Friday, August 27, 2010


“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”
~ Anthony Robbins

Okay, I’m still on a communication kick. After training the wonderful folks at the Tyson Lab in Wilkesboro, NC, about effective communication, my conviction is renewed about the importance of hearing what others say to us. And I don’t mean just physical hearing, but really getting what they are speaking about and not assuming. When we assume we know what others are saying to us, communication can really break down.

Take Barney for instance. Barney is our radar detector.

Now before I go any further let me explain why we have one of those. Neal rarely even reaches the speed limit when he drives, but if the cogs and wheels start turning in his mind and he is mentally working out a problem or idea, that sometimes translates as pressure through the foot on the pedal. Neal decided that if he had something sound an alarm, he’d back off and turn off the cogs and wheels.

Back to Barney.

All the way to and from NC he’d sound off. We’d watch for a police care, but after a mile or so down the road, nothing. Zip. Nada. However, when we passed the state troopers in plain sight in the median, (which wasn’t a problem for us since Neal was going ten miles under the speed limit trying to get better gas mileage) not a peep was heard from Barney.

We called and found that Barney was only sounding off when he got signals from cell towers. He obviously didn’t have the state troopers band wave. So, while we thought he was alerting us about police with radars every ten miles or so, he was actually telling us there were cell towers.

I see this message mix-up often while trying to help improve communication. The reason for the misinterpretation is because we don’t just hear words, but we hear the tone of voice and we see the facial expression. This often causes a misunderstanding. I have a quick fix for this. Neal and I have been practicing it for many years and I can attests that this works.

This is what you do—when someone says something that rubs you the wrong way and makes you want to retort rather than respond, say,

“This is what I’m hearing you say, __________________. Is that what you are saying?”

Usually, the other person will say, “No, not at all.” Then they will go on to clarify.

This week, give it a try. It might straighten out the mixed signals and save some hurt feelings.

Take it from Barney. Because of his tendency to send the wrong signal, he was repacked in his box and returned to Wal – Mart!

Monday, August 23, 2010


“Communication works for those who work at it.” ~ John Powell

There are many communication blocks between people causing us to misunderstanding others. We might misinterpret their intentions, have misconceptions of their culture, or not understand their way of expressing themselves. However the biggest problem is that we expect them to be like us, and if they aren’t, they should change.

When Neal and I first married we noticed right away how different we were. He was neat, structured, orderly, a loner, and practical. I was disorganized, highly social, messy, and a dreamer.

While cooking supper I used every pan in the kitchen and threw them in the sink to soak until I cleaned the kitchen the next morning. That drove Neal crazy. He kept dropping hints that if I’d wash the dishes along while I cooked that by the time supper was ready the kitchen would be clean.

Of course, his suggestions fell on deaf ears. Cleaning was boring. I wanted to get supper over with so we could talk. The dishes could wait until the next morning after he went to work.

At social gatherings I floated around the room hugging friends, talking and laughing with everyone. On the other hand, Neal found one person who was as anti-social as he. They would hide in a corner and speak to no one else. That infuriated me. Why couldn’t he be nice and talk to everyone like I did?

Now, after 30+ years together, we have accepted that we are wired differently and must give each other grace. I’ve learned to be neat and orderly for Neal’s sake, and he’s learned to be social for mine. This opens up communication for both of us but there has been another benefit—am now organized, which has improved and simplified my life. He is at ease with people, easily conversing with them—and he actually enjoys it, which has enhanced and enriched his life.

The lesson here is to not expect people to align with us, but to embrace them. Give them grace and try to communicate with them in a way they will understand. Tear down the barriers that we may have erected and build a bridge.

We are all different and those differences are easy to pick out. Naturally we feel if they would just be more like us then communication would be easy. But that usually doesn’t happen. So why not try to think like others and speak their language?

It takes work. But once the bridge is built the relationship flourishes. And who knows? You may be a better person for it.

I know I am!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


“Life gives us brief moments with another . . . but sometimes in those brief moments we get memories that last a lifetime” ~ Unknown

My son and daughter-in-love, Rob and Bea, decided to take my grandson, Robby, to the Tulsa Zoo. He’d never been to a zoo before and this would be his first time to see a real monkey, a real giraffe, and a real elephant. I got to keep their other son, baby Judah,  for the day seeing how he couldn’t care less about lions and tigers and bears. The plan was for me to pick Judah up at 7 a.m. and return around 4, their estimated time of arrival. Notice that I emphasized “estimated.”

