Who Do I Say I Am?

9567527_s“People-Pleaser” has been a label that I have carried for most of my life.  It is a part of the unhealthy self-talk that I have going in my mind.  I am guilty of personalizing events in life as personal rejections of me. This is a form of distortion where I will overestimate the extent an event or words said, (or not said,) are related to me.

You probably know someone who has this noise in their head sometimes too, I am sure of it.  If the people I am around are not in a good mood or if there is disharmony then I am very uncomfortable.  I will begin to ask myself if I am the cause of it somehow. That question can lead me down a slippery slope of negative self-talk. See if you identify the unhealthy thinking pattern I have struggled with as you read the descriptions below.

The Bible has a blueprint for replacing this faulty thinking and replace it with true beliefs. It comes from Scriptures that say we shouldn’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We need to take our thoughts captive and cast down our vain imaginations, knowing the truth will set us free…because as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.

So, how do we make that practical in our lives daily? Where do we begin? Start by looking at some of the typical lies that occur in our personal lives and relationships.

In the workbook, Intimate Encounters: Discovering the Secrets of a Really Great Marriage, Dr. David Ferguson lists six of the most common unhealthy thinking patterns that contribute to emotional pain. We all seem to fall victim to one or more of the patterns (listed below).

In order to stop the effects of these unhealthy thinking patterns, you must:

1. Identify which of these are most common for you.

2. Become aware of events/situations that trigger your thinking and emotions.

3. Recognize what you are saying about yourself. Your self-talk is a “belief” system about yourself.

4. Notice your responses in behavior and emotion to the event/situation.

5. Challenge your negative thoughts with truthful thoughts that you choose to tell yourself and then enjoy feeling positive!

It takes time, but this really will work. It has helped me derail these attacks on myself. By telling yourself truthful statements, you can change your thinking patterns.  It is not easy, but with practice and patience you can do it.

Two important tips:

1. Keep a journal for at least a week to analyze your own self-talk.  By realizing your unique style of dealing with life, you can make rapid changes in your attitude and behavior where it is needed!

2. Have someone help you with reminders of the truth as you attempt to confront these  distortions in your thinking patterns and self-talk.

Six Common Unhealthy Thinking Patterns (from Intimate Encounters,Chapter 13, Break Free from Unhealthy Thinking)

  1. Personalizing – Taking external events as personal rejections and attacks. Taking everything personally is a form of distortion in which a person overestimates the extent an event is related to him or her. Moody and easily hurt by so-called rejections. Filled with insecurities, they develop low self-esteem and may blame themselves for everything.  Others see them as “fragile,” overly sensitive, childish, even hysterical. Frequently “personalizers” felt rejected in childhood or came from highly critical home environments. Whether the rejection was overt and abusive, or more subtle and neglectful, the child grew up with negative self-talk, such as, What is wrong with me? I can’t do anything right.  It’s my fault.  Who cares about me? I’m worthless.
  2. Magnifying – “Makes a mountain out of a molehill!” They can be volatile with anger, unmerciful with self-condemnation, or “bottomless” with self-pity. Others may consider them self-absorbed, preoccupied with their own crises, whiny, and over-reacting. They may say things like: devastated, worst, ruined, terrible, horrible, awful. “Magnifers” may have developed this distorted thinking in a home environment where little things were blown out of proportion. Spilled milk merited a character attack; discipline was excessive and out of proportion to the offense; or one parent was preoccupied with loneliness, rejection, or fear, seeing catastrophes in every situation. Another common childhood pattern is the “overly responsible” child who filled a relational vacuum in his home, seeking to hold the family together by pleasing everyone or meeting one parent’s emotional needs due to a breakdown in the marital relationship. Such children often become overwhelmed by life’s events.
  3. Overgeneralizing – “History always repeats itself.” Generalizing is relying on past events to predict the future. This can undermine your worth, cast doubts on your adequacy, and prevent you from trusting others or yourself. With this self-defeating style of thinking, a person can conclude, “No matter what I do, I will never get along with that person.” “Overgeneralizers” carry around loads of anxiety, doubt, and fear. They hold onto past hurts, failures, and rejections, and recite them as evidence for their gloomy attitude toward the future. They figure, “Why try? The past will just repeat itself.” Other people view generalizers as fearful, untrusting, or unforgiving. They were often exposed to this way of thinking in their home environment.
  4. Emotional Reasoning – Seeing reality through the skewed perspective of your emotions. Convinced something is so just because you feel it. Or denying the truth because you don’t feel it. This unhealthy thinking can come from a past home life dominated by fear or mistrust, physical or sexual abuse, parents who hurled accusation at you, such as “I just know you’ll go off and get pregnant some day!” Or, “You’re going to turn out just like your (fill in your own negative role model here) if you keep this up!” And it can lead to growing up feeling a nagging sense of worthlessness and betrayal.
  5. Polarizing/Selective Abstraction – Perfectionist thinking pattern that views life as all-or-nothing, good-or-bad, black-or-white. More than a little difficult to live with, “polarizers” hold to rigid rules for evaluating their life and relationships; they classify events as right or wrong, good or bad; and they judge their performance (or other’s) on the basis of their own impossible standards. They feel no satisfaction in modest performance or genuine effort,and there’s little joy in success, since it was expected all along. But, when  they don’t attain their idea of perfection, they’re likely to suffer great anger and despair. “Selective Abstraction” is an offshoot of Polarizing. “Missing the forest for the trees.” Focus is on what is wrong rather than on what is right. They spend time and energy fussing and fuming over a few minor problems when they could have invested the same time and energy toward positive solutions.
  6. Minimizing – “It really doesn’t matter.” Denying or discounting any feelings associated with the significant events of their life. “Minimizers” tend to verbalize few emotions themselves and expect the same from others around them, often leaving loved ones lonely, frustrated, and feeling deeply wounded. Even during tragic events, minimizers often demonstrate little or no feeling. They deny that anything troubles them, and, when pressed to communicate, they may give facts, opinions, or data instead of vulnerably sharing their needs and feelings. Often minimizers come from homes where personal needs are neglected or overlooked. In an effort to avoid the pain of unmet needs, children in these environments will learn to deny their own needs, lose touch with their feelings, and reduce to a minimum their personal sharing.

