Baltimore Riots: The Danger of Pent Up Negative Emotions

Negative emotions can build up without us even realizing it and have disastrous consequences. Take the recent riots in Baltimore, for example. Years of pent up frustration and resentment erupted in a city-wide looting and rioting spree this week. Stores were vandalized. People were injured. Residents are shocked and alarmed. The governor has declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard. The mayor has ordered a curfew and police are patrolling the city with guns and weapons. The triggering event was the unnecessary death of a black youth while in the custody of city police. But why this violent reaction many ask?

We can ask the same question about the mass killings of innocent school children at Sandy Hook Elementary School or the shootings at Columbine, Aurora movie theatre, to name just a few. In my humble opinion, the root cause of aggressive violence, barring mental illness, is the inability to process one’s negative emotions. We all have them. Stress from our jobs, school, our relationships, unfair treatment in the workplace and in the community can build up to an intolerable crescendo unless we learn to handle it in positive ways.

A video clip of a Baltimore city mom cursing and hitting her kid over the head has made headlines. Some people are condoning her actions.

I ask this question “What is she teaching her son?” Yes, I understand she was concerned and afraid for him. Any mother would be. But how we parents act in the difficult situations of life is how our kids are going to act when we’re not around. I have seen many a mom smacking her kid, yelling at a child, and in general, being totally out of control. I have lost my temper a time or two when I was raising my kids as a single parent. One day, it dawned on me. What am I teaching my kids? It was a rude but necessary awakening.

Not only do we need to educate the kids on how to handle their emotions, we need to educate the parents. Do you think it is appropriate to curse and whack a child on the head to discipline them? We expect these kids to show respect to others, but if it has never been shown to them, this is an unrealistic expectation. Kids model the behavior that has been modeled to them. Remember the old adage, action speaks louder than words. So what can we do as parents? Here are some constructive ways we can better manage our emotions and hopefully, pass these on to our kids.

1) Allow myself to feel my emotions – negative as well as positive. Do not suppress or “stuff” them. Do not allow them to build up without expression.

2) Do not judge myself for having any type of emotion or feeling. Emotions and feelings are fleeting and temporary but they are messages that have a purpose.

3) Observe myself feeling the emotion. Identify the bodily reactions I experience such as a tight stomach, a headache, or stiff neck.

4) Understand the triggering event. Our thoughts trigger our emotions. What negative thought did I have that caused me to feel this way?

5) Realize an emotion does not control us. We control it. Take a few deep breaths to regain control.

6) Consider what positive action to take to change the situation. If the situation is out of my control, then I need to work on changing the way I perceive a situation. There is always a different way to view things.

7) Commend myself for being aware of my feelings and emotions. We will feel much more in control of our lives when we make a conscious choice rather than act on emotion.

Researchers have long studied the effects of yelling at kids. Here’s a link from Today’s Parent which says “Adolescents whose parents had been using yelling as a discipline method were more likely to have behavioral issues and to act out (including with vandalism and violence).”

This is a difficult and complicated subject to address. Negative emotions are not the only cause of violent behavior, but they are a big part of the problem in today’s society. Many people prefer to put on a happy face and ignore the issues, but sooner or later, things come to the surface in one way or another. Negative emotions are normal. Everyone has them. The key is how to manage them in healthy and appropriate ways.

What ideas do you have on how to handle your emotions? What do you think this mom’s behavior is teaching her son? What other ways do you use to discipline your kids? Do comment below.

Until next time, keep looking up!

Ariel

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7 Communication Styles & How to Improve Yours

Have trouble communicating with others? Are you shy and introverted or gregarious and extroverted? Good communication is an art and a practice. It is a critical component in healthy long-term relationships. The way we communicate with others can make or break a relationship. People have different styles of speaking. Some, like my Mom, like to chit chat about what ever is going on in their day, others like to discuss sports or the latest news event, while others prefer to discuss deeper topics that stimulate thought and reflection. All of these are perfectly fine, depending on the circumstances. The key is to recognize what style we use and be aware of how to connect with people who have a different style than our own.

Today I am sharing the 7 types of communication styles I have encountered. There are probably more, but these are the ones I have noticed. Perhaps you recognize yourself in one or more of them as I do. Sometimes we are not even be aware of our communication style and wonder why we have difficulties in connecting with others.

