Using Stories to Persuade Reply

By Chris Simmons

Storytelling influences another’s feelings or emotions by allowing a person to identify with a character in a similar situation. Even if the narrative is exaggerated or abstract, the listener understands that he/she is not the first person to have undergone a particular scenario. The storyline reassures him/her that the stress, anxiety, doubt, and other feelings they are experiencing are not unique – others in their situation have felt the same emotions. The teaching point is that others have shared the individual’s dilemma and undertaken a specific action(s) with demonstrable results. By using a story to deliver this lesson, the core truth is more easily remembered because of the listener’s emotional involvement.

In sum, a storyline is a highly effective communicative tool to gently guide the behavior of others. In addition to their inspirational role, stories can fulfill a very practical function – that is, to help get the truth from someone suspected of wrongful behavior. In this setting, the use of a parable can allow the guilty party to admit to an act and save face at the same time. However, the listener’s fear of a bad outcome requires the storyteller to have established solid rapport for the “confessional story” appeal to have any chance of success.

A Love That Transcends Death: Brenda Schmitz’s Christmas Wish Reply

In September 2011, Brenda Schmitz – a wife and mother of four – died from ovarian cancer. She learned of her “Stage 4” diagnosis in January.

Weeks before she died, however, she wrote a letter to a local radio station with a request for their “Christmas Wish” program. She then gave the letter to a close friend with instructions that it not be mailed until her widowed husband had fallen in love again. Recently, the radio station received Brenda’s letter – the above video tells the rest of the story.

Why Rate Your Marriage? A Numerical Score Can Help Couples Talk About Problems Reply

Therapists Say They Learn a Lot When Couples Commit to Numbers in Areas Like Trust, Teamwork, Physical Intimacy

By Elizabeth Bernstein, Wall Street Journal, Bonds@wsj.com

When marriage therapist Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill met with new clients recently, she asked them why they were seeking therapy. The couple told her they’d spent years arguing over finances and recently had their worst-ever blowup. The husband complained about how much money his wife was spending; the wife said her husband was controlling. They hadn’t slept in the same room for months.

Ms. O’Neill, whose practice is in Mount Kisco, N.Y., then asked the question she often poses in a couple’s first session of marriage therapy: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you each rate your marriage?”

The spouses’ answers? “7.5” and “almost an 8.”

“Whoa,” Ms. O’Neill remembers thinking. “What they are saying doesn’t match those numbers.” She would have given their marriage a 4, she says. “Those scores are very telling.”

How would you rate your relationship?

QUIZ: Rate Your Marriage

Researchers often rely on rate-your-relationship questionnaires in studies of why some marriages last while others crumble. Therapists say couples can benefit from occasionally using these tools to step back and get a clinical view of behaviors, healthy and unhealthy, in their relationship. The rating process can help start a discussion, clarify strengths and weaknesses and, hopefully, lead to marital growth.

“Rating helps you be honest with the reality of what you are feeling,” says Karen Ruskin, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Sharon, Mass. “And the only way to fix something is to first know what the problem is.” Some experts, rather than assign one overall number to a relationship, encourage couples to examine and rate a number of aspects of the marriage that researchers and clinicians agree are most important.

Clinicians say they learn an enormous amount of information by asking a couple to rate their relationship—including the spouses’ individual perceptions about the level of crisis they have reached, and their willingness to be honest. It is helpful to see which partner states the number first: Often, it is the person who is angrier. The order in which a couple presents their problems suggests the order in which the problems should be addressed, like a road map. “That’s worth six months of therapy right there,” says Paul Hokemeyer, a licensed marriage and family therapist in New York and Boca Raton, Fla.

Attaching hard numbers to the most important relationship in your life comes with some risk, of course. It can be sobering to actually quantify which areas aren’t working well. “You can’t hedge a number,” Dr. Hokemeyer says.

But for couples seeking help for a troubled relationship, a rating serves as a baseline, Dr. Hokemeyer says, a point from which to move upward.

Story continues here: Why Rate Your Marriage?

