Marriage Communication Skills Coaching and Marriage Conflict Skills

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Speak up; the alternative is grief.

I heard this from a friend recently: “Why is it like pulling teeth to get others to open up and say, ‘I really don’t like it when you…’”
On the same day another friend lamented, “I have so many people in my life who stew, steam, get so mad at someone, and tell everyone except that person.” Both of these people were understandably frustrated at others’ unwillingness or inability to speak their minds. Whether you have problems expressing yourself or you’re frustrated with people in your own life who don’t express themselves, the following suggestions can help you change or understand their experience.

Do you have a difficult time being assertive?
Do you avoid confrontation? Is making decisions a struggle for you? You aren’t alone; many people deal with these challenges. Often we learn to be passive and fearful as a result of childhood relationships in which parents and other adults hold all the power. From the vantage point of a child, the feeling of helpless makes sense. You may have learned to cope by giving in or backing off, rather than “arguing,” or remaining steadfast. You may have been raised by controlling or abusive parents and never learned confidence. Whatever your experience, it’s simple to see that we become what we practice. For you, authority and intimate relationships include both love and danger. The decision to protect yourself by “going along and getting along,” while necessary as a child, is kicking your butt as an adult. Regardless, you can still learn confidence and assertiveness.

Woman with Hands on EyesBeing assertive means speaking up for yourself and confronting difficult situations.
The reason this is difficult for you is that it’s more familiar to you to sulk or pretend “it isn’t such a big deal.” You likely bottle up your emotions, stew until you can’t stand it any longer, and then lash out. That’s your roller-coaster. You probably have what you imagine are good reasons for your behavior. Still, you’re unhappy; you know you have a problem; and you’re afraid to tackle it. Your complaints aren’t doing you any good because the world isn’t going to change for you. It’s time for you to take action, unless you’d rather remain frustrated, indecisive, and scared. What’s your choice? If you’ve truly decided to do something about this, I encourage you to follow this simple recipe.

1. Begin to address simple decisions with authority.
You’ll make mistakes, but the consequences of holding back from these simple choices are much more painful. Make a choice and move on, don’t dwell on “what ifs.”

2. Speak with someone you trust and can confide in; share with her how you’ve been afraid and lacked assertiveness.
Let her know you intend to change this about yourself. Ask if you can begin by being forthcoming about something that’s bothered you in your relationship with her. Hard as this may seem, it’s a small and important stepping stone on a new path.

WomanStrongWeb23. Be on the lookout for similar situations with other friends, family and co-workers.
You’ll find opportunities to express discomfort or frustration – speak up! If you miss a chance and become aware after the fact, prepare yourself mentally for a more assertive response. Do it soon; the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be.

4. You’re likely to find yourself at a loss for words sometimes.
This is to be expected. Think about it or ask a friend for advice about what you could have said. Situations when others are hostile can be especially hard to deal with. This is why you’ve begun with more manageable relationships. “Baby steps” are helpful in building self-confidence for those more challenging encounters.

5. When dealing with a combative person do not justify your actions,
become defensive, validate your view, explain the situation, or deny your behavior. Each of these responses is natural, but will only fuel his anger. Instead, acknowledge facts, verbally recognize his emotion, take responsibility for your choices, and ask what he would like to happen.

6. Assertiveness is not aggressiveness, but it may feel like it.
You’ll feel uncomfortable, maybe even sick, being firm. The discomfort is temporary and a normal response to change. You’re feeling this because you’re being different and stepping out of your comfort zone. Don’t let this stop you.

7. Be respectful in your communication.
Assertiveness isn’t an excuse to be inconsiderate or cruel. However, the pendulum often swings in the other direction; look for balance. Work on being both forthright and kind. This takes practice, and I’m sure you can do it.

David Cantu
Marriage Counselor Austin, Texas
The Art of Communication: Speak Assertively, Kindly, and Effectively – Article © 2009

Strategies for Overcoming Procrastination, Stop Procrastinating Today!

Sometimes things can be tiring, but putting them off is exhausting!

Man SleepingOf all challenges for people, I suspect procrastination is the most common of common denominators.
Think about it, how many people do you know who never struggle with putting things off? How about yourself? Is it a problem for you? In my own life, I’ve dealt with many of my own shortcomings; but until this year the one thing I’ve put off was, you’ve got it, procrastination.

I’ve heard avoidance called many things
, including lack of discipline, putting things off till the last minute, and the thief of time. It’s all of these things, but the definitions don’t solve the problem for us. The one thing I haven’t heard it called is a lack of consciousness. We certainly appear to be conscious when we ignore something, but I think we instead are pushing the thing out of consciousness. By avoiding something, most often we’re trying not to think of it. Instead of accomplishing the task, we see it and then sweep it under the rug – the rug is our consciousness. Following is a simple solution; I encourage you to try it.

