Friendships in the Midst of a Pandemic

Everyone has an opinion about what is going on in the world these days. Our elected leaders, scientists, medical professionals, our partners, our neighbors, the guy pumping gas next to us, the lady in line in front of us at Walgreen’s. Everyone. So it’s no surprise that not everyone’s opinions line up.

We don’t all have to agree on everything, but we do need to share this world together. So how do we manage when people – especially friends and those close to us – have differing opinions about COVID, masks, closures, politics, etc?

I recently spoke with MEL Magazine about this very thing. Here are a couple of excerpts:

and

Want to check out the entire article? Check it out here:

Are You A Pro At Deflection?

Photo credit: Mindful.org

I was recently interviewed for an article about deflection over at Forge. While inspired by political events, like debates, the article offers so much more than the same old commentary about how politicians just say what they want to say and don’t answer the darn questions!

For example, the author describes different types of deflection used in various communications. Check out some of the excerpts from the article:

The Pivot: You recognize the question, then immediately pivot away from it, using a response like, “I understand what you’re saying, but I think the more important point is…” Then shift into the subject you really want to be talking about.

The Spin: “Instead of saying you’re leaving because your job makes you feel like a cog in the wheel, or because your voice isn’t heard, turn it into a positive: ‘That’s exactly why I’m here—because your company offers me a seat at the table and an opportunity to make real change.’

The Attack: It was 1984, and then-73-year-old Ronald Reagan was facing questions about his age in his campaign against a younger opponent. “At the debate against Walter Mondale, when they asked, Reagan said, ‘I won’t make age an issue, or exploit my opponent’s youth and inexperience,’” Bratt says. “It became this really famous deflection.”

Another take away? Deflection can be used in some really positive ways (think: steering the conversation away from politics when talking with a neighbor at the bus stop). But, using it too much can backfire.

Check out the entire article here.

Trouble with Anger at Work?

Does work make you angry? Do you have trouble controlling your temper with your co-workers? Do you lost your cool on a regular basis?

Angry outbursts aren’t just annoying, unprofessional and upsetting to everyone; high levels of anger have also been linked to a number of health problems. These include increased risk for: heart attacks, heart disease and strokes. High levels of anger have also been linked to a weakened immune system.

I recently wrote an article on Health eCareers offering tips for how to manage your anger at work in particular. Here’s one tip:

Want more ideas about how to manage your irritability at work? Check out the entire article here:

Photo credit: Health eCareers

Families, Politics and the Holidays

Did you make it through Thanksgiving? How are you feeling about Christmas? It’s fast approaching, and guess what?

Your family is still your family, and your politics are still your politics. 

I recently spoke to the fun folks over at BuzzFeed about how to deal with tough conversations with family over the holiday season.  As always, BuzzFeed’s take on the topic is funny – but also filled with really useful tips. Here’s a favorite:

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As the booze flows, so do the inappropriate and inflammatory comments and questions.  Resist the urge to engage in a drunken argument – nothing good ever comes from it.

Check out the entire article – and all 15 tips – here:

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Families and the Ties That Bind (Hint: None of them are political)

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There is a lot of tension in the country right now.  And we knew it was going to be this way, right? No matter the outcome of the election, there were always going to be many, many millions of folks who’d supported the losing side.  And after a full of year of debate, nastiness and name-calling in the political arena, more rancor post-November 8th was exactly what NONE of us needed.

And now here come the holidays.  A time that’s supposed to be shiny, bright and Pinterest-worthy – but is actually often stressful, disappointing and overwhelming.

I’ve been talking to quite a few folks in the media this week about tips for how to manage holiday gatherings with family members who are on different sides of the political debate.  A few things have come to my mind in these conversations, not the least of which is:

We don’t love our families (and our families don’t love us) because of our political views

The love shared between families is made up of many (in my mind, more interesting) reasons:

  • We share the same history – the history we can remember and the history that happened generations before we arrived
  • We have lots of shared memories – of things good, bad and in between
  • We root for the same football team, laugh at the same dumb movies, like the same weird food, etc
  • We have forgiven each other for mistakes and hurts big and small – and will continue to do so many more times in the years to come
  • We accept each other for what we really are: Not what we post on our Facebook page or send in our holiday cards
  • We sit with each other when we are sick, hold each other’s hands when we grieve and celebrate together when a milestone is reached

Feelings about the election and the coming administration are intense, but let’s all try to keep it in perspective.  Shared political beliefs rarely occur in families anyway, and this year is no different.  To expect agreement this holiday season will likely only result in frustration.  Instead try focusing on all the many things we do have in common and love about each other.  Pumpkin pie, anyone?

How To Have A Conversation With Your Family That’s Actually Interesting

OK, here’s what conversations often sound like in my house:

“Did you write a check for the mortgage”

“No! I forgot, can you do it!?”

and

“Did you practice piano yet?”

“Kind of.”

and

“Do we really have to go to your cousin’s sister’s daughter’s birthday party this weekend?”

“Yes, because she came to our party last year.”

and my favorite:

“How was your day, honey?”

“Fine.”

None of these “conversations” are particularly interesting or stimulating – and they certainly don’t do anything to help the participants feel closer to each other.  Instead, they simply allow us to continue the business of running our household and nothing else.  We are all guilty of this – surface, business-like conversations with those in our family (whether that family has two members or ten) – instead of meaningful, engaging exchanges.

