Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Secret to Solving ANY Relationship Problem

You can't be empathic and angry at the same time

One of the most common causes of relationship problems is presuming to really understand your partner, when it's clear to him or her that you couldn't be more off target. Over time, such presumption -- which goes in both directions -- can kill off any relationship.

Presuming is something you do at your partner from your inside out. Exploring sincere curiosity, on the other hand, is something you do with your partner from their inside out.

The next time you and your partner are stuck in a heated argument that's not going anywhere, try this surefire three-step strategy:

1. Realize when you're being on the offensive or defensive, and stop talking.
2. Admit to yourself that you and your partner are having problem.
3. Ask yourself, "What's it like for my partner right now?"

You will discover an amazing fact about human nature: You can't be sincerely curious about how and what another person is feeling and be angry with him or her at the same moment.

For instance, if you were to say to your partner during a tense time, "I didn't like where this conversation was going, and then I stopped and wondered what it was like for you. I realized that you don't like where it's going either, do you?"

If your partner agrees that he or she doesn't like what's happening, make the following offer: "If you don't like where it's going and I don't either, why don't we stop, start over, and have both of us try to talk without becoming hostile or defensive?" Unless your partner enjoys arguments, there's a good chance he or she will take you up on your invitation.

If your partner doesn't agree, he or she may want to hold onto the anger, rather than make things better. If you're the one who doesn't want to do this, then you're the one who'd rather be right than improve your relationship.

Now check out Cross Cultural Communication Made Simple.

(c) 2007 Mark Goulston

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Secret of "The Secret"

Forgiveness + Gratitude + Generosity = Attraction = The Secret

My partner, Keith Ferrazzi, has been recommending The Secret and I recently watched it on DVD and saw the show about it on Oprah and had some resistance to its message until I practiced what it preached, especially forgiveness. I realized that as long as I was not forgiving (others, myself, past situations, etc.), I was chasing after something that was impossible to fix, i.e. trying to rewrite some past disappointment or hurt that was not going to change, and diverting energy from my present and future. Being unforgving is an emotional "black hole" that sucks from everything else.

As soon as I decided to forgive and let it go, my unforgiving state of mind lost its power over me. After I recentered since I no longer needed to chase the impossible, I was able to recenter on gratitude.

Gratitude is wonderful. It is the gift that keeps on giving. When you're in a state of gratitude, nothing is missing in your mind, your life or the world. You can't be truly grateful and angry, hurt, disappointed or frustrated at the same time. When you are truly grateful, your cup runneth over and you want to give back, i.e. be generous towards the world. Read more on gratitude.

Generosity is what fuels the law of attraction. If you give to others and the world, without keeping score, you will discover another universal principle, i.e. reciprocity. Give to the world and it will want to give back. That is what the law of attraction is about.

A great example of this is the movie, Groundhog Day. In it Bill Murray starts out very self-centered and attracts very little towards himself (and even repulsed Andie MacDowall, the object of his lust). As he keeps dying and reliving each day, he starts to discover what Andie MacDowall truly wants and needs and when he becomes those things, he so attracts her that she bids for him in an auction at the end of the movie.

Too girlie an example, for you guys? Then think of the movie, Field of Dreams. In it, Kevin Costner sacrifices everything to build a baseball field and keeps building it without knowing why. All through the movie his "generosity" is tested by his asking why he is doing it. In the end, he builds a field that helps baseball players (including his dad) to fulfill the dreams they never got to live in life. And the lesson of the story? Build something that fulfills the dreams of people and "people will come."

So think of the people who are most important to you. Figure out what they most want and need and help them get those and you, too, will attract more than you can imagine.

Let me close by saying to you the words of Kevin Costner's character, Ray Kinsella, to his dad near the end of the movie, "Do you want to have a catch?"

(c) 2007 Mark Goulston

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Before George W, there was another George W

On succession planning, ego and being presidential

Friends, And Fellow Citizens

The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the United States, being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made...

Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope, that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.

- G. Washington

United States, 17th September 1796

These words represent a transition of leadership unprecedented in all of human history up to that time. This can be said without American bias. This was the first time a soldier, turned citizen-leader, willingly and voluntary turned over the power of a civilian government to another yet to be determined citizen leader. Known as Washington’s Farewell address, it was not an address at all but an open letter to the then nascent American People.

