Posts Tagged ‘Communication’

Happy 2015 Valentine’s Day

January 29, 2015

Turtles in love

Hello Friends,

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Yes, once again it is that day of the year when we honour our partners and try and experience them as the lovers we fell in love with.

I know there is too much pressure put on this day. It seems as though the authentic romance we want to feel gets lost in the materialistic Hallmark day it has become. Have no fear…put the meaning back in by keeping things simple. Somehow simplicity can help to make it more memorable.

Here are some ideas for those of you who need inspiration:

  • Give your partner a love poem (you don’t even have to write it!)
  • Make a nice dinner at home and eat by candlelight on the floor
  • Just spend the evening in candlelight!
  • Go for a walk in the day and stop somewhere new for a coffee and surprise your lover with special chocolates with the coffee
  • Stay in bed together longer than usual in the morning!
  • FLIRT with your lover all day!
  • Give your lover a massage

Whatever you do, be loving, kind and have some fun because otherwise what’s the point?

Dare ya – You can use our ideas but we dare you to come up with your own unique idea for that special someone!  Spread the love around!

Love on V Day,

Ourselves / Our Gratitude / Our Challenge

April 2, 2012

Last week I went for a walk with a friend. It was one of those Vancouver days, after weeks of rain the sun was shining, fresh snow on the mountains, the ocean was glistening. It seemed like a perfect morning to relish in our beautiful city and appreciate the time we had together since we don’t see each other enough.

I hadn’t seen my friend for quite a while so we spent some time catching up on our lives our kids our latest news, it was all good. Then we began talking about a dear friend of hers who is terminally ill. I know of this person and I realized this is the 5th person in the past 2 weeks that I have heard about who is very ill.

It is a very strange phenomenon when we hear about another’s suffering, we tend to pause and take stock of our own life. We usually feel a surge of gratitude about our lives.

It is strange to have conversations about people we know of who are very sick or challenged by something because it activates our deep fears and leads us to thinking about ourselves. This is when we tend to acknowledge our own lives and our desire to be more grateful for what we have. For many of us, the desire to be more grateful about our own life seems so profound in the moment but then it is difficult to hold onto because daily life struggles take over. We get caught up in our own stuff, stress, irritants and the profound moments of gratitude slip away. We want to hold on to those profound moments, we really do but it is so hard.

This is true in our relationships too. While we have times when we are grateful for our partners, our children our parents we often forget about what is really important and let the negatives dominate.

Our challenge of course is to allow the feeling of gratitude and what we have with our partner and our families dominate. We need to allow our focus on what is right in our lives to take up more space and stop letting what isn’t right take up so much of our energy.

We all know that negative thinking leads to just one thing, more negative thinking. Yet we can’t help ourselves, that’s what we do and where we go. What’s not going right, what bugs us, what we want to be different that’s what we spend too much time on.

I am going to propose an idea.

Instead of waiting until we hear about someone we know is ill, or that something sad is happening to someone we know, why not try to be MORE grateful about what our life is really about…everyday.

How do we do this? Actually it is very simple, just not easy! Such is the stuff of life though…

Dare ya –

For the next 2 weeks at the end of every day think about what you can be grateful for related to people in your inner circle. Whether this be your partner, child, parent, other family member or friend make sure you communicate to them what you feel grateful for about having them in your life.

Just say “What I appreciate about you is…” or “One reason I am grateful to have you in my life is…” or “One thing you have taught me that I really appreciate is…” Do this EVERDAY, that is the trick! Be proactive and you can live your life without regret.

Yours truly,


P.S. After I wrote this I just saw the film Jeff, Who Lives At Home. What a delightful, wonderful film and if you see it and know I wrote this before I saw it wow, things happen for a reason, destiny, synchronicity, mepoem (mysteriousexquisiteprecisionofeverymoment) whatever you call it, I think it is way cool! Loved that film!


Ten Steps to Happiness

September 13, 2011

Helen LaKelly Hunt and Harville Hendrix  were in new Zealand in February 2011 and the local paper  (New Zealand Herald)  interviewed them…

According to relationship expert Harville Hendrix a  few tips to ensure a lasting, happy relationship, are to: accept differences, not criticize and give and receive unconditionally.

The man whose been dubbed “Oprah’s Marriage Whisperer” says, “We all want a happy relationship. Few of us have one. I personally know of only a few couples who are genuinely happy, and their satisfaction with their relationship is a result of many years of hard work.”

