Friday, March 24, 2006

Jealous of Strangers?

The other night I went out with a few female friends to a restaurant for dinner. The bar was lively with music and energy so we opted to stay there. The four of us huddled in a corner and talked the night away, barely coming up for air. Three of the women were single and would be interested in meeting men but we were having so much fun together that no one noticed.

At one point I started speaking with one of the ladies to my right. She and her “boyfriend” were regulars at the restaurant. The woman was drop dead gorgeous. By appearance, she was a work out feign and because of her fit body, could fit into cute jeans with no problem. She looked as if she had just come back from the islands because she sported a gorgeous tan. I may add that she probably had some “enhancements” if you know what I mean.

One of the ladies in our group looked at the lady and curled up her nose in jealousy. She acted like “who does she think she is, looking so cute”. I turned to my gorgeous friend and said to her, “the other women in the bar are thinking and saying the SAME thing to you RIGHT NOW.” My friend dismissed it as if it weren’t true and went on being jealous of the other woman who was no more beautiful than she was.

About 5 minutes later I started talking with the other woman and she told me her tragic story of losing her husband a few years back. She told me that she had 4 kids who were her life and life will never be the same. Then I shared with her that two of the ladies in our group were also widows and with that she ran over to gave my friends hugs. When she got to my “jealous” friend and told her the tragedy that they both shared, there was a genuine moment of understanding. Nothing got in the way such as “she’s prettier than me or has better arms than me”. It was a truthful moment of “I’ve had so much pain in my life that no one can understand but you.” They were strangers one moment picking on each other, and intimate friends the next.

The stranger next to you can be the person who GETS you more than anyone else in the world. That person sitting next to you on a bus or in traffic is more like you than you know. They’ve had their ups and their downs. They worry about the same things. They’ve laughed and they’ve cried. They’ve loved and they’ve hurt. They’re human, and INSIDE…they’re just like YOU.

Hi Mary,
I just read your Blog and it was soooo relevant to me tonight!!! I am wondering how many people your blog touches that don't articulate that to you or more to the point how many people could use your blog and don't have access to it or just don't know it exists! Mary, it is truly that good!!!!!!!!!!!

I am so empowered by what I read in your last two entries!

It is too much for me to write about what happened specifically tonight that your blog addressed. But how incredible that your blog was that relevant to me and I am one out of millions!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Does Fear Keep you from Talking?

This past week I spoke with two separate individuals who are afraid to talk with strangers. I wondered if their mom’s told them not to ever speak with people who they didn’t know. But these weren’t kids at all! They were completely competent, successful adults. One was a 40 something supper savvy single mom and the other is a great looking 20 something single young guy. They look completely different from one another yet they share a fear of socializing that plagues millions and millions of people.

In the communication classes that I teach, I often ask for a show of hands of people who don’t enjoy small talk. Nearly everyone raises their hands. It’s a great opportunity for the people in the class to see just how many other people share this feeling. Then they explain that they often feel lonely in groups because they stand there and just don’t quite know what to say. When I ask people how many people feel like that, nearly everyone says that they do too.

Allowing the people to understand that they are not alone in this feeling is a very comforting feeling for many of the people. Many of them haven’t discussed this openly with others so it’s quite freeing for them in the classes.

This past week, these two new clients shared their stories. The young guy rides the subway every day and sees a beautiful woman that he’d like to meet. His fear is that the other riders would hear him trying to pick her up and he’d make a fool of himself. I sent him back out into the world this week to start conversations with other people on the subway who were less threatening to him. I encouraged him to speak to whoever is standing next to him, whether it’s an older woman, a child or a guy his own age. I explained to him that practicing in low stress situations is one way to build his communication and small talk muscle. The more he practices it the easier it will get.

The 40ish woman I coached is a beautiful woman on the outside. She dresses snazzy and up to date. She’s got a good job and is a pleasant and fun conversationalist. Yet, she’s got intense fear around strangers. She is so petite that she sometimes feels slighted in conversations. I asked if she felt that was a “deficit” and she said absolutely YES.

Both of these people would appear to have it all on the outside, but in their heads, they’re running around like scared children, barely keeping it together.

I encouraged them both to start looking for small opportunities to talk with the people who come across their paths. They can talk about the weather or anything practical and the best thing to do is to ask questions and then be interested in the answers. If they act genuinely interested in other people, people will start to enjoy their company more. The more they are interested in OTHERS, then the less they’ll be in their own head worrying about themselves. I challenged my petite client to joke with others about talking over her head and because she is small, would they please speak up? Using humor can definitely disarm others and encourage them to engage with those who feel they have a deficit.

Learning to communicate well is a skill that can be used for an entire lifetime. Words and conversation can fill a persons’ heart, time and bring out the best in others. Learning to make others the focal point is the best thing we can do to encourage others to chat. Conversation isn’t something to fear and getting good at it is something worth pursuing. It may be one of the only things we are able to do our whole life. Why not “do” it well?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Which Idol’s Have the X Factor?

