Majority Rules

People of mixed racesThis post was inspired by Ronit’s diversity education, by our family’s life in several countries around the world, by Eden’s recent foray into academic research, by our many dealings with people of different communication styles, bust mostly by my occasional frustration of being a minority…

Having grown up in one place for 28 years and then moved to another country, Ronit and I had to change many basic assumptions about what everyone knows, how everyone thinks and what everyone expects. It is called Culture Shock. We already knew quite a bit about the United States (I had even been an exchange student there), so the change did not shock us, but boy was it different.

Now imagine going from that to Thailand! Hardly any English, driving on the left, completely different social norms and ethics, hot, humid, rainy, full of mosquitoes… What everyone did in Thailand was very different to what everyone did in Texas.

The thing is, in each one of these places, people who had grown up there and had never been anywhere else could not perceive anything other than what they had been accustomed to. To them, “everyone” was everyone they knew and that was good enough.

Read more about why you should be more accepting

The Art of Letting Go: Living up to Others’ Expectations

Man with tiny man whispering in his earOur life works so that we are born into living up to others’ expectations. It starts with fitting into our parents’ expectations and then goes through 12-15 years of living up to our teachers’ expectations and nothing at all focuses on living up to our own expectations. In fact, as I recall from my early years, adults said to me over and over again that life was not about what I expected while they did everything in their power to make me fit their expectations.

There are several problems with living life that way and the common thing between them is that they are motivated by the fear of not matching others’ expectations.

This life is yours and yours only and no one should take charge of it. You are the only one who can control your own subconscious mind and the only person that can take care of your own best interest.

Let go of living up to others’ expectations by speaking your mind, by listening to your gut feelings and by aligning your beliefs, values and rules to match them. Use your feelings as a guide. I am not suggesting that you live in the world on your own to minimize external influences, but whatever comes from the outside, ask yourself, “Does this match my feelings? Does this match what I believe? Does it feel right to me?”

Read more about how to be happy in life

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

Emotional Credit Line

Old piggy bankNow, perhaps more than ever in our lifetime, things are tough. Money is tight, prices are up, revenues are down, globalization, the Internet and mobile technology change almost everything we know. As a result, pressure is mounting and many parents struggle to cope with it.

In the past week, two things happened that made me think of using buffers or “lines of credit” as a strategy for reducing pressure, both financial and emotional, and keeping ourselves sane, while being better parents for our kids.

The first thing was Eden’s presentation of her research on corporal punishment. You may remember we invited our readers to participate in this research, which examined the links between parents’ disciplinary methods and things like the number of children in the family, age differences, financial situation and more.

When she analyzed parents’ and children’s’ responses to her survey, it occurred to Eden that stress may be a mediator between the various characteristics of each family and the amount of physical punishment used by the parents. Turns out, it is. She found that when parents experience more stress in their life, due to having more kids, having them close together and/or not having enough money to support them, they used less positive reinforcement with their children and were more abusive towards them, both verbally and physically.

Read more about how to reduce financial stress

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?”

Make a List: Inspiring People

The Dalai LamaInspiration is contagious. It is the act of giving without the intention of giving that touches people at their core and helps them move forward towards being better, stronger people.

When I take stock of my life, my behavior, my attitude, beliefs and feelings, I often discover that other people have contributed greatly to who I am. When people have contributed in a bad way, I say that because of them or something that happened with them, I got stuck in a bad place in my life. In a sense, I am blaming them for being part of my life. When they have contributed in a good way, I say they have inspired me or encouraged me to reach where I am now. I am grateful and happy that they have been part of my journey.

My mom and dad influenced me in different ways, because they were totally different people. As a kid, I had lots of criticism towards them. When I started my personal growth experience at the age of 16 (lucky me, I was young), I changed the question from “How did they screw up my life?” to “How did each of them inspire me?” It is amazing how many great answers I have received.

Read more about inspiring people

How to Change Habits: Flexibility of the Mind

People jumpgin and cheeringThis is your self-help guide to changing habits. Now that you know about types of habits and how they are formed and you know how habits affect your life, it is time to take control of your life by breaking limiting habits and creating new, empowering ones, instead.

  1. Write down 10 recurring situations or outcomes in your life that you are not happy with
  2. Decide which category they are in
  3. Ask yourself what is you think, feel, say or do that brings you into each situation or gets you each outcome
  4. Check if the items on your list have anything in common
  5. Take yourself into one of those events in your mind and experience it again. Look around and try to discover the exact circumstances in that situation. Are you tired? Worried? Has something else happened that day? The day before? Are you hungry? Write as many details as you can. If you do it for the 10 items, you will find a pattern
  6. Take yourself to the one of those events again. This time, pay attention to the way you feel. What scares you about what happened? Stay in that situation until you find out what you are afraid of. When this fear first formed, it made you develop the habit to overcome it or manage it. We all develop habits to help us cope better. Sometimes the habits are not updated. They were appropriate 30, 20, 10 years ago, but may not be appropriate under different circumstance. We are just not the same people

Read more about how to break bad habits easily