most like you.  It is the place where you least feel like you have to put on a “face” and project a different person.  It is where you feel safe enough to be you.

Strangely enough, for some people work is home (and vice versa… some people feel like their “home” is work).  Home, for you, could be the car on your daily commute to work.

It could, of course, actually be your house… the two are not mutually exclusive, they just aren’t identical either.  If your home is your house, it’s also probably not the whole place.  It’s far more likely one room… maybe your bedroom, or your game room, or your study, or your kitchen.

Some people even have the amazing ability to bring their home with them… it’s not so much a location for those people as it is a state.

Other people likely have a hard time understanding how your home can be your home, even the people that are closest to you.  If you told people that your home was the house in the picture above, for example, most of them would probably think you were crazy.  If that’s where you find your peace, however, it becomes your home.

In an awesome gift from the Creator, you can even achieve some of the peace and healing of home by finding a few minutes away from others and just visualizing it, making it as real as possible in your mind… complete with smells, sounds, and everything else, even if it’s just in your imagination.

Here is the question for today, and most of us don’t know without giving it some real thought:

Where is your home?

PS – I know this is a short one… but I figured short ones more frequently is better than one long article every month or so.  Was I right?


Two Extremely Powerful Words

If you were asked to name powerful words, what would you say?

The first words that come to mind for most people are “I love you”.  And if that is what came to your mind, you are right, at least provided that they are not said too often or too lightly.

There are two other words, though, that can be nearly as powerful when used in the right way.  If you hear them, however, chances are very slim that they are being used in their powerful sense.

The words I am talking about are “I know”.  Most of the time, it seems, the words are used to brush someone off… they tell you or remind you of something and you say “I know”, meaning “I got it, I got it, leave me alone already!”

There is a completely different way to use them, though, and it is one of the most powerful ways to reach out to someone that I know… when someone is going through something hard, you can reach out to them with your heart and your hands, and tell them “I know”.

I know how hard it is.  I’ve been there before.  I understand, without you having to say it.  You are not alone… I am here.

When you can say it like that, and mean it, it can break through mental barriers a mile thick.  Nearly everyone feels alone inside, at least part of the time, and especially when they are going through something hard.

Reach out to them.  Let them know they are not alone.  Tell them, and mean it, “I know” with your heart open to them… share with them, be with them, remind them that they are NOT alone.

I know.

The “Skin” We’re In

Have you ever wondered how it is that you can love someone without liking them?

On the surface, it doesn’t make any sense at all… how could you possibly love someone without liking them?

The answer, though, is in the last sentence, right at the beginning… “On the surface”.

Personality “Layers”

We all have multiple personalities, and I don’t mean in the insane way (although that may just be a more severe form of the norm).  We have one personality, our core, that is deep down inside of us.  That personality is who we really are.  Over the top of that we have various layers of “skin” that we show to different people.

The skin that’s on the outside is no more who we are than the clothes that we wear.  When we love someone, we love them at a deeper level than the “skin” that they are currently showing the world.  We hold on to that deeper layer that we have come to know, and we instinctively understand that the layer that we love is more truly who the person is that the skin that we dislike.

The Problem

People don’t all have the same number of layers… emotionally powerful events can either create or rip off layers.  Powerfully negative events tend to build up additional layers, to insulate our core from harm.  Powerfully positive events can melt away layers, essentially healing the remainders from past problems.  Some events can do both at the same time… the death of someone close to you, for example, can rip away some of your layers of defense, while at the same time causing you to build new ones.

We present different layers to different people, too… we even have layers that we show ourselves most of the time.  We then add other layers to the ones we’re showing ourselves as we move to people we identify with less… the closer to ourselves we regard someone, the closer to the core us they get, but if we seldom show ourselves our core, imagine how much less likely we are to show someone else.  Many people may go all the way through their adult life without ever showing anyone else their core self.

It is impossible to let someone else deeper than we allow our selves to go.  If you don’t look at your core, you can’t show it to anyone else, no matter how much you love them.

Everyone else starts at the layer where you place your self and moves outward from there.

The Solution

There is only one way to consciously move someone closer to you, deeper into your layers:  spend more quality, quiet, slow time with them.

Want to be closer to your wife or husband?  Spend more quality, quiet, slow time with them.

Children?  Same answer.

Family, friends, acquaintances?  All the same answer.

Want to improve your relationships with all of those people at the same time?  Spend more quality, quiet, slow time with your self.

Remember, everyone else starts with at least as many layers as you show yourself.  If you remove a few of those layers, you move the starting point for every other person closer.

When is the last time that you actually sat down and looked within?  I’m talking about time you didn’t worry about what you need to do tomorrow (or today), you didn’t try to solve problems, you didn’t worry about someone else… just sat there, by yourself, closed your eyes, and let that core self, the real you, rise closer to the surface?

It’s hard… life sometimes seems like it’s actively trying to keep you from doing it.  You may have a wife and kids, friends, two or three jobs, etc., etc., etc.  You know how I know it’s hard?  I have those things, plus I actually know what I need to do and how to do it, and I still have a hard time taking that time for myself.

The most effective times to do this, at least for me, are first thing in the morning, before the day gets started, and right after work.  The morning goes much deeper, but the time after work lets me get enough off of the surface that my time with my family is higher quality… which helps me to keep from building up yet more layers for both myself and them.

I think any time helps, though, as long as you can do it consistently enough to make it into a habit.  Making something into a habit requires that you do something at the same time, every day (or nearly so), for somewhere around a month.

When I say “the same time”, by the way (and not just in this article), I mean in an event-driven sense, not in a clock-based sense.  ”The same time” means first thing when you get up, or right after lunch, or something like that, not 7:15 AM (though that may be first thing when you get up).

It’s easy to let good habits slip over time… I’ve let many of my good habits slip, including the time mentioned above, and writing new articles regularly.  It takes a lot of mental effort to establish, or re-establish, good habits (but very little mental effort for bad habits), but that effort pays off immensely… you’ll find that the amount of mental energy that you have to spend increases substantially once the good habits are in place (and often your physical energy level, as well).

Your Turn

Getting away from quantity time and toward quality time is hard to do, whether it’s time for your self or time with others.  Have you found anything that works for you?  Anything that makes it easier to turn quantity into quality?