First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak. ~Epictetus
Communication is a rather deep topic. It involves perceptions, belief systems, learned behaviours, self-esteem, to only name a few. More often than not, we each fall into one of four communication styles. Being aware of our communication style gives us the upper hand in working towards a more healthy communication style. Of course, you may see yourself a little in each of the categories, but we essential want to strive to be assertive communicators!
The aggressive communicator is the communication bully. They often over-power the conversations and don’t allow others to have their say. They will aggressively ‘dump’ their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in the laps of others and walk away, not caring about the clean-up. The aggressive communicator loves verbal weapons! They use foul language, loud yelling, name calling, rhetorical questions, sarcasm and you-statements to defend their position. The aggressive communicator frequently changes partners and friendships, as they isolate themselves with these poor communication techniques.
The aggressive communicator needs to learn how to turn on their mental filter. “I don’t care,” the typical dysfunctional thought of an aggressive communicator, can be changed to “I do care, stop and think before you speak!” They can practice active listening by using a pen and paper to write down their thoughts while the other party is speaking and they can practice ‘the pause’ by literally thinking for 30 seconds to one minute before reacting.
The passive communicator is the bullied of the communication. They are the proverbial pressure cooker, stuffing all of their thoughts and emotions down by not expressing themselves clearly. Whether they were the shy kid who never fully developed their communication skills, or they have taught themselves over the years to hold everything in, this communication style is just as unhealthy as the aggressive communication style.
The passive communicator needs to remember that they have personal assertive rights and to stand up for them. It’s ok to say no, speak your mind, and have a say in decisions! “Hmmm” and “I’m not mad,” the typical dysfunctional sayings of a passive communicator, can be changed to “I feel/think that___,” and “Yes, I’m mad, but I want to think about it some more before talking about it.” They can practice eye contact while speaking to others and acting out a conversation before having it.
Take the passive communication style above and add the explosion of the aggressive communication style above that and we have the passive-aggressive communicator! As mentioned above, the passive communicator is the proverbial pressure cooker, when the lid blows, it blows aggressively! The key here is to catch the passive communication style when it’s happening so that it doesn’t lead to the aggression.
The assertive communicator assumes that we all have rights that need to be respected. They practice empathy, active listening, choose their words wisely, understanding all of the information about the situation before commenting, and use their I-statements. They express themselves clearly and calmly without offending the other party. They make sure that their personal needs are met without walking all over those of another. If all of their needs are not able to be met then they are able to compromise and have some of them met, while meeting some of the other party’s needs. Arguments and conflicts are non-issues for the assertive communicator!
WHAT TYPE OF A COMMUNICATOR ARE YOU? I'd love to hear your comments!
In light of my recent radio segment on The Wolf 101.5FM, today I’m going to chat about how to deal with insurance companies, or anyone difficult for that matter. This spring there has been a lot of flooding and this has caused unbelievable amounts of damage to properties. Many owners are left with a number to call, a file number to quote, a long waiting time, and a huge stress on their shoulders.
It’s very difficult dealing with situations such as these because they leave you at a state of constant stress over long periods of time. When we are at a state of crisis (stress) it becomes very difficult for us to deal with situations logically and calmly. When we are talking to insurance companies it can become very frustrating. At times it feels like we have to jump through hoops to get the help that we’ve already paid for. Here are some tools to use, in order to keep yourself calm while dealing with the insurance companies (or anyone who you find it difficult to communicate with).
1. ORGANISE YOURSELF BEFORE THE COMMUNICATION
Get out the good ol’, trusty pen and paper. Write down all of the things that you want to ask. Prepare your thoughts and comments before going in to the conversation. This will help you stay on track and get all of your questions answered.
2. ASK FOR THE AGENT’S NAME
By asking for the agent’s name and using it frequently throughout the conversation, you personalize the conversation. This is helpful on both sides. The agent will feel addressed as a person, not a voice on the other end of the line, and you will be able to remember to empathize with the person.
By remembering that the agent on the other line is just a normal person like you and I, you will be able to have more empathy towards them and not lose your marbles on them if conflict occurs. Remember that they are just the messenger; they don’t own the company or set the rules. Treat them as a person, not a punching bag and you will get much better results. They may know loop holes that aren’t normally shown to the layperson and they may be able to help you file appeals, etc. faster. If you beat the snot out of them verbally, they’ll be less likely to stick their neck out on the line for you.
