Someone is driving you crazy? Look through.

Do you have an ongoing relationship in your life that just drives you up the wall?

It’s funny how we relate in a challenging and energy-sucking way with so many people. I know you have experienced this. After all, who hasn’t? I am talking about that person you feel you can’t cut out of your life, yet you suffer immensely in their presence. Every single time. It’s a test to your patience just to hang around this individual.  The worst you that you can be is just fighting to come out. You tell yourself she won’t get to you, but a few minutes into the conversation every cell in your body is vibrating, and not in a good way!

Well, let me just say: this is probably a GREAT opportunity for you to practice otheresteem. Nothing much to be lost and you can’t possibly feel much worse, so why not, I say.

So, I want to share with you a little game I play. It’s called looking through. Simple concept, actually. As I have a conversation with this person (and feel the exasperation coming on), I focus on looking through what he is saying, and into the good part of who that person is, what she is experiencing or aiming for, at the core. (Hint: it’s the POSITIVE part of them I am looking for and, yes, it’s hidden somewhere.)

Yesterday I was listening to an acquaintance go on and on bragging about how well he handled people being aggressive with him. He boasted that people tended to do that and went on to enlist his long list and ongoing collection of quarrels with people, known to me or not. Ugh! Not my favorite take on life. I found myself thinking: this is so stupid? Who in the world brags about fighting with others, antagonizing, being punched in the face and such? And then, I decided to play the look through.

As I continued to listen I looked intently. My head tilts a bit to the side when I do that. I realized he was saying how competent he was and how he usually came on top. He’s a survivor. He has turned this difficulty in relating into his way of life. It’s a hard life. And he feels strong for it. I breathed. I said, “You take pride in being strong. Surviving and winning.” He stopped the rambling description he was into. Sighed a bit and said “I’ve become quite good at that. The surviving mode.” and, finally, he laughed and went on to more amicable subject. What a rush! I understood him a bit more.

Wanna play? Try it out and tell me where it takes you.


P.S. Today is #Otheresteem Wednesday on Twitter, so if you are there, hop right in to the STREAM OF OTHERESTEEM!



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Imperfect Acceptance

We had been at a two day training session for coaches, but most of the time was spent exploring otheresteem issues that were very impressive to this group in particular. The impact on their coaching practice and personal relationships was evident to them, so they went back and forth exploring the implications of the four practices with eachother and in relation to their current coaching clients. One of the participants was especially curious about what real, honest to goodness acceptance might look like. He felt it was the most important of the four practices and one that presented a big challenge in many instances. We discussed this together and he set goals for working acceptance into his life in the next few weeks before we met again.

But it was another of the participants that went away from the experience fired up and ready to go! On the plane ride home she took a notebook and wrote profusely about things she wanted to accept about her husband, often moving herself to tears. She went on to write about everything she appreciated in him and all that she still held as positive expectation. Then, she got to gratitude and realized that, even through the tough times like the ones that they are facing now, she was deeply grateful for their life together.  She couldn’t wait to get home and tell him all about it! She envisioned how it would change their lives, what it could do for them as a couple, as a family. And as soon as she was home she found the time and told him all about it.

The next day, she was writing to me about the adventure. She was dumbfounded by his response! Instead of playing out as she had imagined, he listened intently, looked moved and touched and finally told her that he was so happy she saw everything that she was ignoring and how she was as much to blame for their problems as he was.  She felt her heart sink and her excitement crash. What had she done wrong, she asked me? How could he not understand? This smart, intensely sensitive, brilliant woman was asking. She was judging the excersise as a failure. And him as insensitive, misunderstanding and just plain awful!

I couldn’t help but smile at the irony and at the very same time, understand her plight. I reminded her: you are practicing this. The more you practice, the better you will get. This is all new to you, and to him. So, let’s begin again.What if you accept his reaction? It quickly dawned on her that she was not doing that. What if he gets to react in any way he does and you get to practice everything even more deeply?

I know I’ve been there! More than once! Imperfect acceptance requires an understanding that what you expect is yours and yours only. You don’t get to accept only what you like, but what the other is, what he does, how she reacts.  True acceptance opens the path for consistent positive expectations that can truly make a difference.  And I have high hopes for her. She is well on the way!

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Its about Faith!

Last week I invited you to explore what happened when you chose to really believe in someone consistently and see what happens! So, How did it go? It really boils down to faith, right?  Having faith is life-changing. Whether it be religious faith that guides your everyday actions, faith in yourself to get you through tough times or faith in the “kindness of strangers” like Blanche DuBois would say.