In order to fully appreciate the magnitude of this transfer of power, some historical context is important. Also, there is much that can be learned by entrepreneurs from George Washington, aside from this act of selfless leadership and dedication to his ultimate objective of creating a nation. Washington was after all, an entrepreneur himself. He had to creatively resource the new and under-resourced Continental Army. As a leader he had to train, organize, motivate and manage this new and different fighting force. His competition was larger, better trained, more mature and better established in its approach and very well capitalized. He led his people through very adverse circumstances, always keeping them focused on their higher purpose rather than their current difficult state of affairs.

Washington had a keen understanding of the importance of making time your ally rather than your enemy. He did this through conscious procrastination, the art of picking your spots and not acting in haste. He knew that in order to achieve his ultimate objective, he did not have to defeat his enemy in every situation. He needed to achieve small, important victories that would inspire his people and sow the seeds of doubt in his enemy. Washington understood that the most important thing was to sustain and persevere. Rather than defeat the British militarily, he had to break their will. He had to convince the British command and the British soldier in the field that while the Continental Army might not achieve a decisive military victory, they would also deny that opportunity to the British. He needed to give the new enterprise known as America the gift of time. The time to develop, congeal and coalesce as a nation. Then the people would have even more to fight for, their higher purpose.

To understand the monumental task that Washington had undertaken, is to understand his stature in having achieved it. Achieving victory with the forced expulsion of the British via the Treaty of Paris, gave Washington nearly unprecedented power and popularity. He was a truly mythic figure. His likeness was everywhere. Nearly all revered him and even his enemies and detractors had deep respect for his achievement. There were greater thinkers, orators and writers at the time, but no greater recognized leader then Washington. Washington could have had himself crowned king of America at that time and there would have been little to stop him.

Instead he chose a different path. And with that choice set off a chain of events that has led to over two hundred years of peaceful, orderly transitions of power in the world’s oldest operating democratic republic.

In September of 1796, Washington demonstrated that he knew something that entrepreneurs, founders and leaders of all types should know but all too often fail to realize; that it was time. It was time to transition to the next level of stability and maturity as a government and as a nation. Good leaders know how and when to lead, great leaders also know how and when to leave. Had Washington chosen to continue, he knew intuitively, that the entire future, and nature of leadership in America would be forever different; and not better. He would have left this new democratic republic with the sense of dependency on charismatic leadership vested in a man, rather than the independence derived from faith in themselves, institutions, process and their guiding principles.

In effect, Washington had come to an inflection point in the development of the new nation. Done well, the orderly transition would set this new country on an upward trajectory for growth and prosperity. Done poorly, the course would be set for dissention, dependency and the strong possibility this new enterprise would never reach its potential or survive at all.

By powerful example, Washington created a fundamental precept that resonates today in American culture. That dedication to a cause, an idea, or a principle larger than yourself, demands that you subjugate yourself to it for the good of the whole. The power of humility cannot be underestimated in a great leader. A clear understanding and recognition of our faults can have a profound impact on others. The Farewell Address is a masterfully conceived message that in its entirety embodies both great ideas with the humility of a Virginia farmer of the day.

The Farewell Address is a great study of how one gets the message out, and also about knowing your audience. The Farewell Address was never delivered as a speech, as many messages of its type were delivered at the time. Instead it was published as an open letter in to the American public in a local newspaper and subsequently picked up and reprinted all over the country.

Washington was a master of symbolism, rituals and traditions from his years of military service. The crafting and placement of this message is no exception. Instead of an address to the Congress which may or may not have made its way to the people, he bypassed Congress completely and took his case directly to the public. It was his way of sending a powerful message about their role as a central player in the future success of their country. Again, an unprecedented notion for the time.

The new country and its people were still trying to find their way in this new experiment, in effect, seeking their vision. This strategically brilliant use of media and direct communication not only conveyed the message in its content, but reinforced it through its method and use of plain language. Certainly, most of those reading the message then, did not take the time to analyze the strategic nature of it, but it set a tone and created an environment that while conceptual, was also palpable. That is what great leaders do. They set the tone and create the environment for future success for those best placed to make it happen, on the street, the shop floor or the local cubicle.


Mark Goulston, M.D. is a partner at Ferrazzi Greenlight and author of Get Out of Your Own Way at Work. Kevin Gregson is CEO Sherwood Solutions. For more info on Mark, go to: http://www.markgoulston.com for more info on Kevin, go to: http://www.shrwood.com/about/kevin-gregson.asp .

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

For Valentine's Day

Happy couples know that the real relationship begins when the honeymoon is over. Unless you maintain a garden of love, it will grow weeds and its beauty will wither and die. So let's explore the 10 habits* of highly happy couples (with all due respect and appreciation to Stephen Covey):

1. Go to bed at the same time. Remember the beginning of your relationship, when you couldn't wait to go to bed with each other to make love? Happy couples resist the temptation to go to bed at different times. They go to bed at the same time, even if one partner wakes up later to do things while their partner sleeps.

