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How to deal with difficult family members on 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 have a pit of dread having to deal with that difficult person?  Do you react and fall back into old patterns? Are you doing the silent scream: “Why can’t they just be normal?!”

Make a pledge to yourself that TODAY is the day you free yourself from difficult people and unresolved patterns that drag you down and block your potential.

Here are 10 meaty ‘mantras’ for freedom – keep them in mind as you drive up to that family dinner or welcome people into your home…

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How to deal with emotions from the #MeToo campaign

#MeToo is revealing the true number of people – women and men – who have faced experiences ranging from inappropriate indignities and abuses of power, to outright sexual violence.

These viral stories are everywhere and may remind you of incidents in your past you might have tried to bury.

Hearing others stories and sharing your own can lead to a re-experiencing of feelings of shame, and/or deep anger at those who committed those acts and those who might have been in a position to do something about it but didn’t.

It might help you see clearly why you cut off an important part of yourself or gave up on something that was important to you or someone you know. For myself in High School, after being the only girl percussionist, and one who was selected as the All-State tympanist for NY state, I discontinued a promising music career after a series of unwanted advances from my long time drum teacher.

I didn’t even make the connection until years later when I did research at Harvard Medical School on how we develop the patterns we keep with us until today. (Which led to me developing exercises that helped free me and many others from them.)

If you have been reading and listening to these stories and notice an emotional response in yourself, it could be because:

1. You are getting triggered – You are re-experiencing painful feelings or memories of things you experienced in the past that were out of your control.


2. Vicarious traumatization – You get overwhelmed from empathically feeling the feelings of people who actually experienced the trauma, leading you to similarly feel a sense of lack of control. You might be experiencing this if you feel burned out on the topic, overfocus on the negative, or feel a loss of hope.

Any and all good self care practices are called for in these times. Sharing with friends. Journaling. Walking in nature. Exercise. Trauma therapies. Tools from my book Success under Stress….

It can be helpful for you to use the opportunity to build awareness between experiences you’ve had and patterns you still have today so you can grow into the best version of yourself.

For many of us, the ‘negative voice’ you have about yourself comes originally from ‘explaining’ experiences you had growing up in terms of how it was your ‘fault’ or because you are ‘not worthy’. If looking back its obvious that adult or person in power was in the wrong, you might ask why would YOU take on the blame and think you are not good enough?

We usually develop our negative voice to

1) Have a semblance of control – If you tell yourself you are ‘not good enough’ it gives you the semblance of control that if you could only become ‘good enough’ then you’d get what you need and wouldn’t be treated with disrespect.

2) Maintain Hope – As children we’ll generally choose to internalize what parents and important authorities say about us because we have to keep them ‘right’ in order to maintain hope that they will take care of us. If we recognized their limitations we’d realize there is no hope to be seen for who we are. And that would lead to despair. So we ‘buy in’ to messages shown to us in order to maintain hope.

3) Protect you – That voice is often “trying to help” you be the best version of yourself but its quite outdated at this point and isn’t able to see the resources you currently would have if it didn’t keep criticizing you.

(In September before the Harvey Weinstein revelations, I was asked to write an article for an international women’s blog about why we don’t leave abusive relationships – at home or at work. It gives you a psychological understanding of some of these dynamics so I’ve reposted it on my blog for you.)

If YOUR ‘negative voice’ is significantly holding you back professionally or personally, there is definitely hope for you. If you want me to help you break free from your negative voice, I have developed some exercises that will help you immediately and permanently be free of that ‘negative voice’ and finally live up to your potential with less angst. Just reply to this email and I’ll send you information about what the process is.

The world is changing and I want you to be in your power so you can contribute to that change. Thank you


P.S. Please feel free to leave comments on the blog or write to me directly with questions that I can answer for you in a future blog.

P.P.S. If you want to support someone who has #MeToo experiences, listen to them.

Believe them.

Support their efforts to take their power back.

Encourage them to do a form of counseling that helps them reframe their experiences and rise above their continued negative self perception.

Educate your offspring and friends that they have the power to get themselves out of situations that feel uncomfortable.

Teach them self defense skills to ward off violence.

Tell your friends or colleagues to knock it off if they are saying things that are or abuse power.

Encourage them to go for a position for leadership in which they can change and role model the rules. Report people who harass to authorities at work or in your community.

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 courage to speak up with an unpopular idea?

I was asked by a group of women leaders to show them how to speak up with an unpopular idea in meetings. The next day I was asked by a group of male bankers how to be a trusted advisor to big company CEOs (and develop new business with them) if their advice is not what the CEO wants to hear.

These common situations require confidence. And courage!

You might be in those situations as well: You disagree with what others are saying in a meeting or have an unpopular idea to bring up, you start to squirm as you have an inner debate whether to speak up:

On the one hand you want to share information that will be viewed as valuable, on the other hand you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings,  or face repercussions that would threaten your business.  You’ll probably worry: Will you receive negative feedback, lose respect, be shunned…or fired?

How can you have confidence and courage – and gravitas! –  so your ideas are well received and you can prosper in your career?   Click here for 3 strategies to give you the courage to speak up with an unpopular (but I’m sure brilliant!) idea:
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How perfectionism can help you not harm you

When I was interviewing someone to be my new assistant (so I can get out advice to you more often) she described herself as a ‘perfectionist’.  I noticed I had an interesting reaction…

As ‘the boss’ and ‘her new client’, that was music to my ears.  I loved that I’d be able to count on her to not let anything fall through the cracks and always make the details look good.  I suspect I’ll learn to trust her quickly.

These are all good things!  So what’s the fuss about perfectionism?  Why are we encouraged to ‘get over’ our perfectionism and just do what’s ‘good enough’?

Perfectionism is a double-sided coin.  Its helpful when it gives you the drive to get things done, make products even better, and get appreciation for your work.  Its harmful when it sets you up to multi-task, overfocus on the details and beat yourself up for falling short, clearly  interfering with moving toward your next level of success.

The trick is to know which is which is which. What makes that hard?  You have to know a little where it comes from to be able to tell the difference…
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