Do You Know The WHY?

We are all different, unique individuals with our own way of seeing the world and our own way of doing things.

Sometimes the “different” things that people do can really get under our skin.

You know what I’m talking about.

Maybe it’s not worthy of starting a fight over, but every time it happens, you feel that twinge of resentment or annoyance.

Like when your cubicle mate insists on using the speakerphone to carry on all his conversations or your neighbor always mows his lawn right when your favorite show is on TV.

Do you ever take a moment and try to find out WHY they do it?

I have a little story for you about why it is a good ideas to find out the why.

The Towel Incident

In my bathroom space is limited.  In order to have 2 towels (his and hers) hanging we had to install a double towel rack – the kind where one hangs in front of the other.

Now, being that I am a little bit of a control freak, I like to have them lined up perfectly – mine in front, my husband’s in back.  Each morning, I would make sure they were “just right” before I left the bathroom.

But later every day, I would notice that they didn’t seem to stay that way.  The towels would be  pushed around and end up all catawampus.

Every time I saw this, it would bother me.  I mean, why can’t my husband just leave them the way he found them.

Even though I didn’t really think he was doing it to annoy me – that was the result and a little deposit would be made in the resentment bank.

This went on for YEARS, never making me mad enough to say something, but still annoying me every time I went in there.

Until one day I witnessed it.  I happened to be in the bathroom as my husband brushed his teeth.

When he was done, he went to the towels and pushed mine out of the way so that he could wipe his toothpaste smudged mouth on his towel.

All of a sudden, I saw that his action that had annoyed me for so long was actually an act of consideration.

True, he could have fixed them after he was done (but I know him better than that – I’m the one with the control problem, remember) but it never occurred to me before that he was being thoughtful by making sure he didn’t leave his grime on my towel.

Now, every time I see the towels all askew, it actually brings a smile to my face (right before I move them back) because I know it was created by an act of kindness and love.

How Can We Discover the WHY?

So now that we see that knowing the “why” can make all the difference, how do we go about gaining that knowledge?

Obviously, the first step is to ask.

Now make sure you ask in a non-confrontational way.

Not “Why the *%#$ did you do that?”, but more “I was wondering how come you …”

And then listen to the answer.  Don’t be waiting to come back with a response about why their reasoning is wrong, etc.

Try to put yourself in their shoes and see it from their point of view.

Even if you don’t agree with their logic, at least you now have a better reference point and this can help you develop empathy, not resentment.

Of course, sometimes you can’t ask the person directly – like when a driver just cut you off or the clerk at the drive-through window was especially rude.

In this case, just imagine what is going on with them.  You can tell yourself “Boy, they must be having a really bad day”  Maybe in the case of that other driver on the road you can imagine that there alarm didn’t go off and now they are late for an important meeting.

And then, most importantly, think to yourself, “I’m grateful that my day is starting off better than theirs.”

This way you can actually find gratitude instead of anger.

The Takeaway

In 99% of cases, the person does not do what they do to upset you or to get under your skin.

When you know the WHY (or you can imagine one), you can stop adding to the resentment bank and maybe even make a deposit in your happiness account instead.


How To Use Conflict to Improve Our Lives

Conflict is all around us.

From the argument with your kids about leaving dirty dishes in the sink, to disagreements with your boss, to on-going tensions with your ex-spouse, to the halls of Washington DC.

We can’t avoid it.  And the truth is, we shouldn’t want to.

The Chinese word for conflict is made of 2 symbols.  One stands for danger, but the other stands for opportunity.

When I went through the biggest conflict in my life (my divorce 9 years ago), I lived in a place of fear and danger for a long time.  But through that struggle, I came out a different – and better – person.  It was perhaps one of the greatest growing and learning opportunities of my life.

So, how do we minimize the danger and maximize the opportunities inherent in conflict?

What kinds of opportunities are waiting for us if we change our mindset about conflict?  Let’s take a look.

Creative Growth

In order to resolve a conflict through collaboration takes creative thought.

True collaboration means that both parties walk away happy with the solution.  The solution may be an alternative to the conflict that no one thought of before.

It means brainstorming and truly getting creative with solutions.  Flexing those creativity muscles, throwing everything out there no matter how crazy it sounds and picking the solution that is a win-win for everyone.


When we are involved in a conflict with someone, we spend most of our mental energy on why the other person is to blame.

If we take the opportunity to reflect not only on our actions, but also on our reactions, we might be surprised by what we discover.

Have you heard the saying about that whenever you are pointing a finger at someone, you have 3 fingers pointing back at you?

What that means is that the things that drive us crazy about other people may very well remind us of parts of our personality that we don’t like and are trying to hide.

