The Art of Letting Go: Negative Self-Talk

Cartoon about confidencePeople think in words. Every thought, feeling and idea we have, we give it a name. Naming (or labeling) is a very easy way to experience the world. Think of the color pallet. If you work with computers, you know that when choosing a color, it is not good enough to say “red”, because there are many shades of red, but in our life as humans and not computers, whenever we talk about scarlet, burgundy, ruby, magenta, maroon, coral or rose, we simply say “red”. Life is so much easier that way.

Words can be empowering or limiting. They can be our protectors, our guardian angels, or our demons, our tormentors. People who value words very much and find their power may wonder, “How can words be limiting?”

I think they are limiting for two reasons: they cannot describe the whole range of human experiences they make it difficult to recognize change.

When making a choice about letting go of some of our habits, letting go of the power we give words is highly important and can provide a lot of comfort and peace of mind. Think about it this way: using words to describe an experience is like trying to fit a giant into a space large enough for a grain of sand.

One of the ways in which words can limit us is negative self-talk.

Read more about how to let go of negative self-talk

Talking Down at Your Kids

Two funny boysI often observe parents as they interact with their children and listen to how they use language and tone of voice. All too often, they “talk down” at their kids, rather than having a conversation with them, and that saddens me.

Think back to a time when somebody talked down at you. Maybe it was your boss, maybe it was your own parents and maybe it was your partner. Not a good feeling, right?

Did you feel any respect? How did you think the other person was perceiving you? Did they treat you as an independent, capable human being or see you only from their own perspective? Were they driven by love or perhaps by fear?

Let’s start with the language.

Many parents ask their kids closed or single-choice questions, like “Did you have a good day today?” “Do you have any homework?” “That was great fun, wasn’t it, honey?” “How about we go shopping first and then you can play?” or “Do you want to use the blue crayon for the sky?”

Read more about how to raise great kids

The Art of Letting Go: Control

We need to forgive for our own sakeHumans are not very predictable creatures. Their behavior is governed by their emotions and instincts and the problem is that their emotions change and most of their behaviors are subconscious, so they cannot be fully understood by others.

This inability to predict how others will react makes people a bit anxious about their relationships and to overcome this feeling, they try to control the world around them. They try to control situations, events and other people’s behaviors, words and actions in a desperate attempt to control the outcome.

The desire to control the outcome means you have an attachment to the outcome. Stating your desired outcome to others puts pressure on them to achieve it and usually means you are feeling out of control. Many parents fall into that trap in their parenting style. They make their mind up to “help” their kids reach an outcome and they do everything they can to achieve it.

Wanting things to happen is not a problem. Even wanting them to happen in a certain way it is not so bad. The problem is when you will do anything to get there, even if it means jeopardizing your relationships with others or making them feel bad.

Controlling is always a sign of insecurity and feeling powerless, helpless and out of control. After all, if you have the power, why would you keep seeking it?

Read more about how to let go of control and be happy

The Art of Letting Go: Be Right or Be Kind

Little fawk petted by ... a dogI think the desire to be right is another survival mechanism that humans use in order to manage uncertainty. The belief that the truth is absolute and that our aim in life is to find it and live by it is false. Trying to make others live by our truth is even worse. This mindset brings lots of pain and misery to everybody and if we want happiness to come into our life, we need to let go of our desire to be right.

The desire to be right is always accompanied by the risk of losing the relationship, because the question who is right only appears when there is a conflict. Being right is another part of our identity, our emotional “skeleton”, and most people believe that letting go of it might make them unstable. In fact, people who have a high need to be right are trying to overcome a deep feeling inside of them that they are wrong. People who are secure trust that they are OK, that their beliefs are good for them and that they only need to follow what is right for them, so they do not need to “prove their points” to others.

The concept of being right is a relative concept and always stands opposite being wrong. When you have a high need to advertise your “rightness”, you are trying to force your surroundings to fit into your definition of right and wrong. This is the source of many conflicts in our society. In relationships between parents and children, the parents often think that they are “right” and their kids are, well, just too young to know what to do. This continues at school, where many teachers think that they hold the absolute truth about what and how kids must learn (and why). Sometimes, it leads all the way to relationship breakdown and, in extreme cases, even to war.

Read more about how to stop fighting

The Art of Letting Go: Trapped by Labels

Human stereotype wordsCreating labels is another function we use in order to help us survive this world. Humans use labeling to manage the complexity of our environment.

Think about schooling. We send all the kids within a date range to 1st Grade when the difference in age between them is much higher than that between the youngest child in 2nd Grade and the oldest child in 1st Grade (could be just one or two days). We have built a whole education system on that huge range of 365 days, in which kids were born at different times of the day, have different family structures, live with a different number of other people in the same house, come from different socio-economic backgrounds and have different interests. Still, we categorize them all as 1st Graders.

Labeling is part of our day-to-day life. We do it for our own sake and not necessarily for the sake of those we label.

If you take 1,000 random people and put them next to each other, you will not find two that have the exact same skin color or the exact same hobbies. Yet, we often label people by skin color or say they all love drawing, although their skin is different in shade and texture and some love drawing animals, some prefer to draw plants and each person uses a different technique.

In 1930, Linguist Benjamin Whorf came up with the “linguistic relativity hypothesis”. According to him, the words we use not only describe what we see, but actually determine what we see.