HourglassWhen we put things off, we have the feeling that something lurks within us
and keeps us from accomplishing those jobs. This assessment is correct; that “something” is an unwillingness to do what we feel we should do. My solution began innocently a couple years ago. My refrigerator broke down and I didn’t want to fix it. I did things to make me feel that I was working on it, like getting advice from a friend about the problem and buying the broken part and the tools necessary for the repair job. Even though I was taking action, I was still procrastinating. When all was ready, about three days later, I handled the problem differently than usual. Every day for the next nine days I left the repair items in plain sight. Each time I would see them I made a conscious decision: I would say to myself, “I am not going to repair the refrigerator today.” On the surface it may appear that I was still procrastinating, but the difference was that I was now making it a conscious choice. As a result, I didn’t have the nagging feeling that I was putting off something important. On the tenth day I remember looking at my work area and saying, “I’m going to get this thing fixed!” That day I repaired my refrigerator.

Fork in the RoadThe next time you find yourself tempted to put something off, stop
and ask yourself whether you want to do it or not. Voice your decision out loud to yourself or to a friend – don’t just think the choice. The power of this is that by bringing consciousness to your actions, you’re accepting full responsibility for the consequences. You will be much less likely to give yourself grief after you decide not to do something. Self-punishment creates a vicious cycle that burdens you more and more. Consciousness helps break that cycle. You’ll more often find yourself choosing to get things done. A final caution: Don’t expect yourself to change overnight. Be patient.
David Cantu
Marriage Counselor Austin, Texas
It’s Time to Put Off Procrastination! – Article © 2009

Embrace Change, Change Yourself to Change Your Relationship

What is the one indispensable tool for more love, wealth, and happiness? Change yourself – It’s where the action is.

High FiveIs anything as compelling as the keys to a happy life?
We all seek the holy grail of happiness and certainly we’ve each found any number of useful rules, tools, and directions in our search. I’ve identified a few necessary ingredients which are surely familiar to you. “Be true to yourself,” “love and be loved,” “let your light shine,” and “be fearless and bold” are all commands that guide us well on the path to joy. Each one is at once powerful and alluring. “Embrace change” doesn’t sound nearly as enticing; it isn’t a favorite device in my personal quest for happiness; but I find it indispensable.

We make the same crazy mistakes in life because change isn’t fun,
glamorous, or easy; change is hard. Have you ever heard anyone say, “The one thing l love most in life is to change myself?” Fall Canopy Of TreesNot likely, because we all want the easy path. Come on, face it; we want everyone else to change; we want the rest of the world to be different, to bow to our personal whims and desires. Deep in our hearts we believe: “If only people would do what I want, everything would be great!” Ah, but life doesn’t work that way. People are stubborn; they want to live life their way, not ours. We understand this at an intellectual level, but at a practical level we still want them to be different.

So, how to do it? How can you embrace what you don’t want?
Most likely, you won’t – unless you make it fun and interesting. Make change a “want to” rather than a “have to.” It’s all in your head, really. Several years ago I was convinced I couldn’t come up with $700 to take a weekend workshop, so I borrowed the money. After the class, I was so motivated by what I learned that three months later I come up with $11,000 to take the training to teach the class, I didn’t borrow any of it; I earned and raised every penny. Man LeapingWhat was different? I really wanted it. You’re going to find it extremely difficult to change your life and create the happiness you want if you focus on the difficulties and obstacles. The moment you set your sights on the possibilities rather than the challenges, the impossible will begin to become probable.

Stop thinking of change as something that happens “out there,”
and begin to see it as what happens “in here.” Rather than waiting for life to give you something, make yourself into the life you want. Do you want love, wealth, happiness, and health? Great! Be the change to make it happen. Embrace change. You deserve it.
David Cantu
Marriage Counselor Austin, Texas
Embrace Change – Article © 2009

Effective Communication & Listening – How to Listen Actively

For when you come to think of it, the only way to love a person is not … to coddle them and bring them soup when they’re sick, but by listening to them and seeing and believing in the god, in the poet in them. ~ Brenda Ueland

The first element of communication, speaking,
is impossible without the second, listening;Couple Woman Listening to be a good speaker you must be a good listener. We all want to speak; and even more, we want to be heard. When we become good listeners we create the possibility of a captive audience – people who want to hear what we have to say. In his essay, “The Statesman,” playwright Henry Taylor poetically expresses this idea: “No siren did ever so charm the ear of the listener as the listening ear has charmed the soul of the siren.”