At 2 p.m. Bea called and said they were on their way home. I could hardly wait to hear about Robby’s reaction to all the animals he’d seen and eagerly waited for 4 o’clock to arrive.

But, 4 came and went. Bea called once again and said they had a flat. After a long wait to replace the tire, they got back on the road only to take the wrong turn, which, of course they didn’t realize until things just didn’t seem right. By then they had traveled a long way.

At 6:30 they returned. Rob and Bea looked so frazzled. I hated that for them after having such a wonderful morning with their first-born — a day when it was once again just the three of them. I hugged my son, assured him that later they would laugh about this (believe me, I know this by experience) and for them to try and not let the afternoon’s trials to steal the “moments” they shared at the zoo.

Moments. More and more I hear the phrase “having a moment” in some way or another, usually in a humor piece on television. However, in real life I’ve come to realize that moments are the “dots” in our lives. They are what we remember most. When I try to recall the past, I remember a conversation, a song, a feeling, a taste. I think about how I felt, colors, sounds. The whole scenario doesn’t come to mind, but I can “connect the dots.”

Rob and Bea will remember the excitement in Robby’s voice, the wonder in his expression, the relentless heat not being able to dampen his determination to see everything. They won’t remember everything they saw or said, but they will remember moments.

Another thing. I give myself the “gift of moments.” Being a nature lover, I go outside and capture a moment in the woods. Last night my 2-yr-old granddaughter and I blew bubbles on the front porch. I will always remember teaching her how to pucker her lips just so, how to hold the wand away from her lips and to blow gently. The expression on her face while she concentrated, trying to remember all those steps was priceless.

As I blew bubbles and watched the carnival glass-colored orbs float around like fairies, I became a child again. The little girl in me connected with my little granddaughter. I will always remember that moment on the porch. I hope she will too. But just in case, I will make sure there are more “moments” with her.

This week I encourage you to give yourself and others the gift of moments.


Saturday, August 07, 2010


"Words are the voice of the heart” ~ Confucius

Last week I attended the funeral of a sixteen-year-old girl who died suddenly, taking everyone by surprise. In my mind, no one that young is supposed to die. This is something no one expects.

I have a dear friend whose daughter was killed at the age of four. On a typical day she dropped her little girl off at the sitter’s, kissed her, told her she loved her and that she’d pick her up after work. The sitter was a seamstress and needed thread, so she took her two children and my friend’s daughter to the fabric shop. On the way home they were broadsided by a dump truck. The truck driver alone survived.

This is a sobering reminder that life is never guaranteed.  Not even for the young who are so full of verve, whose future is supposed to be before them.

As I listened to the pastor presiding over the young girl’s funeral, he said her last words to her grandparents were, “I love you.” I know that had to be a comfort to them. Those were the same words my friend spoke to her daughter, the last words she’d ever speak to her child.

When my Uncle James neared the final stage of cancer, he moved in with Neal and me. Late one Tuesday he had the feeling he would die that night. We spent the evening sharing what we loved and appreciated about each other. We expressed our gratitude, said our goodbyes, and the certainty of being reunited in Heaven. He survived the night, but three days later he passed away. The words we spoke that Tuesday night still comfort me, especially when I start missing him.

All of this has made me think about the importance of the last words we speak to those dear to us. Some of us do not have the luxury of time to express our love.  For instance, I wonder how many people spoke angry words while leaving for work on 911? Did some leave without a word in icy silence?  True, we all get miffed, even outright furious at people. We may storm out of the house—or wherever we are—slam the door and leave. It doesn’t mean we don’t love the person who has evoked such ill will in us. We do. But we take for granted that they—or we—will be around to get things right.

Last week was a painful reminder how fragile and unpredictable life can be. Do we really want our last words to be ones of anger, frustration, or bitterness? Do we want to live with the regret over what we said or do we want to leave these words as our last legacy to the ones we love?

Absolutely not.

From now on make it a practice to leave those dear to you with loving and kind words. Put your frustration aside. Give them the gift of affirmation.

After all, we never know when our last words will be spoken.