Build Your Happiness

Personal note

Autumn is indeed the time for quickening pulses and the sensation that something new and exciting is about to happen. Well, it is. In fact, many things are going to be happening in the next few weeks.

Next week I go to Toronto to meet with my coach, Pat Mussieux, and our Master Mind group of enthusiastic entrepreneurs.  There will be much sharing of joy, success, and skills, and I know I  will come back both exhilarated and refreshed.

The second is this: last Saturday I attended the book launch for Lori Campbell’s Awaken Your Age Potential,  for  which I have written a chapter. The launch was held in St. Paul’s big River Centre, amidst people of all ages (one was 84!) registering for a marathon. Read more below.

Build Your Happiness

The numbers of things going on in our world at any given time are too much for us to pay attention to, so we select – even if we aren’t aware of selecting.

The pattern by which you select what to attend to has been there in your mind for years; it may reach out to snag little snippets of joy or humor – or it may seek out any possible potential unpleasantness. You’ve been unwittingly setting up that pattern for years.

You can alter that selection pattern even if it s long-standing, and learn to experience more happiness and joy in your life. The mind will then actively seek that which matches the new pattern, but you have to invest in making that change, particularly if you have long held a pattern that draws negativity to it.

Christine Carter, Ph.D., of the Center for Greater Good at the University of California at Berkeley, says the following.

“The sheer number of positive emotions we experience relative to negative ones affects how happy we are generally; for that reason, excitement about future events can be a great source of positive emotions. Studies show that positive anticipation can bring us as much or more pleasure than the actual event itself.

Then, after that something fun is over, we can squeeze more happiness out of it by recalling, or savoring, our favorite parts. Simply telling a co-worker or friend about something you recently enjoyed can make you feel happier, as can expressing gratitude about it.

Take Action: Plan something fun for next week, and then do something to build excitement. For example, if you are going to a football game or play with a friend, send your friend an “I’m so excited!” email, or let yourself read a review or article about the team or event.

…. What is your favorite way to build excitement about a future event? How do you savor the good things in your life?”

You are not at the mercy of everything happens in your environment. Just make it a practice to be mindful of what you turn your thoughts to.

For more information from Christine, visit her Raising Happiness articles at

Can I be an introvert and a champion too?

The short answer is, You Bet! Too many people equate introversion with shyness, when in fact introverts are simply people who rely more on inner resources than outer ones, and deeply need a certain amount of solitude in which to re-charge their batteries.

Introversion may lie behind outstanding performance in many fields, from music and athletics to chess. In one study, K. Anders Ericsson and colleagues found that professors at the Music Academy in Berlin could predict those violinists who would go on to a professional career versus those who were more likely to become teachers instead of performers.

The difference? All the violinists spent approximately the same amount of time practicing, but those whose skill levels predicted they would play well enough to perform publicly spent the bulk of their time practicing – alone.

Extroverts, who seem to need a great deal of stimulation, including social stimulation, are less comfortable making that commitment to hours of solitary practice.

Introverts, however, need to be reminded of the following aspects of optimal performance:

You don’t do it alone.
Charles Garfield, author/creator of the Peak Performance programs, made this statement after reviewing excellent performers in a number of fields. The ability to find, and keep, strong supporters who will help, cheer you on, and comfort you when things go wrong is a major part of optimal performance.

Introverts need to balance their need for solitude and self-reflection with their ability to connect with others in a meaningful way.

Accept responsibility, but not blame.
The ability to self-reflect and analyze the reasons why a prize wasn’t won all involve analysis of the performance, not the personality of the athlete.

Once having done so, the excellent performer goes back to work with renewed determination instead of retiring in embarrassment.

“I didn’t focus enough this time” is a responsible remark; “Guess I’m just a failure” is self-blame.

Recognize setbacks, not failure.
Peak performers recognize that there will be setbacks, but that there will always be another chance to display their excellence.

Allow yourself a short period of time to recover from the blow of a setback. Set a definite time, such as one day or two days (or two weeks if you are really burned out) in which to relax and pamper yourself. You may be amazed at how quickly you will regain your ability to look at the issue differently and get back to work.

