7 Reasons You Stay in Abusive Relationship & How to get the MOJO to go

You have the instinct that the partner relationship, family situation, or the job is unhealthy for you.  Your friends and family members have told you to ‘leave’…but you just feel like you ‘can’t’, at least not yet.  Why?

1. You Don’t Realize it’s Abusive 

People can hide their abusive nature by also having positive traits. Some might be successful or upstanding citizens in the community (like a leader, priest, or teacher). Sometimes they are generous, helpful, or vulnerable, which endeared you to them and makes you want to be close to or take care of them. This behavior pattern – being ‘nice sometimes’ and ‘controlling, mean, or inappropriate’ at other times – is called ‘Crazy-Making’.  Why? you keep flip flopping whether you think they are ‘nice’ or ‘controlling’ and it makes you feel like you can’t figure them out. It’s also called ‘Crazy-Making’ because the abusive person highlights all the ways they are ‘good to you’ and denies the ways they control you.  Even though you know inside something doesn’t feel right, you ‘feel bad’ saying negative things about them and there is no external validation to ‘know what you know.’

2.You Think it’s your Fault– You might explain the situation as your fault even it’s not.  Abusive people usually explain situations by blaming you or external conditions, or suggesting that you are ‘not enough’. They never point to the effect of their own behavior.  And if you have a history of people blaming you for their limitations, it might seem familiar to ‘buy into’ this view.  It’s possible that you have done things you regret in an effort to try to get that person to change, so you might have things you feel bad about yourself for.  Thinking its ‘your fault’ keeps you involved  to ‘try to make it better.

3.You Have Hope it will Change– After their behavior is particularly inappropriate or hurtful, you might start seeing their behavior as abusive – then feel empowered to create distance or not continue to give them the attention they seek.  The abusive person will sense this distance, and apologize or otherwise indicate they will not continue their behavior.  Seeming genuine, you might be tempted to believe them, giving you hope that the situation will change. However, someone who is capable of being abusive is someone who is split between their ‘good side’ and ‘bad side’ – by definition they are not well self managed.  Its can be hard for you to remember that they are not capable of reliably keeping their promises.

4. You Need the Money – You might need the money you get from that job or that person to support yourself  – but only for the short term. YOU are the one who is capable of being the source of your income, it doesn’t have to come from any particular job or person.  Today can be the first day you plan out how to make money for your talents in another situation. Then you won’t be dependent on them.

5. Feeling like a Victim is Familiar – You may have grown up with role models who were also controlled by someone, and/or with an important person who controlled you. With this history, the picture you develop is that relationships always involve someone who is controlling and someone who is controlled. That feels familiar to recreate.  And there might be people in your current life who give you sympathy for being in such a hard situation – then it might seem like a way of getting positive attention you’re not getting in your adult life.  You deserve attention for being someone who is talented and loving, that’s the kind of attention you deserve and want to seek out.

6. You’re still developing Confidence and Courage – As a child and young person, it’s normal and adaptive to look to parents, teachers, peers, and bosses to grow self esteem and evaluate our abilities. This is how we get our ‘emotional oxygen’ (e.g., love, praise, attention) growing up.  As we develop, we shift to get that self-regard from within.  You might still be involving others to get a feeling you are worthy, it might look like: seeking other’s approval,  preventing their criticism and rejection, or pressuring yourself to be perfect – these behaviors make you focus on how others are treating you and keep your attention away from taking a stand for YOUR life. In this scenario, you care too much what they think of you, or keep trying harder to get them to treat you with respect. As you can source confidence from within you’ll have the courage to say “I don’t need you in order to feel powerful in myself, in fact being around you is keeping me from living MY life purpose”. And it will be easier to leave.

