Why people resent your help [new post]

Helping others succeed in their jobs requires more than generosity. You need to understand what matters to them. For example, have you ever started counseling a direct report about his career and then noticed that he wanted to bolt the room? Or given a peer resources for her big project, then found yourself on the receiving end of a stiff arm?

That’s not fun. Surely, there is better way to give people the help they actually want. What is it?

The Case of the Runny Nose

I got a clue to this mystery a few months ago with my then four-year-old son. His nose was running, but he wasn’t doing anything about it. Like a good parent, I grabbed a Kleenex and gently wiped his nose. Easy peasy, right?

Not according to my son.

“Daddy, I want my mucus back.”

Ugh.

“It’s in the tissue.” I opened it up to show him.

“No, Daddy. I want my mucus back in my nose!”

That’s a new one, I thought. How do you get mucus back in the nose? I starting racking my brain for possible methods.

“Daddy you are stupid!”

Could you simmer down? I’m trying to figure out a way to defeat gravity and reverse your body’s natural physiological processes?

“Daddy why are you so stupid?

“Look, Z, I know you’re upset. Give me a minute.” Doesn’t he know that I’m working hard on his original request? I don’t have time for new questions. Plus, I haven’t yet figured out why I am so stupid.

“Daddy why are you a butt face?”

“Z, you know that in our family that’s not how we talk about people.” This isn’t going well. And I’ve lost my train of thought.

“Daddy I don’t like you.”

No good deed goes unpunished. 

I grabbed the Kleenex, marched into the kitchen, and threw it into the trash can.

Surely there is a better way to give people the help they want.

My mistake in this situation (one of many) was to wipe my son’s nose without first asking him. I acted physically without first making an offer. My son had no opportunity to signal whether or not he wanted my help. Because I didn’t make an offer, he had no freedom to accept my offer, decline it, or make a counteroffer (“Hand me the tissue. I’ll wipe it myself”). He experienced me as acting on him unilaterally rather than with him in a spirit of mutuality.

Lessons

I was reminded of five principles of helping people through offers.
  1. People like to choose whether or not to receive help.
  2. Making an offer gives them an opportunity to choose.
  3. To make an offer powerful, ground it in what matters to them—something they actually want or care about.
  4. There is no promise without an acceptance. Offer + Acceptance = Promise
  5. The other person has four legitimate ways to respond to your offer: accept, decline, counteroffer (a different What and/or When), and promise to reply later.

So the next time you are tempted to counsel someone about their career—or wipe their nose—ask yourself: what is a powerful offer I could make right now, and do I think they will be open to it?

Questions about friendship, parenting, and anxiety [new post]

Last week, I shared questions I’ve been wrestling/playing with as I coach executives, consult to organizations, and consider my impact on the larger world.

This week, I share questions I’m exploring in three other domains: friendship, parenting, and anxiety.

Friendship. What makes a friendship worth pursuing, and how can I recognize the presence or absence of these conditions?

Life offers a big spectrum of relationships. Between casual acquaintances on one end and best friends on the other is a wide variety of ways of relating. Since I was a kid, I’ve had at least one best friend and a variety of buddies. These friendships have offered me companionship, joy, learning, and solace—and occasionally disappointment and pain. In recent years, I’ve been noticing what makes a friendship worth pursuing or sustaining and how to recognize when these conditions are present or missing.

With this clarity has come greater boldness. I’ve started speaking up about what I need in friendship and to a lesser extent what I can offer. I’ve thanked some friends for what I appreciate about our friendship and told others what is lacking. These are hard things to describe, and society provides few teachings or role models, so I stumble along. I tend to overestimate others’ awareness of my needs and underestimate the level of specificity I need to give them. For each friend who has appreciated my candor and vulnerability is another who’s felt confused or hurt. All of these friends are men, so that adds another wrinkle. For many men, friendship is something you do after you’ve finished everything else, if at all. We are stumbling along together.

Parenting. What nourishments do my children need right now, and what can I do to provide them?

My five-year-old son, because of his stage of development, needs loving touch, a safe environment for sensory exploration, and a sense of rightful place. He is a snuggly little guy, so the loving touch comes easily. Due to his temperament and Montessori education, he’s good at playing on his own and with others, and takes delight in kinesthetic explorations.

