#12 Argue Effectively

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.


Argue Effectively

In January, I dedicated a post to ‘Stop Arguing’ but in a relationship, the idea that you may never argue is too idealistic. When you live with someone, you’re bound to run into conflict and the solution isn’t to avoid the confrontation, but to approach it effectively.

The following eight suggestions – when followed – will allow disagreements to be addressed with respect and maturity.

  1. Use “I” statements only. Explain your position, your role in the conflict, and your expectations. Identify your triggers, explain your needs, and describe how you will work to bridge the gap in the conflict. Concentrate on your perspective here and work hard not to engage in finger pointing or blaming.
  2. Step back from your ego. In supportive partnerships, it is important to embrace our differences with respect and develop acceptance for the ways that our partners are different. There are mostly differences between us – not always rights and wrongs. If you feel you need to fight for being ‘right’ about something, ask yourself “why?” If it is only ego based, drop it.
  3. Be present.  Don’t focus on the past (unless you are reflecting for the lesson it is teaching you) – or worry about the future.  Try and stay right there in the present moment and what is happening there. Don’t allow your baggage to overwhelm the issue at hand.
  4. Pay attention to the issue. Try to understand why it is important to or distracting you. Is is a failed expectation? Something you didn’t know? Are you defensive? Why? Exactly what are you feeling and why?
  5. Don’t interrupt your partner. You can’t be a good listener if you aren’t allowing their complete thought to be articulated or expressed.
  6. Make sure you understand what you are hearing. If necessary, restate what you hear – paraphrase it – based on your understanding so that you get on the same page.
  7. Remember that most of us have good intentions. Try not to jump right to the conclusion that your partner is being an ass. Consider that they are experiencing frustration and give them space to talk about how they feel.
  8. Do not raise your voice or walk out. If you need a break from the conflict – honor that it remains unsolved and ask for a time out. Don’t threaten. People who feel attacked or threatened will get defensive almost immediately. Once that happens, the discussion is doomed.

Communicating with respect is probably the most critical aspect of a healthy relationship. Remembering that we each come into a relationship with different experiences, worldviews, expectations, and methods will go a long way. Resolving conflict is more easily accomplished when you know how to …

Argue effectively.

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I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#52 Check Your Auto Pays

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.


Check Your Auto Pays

For many of us, the days of sitting down and writing out a check for each monthly bill that comes due are gone. Electronic banking has allowed us to set up scheduled payments for almost everything that needs to be paid. We can ‘auto pay’ our mortgages, Venmo our rent, and establish an automatic payment plan to pay down the balances of our credit cards. Most of us do a fair job at keeping those things in check.


What I’ve found that is harder to keep track of is those little $4.99 and $9.99 charges that we agreed to when we wanted something but then realized we would never use it. I’ve heard stories of $10 gym memberships that people paid for years because it was an automatic charge on their credit card and they didn’t pay close enough attention to the debit each month. I’ve personally signed up for JibJab – which, sounded fun and useful at the time – but never really used it and like others, didn’t pay close attention until it had auto-renewed for another twelve months.

Free Trials

Another way we end up with those pesky payments are from all the times we go online and sign up for a 30 day free trial – only to have to agree to subscribe to something in order to get it. Of course, if you cancel your subscription in the first 30 days – the time you used it was free. I think they count on thousands of people forgetting to log back in and cancel something they really only wanted to use for free.

Discerning Eye

The trick here is to have a discerning eye when it comes to your bank account and credit card statements. I’ve been lackadaisical too, especially since most of my accounts are now “paperless”. I’m less apt to open the account statement and give the activity a good hard look if the email gets opened on my phone versus when I am engaged at my desktop – assuming of course that it isn’t way out of whack based on what I anticipated it to be.

If each of us have a deduction of $5 that really isn’t getting spent for the use of something… someone, somewhere – is collecting a pretty penny!

Make it a goal as you prepare for your tax return this year to sit down and give your financial statements a once over… looking especially for those things that you’re paying for – but not using. I suspect you’ll save a few bucks just because you took the time to…

Check Your Auto Pays

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#98 Disengage a Toxic Relationship

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.


Disengage a toxic relationship

Yesterday’s post recommended distancing yourself from negativity and sometimes, that can mean disengaging from a relationship – any relationship – that becomes detrimental to your overall health. Negativity is not the only way in which a relationship can be toxic however.