I have even been exploring lately the link between that powerful concept, faith, and the practice of expectation I suggest in the book. To quote Chapter 1:

I will treat you very differently if I see you not only as who you are, but as whom you can become. Even more, if I believe you can become whoever you desire.

Is this not putting my faith in that person’s capability for change? In what that person could do if she allowed herself to. Remember, it comes after acceptance and appreciation. So, no, I do not NEED them to change before I love them. I have faith that they will! That they will get in touch with their higher selves when they are no longer afraid of what I will think of them. They know. I HAVE FAITH IN THEM. Doesn’t that say it all?

Otheresteem is definitely a leap of faith! A very rewarding one. A tough one sometimes. A leap you get better and better at as you take it more and more. As you choose to value others and act like you do. So if the time comes when your faith seems to be misplaced, when people make it hard for you to value them, you still have your faith! And it carries you through as you learn patience. As you understand what part is up to you and what part is not. And trust that doing your part will have an impact in what others choose. And THAT is an act of faith!

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I Believe in You

One of the most powerful things we can do for another human being is to believe in them! Even before they do. Even in the face of adversity. Even now. Think about it:

How do YOU react when someone else consistently believes you can do better, be better than you are at present?

It is a gift to the other and to yourself. We tend to shy away from making this stand because it puts the result out of our control. It takes the other to make us right and, if we are attached to being right, it is a difficult thing to do. Yet, seen differently, believing that someone can truly improve and is on the way to a better way of being is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You will treat them differently, generate possibilities, create the space in which the other feels invited to move in.  Its the others’ choice if, when and how to take you up on this, but it doesn’t make you wrong to want it. It makes you stronger. More influential. Less attached to the present.

So choose whom to start with and how far you want to reach out into the future. But remember to come about it as an excersise for YOU, to see how well you can do it, how big you can dream, how consistent you can be in seeing setbacks as stepping stones, how well you can set aside the fear of failure. Don’t blame the other if they are not living up to your expectations for them. See if you can still believe! Stay on track! Focus.  Even before they do.

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You May Be Right.

When you are angry and arguing with someone it is easy to see them as the bad party, the one that is wrong (versus my right) and the one being stubborn. Surely, you can find grounds to justify any or all of these points of view! Being right is so important to us because it means we are competent and also that we are not being unfair or stubborn ourselves. But think again: does it really matter? So many times we get into difficulties with others over who’s right.  Many of times, like the trial scene in the movie Crimson Tide, both are wrong and both are right. Of course we can see how we are right, because we come to that conclusion from the information we have and the perceptions that information has created for us!

But if we are to value the other person and work through our differences, there is another thing to consider: How they may be right as well.

Our mind, driven by our emotions and need to self-justify, will focus on ways in which they are wrong. It takes willpower to move a little beyond that (I usually laugh at myself a bit, by remembering the line from Billy Joel‘s You May Be Right: “You may be right, I may be crazy” or “you may be wrong, for all I know, but you may be right.”). It helps me to refocus on the other. At least from where she is standing, there are ways in which she is right! If I can listen to those, seriously try to figure them out, I can value the other as an individual  that thinks and behaves differently from me. I can see a different viewpoint and set of information that paints a whole different story.

This doesn’t mean I will agree with everyone, or allow them to hurt me, belittle me or damage me in any way. Only that I can appreciate them for who they are and what their current train of thought is. That I can see where they come from and how they reach conclusions so different from mine. I can move away from needing to be right to understanding how we both have different worldviews.  I can value them when we do not see eye to eye. We can agree to disagree and even to take different roads, without the need to discredit eachother.

Refreshing, don’t you think?

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Being Together

Last Saturday I had the opportunity of attending Randall Krause‘s great TWO WINGS retreat! It was an expansive experience that centered on learning how to balance the Human with the Being aspects of living. I especially appreciated the theme of how simple practices can make a big difference if done consistently. That has been, as you might know from reading this blog, my point exactly with otheresteem. But the dimension of being that we worked on in the seminar comes even more to life in the presence of the others there. Getting to know eachother’s struggles to grasp our humanness and our being created the space for shared otheresteem. Beyond judgement and criticism, when we are together, yet each doing work on themselves we feel inspired and in awe of others.

So, do you have a hard time suspending judgement long enough to work on otheresteem? Shift the focus and work on yourself in the presence of others. Tell them what comes up for you when you are with them. Make your struggles to understand and include them open and straightforward. Enlist their help in understanding them better. You might just find a new way of being…together!