As you read the traits of each of these unhealthy thinking patterns, do you see yourself in any of the descriptions? What effect has it had on you? On your marriage, children or other relationships?

Who Do People Say I Am?- Part 1

Angry WordsWhat I have learned overtime is most people don’t think about us or what we have done or how we are feeling as much as we may think they do! We may want; even need, more attention, acceptance, and approval from others, but having a hyper-focused worry, dread, suspension on how we are being perceived is a thinking path that leads to negative feelings, thinking and ultimately behavior.

It is also interesting to consider the person, or persons, that are talking about you.  According to 1 new research by a Wake Forest University psychology professor, how positively you see others is linked to how happy, kind-hearted and emotionally stable you are.

Your perceptions of others reveal so much about your own personality,” says Dustin Wood, assistant professor of psychology at Wake Forest and lead author of the study, about his findings. By asking study participants to each rate positive and negative characteristics of just three people, the researchers were able to find out important information about the rater’s well-being, mental health, social attitudes and how they were judged by others.

The study appears in the July issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Peter Harms at the University of Nebraska and Simine Vazire of Washington University in St. Louis co-authored the study.

The researchers found a person’s tendency to describe others in positive terms is an important indicator of the positivity of the person’s own personality traits. They discovered particularly strong associations between positively judging others and how enthusiastic, happy, kind-hearted, courteous, emotionally stable and capable the person describes oneself and is described by others.

“Seeing others positively reveals our own positive traits,” Wood says.

The study also found that how positively you see other people shows how satisfied you are with your own life, and how much you are liked by others.

In contrast, negative perceptions of others are linked to higher levels of narcissism and antisocial behavior. “A huge suite of negative personality traits are associated with viewing others negatively,” Wood says. “The simple tendency to see people negatively indicates a greater likelihood of depression and various personality disorders.” Given that negative perceptions of others may underlie several personality disorders, finding techniques to get people to see others more positively could promote the cessation of behavior patterns associated with several different personality disorders simultaneously, Wood says.

This research suggests that when you ask someone to rate the personality of a particular coworker or acquaintance, you may learn as much about the rater providing the personality description as the person they are describing. The level of negativity the rater uses in describing the other person may indeed indicate that the other person has negative characteristics, but may also be a tip off that the rater is unhappy, disagreeable, neurotic — or has other negative personality traits.

Raters in the study consisted of friends rating one another, college freshmen rating others they knew in their dormitories, and fraternity and sorority members rating others in their organization. In all samples, participants rated real people and the positivity of their ratings were found to be associated with the participant’s own characteristics.

By evaluating the raters and how they evaluated their peers again one year later, Wood found compelling evidence that how positively we tend to perceive others in our social environment is a highly stable trait that does not change substantially over time.

A take-a-way from this Part 1: What others say about you says more about them that you.