But first, what actually is good communication? Is it simply idle chatter or is there more to it? Good communication is uplifting and edifying to the hearer. Words are spoken gently rather than harshly so that our words are soothing rather than abrasive to the listener. It is not only the words we speak, but how we say them.

Good communication is a two-way street. There is a healthy give and take between speakers. One person does not monopolize the conversation for long periods of time – that is called a monologue. In order to foster intimacy and connection, we need to be willing to share our inner thoughts and feelings with safe people.

Three questions we can ask ourselves before we open our mouths are these:
1) Is it kind?
2) Is it encouraging?
3) Is it necessary?

If what we are going to say does not pass this litmus test, it may be best to remain silent. Listening is a gift we give to others. I used to tell my sons we need to listen more than we speak and that is why God gave us two ears and one mouth.

Today we’ll take a look at some different styles of communication. Not everyone has the same style of communication and it is important to realize this in any relationship if it is to flourish. The more aware we are of our own communication styles, the more selective we will become in choosing friends and partners in life. It is not a matter of one style being better than the other. It is a matter of the two styles meshing together harmoniously. Most of us use a mixture of several styles and sometimes we may need to modify our style to foster better connection.

1. The self-conscious speaker:
This type of person shares slowly and very little. They speak in short sentences and are usually the quiet ones in any group. They need to be made comfortable and then coaxed to come out of their shell. Once a certain level of trust is achieved, they will slowly share more. They need to be encouraged when they do speak.

2. The small talk speaker :
These people love to spend hours on the phone just talking about their day, their dog, the weather, the latest sitcom. These people like to “shoot the breeze” as it’s called. They value talking for the sake of talking.

3. The negative speaker:
These folks come in different flavors but the commonality is their conversation is negative. They also focus on negative events as a source of discussion. They complain often. They bemoan their lot in life on a regular basis. These conversations are unhealthy and unproductive and they do not foster healthy relationships. Negative speakers have a negative world-view and unless you are one of them, you may not enjoy a relationship with one.

4. The goal-oriented speaker:
These folks call with a purpose in mind. They have a request, or a question that needs answering. They consider small talk a waste of time. Their conversations tend to be direct and to the point. They need to understand others are not all like this and balance their conversations with some personal connecting.

5. The self-absorbed speaker:
These people are similar to those in #2. The difference being they only talk about themselves and what’s going on in their lives. They rarely, if ever, ask you about your day, how you are feeling, or give you time to share something from your day. If they do, they are usually not paying attention to your response and move on to their next sentence without a validating response to what you have said. These are the people that go on and on and you can’t get a word in edge-wise. They need to take a breather and learn to listen more and give feedback on what the other person has shared.

6. The withholding speaker:
This person is on the secretive side. He/she shares, but only partially. If you are around this person long enough, you will begin to realize information is not being shared in a timely manner or you will hear the “news” from other people before you hear it from them. They do not realize that withholding information is harmful to the relationship especially if the other person is sharing personal information and they are not.

7. The deep thinkers:
I’ve been told I fall into this category. I much prefer to talk about deeper subjects rather than mundane ones. I like to get to know a person’s innermost thoughts and beliefs and understand the why of things. Deep thinkers tend to see connections where other people don’t. These types of speakers need to seek out other deep thinkers. They will be on the same wave-length and feel less irritated by people whose communication style has less depth.

One more tip for good communicating is to utilize pauses. After you finish a few sentences, take a breath. Wait and count to three and allow the other person to respond. If you are on the listening end, pause and count to three before you start talking to make sure the other person has finished what they wanted to say. This will help to ensure a smooth and balanced flow to the conversation.

Have you identified your communication style in any of the above? What changes can you make to improve your conversations? Would love to hear your feedback on this topic so please leave a comment. If you enjoyed this post, please click the +1 Google icon to let me know.

Until next time, keep looking up!

Ariel

How to Confront 101

Your boyfriend, spouse, significant other, good friend or loved one said or did something that hurt your feelings, let you down, or angered you in some way. Or perhaps you have had a misunderstanding or difference of opinion and you sense something is not quite right between the two of you. What do you do?
a) say nothing and secretly simmer
b) blast the person right then and there
c) if married, tell your spouse you have a headache that night or use some other passive-aggressive approach such as not returning phone calls or declining invites
d) end the relationship
e) wait for your emotions to simmer down, think through what you want to communicate, and then bring up the subject as soon as possible

The best answer, of course, is e which is known as healthy confrontation. This post is a crash course which will 1) give you a healthier attitude towards confrontation, 2) teach you some basic skills and 3) encourage you to deal with small issues before they become major problems which could cause you to lose a good friendship or relationship.