Rightful place is a bit harder to provide. What boundaries, created with love and held with power, will help him feel like he is right where he belongs? How can I be “the mountain” for him, equal parts compassionate and firm?  Asking these questions matters most at the very moments I’m least likely to consider them: when he’s complaining I’ve made his oatmeal the wrong way, clamoring to go outside when it’s time for bed, or angry at his brother, my wife, or me.

My first instinct at these times is to do whatever most quickly quells the disturbance and pacifies the belligerent. These quick fixes may or may not create a short-term solution, but they are unlikely to foster his long-term development. So I catch myself, take a breath, and ask: what does he need right now?

Anxiety. Who am I when I’m not having anxious thoughts?

It’s no secret that my peers and I have our own “stuff.” Even the most mature leadership coaches have blind spots that, if unilluminated, can erode their clients’ trust in them and their ability to grow.  Even the most seasoned consultants have idiosyncrasies that, if unattended, can thwart their best designed interventions.

Earlier in my career, I assumed that if I hid my flaws from clients, they would trust me more. Needless to say, that didn’t work out well. It’s hard to trust someone who is hiding themselves from you, especially in a field like leadership development.

These days, I don’t spend a lot of time with leaders talking about myself, but I also don’t avoid it. One thing that I’ve begun speaking about is my own anxiety. No, I don’t tell long stories about my childhood or give detailed descriptions of how my mind catastrophizes. But I do mention, particularly when helping people understand themselves through the Enneagram, that my mind reflexively imagines worst case scenarios (Type Six), and that it takes presence and practice to tame this habit. On rarer occasions I reveal that I take medicine for anxiety; I do this to destigmatize mental illness.

My psychiatrist told me last year that of all of his patients, I’m the one he worries about the least. So he only needs to see me once a year. I told him that of all of his patients, I’m the one I worry about the most.

That’s the thing about anxiety—or any other condition or quality that can trip us up. When it is a subject of our awareness, when we cannot see it, it literally holds us in its grasp. Thus, we can see only what it lets us see, both about others and about ourselves. Nothing else.

What happens when anxiety becomes an object of my awareness, when I can recognize its presence, shape, and form? Instead of it holding me, I hold it. Who is this “I” that is big enough to hold anxiety?

That’s one heck of a fascinating question. I would tell you my latest answers, but I fear what you would think of them. 😉

 

Episode 65: Parenting 3-7 Year-Olds With Ba Luvmour [The Amiel Show]

Ba2

This week on the podcast, I welcome back Ba Luvmour to discuss parenting kids ages 3-7. Ba is the headmaster at Summa Academy in Portland, which our older son attends–and loves!

Ba and I previously spoke about parenting 8-12 year-olds and parenting teens.

Highlights

  • 7:00 The importance of “rightful place”
  • 13:00 Loving touch, the nourishment of this stage, comes in many forms
  • 16:30 Being patient with a child’s egotism and expressions of power
  • 24:30 Kids this age don’t read time well
  • 36:30 Being a mountain for the child
  • 43:00 Do these kids need to sit at the dinner table while adults talk?
  • 47:30 Rejoicing in a child’s experience versus saying “good job!”

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Episode 48: Ba Luvmour On Parenting Teens [The Amiel Show]

Ba Luvmour

Parents of teenagers, this episode is for you.

Ba Luvmour, pioneering educator and Headmaster of Summa Academy in Portland, is back.

A year ago, Ba and I talked about the unique challenges of parenting kids between 8 and 12 years of age.

This week, he describes how around age 13, the rug gets pulled out from under kids. Everything they understood to be true about themselves and the world suddenly changes. The new way that they make meaning of their experience is utterly foreign to them–and their families.

Listen to the Podcast

You probably already understand this.

But do you know how to adapt your parenting to this new stage of development–and the dislocating transition that precedes it? What big mistakes might you be making by not doing so?

If you don’t have good answers to these questions, join the club. Nobody teachers this stuff. If our son wasn’t a student at Ba’s school–and if we hadn’t gone through an intensive parenting curriculum there–we we would be clueless.

For example, are you aware of the ways that you may be pushing your teen away under the false assumption that they want to be left alone? And do you realize that by shifting your approach–like engaging them in inquiry when your instinct is to judge–you can create more loyalty to you?

Yes, I said loyalty.

Ba guides us through these questions with a wise and loving hand. And he is the real deal–street smart in the best sense of the phrase. I know this because our older son has spent three years at the school he cofounded and has been nurtured daily by the teachers that Ba trained.

Enjoy and share widely.