7. You are Afraid of Being Alone – There might be reasons it’s hard to leave: You may have a sense of loss to give up the fun times or the way the person has been helpful. Or the opposite, you might be concerned you will face violence (that might be a real and valid concern, if so, you should seek legal help and get an order of protection) or the person might pester you emotionally as you start to remove yourself from their life. Finally, if things are calm and you don’t have to constantly react or resent the other person all the time, it might even feel boring or lonely.  Yet when you firmly make a decision and have faith you can have all good things you want once you are on your own, it will help you stay strong in your boundaries.

If you recognize that you are staying in an abusive situation because of any of these reasons, know that you can decide to leave. You got this!

How to be resilient in anxious times

Wow, it is some time we are living in! Natural and man-made disasters.  A polarized political environment that makes you mad, and an uncertain future that makes you anxious.

Here are some thoughts I’ve put together in terms of how you can stay resilient in anxious times.

Think bigger picture –

News events can activate our fear center which makes you see whatever is happening as the final data point – i.e., this is the way its going to be going forward.  It can help to take a step back and see what’s happening from a 50k foot view – This gives you perspective.  For things going on that you don’t agree with, it can help to see these events happening in order to create an effective counterforce. For example, many of us –  women and men – are disgusted about the recent revelations of sexual predation by Harvey Weinstein. It can help to view the benefit of this as creating a lot of awareness and giving voice to people who will set new standards for what will be tolerated.

[Read more…] about How to be resilient in anxious times

How to communicate confidently when you don’t have all the answers

The opportunity is to come across as credible and trustworthy even as you indicate you don’t have all the answers.  Here are 3 ways to do that:

1. Speak powerfully about what you DO know.  You might be tempted to react ‘unpowerfully’ by saying “I don’t know” (and criticizing yourself for not knowing). Instead,  sort out what do you DO know in the situation and what you DON”T know.

Say with a sense of conviction and authority: “this is what I know” and “this is what I don’t know”.  Share confidently what you know.   Or state confidently why that information is not ‘know-able now’ and what actions you will do to fill in the blanks over time.   Another variation is to say “here’s what I know, and here’s what I would speculate.” You’re communicating what you don’t know in a way that is trustworthy and has authority.

2. Describe the uncertainty with certainty.  Say “Here are the 3 risks in the situation.”  or “Here are the 3 things we are uncertain about… These are the contingencies we will be on the lookout for, these are the unintended consequences that could happen…”

Or you could say “here’s my educated guess and it’s based on this reasoning”. Then share your reasoning with the group.  “If it’s x scenario then the answer would be in the range of ___.  If its Y scenario the answer would be in the range of ___.”

You could showcase your experience:  “I think that there’s a 50/50 chance that X is going to happen/not happen, or that Y is that answer we’re looking for. I’m basing that conclusion on the following pieces of data: 1, 2, 3.”

3.    Give an authentic response.  If you don’t know the answer it’s better to be straightforward then to try to fake it and come across as nervous.  Say “I don’t know but I’ll find out for you” in a way that emphasizes the specific plan. It’s the plan they will remember and not your lack of knowledge. “We have that information in our x report, I’ll ask IT to pull it and send you an answer after lunch.” or “We’ve been reviewing industry practices on that, let me pull together our conclusions and follow up with you this afternoon”. If you have a team member in the room who would be able to speak to the issue, it might be appropriate to pull them into answering with you as well.

Keep track of and analyze the questions you are asked so you can start to “think like” a senior leader or someone who’s in a position to hire you. You can ‘put on their head’ before you go into your next meeting and be more prepared for the kind of questions they might ask.  Build this ‘anticipatory questioning’ into all your meeting preparations.

BONUS: What you can do before you ever walk into the room:  Make it a practice to use language that is concrete and evidence-based. Develop a reputation as someone who always has concise information to support assertions. When you do this you train other people to trust you, even when you don’t have all the answers!

How to Deal with a Difficult Family Member During the Holidays

Will you be interacting with a difficult family member as we celebrate Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S.?   (Or do you face a difficult person in your workplace?)

