Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Expose yourself ....

Expose yourself ... to great things!

You thought I was going in a different direction with that, didn't you?

Well, HA!

Something I learned "officially" as a grad student is that our brains are incredibly adaptive. We can learn to live with nearly anything if we're exposed to it enough. Not only that, we can come to appreciate it and consider nearly any condition as ideal with enough exposure. It's called, as you might guess, the Law of Exposure. Essentially, we think most about what we're most exposed to.

Various research studies and anecdotal cases illustrate this. Prisoners become institutionalized and come to see prison as preferable to freedom. Poor and starving people find nutrition from unthinkable sources; when conditions improve, those sources are considered delicacies.

Gary Ryan Blair reminds us of this concept as it applies to our daily lives. He points out that what we read, listen to, talk about, and daydream about goes to shape our future. Lots of people are getting what he calls "indecent exposure" - things that pollute mind, body, or soul, like excuses, junk food, violence, lack of integrity, inconsistancy, fear, worry, mediocrity, and so on.

So for example, if Junior grows up constantly thinking about how Biff called him "Stupid" on the first day of second grade, and Junior tells the story to everybody he meets, and he replays that event in his mind over and over ... can you see how that might become a self-fulfilling prophecy? First, it's not smart to let someone else's questionable opinion of you become your reality! So the fact that Junior devotes any time to such a singular event is, well, stupid. But then all through his life he's reinforcing the lesson. Eventually he believes he truly is stupid.

And beyond that, we're exposing others to our own behavior every day, which contributes to their exposure. What do others really see and think about when they observe us?

Just something to consider this week. As I always say, it all matters.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Image Coaching ... Your Assertiveness?

In terms of image, there are plenty of resources out there that can tell you what to wear, how to style your hair, and even what makeup shades are most flattering. There are other resources that can tell you how to apply some of the same principles to your business.

At last Saturday's Woman-to-Woman conference, someone asked me, "Do you think being assertive can help a person's image?" Yes. Yes I do. The next question was how to start being more assertive.

So in a nutshell, here's Assertiveness 101.

"Is there any reason why ..." This is really fun. It's a simple request for information, but people don't tend to interpret it that way. Use this when you come up against an obstacle that shouldn't exist. For example, store policy says exchanges only, but state law provides for returns with receipt, within 30 days. It's been two days, you have the receipt, and you want your money back. The customer service person will cite store policy, at which point, you politely ask, "Is there any reason why I can't get a refund?" This indicates you're aware of the policy, but that you do NOT consider it a valid reason for refusing a refund. Puts them in an awkward spot! Whatever the answer is, if it doesn't reasonably meet your need, assert yourself by politely asking again. "Yes, I understand that's the policy, but the law says differently. So, is there any reason why I can't get a refund?" Or maybe, "Yes, I understand what you're telling me and you don't have the authority to do it. Is there any reason why a manager can't give me a refund?" You get the idea.

Zig Ziglar uses the term "courteously persistent" and I like that. That attitude goes a long way!

Of course, just because someone likes you (because you've been so nice), they still may not believe they can help. So, now that you've asserted yourself, nicely, and assured the person you understand the rules, here's the next sentence: "If you can't do it, I'll understand."

If you haven't already resolved the situation with "is there any reason why", this is often a clincher. It gives the other person an out - they aren't pressured (because you aren't being aggressive), but now you've challenged them as well as made them your ally. They practically want to help now. And often, they are certainly able to do it.

If you really want to enforce the win-win, we're-on-the-same-team concept, you can add, "If you could, I'd really appreciate it."

The beauty of assertiveness is that it can only enhance your image. If you're passive, people feel they can dump anything on you, and you suffer. Others get the impression that you have no life and you see yourself as worth less than whatever you can't say no to. If you're aggressive, people have to defend themselves from your attack, and your actual message gets lost. They get the impression that you can't communicate, you don't work well with others, you can't be trusted, and you're mean.