Read more about how Randall experienced the weekend here.

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Otheresteem for Leaders

Last week I had the great opportunity of attending Leaderpalooza! So many valuable people were there! Some that I have admired and appreciated for some time now, and some new to me and great to meet. A lot of what we were discussing, related to Character-based Leadership had to do with the notion that a great leader values people consistently! How else can a leader build more leaders if not by taking otheresteem from practice to art? So today, I want to explore a few ideas fitting for leaders of any sort, in any context. And yes, that means you! I know that some of you will question whether everyone is a leader (and we could definitely get into that someday), but consider this: if nothing else, be a leader at otheresteem and see where it takes you.

Here are a few practices true leaders engage in:

Upmost respect for their fellow human. Disrespect and mistreatment of others are not a part of leadership: not a necessary evil, and not a desireable trait. Leaders that understand this have a strong conviction that dignity is always to be protected. That means that they are mindful of how they challenge others to perform, how they treat people that they are letting go, how they face difficulties, how they stand up for what they believe in and how they confront bad behavior.

Actively appreciating people near and far to their core work. Leaders that go out of their way to thank people and make it a point of appreciating the things that people put in daily to their cause generate an honest, committed  and sincere following.

Expecting the best is exciting instead of coercive. Great leaders will expect the very highest of standards from others and themselves. They will see people as the potential they possess and entice them to reach their highest goals. They expect nothing less of people, but do so in a way that is consistent with their belief that it is others that will materialize their vision. When faced with shortcomings, they will take them as learning experiences on the path to greatness, and they will show others to do the same.

Deep Gratitude. Great leaders are grateful every day, every hour, every minute for the people around them and the opportunity to build things together. They know in their heart that nothing would be possible without their relationship to them. They treasure it and understand the power it brings to be shared and sacred.

That’s the spin I have seen leaders take to the four practices. I have witnessed each of these in admirable people I have had the privilege of knowing through my work and my life. What about you? Do you know leaders that experience others like this? Did I miss anything? I would love to hear your comments on this one!

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Just Listen!

One of my favorite authors on health and healing is Bernie Siegel. If you haven’t yet read “Love, Medicine and Miracles“, I highly recommmend it. Last night, while reading a few lines from “How to Live Between Office Visits“, I stumbled upon this reflection about the power of listening and how it heals:

When our children were growing up, if they came to me with their troubles I usually suggested solutions for them – join a group, see a therapist, take vitamins. They said, “You’re no help.” But when I sat and listened, they thanked me for what I did and told me how much I had helped them.

Listening is a wonderful way of showing otheresteem! It basically says: you matter, I take you into account, I am interested in you. And just as Bernie Siegel says, it is a lot do do for a fellow human being. In terms of the otheresteem practices from my book, it is a cornerstone of ACCEPTANCE. As I cannot fully accept that which I do not understand, deep listening is a great way of discovering who the person in front of me really is. If you can get past trying to be right or seek agreement with that person into striving to understand their point of view and getting to know them more, you will be well on the way to building acceptance.

I welcome your comments below. What is your experience of listening as an otheresteem builder? Can you value people more easily when you allow yourself to listen and suspend judgement?

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The African Way

It doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as you are finding your own way of incorporating practices into your life that will allow you to value others more.  Every major spiritual tradition has something to add to the theme of being grateful, appreciating your fellow human, giving generously of your self.

This week, my father called my attention to a concept that I had not explored before. In Africa there is a word that embodies the spirit of otheresteem well: Ubuntu.  A fascinating word that I will surely be exploring more about! The Ubuntu philosophy is an important part of religion and guides the behavior of many Africans, inspiring political movements, change and even the creation of nations. It is a powerful word that entails the identity of self with relation to others. In 2008 Desmond Tutu said:

One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity.

We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.

It is most definitely for the whole of humanity. Understanding our interconectedness can have a profound effect on us as individuals. It can inspire depth in relating to others, a shift in where we place our attention and a difference in how we view the impact of our words and actions.

To our western minds, Ubuntu might seem so far from the way we have been living. But, if you pay attention, you might discover the difference having more esteem for others might make in your life and in the world around you. Chapter 6 of the book explores how we can bring our otheresteem practices to the world, expanding our reach, building our awareness of the way we connect to eachother. You can start small, like we explained in the post “Its About Us All” and grow from there.  Lets find our way to Ubuntu, or any other path that will draw us together. Let’s explore that path together and move to build otheresteem into the way of the world. It can be done, but only by us, as a whole!

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