Read more about how to let go of your labels

Attention is Golden

Couple at cocktail partyAs parents, some of the things our kids want to tell us are, well, childish. Although we love them, we are sometimes busy or preoccupied and paying close attention to what happened at the playground is not top of our list. As partners, friends, siblings and descendants, people talk to us about a wide variety of things that matter to them and paying attention can be difficult.

But it is worth the trouble.

When I worked at the National Semiconductors headquarters in Santa Clara, CA, the company provided easy access to great training and one of the courses I took was Active Listening. The instructor was a soft-spoken lady who impressed me as a good listener and someone who knew a great deal about people, and during the course I realized just how poorly I had been listening…

At the end of the class, I left with a list of actions and behaviors that constituted active listening and with the advice that it was important to practice them, but I felt something was missing from those instructions.

Over time, particularly after I trained to be a life coach, I read more about relationships and emotional intelligence and I think I have found an underlying description that unites the techniques and makes the whole thing seem like common sense.

Read more about how to be a good listener

Acknowledgment

Teen girl on the phoneDo you ever get the feeling that something is missing from your communication with other people, especially the ones you love? Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable, but cannot put your finger on why? Do other people seem like something is not quite working for them in the way you talk to them?

Well, I do.

There I am, having a nice conversation with someone, and then, all of a sudden, I feel like the subject has changed and the conversation has changed direction. This is often hard to detect, which makes me stop listening and backtrack a bit to see if I can spot the problem (of course, not listening makes things worse temporarily, so I try to be quick about it).

In many cases, I find that there has been no acknowledgment. Something I have said remains un-addressed – it has neither been confirmed nor rejected. This makes me wonder if what I have said has been missed or ignore.

When I am the one forgetting to acknowledge, it takes a lot longer to figure it out, either because the other person is not aware of the problem or because the friction keeps escalating and this little issue is completely forgotten until I have some quiet time to replay the conversation and figure things out.

Read why acknowledgment is important in a relationship

Never Mind Why

image_thumbOften, particularly when things do not go our way, we ask, “Why?” Why did something happen to us, why did someone say something hurtful to us, why a friend was late, why our boss looks so upset and why life is not fair?

If you stop for a second, close your eyes and say to yourself, “Why? Why? Why?” you will quickly feel the misery creeping up on you and your energy sinking. Asking why brings you down. It is because this question is about the past, about something you did not understand and in most cases, you can never truly understand anyway.

The thing is you do not have to understand everything in order to live a productive and happy life. What you really have to do is decide what to do about it. So a better question is, “Now what?”

Sigmund Freud was one of the most important figures in the field of psychology and the creator of Psychoanalysis. For many years, all around the world, psychologists and psychiatrists spent their time trying to discover why their patients thought and behaved the way they did. Treatments were very long, which made them expensive and thus not available to everyone. They were often very painful emotionally, which made people stop them after a while.

Then Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) came along and provided quick ways to recover from issues, boost confidence and otherwise improve people’s emotional state without long and painful treatments. NLP does not dwell on the reasons. Instead, it quickly identifies where the person is, where they want to be, and then “reprograms” their thought patters to achieve that.

Read more about why you should stop asking “Why?”

From the Life Coaching Deck: Troublemaker

Girl with labels projected onto herIan’s parents came for coaching about 5 years ago. Ian’s mom, Lou, booked the sessions as a last resort before she divorced his dad. About two months ago, she sent me an email and said, “Hi Ronit, Dave and I renewed our vows last year on an overseas trip. I want you to see Ian. He’s in trouble at school”.

Kids’ coaching is not something that most parents understand, but Lou and Dave, after making a huge change in their own life through coaching, did not need to ask what it was. When I called Lou and asked what she needed and why she wanted Ian to come and see me, she said, “Ronit, I’m not sure how you do what you do, but I need you to do it for Ian. He’s a great kid, but he’s in trouble at school and it’s affecting his self-esteem. It breaks my heart to see him like that. I’ve tried different things, but he is still in trouble. I’m sure if he spends some time with you, he’ll gain some confidence, just like we did”.

Ian was one of the most beautiful 11-year-old boys I had ever seen. In his first session, I went over some assessments to figure out what was making him get in trouble at school. Although he could read high-level books, thought math was easy and schoolwork was not a challenge at all, his grade average was “B”. Not that I think everyone needs to get an “A”, but all my assessments showed he was an “A” student, maybe even one of those smart kids that find school so boring they stir up some trouble to get some attention and make things a bit more interesting.

Read more about why kids get in trouble at school

How to Keep an Open Mind

The wheel of lifeAs soon as you start any personal development, you bump into the term “beliefs”. These are thought patterns that are set in our mind, mental shortcuts we use to make decisions quickly. The catch is that by not questioning our beliefs, we no longer have an open mind about everything and sometimes, keeping an open mind is just what we need.

Imagine you are learning to drive. Every little task requires mental effort and after driving around for half an hour, you get out of the car feeling exhausted. Over time and with practice, however, you get the hang of it and then you just go where you want to go.

Now, imagine you have been driving on the right side of the road for 10 or 15 years and you move to a country where driving is done on the left side of the road. Continuing to believe in your training and to assume that everyone drives on the right side of the road can be fatal.

Life is the same. As babies, we have to figure everything out, often with enormous effort, until we know it and start doing it as a matter of course. When we grown up, the circumstances change – we go to school, we grow in size, we move to another environment, we become adults, we have children, we grow old. Holding on to beliefs from our first years of life may not be fatal, but it can seriously complicate our life.

Read more about how to open your mind