Being able to really dig deep and use a magnifying glass on yourself takes a lot of hard work and it probably won’t happen overnight.

But if you are constantly getting ticked off by the same people over the same issues and you can open yourself up to the possibility that this might really be about you, your mind will continue working on the problem until one day it hits you in a light bulb moment kind of way.

Learning About Co-operative Power

Co-operative power is having power with someone, not power over them.

In many conflicts, people take on roles – like the persecutor, the rescuer, or the victim.

Which role do you tend to play?  Does your role change depending upon who you are in conflict with?

If you find yourself in the persecutor role where you tend to reward, punish, put others down, or bulldoze to deal with conflict try to use a “consulting” role instead.  This role would consist of listening, sharing expertise, respecting other’s, as well as, your needs and sharing decision making.

Instead of being a rescuer – denying your own needs, acting as a buffer, solving problems for others, acting like a martyr- become a facilitator.  Be objective, acknowledge and support others’ needs, be assertive and state your own needs, help others hear each other.

What about the victim role?  I want to be clear that we are talking about role-playing victims, not real victims.  Role-playing victims have an emotional investment in being the underdog – they are getting something out of being the helpless victim.

If you tend to play the victim role you may find yourself often attracting accidents and bad relationships, or you may stay stuck in inappropriate situations.  You tend to focus on how bad and hopeless everything is and you give off an air of helplessness.

Instead of continuing to play the victim, turn it around and take responsibility for your power.  Seek support, be assertive about your own needs, participate in decision making, and take action.

By using our personal power in cooperation with others in order to solve a conflict instead of trying to use power as control and manipulation, we can put everyone on a level playing field and encourage everyone to participate in the decision making process.

How to be Assertive without Being Aggressive.

Have you ever heard of “I” Statements?  An “I” statement is a sentence (or a few of them) that focuses on how ”I” am feeling about a particular behavior and how “I” would like it taken care of.   Notice I didn’t say it is about how “you” made me feel and how “you” can fix it.  It is not an attack and it doesn’t assign blame or make demands.

So, instead of saying something like “I’m sick of you interrupting me” to your spouse, maybe try instead “When I’m not able to finish what I’m saying, I feel frustrated and what I’d like is that I am able to finish all I want to say.”

Not only are you going to be met with a less defensive response from your spouse, but using an “I” statement also forces you to think about what you are going to say before you say it.

When you spend time trying to formulate what exactly you are feeling and how you want it to change, you may be surprised at the issues that come up within yourself.

In Closing

Next time you find yourself involved in a conflict with someone, think of it as an opportunity.  What can I learn here?  What exciting insights await me?  Turn any judgments into curiosity and get to know not only more about the other person, but about yourself as well.



What Can We Do?

Do you believe that there is too much anger, judgment, pettiness, and hostility in the world?  I do.

This anger, judgment, pettiness and hostility are leading us into situations such as international wars, stalemates in our government, rage on the streets, and disconnected families.

In order to save ourselves and all we hold dear, I believe we must change this destructive course we are on.

We must start with the children.  We must teach them how to deal with anger constructively, how to let go of and overcome judgments, how to rise above pettiness and work for the greater good and how to diffuse hostility.

Part of this process is teaching children how to respectfully resolve conflicts, how to develop empathy, and how to develop a feeling of stewardship for their fellow peers.

The teaching is 3 fold.

First, we must lead by example.  We must become self-aware enough to deal with our character defects.  We need to be a pillar of calm in our own homes.  Changing the world starts with changing ourselves.

Second, we must search out peaceful means of resolving our conflicts.  No more nightly news broadcasts of little league baseball parents brawling it out in front of their kids.  No more temper tantrums as if we were 2 years old.  Mediation instead of “let’s sue”.  A “we can all win” mentality instead of “I must win and you must lose.”

Third, we must teach our children directly how to resolve their conflicts and how to be better citizens of the human race.  Schools should embrace peer mediation and emotional health programs.  We should be worried about the whole child, not just their test scores.

Call to Action

So, what can we do?

We can start with ourselves.  We can take ownership of our feelings and actions.  We can dive deeper into what kind of energy we are putting out into the world and resolve to change what we can – ourselves.

By working on ourselves, we become an example of peace and serenity to those around us.

Our family will benefit, our communities will benefit, and in the end the world will benefit.

Falling Forward

Life can get discouraging.

We feel like we are making real progress and then BOOM something trips us up and we stumble.

But here’s the thing – as long as we have been traveling forward to begin with, when we trip up and fall – we fall forward.

What do I mean by falling forward?

We may make mistakes in any area of our life – relationships, work, parenting – but as long as we learn from those mistakes, we are better off for having made them.