4. TAKE A TIME OUT IF YOU NEED IT
Simply say “could you please hold?” and put the phone down. Go and breathe deeply for a few minutes, jump up and down, shake it off, get logical again, and then go back to the conversation. Nothing good will come of it if you allow your inner beast to take over! When you return you can either just carry on with the conversation or you can explain that you had to take a minute because you were getting angry.
5. TALK ABOUT THE FACTS
Although we would like to pull the heart strings of the agent, because ours are being pulled, remember to talk facts with the agents. They are trained to be impartial, not to mention the fact that they deal with these matters daily, so most have become calloused to the events. If you are pouring your heart out to the agent and they act impartially, you will most likely get offended, and this is a sure fire way to get angry. Remember to stick to the facts and leave the emotions out of it!
6. SELF-CARE ROUTINE
You’re going through a lot right now! Long-term stress is the silent killer and you have to take care of yourself during this difficult time. Take care of yourself! Eat a healthy and balanced diet, exercise regularly, practice your self-calming techniques, and remember to do what you like (be that reading, watching a movie, going to the show). During my segment on The Wolf, I told the listeners to kick back, have a beer and watch the game. I've got a lot of comments about that recently, which all make me laugh. The point is to RELAX, I don't promote getting drunk, nor the intake of alcohol in order to relax, but I do know that there are many people who do just that. If you are one of them, then a beer or two isn't a big deal, don't use it as a crutch or an instrument for relaxation though.
Let me tell you all about a little story....a personal story about a recent anger situation. In my classes I teach my clients about a part of our brain called the reptilian brain. What's that? Well, it's the innermost part of our brain that houses all of the most reptile-like parts of us. Think alligators...they like to eat, reproduce, and defend their territory with aggression. We all have these impulses within us and the reptile in me came out recently!
So, there I was sitting in my home office, finishing up some work before closing up shop for the night. Click-ity-click-click-click. Suddenly, there was a large crash in the lower level of our back-split home. I was finishing up the last line of a time-sensitive e-mail, so initially I ignored the crash, thinking that my new puppy (a.k.a. the monster) had knocked something over. I figured I'd check it out in one minute once the shop was closed for the night, not wanting to lose my train of thought so close to the end.
I started to hear a strange snorting sound. This made me bolt out of my chair, thinking that the puppy had hurt himself, maybe something had fallen ON TOP of him!! Running faster (with the other puppy at my heals), I turned the bend in our hallway and noticed lots of stuff all over the bathroom floor...Strange! There isn't anything that the puppy can get into in the bathroom. I approached the door, running to the rescue of the monster, and stop DEAD in my tracks...but not for long!!
There, standing in the middle of my bathroom, was a HUGE (we're talking a small bear here people...or at least it felt like that to me) raccoon!!! That's right! A WILD RACCOON WAS IN MY HOME! Now, I handled this situation like any other reasonable person would....I ran screaming down the hall, yelling at my daughter to get in the room, and shaking from the adrenaline that was rushing through me!
Luckily, my daughter grabbed both of our puppies and locked herself in her room quickly, until I told her that it was ok to come out. After knowing that she was safe (ready to fight the bear-raccoon with my bare hands if it tried to attack my family), I ran downstairs and opened the front door and waited....
Mr. Coon took his sweet time to saunter down the stairs and out the front door, while I kindly held it open for him (hiding on the opposite side of course). It doesn't surprise me that he felt the home was his own, he was living in the attic for who knows how long!
So, we have a new roof now, and we are living happily, coon-free, ever after! I learnt that although I am able to manage my daily stresses and anger very well, I still have a ways to go with my defensive, reptilian anger!
Troubles sleeping can be caused by many things in your life. Stress, sickness, conflicts, excessive joys and excitement. Regardless of the reason why you are having trouble sleeping, it can negatively effect your life. In order to function properly and control our impulses we need to get our zzz's! Even I get more irritable and short fused when I haven't been able to sleep properly the night before...let's not even talk about the times when sleep evades me more long-term!! It's scary!