Do you feel criticized and frustrated, and wish they would be different?  Do you find yourself reacting and reverting to old ways?

If so, you are still carrying unresolved patterns. A sign of this is frustration about not being who you want to be in your life, or progressing in your work the way you hoped.

Make a pledge that TODAY is the day you make strides toward dealing with past blocks to your potential.  To get you started, keep these strategies in mind as you drive up to that family dinner or welcome people into your home…

1. Sort out “Your stuff” from “Their stuff

Immediately sort out what the OTHER person has contributed to the tension and what YOU might have contributed (even if on first blush you think the answer is ‘nothing at all!”)

If you don’t feel heard or understood by a difficult person, know it’s because that person is stuck in their outdated perceptions.  The way they see you reveals more about the old story they are stuck in rather than what is factually true about you – even though they are convinced they are right. That’s ‘their stuff.’  Any moment you focus on their stuff you will feel they are ‘doing it to you’ instead of empowered to create your own experience.

Turn your focus to ‘your stuff’: what you CAN control.

One of the best things you can control is the ‘story’ you tell about why the person is acting the way they are. You will be tempted to go with ‘black and white’ assumptions such as ‘they are a jerk’ or ‘if they say that about me it must mean I’m not good enough’.  Require yourself to go beyond these shorthands.  That’s when you will start to see that person hasn’t been exposed to more healthy ways of thinking or that person is repeating patterns that were done to them.   Then you can see more clearly that ‘its not about you.’

Only try to improve the situation by thinking about what YOU can shift in your own approach.   Have you taken responsibility for what you’ve contributed and apologized for it?  Have you had empathy for their point of view? Have you set boundaries effectively or tuned them out when appropriate?

Don’t allow yourself to blame them or feel frustrated until you have been Impeccable for your 50%! (this idea is fully described in my book Success under Stress)

2. Shift from anger to acceptance, and criticism to compassion. Usually you only feel angry at other people because their limitations are interfering with them giving you what YOU need in order to feel good in yourself.

The good news is that you no longer have to try to control that person to be other than they are. Once you can source your confidence from within and from the rewards of your life, its less important whether that person sees you for who you are because you are no longer looking for their input to feel whole in you.

Confidence allows compassion.  To have compassion, you need to see the other person’s behavior as revealing their struggles and limitations. You can’t do that if you are making it about YOU, how they are not giving what YOU need, or YOUR judgment about them.

To be less upset about their behavior, your mantra is “Accept others’ level of evolution… and work on your own!”

 3. Update your understanding

Do you see yourself now more favorably than they see you? Be proud how you have grown. Rather than seeing their behavior as deliberate or hurtful, it’s actually sad and disappointing. You weren’t able to have the mutually satisfying relationship that ‘could have been’ if they were more evolved or could see the beautiful person you’ve become.  Still trying to get them to change is just a way of putting off this acceptance which will set you free to actually get what you are hoping for elsewhere (where you have more control).  When it comes to that person, try to ‘keep the best and leave the rest’.

Do you give more weight to their opinion than your own and are emotionally affected by their words?  You react because you still hold the same view of yourself as they have of you (though you may not realize it on a day to day basis, you ‘go there’ in your private moments…) Their criticism or rejection activates your doubts.

Doubting yourself causes you to look outside of yourself in order to know how to feel about yourself inside.   When your only supply line to that ‘emotional oxygen’ of feeling worthy comes from other people, then it really matters what they think!  You will try to get them to think well of you by being perfect, pleasing them, or holding back saying or doing anything that might evoke their judgement.

Your opportunity is to become emotionally independent of that person and step into yourself.  The fastest way to do this is to get your confidence from within and from the rewards of your life.

Make meaningful progress in your life now: create a new family of people you feel connected to, seen by, and enjoy. Make a contribution you feel proud of.

