Doing Life Together

divorce-908743_1920John and  Jill were not getting along. In talking to both individuals, it was clear that they suffered from 5 relationship mistakes. Here is what I noticed.

  1. Little to no alone time. Yes, this sounds counterintuitive to a couple’s relationship, but most people need a little down time to reboot and refresh. It doesn’t mean they don’t love being with their partner, rather they are a better partner when they take time to think and process the relationship and develop their own hobbies and interest. A caution: Too much alone time can lead to problems, so it is a balance of attending to the relationship and allowing yourself time to regroup. For example, John felt that any time he wanted to do something with his guy friends like play racquetball, Jill was upset. She didn’t play, yet racquetball was a hobby and stress relief for John.
  2. Lack of curiosity about your partner. Getting comfortable with the person and not exploring how they think and feel about issues and life experiences can lead to emotional distance and loss of friendship. You may think you know your partner and yet will constantly discover new things about them. And the conversation keeps you intimately involved and being better known by the other. For example, when Jill talked about her feelings and reactions to recent events, John was stunned and had no idea she felt the way she did.
  3. Avoiding discussing the small stuff. You know the saying –don’t sweat the small stuff-well, in relationships that is not good advice. The small stuff builds to the big stiff and causes problems Talk through minor issues and problems. Don’t ignore or allow things to build. Practice good conflict management so you can address issues as they occur. For example, it bothered John how Jill did not clean up after herself. And Jill didn’t like how often John checked in with his family. She felt it interfered with building their relationship. Once they discussed these type of small things, their relationship began to improve.
  4. Allowing negativity to color the view of your partner. This is dangerous. Once you focus more on the negatives than the positives, you will move from criticism to contempt. An overall negative feeling is the road to emotional distance and often divorce. Stay positive;. Offer grace and talk through problems to resolve and reconcile. Focus on the positives. Rehearse the positives and say them often to your partner. For example, when John did something Jill didn’t like, she thought about it for days–never talked to him, but allowed the bad feelings to build. And John began to characterize his wife as someone who didn’t care about him or his family. This negativity grew to the point of resentment.
  5. No shared or individual spiritual life. Couples who lose sight of their spiritual bond or who don’t share a spiritual connection, struggle more because they don’t have spiritual resources or a spiritual plan  to guide their lives together. Biblical principles work in relationships and provide a foundation on how you treat each other and how to address self-centeredness and a host of other temptations. Without God in the picture, couples tend to become more “me” focused and discontented. A shared spiritual faith that is practiced is essential to creating a strong relationship. John and Jill had wandered from their faith, were not attended a church and falling into a pattern of self-centeredness Once they renewed their faith and began to study the Bible and pray together, things improved.

board-2433982_1920Trust is foundational to any relationship. This is true whether we are talking about an intimate other or your boss at work. Working in an organization in which trust is absent affects productivity, creativity, your work and autonomy. Something just doesn’t feel right. Feelings of safety, satisfaction and confidence take a hit when trust is low.

Leaders should focus on building trust in order have greater productivity and organizational collaboration. There is research to support that in high trust organizations profits are higher, employees stay and feel satisfied, and the company gains a good reputation.

Organizational trust is built on three things:

  1. Past behavior. Does a leader behavior in a consistent manner? If not, it is difficult to trust the present. People who are unpredictable in any relationship are difficult to trust.
  2. Capability: Is the leader perceived as competent? Noticed I said, “perceived” because it is difficult to trust someone you feel doesn’t know what he or she is doing. Trust is based on your perception. And that perception is usually based on the way the leader behaves.
  3. Alignment: Do you align with the goals and direction of the leader? Working towards a common goal is part of trust. If you can’t buy in the vision or direction of a leader, trust is usually at the root.