Confrontation has gotten a bad rap. I often hear people say “I try to avoid confrontation,” like it is the flu or something. I don’t think they realize confrontation is a healthy behavior, designed to preserve a relationship. The term “confront” means “face to face”. In other words, to be direct with the other person. Why then are so many people hesitant about confronting an issue?

The reason, I think, is two-fold: a) they are afraid of bringing up a touchy subject and b) they lack the skills to be able to handle conflict.  Here is a personal story.

The other day in the gym, I ran into a neighbor. This neighbor and I had made plans to get together twice this year and both times she has cancelled at the last minute with little explanation. Now I know things come up, and if someone has a legitimate reason, I am very understanding. However, after two occurrences, I felt it was time to say something. My neighbor had no recollection whatsoever of having previously cancelled, tried to justify herself and got defensive 😦 This was not what I had hoped for, but when we confront someone for the first time, we don’t know how the other party will react. I was hoping for a response along the lines of “I’m so sorry I had to cancel again. I know it was disappointing to you. I hope you can forgive me.” Now that would be taking responsibility and letting the other person know you care about their feelings.

Contrary to popular belief,  the goal of confrontation is to preserve relationships. When we make the effort to address issues, we allow the opportunity for the air to be cleared, for changes and amends to be made and for the relationship to grow. It is a win-win for both parties. Unfortunately, many people lack the skills to address confrontation and avoid it altogether.  The consequences are ugly and we end up losing a friendship that could have been preserved by a straight-forward and honest tete-a-tete.

What happens when we do not deal with issues? Hard feelings eventually build up and we tend to explode over some other minor infraction because we have not dealt with the real issue.  I have seen numerous 30-yr plus marriages and long-time friendships disintegrate because issues were allowed to build up over the years. Then one day, the deeply offended party decides to suddenly end the relationship leaving other party is stunned and clueless. You’ve heard of situations like this, right? So sad.

You have probably heard the adage “Do not let the sun go down on your anger,” and this is wise advice. When we harbor negative feelings we only harm ourselves. Chances are we will not have a good night’s sleep. Many couples stay up all night trying to resolve an issue. My experience is this: issues cannot always be resolved right away. If more than an hour has gone by, it is time to give the subject a rest and come back to it another time. Obviously, you are at an impass and it is time to take a break.                                                                          

Some tips to keep in mind when dealing with sensitive issues:

1. wait till the hurt of the injury has subsided before attempting to address the problem
2. address issues in a timely manner, before you explode, over-react or decide to end the relationship
3. do not allow too much time to go by or the other person may forget what happened
4. avoid sweeping problems “under the rug”
5. gently speak to the other person at a time when you are both relaxed, face to face if at all possible. Consider the amount of stress you both may be under.

In order to have a good outcome, both parties must be mature enough and have the desire to want to work through the problem in order to restore the peace and the relationship. My experience is after I work through a situation with someone, I am closer to that person. I appreciate their willingness to work through it together and that makes the relationship even more precious.

Which do you think is better: to continue to overlook things and store up hostility and then explode or to openly voice your feelings in a timely manner and get the matter out in the open? I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on this subject so please comment.

Here’s to healthier and happier relationships and until next time, keep looking up!

When God Ignores Us – Part 3

Ever feel like you’re being ignored? Like someone is not listening? Frustrating isn’t it? Very!
Sometimes I feel like nobody is listening to me: not my kids, not my friends, not my boss. Can you relate?

What about when I feel like God is ignoring me? Now that is the pits, for sure! I pray and seek and ask and knock, and it’s like my prayers are falling on deaf ears. What could be the problem?

Well, I hate to say this and this may be a strong pill to swallow, but usually, it’s not the other person and it’s definitely not God. It is usually us.

Ok, let me explain. When I feel like I am being ignored by someone down here on earth, it is usually because I am not communicating enough. There is some sort of blockage, disconnect if you will.

The same is true with our communication with our heavenly Father. What could be blocking our hearing from God? Let me give it to you in one word – unforgiveness.