The Power of a Single Clarifying Question Reply

By Chris Simmons

As the name implies, a clarifying question is a follow-on inquiry that seeks to expand upon a previously discussed topic. Often, this approach strings together these questions in a continuously narrow focus to move the discussion closer to the truth. However, in certain scenarios, you can get to the truth with a single question.

Known as a “conditional” clarifying question, the only requirement is that your counterpart has already agreed with you on a subject. This technique is intended to determine whether their agreement was sincere or simply a polite brush-off.

Multiple examples come to mind:

Your freshman daughter is back for her first weekend at home since starting college. Like any parent, you ask “So, is college everything you hoped it would be?” She answers with “Yeah, its pretty good.”

As you prepare to go out on the town, you ask your roommate “Does this outfit look okay?” She answers “Yes, it looks fine.”

At work, you pitch a colleague on the concept for a new computer app. After summation, you ask: “So what did you think?” and she replies “I like it – it’s great!”

Having received conditional agreement on your original question, the key to success with this tactic is to immediately ask a precise follow-up question that requires critical thinking on their part. For example, in scenario #1, a good follow-up would be “What would it take for you to be really excited about college?” In the second scenario, you might ask “What one thing could I do to really jazz up this outfit?” Likewise, in the workplace situation, you could follow with “What would you suggest I do to improve the concept?” In every situation, you intentionally asked for a form of soft criticism. And since you asked so directly, a person tends to offer a sincere and objective critique.

Where most people fail in this approach is not immediately soliciting feedback. Instead, they let their emotions get in the way, which kills any chance of honest feedback. Returning to the college scenario, let’s assume you follow your daughter’s response of college is “fine” with comments like “Oh, I am so relieved. I was so worried you might be homesick, have roommate problems, not like the school’s vibe, or whatever.” Your emotional outburst has effectively negated any hope of honest feedback. Knowing that you are emotionally invested, your daughter is unlikely to say anything that would hurt your feelings. You’d see similar avoidance by your roommate and work colleague.

For a conditional clarifying question to work, you absolutely must keep your emotions under control and ask a focused follow-up. If you receive the soft criticism/recommendation, their original agreement was sincere. However, if they respond by saying no improvements are needed, you’ve received a polite brush off. Let it go and move on.

Are You Carrying Emotional Baggage from One Relationship to Another? Reply

The past has no power to stop you from being present now. Only your grievance about the past can do that. What is grievance? The baggage of old thought and emotion.  ~Lao Tzu

Are you carrying emotional baggage from one relationship to another? Just like schlepping an overstuffed Samsonite, it will cost you, make your journey more difficult, and could prevent you from making a successful connection!

Relationships are a bit of a dance, and in order to remain light on our feet, we need to shed the dead weight of the issues that continue to plague us. The tango is a dance in which two people either move together in the same direction or in opposition to each other. Perhaps this is why the phrase ‘it takes two to tango’ is so often used when referring to relationships.

While it does take two to make or break a relationship, we need to hold ourselves accountable for our responsibility as it relates to its success, or its collapse. As we all know, to keep a long-term relationship moving forward takes much effort. If it ends, and we don’t look deeply into our actions or inactions that played a role in the demise, then we are simply setting ourselves up for another relationship with an expiration date.

Be honest with yourself.

Do you have trouble communicating?

If so, then ask yourself: Is it easier to get divorced than it is to make the effort to listen to her, to show her attention so she feels you ‘get’ her and that she is a priority?

Are you emotionally unavailable?

If so, then ask yourself: Would you rather be alone than experience an emotionally strong connection because it’s built on vulnerability?

Are you a workaholic?

If so, then ask yourself: Would you rather end the relationship than work a little less so you have enough energy to provide him with the intimacy he requires to feel connected?

Do you make excuses (you call them reasons) for not being where you want to be in your life?

If so, then ask yourself: Would you rather stay single than step up and do what it takes to improve your lifestyle?

I’ve heard people say, “I’d have to change who I am, and I’m not willing to do that.”

