Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Top 10 Things Classy People Do

Napoleon, who said, "Respect the people you deliver."

From today's email bag:

I have just finished reading your piece on "The Top 10 Things Classy People Do That Show You They Have Class", and can say nothing but thank you for the finesse and definite class you must have for being aware of these lovely details.

I would like though to know if you agree with me that a Classy Person carries the burden of other's misconduct and misbehavior consequences paricularly that He/She is "Sensitive" and keen on not "Airing His/Her Dirty Linen In Public".

Happy New Year 2009.
Sincerely, Nadim T.

Answer: If I interpret this question correctly, for sure a classy person "covers up" for others, or, as you put it, carries the burden of other's misconduct and misbehavior. It's similar to the Asian concept of "saving face." For instance, if your boss steps in a trash can and falls over, you distract people, don't mention it, or blame it on the trash can, i.e., "I KNEW that trash can was going to cause trouble."

The essence of etiquette is making the other person comfortable. Sometimes in spite of what they are doing.

Good leaders for instance, like good football coaches, take the blame for failures on themselves, and give the credit for the successes to "the team."
It was Napoleon Bonaparte who said: "Respect the people you deliver."

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Goleman Asks (and Answers) Why Aren't We All Good Samaritans?

If we are automatically wired to help other people, how come we don't more often, or even all the time? Daniel Goleman asks, and answers, this question in this video -- interesting that someone sent me this after the wonderful GOOD SAMARITAN experience I had recently. (Actually I have had them v. often, and I try and return the favors.)

Listen to Daniel Goleman, who wrote "Emotional Intelligence," on the topic of Good Samaritan-ism in his video, "Why Aren't We All Good Samaritans"?

He mentions doing research on marriage in the NY Times, and finding a woman, Alice, who had a simple Dating Test: From the moment they were together, how long did it take the guy to ask her a question using the word "you." The man she married did is almost immediately. Word!

Goleman mentions coining a word for when the person you are talking to suddenly whips out their blackberry or cell phone, totally ignoring you. Since the word is a poor choice, rather easily miscontrued, I will just point you to Daniel Goleman's blog.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tactical Communication: Think Before Your Speak

For coaching, email me at sdunn@susandunn.cc or call 817-734-1471.
TODAY WE LOOK AT How to talk to difficult people in trying situations, from someone who teaches police how to talk.

Dr. George Thompson is the founder of Verbal Judo Institute. In their words, "Verbal Judo, or Tactical Communications, is the gentle art of persuasion that redirects others [sic] behavior with words and generates voluntary compliance. Further:

The principles and tactics taught enable graduates to use "Presence and Words" to calm difficult people who may be under severe emotional or other influences, redirect the behavior of hostile people, defuse potentially dangerous situations, perform professionally under all conditions and achieve the desired outcome in the encounter.

For CorrectionsOne (police work), Dr. Thompson wrote an article called "7 Things Never to Say to Anyone, and Why". Click on the link to read the full article. Here are some excerpts:

Preface: "Safety lies in knowledge. If you deal with cagey street people, or indeed difficult people at all, anywhere, you need to watch your tongue! The 'cocked tongue' can be more lethal than the 9 millimeter or the 45."

In emotional intelligence terms, we would say get up from the reptilian brain (pressure, emotions, tension) and connect with the neocortex - and THINK before you speak.

The 9 millimeter or the 45 - we know we're in police territory here. Let's proceed.

7 Things Never to Say to Anyone and Why*
*You will note in #5 how he follows his own advice. He tells us "the rules" and then tells us "why".


Because this warns the person and actually 'means' run away. Of interest: The ancient samurai knew never to let an opponent pick the place of battle for then the sun would always be in your eyes!


Point: We all know it never works. Why do we use it? You create a new problem.
Suggested alternatve: "It's going to be all right. Talk to me. What's the matter?"


What's wrong with this? Because you know -- as well as they do -- that you ARE going to say it aain. If you fail to adhere to this, which you will, you lose credibility, and with that goes your power and safety.


What's wrong with this one? Well, as Thompson says, did you ever have anyone come up to you and say, "Hey, I know I'm stupid and wrong, but here's what I think!"?

For suggested alternatives on all these, read the full article. The focus: Tactics over natural reactions.


Thompson says this irritates people and makes you look weak. He adds, "we know that at least 70% of resistant or difficult people will do what you want them to do if you will just tell them why! " Explain! It gets your ego out of it, and helps the other save face.

*In many families, this is "Why? Because I said so!"


It's a "snotty" and "useless" phrase, says Thompson. The immediate natural reaction, he says, is "I don't have one, you do!" which is a reaction that now hides a real need for help.


It's always sarcastic. When you use it, says Thompson, "you can count on two problems: the one you started with and the one you just created by appearing to duck responsibility."

In closing:
Remember, insult strengthens resistance and shuts the eyes.
Civility weakens resistance and opens the eyes!
It's tactical to be nice!

My father, a lawyer and former Chairman of the SEC, often said "It's just common decency." Which makes me think of Will Rogers' -- there's nothing "common" about it.

Words are behavior. Only human beings have them to use. It is nice to be civilized and smart to be prepared and to think before you speak.

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The Good Samaritan at Huntsville Where the Prisons Are


The drive back from Galveston to Dallas is a long one. Maybe 6 hours. However, once past Houston, and until you reach the outskirts of Dallas, it's as easy as a long drive can be. Straight roads, little traffic. As they say, the job of a civil engineer in Texas is easy. Besides, we'd been on a cruise.

Just outside of Huntsville, Texas we had a blowout and had to pull over to the shoulder.

Despite cell phones, despite AAA ... it's not a great place to be sitting on the side of the road.

According to an article on NPR with statistics from Texas Department of Criminal Justice, The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Texas has the largest prison system in the U.S., with more than 150,000 prisoners behind bars - and the headquarter for all this is Huntsvile. There are 9 state prisons there, our Good Samaritan told us.

You wouldn't want to pick up a hitchhiker around there. Or, for that matter, to be 3 women stalled on the side of the road ... that stretched forward in a straight line, with nothing but grass and trees on the sides of the road for as far as we could see. Plus it was freezing cold.

Texas leads nation in the number of executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
Texas, California, and Florida have the largest death row populations. And where might they be? And, most disconcerting to us, every day, more than 150 men are processed, paroled and released from those Huntsville prisons.

Texas Prison Facts: at the end of 1999 --
  • Texas led the nation with the largest number of people under criminal justice supervision - 706,600 people either in prison, on parole or probation.
  • That's 5 percent of the adult population of Texas.
  • African-Americans represent 12% of the Texas population, but make up 44% of the total prison and jail population.
  • One out of every four adult black men in Texas is under some form of criminal justice supervision.
  • The Texas prison population has tripled since 1990. It rose 61.5 percent in the last five years of the 1990s.
  • The youngest man to be executed in Texas was 24; the oldest, 66.
  • The Texas criminal justice system has grown so large that in July 2000, corrections officials ran out of six-digit numbers assigned to inmates, and
    officially created prisoner number 1,000,000.
  • More than one out of every five inmates in Texas prisons are serving time
    for drug-related charges.
And so we sat.

I pulled out my cell phone and Triple A card, glad to see it was still up-to-date, and placed the call. When a man appeared at my car window out of nowhere. A huge African-American man. In my rear view mirror I saw his red pick up truck. My sister meanwhile was telling me that someone was ... coming to help?