Being assertive means you have values and standards and expectations - of yourself and others, and people get an image of you as respectful, professional and diplomatic, and a team player. Not just at work, not just at a store, but your neighbors, the people you deal with at your child's school, your family, and your friends - they all see you as capable, competent, likeable ... that's an image to cultivate!

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

For the Guys ... And Everyone Else

So, I read an article over the weekend about the increasing sexualization of women in advertising. http://bit.ly/n3a7D8 (I don't think any male readers are concerned about that just yet!)

The article mentioned body-image problems, and I will agree that's one consequence. There are a few more the article did NOT mention, that every dad, brother, boyfriend, and husband needs to seriously think about if this trend continues unchecked.

When girls learn from society that adult women only serve sexual purposes, what motivation is there for them to set any other goals for themselves? Now, let's say you have a 13-year-old daughter who is forming the impression that she'll be expected to be highly sexual as a young adult. Guess what, folks - the hormones have already kicked in. What better way to get ahead of her competition than to start practicing!

Let's say you're a dad who is never without a Playboy/Penthouse/Hustler magazine. (Or a porn DVD stash.) Your daughter probably has already seen it. What are you teaching her about what you expect from her? Will she assume that you'll only like her if she's pretty or acts sexy like the women in the magazines? Do you want your daughter growing up and being a porn star because she thinks it'll make you proud? Worse and much creepier - do you want to give her the impression that you'll like her more if she's sexy to you?

Let's say you know a girl who's dating. She constantly hears guys talk about the females they're interested in - in terms of parts (nice legs, pretty smile, long hair, etc.) She hears guys talk about how proud or happy they are to be seen with such a beautiful girl. And trust me, this girl is wondering what you say about other women. If you prize such beauty, how do you feel about the appearance of your mother, or your sister.

I know you all have a mother, a sister, a wife, a girlfriend, a daughter, or some other female you care about. The social lessons, enforced by YOU, are doing damage to all of them. Before you say I'm "unfairly targeting" guys (how do you "fairly target" anyone?), I'm not saying all guys do this. But if you don't, dudes, you know guys who do, and you don't say anything about it. Silence implies consent, right?

Here are some consequences you are allowing (or encouraging):
teen promiscuity
unsafe sex
increased STDs
teen pregnancy
increased risk of drug and alcohol abuse
increased risk of depression and suicide
oh yeah, and increased risk of anorexia and bulimia due to body-image problems, which themselves can lead to infertility, depression, suicide-by-starvation, and so on.

Eye candy is great. None of us - male or female - is immune to the art of a beautiful body - male or female. But guys, keep in mind that you are being watched - females and ad agencies will both try to cater to you. Which do you care more about - the females in your life, or those you're paying for? Be sure that the message you send is really what you want.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

7 Ways Life Coaching Specifically Helps Women

I'm sure it's not news to you that men and women are different. Like men, women face pressure in each role they play - at work, as a parent, as a partner, and so on. But women also face pressure in areas that men don't, like when it comes to social expectations. Women are expected to be ... well, womanly in all situations. Nurturing, matronly, domestic, passive, forgiving, subservient, patient, and kind ... all at the same time. Along with being a sexy goddess, of course. We are expected to not feel, or at least suppress, emotions like anger or aggression. But do we really live like this? No. Thus, the pressure, before we even take a step out the door.

I don't discount the pressure men face. But it's not the same, and not coming from so many directions. They can usually organize their lives in a mostly linear fashion and be fine. Women deal with many more facets of life, so instead of a line from A to B, women need organization that has width and depth, not just length.

Coaches understand that. Here are a few specific benefits women receive from life coaching.

1. You will know clearly what you want. Your goals become defined and even your dreams become more focused. When you feel pulled in many directions, it can sometimes seem like everything blurs together; a coach can bring clarity and give you an objective point of reference.