When we first got to know our partners, we talked for hours about all kinds of interesting things.  I would bet none of our first date conversations included topics like bills, carpools and trash day.  And when our kids are young, they ask about a million questions everyday on all kinds of unique topics.  But, by the time our relationships have seasoned and our kids are into things like friends and electronics, conversation can easily fall to the wayside.

I recently wrote an article over on Produce for Kids about how to jump start dinner conversation.  The article was mostly focused on families with children at home, but I think the ideas can be used in any kind of family.  Check it out:

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Chores, Marriage, and Fairness

I hate doing chores.

So do my husband, kids, and just about everyone else in the world.

The bummer is that they have to be done – and they have to be done most everyday.

So how do marriages and families get chores done, and remain speaking at the same time?

I was recently interviewed for this really cool article about managing the “chore wars” every couple deals with.  I love how the family in the story talks about splitting up their domestic duties.  Check out this little gem of advice:

“Putting forth effort equals results,” Cary Schram, 42, said. “That’s pretty much my motto at work, and that’s what I think about a lot of times at home. You can have a great job. But if you come home and nobody’s happy, then you’re not happy, no matter how much money you make. We want to be happy.”

You have to work hard to be happy at home.  Love it.

Here’s part of my advice:

“Just remember to give yourself and your partner a break because it’s never going to be fifty-fifty,” she said. “Some days, it’s going to ninety-ten. If your expectation is that it’s going to be fifty-fifty, you’ll always be disappointed.”

Check out the entire article here:

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Who Are Your People?

We all want to belong. It’s an innate human desire.  And for most of us it’s a need – something essential to mental health.  And when we don’t feel like we belong – when we aren’t among “Our People” – it can feel pretty crappy.

When we are among Our People, we feel:

  • Like we can be ourselves
  • Understood
  • Relaxed
  • Like we don’t have to explain ourselves very often
  • Accepted
  • Known
  • Appreciated

Who doesn’t want to feel those things?  Luckily Our People can be found in lots of places.  And can include just one or two other people.  Here are some places where I have found My People, now and in the past:

  • Family
  • High school reunions
  • Dance classes
  • Church
  • Psychology organizations
  • On the streets where I live and work

Here are some places I have watched others find Their People:

  • Soccer teams
  • Running clubs
  • Choirs
  • Knitting circles
  • Moms groups
  • Jobs
  • Community service organizations
  • Art clubs
  • Brownie troops
  • School
  • Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, etc)
  • Book groups
  • Home Depot

So, who are Your People?  How do you know you’ve found them?

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Stop Comparing Yourself To Your Neighbors

Brooke Becker: Shutterstock

Brooke Becker: Shutterstock

Comparing ourselves to others may be one of the most detrimental things we can do for our self esteem. When compared to the Facebook posts of our “friends,” our kids are never as well-mannered or athletic, our spouses never as romantic or wealthy, and our jobs never as glamorous or high-powered. Shutting off all our social media outlets might be one strategy for stopping the constant comparison to others. The problem with that is, comparisons are easy to make no matter where we are. So here’s another idea: Have a little self-compassion.

Treat yourself as you would treat a close friend or family member.

For example:

Set realistic expectations for yourself. You would never expect a friend to raise 2 perfect children, work 50 hours a week, maintain a HGTV-worthy home at all times and still fit into her prom dress. So why do you expect that of yourself? Keep your expectations real and do-able in this lifetime.

Accept your idiosyncrasies. We all have them: weird, quirky things that make us who we are. For example, I have a friend who can’t tell a joke to save her life; she always gets the punchline wrong. It’s one of the things I love about her. Embrace the parts of you that make you, you – even if they are, technically, imperfections.

Understand that you will make mistakes. Why are we so much more accepting of other people’s missteps, failures and screw-ups than we are our own? I’m not sure. But I do know that most of us could stand to be as gracious to ourselves as we are to others.

You never know what’s behind the front door.  When all else fails, and you still find yourself comparing your life to the other, fancier people in your life, know this: Everyone has struggles of some kind.  What looks perfect rarely is, and everyone (yes, even the most confident, beautiful and rich among us) have our foibles and weak spots.

Portions of this post originally appeared as part of a series on Personal Development Genesis

How To Talk To Your Spouse About Something Other Than Kids Or Money

KellyandGarienWebDetails_068Marriage is a business.  Included in this business are the:

  • Finance Department (paychecks, bills, etc)
  • Logistics Department (getting people where they need to be, when they need to be there)
  • Human Resources Department (managing relationships inside and outside the “business”)
  • Facilities Management (everything involved with keeping the home working, and the people within it fed)
  • Research and Development Group (planning for the future, rearing children and pets)

I’m sure I’m missing a few key departments, but you get the idea.  It’s so easy to fall into the trap of treating your marriage or partnership as only a business – and not a romantic, intimate relationship.  In fact, keeping a marriage romantic and intimate can feel like taking on another part-time job.  Luckily, it’s a part-time job with lots of rewards.

One of the first and easiest (though not always easy) ways to keep your marriage out of the business-zone is by talking about things that have NOTHING to do with the business of marriage.  That means no talk about:

  • money
  • kids
  • pets
  • in-laws or extended family
  • carpools
  • work

Well, what else is there to talk about, you say?  Luckily there are lots of things.  Probably all the things you USED to talk about before you entered into business marital bliss together.  And believe it or not, those topics still exist.  They might include things like:

  • books
  • politics
  • religion
  • movies
  • sports
  • dreams/fears/hopes

You get the idea.  There’s a whole world of things to talk about.  So next time you’re having a date night or find yourself alone together give some non-business conversation a try!