Toxic refers to any behavior that results in harm – either physical or emotional. We may think it goes without saying that physically abusive behavior is toxic and cannot be tolerated yet there are thousands of people in relationships – still – which, can be identified as physically abusive.  And so, I’ll say it too… if your relationship is – IN ANY WAY PHYSICALLY ABUSIVE – disengage, get out, leave… NOW. Your very life may be in jeopardy.

Emotional Abuse

Perhaps worse, because there are no apparent bruises, is emotional abuse. Emotional abuse also comes in a variety of forms and MUST NOT be tolerated. No one deserves to be the target of emotional abuse. Any form of communication (speech, text messages, email, letters) that is controlling, punishing, manipulative, degrading, or derogatory – is abuse. When people use the silent treatment to coerce, withhold love and support for specific outcomes, and use money to bribe or entice – that is abuse.

Subliminal Abuse

Other people use less apparent tactics to ‘abuse’. Gaslighting is one of the most common – providing false information so frequently and with so much conviction that you begin to doubt the truth; to distrust your own knowledge or instincts.

Isolating and ignoring someone can also be considered abusive – especially if it is a parent/child relationship. It doesn’t ‘look’ inappropriate yet when someone is dependent on our attention and care – to withhold it intentionally is and abuse of power.


Relationships are toxic when we no longer can trust, feel safe with, or feel appreciative of – the person with whom we are relating. It can be a romantic relationship, a friendship, a sibling or other family member, a parent… When we continually feel powerless, humiliated, defensive, criticized, belittled, unloved, unappreciated, etc., and our efforts at communicating and resolving those feelings go cold – it is time to GET OUT.

Recognize Normal

Healthy relationships are reciprocal. They are not self-focused. They employ communication – even imperfect – to resolve differences. They are mostly light and easy (every relationship has some level of challenge). They are supportive and compassionate. There is a mutual respect and encouragement.


Disengaging means creating distance. The amount of distance may be determined by circumstances and/or the relationship. At the very least – learning how to set boundaries and demonstrate self-respect is imperative. No one – absolutely no one – deserves or causes abusive behavior. The ‘abuser’ has many, many options when it comes to choosing behavior – many of which are healthy. If they fail to make a healthy choice when they relate to you – make sure you demonstrate self-respect and make the healthy choice to…

Disengage from a toxic relationship.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#289 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.


Look at the stars

As a little girl I would lie awake at night and look out my bedroom window. On a clear night I could see the Milky Way and name most of the constellations in the night sky; at least the ones there before midnight. It was easier from that small northern Pennsylvania town than it has been since near the big cities I’ve lived close to. The light pollution dilutes many of the stars that were once visible to my youthful eyes.

There was great joy in that activity though and it (or at least the memory of it) remains each time I am able to direct my attention to the night sky filled with the sun’s reflection of planets and stars across the galaxy.

When we look, up we cannot dismiss the concept of infinity… we have no choice but to try and absorb the realization of our overall insignificance. We automatically experience wonder and curiosity and imagination. For a brief time – unless we are more scientifically oriented – we may digress into a childlike fascination with the vision.

Take an evening, a clear early summer evening, and sit outside with the intention of identifying as many constellations as you can (a phone app like Star Chart or NASA Sky great for this activity) and identify where you are in terms of the galaxy. Take time to just look… perhaps you’ll see a shooting star – depending on your location – a meteor shower is common in the summer months. If you can bet to a beach and look oceanward… or the mountains – away from any light pollution – the effect is better.  Take the time to consider your position in the universe as a whole.

What thoughts come to mind when you take a good hard …

Look at the stars.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.


#331 People Watch

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.


People Watch

Whether we are in an airport, on a train, standing in line, or sitting on a park bench… we are likely to be watching the people surrounding us. Sometimes we are absent mindedly observing, not paying any particular attention. Sometimes we are sitting there unwittingly passing judgement. Sometimes we are trying to ascertain the life story of an individual, couple, or family in our sight line; curious to know if our observations have any merit.

People watching can help you develop mindfulness habits; tuning into the acute details of your environment. People stop being random subjects in our space and we begin to notice their humanity. When we pay close attention we can discern worry, joy, hesitation, and humor in people’s facial expressions and body language. An astute observer can decipher how an individual identifies (by the way they dress, condition of fingernails, jewelry, makeup, hairstyle & color, etc.), their self-esteem (do they stand tall with confidence or crouch small with insecurity?), their emotional state, their level of ‘niceness’ (do they smile back or hold the door open?), and perhaps even their level of extroversion.