“That is the magic word: work. That is what a happy relationship requires, but it is a very unpopular word.”

Harville Hendrix and his wife Helen LaKelly Hunt have developed 10 simple steps for couples to help in the journey to a relationship of their dreams. The pair has spent the past 30 years helping thousands of couples learn how to recapture that magical connection and strengthen and sustain it for a lasting and loving relationship. In the process they co-created Imago Relationship Therapy, which is practiced by more than 2000 therapists in 30 countries.

Imago first came to public attention through the New York Times best seller, Getting the Love You Want, co-written by Hendrix and his wife LaKelly Hunt (a famous philanthropist in her own right).


Absolutely no criticism! All criticism, even “constructive criticism” not only fails to get us what we want but it’s a form of self-abuse since the traits we criticize in our partners are often projections of unpleasant truths about ourselves.

Instead of criticizing, explore why a particular trait in your partner bothers you so much. For example, perhaps him wanting “too much sex” is really about your own sexual inhibitions.

Accept that your partner is not you  We all understand – at least on the surface – that our partner is a separate human being. But deep down we often see and treat him/her as extensions of ourselves. Practice seeing and accepting your partner as someone with different perceptions, feelings, and experiences that are equally valid as your own.

Close all exits  Identify activities that you engage in that become an escape from the day-to-day intimacy of the partnership (any activity, thought, or feeling that decreases or avoids emotional or physical involvement with your partner). Exits can be functional (car-pooling, work, taking care of kids), motivated (watching TV, reading, sports, hobbies), and/or catastrophic (emotional or physical affairs, addictions). All exits, however, deplete the emotional reserves in a partnership.

Use “I” language Own your experience by saying how you feel rather than blaming your partner. For example, “I feel bad when …” rather than “You make me feel bad when …”

Give and receive unconditionally Offer gifts with no strings attached. The unconscious receives only unconditional gifts. It does not accept a “you rub my back and I’ll rub yours” attitude. Similarly, learn to accept gifts. Often we feel unworthy of receiving compliments from our partner and reject it. Instead of saying, “You don’t really mean that I’m beautiful/handsome/smart,” say “Thank you. It means a lot to me that you feel that way.”


Put play on your priority list Make a list of high-energy activities you would like to do for fun with your partner. Write down as many ideas as you can think of that you are currently doing, that you did in the early stages of your relationship and activities you would like to engage in. They should be activities that create deep laughter and/or that involve physical movement and deep breathing. Make a commitment to enjoy a playful activity at least once a week.

Amplify the positive resources in your relationship Flood your partner with compliments. On a regular basis, tell your partner what you love about him or her. Talk about his/her physical characteristics (“I love your eyes”), character traits (“You are really intelligent”), behaviours (“I love that you make coffee every morning for me”), global affirmations (“I am so happy I married you”).

Learn couple’s dialogue The most important and challenging step to becoming a conscious partner is changing the way you communicate. Imago Dialogue uses three basic techniques – mirroring, validating, and empathizing – to fortify the connection between partners. Check to make sure you understand what your partner is saying (mirroring), indicate that what your partner says makes sense, even if you don’t agree (validating) and recognize the partner’s feelings when s/he tells a story or expresses an opinion (empathizing).

Make dialogue a way of life Dialogue will not only improve the way you communicate with your partner, it will improve the relations with your children, and with everyone you come in contact with. Practice dialogue until it becomes a habit and a way of life.

See your relationship as a journey A committed partnership can become someone’s worst nightmare, but through intentionality and commitment, a marriage can also be a spiritual journey. If you married because you chose to marry, you are with the right person – especially if you feel incompatible. See your partner as the person who holds the blueprint for your journey to wholeness.

“I Know What You’re Thinking”

November 15, 2010

OK, my friends, let’s be real for a moment.

Have you ever said to your partner, “I know what you’re thinking”, and then proceeded to tell your partner, only your partner says, “No that’s not it.” Then you say,  “Yes, it is.” Your partner says, “No it’s not.”  Then you have a disagreement about what you think they think?

Admit it, we’ve all done it. I’ve done it. You probably have done it and we will all probably do it again. It’s crazy-making.