The man asked if I had a spare. I thought I did, and went to the trunk with him. Without a word, he pulled out all the luggage, then the spare and the jack and put it on. We started off. He said he would follow. Good thing. The spare went flat and a huge 18-wheeler careened to pass us on the right.

At this point he told me to get in the truck and we would go find a WalMart. He had been a long-distance truck driver until the gas prices went up, he told me, and now was driving things for another company ... but, he said, they wouldn't miss him for a while.

He showed his license to my family in the car, and off I went with him. At which point he got on the CD and told his buddies about what the 18-wheeler had done, and they all agreed that driver was "crazy" and "wrong." He then asked his CD buddies where a WalMart was, so he could help these stranded ladies. Finally came a reply. We went there and the Good Samaritan grabbed my blown tire, twirling it like a bracelet on his huge arm, and went directly into the garage to get us immediate service. Sadly, they had no tire my size.

Back in the truck and another call for a discount tire place. Back into their garage, and finally he talked an assistant manager into putting us before the 15 people standing in line waiting for tires. Back to the truck, back to my car, where he put the tire on. My family had kept the heater on and were doing OK. They also said a tow truck had pulled over and asked to help them.

In the truck, on the ride back, his wife called him on his cell.

"Why she call me all the time?" he asked me, or the wind.

At any rate I answered: "Because she loves you."

"I love her too," he replied. "I love her very much." And then came the story about the FIRST wife.

A little neuroscience ensued. She had gotten to him, he said, to where "I couldn't think. I had no brain. People would tell me something and I couldn't concentrate. She had my mind all messed up. They tell me and then they say 'ROBERT' and I don't know where I been."

"What was she doing?" I asked.

"Just all over the place," he said. "No common sense. That woman had no sense about her. She was book smart, but she was street stupid."

It followed that (he was in the military at the time), 'they' told him they couldn't give him a direct order, but they could give him an indirect order to send her back to the States.

"I'm not stupid," he said. "I can read between the lines."

It had now been 2 hours. And, to connect the dots - what is it that is ripe for the picking?

Oh, the goodness of life, I guess, and the goodness of people. So much we are hearing now about what's wrong with the US, and how awful it's all become, and how people just aren't the same, and they drive off without paying for their gas, and steal bathrobes from hotels, and how sad it is that everyone's autistic, or ADHD, or ABCDEFG ... and, well, the Huntsville thing.

But it's not true. It's not true that people are bad, no one has time to help, or that we are all going to hell in a handcart. And while 25% of Afro-American males in Texas may be under supervision, 75% of them are likely out there being good citizens and helping others.

This Santa Clause (it was Dec 22), this Good Samaritan, gave us two hours of his time, removed one tire and put on two, connected with a world of truck drivers who talked all day about how to help other people, beat out the tow truck driver who wanted to help, said he would pay for my tire if I couldn't ... and told me that he loved his wife.

Life is good. Life is sweet. It is ready to be plucked like that big, sweet, red apple. Just reach out for it. It's all good. And what isn't, and what messes up your mind, send it back to wherever it came from.

To order my new ebook, "Be the One You Have Been Wanting to Come," EMAIL ME.

And to play with the words a little, which we whole-brained people love to do ... WE DECIDED TO BE THE ONE WE WERE WAITING FOR.

On the trip, before and after, we:

  • Gave our coconut monkey mug to a woman who wanted one for her grandbabies, but couldn't afford one.
  • Helped someone find his brother's assisted-living facility.
  • Let a woman use our cell phone to get her father to come get her.
  • Tipped the handsome and charming Fernando most generously.
  • Tipped ALL the service people who helped us.
  • Soothed people who were afraid on the pitching and rolling ship.
  • Lent our blanket to someone who was freezing in the Galveston terminal.
  • Thanked people and told them we appreciated them.
  • Talked nice.
  • Observed good etiquette at table.
  • Didn't pollute the ocean.

And many other things.

Why? Because it made us feel so good. Because it makes the world go 'round. Because you attract the big ole rough guys who tell you how much they love their wife, and to help others. Because we then create the sort of world we want to live in.

"Be the change you want to see." Mohatma Gandhi

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Our Cruise to Progreso, The Yucatan on Carnival Ecstasy

Chichen-Itza, on of the 7 Wonders of the World. Photo by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, used w/ permission.

Originally scheduled for Cozumel, we ended up being re-routed to Progreso. While I could talk about the beauty of the ocean, and the great meals, and the best -- the very best -- of travel companions ... this is an EQ blog by The EQ Coach, so let's talk about EQ. Because a lot of things went awry on this cruise.

We were delayed many hours in boarding the ship because of the fog in Galveston, a port city that still looks like it was hit by a hurricane. When we were told we could finally board, we were told we would be given an ample credit on our Ship 'n' Sail card. How nice. Really.

And just as importantly, we thought we would scream if, as we finally rounded the gangplank, we were asked to pose for a photo with one of those costumed characters. Carnival knew better than that.

And then, a little secret we were keeping from our guest, my niece, a first-time cruiser, we thought we would REALLY scream if we had to muster immediately once aboard ship. They put that off till late the next morning. Very EQ smart. Kudos to Captain Candelero Donato. Che bello.
Cruise critic asks - are all the Carnival captains now Italian? (So who's left for Costa these days??) Well, their names ... Roberto Volpi, Gianpaolo Casula, Giorgio Pagano, Agostino Fazio, Marco Nogara, Salvatore Rassello, Vittorio Marchi, Giulio Basso. For photo of handsome Italian Captain Marco Nogara, see here.

And how charmingly Captain Donato told us that - well it was hard to undertand, you know, his accent, the Italian respeto, something about less than perfect weather, a change ... you know ... and 2 minutes later the sky broke open. Smile.

Now, Progreso is the home of one of the 7 Wonders of the World, Chichen-Itza. Chichen Itza (emphasis on both last syllables) is a large pre-Columbian archaeological site built by the Mayan civilization. Typical of those v. wealthy Mexican families who own produce valleys, the ruins are an historical site, but the land under the ruins is privately-owned by the Barbachano family.

We spent a day at the Reef Yucatan near Progreso, an ecological area surrounded with pre-Columbian history, located on one of the few virgin beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, and less than one hour to the north of Merida's International Airport.

I was fascinated by the emotional intelligence of our guide, Luis Enrique, who's seen it all, I'm sure. On the nearly hour-long bus ride (and a full bus it was), it was his job to charm the potential miscreants into behaving, for what leverage did he have, he who did not want to have to clean up vomit, and deal with "the tears, you know," he said, shaking his head.

"We know you come to Mexico to get drunk," he said, "but when the puking starts, the fun ends."

Well, true.

Hale got braids, there were massages on the beach, riding horses, enjoying the pool, the open bar and the ample buffet.

On the way back, it was Luis Enrique's job to get us to fill out a feedback form, AND to get us to seek out the one when back on ship and fill that out as well. And what incentive was there to do this? None whatsoever, except his charm, of which he had a gracious plenty.

"But is okay if you do, is okay if you don't (friendly shrug and smile), because is your vacation, yes?"

He addressed other issues with grace, i.e.,

Luis Enrique: "Do you know what is included in your tour and what is not?"
Us: "No."
LE: "Ah, well, I see you trust Mexicans."
Us: laughter and good will

Having not been ordered so to do, I made the monumental effort (I'm not kidding!) of tracking down a form back on ship and mentioning him in particular. I hope Luis Enrique gets a raise!

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

On Your Journey through Life, Take with you a Child with Eyes of Wonder

The Blessings of Dumb Childlike Wonder is the name of the article. By Garrison Keillor. He wrote it on December 23rd.