It's almost a cliche that women don't know what they want. The reality is, we know exactly what we want, but don't know how or where to start!

2. You can get what you want. Once you know what it is, it's much easier to figure out how to make it happen. A coach speeds up the process and helps you find ways that work for you.

Men are socialized to be problem-solvers, women are socialized to be team-players. Unless you had pretty radical parents, ladies, finding ways to make things happen - all on your own, and just for you - is not familiar ground.

3. You make better and more intelligent decisions. You intuitively understand that two heads are better than one. Your coach understands it, too. Plus, unlike men who are less interested in sharing ideas, women are more practical in this area - if there's a good idea floating around, a woman will give it a fair try.

4. You stay on track. Your best friend might let you slack and even help you rationalize why you could or should, but your coach holds you accountable, knowing you'll feel better about yourself. You can count on your coach to encourage you keep taking positive action.

And unlike a friend, your coach isn't there to judge or take things personally! (The whole point of coaching is for us to work ourselves out of a job, after all!)

5. You become more organized. When you have a plan to follow, your whole approach is more organized and you are able to keep moving in the right direction. The side benefit is that the organization and planning have a positive impact on the rest of your life.

This is where your creativity and intuition can really benefit you. Men might just sigh and force themselves to work a particular system. You'll be more selective. But when you find a system that works, you can easily modify it to work in other areas of your life.

6. You find greater harmony between the areas of your life. As one area smoothes itself out, others benefit as well. And you'll start to see the connections between those areas, so you can appreciate the benefits even more.

Men often keep things compartmentalized, so they may not be as aware of the synergy.

7. You develop more self-esteem and confidence. It makes sense that when you achieve something worthwhile, you feel better about yourself! Your coach can help you see the small achievements that you might overlook, so you have even more to celebrate.

Yes, this true for men, too. But women tend to be much worse at self-talk. We can be our own worst enemies! Learning to be our own best friends is great, and makes a more dramatic impact in our lives.


Now you see what you've been missing? Well, here's another tidbit for you. If you're in the Phoenix area (or can be) on Saturday, August 20, you won't want to miss the Woman-to-Woman Phoenix Brunch & Beyond! (It's the "W2W" I keep tweeting about.) There's brunch, of course, and an expo, plus you can take advantage of hour-long sessions with local professionals in various areas:
Discovering Your Purpose
Fashion/Beauty/Health Tips & Demos
Career Choices and How to Achieve Them
Financial Fitness
Daily Life Balance (that's me!)
Inspiration & Empowerment

For more info on W2W, call 480-619-9276, or go to www.w2wphx2011.eventbrite.com

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Settling In?

I read an article a couple weeks ago on "How to Feng Shui Your Desk" - I'm not kidding. Apparently 1) we can Anglicize "feng shui" as a verb, and 2) it's not enough to be feng shui-ing a room, but now you need to worry about individual pieces of furniture.

I'm not so worried. But I DID clean my desk off and move it yesterday. And I'm paying for it today, so please keep me supplied with ibuprofen, kthx.

Anyway, I'm not looking at a wall, which is nice, because that was boring. But due to wall outlet restrictions and the desire NOT to run cords everywhere, I'm rather limited as to where and how to place my desk. NOT loving it where it now sits.

Any office designers out there want to take a crack at it? I'm willing to barter services!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Protecting Your Princess - Part 2, Recognizing Abusers

This post is about how to recognize potential abusers. It's pretty long, so you might want to go take your bio-break now and come back to read - go to the bathroom, get a drink, make some popcorn, whatever.

You're back? Comfy? Ok, we'll get rolling.

Let's start with a hypothetical situation. (I really hope for your sake it's hypothetical.) Let's say your daughter likes this boy. (Well, that's maybe not so hypothetical, but work with me.) Let's say your daughter is Fifi, and this guy is Fred. And you haven't spent much time getting to know Fred, but you definitely pick up on some weird vibes when he's around, and he seems to have some abnormal influence on Fifi, too.