Listening, however, is a big challenge;
even when we try hard our unconscious mind still thinks, “Soon it will be my turn.” We swim in an emotional hotbed of thought and experience, and it’s difficult to quiet its demands long enough to hear and understand what someone really means. Add to that the fact that the other person may not be clear about his own message!

Become a listening artist.
The art of communication is about creating and strengthening relationships. An adept listener strives first to understand others and second to create a feeling within others of being understood.Couple Sunset Your best goal is not to find a solution to whatever problem you may have with someone; the ideal goal is the tapestry of connection which is a result of putting aside for a moment your own frame of reference. A solution is much easier to find once you’re on the same page. To become competent at listening, learn to remain in the listener role until you have a “meeting of minds.” Respond and speak, but remain in the listener role. This means you don’t get to express your point of view! What you have to say may be important, but don’t do it until you’ve created a bond, a sense of oneness.

We sometimes struggle
acknowledging someone’s point of view out of fear of losing our identity or fear that we may somehow become compromised. Recognition of someone’s ideas doesn’t require agreement; its intention is a dance of understanding. Acknowledging someone with sincerity puts him at ease, helps him feel less vulnerable, more open. We often become defensive, feeling that someone is attacking us. Approach communication with the notion that another’s beliefs are merely that; they are her personal ideas, and as such don’t have anything to do with you or anyone else. In “The Four Agreements,” author Don Miguel Ruiz says, “Others are going to have their own opinion according to their belief system, so nothing they think about me is really about me, but it is about them.” His “Second Agreement” is concise and powerful, “Don’t take it personally.”
Couple Talking Lake
Create listening music.
Be curious; ask questions to better grasp the other person’s meaning. Don’t defend, justify, or criticize. Do not explain how your perspective is correct or why your actions were valid. Do not ask questions meant to invalidate another’s thinking or to validate your own ideas. Be authentic, not “sweet.” True listening is not a passive enterprise but an active extension of yourself into the heart of another, which in turn invites and draws him out into a song of rapport.
Listen; you would be wise!
David Cantu
Life Coach Austin, Texas
Effective Communication & Listening – How to Listen Actively (article) © 2009

Luke 8:17-18

17”For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.
18Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.”

The Recipe for a Happy Life: Happiness Is a Way of Life, Not an End

Happiness is at once the best, the noblest and the pleasantest of things. ~ Aristotle

Dance PartyNo single formula exists
for a happy life. We are each unique beings with differing needs and values. Many tools are available to aid you in living happily, many paths; but the foundation for that life includes a few essentials: love, virtue, effort, a clear mind, and meaning.

Chief among these elements is love,
without which life is empty – not romantic love (which can be tasty and delicious) but love of self. Self-love is synonymous with self-respect or personal worth; with it we’re able to receive love, without it we instead build barriers to others. Being able to take in love is the first step to giving love and to being happy.

Virtue is a challenge
for all of us! But its role in creating happiness is made clear in the words of Confucius: “Virtue is never left to stand alone. He who has it will have neighbors.” Living a life of virtue is a safety net for everyone on the path to becoming a joy magnet because it connects us firmly to our community. It is a synonym for giving and love, the golden rule.

True effort is required
to achieve any worthwhile objective in life, but it must be made with the correct goal in mind. Many people work diligently but make hardly any progress. Whether you call it joy, peace, or freedom, know that your goal is great happiness. See your life as one giant experiment. Life is a struggle full of landmines, there is no doubt about that. Develop the determination to overcome challenges. Bill Reidler, one of my best teachers, once gave a friend excellent advice about this: “Pick something and be willing to really screw it up!” He meant for her to take risks, to dare to live a noble, most excellent life.

MeditationA clear mind is the light
that guides us to fulfillment. Perhaps this is the most difficult of the happiness requirements for anyone to implement. I believe the reason for this is that it is very hard for us to step out of our own skin, to see ourselves as we really are rather than how we imagine ourselves to be. I also believe clarity of mind can be learned; it can be practiced. The best tools for this are daily doses of humility, listening, and meditation.

These four ingredients
– love, virtue, effort, and a clear mind – give our lives substance and direction. Yet they are not enough; meaning is still lacking. To be happy you must be true to yourself; you must seek and live that which makes your heart sing. Your life and your work must be significant – to you. Treat yourself also to the pleasures of life. A hedonistic life is fun and seductive, but will never suffice to create happiness. However, a life bereft of pleasure won’t either. We should be passionate both about our work and about those things that make us feel good: the myriad sensations and sweetness of nature.