My house is just like the millions of households across America who are glued to the set every night that American Idol is on. Since I coach people on their “showmanship” or “presence” on a regular basis, I’m often in agreement with Simon about how the singer appears. I seem to agree most with Simon and then Paula. She’s a generous spirit and such a lovely person who genuinely wants the contestants to succeed. Randy is probably the best in terms of the vocals and that’s not my specialty.

My specialty is getting people to have the “X” Factor.

I know it when I see it; and I know how to let the others get it.

This past week a few contestants were let go. In my opinion this is the reason:

Ayla is gorgeous and perfect. She comes from a perfect home. She gets good grades, is a star at everything she does. Both of her parents are well known in their high level professions and well thought of in their careers. The problem? Ayla was TOO perfect and people didn’t pull for her. People don’t WANT the perfect people to win. They want the ones with the flaws.
What she could have done and can do going forward: Since she is naturally gorgeous and is completely breathtaking even in her sweatiest place, Ayla needed to be seen with her helping someone less fortunate and show that her heart wasn’t just to strive to be better, but that there was a certain child who had challenges that she sang for. (Remember Clay Aiken?)

Gedeon was the guy that Simon told that he didn’t like his smile. The interesting thing was that it was doubtful that anyone had said that to Gedeon before; they had probably always complimented it since it’s so big… so you in your FACE. But, there is a certain truth to what Simon said though and I think subconsciously it was annoying to others. No one can be happy all the time and it comes off as insincere. His voice was the most soulful beautiful voice, yet Gedeon needed to tone down the attitude, the smile and the blessing everyone after they spoke with him. He had the goods, he just oversold it. Had he been understated, lost the hair and maintained a since of humble, he’d still be in the competition.

Kinnik Sky should have a good career as an actor/ singer anyway. She proved herself to be a class act and probably didn’t need to try to be country when she’s really a lovely woman who has a classy side. Her song choices needed to show WHO she is, not who she wants to be. Kinnik: Stick to classic, classy songs, jazz, something like that. After you’ve had a few hits, expand to fit in the others but you LOOK like a Jazz artist and that is what is going to sell YOU.

Will- The darling, gentleman who sang “How Sweet it is” sang it 10x better the second night when he really was loose and had fun with it. I think that the secret to him not getting to the next stage was his age or lack of showmanship. He just didn’t have the confidence to do anything unique or different. If I would have been coaching him, I probably would have selected a more modern song and gone for that 11-15 year old vote and gotten him to show a bit more edge which would have gotten the 20 something women interested. As it was he just came across as sweet. Not memorable.

By Edge, I mean what Kelly Pickler did! As she sang she shimmied to the floor and back up again without as much as a struggle shown anywhere on her lovely face. It was sweet and sexy and unique and risky. It appears that someone worked with Kelly to perfect those moves because she did it without even looking nervous until afterwards when Simon embarrassingly called her a “minx”. After he said it, Simon picked up a huge cup and drank from it, thus covering his face. I have the feeling he was a tad embarrassed that he blubbered out those words to the world. He was attracted to what she did and his blood was boiling. Paula and Randy were just as shocked and in awe over what Kelly did. She won a huge fan base that night, especially by being so enthusiastic that anyone would find her appealing. Her attitude is fresh and genuine. She’ll go far in this competition.

I just have to say a few words about Brenna. Brenna has probably had to struggle since childhood to get anyone’s attention. Unfortunately she has developed into a person who craves it and tries to pull the attention to her, not naturally attract it. She needs to go to her home town and start helping other people IMMEDIATELY and remake her attitude. She’ll never sell 1 album with her current attitude. She needs to look at Tonia Harding as her guide and be willing to BECOME classy… not stay in the same place. She isn’t appealing whatsoever but she can recover if she puts herself in some humbling situations to help those less fortunate. She’ll start to be grateful and not arrogant.

Ace! Let me just say that the ONLY thing that is going against this guy is that he moved to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune. That might go against him in the last show or two when other contestants are genuinely untapped talent. He already KNOWS he has talent. He’s going for the tops. But, he DOES have the goods. He has the “look” that will send women into outer space. He’s 1000x more genuine than Constintine from last year who tried to send women into space. All he did for women who are a bit older is make them roll their eyes. Anyone who TRIES to be sexy comes off as ridiculous.

Some tips for the Top 12:
Paris – stop saying you have “favor”. That’s going to start sounding arrogant and no one knows what you’re talking about (except those people who listen to preachers talk about it). Go and have fun in your songs but please start being a bit more gracious and surprised when they compliment you.