On the left, bright, freckle-faced girl finds the wonder in the ole webcam.

Keillor's article begins:

"It is the blessed Christmas season. But of course you know that. Unless you live ten miles up a box canyon deep in the Wasatch Range with only your dog Boomer and are demented from drinking bad water, you are inhaling Christmas night and day and "Adeste Fideles" is stuck in your head like a five-inch nail.This Christmas I am in New York for the general dazzlement and variety." For the rest of the article, go here.

I can relate.

When the frenzy of my fellow Americans (ahh, LBJ) reaches a fever pitch, so unlike peace and joy, so unlike ... Christmas ... I choose to go on a Caribbean cruise every year the second week or so in December. The ships are always tastefully decorated AND anything Christmas is UNDER-stated. This particular cruise, on the Carnival's Ecstasy offered the kind of rate I like, and I can drive to Galveston easily enough. Most fun of all, we were re-routed from Cozumel (been there, done that) to Progreso, which features one of the 7 wonders of the world, Chichan Itza. How could we get so lucky?

But I digress.

Anyway, on this annual trip, I like to take a child. Or let's say, someone who has never cruised before.

I have seen many Christmasses. I have also been on many cruises. To see anything in the eyes of a child, is a wonder to me unlike any other. "What's this?" "Can I go here?" What are they doing over there?" "They said 'muster.' What's that?" "Oh look! That towel!" I have seen 100 towels folded like 100 things; through her eyes, it was a wonder again for me, like the first time.

And they always point out new things to me. This year's invited guest, a charming young lady, asked some interesting questions. We were seated for dinner with a couple and their daughter, about 25 years old, who, they said, "Had the mind of a 6 year old."

Now the dinner seating on a cruise is always fun. You can request a table for 2, 4, up to 10, but nothing is guaranteed. I have sat with people where I requested to be moved the next night. (There was someone at the table who was obviously an alcoholic and got so drunk the first night, he had to be removed by the staff, and, as our guide in Progreso said, "When the puking begins, the fun is over.")

I have also sat at a table where THEY asked to be moved. We showed up the next night to an empty table, save for ourselves. The husbands had been flirting with my beautiful sister. The wives requested a move.

So I mentioned that we might move to another table, or maybe this family would not come back.
Our sensitive young miss looked puzzled and said, "Is it because of their daughter that you want to be moved?"

"No," I said. It's because this is like being at a new school, where there are potential friends everywhere, and if we had different dinner companions each night, who knows whom we might meet. Maybe a nice teenage boy your age??"

But back to Keillor's article. I had the same sort of upbringing ... for many years refusing to indulge myself in any number of things. Debtors' prison ... straw mat ... well, actually in my family it was "Eat your dinner. There are children starving in Africa." But this annual cruise ... ahhh, I have learned to indulge. I sometimes order two entrees. Ahhh, the decadence of it all.

There's also a bit of the Keillor in me in that Christmas party (dinner on the cruise) thing he wrote about. "It isn't fun to stand around making small talk with other people's friends as they anesthetize themselves," he wrote. For me, an interesting dinner table conversation is part of ETIQUETTE, part of EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE. And boy did our Little Miss shine. Her parents have done a sterling job. And my beautiful sister outdid herself, as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside, coming up with question after comment after question, to keep the thing going.

But after a two-hour dinner, the family we were with seemed to have exhausted any interesting conversation, and I was hoping to try something new. That's all.

Our young companion's question reminded me how often people have erroneous assumptions (and how smart of her to check it out), and likewise, how often I fail to communicate in the most effective manner.

Which is what Emotional Intelligence is all about.

This is something that I have had to work on for many years. Maybe it's that background, Keillor and I share, at least in part. When I have to focus -- and I was "in charge" of the whole trip, I get VERY focused. How many times a child has said to me, "Are you mad at me?" And I explain. This taught me to explain TO ADULTS AS WELL. Something like, "I need to focus on this now. I am going to switch gear (are you ready?) Because there are some important details and I want this part of the trip to go well. I'm not angry at anyone or anything. I am just concentrating. Okay?"

Adults rarely ask that kind of question, but they may be making assumptions, and wanting answers.

However, there was the benefit banquet I was heading and we were setting up at the hotel ... 200 people expected, decorations hadn't shown up ... cook was screaming about timing ... my feet hurt ... I was UBER focused. OK. Stressed.

And from nowhere appeared a Mexican waiter who took me in his arms and said, "Let's dance" and took me across the floor, around the tables, and made me laugh.

Now THAT'S emotional intelligence.

P.S. For THE WONDER, it doesn't have to be a child. I stood on the deck of a ship once not long ago next to a young man about 30 years old who quietly said. "I have never seen an ocean before."

It changes one's perspective.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

How Come Madoff Slipped through the Cracks?

The topic today. Emotionally Intelligent regulation, inspection and reporting - a necessity for almost any organization.

Overheard on the streets: "All cultures steal."

A key phrase that comes to mind "Do it smarter, not harder."

There was a song back in the 60s by Al Wilson called "The Snake." The lyrics: "Oh shut up, silly woman," said the reptile with a grin, "You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in."

Snakes have fangs. Rattles. No legs. Do you know a snake when you see one?

First: The wisdom of the words of Harvey Pitt, former chairmen of the SEC on regulatory changes. See the video clip: Harvey Pitt, CEO of Kalaroma Partners, former chairman of the SEC speaks to Martin Soong and Sri Jegarahaj on the Madoff scandal.

A bit of history if you live under a rock and have not heard about this fiasco. Allegedy $22 billion alone was discovered in October when the SEC finally moved in on Madoff's Ponzi scheme and it is suspected to get worse. Update Dec. 25 - Now thought to be $50 billion.

Madoff is currently on bail of $10 million.

The interview with Harvey Pitt is entitled: SEC is Badly in Need of an Overhaul: Analyst . "Don't mean to get your back up from the get-go," begins the interviewer:

The SEC's inspection and examination program is badly in need of an overhaul,
said Harvey Pitt, former chairman of the SEC, after the SEC failed to uncover the Madoff scandal even when red flags were raised. In the videod interview, Pitt tells CNBC's Martin Soong & Sri Jegarajah what needs to change -- not more regulation, not less regulation, but smarter regulation.

Complaints were launched re: Madoff years ago. In 2005, it was found Madoff had lied to or mislead the SEC and yet the SEC took no action (William Donaldson was chairman of the SEC at that time). Credible complaints must be investigated, notes Pitt.

Lets disconnect for a moment from a federal regulatory agency and a $50 billion fraud, to take a look at your shop. Applications for daily life?

Complaints abound, I'm sure. How do you recognize a "credible" complaint? Well, it has to do with gut feeling. About the person making the report, to begin with; and about the person being complained about, to end with.

It's a twinge when you see someone, a sense that something's wrong, smelling a rat, knowing at the gut level, as Hamlet did, that "something is rotten in the State of Denmark," and likewise, a sense that the person "complaining" is credible. Because you have a sense of trusting them - you "feel like" you can trust them. Because you've had a lot of experience with people. A SENSE ... we keep coming up with that. It's our senses (sight, smell, touch, and internal feelings) that give us the most crucial information. When you say "I KNEW he wouldn't work out," and then go back and process how you knew, and what you did not pay attention. "Against my better judgement..." Some define intuition as "knowing without knowing how you know."

More businesses and firms are dealing with theft, deception and intentional fraud these days. I spoke with a lawyer the other day whose new secretary had forged firm checks during her first week (and is now incarcerated).

