Posted by: painreliefcoach | August 21, 2008

Accept Your Life…Accept Your Pain

Well meaning people may tell you that you have no right to feel sorry for yourself.  You should be putting on a brighter face to the world.  You could be doing better than you are if you would change your attitude.

 

Your feelings are yours.  Do not let others attempt to manipulate your feelings.  Yes, it helps to be optimistic when you can.  Often, this requires a process of feelings where you are sad and/or angry first.  Even when you have processed through issues, there will be more issues to sort through and days that aren’t so good.

 

A lady with chronic pelvic pain told me she felt everyone criticized her because her granddaughter has cerebral palsy.  They would tell her, “How could you even think of your pain when this little girl has such a burden to carry?”

 

Your life is yours.  You can’t compare how you should feel.  Denying your situation keeps you from accepting it.

 

When you accept your pain, you can be free from its chains.

 

Exercise

 

Are you accepting your pain?

If not, can you identify what is blocking your acceptance?

 

Do you accept your life as it is now?

 

A client who refused to accept her life for months used to admit she was “Hitting my head against the wall.” When I saw her last she was smiling and told me she had finally accepted her life. She said, “The only good thing about hitting your head against the wall, is that it feels so good to stop.”

 

Do you know if you are hitting your head against the wall?

What will happen if you stop?

 

Exercise

 

Practicing acceptance means that you accept yourself, others and circumstances just as they are. You take responsibility for things you have control over and surrender the rest. Practice acceptance by telling yourself through self take and affirmations what you are working on accepting; say that you already accept it. If someone tells you they don’t accept you or something about you, don’t argue with them. It’s their issue, not yours.

 

Sidebar Tip

 

You don’t have to defend yourself when you are being questioned. If it’s a self care decision, saying you feel it’s appropriate is enough.

 

 

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Posted by: painreliefcoach | August 6, 2008

Accept Your Feelings

Accept whatever feelings you may be having.  Do not fight against feelings you do not wish to be experiencing.  Observe them as objectively as possible.  Think to yourself “I am feeling very angry or disappointed or apathetic” — in time your feelings will change.  Be hopeful that the next feeling will be more pleasant or better.  Detach as much as you can. 

 

Gayle is an attractive, married middle aged woman with two grown children and four grandchildren. She frequently has abdominal pain first thing in the morning. It subsides after she is up awhile and is normally gone by lunchtime. Her husband has taken her to numerous specialists. She has tried many different treatments, procedures and medications, but the pain remains unchanged.

 

Gayle is able to function pretty well with her condition. She does volunteer work at a charity gift shop, is active in her church and goes out dancing every Saturday night with her husband.

 

Gayle’s biggest issue is her obsession with her feelings and her resentment with her condition. She is often discouraged, anxious, depressed and angry. The more obsessed she becomes, the worse she feels emotionally. Gayle is very bitter that this is happening to her and constantly tells everyone how unfair it is.

 

Gayle is driving her husband, children and friends away from her. She has many positives in her life, but she can’t see them because she’s so focused on wanting her situation to be different. Her refusal to accept her situation keeps her miserable and is making her life worse.

 

I also remember Anna, who was only a few years older than Gayle. I was doing home visits early in my career to a very poor section of the city. Anna lived on the second floor of a two family flat. I was told the entrance door was left open because Anna couldn’t come down the stairs. Upon entering the flat, I couldn’t find her. Anna called to me from a bedroom in the back. She was so severely crippled with rheumatoid arthritis she was bedbound. Anna suffered from constant pain. She was left alone most of the day. Her granddaughter lived with her, but worked weekdays. She had visiting nurses and neighbors check in on her periodically.