I ask, is changing your behavior the same as changing who you are? Is making an effort to show you care, changing your personality? Granted, if you enjoy working on cars, you won’t be happy in a three-piece suit… but that’s not the same as being willing to learn the tools that will help you change and grow. These tools could very well prevent you from going to the pit for a tire change every few laps around the track!

We will keep getting the same results if we keep doing the same things! (Yes, also known as insanity). Hard as we try to ignore them, the lessons we are supposed to learn in this life will continue to boomerang right back in our face until we come face to face with them. This applies to many areas of our lives including our work, weight, familial or intimate relationships.

Our issues will follow us from relationship to relationship and will not go away until you tackle them head on!

Some possible demons to consider:

How to “Weed Out” The Roots of Jealousy Reply

By Chris Simmons

Academics continued to debate whether jealousy is triggered by low self-esteem or low self-worth. I believe it’s a distinction without a difference.

Jealousy is – at its core – an identity issue. Let’s assume your spouse or significant other is friendly, attractive, charismatic, self-confident, and a gifted athlete. However, he is very sensitive to money issues, as he plays professional lacrosse — a sport where the salaries and financial rewards are poor. Now imagine the two of you are at a friend’s party. Since he is a rich entrepreneur, the affluence of the host or fellow party-goers  could trigger a jealous bout.

In your beloved’s mind, his identity is tied, in part, to his ability to earn a good income. Despite his other blessings, he is insecure about this facet of his identity. This feeling may be further complicated by the human tendency to “mirror image” – that is, he may take his focus on the need for a good income and superimpose that belief on you. In doing so, this further fuels jealous feelings.

All identity issues are rooted in our emotions. As such, his negative feelings are best counteracted by de-emphasizing the importance of his current income. Don’t go “off message” by complimenting him on his athleticism, appearance, etc. – those aren’t the jealousy triggers. Instead, you could simply reassure him that it’s more important to you that you both pursue your passions rather than sell out for a well-paying but soul-killing job. Remind him that together you share a nice income and incredible jobs. Life could not be any better.

Regardless of whether the root cause of the jealousy is low self-esteem, little self-worth, or envy, tread lightly on their emotions. Be empathetic rather than sympathetic and most importantly; be absolutely sincere in diminishing the perceived importance of the “jealousy trigger.”  If they doubt your message, you could inadvertently leave them worse off than when you started.

Caring or Controlling? The Truth Behind Handshakes Reply

A limp handshake is widely seen as a sign of insecurity, just as a firm handclasp is assumed to express confidence. But there are numerous other types of handshakes, all with very distinct meanings. These include:

  1. The Palm-Down:  In this scenario, an individual either offers his hand with the palm facing down or initiates a handshake normally before twisting his hand so he is on top. This is an aggressive gesture is intended to convey that they will be in control of the forthcoming discussion/negotiation.
  2. The Glove:  The meaning behind clasping someone’s hand with both of your hands varies significantly based on the connection between the two individuals. If the two parties already had an existing relationship, “The Glove,” done sincerely, is an expression of kindness or sympathy. However, if no prior connection existed, this gesture is a power play masquerading as empathy.
  3.  The Double Glove:  In this forceful response to “The Glove,”  the original victim uses his free hand to envelop the offending party’s outside hand. It is a very clear message that you are one to be reckoned with.
  4.  The Catch-And-Release:  A quick grasp and release is a dismissive gesture. This individual has no interest in you or your needs. Protect yourself by allowing this person to say what he/she feels they must say, thank them for their input, and then excuse yourself to attend to an unspecified urgent matter.
  5. The Arm Grab: This is a more refined form of “The Glove” wherein one party takes their free hand and touches or takes hold of the other person’s forearm, elbow, bicep, or shoulder. In an existing relationship – especially paternal ones — this can be a very genuine display of compassion and support. However, this gesture is often “hijacked” by unconnected others so they may appear caring and sincere when they are actually conveying their control over the other party. The higher they place their free hand on your arm, the more aggressive and controlling the intent. Additionally, politicians further distort this gesture by using the “bicep/shoulder grab” as a blocking gesture to ensure they are not caught in an unexpected or embarrassing hug.