Hard times increase both the possibility and the opportunity.

It helps to have keen intuition ("gut feeling"). To increase yours, to recognize its signals, and to learn to trust it. Get in touch with your feelings ... your GUT feelings ... the knot in the stomach, the sense that something's not right, the twinge at the sight of someone, the hair standing up on the back of your head, knowing whose 'got your back' and who doesn't, who lies and who doesn't, the name of that tune you keep humming when you see her ...

Lets face it, even the TSA in the DFW airport has moved to give screeners more latitude in using their instincts. Why? You tell me!

It's not always on paper. It's within us, or within those who have well-developed 'feelers.'

The Fort Worth newspaper said that the TSA was planning to "get away from the by-the-numbers mentality used to create the TSA." They plan to vet passengers' reactions and intent, not just search for banned items. Hawley, administrator of the TSA was quoted as telling screeners, "We have seen more images, more people, more shoes than anyhody ... you know what normal looks like."

Do YOU know what "normal" looks like? Do you know what a snake looks like??

Like the other emotional intelligence competencies, intuition (gut feeling) can be developed. And why would you want to? In a teleclass I taught on intuition a couple of years ago, I asked the class how you know it's intuition. Someone replied, "It's when you are absolutely certain."

Last example, a coach I trained in the UK who uses emotional intelligence training for people in high-danger jobs like oil rigs and nuclear plants. She teaches them about their intuition and how and when to trust it, their gut feeling*. Trains them to get back in touch with those "feelers" that tell us "something just isn't right" or "something has changed." In a nuclear plant you MUST notice when something is different ... a strange hiss, a silence where there should be noise, a sneaky look ...

*gut feeling probably comes from the vagus nerve. According to wikipedia, the vagus nerve is:

... the only nerve that starts in the brainstem (within the medulla oblongata) and extends, through the jugular foramen, down below the head, to the neck, chest and abdomen, where it contributes to the innervation of the viscera.
You know how when something really hits you, you say "I had a visceral response"? The vagus nerve goes from the brain stem down into the intestines. Why an anti-depressant might make you constipated. Why when you're afraid, you might sweat, throw up or have diarrhea or be unable to breathe well. Why when you mistrust someone you might get 'nervous' - tight stomach, twitching leg, urge to run away.

Lastly, your "shop" may be your family. Your kids tattle on each other all the time, right? How do you know what to believe? My mom used to say she had eyes in the back of her head.

There are signs. Pay attention to them. Learn how YOUR intuition, or gut feeling, speaks to you.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Straw that Broke the Camel's Back

It's "that time of year." When we're all so overloaded, just one small thing can be "the straw that broke the camel's back."

Every culture has a proverb related to the straw that broke the camel's back. Why? Because it's oh-so-true.

Lighten your load if you see this point coming.

And don't allow some small thing to be "the straw that broke the camel's back."

The straw that broke the camel's back is an Arab proverb. Camels were so much a part of their culture. They keep loading things on the camel, and then they put one more straw on there, and it breaks the camel's back.

From wikipedia:

One of the earliest published usages of this phrase was in Charles Dickens's Dombey and Son where he says "As the last straw breaks the laden camel's back", meaning that there is a limit to everyone's endurance, or everyone has his breaking point.

Here are the proverbs from other countries:
Arabic Original : القشه التى قصمت ظهر البعير Danish equivalent: Dråben, der fik bægeret til at flyde over, meaning the drop that made the glass overflow.
French equivalent: la goutte d'eau qui fait déborder le vase, meaning the drop of water that makes the vase overflow.
German equivalent: Der Tropfen, der das Fass zum Überlaufen bringt, meaning the drop that makes the barrel overflow.
Dutch equivalent: De druppel die de emmer doet overlopen, meaning the drop that makes the bucket overflow.
Spanish equivalent: La gota que colmó/derramó el vaso, meaning the drop that spills over the glass.
Greek equivalent: Η σταγόνα που ξεχύλισε το ποτήρι, meaning the drop that made the glass overflow. Italian equivalent: La goccia che fa traboccare il vaso, meaning the drop of water that makes the jar overflow.
Romanian equivalent: Picătura care a umplut paharul, meaning the drop that filled the glass. Swedish equivalent: Droppen som fick bägaren att rinna över, meaning the drop that made the bucket overflow.
Turkish equivalent: Bardağı taşıran son damla, meaning the drop of water that makes the glass overflow.
Hebrew equivalent: הקש ששבר את גב הגמל, meaning the straw that broke the camel's back. Norwegian equivalent: "Liten tue velter stort lass", roughly translates to "small bump makes coach tip over"

A US version is "I'm on my last nerve" or "you're getting on my last nerve." It's a warning that the person is overloaded.

Please don't let yourself get overloaded. Take the breaks you need, lighten your load, talk to someone, get away from it all.

Email me at sdunn@susandunn.cc for a free mini-coaching session.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Timely Credo .... I Believe

CREDO ... Latin for "I believe"
Relax . . . And read this slowly.
I Believe...
That just because two people argue, doesn't mean they don't love each other.And just because they don't argue, doesn't mean they do love each other.
I Believe... That we don't have to change friends if we understand that friends change.
I Believe...That no matter how good a friend is, they're going to hurt you every once in a while and you must forgive them for that.
I Believe...That true friendship continues to grow, even over the longest distance. Same goes for true love.
I Believe...That you can do something in an instant that will give you heartache for life.
I Believe...That it's taking me a long time to become the person I want to be.
I Believe...That you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.
I Believe...That you can keep going long after you think you can't.
I Believe...That we are responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel.
I Believe...That either you control your attitude or it controls you.,
I Believe...That heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences.
I Believe...That money is a lousy way of keeping score.
I Believe...That my best friend and I can do anything, or nothing, and have the best time.
I Believe...That sometimes the people you expect to kick you when you're down, will be the ones to help you get back up.
I Believe...That sometimes when I'm angry I have the right to be angry, but that doesn't give me the right to be cruel.
I Believe...That maturity has more to do with what types of experiences you've had, and what you've learned from them.....and less to do with how many birthdays you've celebrated.
I Believe...That it isn't always enough to be forgiven by others. Sometimes, you have to learn to forgive yourself.
I Believe...That no matter how bad your heart is broken the world doesn't stop for your grief.
I Believe...That our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.
I Believe...That you shouldn't be so eager to find out a secret. It could changeyour life forever.
I Believe...Two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totallydifferent.
I Believe...That your life can be changed in a matter of hours by people who don't even know you.
I Believe...That even when you think you have no more to give, if a friend cries out to you, you will find the strength to help.
I Believe...That credentials on the wall do not make you a decent human being.
I Believe...That the people you care about most in life are taken from you too soon.
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EQ Advice for the Week of December 16


We have an economic crisis. We have a new president - an unknown. We have the holidays.

Peace and harmony? Not likely.

There is stress from many areas - the budget, family, more to do, and the parties mean we eat and drink wrong. Some people have been hit in virtually every area of their life.

Stress affects our emotional set-point. Many people are on their last nerve. Stressed out and trying to cope.

So ... CUIDADO - Be Careful
It's easy for misunderstandings to happen right now, and even easier to say the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time.

Caution is the better part of valor!