 

I expected to hear a barrage of complaints, all justified. Instead, Anna told me she had times she felt frustrated or down, but those feelings passed when she had a visitor or reflected on her many blessings. Anna proceeded to tell me how kind her granddaughter was to her and how fortunate she was to have so many people check on her and care about her. Anna said that she knew if she needed something or was too uncomfortable, that someone would come by sometime so she would wait. Sure, she admitted, she became impatient or angry sometimes but she knew it would pass, so she wasn’t worried about it. Anna wouldn’t think of moving to a nursing home. She was thankful for her situation and wanted to maintain it as long as possible.

 

Anna desired that everything happen just like it was and she was free. While Gayle who seemed to have so much going for her, resisted what has happening and was imprisoned.

 

Choose to be like Anna.

 

When you experience chronic pain it’s very easy to fall into a rut and adopt a negative outlook.  When you personalize these negative feelings by fighting against them with self-hatred or complaints, they become further engrained.  It’s easy to become full of self-pity.  Nothing is fair or easy or enjoyable.  This perspective further perpetuates undesirable thoughts and feelings.  View your negative feelings as temporary, for that’s what they can be.

 

Posted by: painreliefcoach | July 23, 2008

Choose Positive People

Be very particular about who you spend time with.  Surround yourself with loving, supportive, positive people.  People who are negative, demanding or just plain mean are toxic.  They are toxic not only to your physical health, but also to your mental health and to your soul.  This is easier than it sounds.  Once I started eliminating toxic people from my circle, I also started bringing more positive people into my life.  I was careful to stop relationships when I realized someone was toxic to me.

The hardest decision for me was to divorce my husband.  Amazingly, soon after the divorce my life really started to come together.  I made good decisions; I received better and more effective treatments; my overall quality of life improved and my pain started decreasing.  Surround yourself with positive people as much as you can.  Be a positive, supportive person for others.  I promise this one decision will change your life more than you can imagine.

 

Exercise
 

How can you increase time with positive people and decrease or eliminate negative people from your life? (Are there places you could go, boundaries you could set, time not spent any more with certain people?)

 

Sidebar Tip

To meet more healthy people join groups where healthy people are already gathering. Women’s organizations, health/community agencies, religious settings. Try something completely different. I met my second husband at a Rotary Club. I would have never attended one before but I was expanding my horizon of healthy people.

Posted by: painreliefcoach | July 10, 2008

Schedule Daily Time for Good Health

Nationwide, 76 million people are suffering with chronic pain every day. Start scheduling time for good health every day. Whether you have chronic pain, care for someone with chronic pain or just want to stay as healthy as you can, the following are simple themes for each day.

Sunday Slowdown

Sunday is a good day to schedule rest. Your assignment for today is to block out time for something you enjoy that is relaxing. It could be watching a sunset, taking a long bubble bath or listening to your favorite music. It’s important that you actually schedule an activity, though you can change it when the time comes. This isn’t something that you think may happen, you plan for it, expect it and enjoy every minute of it.

“Everything you can imagine is real.”
-Pablo Picasso

Let yourself watch the clouds and see what shapes you can identify. Appreciate the beauty of outdoor flowers and allow yourself to follow a bee or a bug as it moves along. You’ll notice and appreciate colors, shapes and smells you never did before. Try visualization: sit in a comfortable position where it is quiet or you can play soft music. As much as possible, let others know not to disturb you. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a favorite place from memories past or a place you want to visit. Clearly see yourself in your mind’s eye. What are you wearing? If you are outside, how is the weather? Feel the sun on your face and the sand or grass beneath your toes.

See yourself smiling and happy. Let your mind wander to enjoy every detail. There is no pain, only happiness. Allow yourself to stay in this place for up to 20 minutes. At first, it may only be a few minutes. Just accept whatever happens and gently try again next week. Each time you will relax more and enjoy it longer. There are guided imagery tapes available in most bookstores or on-line which can be helpful for some people.

The important point is to let yourself relax. Time is a gift you give to yourself. Everyone deserves it. You’ll be amazed how much brighter your world looks when you take some reflective, quiet time every Sunday.