4. Protect yourself from their negativity

I had a difficult person in my life who felt it their duty to criticize me.  At first I separated what was “useful” from what was “not useful”. I tried to look for a grain of truth to see if I could enlarge my view of myself and learn from it.  Other things said had nothing to do with me.  So I protected myself from them.   I said I appreciated their concern but was not going to open myself to it.   I asked if there was anything else we needed to discuss and let them know I would be removing myself from the interaction.

If the person won’t stop being toxic, you can protect yourself just using your imagination: Surround yourself with a shield  using whatever metaphor is fun for you (e.g., rays of white light, a glass cone like in the movies, wear a breastplate). Or imagine the person is speaking in that garbled tone like ‘Charlie Brown’s teacher’, so you are paying respectful attention to them but not letting the specifics of anything they in.  Want to keep their negativity out of your energy field?   Cross your ankles and your arms! Or use cooling breath to diffuse the negative emotion

5. Kill them with Kindness

Have you assessed that person is never going to change and you’ve given up on trying to improve the relationship with that person? Then shift into a mode to survive – not inflame- their behavior.  “Kill them with kindness” by smiling on the outside but protecting yourself on the inside.

6. Grow your Gratitude 

Remember that the way they talk to you is the way they talk to themselves all day long.  Be thankful that you only have to hear it a few hours a week/month/year, etc. rather than every minute of every day like they have to. Think about when that person won’t be on the Earth anymore, and try to appreciate what you can about them now.

Be grateful you are capable of connecting meaningfully with people in your life in a way they might not be able to.  Pour yourself into those ‘relationships of choice’ and appreciate them. Make sure you are taking in the love and support you feel from others (and not just give til exhaustion without taking it in.

7. Be in your power

You have the power to make today the first day of the rest of your life.  Commit to becoming the person, the role model, the value-add YOU want to be.  No-body and no-thing else can stop you from having the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that will help you make the contribution you’ve been put here to make.  Others are only put on your path to help you develop the skills you need to be more of who YOU can be.

You have the power to rise above your reaction to see what skills you are meant to develop by having to interact with this person.

You have the power to make this family holiday rejuvenating instead of draining.  Be the first to shift the pattern and the other person will follow (or at least you will feel detached from the effects).

Want to figure out who you WANT to be so you can show up as as that person no matter how anyone else acts?  Learn how here

I invite you to leave a comment below or share with others.

How To Deal with Change You Didn’t Want

Some of us are feeling enthusiastic about the result of the U.S. election, others of us are deeply disturbed about the road ahead.

Many of us have to deal with change we didn’t want to happen – whether it’s a merger in your company,  a move to a new office space, a break up of a relationship that wasn’t your choice  – or an election result that leaves you feeling you don’t have a voice.

The essence of these situations is that you didn’t feel in control over it happening.  The more you control what you CAN control, the easier it will be to be resilient in the situation.

Here are 7 research-based strategies I have used to cope with change I didn’t want and guidelines for how you can too:

1. Move it through – You have physical responses to strong emotion.  Feel them, and move them through your body.   Anger turned inward causes depression so ‘get it out!’  Physically move the stuck and stressed feelings through your system (I do vigorous exercise.)  Process with people in your community. Or focus inward by writing about your reactions.  Express yourself creatively through artistic efforts, or through rituals (the election protesters could be considered an example of people expressing their voice). Give yourself permission to practice extra self care because you are processing a lot of new information and emotion.

2. Focus on what you can control – Unwanted change activates the emotional part of our brain because we experience it as a threat to our sense of control, our sense of fairness, our sense of status, or our connection to others.  Your initial emotional response has less access to critical thinking.  You’ll tend to jump right to catastrophizing with worst case scenarios, which makes it worse.   I try to use critical thinking: what actually will be different in my life? And what will be the same?  Usually you’ll see that what will be the same far outweighs what will be different, so you can focus on appreciating what will be the same and try to problem solve around the things that will be different.