Tips for Surviving:
  1. Emotions are running in the background for all of us, and it clouds clear thinking.
  2. Be especially careful with communication with close friends, lovers and colleagues.
  3. Expect what you say to be misinterpreted so go over assumptions if need be.
  4. Misinterpretation and cloudy thinking can set off a constellation of misunderstanding.
  5. If this happens, nip it in the bud. Take time immediately to address it or it will escalate which will only complicate your life and add more stress.
  6. Slow down. Set back your own rheostat. Say less. Keep busy. Do things you know make you calmer.
  7. Assume a virtue if you have it not - slap on a veneer of aplomb and calmness. Emotions are catching.
  8. Put it off if you can.
  9. Of course "A stitch in time saves nine." Think before you speak.

In other words, watch your words. The smartest thing to do is approach all communication with care. All PEOPLE with care. This is simply not the time. In other words, the thing you're most likely to want to say is the thing you'll regret having said later.

If all else fails, disengage and walk away.

A lot of people are just plain out looking for a fight, to relieve the tension, and it takes two to play that game.

Lastly, as a friend of mine says - Keep your words sweet. You may have to eat them some day.

For a free mini-coaching session, email me at sdunn@susandunn.cc, or call 817-734-1471.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tis the Season to be Jolly - Or is It?






How do you feel about that?

Know how some kids are just dear, sweet and happy and draw other people to them? And others ... do not? That trait is one of those cited in children who "survive" - sometimes surviving terrible things in childhood. They never give up and continue to reach out to other people. (See Al Siebert's research)

Malaysia is big on emotional intelligence. I have certified many coaches over there. One of the reasons for the enthusiasm is that they know about emotional intelligence because their national head of education has stated Goleman's "Emotional Intelligence" to be one of his 5 favorite books.

Well, there was a recent article in one of Malaysia's online newspapers called "The Star" which is entitled "Season for Cheer." One thing that makes this article, and its information so poignant is that it is written by a teacher for teachers. (And several of the coaches I certified in Malaysia are also teachers.) It is crucial because of the influence teachers have - on our children, our future.

From the article - and remember how I am always saying "emotions are contagious"?
Goleman also reveals that one of the most significant findings of recent times is that of “mirror neurons” which “track emotional flow, movement and even intentions of the person we are with and replicate this sensed state in our own brain”. (Please reread that one!!!)

In short, if you spend time with a happy person, you are likely to “catch” that happy feeling in yourself and express it.
If, on the other hands, you are unfortunate enough to be with someone who
is cold, negative, callous even hostile, you will get that way too.

The article says teachers can learn from this, but what about the rest of us? Our moods influence our spouses, our children, our parents, our grandparents, our colleagues at work -- anyone we are around.

To continue:
[If your child gets a sulky teacher] take note of researcher Gregg Easterbrook who says that "it requires real effort to achieve a happy and positive outlook on life, and most people don't make [the effort]." He adds, "While we have been handed the keys to happiness, many people cling to gloomy ways out of habit."

Even more compelling is the research of Minnesota's David Lykken who determined that "happiness is 50% genetic." [If you want more on this, email me for white paper.]
So what do you do if you tend to be sad, morose, moody, even depressed (what the Ancients used to call melancholic. (Or if your partner, child, parent, etc. is.) Well, of course you can stay that way. And likely drive away other people and set yourself on an illness spiral toward a shorter (and certainly miserable) life, because Goleman gives research evidence in "Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships," that the people who live longest have "rich personal networks," i.e., those who are "married, have close family and friends and are active in social and religious groups."

Two other rigorous researchers have confirmed the same. Seligman who stresses the positive attitude, and Al Siebert who studied survivors and defined their personalities in his book "Survivor Personality." I think Seligman did the research (as so many do), to teach himself how to be positive and happy despite some difficult events in his life. (Remember, always remember, that it takes effort.)

Heck, it's almost common kowledge now how bad isolation (meaning EMOTIONAL isolation) is for our health.

That having been said, the article concludes, again talking about teachers (and consider the influence they have on our children ) but apply this to yourself, and others:
It therefore follows that, if a teacher chooses to be a gloomy person, attribute 50% of it to genetics and the other 50% to the fact that she [or he] is not trying hard enough to change her ways.
And yes - emotional intelligence can be learned. I have been the catalyst for it many times.

So for this Christmas (holiday) season, what's it gonna be? Scrooge or Father Christmas? Merry Christmas or Bah Humbug? Moping and withdrawing, or getting out there and enjoying some of it? Lamenting what's gone and what you don't have, or celebrating what you do have?

Remember the EQ competency of intentionality: How do you intend to BE this Christmas? How do you intend to FEEL? Do you intend to he HAPPY or to be SAD/HOSTILE. As you know, this is not a given. It is a CHOICE.

While writing this, I received a distressed call from a male client whose girl friend just broke up with. He had seen her getting worse as the holidays progress, depressed and spending time in bed. It's been building up anyway - she doesn't speak to one of her kids, she lives alone and won't get out ... which leaves you pretty much to think sad thoughts in your head.

I think that's sad. It's doubly sad. I'd like to see the client with someone who makes the effort to move forward and be "Happy" - because it's catching -- but I'm sure that will be a time coming. It is so sad the break up at Christmas. What kind of a person does that?

I'll let you connect the dots.
Because if you wanted to look at it this way - how can we "be happy" right now with war, worldwide economic disaster, abused children, battered women, your cousin lost his job, you're single at Christmas, you don't have money for gift ...

This photo is making the rounds in a Christmas email. I do not know to whom to attribute it. If you object to its presense, EMAIL ME and it will be immediately removed.

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REGIFTING: What's up with that (euphemism)?



Your coach interprets reality, situations and emotions to you with words. We all use language. It is powerful.

Several blogs ago, we listed the incredible 13 most-requested words and phrases for translation.

Now we will take another look at language. It is how we make order out of chaos (Remember the Bible ... first there was chaos, then there was the Word"?

It is also how we shape our world. Words give us power over our people, emotions and world. (Name it, tame it) Remember the change in things when your toddler learned the almighty "NO!"?

A little history ... Do you know what the word "segregation" means? A massive social and cultural upheaval took place when the word "integration" was born?

Were you around when everything you read referred to the male gender. Quotes were: Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.If a person wanted to be a lay reader "he should speak to Father John." There were no female doctors, lawyers, ministers. "She" was not used unless it specifically referred to a woman.

A massive social and cultural upheaval took place when women began to demand that SHE and HER be added to the English vocabulary, and for the generic. We went through a stage of: (s)he and she/he, and "where it says "he" it should be construed to mean "she" as well, and sometimes we alternate, and sometimes use words like "an individual" It's awkward. This one has been a long, long journey for the USA and Western World.

Then in the 80s the divorce rate started rising. Suddenly we had people we had been married to and no longer were (and their parents), and then we remarried and had kids from both parents and we had ...??? A massive social and cultural upheaval lacked language, and we invented and began to use the words "ex" and "step-parent" and "blended family" and "single parent."

BTW in 1985, my friend (who was a single parent at the time) tells me that there was a Family Group at her Church, and she and her daughters were not allowed to join it. They were told "You are not a family." Ouch!

So here is a new one.

Get ready for this one.

It's a sign of the times, the long and bending back of etiquette and socially acceptable behavior, the limits of faux pas, the generational gaps, and -- some would have us believe, of hard economic times.
There is yet another new word: regifting. It is so new it did not pass my spellchecker, with or without hyphen. There is even a website called regiftable.com."

Re-gifting: It's not so taboo," is the article in the Keller Citizen, where they quote a communication specialist with Money Management International who, ungrammatically says, "More and more peple are considering all their options in gift-giving, and re-gifting is gaining popularity in that."