I think it always starts with non-verbal behaviour. Think about your own non-verbal communication with your partner. Here is a quick review of how it shows up in relationships. Identify what you do on the list.

Flickr / Pink Sherbet Photography

Review your non-verbal behaviour

Eye contact – When you look at your partner do you really look or avoid eye contact? Do you hold their gaze and feel connected when you look at your partner?

Facial Expression – What is YOUR face showing? Are you expressive and emotionally present? Do you smile? Are you expressionless or show disapproval in your face? What does your partner see when they look at your face at different times? How does your face look when you are thoughtful, scared, upset, interested? Do you ever roll your eyes at them and make a face if you disagree? Do you yawn when they are telling you something important? What are your raised eyebrows saying? Facial expressions are key to how the “I know what you’re thinking” scenario starts.

Tone of Voice – What does your voice project? Does your tone tell your partner you are present, non-judgmental, interested, delighted, curious, compassionate or quite the opposite? This is also KEY to the “I know what you’re thinking” scenario.

Posture and Gestures – What does your body look like when you are communicating with your partner? Relaxed or tense, open or closed, warm or cold? Do you nod your head to show you are listening or nod in a different direction to show you are not listening and disagree? Are your hand/arm motions inviting or threatening to your partner? When your partner is talking do you ever keep watching TV, reading, walk out of the room?

Touch – How do you touch your partner? Is that how THEY like to be touched?

Sounds – Do you use sounds to show you are attending to your partner like “Mmm, hmm” in a gentle soft manner or the opposite? The opposite includes sighing in an irritated manner.

Timing and pace – Do you give your partner time to respond and to talk or do you interrupt or even finish your partner’s sentences?

These aspects of how you communicate non-verbally are probably the most important determinants of how any interaction with you partner will go. What’s exciting is that you control this and can change if you want to. That is why in Imago we say YOU can be a container of safety for your partner…or not – it’s a choice.

Communication is more than the words you say

Couples tell me all the time that the main problem in their relationships is that they can’t communicate. They generally believe that if they could just learn how to talk to their partners and more specifically how their partners should talk to them, their problems would be solved. I must say, in all due respect, they are wrong. What couples need to learn is how to work on their non-verbal communication. Couples need to learn about everything that is NOT about talking but about non-verbal connecting. This is where the real work lies.

Did you know that when we hear a message only about 7% of what’s important is the words we are saying. In fact 38% is about vocal aspects of communication (volume, tone, rhythm, pitch; not the actual words) and a further 55% is our body movements, primarily our facial expressions. Isn’t that astounding? To realize our words don’t really matter but how we communicate them is what gets processed and interpreted by the brain. Research in the field of non-verbal communication shows some parts of our faces are more revealing than others. For example, our eyes can communicate happiness, sadness or surprise. Our mouth and lips say a lot too. The most positively powerful facial expression is a smile. This is, by the way, a cross-cultural phenomenon.

Flickr / Felix Francis

What does this mean for relationships?

Well it means we make up stories about our partners based on their non-verbal behaviours. Then we usually decide that we are right about what we have just made up and that we know “What They are Thinking”  all by interpreting what they are NOT saying. What’s interesting is that our partners may not even be aware of what their non-verbal behaviour is communicating.

Here’s a case in point. For a long time my partner thought that when I made this certain look and wrinkled my forehead in a certain way I was angry. After years of believing this, and her withdrawing because she wanted to avoid my anger, we realized it.  That wrinkle in my brow was something I was doing unconscionably when I was really concentrating on what she was saying. I was not angry. But of course when she withdrew thinking I was angry when I was not, I got really angry because she was withdrawing! Guess what, this only reinforced her interpretation. We could have saved a lot of mis-communications if we had only realized this much earlier by just sitting down and checking it out,  but you live and learn!

Note to self…

By the way, sometimes our thoughts about our partner’s non-verbal communication and their thoughts about ours are correct. Problem is, when we react instead of dialoguing about our perceptions, things usually DO NOT go well.

Note to self, remember to check out my  perceptions and assumptions and then be prepared to HEAR the answer and ACCEPT it.

Here are some perfectly positive non-verbals that I guarantee will help your relationship…

Dare Ya-

When your partner comes home, go to them, greet them with a warm hug and sit down with them and listen to how their day was without distractions, just say “mmm”, “wow,” “tell me more.”

Make a conscious effort to reach out and touch your partner more in the way they like. When your partner touches you, touch them back.