Luckily, those sleepless nights are far and few between for me now. I teach and practise this wonderful little trick called....meditation! Yes, yes, yes, I know, you are thinking "I don't have the time to sit on the floor and chant weird words like some monk." I get this all the time from my clients but guess what?! I can teach you a different way to meditate that'll have you sleeping like a baby (after the newborn, wake up and cry every 4 hours stage)! I promise, just follow these simple instructions:
1. Get into your favorite, comfy, cozy sleeping position.
2. Focus on your toes...the very tips of your toes. Imagine that they are relaxing. All of the negative, stressful energy is leaving your toes and they are now relaxed. Feel the relaxation in every digit. Stay with your toes until you feel that they are completely relaxed.
3. Focus on the arch of your foot. Imagine the same relaxing state. Feel the relaxation creeping up from your toes to the arch of your foot. Sit it the awesome feeling of relaxation of your toes and the arch of your feet for awhile. Enjoy it.
4. Move up your body slowly. Relax every part of your body. This a slow process. Enjoy the state of relaxation of every part that you work through. If you are having a difficult time with intruding thoughts, just push them aside and refocus.
I doubt that you'll even make it past your hips before you are out like a light!!
Why does it work? First of all, our brain doesn't have the capacity to tell the difference between real and imaginary. Just by imagining that you are relaxed, you are sending signals to your brain to relax those parts of your body. If you want a more scientific explanation, look up the PNS (parasympathetic nervous system) - a very interesting area of our brains (and extremely important area for anger management, I might add!).
Secondly, by focusing on something as simple as the relaxation of your toes, ankles, legs, etc., you are taking your mind off of the impeding thoughts and stresses that are robbing you of your zzz's.
Now here's the kicker! The more you practise this, the faster you will be able to relax and pass out! I use this technique almost daily and I'm out cold quickly now-a-days! Try it! I promise that you won't be disappointed!
"if you are going to do something, do it right the
I would like to preface this blog post with the acknowledgement that I am a fan of Mr. Holmes. I only use him as an example in my blog post on dysfunctional thinking because of the fact that he is looked up to by many and uses a dysfunctional phrase frequently. As he is a public figure and known to many, it is the perfect example of dysfunctional thinking and anger management. By all means this does not demote him as a caring person or a contractor. I am proud of him as a fellow Canadian!
One of my non-anger management interests is watching home renovation and new house hunting shows on HGTV. I really enjoy learning about D.I.Y projects and seeing different ways to design homes and the decor within. I'm sure this was influenced by my father who was a carpenter, he watched them all the time. One of the main commercials that airs lately is for Mike Holmes, the contractor with the shows Holmes on Homes and Holmes Inspection.
Within the commercial Mike states that his father has taught him 'if you are going to do something, do it right the first time'. Every time that I see this particular commercial I shutter a little. I just want to tell him (through the screen) 'Mike! This is completely dysfunctional thinking! And you're teaching it to your followers!!!'
Now in reality I know that Mike doesn't want to portray to the world that perfection is best. He has shown throughout the years that he genuinely cares for the families that he helps and only wants the best for them. He means that if you are going to be a trades person to take pride in your work and don't just do it for the money. I question if he even realizes that the phrase that he repeats is dysfunctional and that he is influencing his followers to hold the same dysfunctional thought.
The statement 'if you are going to do something, do it right the first time' assumes errors are not acceptable. It denies the person the personal allowance to make errors and to not demand 'perfection' of them self. Furthermore, it shows that this type of dysfunctional thinking was taught to Mike by his father, which is common in dysfunctional thinking.
Often we learn things from our parents, the media and our cultures and we take them as pure truths. Reality is that just like everyone else, our parents, the media and our cultures make errors and hold dysfunctional thoughts. Often these dysfunctional thoughts are passed down through the generations and we don't even notice it. For some families, striving for the whimsical land of perfection is 'normal' and 'healthy'. I beg to differ!
Many times dysfunctional thoughts are at the
root of our anger problems. Taking the example of the Holmes' motto 'if you are
going to do something, do it right the first time' it shows all-or-nothing thinking, which is when you think in extremes. Things to you are either good or bad, black or white, able or unable, happy or miserable. You fail to see the
broad space in between each instance, the 'grey areas' in life. This type of thinking is responsible for a major portion of criticism, judgements and anger. The person ends up putting unachieveable expectations on them self, their families and everyone around them. This breeds resentment and anger.