Monday is Me Day

Monday is a time to ease back into the week. Be sure to schedule something pampering. Do you get your nails done or schedule regular massages, if not start now. If you can’t go out or can’t afford to pay for services weekly, paint your toenails or have a friend do yours and you do hers. If you aren’t into nails, you can soak your feet or buy a paraffin wax treatment heater to dip your hands into. After all you’ll be using it every Monday. You can do the same activity weekly or change it. It’s important to schedule it just like an appointment. This is not fluff, it really helps on an emotional and physical level to know that you deserve this and make it a priority.

“I think you earn the right to do things the way you want to do them.”
-Reba McEntire

Tuesday Is News Day

Tuesday is a great day to look for new tips and ideas. Do you belong to the association for your health condition (i.e. arthritis, fibromyalgia), if not join, go on-line and learn about it or order free information. If you don’t have a formal diagnosis, read about your symptoms. Stay open to new and different treatments that may be helpful for you. Take time to read through newsletters, related magazine articles and the newspapers. Staying informed and updated is the best way to be your own advocate.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can
change the world, indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”
-Margaret Mead

If you are feeling too fatigued or unable to concentrate when you go to the doctor, ask a trusted friend or family member to go with you. When you are hurting it can be hard to keep track of everything. Go over questions ahead of time and ask your support person to step in if everything isn’t asked or answered. You have the right to have your report of pain taken seriously.

Contact resources for support and more information.

It’s highly recommend that everyone contact and join the association for your own condition as well as the other ones listed, to meet others in your situation, get the latest updates on research and legislation and to make a difference for yourself and others.

Wednesday Is Week Hump Day

The weekend is in sight! Be sure to tell yourself what a good job you are doing. Post positive affirmations on your bedroom and bathroom mirrors. Give yourself words of encouragement just as you would talk to your child or good friend. Criticizing yourself only brings you down mentally and physically. Staying as positive and hopeful as you can about your situation and especially about yourself is one of the most important techniques that you can incorporate to help yourself.

“Pain nourishes courage. You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.”
-Mary Tyler Moore

Consciously tell yourself positive thoughts throughout the day. It’s important to have the same thoughts everywhere you look as you will forget and see it subconsciously. When you start to criticize yourself, see a stop sign in your mind or blink your eyes. Whatever signal works for you, you can train yourself to stop the negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. You help yourself when you think and feel positive. It’s a healing technique only you can do for yourself.

Another technique to think and feel more positive is to reframe something that seems bad into the positive. We have all heard the saying, “is the glass half empty or half full?” When you can see every situation, as half full, you will have a positive impact on your perceptions, which is very helpful in coping with your pain. As Mary Tyler Moore is quoted above, look at your pain as giving you courage. What other benefits have you developed because of your pain?

Thursday Is Time Out

Thursday is your day to go out. Whether you meet someone for dinner, talk a walk in the park or sit on your front porch. If you are homebound, spend time looking out your window. Ask someone to put a birdfeeder up for you or just enjoy watching people and traffic go by. If it’s possible to get out, make this your day. Of course you can do things on other days, but this is the day you go out to do what you enjoy. A change of scenery is good for the mind and soul.

“Curious things, habits. People themselves never knew they had them.”
-Agatha Christie

What else would you like to do? Cut out pictures and words from magazines and paste them on a piece of paper making a collage. This can put your wishes into a vision and make it more possible for you. Hang it where you will see it regularly. This is a feel good exercise for you, there are no boundaries. It feels good to be open to possibilities.

Friday Is Friends Day

Do you have friends or relatives you never seem to talk to? This is the day to call them. If possible schedule a regular activity with a friend whether it’s meeting at the movies or just having coffee. This can also be a good day to meet new friends. Attend a support group meeting, go on-line for a chat room with your related health concerns or call a help line. If you’re able, volunteer to make phone calls to shut-ins or other people needing attention. One of the best ways to feel better is to do what you can for someone else. If you need ideas, call your related association or your state pain initiative; they will appreciate whatever you can do. Be a friend, reach out to friends-it’s the day to cherish our relationships.