In the book “Happier,” Harvard professor Tal Ben-Shahar
Mountain Climbingsays, “Becoming happier is a lifelong pursuit.” He makes the point that we do well to approach fulfillment as a process rather than a finite end. A clearly defined goal creates for us the freedom to live the goal. We know where we’re going and we have the tools; now we can stop obsessing or worrying about it and get busy living it.
David Cantu
Marriage Counselor Austin, Texas
Happiness Is a Way of Life, Not an End (article) © 2009

Ecclesiastes 1:12,13

I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.

Getting to Know Yourself Better Questions

You cannot be yourself or accomplish your desires without first knowing yourself. ~ David Cantu

1. What’s your greatest aspiration?

2. What can you do to nourish it today?
3. What can you do today to live your passion?
4. At the rate you’re going, what will you accomplish in your lifetime?
5. Doing the same things and expecting different results is insane; what can you do to get out of your comfort zone and create the results you really want?
6. Think about the times you say no. How would it benefit you to say yes?
7. We fret about, fight over and crave more of it. What’s your relationship with money?
8. You may enjoy getting angry, but it’s not really doing you any good. What do you want when you get angry that you’re not getting?
9. Be real. What can you do instead of worry?
10. You repeat things in your mind. What might you do to end this crippling habit?
11. What do your friends or family complain about you?
12. You don’t need all that stuff you have. Why not get rid of it?
13. What one thing are you willing to improve in your diet or physical regimen?
14. How do the people in your life want to be loved?
15. Hearing is not listening. At least once today, will you practice listening?
16. What can you do to be more accepting and less critical of others?
17. Giving yourself grief is not good. How can you better love yourself?
18. How are you unique?
19. What do your emotions say about you?
20. For what do you pray?

We are each a pebble
Water Dropthrown into a vast ocean. And like the pebble, every one of our actions creates endless waves rippling around the world. Use these questions as a blueprint to change yourself and create awesome ripples in your life. Show your answers to someone who will give you honest feedback. Have a great day!

David Cantu

Marriage Counselor Austin Texas

Get to Know Yourself, Ask Some Questions (Article) © 2003

 

Luke 17:21

For behold, the kingdom of heaven is within you.

Change Emptiness to Happiness

So, instead of going to heaven, at last–
I’m going, all along. ~ Emily Dickinson

We frequently attempt to prove our value
to ourselves and to others through external accomplishments. We may get college degrees, lose weight or work eighty-hour weeks. We do this in order to make the emptiness go away or from a mistaken belief that it will result in happiness. But we get only fleeting glimpses of joy this way; the emptiness remains. Our real goal has been love and fulfillment.

Action is necessary,
but not sufficient, to fill the emptiness. Doing and accomplishing things does not create happiness. This will come only with love and meaning. The absence of love is toxic and debilitating.Content Woman It can however, be learned. Yes, it is better to give than to receive, but the experience of receiving is an essential foundation of life. By receiving love we learn to value ourselves. Self-love, then, is the seed for love of others and the prime ingredient that fills the emptiness. Only with the confidence of love are we able to embrace the possibility of joy and fulfillment. Do you frequently criticize yourself? Begin to embrace the fact that your mistakes are not a measure of your self-worth but a measure of your humanity. Rather than casually dismissing praise, practice accepting with gratitude the gifts of acknowledgment you receive from others.

Fulfillment does not come
with the achievement of goals; it is not a finite end but an ongoing process. It is the result of living in the present moment rather than in the illusion that some future event will result in happiness. The accomplishment of goals brings feelings of satisfaction and pleasure, but they are temporary and we soon revert to the same general state of emptiness or happiness in which we lived before the event. Goals are good as long as they are in accord with our true desires, a part of a meaningful life rather than an end. Certainly enjoy your successes, but don’t kid yourself into believing that success is in itself happiness. In the same way, failure is not an indicator of unhappiness; instead, it’s an indicator of change, nothing more and nothing less. Both success and failure are important elements of a joyful life.

Be true to yourself;
identify the people and things which are most significant to you and nurture them. Live your life with gratitude, enthusiasm, and a giving heart. Practice looking for the good in life, this is not an easy accomplishment, it takes considerable effort. Be fearless; know that both pain and pleasure are essential facets of life, not to be shunned. Accept them equally, but do not obsess with either. The result of this is increasing courage and confidence in the face of adversity. Surely, the emptiness will begin to dissolve; the path to happiness will be yours.
David Cantu
Marriage Counselor Austin, Texas
Change Emptiness to Happiness © 2009

Psalm 23:6

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

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