In reality, you can try as many times as you need to get things right, it's not necessary to have it right the first time. Also, what is right for one person may not be right for another.
I, of course, understand what Mike Holmes means when he says this. Being in the contracting business errors can quickly cause costly, long-term problems, which he has spent his career fixing. I can't say that I
wouldn't love someone with Mike's capabilities and standards working on my home, but I still struggle with him broadcasting internationally that perfectionism is best. He is an inspiration to so many people and he may not even realise that he is promoting an unhealthy way of thinking to his followers. I only hope that his extremely high standards and perfectionist way of thinking ends with his work and doesn't seep into his personal life.
If you suffer from dysfunctional thoughts in the all-or-nothing category then try to restructure your thought. First, pay attention to your thoughts and the phrases that you use in your day-to-day conversations. When you catch yourself using a dysfunctional phrase or thinking a dysfunctional thought then restructure it into a more healthy thought that work for you!
Using the above motto for example, Mike could instead say:
"I like to take pride in my work and to make sure that my clients have well-built homes. I am going to do my best to make a well-built home for my clients." I know, I know, it's not as catchy as the motto, but it's a much more healthy way of thinking. After all, we can only try our best!
Happy Anniversary Mike! 10 years of creating, helping, and healing is a great accomplishment to be proud of!
I attended a funeral yesterday. With great sorrow we said good-bye to the brightest bee that I have had the pleasure to meet. A bee who gave me the courage to be more like her. A bee that, even through the hardships of life, remained a brilliant bee right until the end.
A bee? You're saying WTH is she talking about, right? The father who performed the funeral service yesterday told us a story. This story has been passed down the lines, but it originates from Father Paisios, an Eastern Orthodox Monk, who’s teachings are known far and wide.
So the story goes, one day a man approaches Father Paisios and begins to complain about the church, the clergymen, priests, and so forth. Father Paisios listens intently and finally says “Do you want to be a bee, or a fly?”
He went on to tell a story along the lines of: There was a grand garden and within that garden there lived a bee and a fly. The fly flew around all dayand was instinctually drawn to the dirt of the garden. All day long he flew around in the manure, rotting plant matter and the lower, dirty plains of the garden. He spent his days in filth, lived in the filth and was overall drawn to the filth of the garden.
One day he meets a bee and they start chatting. He begins to complain about the garden and it’s conditions. “This place is a horrible place to live! It’s dirty, it smells, it’s full of rotting things…” The bee looks at the fly with a confused look on his face and says “I don’t understand! This garden is the most wonderful place to live! It’s full of beautiful, bright flowers which are filled with the most succulent nectar! They are wonderful to
look at and this garden is the best home that I have ever known!”
I think there are two really significant lessons to learn here, both of which I teach in my Anger Management classes:
First: If you hang around the dirt and grime of the world, you will only see the dirt and grime. If you want to see the beautiful flowers then
you have to look up and start hanging out with the bees! By hanging out with the bees then you will strive to become better, bees won’t pull you down into the dirt!
Second: Be a bee! When you are in your garden of life, look for the beautiful flowers and taste the succulent nectar! Take each day as a new opportunity to learn and see the beauty of life. Now, if you are innately a fly
then you will need to practise this. Just remember Rome wasn’t built in a day! You will get there, just strive to be a bee and you will be a bee!
As for the wonderful bee whom has recently passed, it was a great loss to her family, friends, and the community as a whole! I wish that I could have spent more time with her to learn more from her. She was someone who had suffered through some of this world’s greatest atrocities and yet, on her death
bed had only loving and positive things to say about life and the world. She was a master of courage, empathy, communication, positive thinking and forward thought! Someday I hope to be a half of the bee that she was!
Rest in peace Baba!
Today I speak to you all from my heart. I whole heartedly hope that by bringing awareness to suicide, we can save more lives from suicide and to help more people through their hard times. I chose today to talk about shame
and suicide because it's my father's birthday. He would have been 52 today...had he not committed suicide last year.