Leaders can build trust in a few important ways: 

  1. Involve people in decisions. This helps people know how the leader thinks and how decisions are made. It also helps with buy-in. In any relationship, when decisions are discussed and you are included, you tend to trust more.
  2. Just like parenting, leaders who are consistent with their decisions build trust. And it helps to add transparency along the way.  Listen first to what people have to say, but be consistent in your responses and actions.
  3. Attend to relationships. The more leaders can help people get along, work together and co-exist, the better the atmosphere of a company. Right wrongs when they occur. Don’t allow tension to build without addressing it. Nothing breaks trust more than being treated in negative ways.

Since trust includes your integrity, motive and intent with people, it is foundational to the way people are inspired and work together. When trust is missing, people lose their loyalty and motivation to work for a company. Trust me!


learning-928638_1920Developmental psychologists have long been studying what it takes to raise smart kids. The authors of Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children, provide insight into what parents can do to bump up key learning in parenting moments. The authors (Hirsh-Pasek &  Golinkoff) contend that we need to move away from just having kids spit out facts that they learn in school and focus more on other factors of success like navigating relationships, being in community and learning to work with others.

The authors look at six critical areas of development: 1) Collaboration–how well children develop community and work with others 2) Communication skills –reading,writing, speaking and listening 3) Content–reading and learning how to build content 4) Critical thinking-see below 5) Creative innovation which involves the power of learning something well in order to be creative about it 6) Confidence which allows children to take risks.

Let’s look specially at helping kids with critical thinking: Critical thinking involves 4 levels– someone tells you something is true; you also realize there are multiple points of view; you add your opinion and then look for the evidence. The more we work through this process of crucial thinking, the more we open ourselves to learn. Parents can cultivate this skill by allowing children to ask more about why things happen, how they happen and how to look at something from multiple points of view. Encourage your child  to ask more questions and be curious. For example, I use to take my kids to a local park, look at bugs and plants and ask them what they observed, how does the bug find food, who are his friends and if we were bugs, what would we be thinking? This was a fun, in the moment way to encourage their curiosity but also critical thinking.

What is important in helping your kids be smart is how you talk to them in the moment. Are you encouraging those 6 C’s listed above? Are you moving beyond the facts of a situation, not answering curious questions with statements like, “just because,” but rather encouraging your child’s curiosity and learning?

In a day when kids are taught more and more to simply get the right answer for a test, this type of learning in the moment is critical for kids to be smarter and more adept in their social world.

pills-1569173_1920He was part of a clinical trial. Take this drug and your pain goes away. But he didn’t know if he was really getting the drug or if he was getting what is called a placebo–a pill that does nothing because it is fake.

He reported that his pain was much improved. The researchers looked and he was not on the new drug, rather he had been given a placebo. So how is it that he felt so much better? Ahhhhh…that is the power of the mind. He thought he was getting a pain reliever and because of that thought, he felt better.

One explanation for what might be happening here could simply involve time. When we hurt or go to a doctor, we may start to feel better just because time is making things better. Another possibility is that simply knowing you are getting help may push you to be more aware of signs of improvement. In other words, you look for and focus on signs of health. That positive focus helps you feel better.

With pain, we also know that our expectations and learning can make us feel better as well. For example, let’s say you took a pill and it worked. The next time you take a pill, even if it was a placebo, it might work because your brain remembers and learns. We respond to things positively and negatively based on cues in our environment and then remember those cues. So having a response in the past can help you have that same response in the future due to how the brain learns. Researchers have found that with pain, you can condition pain relief with your mind. If you think you are taking a pain pill, yet it is a placebo, you can still activate the painkilling system in the brain.

And let’s say that you watch another person get relief from taking a pill or doing a procedure. You could respond with relief as well because of the power of watching and your brain learning and responding to those same cues. Then add a warm and empathetic person who cares about you, and you may feel even more relief. Why? Because we have a belief and expectation that people who care will help us feel better.

Bottom line: Placebo helps symptoms of pain because pain is modulated by the mind. The mind has the power to mimic a drug and release opioids and other endorphins in the brain. Thinking that something is helping your pain affects the pain you report. So think on things that are good and helpful and you might just feel better.