Or maybe you aren't a parent. Maybe Fifi is your best friend and you don't know why, but you just don't like Fred. Or maybe you're Fifi, and you're noticing weird things about Fred. Read on.

1. Consider Fred's family and history:
• Was Fred ever abused (by your definition, not his) - physically or emotionally - as a child?
• Was Fred's mother abused when Fred was little? Did he witness domestic violence?
• Was Fred raised in an extremely strict home, or were his parents disrespectful and critical?
• Does Fred seem like a mama's boy today? Or is he still trying to out-do his father?

2. Consider Fred's perception of responsibility:
• Does Fred refuse to take responsibility for his actions? Is he full of excuses why he can't be held responsible? ("The due date is in such small print on the bill, how was I supposed to know when to pay it?", "I didn't feel good that day, so how was I supposed to ....")
• Does Fred blame every problem on somebody or something else? ("Stupid job/boss/car/dog/etc.")
• Does Fred minimize his own negative behavior? ("I wasn't really that mad.")
• Is Fred hypersensitive: are his feelings easily hurt or does he lose his temper easily?
• Does Fred talk about violence or suggest it as an option? ("I should've just punched him.")
• Does Fred often talk about situations where he's always in control? ("So I told the boss how it was, and he agreed with me and said they'd make some changes.")
• Is Fred's vocabulary unnecessarily profane?
• Does Fred talk about incidents where his behavior could be considered unusual and/or cruel? ("So I followed her to her house and hid until dark, and then I saw her cat, and I grabbed it and pulled its tail so it would meow, and finally she came out.")
• Does there appear to be an extreme to Fred's kindness or cruelty? You know, no happy and stable medium but either super-nice or ruthless.
• Does Fred abuse Fifi verbally, criticize her, curse her, or call her names, especially if he thinks her behavior reflects poorly on him? This could be as simple as, she wants to study for a test instead of go out. This might make him look like an irresponsible student or unsupportive boyfriend, so he has to put Fifi down to make himself feel better.

3. Fred's possessiveness:
• Does Fred expect Fifi to spend all her free time with him?
• Does Fred move too fast and talk about exclusivity and commitment soon after meeting? Some Freds have even proposed marriage on the first date. Others are more subtle and sort of take for granted that Fifi is as wildly in love as he is and there's no reason not to call, text, or be with each other at every available moment.
• Does Fred expect Fifi to drop other commitments and responsibilities to be with him? ("Oh, your mom won't care if you're a few minutes late." or "Oh, you're smart, you don't need to study so much.")
• Does Fred disrespect Fifi's personal boundaries and privacy? For example, does he check the contact list on her phone? Does he read her diary? Does he wrestle or tickle so he can "accidentally" see her underwear - in public, even if she's told him to stop?
• Does Fred disapprove when Fifi is away too long, or does he interrogate her when she returns? Some Freds can go a day or two, while some have a problem if Fifi takes more than two minutes to go to the restroom.

4. Fred's attitude toward females:
• Does Fred talk about traditional/stereotypical roles for males and females and how that role fits him? Does Fred expect Fifi to act like "the little woman" and cook and clean and take care of him without complaint or question?
• Does Fred expect Fifi (and anyone else) to take all his advice?
• Does Fred display jealousy? Is he jealous of strangers, family members, friends, teachers, or anyone who gets even a second of attention from Fifi? Does he accuse her of flirting?
• Does Fred ignore Fifi's wishes or abilities by making decisions for her? Does he order for her in a restaurant? This might be nice in a place where the menu is in French or Italian, and she doesn't speak the language, but does order something he knows she doesn't care for?
• Does Fred constantly suspect or accuse Fifi of cheating on him?