There are many reasons why people commit suicide, but studies show that there is a high correlation between unhealthy shame and suicide. Shame doesn't just push the victim to commit suicide; it carries on long after that in the minds and hearts of the loved ones left behind.
Shame is a temporary and normal human emotion, and if dealt with appropriately, canmotivate us to maintain a healthy balance in our thoughts and actions. If you are doing something that you know is not right, maybe it goes against your personal values, then shame can serve you well by detouring you from continuing with whatever it is that you are doing. This shame is healthy. Unhealthy shame is very much the opposite of this. Unhealthy shame is inaccurate and extreme! This is the shame that doesn’t tell you that you are DOING something wrong; instead it is telling you that you ARE something wrong.
In anger management we teach our clients about unhealthy shame and how to not only identify it, but how to get it out in the open and deal with it appropriately. Unhealthy shame is a very painful emotion and more often than not, is deep rooted in our past, right back to our childhood. Many of us were shamed into doing things 'right' as children and have carried this forward into our adulthood, not realizing what it is, nor how deeply it affects us. Maybe we were teased and bullied as children, outcasts from the social group, or maybe we were told ‘you should be ashamed of
yourself’ so excessively that we began to believe it. No matter what the reasons for excessive, unhealthy shame are, it needs to be challenged and dealt with in a healthy manner.
Victims of suicide often were prone to shaming self-messages of worthlessness and inadequacy. They couldn’t, or chose not to, fight their inner voice who told them that they didn’t belong, or that they were not good enough. Maybe they were humiliated and shamed so deeply that they couldn’t see living past it, or had done something that they viewed as unfixable. Whatever the individual reason for taking their own life, most times, shame was at the bottom of it.
Now, as a ‘survivor of suicide’ I see more shame. I have attended support groups for survivors of suicide where mothers, brothers, friends, husbands, wives, daughters and sons of someone who has completed suicide, admit that they lie and say that their loved one had a heart attack or a fatal accident, all from the shame of the social stigma of suicide. Most don’t realize that they are suffering from the same shame that took their loved one from them.
I personally have been open about the fact that my father killed himself. I am not ashamed of him or the fact that he decided to end his own life. Of course, it hurts me and deeply saddens me that he didn’t choose to get help and to release his shame. Of course, it has affected my life in many ways, so many that I could fill this entire blog with them. BUT I am not ashamed of him or my family, on the contrary! I am proud of us from moving forward together as a family through this heartbreaking, life changing event.
I ask a few things of the readers of this post. First and foremost, if you are someone who has considered suicide, please get help! There are tons of amazing individuals, working in amazing help centres, who are awaiting your call right now. Shame doesn’t have to control you and torture you anymore! If you are someone who is prone to excessive, unhealthy shame, please contact a professional, educate yourself on it and heal from it! If you are someone who is a suicide survivor, don’t be ashamed of it, raise your voice and show people that this is a reality in our society. Tell people your story and raise awareness to this issue. You’d be surprised; it affects more people than you’d think!
Finally, I’d just like to say happy birthday to my Daddy-o! Sending you lots of love up to heaven! You are missed everyday!
Are you prone to stereotyping? One of the things that we teach in anger management is acceptance; How to accept ourselves for the positive and negative traits that we possess, as well as accepting others for their positive and negative traits that they possess. A huge obstacle to learning acceptance is stereotyping. Here's an exercises for you to see if you are prone to stereotyping. Write down the first thoughts that come to your mind. Be honest with yourself about the thoughts. This is an exercise for personal growth; if you don’t tell the truth then you are only hurting yourself. You can write down thoughts, feelings, or any reactions to these groups that you have.
People who live in trailer parks
Review your answers and find the groups that you had trouble with, or rather, stereotyped. Ask yourself why your hold these stereotypes. Where did they come from?The next time that these types of people come to your mind, or are involved in your life, remember that you particularly struggled with this
stereotype and try to get to know them personally. Try to focus on the stereotype that you hold and to change your views about them.
Most of the time we hold stereotypes because we
fear or don’t understand these types of people/cultures/groups. We automatically take what is told to us, through personal interaction or the media, as the truth. It stems from a general lack of understanding of human behaviour.