Am I harboring unforgiveness towards someone? Now if we are honest and really dig deep, we can usually come up with at least one person we are angry at or have hostility towards, right? We are not to let the sun go down on our anger, and there is a good reason for that. Because harboring negative feelings and thoughts towards someone hinders our relationship with God.

Matthew 5 says “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Who might you be angry with today, dear one? Is there anyone past or present that you might be holding a grudge toward? If you are having trouble hearing from God, I would encourage you to seek within and let go of any unforgiveness.Until next time, keep looking up!

Communication Quenchers

The topic has been the power of our words. I am working on correcting the non-helpful communication habits I have. Like asking questions and giving unsolicited advice. When will I learn? Questions don’t seem to really help when someone is going through a tough time. I think I am trying to understand them, but it doesn’t quite come across that way. Seems to me that they just want someone to listen to them. I think fully listening to someone is such a gift of love and respect. I know how good I feel when I am heard and understood.

Then there’s the giving of advice. I have managed to do it now indirectly, by saying something like “This is what I do…” but what works for one person may or may not work for someone else. My desire is to help the other person, but maybe they don’t want my help. Could it be that feels to them like I think they can’t handle their own problems? Maybe, just maybe.

So I guess I will have to resort to “Gee, I’m sorry you’re going through this” and “I’ll pray for you”. Anybody out there have any suggestions? I’d love to hear from you on this.

Communication Quenchers

The topic has been the power of our words. I am working on correcting the non-helpful communication habits I have. Like asking questions and giving unsolicited advice. When will I learn? Questions don’t seem to really help when someone is going through a tough time. I think I am trying to understand them, but it doesn’t quite come across that way. Seems to me that they just want someone to listen to them. I think fully listening to someone is such a gift of love and respect. I know how good I feel when I am heard and understood.

Then there’s the giving of advice. I have managed to do it now indirectly, by saying something like “This is what I do…” but what works for one person may or may not work for someone else. My desire is to help the other person, but maybe they don’t want my help. Could it be that feels to them like I think they can’t handle their own problems? Maybe, just maybe.

So I guess I will have to resort to “Gee, I’m sorry you’re going through this” and “I’ll pray for you”. Anybody out there have any suggestions? I’d love to hear from you on this.

Practice Makes Perfect

Funny isn’t it how when God wants us to work on something He gives us all kinds of opportunities to practice?

So, I’m working on this empathic listening skill, amongst other things. I agreed to meet my oldest son after work yesterday to go look at some houses. He kept mentioning how hungry he was so that was a tipoff to be even more careful with what I said. I’ve learned that when men get hungry, their tolerance level is much lower than normal for women’s questions.

We looked at the houses and then decided to have dinner together. So far so good. After he had eaten a bit, he started to open up. I was very careful to avoid the ineffective communication techniques Covey mentioned in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” I tried to paraphrase and understand what my son was feeling. I really had to slow my responses down to do this.

Wow, this must be working. He is really opening up.

We had quite a good conversation overall and I think He felt understood. I felt like we connected at a heart level and isn’t that what good communication is all about?

Who is it in your life that is difficult to communicate with? Maybe all they really need is someone to listen to them. After all God did give us two ears and one mouth, didn’t He? I’m looking forward to my next opportunity to practice.


Practice Makes Perfect

Funny isn’t it how when God wants us to work on something He gives us all kinds of opportunities to practice?

So, I’m working on this empathic listening skill, amongst other things. I agreed to meet my oldest son after work yesterday to go look at some houses. He kept mentioning how hungry he was so that was a tipoff to be even more careful with what I said. I’ve learned that when men get hungry, their tolerance level is much lower than normal for women’s questions.

We looked at the houses and then decided to have dinner together. So far so good. After he had eaten a bit, he started to open up. I was very careful to avoid the ineffective communication techniques Covey mentioned in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” I tried to paraphrase and understand what my son was feeling. I really had to slow my responses down to do this.

Wow, this must be working. He is really opening up.

We had quite a good conversation overall and I think He felt understood. I felt like we connected at a heart level and isn’t that what good communication is all about?

Who is it in your life that is difficult to communicate with? Maybe all they really need is someone to listen to them. After all God did give us two ears and one mouth, didn’t He? I’m looking forward to my next opportunity to practice.