“There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.”
-George Sand

Saturday Is Silly

Saturday is a good day to let your silly side shine. Read the comics; watch a funny movie on TV, or meet a friend at the dollar store. Do something fun and different. Do things you enjoy and be open to doing activities that are new or you don’t think you’d like. Expand your horizons. Associate with positive, upbeat people. Lighten up! Don’t take yourself or anyone else too seriously. Life is more enjoyable when you are having fun.

“Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!”
-Dr. Seuss

Be willing to try something even if you’ve never enjoyed it in the past. It’s amazing that tastes change. The more open you are to different ways to have fun, the more fun you will have.

Since it usually takes 21 to 30 days to form a new habit, if you incorporate these suggestions into your weekly routine using the weekly planner to move beyond chronic pain, you will feel a healthier difference by the end of the month.

If you incorporate the tips that go with each day of the week every day during September, you will start to have more good days. Life will become more enjoyable. The longer you practice these ideas and others the easier they will become, until you have a healthier lifestyle. A life with chronic pain can be a life enjoyed and lived well. Here’s to your good health.

Posted by: painreliefcoach | June 12, 2008

Treat Depression

If you are so depressed your sadness is clouding your life, get help.  If you are being treated for the physical pain but not the psychological issues, it is not enough.  If you are on an anti-depressant talk to the doctor who prescribed it.  Sometimes anti-depressants or related medications are prescribed at lower levels for sleep or other issues.  There are so many kinds of medications.  You might respond better to a different one.  You may need a higher dose or a combination.

 

Speak up and let the right people know.  Depression is curable.  Be open to do what you need to feel better.  Sometimes a support group, counseling, or seeing a psychiatrist can help.  Do not accept feeling depressed as a part of your pain.  Treat depression.  Don’t be a martyr.

 

So many people tell me they expect depression because of their situation.  Let me share a story about Laura.  Her children deserted her in a nursing home.  They only lived a short distance away but never called.  Her legs were so swollen with edema you could feel her pain by just looking at them.  She was confined to bed most of the time.  Various traditional and experimental treatments had failed.  Laura was on anti-depressants but remained depressed.

 

I met with her once a week for a year.  She processed through her grief and anger.  She came to accept her situation without giving up hope.  She became grateful for the staff who had “adopted her” by checking in on her constantly and even visiting on days off and holidays.  She appreciated being able to do mending for other residents and fondly reminisced about when she was a seamstress.  She felt productive again.  She accepted love and friendship from staff and other residents.  She remained hopeful that she would gradually improve and she relied on her faith.  She lived the same life without depression.

 

Posted by: painreliefcoach | May 15, 2008

Face Fear

One of the greatest obstacles we all face is fear.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of the future, of the present.  We doubt if we will be able to cope day in and day out.  We doubt our medical care.  We doubt ourselves.  We live in fear.

 

Fear immobilizes us.  Fear does not keep us safe; it keeps us from moving forward.  A recent counseling referral I met with stated she was so afraid.  She was afraid to start counseling because she felt if she learned to accept and cope with her pain she might never be pain free.  Yet, she was afraid to live with the pain.  Her pain consumed her life.  She was afraid to go out for a ride because she might not enjoy it.  She was locked in fear inside her house.

 

Jennie is a very sweet elderly lady who recently faced her fear. She has chronic abdominal pain and trouble sleeping as a result. This is aggravated by a roommate who makes loud noises all night. Jennie desperately wants to change rooms so she can sleep. Jennie told the nurses her situation and received sympathy, but no room change. She told the social worker and was shown a room she felt was worse, so she refused it. For months, Jennie complained about her noisy roommate and not being able to sleep.

 

I asked Jennnie why she didn’t take it to the next step and talk to the administrator. Jennie said she was afraid. Initially, she didn’t know what she was afraid of.