3. Right action replaces fear.  Look for opportunities where you can make a difference (I’ve heard of groups already organizing around the 2018 elections to feel they are doing something) Step up to do more to create the micro-environment around you.  If you are concerned about the culture in your organization or country, what are you doing to create the culture you want on your team, in your family, etc?  Are you a role model, have you educated yourself on what approaches work, etc? Use this as an opportunity to dig deeper and be more of the person you want to be.

4. Find the silver lining – Instead of only focusing on what’s unpleasant about the situation, ask “what’s in it for me?” or “what could be a silver lining here?” Here’s one from a woman who coached with me after I gave training on resilience for salespeople undergoing a merger at a large pharmaceutical company. She was demoralized, having been passed over for promotion by the new incoming manager and was ready to leave.   She decided that her #1 priority was to regain her fitness and health.  She started to workout in the morning and bring healthy lunches while she enjoyed the stability of staying with the sales routes she knew.  After 3 months she reached her weight and health goals, and it bought her enough time for the incoming manager to see her talents and promote her.  Notice how she approached what looked like a professional obstacle as a personal opportunity – and created a win-win situation for and her employer.

5. Realistic optimism – Research indicates that the most effective mindset for resilient leadership is one of Realistic Optimism.   President Obama and Secretary Clinton modeled realistic optimism in their remarks to the country after the election.  If you are in a leadership position during times of change, the best message you can give is to share out loud your recognition of the challenges coupled with why you are optimistic about the future.

6. Display an Opportunity seeking mindset – Opportunities open up during times of shifting currents.  Have an opportunity-seeking mindset – Be on the lookout for new gaps so you can step in or step up to.  For example, you might have an opportunity to take on new roles if you could learn new skills,   or you could outfox your competitors if you get trained to offer a value add service.

Learn new skills that will make you successful in the new conditions.  One of the biggest learnings in this election comes from the success in influencing by Donald Trump. He was able to deeply reflect the concerns of his constituents and provide a sense of hope that he would provide solutions.   Whoever LISTENS the most closely to their customers/clients/patients/voters, etc will always have the most influence.

Are you listening deeply to your customers/clients/patients?   Are you listening deeply to the trends in your organization/industry?  Are you observing where the resources are flowing in your organization or finding a niche amongst people who are spending these days?

7. Remember your power.  Remember that no-one and no-thing outside of you has the power to make you feel any other way than the way you decide to feel inside yourself!

Hope this helps you navigate unwanted change,


Do You want other people to say “yes” to your requests

It seemed like a straightforward fix.

A new participant in my coaching program is in charge of internal advertising for the largest magazine publisher.  One of the magazines stopped using her group’s services and it caused a drop in their group’s profits.

So she went into her boss’s office and said “this is affecting our bottom line and they are not answering me, can you call the head of the magazine and straighten out the misunderstanding.”

No phone call.

3 more times she made the same ask. No phone call.

She was tearing her hair out. This is a ‘no-brainer’. Doesn’t the boss care its affecting their bottom line? She starts resenting her boss and the culture of the organization.

In true crime drama fashion, once we look deeper into motive it all gets revealed.

So we got on our first call, and I ask a few specific questions about her boss.

Then she goes back into her boss’s office and makes the same exact “ask”.  But she asks it differently.

This time she begins: “This issue is causing conflict between my staff and the people at that magazine…”

5 seconds after she leaves the phone call is made.  Their business is back up, everyone is communicating well.

In a recent study of 850 professionals, what’s the #1 challenge that wears down your Resilience? When you don’t feel heard.

In order to get ANYTHING done in your business or personal life you have to accomplish it through and with other people.   And the bigger the accomplishment you want, the more you people you have to influence to take action.

How often are you in a situation where you ask but you are not heard?  Where it seems obvious that the other person should support your cause, but they don’t.  Leaving you frustrated. Feeling not heard.  Resenting them, and maybe even your organization (or your family, or your prospects…)

[Read more…] about Do You want other people to say “yes” to your requests