Highlights

  • 5:00 Nature rips the rug out from teens
  • 9:00 The giant mistake parents make with teens
  • 12:00 Playing with identity – sports, zombie movies, academics
  • 14:00 “My child is in my face or in my lap” and taking it personally
  • 19:00 When Ba’s daughter dyed her hair
  • 22:30 Buddies vs friends vs peers
  • 26:00 Helping kids through loss of friendships
  • 35:00 If we didn’t get it, it’s hard to give it
  • 36:15 Boys versus girls
  • 39:45 Teen romance and sexuality
  • 47:45 Alcohol and other drugs
  • 49:30 “Going to the edge” through rites of passage
  • 54:30 When teen identities are no longer sufficient

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“Your teenager isn’t rejecting you. She’s rejecting the former way of relating.”

–Ba Luvmour    Tweet this quote

 

“See through the child’s eyes. Feel through the child’s heart.”

–Ba Luvmour  Tweet this quote

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  • Body Being 0-7 years
  • Feeling Being 8-12 years **focus of this interview
  • Ideal Being 13-18 years
  • Reasonable Being 18-23 years

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Episode 40: Nancy Berns On Moving Beyond “Closure” [The Amiel Show]

Your best friend at work leaves for another job. Your spouse gets fired. The great team you’ve been part of gets split up. Chronic illness keeps you from doing things you enjoy. You experience the death of a sibling, parent, or child.

What do these things have in common?

They are examples of loss.

But that’s not all.

They are also situations in which our culture (in the United States at least) encourages us to “get closure.”

Getting closure makes sense, right?

Not so fast, says Dr. Nancy Berns, Professor of Sociology at Drake University and author of Closure: The Rush To End Grief And What It Costs Us.

The pressure to move past loss is harmful to our families, our emotional health, and our organizations.

And there is a better way to grieve–indeed, many better ways, each appropriate at different times to different people.

This week on the podcast, Dr. Berns talks about closure and what becomes possible when we choose other approaches for handling loss.

Nancy Berns beyond closure

Highlights

  • 13:00  Why closure became popular in the 1990s
  • 16:00  Rituals help us feel part of something bigger
  • 20:00  The experience of infant loss
  • 25:00  Conversations Nancy had about the loss of her son, Zachariah
  • 28:00  Knowing who you feel safe sharing with
  • 33:00  Small acts of kindness
  • 38:45  Society’s expectations of how men and women should grieve
  • 43:00  Being part of someone’s death or burial

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Closure is just a word we’ve made up. There’s no research showing that we need closure.

–Dr. Nancy Berns   Tweet this quote

When people hear the word ‘closure,’ they often hear, ‘You’re telling me I need to end my grieving.’

–Dr. Nancy Berns   Tweet this quote

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Episode 38: Dr. Keith Witt On Creating A Marital Love Affair [The Amiel Show]

For the past few years, I have identified a “personal hero of the year,” someone who has inspired me to be a wiser, more loving, and more courageous person. In 2015, my personal hero of the year was marriage expert Dr. Keith Witt.

Dr. Keith is an integral psychotherapist, author, big thinker, and “therapist in the wild.”

In this rich and entertaining interview, we talk about about creating marital love affairs, improving sex, and developing the skills of a self-regulating adult in relationship. Get ready for a very valuable hour!

Dr Keith Witt

Highlights

  • 5:00  How healthy marriages improve happiness, physical health, longevity, and children’s lives
  • 9:45 Why it’s not surprising that marriage becomes less passionate over time
  • 14:30 Why cheating on your spouse can seem to “appear out of nowhere”
  • 18:30 When commitment shifts to “I’ll do what it takes”
  • 20:00 Why some marriages get better after kids
  • 24:30 White knuckle monogamy
  • 29:00 Defensive states and the role of self-regulation skills
  • 37:30 The role of sex in mending relationships
  • 39:30 Getting in touch with you masculine and feminine core
  • 45:00 How your attachment style as an infant affects your adult relationships
  • 48:30 Using differentiation to improve sex
  • 50:00 Improving sex – different advice from five leading relationship experts
  • 56:00 Dr. Keith’s “two rules for guys” and “two rules for women”
  • 1:00:00 Makeup sex

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Couples are not taught about defensive states or how to self-regulate

–Dr. Keith Witt   Tweet this quote

 

The martial love affair requires conscious attention

–Dr. Keith Witt   Tweet this quote

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