communicating well

communication

Clear, heart-level communication is often difficult to achieve. Just this week, I’ve experienced various critical conversations and coached others through strained and difficult discussions. Those experiences reminded me of more lessons I learned while care-giving for my Dad.

These communication tips helped me to connect more deeply with him, but they are very relevant for conversations with others too. Let me know what you think!

Enter his world

Because of his dementia, my dad sees people and animals that aren’t there, he accuses us of stealing his things, and he fixates incessantly about past responsibilities that are irrelevant today. Instinctively, I want to correct him, defensively deny his accusations, or demand that he stop worrying about things – none of which does any good!

It works better when I listen carefully for the context or the history behind his comments, rather than arguing their validity.

  • When I ask him to tell me more about the people or animals he sees, I get to hear stories of a younger brother who died, good friends he enjoyed, or favorite pets he misses a lot.
  • If I empathize with his frustration over “lost” items instead of denying blame, I gain insight into his priorities, his passions, and his past care for me and our family.
  • When I reply to his sense of responsibility with “That must be important to you. How can I help?”, he can relax in my care instead of struggling to convince me that his work is important and valuable.

I recognize that these same principles work – and more easily(!) – with people who don’t have dementia.

Know the triggers

Care-giving is challenging, exhausting work. In my case, it is especially difficult when my dad’s unkind or angry comments trigger a deeply rooted emotion from my childhood experience. Old insecurities, differing values and opinions, or negative interaction patterns quickly reappear from my youth.

It is important for me to seek self-awareness of those triggers and remember that what may be a valid memory does not have to determine my response today. He is different now… and so am I.

Self awareness of my emotional triggers is key for all my conversations. My reactions are often more about me than about what others have said. As I identify the root cause of my reactions, I can respond with objectivity, grace, and humility instead of vengeance or self-defense.

Watch the “how”

My dad cannot always understand my words, but he definitely comprehends my tone. How I say what I say is often most important. He responds so much better to anything I say if I am calm, gentle, and patient with my speech, and if I eliminate distractions as much as possible. Positive nonverbals communicate also; changing my position to make good eye contact, relaxed facial expression, and even the added touch of a hand on his arm or shoulder make a big difference.

There is nothing profound or new here, but it amazes me how hard it is to apply the right “how” in my everyday conversations with my dad – and with others. I have to intentionally focus on giving my full attention and my best presentation with the content. When I do manage to watch the “how”, our communication improves greatly.

Entering their world, knowing my triggers, and watching “how” I communicate deepens my connections with others.

So, are any of these true for you? How do you communicate well with the people in your life?


(You can read my first post about “life lessons learned from dementia” HERE.)

discover and develop your strengths

coreclaritybannerI have a new passion. No doubt about it. I love coaching people through discovery of their talents and strengths. Absolutely love it.

Successful people
understand
their talents and strengths
and build their lives upon them.

My husband and I attended a CoreClarity training last spring. That week prepared us to explain Gallup StrengthsFinder results for individuals and groups. This summer, we had numerous opportunities to coach family members, individuals, and couples.

Every time we talked through top talents with people, I watched eyes open wide in recognition, hearts soften with greater understanding, burdens of frustration and self-condemnation wash away, and hope reappear in the soul. 

It was amazing actually.

It is an encouraging experience to grow in self-awareness and self-acceptance, but it is even more powerful to grow in understanding and appreciating the important people in our lives. 

Successful marriages (or teams)
dont just accommodate differences in each other,
they capitalize on them.

If you have never done the StrengthsFinder assessment, I highly recommend it. There are specific assessments you can choose for adults, college and highschool students and even middle school students. After you receive your top five results, find someone trained in CoreClarity to review your results with you. You can do this for yourself, as a couple, for your family, or in a seminar format for your whole team.

You will learn :

  • why it is more important to develop your strengths, rather than focus on improving your weaknesses
  • how to develop your talents into strengths
  • to correct the myths that everyone thinks the same way we do or that everyone has the same talents we do plus what we see in them that we do not have
  • how your top talents affect each other and how your combination creates the unique you
  • how different talents intensify, combine, or collide with other talents
  • how talents understanding helps build and repair relationships, improves problem solving and teamwork
  • how to use your talents to enhance your career

You might also want to attend a facilitator training so you can coach others!

Do you already know your top talents? How have you applied that knowledge to your life and relationships?

Please leave me a comment if you have any questions about CoreClarity or StrengthsFinder. I’ll be glad to help in any way that I can!

taking higher ground

Hikers in mountains, circa 1995 from Flickr via Wylio

“Traveling down the high road can be a lonely experience.” ~ W. Brad Johnson

I started this post when reading for my one of my MA classes. It is almost spooky how life has confirmed much of what I wrote in the months since, even though I had totally forgotten about this post.

No matter how many years go by, I keep learning more about myself and the deeper, ulterior motives that affect my attitudes and actions.

So that we can learn together (I don’t like to do much of anything alone!), I am sharing some of these challenging ideas with you. This list comes from the first chapter of The Elements of Ethics by W. Brad Johnson. He is suggests that these are essential elements of integrity:

(**Fair Warning: This is not an easy list!)

  1. Become congruent – truthful with oneself and consistent at all times and in all relationships (Nothing easy here, but a key to people considering us “safe” and trustworthy.)
  2. Stay transparent – openness, frankness, full disclosure (activities, commitments, relationships) Evasive = Suspicious
  3. Make yourself accountable – No excuses. Take responsibility. Tell the truth.
  4. Invite peer review – Constructive feedback is our friend. Invite others to honestly review and evaluate. Without sugar-coating.
  5. Present your credentials and services accurately – No inflating or misrepresenting achievements, experiences or results.
  6. Ensure emotional and physical fitness – Admit fatigue, burnout, or life circumstances that impair best effort. Be alert of warning signs. Seek help.
  7. Protect confidential information – Think before you speak. Protect others’ privacy with vigilance. Avoid and stop gossip.
  8. Know your moral vulnerabilities – Invincibility is an illusion. Be self-aware of weaknesses. Let others help.
  9. Identify your private agendas – Guard against hidden agendas and wrong motives.
  10. Do not count the cost of integrity – There is a price: inconvenience, self-denial, social isolation, passive-aggressive attacks, persecution. Do the right thing anyway.
  11. Rectify missteps immediately – Don’t aim for perfection. Admit mistakes. Apologize. Laugh at yourself. Give grace to others.
  12. Stand your ground under pressure – Anticipate the pressure to compromise. Practice a response. Find others who can help you.
  13. Do not be a hypocrite – No pretense. No manipulation. No self-serving.

I especially related to #6, #8, and #11. I don’t like weakness. I want perfection. I know in my head it is impossible, but I still want it in my heart. This chapter helped me to recognize that desire for perfection is a stumbling block for me, rather than a help.

#10 is also good. In past jobs, I paid a price for integrity choices that surprised and hurt me. I don’t know why I thought it would be easy. I want to have more realistic expectations in the future and have a team who stands with me in those difficult decisions.

Ok… your turn! Which of these elements challenge you? Which are most important for your integrity? How do you take the high ground?