There is an old saying “God helps those who help themselves.”

I used to think that this meant that God (ok, so I am using the term “God” here.  You can substitute whatever word makes you comfortable – Higher Power, the Universe, Mother Nature – you get the idea) doesn’t like lazy or unhelpful people and he will withhold his blessings if he thinks this applies to you.

But the other day, when I was thinking about falling forward, I had an a-ha moment about that saying.

First, God’s help never appears in the form we would like.  God’s help is contained in those situations which are meant to teach us what we need to learn.

And guess what?  Those situations usually suck.  They are painful and full of struggles and leave us questioning ourselves.

Because these are not happy times (in most circumstances) most people do not recognize them as gifts from God.  In fact they may curse God for putting them through this.

But if you can recognize the gift, grasp the lesson  (maybe not learn it this time, but at least know that it is there) you can help yourself by continuing on that spiritual journey.

By knowing that it is a gift, the problem will seem lighter, solutions may come easier, and overall your attitude will brighten.

But God can only help you if you help yourself by recognizing the gift that is given and attempting to figure out the lesson.

So that stumble on your forward march?

Maybe it is meant to get your attention, to wake you up.  Or maybe it is meant for you to have to sit down and rest.

Whatever the reason for it, you will always end up further forward on your journey than where you were

The Myth of Perfection

I am not perfect.  No one is.

Sometimes when I am having a really hard day emotionally, I wonder how can this be happening.  I write articles about how to move past this stuff, but I still have to remind myself of my own words.

You’ve heard me talk about moving beyond fear, changing what we can, letting go of what we can’t.  This is hard stuff, believe me I get it.

So what do I do when I find myself living in my head, “awfulizing” the future, trying to control the things that I can’t control?

Well, first off, I allow my awareness of what I am doing to work itself into my consciousness.  I have to be careful here because it is very easy to start beating myself up with that proverbial 2×4.  I know better!  How come I can’t practice what I preach?!  I should be perfect at this, will I ever get this down perfectly?!  – Hint, the answer is no – there is no perfection for any of us.

After awareness comes acceptance.  Accept that I still let fear run my thoughts sometimes.  Accept that I still have a long way to go on my journey.  Accept that the universe still has lessons to teach me.

Accept that while I may never reach “perfection”, I am a whole lot better dealing with my fears and thoughts than I used to be.  The same button pushing incident that sent me down this path this morning would have been a major crises not too long ago, but today it is just a few hours of the thought monkeys running around my head before I could manage to get them back in their cages.

So, how did I manage to cage those monkeys?  By taking action.  By controlling the things that I could – my thoughts, feelings, fears.

First I went deep.  Why am I having these feelings?  What do they mean?  I kept going deeper and deeper, like peeling back the layers of an onion.  What am I so afraid of?  What is the deep, dark fear here?

Once I was able to put my finger on it, I pulled it out into the light and really looked at it.  Was it logical?  Would it really be the end of the world if the worst happened?  Is this about me or how other people would perceive me?

If I was home, I would have pulled out a fear meditation and let that help me to move past it.  But I am in my office today so that wasn’t possible.

Instead, I went to a file I keep in my email of inspirational things I have kept.  Some our emails sent by others, some are things I have written and sent, some are just little tidbits I have picked up here and there.

I knew there was one in there that I knew would help me.  It was an email I had sent to a friend when I was having a major “a-ha” moment.  In it I expressed great insights into fear and love.  I needed to remind myself of that moment – of what I had discovered.

If you are not journaling or keeping some kind of inspiration file, I greatly suggest you think about doing so.  It is so helpful to be able to go back and read what I wrote when I finally “got it” about something.  Because, nothing is linear.  It’s not like we learn something and that is the end.  We keep getting tested and sometimes we need a refresher course on what we learned.

Anyway, after I read what I had written, the knowing was there again.  I “got it” all over again and a great sense of peace came over me.

I closed my eyes and prayed.  I was able to give it over again.  Right when I was done, my phone rang.  All the awful things I was afraid of happening, didn’t happen.  Everything is alright.  But, actually, for me it was finally alright before I even picked up the phone.

So, why am I giving you a play by play of my day?  Why did I decide to pull back the curtain and admit that I have problems implementing all the stuff we talk about on Serenity After Divorce?

Because I want you to know that you are not alone.  Life is made up of taking 2 steps forward and 1 step back, but eventually you will get where you are headed.

Nobody is perfect.  We all think, “okay, this time I’ve got it down” and then realize, “ah, no I don’t.

When you start getting discouraged, it’s time to look back and see where you came from.  To acknowledge your progress.  Only then can we truly appreciate this journey we are on – together.