  1. Are you helped by considering that hurting people hurt people?  
  2. Does it help you not take offensive when someone is unjustly critical of you when you consider how it reflects on their own character?  Maybe pity for them can fill your heart rather than bitterness, resentment or anger?
  3. Would you be able to confront their hurtful words by doing kind things for them in return?

 

1 Wake Forest University (2010, August 3). What you say about others says a lot about you, research shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 27, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­/releases/2010/08/100802165441.htm


	

? ? ? Three Important Questions

Three questionsBeginning Monday, August 26th, I will dedicate at least one blog to each of three questions.  They are important questions that you can answer.  They bring you face to face with yourself.  They allow you to drill down to the core of yourself.  That can be hard to do.  Many people have fear to look deep within themselves and explore what it is that makes them who they are and determines what they do.  It can be fascinating to learn!

My challenge to you (and myself) is to think about these three questions over the weekend.  Allow yourself the time reflect on them. Try to be honest with yourself.  You may not have a complete answer to some of them yet.  You may have no answer yet, that is ok.  You have begun the journey by first knowing the questions to ask.  Each answer will be as different as we are as individuals.

These are Coaching type questions.  I love to ask them of others to draw them out, and up to new levels. Join me in this series by seriously considering these for yourself.  Post your answers below if you have some already.  I would love to share them here to encourage others.  Thanks!

Ready?

1. Who do others say you are?
2. Who do you say you are?
3. Who does God say you are?

You can do this.  Think about them.  Share thoughts or questions here.

 

My Clutch Awareness

Stick ShiftI sold my car with an automatic transmission and purchased a truck with a manual five speed transmission.  It has been several years since I drove a manual shift truck.  It brought back good memories.

I remember “back in the day” when I was learning to drive a car, the transition from “standard” to “automatic” was a big change.  Most of us learned to use the clutch and shift as part of driving.  The challenge of starting the vehicle rolling forward while stopped on a hill involved a developed skill of using two feet to operate three critical components, the clutch, the brake and the accelerator.  Sometimes I would hear of someone who cheated and put on the emergency brake to hold them while they disengaged the clutch and pushed in on the accelerator instead of the artful placing on your left foot on both the clutch and brake while your right foot “gave it gas”, as we would say.

(Come to think of it, we also had to parallel park for the driving license test too!)

These descriptions may bring back memories and stories from your past as you drove,  tried to drive , or rode with someone in a manual shift vehicle.  Times have changed with the easier automatic transmission cars.  Put it in Drive and go.

There are many advantages to not having to clutch and shift.  Stop-and-go traffic and a sore left leg are just a couple that come to mind.  But let me mention an advantage that I noticed as I returned to the shifty world of a manual five speed pickup truck.

When you are listening to the RPMs of the engine or watching the tachometer, you are focusing more on what is happening to the vehicle.  As you engage the gears you are engaged with the rhythm of the engine, you are aware of the road, the straight-a-ways, the curves, the hills and dales.

Being attentive to your driving is important.  When someone isn’t we usually hear the grim details on the news.  Texting, eating, putting on make-up, drinking a beverage, changing the station on the radio, talking on the phone (with or without ear pieces), etc. all take our minds away from the reality and danger of the hurling massive bubble we are traveling in.

My clutch awareness has helped me to concentrate more on what I am doing; driving.  I am safer on the road to myself, my passengers and others. It is a lesson that can be applied to life in general too.

Are you doing things in life that have become automatic and never cross your mind much?  It is easy to take those things for granted.  It is dangerous to not be mindful and aware of what we are doing.  In our busy, faster and faster world, may I suggest you put a clutch into your life.  Find a way to disengage the hard-driving and shift gears sometimes yourself.  You could find more control and appreciation come with it.

Which Way Do You Respond to Conflict?

5 Conflict responsesThere is good news about conflict What?  Yes!  It can bring understanding about yourself, the situation, and the root cause. Conflict can even bring people closer together with a stronger confidence in building trust, respect and support with each other.

It is common to say, “Conflict is inevitable!”… Duh.  I say that a lot myself. That truth alone does not help with managing it, but it is a start.  It is normal and healthy to have conflict. What we do with the conflict is very important for health within ourselves and in our relationships with others.

Most people I meet have not been taught what I am about to share with you.  I hope it becomes clear in the next few paragraphs, (with the help of the handy diagram I created) that you have five distinct ways to respond to conflict. The model is based on the good work of Thomas-Kilman and their Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI). They identified five main styles of dealing with conflict that vary in their degrees of cooperativeness and assertiveness. Their presupposition is that people typically have a preferred conflict resolution style.