Sometimes we have had bad run-ins with one person of the stereotyped group, we lose respect for that one person and then we take that as proof of how the group as a whole really is. Try to change your stereotyping ways by accepting each and every person for who they truly are.
Let us not look back in anger,
One of the most important things that I teach in my classes is awareness. It's amazing how many people live their lives on autopilot, not realising how they create the situations in their lives. It's easier to play the victim then to be self-aware and realise that we have a choice in what happens to us.
If you aren’t aware of your thoughts, mental images, actions and beliefs, then you are just another soul who is living their life on autopilot!
If you don’t see how you are creating your life, you’ll stay stagnant and never drive your life yourself. If you pay attention to your thoughts, mental images, actions and beliefs then you can change them. Awareness is the key to
Aren’t you tired of your angry feelings taking control and regretting what happened AFTER it’s all said and done? Once you become aware of how yourself, then you’ll be able to control your behaviours BEFORE they happen. Once you become more familiar with thinking your way through your anger instead of feeling your way through it, then those old anger behaviours will die, because you won’t need them anymore.
I'd love to tell you that I am an avid meditator, but that'd be a lie. I do try my hardest to meditate daily, even if it's only for a few minutes AND I try very hard to meditate every morning, although that doesn't always happen.
I do want to share some meditation secrets with you beginners and leave this an open post for the experts to leave their advice as well. If you have never meditated, or don't frequently do so, then I highly suggest that you develop a practise of meditation in your daily life, it helps to centre and calm you.
First thing is first! ROME WAS NOT BUILT IN A DAY! If you are anything like me, your mind runs constantly and it's very difficult to silence it. My first efforts in meditation were met with HUGE amounts of resistance from my over active mind, I often thought "why am I even bothering?!?!" I can now proudly say that on a calm day, I can meditate for approximately 2 minutes without my mind wandering! Don't laugh, that's a big accomplishment! My goal for this year is 5 minutes!
Here are some tips to start your journey to meditation:
1. Don't get discouraged if you don't get it right away!
You WON'T, I repeat WON'T become a Guru, with your own mantra and ashram over night! It's illogical; get it out of your head right now!
Instead, know that you may not be able to calm your mind for even 5 seconds at first. This will take training and constant redirection on your part. It's normal, you will get passed this phase! If your mind wanders, just simply say "ok Mind, we aren't there right now, we are HERE" and gently guide it back to focusing on your breathing. Don't get mad at yourself, or tense, or frustrated, just know that this is normal and we all go through it. This phase will pass!
2. Start with what is comfortable for you.
You don't have to sit crossed legged on the floor, if you aren't comfortable with that. I felt silly doing it like that at first. I started by sitting in a chair with my feet on the ground and my hands on my legs. This was my comfortable spot, find yours.
If you are comfortable with the typical half lotus or seiza positions then feel free to proceed with them. Remember to sit straight! There are tons of great online resources for how to sit while in meditation, check some out. Over all, just find what works for you and run with it!
3. Breathing 101
This is the easy part. Close your eyes, while seated in your comfy spot,
focus on the area where your upper lip meets your nostrils. Breathe deeply in while concentrating on the air traveling smoothly into your nostrils. Breathe out while concentrating on the air now leaving your body. REPEAT! Easy eh? Ummm...not so much, but it will get easy! I promise that!
SO WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH MY ANGER PROBLEM?!?!?!
A few things. First off, the obvious, it clams you down. Studies show that meditation significantly lowers depression and anxiety. In turn, this will lower the rate of freak out!
Meditation is also great while in an anger situation! Feel yourself getting your
back up? Take some deep breaths, walk away and meditate! I've went to the
bathroom and done it on the toilet before!!! It works!!
There are many reasons to meditate, many variations of meditation and many cultures that do it. Find one that works for you. I do want to leave you with one more thing that I personally use. When I have an off day, or I'm getting angry, I will escape and meditate (sometimes I do this while lying in bed). I use a visualization method that helps me calm down and get the crap out! I use the above mentioned breathing technique, but I visualize all the air going in as clear, clean and happy energy; I imagine that the air coming out it black, dirty, and negative, angry energy.
I'll leave you with that before this blog post turns into a book!
I am the founder of The Anger Managers, a clinic that provides court-approved psycho-educational courses and workshops to individuals and corporations