(Watch for Lynette Crane’s new book, The Confident Introvert: Gain the skills to overcome shyness and low self-esteem, due out in Fall, 2012)

Underlying Issues

Personal note

In Minneapolis, as in much of the country, we are sweltering under an unprecedented heat wave.  This Northern city, which was once a choice vacation spot for Southerners hoping to escape the heat in the South, has posted numerous temperatures in the high 90’s and even 102 a few days ago.  And those temperatures are taken at the airport, where they seem to enjoy better weather than I do in the center city.  My thermometer has recorded a temperature as high as 106 degrees in the past week.The maddening thing about human-unfriendly weather is that it keeps you from doing what you planned, in my case gardening, reading on my front porch, and taking drives into the country.

The good thing about it is that you can find you now have lots of time to organize and to be creative about the next steps in your life.

Once again, it’s a choice.  And I have chosen the less stressful choice: my files are orderly, my house is on its way to being pristine.

How about you?  Are you fighting nature or going with the flow?

Underlying Issues

What’s the real source of your stress?

Coaches and therapists will tell you that when people are stressed or angry, what they say they are upset about and what is the real cause are two different things.

If a driver cut in front of you and made a rude gesture, is the irritation you feel really because of that? Are all of the times you feel irritated during the day – waiting in line while a customer ahead of you requires an extensive price check, watching the pharmacist have what seems to be an overly-long conversation with a customer – just the result of random, unrelated events, or is there something else going on?

Here are some underlying causes why life may seem continually annoying:

You sense a loss of power
Someone or something in your life seems to be more in control of a key situation than you are.  This is particularly difficult for a Dominant person, whose major motivation is to control situations in order to achieve a goal.

Ask yourself if you have given up your power by not asserting yourself, when in fact you have some expertise to contribute to the situation.  Or is it a case where you feel vaguely uncomfortable when someone else is in charge, even when you don’t have the skills important to that situation?  Try to relax and learn; your leadership will emerge as you show your ability and willingness to master an unfamiliar situation.

You feel rejected
Someone else is getting the credit or attention that you desire, or that you normally get.  If you have a strong need to be a motivating leader, you feel this loss more keenly than many others.

You can show your leadership by refraining from making negative comments about the other person and supporting any genuine qualities that you see this person exhibiting.

You’re disturbed at what seems to be a lot of conflict around you
There is a high noise level or disagreement in your environment.  Even if it is not directed at you, you can end up feeling fatigued, jangled, and even threatened that at some point it may be directed at you.

If this bothers you, you may need to program a few five- to ten-minute breaks in your day in which you retreat to your “Island of Peace,” a mental state in which you relax by breathing deeply and taking an imaginary trip to a peaceful site you have created.

There are people who thrive on a noisy environment and lots of stimulation and are startled to learn that it disturbs someone else. In some cases, you can point out to these people who are noisier than you are that you would appreciate it if they would keep the din down.

You are being unduly rushed
This is particularly unsettling if you are a conscientious, detailed-oriented person, not just because you feel you can’t do your best work, but also because it suggests that whoever is rushing you doesn’t grasp who you are and what is your value.

You may have to question them (and yourself) as to whether what you are doing right now requires a perfect performance.  (See my article on Persistent Perfectionism in the archives.)  If it does, let the other person know firmly what you require in order to turn out the job they themselves have required.

If you are feeling overwhelmed in one of these key areas, you may be inclined to find life irritating in general.  Look at the real cause of your irritation and take some steps to challenge it: getting annoyed at small irritants in your daily life without confronting the real cause will just escalate your stress.

(For more information on individual differences in how we experience life, see my program “Discover How Other People Misunderstand You … and what to do about it.”)


Personal note

What a week!  I gave a talk on “Expand Your Time and Tame Your Tension” at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation’s health fair on Saturday, delivered while swaying a bit from fatigue, as my aging cat decided to get me up – and keep me up – at 3 a.m. that day.

The response of the audience members was great, as they clustered around me at the end to ask questions, apparently not noticing that I wasn’t in top form. Perhaps I was; I only knew that I felt the passion I usually do when I talk about this topic, and the words just flowed out of my mouth.