 

The first step to face your fear is to clearly define it. After discussing it, Jennie realized she was afraid the administrator didn’t like her and would say no.

 

Once your fear is clearly identified, decide what possible action steps there are. One possibility is always to do nothing. Jennie realized not taking action was making her miserable and that she needed to do something.

 

Making the commitment to do something means you’re halfway there. Deciding “how to” is next. Jennie had already tried talking to her roommate, the nurses and the social worker. She decided revisiting those efforts would not be productive. Jennie made the commitment that the administrator needed to become involved. Jennie analyzed the pros and cons of:  asking a nurse or trusted friend to go with her; contacting an ambudsman to represent her; writing a request or setting up a meeting herself. Looking at each option helped Jennie to decide she would obtain the best results setting up a meeting herself, which she did. Analyzing the pros and cons, anticipating what’s the worst that could happen as a result and deciding if you can accept and handle the possible outcomes leads to the next step.

 

The next step is the last step. In order to face your fear, you have to implement the action step you’ve decided upon. You still feel afraid, but you have thought it through, possibly received feedback from others and most importantly made the commitment. Just do it!

 

Jennie met with the administrator who responded appropriately to her request, but she has still not moved. However, Jennie is not afraid anymore. Jennie checks in with the administrator on room availability regularly.

 

Jennie faced her fear and increased her self confidence as a result. She is not longer a passive victim, she is her own active advocate. If she doesn’t have a room change with her current approach, she’ll go through the process again. She has overcome one fear and is confident to face her fears until her goal is met. The more fears you face the more empowered you become.

 

Take the risk.  Move past your fear.  Do not be afraid to face fear.

 

Posted by: painreliefcoach | May 1, 2008

Be Realistic

Set realistic goals.  Most people heal slowly.  Some people stabilize and don’t progress further.  Whatever your situation is, set reachable, realistic goals for your health.  If you feel frustrated or are having trouble reaching your goal, set a more attainable goal.  Be gentle with yourself; healing often occurs in small ways.

 

When you disregard your goal or attempt to deny your pain and engage in behavior, diet or activity that aggravates your condition, you are sabotaging yourself.

 

Linder was divorced with three grown children. She had a masters degree in nursing and had been able to support herself, until her multiple health problems became worse and worse. She was in and out of the hospital so many times she couldn’t hold a job. She moved in with her mother and stepfather, going on disability.

 

Linda became very depressed and discouraged. Her mother and stepfather argued a lot. Her elderly grandmother also lived there and ruled everyone with her whims. If Linda needed a ride to the doctor the same time Grandma wanted to go to the Dollar Store. Grandma always came first.

 

Linda’s chronic pain became worse. She had trouble sleeping, concentrating and went into a deep depression. She felt guilty that her mother was caring for everyone without support. When she would have a good day, she would cook a big dinner and mop floors, sending herself in a backslide with her pain. Her family told her if she could do things one day they didn’t understand why she couldn’t the next. She would try harder to appease them and it became a vicious cycle.

 

Linda realized she had to make her own quality of life a priority. She called around to community resources and used supports that were available to her like van rides, counseling and financial assistance. She kept doctors appointments and arranged her own transportation.

 

Linda asked her children to help with chores that were too much for her and her mother or stepfather to do, like yard work and heavy cleaning. When friends, neighbors or church members offered to do something, she started accepting. She made simpler meals a couple times a week, instead of a big dinner that exhausted her. For family parties and holidays, she had potluck dinners and bought sides and desserts instead of making them.

 

She started volunteering two half-days a week at a local nursing home. She made friends, enjoyed what she did and felt appreciated again.

 

Linda’s health was stabilizing. Due to her pacing, support and improved outlook, she was out of her roller coaster cycle. She set a goal to move into her own apartment. Linda knew she could easily get caught up in wanting to move; it would be easy to overdo things again and restart her cycle. She has been running into numerous obstacles with her apartment goal. However, she continues to pace herself and do the things she knows she needs to do to maintain stability. Linda is committed to persevere in her goal. She knows her progress is about direction.