And of course the most obvious thing to re-gift is a gift-card. This is giant step away from knitting a sweater for you son for Christmas! Something chosen and made for exactly and only the person to whom it was given.

The article offers tips if you are going to do this -- like be sure and change the wrapping paper, and don't give it to someone who might know the someone who gave it to you.

Well, I gotta admit nearly every gift I have gotten from an employer (back when I had one), I gave to the maid, or a neighbor. The cheap hams and turkeys, the boxes of candy, the wine I wouldn't want to drink. But these aren't personal. This year I got a huge ham from one of the corporations I consult for and I don't like ham enough to have 20 lbs. of it around the house when it's only me. I knew someone else could get some use out of it. I gave it to my son. I'll admit to having done it with other things. I do, as they 'recommend,' suit the re-gift to the re-cipient. The thing is, I usually don't act like it's a real gift. I say, "I got this and blah blah and thought you might like it/could use it/would enjoy it more than me."

However at times I have gotten, say, a sweater or something from my side of the family that I knew I would never wear, but that my mother-in-law would love, so I wrapped it up again and gave it to her.

Call me a Re-Gifter?

My etiquette advice: Just do it with taste! i.e., do not let the person who gave it to you know about it, and don't tell the person you're giving it to, and be sure neither of them will find out about it. Because that would be incredibly rude.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dance ... for Your Health and Lower Your Risk of Dementia

The Dance

I was in a store today and over the loudspeaker came the strains of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker.

I saw a young man about 20, with pants dragging and a ring in his nose start humming right along with it.

"You know that song?" I asked.

He paused for a moment, shrugged and said, "It's Christmas!"

Could Tchaikovsky ever have known how famous his ballet would become, especially among those who would never go to a ballet?

But we're here to talk about The Dance.

According to an article "Dance Even if Nobody is Watching:"

A telling 2003 New England Journal of Medicine report showed a lower risk for dementia among people over 75 who regularly danced during leisure time. But what was so surprising about the report is that other types of physical exercise didn’t affect dementia risk — dancing was the only physical activity that made a difference.

Other studies have shown music plays an important role in depression. Dance therapy has been used to relieve anxiety about taking tests, and researchers are studying the tango to help patients with Parkinson’s. Dance therapy has been shown to improve the quality of life for breast cancer patients as well.

For more about music and emotion, see Club Vivo Per Lei.

Anyway, the article mentioned Matt Harding and his dancing. Take a look - and then, whatever your age, DANCE!

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Worldwide Economic Crisis: Who is to Blame?

Before the discovery of penicillin, syphilis was a widespread, damaging, potentially lethal disease. Sexually transmitted, of course. To the left is a medical illustration of syphilis probably by Albrecht Durer.

In Italy and Germany, syphilis was called "the French disease."

The French called it "the Italian disease."

The English called it "the French pox."

The Dutch called it "the Spanish disease."

The Russians called it "the Polish disease."

The Polish called it "the Russian disease."

The Turks called it "the Christian disease."

Persians called it "the Turkish disease."

The Portugese called it "the Castillian disease."

The Tahitians called it "the British disease."

The Japanese called it either "the Portugese or Chinese disease".

Famous people thought to have had syphilis? Henry VII seems to make most lists, but he doesn't appear on wikipedia's list, which appears to be fairly well-documented:

Franz Shubert
Charles VIII of France
Hernando Cortez of Spain
Adolf Hitler
Benito Mussolini
Ivan the Terrible

Note that "insanity" is part of the tertiary stage.

Guy de Maupassant
Friedrich Nietzsche
Al Capone
Edouard Manet
Paul Gauguin
Scott Joplin
Gaetano Donizetti
Niccolo Paganini
Leo Tolstoy

A June 2004 article in the European Journal of Neurology hypothesized that Lenin died of neurosyphilis.

Here is a photograph of a Mobius strip

Photograph of Mobius strip by David Benbennick, wikimedia commons.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

MELTDOWN: Never Has There Been More Need for The EQ Course(tm) and Coaching

"Don't touch me," writes Keith. "I'm a live wire right now."

Keith finally achieved getting his bride and her child into the US from Nigeria this year and just found he has been laid off from his job, after buying a house and remodeling it which he knows he cannot resell right now were he able to find work anywhere.

Daily I receive emails, as if the screaming headlines weren't enough:

Economic Meltdown
1,000,000 Jobs Will Be Lost This Year
Seniors' IRAs Devastated
Foreclosures at All-Time High
Declining House Values
Stress Mounts as Markets Decline

People who may have, in the past, scoffed at the idea of "emotional intelligence," are now taking a second look, because emotions are in meltdown as well. The stress builds. The uncertainty. And the losses.

Alfredo's monthly payments from his IRAs are now 50% less. His wife writes me because he has become depressed and impotent, surly and agitated. Impossible to live with. "It's happened to everyone else," she tells him.

But this is different - because it happened to YOU.

Because of the economic crisis and the need, I am offering The EQ Course, which comes with unlimited email, and telephone coaching, as well as the Internet course, for just $79.95. This is less than half price. You can order it here. It comes with email support and coaching by telephone.

Learning about emotional intelligence, and getting coaching are crucial to managing the ravaging emotions we are experiencing now.

One woman I coach moved to a new town one year ago, has not been able to
find a job there, and is getting ready to move to another state to live with her
sister until she can stablize. This is two moves in 2 years and this woman
is over 50.

Click here to register and take The EQ Course(tm) for just $79.95. Offer good through February 1, 2009. For more information, email me at sdunn@susandunn.cc .

Client Michael: "This course saved my life."
Warning: Stress can make you (your brain) dysfunctional just when you need it the most.
But "you" are not your "brain," you are your EMOTIONS. If you're lucky enough to have a job, worrying about losing it can cause that to happen. This course does not talk about designer fads like "law of attraction" and "positive affirmations." This course deals with the real nitty-gritty.

And if ever there were a time for it, it is NOW.

Order the course now, before you forget. Being scattered is part of the stress. I can help you. Call me if you want more information: 817-741-7223.

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

What Happens When you Give to a Woman?

Mexican Proverb

Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater.

If you give her sperm, she'll give you a baby.

If you give her a house, she'll give you a home.

If you give her groceries, she'll give you a meal.

If you give her a smile, she'll give you her heart.

She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her.

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Christmas and the Loving Hands of Home

HOMEMADE STRUFFOLI (in this case mine) - a great Christmas Gift.

We are entering that sacred time of year. In every culture around the globe there is a celebration this time of year with different names, but the purpose is to bring people together for warmth and love, in the dead of winter.

In some of the celebrations gifts are exchanged. There is no question this has gotten out of hand. (See feeding frenzy tragedy at WalMart in earlier blog). Those of us who have been around a while, have seen gift-giving move in a troubling trajectory to where it might as well be skipped, i.e., you keep the $50 you would spend to buy me a "gift card" and I'll keep the $50 I would spend to buy you a "gift card," and we'll both have avoided wasting a lot of time and effort. Whose got time any more? And for heaven's sake I wouldn't want to have to THINK about what you might like. Ok, yeah, there are "lists," but that takes time too.

The Depression: there was no money for gifts.

1944: There was a World War going on. A gift might be Christmas cookies, because there was a sugar ration going on.

1950: You might give your child their winter jacket for Christmas. Their ONE winter jacket. And perhaps one toy. A doll, let's say. It did not have a name and it did not have a boyfriend, car, swimming pool ... It was not mass produced. It was probably a stuffed doll, and may have been made by the old woman down the street, or even the child's own mother or grandmother. It was "impolite" to "ask" for a gift. And part of loving someone was having the empathy (an emotional intelligence competency) to know what they would like to receive.

