I was fortunate enough to be born on December 31st. My birthday corresponds to how we think of the calendar year: The year begins on January first, but isn’t completed until the end of December. But it’s contrary to how birthdays are generally viewed; for example, we may turn 30 on our birthday and we think we are thirty for the next year. But in fact, when we turned 30 we have completed our thirtieth year and the next day we are commencing our 31st year. To think of it another way, when you are born (your birth day) you are not considered to be one years old; you are not considered one until after you have lived for one year.

As I’ve written in my previous blog posts, I used to be very shy and introverted. I can remember many times when I have spent my birthday alone, even though I might have been in a crowd of people celebrating the end of one year and the beginning of a new one. The fact that New Year’s Eve is my birthday is often lost in the revelry and I am not one to boast.

As my birthday is the completion of a year of living, I have found it to be a time of reflection, introspection, and goal setting. As I’ve grown older, though, I have learned that the past is gone and there’s nothing I can do about it. So there is less retrospection and more assessment of where I am and planning for where I want to be.

I used to dwell on the past, my mistakes, and my lack of accomplishments and unfulfilled goals. But I’ve learned that there’s nothing that I can do about what’s come and gone. I only have the Now, the present moment, in which I can live and act. To live in the past one loses the precious, fleeting present moment in which to be happy and alive.

Likewise, the future is not yet here. To live in the future, to worry about it, to daydream about what might be, is to waste the present moment. Now, I’m one that easily drifts into daydreams, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s a limit to the amount of fantasy that we can have in our lives before it interferes with our ability to live a fulfilling present.

Of course, I believe in setting concrete goals, not just as New Year’s resolutions, but on a regular basis throughout the year. We need a direction in our lives, something that gives our lives purpose and passion. If we don’t have a clear idea of where we’re going with our lives, then we wander around aimlessly, lost in the fog of fantasy.

So, as many of you will be celebrate bringing in 2013, I will have a simple birthday with those closest to me. I will be 54 this year, though I’ve been thinking that I was 54 all year long (just like we’ve been saying it’s 2012 all year long). And the next day, New Year’s Day, I will tell people that I’m 55. This infuriates my wife, especially when some government official asks how old I am and I’m dumbfounded; “Fifty-three? Fifty-four? How old am I?”

Age doesn’t matter, the past doesn’t matter, the future doesn’t matter. What matters is that you live in the present moment; that you live in it to the fullest and find happiness in it. 
 
 
I’ve written before about how I believe that our adult lives are spent overcoming our childhoods. In other words, we try to undo the damage done to us as kids. We go to psychotherapists and counselors, we read self-help books, we take drugs—anything to help us forget or rewire our brains.

Some of the damage is done by our families. For the most part, our parents have no training on how to parent. Parents tend to do what was done to them. It’s a sad fact that people who physically abuse their children were themselves abused as children; the behavior is perpetuated from one generation to the next.

But a big source of damage during childhood is school. Think of the typical school setting: Hundreds of kids are gathered in a small area. The children pretty much have free reign in the hallways, in the cafeteria, and on the playground. Even in the classroom, the children wield much power. As a kid in intermediate school, my class went through four teachers in one year!

Anyone who has read the book Lord of the Flies knows that putting a bunch of kids together in one place is a bad idea and that bad things will happen. Children are primal beings who resort to pecking orders and physical strength. They form social cliques that will cruelly exclude others. They name call, bully, and disenfranchise others.

In recent years we have seen how children who have been bullied or excluded have reacted with violence against themselves and/or others. So why do we continue to have these mini-societies that can do so much harm?

The purpose of schools, we tell ourselves, is to educate our children. The modern school is based on the industrial model of the assembly line. One teacher can instruct a class of many children at one sitting. Then the bell rings and, just like the manufacturer’s assembly line, a new batch of materials (i.e., students) are placed in front of the teacher to work on.