The beauty of truly understanding good stress management is that you learn to roll with the waves that try to batter you, and not fight them.  My head was not filled, as it once would have been, with thoughts of how terrible it was that I was so exhausted, and that my talk would suffer as a result.  I didn’t have to cope with a frantic feeling that once would have lasted from those early morning hours right up to the time I picked up the microphone and spoke.  I didn’t feel rushed; I had a sense of timelessness, as if I was just strolling through life and nothing was terribly urgent.

That’s one of the  many things that I will be teaching in my upcoming seminar, “Expand Your Time, Tame Your Tension … and Expand Your Life,” coming up  on June 9.   Make sure you register before May 30 to get the reduced rate for this transformational experience.  Click here to learn more about it.


(How often do you criticize yourself during a given day? How often do you hold yourself back from doing or saying something because you’re afraid you will make a mistake? Then you’d receive that awful thing, criticism – if not from yourself, then from someone else.

None of us wants to live in a world with no standards; what would it be like to have surgery from a surgeon who was not qualified, or to fly in a plane with a pilot who was not held to the highest standards?

And yet, hardly anybody admits to enjoying the process by which we sometimes have to reach those standards –that is, criticism.  We’d prefer not to get it; we’d prefer to be perfect, or at least OK, much of the time.

Sometimes – for many people, often – we avoid putting ourselves in a situation that is likely to trigger criticism, for example, taking a risk.

But we can’t even get away from criticism when we’re alone; sometimes our severest critics are with us all the time – ourselves.

Luckily there is a way to reduce the stress and fear associated with criticism:  change it into something useful called feedback.  Here is a story that illustrates feedback and how it works.

Many people don’t realize that the Apollo space module was off target 90% of the time on the way to the moon.  90%!  How terrified or discouraged would we feel if we were that muchoff target on the way to an important goal?

Yet all we remember is that Apollo hit the moon.  And here’s how it did it, with the aid offeedback.

Picture the moon, way out there in space, and then picture the spot on the earth from which Apollo was leaving.  Now draw an imaginary line between that spot and the moon.

When Apollo blasted off, it didn’t follow that straight line.  In fact, it went wildly off at an angle to that line.

Here’s how Apollo might have reacted if it were human, filled with self criticism:
“Hullo!  What’s this!  I’m   w  a  y   off track.  Stupid, stupid me!  Now what am I going to do … Mrs.  Murphy, my 3rd grade teacher, always said I was too impulsive.  …  By gosh, it’s lonely out here. … Mother was right!  I always think the grass is always greener…. When I get safely back home I’m never going to do this again.”

But Apollo was a machine, and it got feedback, not criticism, from mission control, that went something like this:

“Apollo, you are off course x degrees in y direction.  Correct.”

And Apollo corrected. Actually, it over-corrected, veering wildly off course at an angle in the other direction.  But … not quite as far off course this time. And a little nearer to the moon.

Once again, it did not have that internal critic saying, “You’re so stupid.  I already told you the right direction.  What’s the matter with you anyway?”

It just got another feedback message.

“Apollo, you are off course x degrees in z direction.  Correct.”

Again it over-corrected, but a little bit less this time.  It was a little nearer to the straight line, and a little nearer to the moon.

In this manner, correcting, and then correcting again, it zigzagged its way to the moon.  Each move was a little less erratic, a little more accurate.  And all we remember is that Apollo hit the moon – because of good feedback.

The path that Apollo took to the moon is the path of human beings, too, when they are learning a new task or a skill.  We may start out a little shaky, a little uncertain, feeling our way until we become more confident of the right path.  We dash off in the wrong direction, then (if we are lucky) we correct, then over-correct.  We need good feedback, not criticism.  Without it we may continue stubbornly plowing in the wrong direction, or give up in despair.

Here are some differences between criticism and feedback:
Criticism looks backward, at what went wrong.  It focuses on the individual, and it involves blaming the person, sometimes slapping on a label, such as  “dumb,” or “careless.”

Feedback looks forward to improving performance the next time.  It focuses on the action, and provides information as to how that action might be better the next time.  That word “information” is important:  it should tell you what to do in order to improve, not just what not to do.

Pay attention to what you’ve been saying to yourself, then write it down!  If you talked to your best friend that way, would they still be your best friend?