2. Cultivate common interests. After the passion settles down, it's common to realize that you have few interests in common. But don't minimize the importance of activities you can do together that you both enjoy. If common interests are not present, happy couples develop them. At the same time, be sure to cultivate interests of your own; this will make you more interesting to your mate and prevent you from appearing too dependent.

3. Walk hand in hand or side by side. Rather than one partner lagging or dragging behind the other, happy couples walk comfortably hand in hand or side by side. They know it's more important to be with their partner than to see the sights along the way.

4. Make trust and forgiveness your default mode. If and when they have a disagreement or argument, and if they can't resolve it, happy couples default to trusting and forgiving rather than distrusting and begrudging.

5. Focus more on what your partner does right than what he or she does wrong. If you look for things your partner does wrong, you can always find something. If you look for what he or she does right, you can always find something, too. It all depends on what you want to look for. Happy couples accentuate the positive.

6. Hug each other as soon as you see each other after work. Our skin has a memory of "good touch" (loved), "bad touch" (abused) and "no touch" (neglected). Couples who say hello with a hug keep their skin bathed in the "good touch," which can inoculate your spirit against anonymity in the world.

7. Say "I love you" and "Have a good day" every morning. This is a great way to buy some patience and tolerance as each partner sets out each day to battle traffic jams, long lines and other annoyances.

8. Say "Good night" every night, regardless of how you feel. This tells your partner that, regardless of how upset you are with him or her, you still want to be in the relationship. It says that what you and your partner have is bigger than any single upsetting incident.

9. Do a "weather" check during the day. Call your partner at home or at work to see how his or her day is going. This is a great way to adjust expectations so that you're more in sync when you connect after work. For instance, if your partner is having an awful day, it might be unreasonable to expect him or her to be enthusiastic about something good that happened to you.

10. Be proud to be seen with your partner. Happy couples are pleased to be seen together and are often in some kind of affectionate contact -- hand on hand or hand on shoulder or knee or back of neck. They are not showing off but rather just saying that they belong with each other.

Even if these actions don't come naturally, happy couples stick with them until they do become a part of their relationship. They know that it takes 30 days for a change in behavior to become a habit, and a minimum of six months for a habit to become a way of life and love.

(* According to Dan Sullivan, founder of The Strategic Coach: "Self-discipline is an ugly word. People mainly use it to beat up on themselves or others for not having enough of it. What it comes down to is habits. Happy and successful people have different habits than unhappy and unsuccessful people. And habits are specific behaviors that you do on a consistent basis until you internalize them into your personality.")

(c) 2007 Mark Goulston

P.S. Next week discover: "One of the Best Conversations You'll Ever Have With Your Partner" and for more relationship help check out: The 6 Secrets of a Lasting Relationship: How to Fall in Love Again...and Stay There

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

On being Lisa Nowak, female and male

If you haven't noticed, the world is not a ghetto. It's a silo. Silos help us to to tune out distractions, to keep our eye on the prize or goal, and drill down deeply into our areas of competence. All good stuff.

Now the bad. Although silos help us coordinate our skills and functions--the "human doing" part of our personality--with those of others to achieve amazing things, including a successful space shuttle, they prevent us from connecting from the "human being" inside us with that part within others. Left ignored it can cause people to do desperate things such as Lisa Nowak's reckless and wreckful journey.

Women face different stresses and face stress differently than men, for many reasons. One of the most important is that at their cores women are much better and often more motivated at connecting deeply with others in the service of closeness. Men connect with others more often in the service of achieving goals and objectives.

It is not just a whole host of different hormones at play here, but men's and women's brains are anatomically different. One of the main differences is that the connecting pathway between the left (logical) hemisphere and right (emotional) called the corpus callosum is significantly thicker in women than in men. That means that women's left and right brain are better connected than a man's. At its best, it makes women more understanding; at its worst, it makes them indecisive. At its best, it makes men more decisive; at its worst, it gets them locked into an "either or" myopia.

This means that women may become emotional about trivial matters for which they are ridiculed by men, but on the other hand they won't go to war as quickly as men, because they are more in touch with the grief than the anger of losing a child. Women know that retaliating against an enemy (as men are likely to do) will not bring back a dead child and will only prolong the misery.

In the end, men connect women to the world; women connect men to each other...and themselves. Men can provide a house, but only women can turn it into a home.

Can't we just get along?