1955: It was still "the loving hands of home." It was "meaningful" to give someone something you had made. By hand. Exchange of Christmas baked goods too! The "needy person" in the community was remembered. The school kids might gather goods and take them over to the person's house in personand spend some time visiting. It didn't make the newspaper and wasn't considered a big deal. It was just what people did.

1960: More abundance, so more under the tree. But brand names didn't exist and weren't important. You might be asked to make a list for Santa (I never was, as a kid), but the list would say "tennis shoes," not "Hook Up Kicksiders from Ragtail Manufactury. P.S. Type II." It was considered questionable taste to send someone a check as a gift. Many hand-made gifts were still given - a wooden train, a knitted sweater. (See Mister Rogers below)

1970: The lists began. But they still included actual objects that gave the gift-giver latitude and required decision. In other words something that someone shopped for, chose and put some thought into. Helping the needy became institutionalized (impersonal). There was Elf Louise, and Blue Santa... Corporations could then participate and get publicity in the newspaper. (Unlike the Worcester Wreath Company which has just quietly supplied all those Arlington wreaths all these years. On their website they tell us that "it began in 1992 as one man's dream and a hearfelt gesture."

1980: It begins to blur. Let's fast-forward to 2008. You now register - an assumption that gifts will be given you. But why exchange lists when there are gift cards? Everyone finds it "easier" to just send gift cards back and forth. Takes no time or effort, just money. And, theoretically, the more the better.

Which brings us to ... an article by Dana Gerhardt that I am going to paraphrase because it uses different language for "materialism."

At this time of year, when we are prone to instrospection, and more spiritual things, consider this:

[I]t's nice to have an impressive [beach house in Malibu, two cars, and a 4000 ft. sw. home]. Walk through any graveyard, however, and [materialism] quickly loses its importance. You won't see "wealthy banker," "top insurance salesman," or "the sexiest guy on the block" etched onto any headstone. All the worldly success people struggle for and achieve dissolves at the cemetery into more personal descriptions: "beloved husband," "loving mother," "devoted sister."

[These terms are about what is most important in life.) In deathbed scenes, people rarely express regret or gather comfort from their life's career choices. They don't wish for a little extra time to finish up that memo or earn another few thousand dollars. Rather, they wonder if they loved well enough, if they used their time to touch life deeply enough, if they traveled far enough on the spiritual path. Rarely do the dying obsess about [material] things.

Now about Mister Rogers and that red sweater. March 20th has been declared "Wear a Sweater" day because that was Fred Rogers' birthday. Just ask Mr. McFeely, Speedy Delivery. (At least 3 generations of Americans will know what I am talking about.)

Q: Who knit Mister Rogers' sweater?
A: His mother Nancy McFeely Rogers. It was red. She knit all his sweaters, one a month, every one of the cardigans he wore on the show.

For the kind of learning and enrichment that the holiday season can bring to you, and your children and your grandchildren, take a look at Mangesh Hattikudur's repent, 15 Reasons Mister Rogers Was the Best Neighbor Ever. The man has learned something over the years.

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When You've Been Knocked Down Too Many Times ...

Have you fallen down and think this time it was so bad you can't get up (one more time)?

Take a look at this inspirational video, and God bless Nick Vujicik for his ministry:

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

When the Generations Clash at Christmas

by Susan Garrett
When the generations clash at Christmas ... at the holiday ... at other times.

Here is a poem written by Susan Garrett:

Time moves differently once you're past 50
Or once you've lost a child
Or once you're me
[Does it matter which?]

But here I go, with my granddaughter in hand
Off to let her teach me about the c/sea.

Extremely powerful and irreplaceable are we
Only Mother, Only Daughter ...
But the generation in between
Makes plans for us and shapes our days;
And while they're all the world to us
We sometimes like to get away
And muddle through a day --
They would say --
In a hapless disorganized way
Not too concerned about where we go
Just wandering and wondering
And unaware of time.

Sometimes she wears a halo of aluminum foil
And a tu-tu over her blue jeans
And I always try to look my best
But there isn't a "best" any more.
She'll be attended to whatever she wears
And whatever I wear, I'll largely be ignored,
So off we go!

Our worth lies in the not-now
We live at "c",
My grand-daughter and me.
She has all the future ahead of her
And represents their hope,
And I have all the past behind me
And represent what endures
And somehow in the now,
We meet.

We hope they will let us be.


When children write about their grandparents they say things like "they are never in a hurry," "they play with me," "we go for walks," "we have conversations." They are talking about True Love.

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Behind that Frigid North Wind

It's been very cold here in Dallas the past two days. Yesterday there was a strong freezing wind. I left for an appointment in the morning before dark, and saw people out walking their dogs at 5:45 a.m. in the freezing cold and wondered how they could stand it. Later at a meeting, I listened to everyone talk about how awful it was, how cold, too soon, the wind whipping up the dreaded cedar pollen (no joke!), it had been such a beautiful fall, I'm freezing and I HATE THE COLD.

Of course this is nothing compared to what goes on in the North. But the people at the meeting were all natives to the Metroplex.

Just a thought ... behind that frigid air, and whipping wind, and those piles of snow we have to remove from the driveway is this. If only we had eyes to see.

You never know what you're missing from your perspective!

Graphics from the beautiful "Little Book of Snowflakes," by Kenneth Lebrecht, photos used with permission.

This book would make a great Christmas present. Order it at discount HERE. Click HERE to see what a snowfall "really" looks like.

For the holidays - keep things in perspective. It's the Emotionally Intelligent thing to do.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Depression is not a "normal" part of Aging

If depression were a normal part of aging, as even some physicians and mental health professionals think, then what happened with Chad?
In 1995, he retired from his many years of practising medicine. In 1996, he went in to see a doctor about a kinked muscle from golfing and was scheduled for quintuple bypass the next day. Later that year, his namesake, favorite grandchild, honor student in college in theoretical physics and handsome enough to be a model, was committed to a drug rehabilitation residency facility for 12 months. In 1997, the young man was released, but continued drug abuse, piling up arrests, car accidents and incredible stress and fear in the whole family. In 1998, Chad's wife of nearly 50 years died after 3 months in the hospital. Chad's son, the father of the boy in rehab, was then diagnosed with congestive heart failure. In early 1999, the promising your grandson died of an accidental overdose, which devastated the boy's father (his son), who was put on anti-depressants, his health declined, and he began drinking heavily.

And Chad? One of those people bouyant in the face of adversity. In fact his family referred to him as "having the happy gene." He was a smiling and congenial, though grieving, host at the funeral of his wife, and memorial service for his namesake. He continued his social activities and golf, hanging out with his buddies at the club and at the broker's. In 2000, he moved with his son and family to a new town, where he lived in a separate house on the property, began making new friends there and dating a woman he met in town.

At this time, he was 80 years old.