Insist on feedback from others.  Don’t accept criticism that doesn’t provide useful information about how you could do better.  Ask for good feedback, and be sure to select people who have knowledge about what you are trying to accomplish when you do so. Choose to ignore critics that can’t provide that useful information.

Pause, think, then choose to be your own best friend.  Give yourself feedback that will help direct you to your “moon.”

(Next week: how to win friends and influence people by learning to give feedback, not criticism.)

Rose sniffing

Personal note

Last week I flew to London, Ontario, Canada, to meet with my Master Mind group, and especially, my dynamic coach, Pat Mussieux.  I can’t say enough about this group and our coach; when the man at Passport Control on the U.S. side asked,  incredulously, “You flew to Canada for 1-1./2 days?” I was challenged to try to explain myself.  But I am renewed, recharged, and ready to share the results of that experience with friends and readers.


Rose Sniffing

We had a lovely speaker return to my women’s group last week. She is an expert on women’s  health, and once again  she provided us with arcane and useful information that we could have gotten nowhere else.  She did it with such gentle grace and humor that we felt soothed and refreshed at the end of an intense hour and a half.

At the end of her talk she announced that this was her last talk.  She had resigned from her job in order to have time to smell the roses.

How lovely for her.  How lousy for us.

We might wonder: must we wait for the end of our careers in order to have time to enjoy life?  Is there no other way to savor life deeply?

Here’s a little experiment to try:  Select a beautiful object – how about a rose? – to  contemplate fully and completely for  all of two minutes.  Immerse yourself in the experience; notice color, texture, line, fragrance, whatever is relevant to the object you have chosen.

Feeling distracted and fidgety?  Take a deep, slow breath and continue to gaze at this object.

Immerse yourself  in its timeless beauty. Savor it.

Don’t do this just once and then forget about it.

You might make a small collection of objects that are suitable for relaxed gazing; a kaleidoscope, with its vast array of changing patterns, has always been one of my favorites.  Keep your collection handy when you need to pause and remember how to savor life.

What if we incorporated a little rosebud sniffing into our daily life? I thought of this as I rushed from one appointment to another last week.  Yes, I was walking rapidly, but at the same time I noticed, and deeply appreciated, the cherry blossoms and the lacy patterns of their shadows on the sidewalk, the almost-neon green of the new grass, and the flash of red as a cardinal darted in and out of the foliage.

Even as you move through your busy daily routine, you can remind yourself to leave no rose unsniffed.

Watch How You Tell Your Story!

Personal note

This week I’m off to London, Ontario, Canada, to meet with my coach in person, as well as the other wonderful people in my Master Mind group. The very thought of traveling (which makes me more creative, especially at 30,000 feet altitude) and sharing stories with others has lifted my spirits so much that I’m almost giddy.The last week has been a mixed bag: some wins, some losses, but all of it, in retrospect, has had an element of humor in it.  So I resurrected this article from last year…..

Watch How You Tell Your Story!

When bad things happen to good people (you), there is an irresistible urge to share the load by talking about it.  This can have two good results:

You relieve yourself of some of the pressure by sharing
You may have insights into a problem when talking with someone else.

It feels comforting to rush to friends or loved ones to tell them all the bad things that have been happening to you, but it can backfire.  Along the way, you may mentally rehearse everything you’re going to tell them, making sure not to omit any details.  It can be calming to see the look of sympathy in the eyes of someone else, and to hear their consoling words.

When you tell your story in all its intensity, you are reliving the event.  If it was stressful when it happened, your recounting of the story may bring back the same physical stress.   Even your mental rehearsal may do that.

The fact is, an estimated 10% of our stress is due to what happens to us; the other 90% is due to how we think about what happens to us, or how we habitually react to what happens.  So for one real stressful event, you may experience the same reaction many times.  It’s like getting a lot of bang for your buck, except it’s much less desirable than a buck. Each time you go through your story, you are undermining your physical health and your happiness, too, by putting your body through the same raised heart rate and blood pressure, muscular tension, troubled digestion, and mental confusion.

How can you get the release of telling your troubles to others in a way that is healthy?