Before we go further I want to make an important point that each of the five conflict responses are useful in different situations. Not one of them is bad, or wrong in itself. When and how often you use it is important.

The following definitions from the TKI will help you see the style.  I have renamed them in my diagram as a fresh look at the well-worn terms used to talk about it.  No matter what the label is, see if you can find the one that you most use. Once you know your tendencies, you can begin to explore what others use in your interactions with them. This information is vital to developing a conflict management strategy in your relationships.  I will be glad to walk you through how to apply this to your situation.  Give me a call.

Avoiding (No Way): People tending towards this style seek to evade the conflict entirely. This style is typified by delegating controversial decisions, accepting default decisions, and not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings. It can be appropriate when victory is impossible, when the controversy is trivial, or when someone else is in a better position to solve the problem. However in many situations this is a weak and ineffective approach to take.

Competitive (My Way): People who tend towards a competitive style take a firm stand, and know what they want. They usually operate from a position of power, drawn from things like position, rank, expertise, or persuasive ability. This style can be useful when there is an emergency and a decision needs to be made fast; when the decision is unpopular; or when defending against someone who is trying to exploit the situation selfishly. However it can leave people feeling bruised, unsatisfied and resentful when used in less urgent situations.

Accommodating (Your Way): This style indicates a willingness to meet the needs of others at the expense of the person’s own needs. The accommodator often knows when to give in to others, but can be persuaded to surrender a position even when it is not warranted. This person is not assertive but is highly cooperative. Accommodation is appropriate when the issues matter more to the other party, when peace is more valuable than winning, or when you want to be in a position to collect on this “favor” you gave. However people may not return favors, and overall this approach is unlikely to give the best outcomes.

Compromising (Our Way): People who prefer a compromising style try to find a solution that will at least partially satisfy everyone. Everyone is expected to give up something and the compromiser (him or her) also expects to relinquish something. Compromise is useful when the cost of conflict is higher than the cost of losing ground, when equal strength opponents are at a standstill and when there is a deadline looming.

Collaborative (New Way): People tending towards a collaborative style try to meet the needs of all people involved. These people can be highly assertive but unlike the competitor, they cooperate effectively and acknowledge that everyone is important. This style is useful when you need to bring together a variety of viewpoints to get the best solution; when there have been previous conflicts in the group; or when the situation is too important for a simple trade-off.

Once you understand the different styles, you can use them to think about the most appropriate approach (or mixture of approaches) for the situation you’re in. You can also think about your own instinctive approach, and learn how you need to change this if necessary.

Ideally you can adopt an approach that is appropriate for the situation, addresses the problem, respects people’s legitimate interests, and leads to mending damaged relationships.

 

Where Do I Start?

Together-Header-Web-large.pngThere is a lot to sort through in life.  In our youth the responsibilities were less, time seemed to last a long time, feelings like, “bored” might even be possible.  In the later years of life, we find time flying by, each year seems shorter.  Responsibilities may have lessen, boredom may have returned.

Most likely the reader of this blog will be somewhere in-between those stages of life.  You may be caring for young ones or aging adults. Your vocational choices may not be all that you had hoped and are wondering how to make a change. The search for ourselves, what we will do as we become an adult, the assessment of what we have already tried, the quest for satisfaction and meaning in our days may be where you are  right now.

I want to encourage you to not panic or lose hope.  Begin now to step forward with grace and purpose.  What is holding you back?  The past? The unknown future?  Paralysis in the present?

“Where do I start?”,  I was asked recently by a man overwhelmed by his life circumstances.  My answer my seem simple, yet it works.  Start right here, right now with yourself.  You are the only thing that you can control and for most of the people I know that are losing traction, it is self-awareness and self-control that they need first to move forward.

Know yourself, then know others.  I use those steps to help people be free, confident and in charge of where they are and where they are going.  Let’s talk about it sometime.

Workplace Conflict

Workplace Conflict

Workplace tensionIn their professional lives, an alarming 88% of Americans cite hostility, desk-rage, and workplace incivility as top concerns. This disabling, sometimes crippling, emotions rob the company of profit and productivity. Executives, supervisors, managers and the people who work for them can learn to reduce workplace stress and avoid the conflict and cynicism that drains profits, resources, and relationships. Protection from the hidden costs of workplace tension and hostility can be put in place.

I can help you:

  • Create a blame-resistant, emotionally resilient workforce that handles the daily onslaught of frustration without losing momentum, mood or confidence.
  • Replace bitterness about the past with shared responsibility for the future.
  • Quickly calm agitated colleagues and customers.