The big caveat of course, is that what we see isn’t always what it IS.  Some people are experts at hiding their truest feelings. Some people walk through life ‘faking it until they make it’. Some people have developed defensive personas for their public engagements. While we can’t know ‘for certain’ without checking our assumptions, we can definitely hone our perception skills by taking the time to pay attention to details when we are passing time in public and …

People watch.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

When Darkness Knocks

“If you want to find happiness, find gratitude.” ― Steve Maraboli

In the beginning of the year I started a gratitude challenge on my Counseling Facebook page. Each day since then – except for two – I have listed three things I am grateful for that day. I’ve tried not to replicate anything, which has been hard because every morning when I am writing them I am always grateful for my coffee! Certainly, at first it was easy as there are many obvious pieces of my life that I am always thankful for … a roof over my head, a warm room, comfy pillows, enough food, etc.

I’ve noticed as the time goes by however that unless I begin duplicating items, I must stretch my awareness a bit and it has been interesting to extend my awareness beyond my immediate surroundings to include the sound of my wind chimes and birds chirping. I am so grateful for those things. Not only do they represent the fact that I can hear but they are pleasant sounds and by noticing them, I also notice how they resonate in my body – my spirit. They create a nice sensation; pleasure.

It promotes more consciousness of people smiling, friendly service, and kind hearts. It stimulates my recognition of generosity, helpfulness, and benevolence, which are all contributors to the experience of happiness. Indeed, I believe I’ve felt a little bit happier than usual despite the negativity that tries to inject itself into my life.

It’s one thing to be a mental health counselor and experience the sadness, frustration, and negative emotions of clients – that’s my job and I am sufficiently capable of keeping it away from my personal psyche. Along the way, I learned the art of allowing clients to dump their stuff in my office without feeling as though I needed to pick it up. I rarely experience a derogatory impact of my clients affect. Don’t get me wrong… if there is something deeply sad – a client who lost a child or someone so deep in their own pain that they are suicidal – I feel sad but I don’t hold it. I can walk out of my office and leave it there.

It’s a whole other thing to live in an environment that is frequently heavy. Our political climate is currently stressed – no matter one’s affiliation – every day there is some element of drama pumped into our consciousness and we are exposed to exhausting bickering, draining our enthusiasm and confidence.

I am still adjusting to the whole ‘empty nest’ experience. While I quite enjoy the clean and constantly straightened atmosphere of my home, there is an eerie silence here that highlights the absence of my family. I miss the anticipation of hearing the creaking steps as one of the girls would come home from work at midnight or the sound of the shower and blasting music in the morning as she prepared for her day. I am blessed that they stay in contact with me via Face time or regular phone calls but it’s entirely different from the smell of their perfume lingering in the air.

And then there is the reality of Harlan’s illness. Coping with fatigue is one thing but coping with pain is another entirely. Every day is filled with the blessing that he can still work and concurrently filled with the reality that he does it battling the effects of chemo and the relentless pain of bone lesions. I see him getting tired. He does an amazing job but I watch him and I am sad and pissed and helpless and scared.


I don’t like those feelings yet I know they are real and appropriate. They exist like fleas that jump on me when I walk in the door and every time I think I have fumigated their existence with my coping skills, they find another entrance or they are simply re-birthed into our experience. The early spring weather allowed me the opportunity to open the windows and replace the dark sad air with fresh spring hope and then it got cold again. I can feel the air thicken and so I walk outside where the sun is starting to stay longer and a bit brighter.

I live by the motto that there is something good in every single experience; not only on a global level but day by day. What is good about today? The gratitude challenge that I am conducting forces me to pay attention, to look beyond the obvious, to deny those damn fleas too much of my blood. It helps to push the pendulum back, to balance the scale, to make life tolerable.

When I am sad that he is hurting, I am grateful for his doctors. When I feel helpless to fix it, I am grateful to hold his hand. When I am disappointed that we aren’t bike riding, I am grateful to sit next to him on the couch. When I am frustrated that he goes to bed so early, I am grateful that his body heat warms the sheets on my side.

Please know that this is a ‘work in progress’ and I am – in no way – perfect in my efforts to find the silver lining every. single. time. But I keep trying. My daily expression of gratitude is one of the ways that I am working to create balance and a stronger sense of happiness in a time when darkness is constantly knocking on our door.

Won’t you join me? Hop on my HCC Facebook page and add your own three things. The more positive energy we can put forth in the world – the better.


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