First, position yourself as a problem-solver, not a victim
Instead of saying something like,  “Why ME?” or “Things like this always happen to me?”, try something like, “This was a real test of my ingenuity.” Or “Once I calmed down, I figured it out.”

Find some humor in the situation – particularly when you’re in the middle of the situation.  When my garage door froze shut, I cobbled together all the extension cords in the house, plugged my hair dryer into the end, and trudged out through the snow to warm up the lock.  No power!  I had to giggle when I realized that I had to go back in and plug the other end of the cords into an outlet in the house, and I giggled even more when I had to make another trip to push the re-set button.

Which brings me to the next point:

The joke’s on you  It happens to everyone, at one time or another – stress leaves us feeling so confused that we overlook simple details and make obvious mistakes. I like to say that Stress Makes Us Stupid.  It’s not the fickle finger of fate poking us once again; it’s a fairly natural and predictable process – but it can be avoided.

When you find yourself blocked at implementing a simple solution during a stressful period, pause, take a deep breath, and think the whole process through before you make a move.  Don’t rush because you want to the stress to end – it’ll just make it worse.

Determine in advance whether you’re asking for advice or help
Be careful who you choose as a listener.  Some people just have to jump in and solve your problems. Other people (often, but not always, men), see the disclosure of your feelings as a call for help

Tell your listener what you want.  Say, “I’m not asking for help in finding a solution at this time/ I really just need to get this off my chest right now.”

Express gratitude to your listener for listening to you
“Whew, it’s great to have a friend like you. Thanks for listening.”

Make it a two-way street
Needless to say, being a good listener who doesn’t make judgments or give unwanted advice when other people tell their stories is a great way to get reciprocity.

When you tell your story the right way, other people will be willing to listen to you again and again rather than avoiding you

Regarding that frozen week of minor crises that I mentioned at the start; I figured I must have told my story right when the friend I e-mailed  wrote back, saying, “That’s the funniest story I’ve heard all day.”

Take charge of your stressful assumptions

Personal note

Last week was a whirlwind of activity, ending with the Bloomington Writers’ Festival (9thyear!) on Saturday.

It was inspiring to see so many writers proudly displaying their creations, which were often based on personal experiences that would have felled a lesser person.

I was there as a volunteer, checking people in, along with many friends from WOW (Women of Words), a  group of women who continue to grow and prosper in astonishing ways through mutual support and sharing.  I am a WOW member and profoundly grateful for that privilege, without which I would not be where I am now.

Take charge of your stressful assumptions

It has been said that the bulk of aggression in the world is the result of poor communication.  Sometimes the wrong words are chosen; sometimes the wrong words are heard.

In addition to someone producing a communication and another person hearing that communication, there is another layer: the assumptions we make about what we hear.  We assume a certain intent, a possible threat, and then we create stories around what that is going to mean to us – in the future.

Someone once compared this process to looking at a door of a house and imagining all the rooms behind that door, their furnishings, and the activities that take place in those rooms.  It’s a lovely creative process, but in communication it is misplaced.  We not only set in motion stressful processes that undermine our health and age our bodies, but we set in motion actions that can undermine and even destroy relationships.

Why do we do this?  It’s a form of self defense:  a pre-emptive strike to protect ourselves against the possibility of threat.  It not only doesn’t work, but it may make us feel even more threatened than before.  Sharon Ellison, expert on non-defensive communication ( notes that confidence, competence, and even the ability to learn diminish after responding in a defensive manner.

Here are some steps to take when a communication seems to be causing you stress:

Pause and consider what the threat seems to be:  The pause is important because the urgent feeling that stress produces in us often causes us to take action first, and reflect later.

In your pause, consider how you are feeling.  Sad?  Scared?  Angry?  Did you feel your attractiveness or your skills were being underrated because the speaker praised someone else, or offered you some advice?  Did you then assume that the relationship was going to proceed, or even escalate, into something even more negative?

Ask yourself if this has happened before, and if so, how often?  The more often this same thing has happened in your life, the more likely it is that the challenge is within yourself, not in the other person.

Ask questions to clarify: If someone says, “There’s another way to do that,” and you feel a flash of anger at the implied criticism, you could ask, “Are you critical of the way I am doing this?”  You may find that the other person is surprised at the impact of what seemed, to the speaker, to be an informative remark.  You can now have a more open discussion about what’s really going on.