Your conflict behavior in the workplace is a result of both personal predispositions and the requirements of the situation in which people find themselves.

My customized approach for your assessment and training is designed to measure this mix of conflict-handling modes with you and help you find the solution to move forward.

Remember conflict is inevitable. It can be helpful.  It can be only temporary.  It should/must be managed!

 

Talking “about” verses “with” Someone

Talking aboutThere is an important difference in sharing information about a person to others and engaging the person directly.  I highlight the contrast by asking, “Why are you telling me/us this story?  Is it to let us know about this person or are you seeking help in your efforts to talk with this person?”

The difference in wanting to talk about a person and seeking ways to talk with a person is very obvious.  So apparent that I almost didn’t think it worth noting in a blog.  However, as I listen to people in my Coaching and Mediation work I hear many stories that fall into the category of being “about” someone. It is not as common to hear someone seeking ways to talk “with” someone.

I understand very well that most of the issues that have brought me and my client together have root causes in lack of communication with someone. So, it is not a surprise that someone will welcome a chance to vent the frustration, hurt, loss and pain from the conflict that exists. What is interesting is the small number of people who are seeking ways to confront the offending person in a healthy way.

Again, I am not new at working with people and relationship problems. I get that people hurt one another through disappointment, let down, ignoring, disrespect, bullying and many other ways.  You can fill in the blank with a way you have been hurt by someone in the past or even very recently. It is ineffable that we will hurt each other. We are human,  not perfect! So, with the eventual hurt as a reality the question is “How do we deal with that hurt when it happens?”

You can pay me to work with you through the details of resolving the conflict, I will be glad to assist. But, here is a free tip to get you started on your own. Work at talking with people. They may have been very offensive, unreasonable, stubborn even mean in your past encounters. You may be so shutdown that you have given up trying to talk directly to them. It may be dangerous for you to try to break down the barrier alone.  I am not suggesting that you put yourself in danger; physically or emotionally. I am recommending that for your own sake you try, (with the help of others when needed), to connect and resolve the impasse. The satisfaction of knowing that you did everything you could to try to work out the issue between you and another person will be a great comfort in your future no matter the conclusion.

I also know it is usually easier to talk about someone than to talk to them. Do the harder thing and speak words that will edify, build up and bless directly.  What the “problem” person will learn from resolving the issue with you may help them avoid creating the same scenarios with others later on.

I would love to hear ways that you have turned the “about” to “with” in your own experiences.

Keith Talks

Keith speakingTo arrange for Keith to speak, coach, or train call 615-596-4474 or email keith@keithbranson.com. The topics, listed alphabetically, below can be adjusted to your needs.  Other topics can be presented as well.

Speaking Topics:

1.Abortion and Men – A highly charged topic with surprising outcomes! Learn what Abortion does to men and what they can do about it.  Discussion can be tailored for all ages.

2. Age to Age – Life’s transitions are easier when we know three things; who we are, what we need, and how we can finish well. Understanding the truth about yourself and how to be satisfied through every season of life, is possible!

3. Conflict – We all have it in our lives at some level. Learn how to manage tensions, prevent abuse and create satisfying solutions. There are four key stages that I guarantee will lead to long-lasting, satisfying relationships.

4. Death and Dying – Preparing for departure from our earthly bodies is not as hard as people imagine. Know the basic things that legally must be done at death and options you have before and after death. Alternative funeral ideas are included in this presentation.

5. Leading from back stage – Leadership models, principles and “how-tos” abound. Most have you in charge, leading from the front and center. Strength, guidance, vision and direction can be instilled in a team, a family and other groups without having your face or name on the headline and your place in the front of everyone.

6. Marriage and Family – What else could possibly be taught on this topic with so many resources already available? Divorces are still occurring, blended families are now the majority of households, same-sex relationships in marriage and parenting are legal. A fresh, relevant talk on today’s tough issues.

7. Men – The world needs godly men; men who will step up and courageously lead and serve at home, at church, at work and in their communities. Learn what holds men back, how to bring them forward and empower them to fulfill their role and mission.

 

Secrets Shared

by Keith Branson
What would people say if they knew what you had done?
What do you care if now it can’t be undone?
Does their opinion make it better or worse?
Are you living with freedom or a curse?
What if your actions now cause further harm?
The stories you share raise questions and alarm?
Discretion and respect they warn are needed in your plan,
The secrets you have held, when shared cause ripples through the land.
There is a balance I agree to what is said and when.
The truth is best told in confidence to a trusted friend.
If you have a darkness in your past that holds you back from life,
Share it with someone, seek forgiveness from God; end internal strife.