Next time you are out with your partner with friends, catch their gaze and wink at them! (This is one of the best!)

Let your finger gently drift across your partner’s cheek when you are standing close to them.

Squeeze your partner’s hand next time you are in public to connect with them.

Smile at your partner and hold their gaze with your eyes for a little longer than usual!

Have fun and if this scares you, good. I never promised it was easy!

Yours truly,


September 13, 2010

Many of us have had a mentor… someone who has helped shape who we are and helped us to realize our full potential. For Maureen and I, one of our greatest mentors has been Hedy Schleifer, a brilliant couples therapist and teacher to many worldwide.

We invite you to experience Hedy by watching the clip below. In this lecture, taped in Tel Aviv in April 2010, she sums of 35-years of working with couples by saying that the key point we all need to remember is to cross the bridge over the space between us so that we can fully encounter one another. ENJOY!!!!

One of these things is not like the other!

April 28, 2010

Flickr / bazylek100

Consider 2 words…Discussion and Dialogue

Most of us think these two words have similar meanings. In fact, this could not be further from the truth.

Dialogue comes from the Greek word dialogus which loosely translates to “the meaning” and “through”, which could be understood as the meaning through… Think about this, the “meaning through”…listening…understanding…even loving.

Discussion comes from the same root as percussion and concussion which means to break things up, to throw things and to shatter. Hmmmmm – Interesting isn’t it?

When we ask our partner for a dialogue we are inviting them to engage in a process of understanding and sharing with them. It is meant to be a time when we actually cross over to each other’s world to reach a new understanding through creating a new meaning. Cool!

Discussion is quite different…. When we enter into a discussion we are in a ping-pong match of back and forth trying to win. We employ the “reload and shoot” technique, desperate to be right and upping the ante at every turn.

Flickr / shadowgate

I recently was working with a couple who reported they had a terrible week.

“What happened?” I asked.

They told me they fought all week and hadn’t spoken for 3 days.

“That sounds awful,” I said. “Did you ask for a dialogue, did you try to mirror each other?”

“No” they said. “We talked about it but we thought it would take too long. So we just started to discuss the issue. Then we started to fight and then we kept arguing until finally we stopped talking.”

At this point, we all laughed at the ridiculousness of what they did. But, we’ve all done it and we will all do it!  We need to be right. To win. To convince and discuss. Even if it doesn’t work, we still do it!

Lots of times we would rather be right than be in a relationship!

Here’s a ditty I just came up with:

Have a fight,
Have a dialogue,
Show your might,
And why you’re right.

Know you’re not and make yourself stop.
If you do I promise you, life will rock and maybe even feel hot.
In fact you’ll stop feeling numb and maybe even get some…. tonight!

Dare ya –

Write a love poem to your love that’s better than mine! Ok, some dares are harder than others!!



April 13, 2010
Flickr / D Sharon Pruitt

Flickr / D Sharon Pruitt

A client who recently attended a Getting the Love You Want workshop with her husband shared something enlightening with me last week. She has given me permission to write about it since I found it so fascinating.

Since they attended the workshop and started learning the Imago communication skills, she has begun talking to her husband about many things she wouldn’t have previously.

“Tell me more” I said curiously!

She told me that when she and her husband came to the workshop their relationship was, as Maureen would say, in bad, bad, shape. There was little communication between them and they weren’t even sleeping in the same bed. Because she is a very social person, with lots of friends, she tended to tell her friends her deepest thoughts, daily anxieties and general news of the day. Over the past few months her husband was the last person to hear about anything she had to say.

This is all changing now and she is finding this completely weird!

Flickr / D Sharon Pruitt

She started to notice things were different when she told her friends about the weekend workshop itself. She and her husband, like most couples, found it to be completely transformative and inspiring. Her friends were anxious to hear about it, as they had been hearing about many of her marital difficulties for some time. Her biggest take away from the workshop was learning about herself and how she had been contributing to the state of her relationship. This was a new language to her friends. Up until this point they had only been hearing about the complaints she had about her husband and never about her own role.

So, she had a conversation about this with her husband. They actually dialogued and they continued to have an even better week! A new language was being practiced.

She began to have epiphanies almost daily; about dialogues and new “sender” topics; visiting her husband’s world and learning his language; stretching to meet each other’s needs; seeing frustrations as offering golden opportunities for learning and growth; healing past and present ruptures and the list kept going.