 

Each time you backslide, it’s harder to regroup.  No one is perfect and you’ll have times when you have contributed to a flare-up.  Refocus.  Are you being too rigid?  Can you meet the goal you’ve set?  Is it realistic?  Is the goal achievable?  Do you need to set a smaller goal?  It feels good to reach a goal.  It’s frustrating to have one out of reach.  Be fair to yourself.  Set realistic goals.

 

Posted by: painreliefcoach | April 16, 2008

Look Forward

Always have something you’re looking forward to.  Whether it’s a vacation, a weekly phone call with someone special or private time set-aside just for you, make it your job to keep a sparkle in your life.  Anticipate something special every day.  When it’s sunny outside, I look forward to a few minutes of feeling the sun on my face.  I schedule alone time each week with my kids.  I keep things flexible.  Sometimes we just hang out and talk or watch a game on TV.  We might play a board game, go out to eat or see a movie.  It depends on my energy level and mood and theirs.  I talk with my mother at least once a week on the phone.  I used to fold laundry when we talked.  Now I sit back and give all of my attention to her and our phone call.  I enjoy it so much more.  I look forward to that time to relax and cherish my mother.

 

My very first client, Charlie, will forever touch me.  Charlie was blind with numerous aches and ailments.  His wife, Ethel, had problems with her hip, which limited her walking, but she enjoyed good health overall.  I would see them one to two times a week.  I would visit with Ethel and then take Charlie out to do banking, grocery shopping and errands.

 

Ethel complained constantly and was miserable.  She had visitors and phone calls.  Charlie did the cooking and most of the household chores.  Ethel watched T.V.  Charlie always had a smile on his face.  He would tell me he looked forward to going out all week.  He was so appreciative of clerks in the store who would help him.

 

He anticipated sunny days, friendly exchanges with strangers, and making something new for a meal.  He looked forward to the smallest things and relished them.  Charlie always found the sparkle.

 

Find ways to create joy in your life every day.  It’s up to you to find the sparkle.

 

Posted by: painreliefcoach | March 25, 2008

Today Rebecca Rengo Featured on Health.com!

Today, Rebecca Rengo and her book “Beyond Chronic Pain: A get-well guidebook to soothe the body, mind & spirit”, will be featured on Time, Inc.’s new website Health.com.
Rebecca will share her personal story about living with fibromyalgia and share tips from her book to increase coping.  Tune in on May 19th to see Rebecca’s videotaped interview.
Posted by: painreliefcoach | March 25, 2008

Ten Ways to Show Empathy While Listening

We all want to be listened to, to be heard.  When we are hurting we want others to understand and be there for us.  Unfortunately, many people do not know how to be empathetic or compassionate.  They may mean well and don’t show it.  Or what seems like a big issue to you does not seem that important to them or they grow tired of it over time. The more empathy you can give to others, the more likely you will receive it when needed.  This is not a guarantee.  Some people are givers and some are takers.  It’s best to be a balance of both.  If people are taking too much from you set boundaries.  If you aren’t receiving enough support, instead of expecting it from people who aren’t giving it, seek out others.  Better yet, learn to give yourself all of the empathy, compassion and validation that you need when you need it.

It’s important to have a healthy understanding of how to listen, so you can be a good listener yourself.  The first step to being a good listener is to stop talking and listen.  Be fully present to what the person is saying. Don’t anticipate what they will say next. Don’t judge what the person is feeling.  Sure, you may disagree with their words, but you can look for the feelings underlying the words.  Don’t assume what they are feeling, ask them.  Keep clarifying all the way through the conversation.  You can paraphrase back what they are saying, “you feel angry because you don’t get your child support check on time.” You can also mirror back exactly what they said, “your stomach hurts.”  This may seem artificial, but practice it and it will soon feel more natural.  The response you get from other people will be amazing.  People will respond more positively to you because they feel your sincerity and compassion.  Misunderstandings are clarified without being blown out of proportion.  Self-understanding is promoted for the person you are listening to as well as increasing  insight into your self. 