Reflect:  Ask yourself, “Is this episode worth my attention?”  “Is the person or activity important enough to me that I am going to spend time worrying or worse yet, avoiding a situation I might otherwise have enjoyed?”

Communicate/Negotiate:  It takes a certain amount of courage to say, “When you said  … , I felt…. (sad, angry, depressed, etc).”  The other person may be genuinely startled at this revelation, having intended something else entirely.

Ask for the change you would like:  “I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t criticize me in front of other people. Perhaps you could take me aside and tell me your concerns.”

Take action:  Inaction is sometimes appropriate: you decide no action is necessary because it’s not worth the battle or it isn’t high on your list of priorities.

But if the situation is important enough to you, suggest two outcomes:  “If you continue to criticize me in front of others, I don’t want to work with you any more.  But if you handle it the way I suggested, I would enjoy continuing to work with you.”

Notice that “take action” is the last step.  It’s that old problem: the urgency of the stress response. We feel something must be done right now or else … or else what?

We go off and feel less confident, less competent, and even a little stupid?  How is this a win?

Instead of creating and furnishing mental “houses” filled with potential strife, save your creative abilities for activities that bring genuine value to your life and to the world.

Is anybody listening?

Personal note

During the past two weeks I have been involved with setting up not one but several projects, each of them involving a small group of people. Communications between us have flown back and forth; revisions have had to be made, misunderstandings corrected, and I have been left sometimes with the feeling of one who is herding cats.

It is a reminder of how fragile communication is, and how important it is to strive to be absolutely clear in order to save stress and time.  But what do we mean by “clear communication?”  That’s the essence of today’s article, a small peek into a topic I call “People Literacy” : learning to read different kinds of behavioral styles in order to operate more effectively in personal and professional life.

Is anybody listening?

One common stressor is the feeling that we are trying to get others to understand our needs and our points of view, but somehow, no matter how hard we try, the message isn’t getting through.

The solution to this stress? Try to understand the needs of your listener; then shape your communication to meet those needs.

In an old sitcom, Archie Bunker stated: “Edith, do you know why we can’t communicate? Because I’m talking in English, and you’re listening in DINGBAT!”

Archie Bunker had a point: a major frustration in life is the realization that we are not being heard. His explanation was also typical: it must be your fault if you don’t understand me.

A good rule to remember is that everyone is tuned into Station WII:FM: What’s in it for me? Each of us filters information beamed towards us in terms the kinds of information we want and need, and the possible threat that may be posed for us. The ability to analyze the communication styles of others allows you to plan your communications so that they will be received and understood.

Here is a brief rundown on four different normal types of people, and what they need to hear in order to pay attention to a communication.

The DOMINANT, take-charge type, likes challenges and speedy movement towards a well-defined goal. Dominant types are better speakers than listeners. Such people give new meaning to the terms “brief” and “concise.”

A phone call from a Dominant is likely to consist of a quick message: “I can’t meet you at I p.m. It’ll have to be at 1:45.” And belatedly, “This is Don. How are you?” The speaker may then hang up without waiting for an answer.

A communication to a dominant person should move quickly to the bottom line: what is the proposed plan, what is his or her involvement? Avoid at all costs the following: a long introduction to the topic (trigger impatience and lack of attention in this listener), entertaining anecdotes (arouse suspicion – “Why are you trying to con me”), and detailed presentations of data on the pros and cons (“You should have thought this out on your own time and come to me with a brief, clear proposal”).

ENTHUSIASTIC OPTIMISTS are animated, optimistic, and very sociable people. Charming and entertaining others is a major goal of this very likable type. They make charismatic leaders, teachers, preachers, and super salespeople.

Major threats to this type include the possibility of personal rejection, or a negative reaction to one of their proposals. The result?  Enthusiastic Optimists, when squelched, have an out-of-body experience. In their imaginations, they travel to another, pleasanter planet where your voice is not being heard.

When your Enthusiastically Optimistic listener’s eyes glaze over, it is a distinct possibility you are not being heard.