The only problem was when her friends couldn’t decipher this new lingo and had no idea what she was talking about.  The only one who did was guess who? Her beloved of over 25 years!

He was interested in what she had to say. He was even thinking about some of these things on his own. He wanted to talk to her as well. She became more aware of how her friends had become her “exit” (more lingo).

So there you have it: new language and new world and same old relationship.  How amazing is that?

Flickr / sharad 2007

By the way, just an aside, you may wonder why in last weeks post there is a beautiful shot of the North Shore Mountains…It’s because I forgot to mention that is the view from our new office. That’s amazing too!

Dare ya –

Just go to your partner, look them straight in the eye and say, ”You are amazing”… Then see what happens!

Yours truly,


Don’t Play Games at the Games

March 2, 2010

iwona kellie / Flickr

Well by the time you read this the 2010 Olympic Winter Games will have just ended and we will be taking stock of how they impacted us, our city and our little corner of the world.

Regardless of whether you were for or against the Olympics, stayed in Vancouver or left town, felt joyful or disgusted by them, I propose we all sit back and take stock of what games mean to us, and how we play them – often capturing Gold medals of our very own.

Let’s get real, most of us play games. And the games we play we are really good at, maybe even the best in our discipline.

The events include being passive and aggressive, just aggressive, just passive, distant and withdrawn, or just plain difficult to be around.

Why do we do this? It’s not for a medal. Last time I checked the medals were nowhere as breathtaking as the ones Corrine Hunt and Omer Arbel designed for 2010 (if you haven’t checked these out you must, they are the definition of stunning).

Oh no, the medals most of us win come wrapped in a big fat discouraging box of blame and criticism.

But why you might ask? So glad you asked! Here’s what I think…..

I think we are creatures that are dominated by two things: Our feelings, especially hurt feelings, and even more, really hurt feelings. And the other thing is that we always want to be the ONE. You know what I mean, the ONE to be right, adored, supported, the list goes on. Problem is, our partner wants the same thing too!!

Herein lies the problem, both people want to be the ONE. Let the games begin.

It’s the same old story: the silent treatment; pretending everything is ok when it’s not; pretending to listen when clearly there is no listening happening; being polite yet seething with anger. There are lots more events at these games but I’m sure you get the picture.

When I play games the way I know, I’m not being totally honest with myself or my partner and I start having a lot of conversations in my head. When I do this, what I am really doing is making up stories which likely aren’t true. If I’m aiming for a gold medal, I am not going to give away my strategy, which basically means not being honest about what is going on.

adrian 8_8 / Flickr

Is this making any sense? I hope you can relate because it’s very difficult to be in a relationship and not play games. It’s how we protect ourselves from being hurt.

Recently, I learned a unique way that one couple has been turning this around…

I’ve been working with this couple for awhile now. They attended a “Getting the Love You Want” workshop last year and were doing quite well. Alas, after a time, they found themselves replaying their old dynamic. This is often the case for many of us.  They became discouraged and resorted to silence, distance and lots of reactivity. Quite by chance they began emailing each other to communicate their feelings and perspectives. Sometimes it is just too hard for folks to dialogue when the limbic system is highly activated. At these times, more distance and time are needed. Their emails became more frequent and they began understanding, even validating, each other through email. The tensions have settled and they have turned a positive corner.

This has got me thinking.

What a brilliant strategy this couple has found. They are beginning to change the games they’ve been playing for a long time. Taking time to calm the limbic brain, being intentional about what is being said and finding a way to validate your partner is key to any dialogue process. Emailing each other has seemed to lessen their reactions and now dialoging is easier for them. I believe it’s a bridge that helps you arrive at the next place (something Lawrence talks about in the workshop).

There are many different kinds of bridges. At this time, and for this couple, email is one of them. I like it!

Dare ya –

Think about your games. What are you really good at playing in your relationship? Identify it. Admit it at least to yourself and if you can, admit it to your partner. If not, make it a goal for the future. What’s really important is to CHANGE the way you are playing your game. Just do something different and see what happens!


-Keep it positive and be sweet, kind and loving.

-Your partner is not a bad person; he/she is trying to survive just like you.

-What you might see is really covering up deeper held feelings your partner can’t express.

-Mirror. It changes everything.