Allow vacuums of silence in the conversation.  If it’s an emotional moment, the person may be gathering their thoughts and will continue to talk.  If it’s a disagreement, the other person may change their mind without feeling pressured by your words, but will listen to their own inner thoughts.  What may seem like a long silence may only be a few minutes.  We are so used to constant noise and busyness, silence often feels awkward.  Don’t rush to fill it.  Sometimes amazing thoughts, insights and connections occur because a period of silence is allowed.

In Dale Carnegie’s Golden Book, he promotes “become genuinely interested in other people.  Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.  Encourage others to talk about themselves.”  A good way to engage others in conversation is to ask an open-ended question about family, hometown, hobbies, anything.  If you find a similarity with the person that will help to better establish the relationship.  For example you loved their hometown during a recent family vacation to that area.

No matter how traumatic your current problems are you still need to listen to other people.  It doesn’t matter if what they are saying seems minor compared to what you are going through.  To them it is of some importance or they wouldn’t mention it.  If all you do is dominate conversations about your situation, people will start to avoid you. It’s easy to become isolated during challenging times.  Be a good listener to stay engaged with life.

Other tips for being a good listener, include:

  1. Give the person your full attention.  Maintain eye contact.  Do not fidget or attempt to multi-task.  You cannot really hear what the person is feeling if you are trying to fix something that also commands your attention.  Listening is important.  If the person is worth talking to they are worth listening to.
  2. If you can’t give the person your full attention, tell them.  “You caught me at a bad time, I need to take care of this now.  Is it something that can wait until lunch?”
  3. You are not obligated to listen to everyone who wants you to.  Some people are takers.  They want you to listen to them, but don’t return the favor.  This may feel okay or it may not.  It may be all right for a while and then you grow tired of it.  You always have the right to not listen.  Your time is of value to you.  You don’t have to give it away if you don’t want to. 
  4. Ask questions to open up the conversation or show interest in the other person.  Do not ask questions to control the discussion.
  5. It’s okay to share a similarity at times, “that reminds me when that happened to me.”  However if you do this more than once in a while you are not sharing you are dominating the conversation while you are pretending to listen.  It’s not about you.  When you are listening it’s about the other person.
  6. Don’t finish sentences for people.  If you do this you are anticipating what they are going to say.  That isn’t fair.  Show courtesy.
  7. Find ways to show sincere appreciation or compliments for what the person has done, said or feels.  You don’t have to promote yourself to feel better.  When you support others they will tend to think more positively about you and this will have a positive ripple effect.  It doesn’t take away from you to give credit to another; in fact it’s a way to feel good inside.
  8. You do not have to agree with the other person.  Showing empathy is acknowledging their feelings, it doesn’t mean you agree.  Stay in integrity with yourself.  You can understand that someone feels hurt even though you would feel differently in the same situation. Stay true to yourself while remaining a good listener.
  9. If you have a time limit let the person know, rather than frequently checking your watch.
  10. Be respectful to everyone.  Children, the elderly, a homeless person on the corner.  Treat others, as you would want to be treated.  If you say you will do something do it.  It doesn’t matter if the person has Alzheimer’s disease and may forget or it’s a small child.  This is your integrity.  You can’t turn it on and off as it suits you, you have to live it. 

Treat yourself well.  Other people treat you the way you treat yourself.  You set the tone.  If your relationships are one sided, don’t tolerate them.  If people are not listening to you, let them know what you would like. Develop and keep relationships that support you and are positive.  Don’t stay involved with people who are toxic to you, no matter what the relationship or situation.  Show compassion for others and show compassion for yourself. 

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