Melissa- you’re bordering on being too raw. You’re going to have to show a different side: Smart, athletic, or classy. You’re just looking a bit too sexy and that’s going to be a turn off. Your voice is fantastic, and if you can command the stage by working on using the WHOLE stage and showing vulnerability on stage, then you’re going to show that new side and gain new fans.

Taylor – You’re awesome! Keep it up!
Katherine – Let them doll you up big time. It’s going to be fun and win you votes.

BUCKY – Get some ATTITUDE man. I’d LOVE to work with Bucky! He’s got an awesome voice but doesn’t believe it or know it. He needs to jam on it and take no prisoners. He has room to grow in this competition! Simon predicts he’s going to be gone next week I bet. But if Bucky could work on his showmanship, he’d beat Kevin and keep going. He has raw talent, good looks and can sing a tune!

Mandissa, Chris and Elliot – You’re all stars!

Lisa- You’re borderline too perfect. You better start screaming and playing it up a bit that you’re not perfect all the time. If you’re TOO poised, it’s a turn off. Get a bit rowdy on your play time and let the cameras see that. It wouldn’t hurt to show that during a song either. People need to know you can let your hair down and not be afraid to get dirty.

Kevin – Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re getting noticed as the cute boy and the “nerd” who has a voice. You’re perfect. You’re just too young to try to be act older, so you’re perfect and you’re going to get noticed. You’re not going to win, but your life has now changed. Congratulations!

So there you have it. Some have the X Factor, and some don’t. But with a few tweaks here and there, they could all have it and become memorable long after this competition is over.

Good luck to the top 12!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Minimize the Daily Struggles by Focusing on the Bigger Picture

Today was a great day. Today I saw a young woman take a giant step in her life and move toward her purpose in life. It brought tears to her eyes and she GOT it. She clearly grasps her purpose for her life. It was the huge “Ahh-HA” that she needed to get unstuck in her life and now it’s going to take action on her part to move towards that purpose.

This beautiful young woman is 28, is single, has two boys 8 & 10 and works full time. Her ex isn’t in her life and one of her boys has developmental delays. Since she had babies so young she never finished school but has worked ever since she had the kids. She’s smart, kind and a devoted mom. She’s respected at work and has a great support network of friends.

Lindsay is the type of women that men really like. She’s gorgeous, intelligent, warm and witty and very kind hearted. But Lindsay confided to me today that she often breaks off relationships when the men disappoint her in some way. She’s aware that her own insecurities and jealousies have made her push great guys away from her and she’s conscious that she might be close to doing that to her current boyfriend. He’s loving and devoted and she admitted that she is falling in love with him.

Our coaching session started out with her wanting to know how to handle her boyfriend and what to do about their future. I explained to her that if it’s been a pattern in her life then it’s more important to look at her and to build her own foundation than to focus on the externals with relationships that may or may not work. I explained to her that if she continues on the same path without changing anything, then she’ll get the same results.

I cut right to the core. I asked her “what about YOU?” What is it that YOU want? What is it that YOU have the desire to do? I explained to her that as she built her relationship with God, with herself, built her intelligence, got credentials, (physical, spiritual, and mental and emotional), then her standards would automatically rise. I explained to her that the more she grew herself, more appealing she’d become to herself that she would tolerate less bad behavior from others.

When she answered that she wanted to become a child psychologist and a behavioral specialist, her eyes welled up with tears. She said that ever since she was a child, she loved knowing kids that had challenges and intuitively understood the psychology and behavior of kids. In her job, she soaks up any information she can get her hands on that have to do with the kids she serves. She had told me that before but was continuing worrying about the day to day activities, bills and circumstances in her life which got in the way. I stated that lets not look at the obstacles yet, but let’s look at the goal and work backwards.

Her goal is to get a PHD in Psychology.
Her first step, then, is to finish her undergraduate work.
She’ll have to call the admissions directors to nearby schools and explain her situation.
She may need to get a referral to get into the school.
She’s going to need financial assistance and might need to cut back on her hours at work.
She’ll then pursue a Masters and a Doctorate.
In 10 years time or less, she’ll have a Doctorate degree and two kids who have learned more from a mommy that was dedicated to bettering herself than worrying about which man to date.

Lindsay left our session so excited. She did want to discuss the “relationship” issue again about should she or shouldn’t she tolerate some of the things she is tolerating and at that point, and because I know her so well, I quirkily responded, “blah, blah, blah, those are the types of distractions that are going to get in your way to getting what you want in life.” I encouraged her to focus again on HER, on what SHE needed to get in her life so she could be proud of the hard work she put in to accomplish a goal.

She ended with a huge smile on her face. She promised to get on the phone tomorrow to the admissions counselors and to get an appointment. She shared with me that she knew that it was her “purpose” to help others with their kids’ problems and challenges. We also discussed that she was going to “spend the time anyway, so you might as well spend it doing something useful instead of wasting it.”