Take time, if possible, to listen, socialize and empathize with the feelings of the Enthusiastic Optimist.  You will save time in the long run. Present negative information as if it is one of an array of possibilities.

HARMONIOUS TEAMWORKERS are even-tempered, loyal friends and co-workers. In their conversations, they often use the word “we” where others might use “I”:  ‘We went to a movie last night,” “‘We didn’t like that restaurant.”

People who reflect this style tend to speak in pleasant, well-modulated voices, and expect others to do the same. They are made very uncomfortable by forceful tones and language, as used by the Dominant types, or the rising and falling inflections and volume of the Enthusiastic Optimist, interpreting such vocal changes as being threatening.

Harmonious Teamworkers tend to avoidanything unpleasant, and will consequently avoid listening to overly forceful communication.

CAREFUL INDEPENDENTS are detail-oriented, conscientious types who prefer to work alone, and indeed need a certain amount of solitude in order to be comfortable.

Communications beamed towards Careful Independents should be worded cautiously, with respect for detail. Avoid emotion-laden phrases and attempts at persuasion; simply present the facts to which you wish them to pay attention.

Don’t necessarily expect an immediate reply or reaction to your communication. Listeners might be compared to cameras: some zoom in on a specific topic, while others use a wide-angle lens to take in many details simultaneously. The Dominants and Enthusiastic Optimists zoom in on topics which are important to them, react quickly and make decisions accordingly. Harmonious Teamworkers and Careful Independents survey the entire situation, often contemplating several points of view simultaneously.  This type of information processing demands time for reflection before reaction. Pressing them for a response too quickly will result in irritation and resistance to any suggestion being presented by the speaker.

Of course, communication style can vary by situation; people often don’t use the same style at home and at work, for example, and level of stress can play a factor also. Plus, don’t forget that there is a strong relationship between power, communication, income level, and status in the community. However, studying these four listening styles will greatly enhance the power of your communications, and increase the possibility of actually being heard!

Handling the stress of rejection

Personal note

It’s still the beginning of the year, and all around me friends and associates are reaching out to find new ways to make their lives go forward.  As I give talks on stress, health, and success, and go to networking meetings and conferences, I meet people who are starting new enterprises.

High hopes can turn to discouragement very easily when rejection is encountered.

It’s a great time to pause, breathe, and choose to use the rejection as a catalyst, rather than as a heavy anchor.

Handling the stress of rejection

Rejection can cause a particularly deep form of anger, because rejection seems to carry with it a heavy load: loss of self-esteem, and even of identity. Rejection can also result in depression.

Sometimes it takes this shock of rejection to make you realize that you may have been asking for toolittle in life and to get moving to do something about it.  You may have settled for what you thought you could have, not what you really wanted.
Or you may have convinced yourself that you really wanted a situation or a relationship in order to escape the uncomfortable ambiguity of not having a settled future.

You have, in fact, made a poor choice.

I first learned how to turn the anger of rejection into useful energy some years ago, after being rejected three times when I tried to transfer to a nearby state college from the community college.  As an older returning student, this rejection played into my fears that I was somehow inadequate.

After the third rejection, I took a deep breath and took stock of skills and abilities, then said to myself, “How dare they reject me!  Why, I’m good.” I then shot off applications to two prestigious universities, one public and one private, that I would never have dared approach before – and got accepted at both, with scholarships.

The energy of anger, racing through my body, shocked me into looking at the situation very differently.  And that energy forced me to take constructive action.

You may feel that you’ve been rejected because you’re inferior in some way, but it may be that you and a given situation just don’t match.  You may have been deluding yourself that you do match, or will match in the near future if you just hang in there long enough.

Very often, you, and what you offer are rejected because another person is just too busy and involved in his or her own life to pay attention now to you and what you offer.

And you can be rejected because someone else sees you more clearly than you see yourself:  as powerful and destined for something better. And it threatens that person.  It’s as if they have recognized that the cocoon conceals a butterfly, and you are the potential butterfly.

To take some of the sting out of rejection, try the following steps:

Pause, take a breath, and release your fantasy about what might have been in that situation.

Recognize what you may have been going for is a feeling of safety rather than what you really want, as in  “this person or job wouldn’t be my first choice, but it’s safe to ask for because it isn’t too far out of my reach.”  Is safety an important enough reward to settle for when you yearn for excitement and appreciation?