Phillip is another example. He retired from years on the railroad, where he was popular with all. Then his wife had a stroke and was an invalid for a year before she died. The next month Kartrina hit, and Phillip lost everything except a box of photos. Did he curl up in mororse depression? Nope. He moved to Atlanta to be with his son, bought himself a new flatscreen TV (along with basically every other item one needs for a household), taught himself how to cook, has a lady-friend who watches opera with him, and is the one at the condos who introduces everybody to everybody else. He studies chess, plays scrabble, has the grandkids for the weekend, and goes to the casinos. He is now 83 years old.
What didn't these men become morose, depressed, and physcially ill with this stunning succession of real tragedies and losses in their lives? In fact, if either of them had shown up in the ER with signs of a stroke of heart attack, or had withdrawn into severe depression, who would not have said, "Well what can you expect?" In the space of 5 years, Chad basically lost the identity his profession had given him (many men die when they retire), his wife, his son (who became emotionally unavailable and began to drink), and his favorite grandson, and then moved to a new town, which would befuddle and depress many an octogenarian. Phillip lost everything - his wife, his house, every possession, and moved to a new town and started all over again at the age of 80. Smiling all the while.
The NIMH quoted on mental-health-today continually endeavors to educate that people like Chad and Phillip can be the norm, maybe ARE the norm ... that "old people" are not destined to become depressed.

I knew Chad well (now deceased, God rest his soul in peace), and Phillip for years. Yes, they were born with those temperaments we talk about in emotional intelligence. Just bouyant and resilient people. [But note that barring severe chemical problems, resilience can be learned - I teach it in my Emotional Intelligence course and people who have taken it say their resilience has been increased.] See my Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Course and ebook on Resilience.
Like most people with high EQ (see articles on leaders with high EQ who are maneuvering their corporations well through this economic crisis, making difficult and risky decisions), Chad was able to make high risks with good judgment that paid off. Chad drew out all his life insurance money and IRA money and invested it all -- everything he had -- in a piece of land affronting a ranch where oil was being pumped, making sure the mineral rights were included, and sure enough, the hit oil, allowing him an early and comfortable retirement.
With resilience, he was able to "let go" of his 40 years of being a physician, with grace, and move on. To what? He never lacked for ideas.
Chad continued to be sociable until the day he died, always the life of the party, always ready to golf, travel, meet new people, eat out - whatever was going on. Phillip is basically the unofficial "host" of his condo complex, which he refers to as "a 5-star resort" with his usual positie attitude.
Emotional intelligence studies tell us that ISOLATION is worse on health than high blood pressure, smoking and obesity combined.
So to reiterate: Although "older Americans ... are disproportionately likely to die by suicide...among the highest rates (when categorized by gender and race) were white men age 85 and older...more than 5 times the national US rate of 10.6 per 100,000.... And among the nearly 35 million Americans age 65 and older, an estimated 2,000,000 have a depressive illness and another 5,000,000 may have 'subsyndromal depress,' according to NIMH ... in any of these forms ... depressive syptoms are not a normal part of aging.

It is true that many older Americans face serious illnesses along with losses and various social and economic difficulties, but NIMH stresses that health care professionals, the general public, and sufferers themselves, should not conclude that depression is a "normal consequence" of these problems.

Says NIMH: "Depression can and should be treated when it co-occurs with other illnesses, for untreated depression can delay recovery from or worsen the outcome of these other illnesses. The relationship between depression and other illness processes in older adults is a focus of ongoing research.

Two points are important here.
  1. Depression is not a normal part of aging, or the things we associate with aging (loss, illness, decline)

  2. Learing more about Emotional Intelligence can help you at all stages of life. It can be particularly important as you age and stressors build - whether it's having teenagers at home while having to care for an aged parent, becoming debilitated with age, losing loved ones, adjusting lifestyle, moving or the other things can come along with age, the more you understand how emotions work and the choices that you have, the better off you will be. Studying Emotional Intelligence and practising it is not a substitute for medication, when medication is needed (as in bipolar, for instance), but is a win-win endeavor. It helps anyone - from children to centenarians. (See my ebook Teaching Your Child Emotional Intelligence.)
  3. If you, or someone you know is depressed, please seek professional mental health care. It is not a normal condition, one that's "part of growing old."

Email me at sdunn@susandunn.cc for more information on my highly-acclaimed Emotional Intelligence course. And yes, I have coached many seniors. The course is on the Internet with email and phone support. Coaching is a marvelous adjunct to learning.

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How Negative Beliefs Limit You

It's a good time of year to THINK POSITIVE and work on your POSITIVE BELIEFS (not your NEGATIVE BELIEFS).

Today's guest article is called How Negative Thinking Can Stop You Getting What You Want. by Paul Alexander Wood

Negative and self limiting beliefs can and very often do hold us back in life. These beliefs can stop us from achieving what we most want and need in our lives.

Our limiting beliefs more often than not have been learned as we have gone through life and very often we have bought them with us from childhood. While they don’t serve us well, they are still very personal to each of us. Many people form strong identities from their beliefs, limiting or not and so any negative beliefs can become a deeply ingrained part of their personality one that they carry around with them for years.

Beliefs are personal; they are important and have the ability to define our entire lives. Our beliefs have governed how we have lived in the past, they govern how we are living now and they will govern how we will live our life in the future. Examples of some negative and limiting beliefs:

  • I’m useless, I always have been

  • I am an idiot

  • I’ll never be a success

  • Everyone hates me at work

  • I won’t become rich

  • My Business will fail

  • I’m not clever enough

  • I’ll never be able to learn Japanese

  • I’ll never get promoted at work

  • I’m too fat

These negative and limiting beliefs ultimately serve no real purpose apart from to stop us from having what we want in our lives. They become so entrenched in our minds that we just accept them as normal, never really believing we can do anything about them. Just one negative belief about yourself, your situation or anything else related to your life can dictate to you the action you take, the behavior you exhibit and the environment where you find yourself.

A negative belief can really make it difficult if you are looking to make a change in your life or accomplish some goal. It becomes your own personal roadblock that stops you dead in your tracks. You accept it and it becomes the way your life is. Of course everyone is entitled to believe what they want. We have a choice, and we can choose to not accept our limiting beliefs any time we wish.

Do you really want to continue creating mind made barriers for yourself? You may want certain things in your life, you may want more for yourself, your family and even for the world around you, but yet your limiting beliefs never seem to go away, they have always been there and they will always be there in the future. They will remain a fundamental part of who you are unless you do something about it. Remember that beliefs can be changed, and this is great news when we know we have beliefs that limit us. You probably used to believe in Santa Claus but I bet you don’t anymore. Rest assured that if you want to really change a negative belief you have, it can be done.

One useful strategy to use is to step forward into the future and envisage what will transpire (or not) as a result of the belief you hold. When we do this we can see just exactly where our negative belief will lead us. Types of question to ask yourself when taking the negative belief into the future include:

  1. What will happen later on in the future if you persist with this belief?

  2. What consequences will occur as a result of this belief?

  3. What results will or could arise from the initial set of results?

For example: I’ll never be able to learn Portuguese. With a belief like this, where will you be in 2 years time? Imagine instead if you start learning Portuguese now, how much of it would you be able to speak in 2 years time? Do you realize the more you believe this the more this will prevent you from actually learning Portuguese. So eventually over time you will not be able to learn any new languages with a belief like this. So I guess you can forget about conversing with any Brazilians in their own language when you visit Brazil then? You could carry on asking similar questions based on what you will be able or not be able to do as a result. Try it with your own negative beliefs and see if your perspective changes.

Author's Bio: Paul Alexander Wood is a personal development and self-help writer, he is also the author and creator of http://www.createchangeinyourlife.com/, a website dedicated to helping people who are looking to make changes in their life.
I coach in this area and have seen some marvelous results. Also you might want to take a look at my ebook, CHANGING BELIEFS.

In the meantime, listen to your SELF-TALK for an entire day. It's the 'voice' we hear the most, it influences us, and if you aren't MINDFUL about it, it can be telling you things that limit you tremendously.

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