Coaching Lindsay this morning was another reminder to me that there are MILLIONS of distractions in life and we have the ability to choose which ones to give time and energy to on a daily basis. We all have relationships that suck our energy, bills to pay, work to do, dishes to do, trips to take, friends to see and illnesses that slow us down, but when we identify our purpose, our mission and our vision for our life, it can act as a force within us, to open the doors to the path of our future. The hard work that we put in every day towards our goal adds up overtime to accomplishing our goal. When we accomplish our goal, our self esteem rises and opportunities find us.

The road to finding our mission in life is sometimes a rocky road but its well worth it. It is by taking responsibility for our OWN life that we grow up emotionally and can be used in the world to serve others. By keeping our big goal in mind, and our purpose in our heart, we can give less importance to the daily struggles that find us. When we’re able to find and use our gift, we grow. It is by serving others with our gift that we build our self esteem. And when we are serving others at full throttle and fulfilling our destiny, our lives matter deeply.

The challenge is to find that passion, joy and connection in the world. Our challenge is to find the reason why God created us with the certain talents, joys, concerns, beliefs and dreams. When we discover that, we have discovered a meaningful life!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

If your kids are watching commercials they may be learning bad manners!

I recently saw a national commercial with a family passing the (very well known) butter to each other at the dinner table. I was shocked to see the ad feature a family who each wanted to spread the butter on their bread and they asked to have someone else pass the butter by saying just that: “Pass the butter”. It happened more than once during the commercial and it sounded just as grotesque to me the second time as it did the first!

What I want to know is which advertiser is responsible for putting something so coarse and so rude on the air! Didn’t your mother teach you always to say please? At least when you pass the “Grey Poupon” you’re saying it with style!

Manners in our society have been dwindling for the past several years. People live in a constant state of rush so the little things like manners get tossed out the window. It’s such a shame too, because if you ask any executive what is the number one thing that makes a person successful, I guarantee that they won’t say, his or her intelligence. They’ll talk about team work, and the ability of getting along with others. They’ll talk about how nice the person is, and how likable.

So moms, when your kids are running out the door now in a hurry, one of the greatest gifts that you can give them is to demand that they be polite. Make them say their “pleases and thank you’s”. They may get annoyed at you now, but they’ll be thanking you 5-10 years from now when they have to be in the work force and they feel like a fish out of water. Even if they have no clue what to do, if they are nice, and polite, others will take them under their wing and help them out.

So people, let’s practice our manners at home, so when we’re out interacting with each other, we don’t end up sounding like we’re on a bad butter commercial!

The Miracle Cure for Wearing Clothes & Shoes for a Finicky Kid

My son Jeremy will almost be six years old next week. For the first 5 ¾ years of his life, putting his shoes and socks and clothes on was a struggle. It isn’t anymore. We’ve come across a miracle cure!!!

Jeremy was diagnosed this past year with Sensory Integration Disorder. He started having problems in school and so we were referred to a place called Lifeskills, in Winter Park, FL. They work with many kids with challenges and specialize in Sensory issues.

The problems we encountered at home were on a daily basis. Getting him out of bed was a struggle, finding the right breakfast and ultimately, we dreaded getting him dressed every day. Socks and shoes were constantly being pulled off and tossed. Clothes were never soft enough and the tags all had to go. I spent hundreds of dollars finding clothes and shoes that he’d keep on his body. Once, Jeremy struggled so hard with pulling off his coat, he slipped and fell, and bumped his head on a chair. That little incident cost him 15 stitches in his head.

When we entered therapy we outlined the laundry list of issues Jeremy had. The big one for us was getting him dressed. Once the therapist gave us the occupational therapy brush and showed us how to brush his arms and legs up and down and his feet, and then to do joint compressions. This brushing is actually a deep pressure massage with a surgical brush and is followed by joint compressions. An occupational therapist can train you once and you’ll use it at home. (You can find an OT by going through the school counselor or through your family doctor). It was only 2 -3 of days of brushing Jeremy a few times a day before Jeremy was able to adjust quickly to his shoes when we put them on in the morning.

It’s been like a miracle! Jeremy can now wear clothes and will put on socks and keep them there! He still prefers silky clothes like football jersey’s but he will put on socks now and not scream and cry. Before we learned of this type of massage it must have felt like he was putting a wool sweater on during the middle of August.

Learning this technique and others at occupational therapy has been a God send in our lives. We used to dread every morning getting Jeremy up and ready for school. We were late nearly every day depending upon what clothes I could find that would feel comfortable.

Now, Jeremy dresses himself on most days and our greatest concern is what to make him for breakfast. We still struggle occasionally getting him out of bed, but from what I understand, THAT could be a struggle well into his teen years. And as long as we don’t to dress him then, I think we’ll be fine with that!