Sometimes you don’t get a flat “no.”  Instead, you get a situation that drags on and on, leaving you feeling a little drained, a little demeaned, and a little … well, “little.”

Our brains are great at storing negative information, which we can access immediately when we are feeling low. Combat this negativity by keeping a file of all your successes and triumphs, large and small, to review when you need reminders of your true worth. Include notes, cards, and awards.  Pull it out whenever you are low. Ask your friends to contribute (positive points only, please) to the same list.

Take action: reach out for more contacts of all kinds.  

And when you do, celebrate diversity! Don’t just look for a mate, a client – or any other kind of match – in the “right” category: gender, age, appearance, income, etc. Do show interest and kindness to people of all different kinds, not just the ones you think can lead you to your goals.

Take up activities you’ve kind of wanted to try, but never did before.

Anyone you meet and connect with can open your eyes and connect you to exciting situations of which you had never dreamed.

Remember, if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting.

To settle for a better-than-nothing relationship, to get stuck doing “okay” work, or to live in a place where you are uncomfortable, to keep applying to the same people, whether they are bosses or clients, for recognition of what you have to offer, is to tell yourself that you’re not deserving of anything more.

Maureen Dowd, the columnist once wrote, “If you settle for less than you think you’re worth, you’ll get even less than you settled for.”

Think about it. Then reach for the stars.  Hey, all they can say is “No,” but at a much higher level than you have been experiencing.

And, when you reach your level – the one where you are energetic and enthused – you just might find “yes” is a frequent occurrence.

The Best Gift of All

Personal Note

Thanksgiving is over, and all of a sudden I have run out of time. Boxes of decorations are strewn around my living room, lists for gifts and for cards are being drawn up, and food is being gathered in to make sure that friends can be welcomed at any time of the day or night.

One of the boxes I opened contained a box of cards that I have kept over the years because of the sentiments expressed by the giver, and one of those cards is the subject of this week’s newsletter.

The Best Gift of All


I was looking over the collection of greeting cards I have received over the years. All of them I treasure for one reason or another; one of them I truly cherish.  It is from a friend who is very like me – in some ways. We both enjoy solitude, and can sit together companionably, reading, without having to interrupt or be entertained by the other.


In other ways, such as tastes and lifestyle, we couldn’t be farther apart.  I love dress-up events in posh places, such as theaters and fancy hotels. She loves spiritual get-togethers with incense and candlelight. I look buttoned-down and Vogue; she looks mystical and other-worldly.  Heck, I am a recovering chocaholic, a taste she infrequently indulges in. We may at times resemble the odd couple when we go places together, but we are friends, and have been for a long time.


The card that I cherish (and look at frequently) shows a delightful fantasy world, with princesses in pointed caps, a unicorn dipping its horn in a stream, and rabbits dressed in livery and tooting ceremonial bugles while doing balletic leaps in the air, all depicted against a background featuring a large rainbow.  (Well, ok, you have to see it, but trust me, it represents my inner world.) The wonder is that she knew this when she saw it and sent it to me.


It took me a few years of gazing at this card to recognize a truth:  She knows who I am, and she likes me for it!


How often do we give gifts that we think would complete our fantasy of the other person: an item of clothing a little more upscale or flattering (in our opinion) than the other person would have chosen, for example.  A gift that is a little hint, a nudge in what we believe is the right direction.


How much more difficult it can be to honor the real person, but how rewarding.


In these financially difficult times, the best gift of all can be within your budget. It doesn’t have to be a fancy object. How about a card offering to take the person to an event you know he or she would love, but you would not?  You might ordinarily be bored to tears by a poetry reading, for example, but you would be generously sharing your time – and finding out more about that person than you knew beforehand. Or you could offer to perform some task that would be very helpful but difficult for the recipient to do.


It doesn’t even have to be the “right” card; one with just the right sentiment.  A home-made one will do just fine to express your feelings, as kindergarteners everywhere know.


Your gift could simply be words of appreciation that you realize you have thought for years but have never put on paper or released into the atmosphere.   Christmas couldn’t be a better time to do so.


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