5. Fred's personality:
• Does Fred drink or do drugs frequently, or does he binge?
• Does Fred seem to have a dual personality? Is he especially charming when you first meet him? Huge red flag - dangerous people are the very ones who go out of their way to prove they aren't dangerous but are nice people. Good guys don't need to persuade you to trust them; they act appropriately from the get-go and for as long as you know them.
• Does Fred criticize most people and things, including Fifi?
• Does Fred act like the world revolves around him, yet isn't fair to him? ("I've paid my dues, I've put in my time, so they owe me.")
• Does Fred act like a know-it-all about topics he really has little knowledge about? ("Fifi tells me you're a therapist, Ms. Fifi's Mom. I just read about that synthetic stuff you keep talking about...." "Synesthesia?" "That's what I said. Anyway, do you think it's a problem if the brain gets mixed up and causes you to ... what's that thing where you see things that aren't there ... elucidate?" "Hallucinate?" "No, that's not it. Sheesh, you should know that's not the right word!")
• Does Fred brag all the time about his education, talent, success, or ability - especially when it becomes obvious he shouldn't? ("I'm a successful businessman - I owe somebody for everything I have, and I don't know what I'm doing, my office is a disaster, and I can't seem to hire any decent employees, but I'm a success, alright!" "I went to the best private school in the state. I'm so well-educated I got full credit for my freshman year of college just for graduating from that school. But I never heard that raisins come from grapes. Are you sure?")

6. Fred's manipulation and control:
• Does Fred want Fifi to lie about the relationship to friends and family?
• Does Fred take control of Fifi's money or bank cards, or "borrow" from her without her knowledge or permission?
• Is it difficult to check on Fred's past?
• Does Fred often say that Fifi "makes" him feel good? Or bad? If he has a temper tantrum, does he say "look what you made me do"?
• In public, does Fred keep a hand on the back of Fifi's neck or around her arm instead of holding hands or putting an arm around her waist or shoulders?
• Does Fred have unrealistic expectations of children or animals, in terms of behavior, knowledge, or affection? ("HEY, stupid dog, why don't you wag your tail? I'M TALKING TO YOU, dumb dog, you're supposed to be my best friend.") Are punishments appropriate? ("Fifi, you just changed your baby's diaper and he peed already. You should spank him!") Does Fred tease too much? Or say "I was just teasing" when he sees that his behavior or words have made Fifi - or her friends or parents - mad?
• Does Fred threaten to leave or commit suicide? ("I'm such a jerk, you probably won't ever forgive me. We should just break up now. I'd be better off dead than making you cry.")

7. Fred's intimacy:
• Does Fred push for sex before he and Fifi have a chance to get to know each other? Or does Fred have a history of sexual encounters outside of a solid relationship? Does he maintain shallow relationships with multiple sexual partners?
• Is Fred more into porn than real life? Does he spend excessive time at strip clubs or does he "happen" to be around when other people are having sex?
• Does Fred continually ask for or demand things from Fifi sexually that she's not comfortable with?
• Does Fred try to initiate sex when Fifi is tired, asleep, or sick?

8. Finally, consider Fifi's response:
• Does she spend too much energy trying NOT to upset Fred? Is her life about what Fred will think, how Fred will react, or whether Fred might get mad?
• Does she spend too much energy trying to make Fred happy? Does she carefully orchestrate her wardrobe, class schedule, or even talk a certain way because "that's how Fred likes it"? Does she often apologize or make excuses for Fred?

If your "Fred" matches even one of these red flags, it's a sign to proceed with caution. Often, the first time you meet Fred, he's nothing but charm and attentiveness. As soon as he thinks he can, he'll drop the act and his bad behavior will escalate. Chances are, Fred has already abused someone else, and with each victim, he gets worse. Yep, sooner or later, something will go horribly wrong and somebody will end up dead. But as important as it is to recognize an abuser, it's even more important to avoid being a victim.

And how to avoid being a victim is what we'll discuss in the next post. Until then, keep an eye out for Fred and share this info. And please tweet - the more people who are aware, the harder it is for Fred to find a victim.