What are we trying to teach our children? We are trying to teach them the skills they will need as adults. Again, the school is an industrial model so the skills we teach the children are ones they will need to fulfill roles in the industrial world, namely those as ”employees.” As such, the average high school graduate will have the skills of reading, writing, and basic arithmetic.

But what most schools are not teaching is how to be Emotionally Intelligent, socially capable adults. If school is the preparation of children for adulthood, then shouldn’t they learn how to get along with adults? The adult relationships in school are authoritative and only prepare the children for having a boss.

If we want children to learn to be well-adjusted, sociable adults, doesn’t it make sense to have them interact with adults instead of other children? Before the industrial model of education children were put into apprenticeships where they worked alongside adults. Albeit the skills that children learned were narrow and prepared them for one job only. And the relationships with adults were primarily that of master-servant.

But the idea of putting children into the adult world to prepare them for that world intrigues me. It would put meat into the meaning of “it takes an entire village to raise a child.” What if our job was not only to do our job, but also to teach children what it takes to get along with fellow employees, what to do when you don’t feel motivated to work, what to do when frustration builds?

Of course, we would need these Emotional Intelligence skills first ourselves. And just like the ill-trained parent, we have few skills for raising children. Our workplaces are often just as dysfunctional as our schools.

For the moment we are seemingly stuck in the industrial cycle of school-employment. Our children are taught remedial skills so that they can become employees. But we need to break this cycle and teach our children how to get along with one another—not one another as children, but one another as adults. Childhood is brief and fleeting. Getting along with children is not a lifetime goal. Being a productive part of a society as adult is.

Teaching Emotional Intelligence in the schools is a start. Hopefully by teaching kids these important skills not only will the children grow to become well-adjusted adults, but they will also see the importance of taking responsibility of raising children as a village, as a society.

This idea may seem Utopian, but it is a necessity for our society, and the people in it, to thrive and co-exist harmoniously. 
 
 
LeBron James was named “Sportsman of the Year” for 2012 by Sports Illustrated. I remember when James was just nineteen years old and had just been drafted by the NBA. In a radio interview he said that he was happy that all his “years of hard work” had finally paid off.

When I heard the interview I was working with a friend at the local flea market. Both of us, in our forties at the time, were busy putting up a tent and unloading a van. My friend and I looked at one another. “Years of hard work?” We knew about hard work having worked hard for at least the last 20 years. LeBron James was a kid, what did he know about hard work?

That’s not to say that James wasn’t dedicated to developing his talent and practicing hard. But for how long? Five or six years? Try working hard year after year, year in and year out, for years on end. It can be frustrating for an older person to see another achieve success at a relatively young age. “When will my hard work finally pay off?” you might ask.

As it turns out, although I was working hard, doing physically demanding work and putting in long hours, I wasn’t working smart. The work I was doing had little reward, had a slim chance of making me rich, and demanded much from me.

But I’m a slow learner and it took me a while to figure that out. Everyone grows and develops at their own pace. Someone like James whose talent manifests early and is recognized, achieves success early in life. For others of us it takes us a while to find our true talents and passions, and then a while longer for others to give us recognition.

Look at people like Colonel Harland Sanders of KFC, poetess Maya Angelou, and President Abraham Lincoln. They didn’t achieve success until later in life. Sanders and Angelou were both in their sixties. Grandma Moses was 76 when she began painting.

What took me so long to learn was that you have to achieve success in your mind first. I worked my flea market business hard hoping to become a success. But when I made my mind up that I was already a success, success followed.

I actually don’t like the term “success” for it implies a destination, an achieved position. Rather I believe that success is a process, an undertaking that we are involved in all the time. It’s a cause and effect relationship—what we do today will reap us benefits tomorrow. If we call a person a “success” today it is because of the work, the causes, they have done in the past.

So the successful causes I made were changing my mindset from one of hoping one day that I would achieve something to one of believing that I had already achieved something. Before I used to complain about how I had to drive a beat up car, wishing that I had a nice new car.

Then I changed my thinking to how fortunate and prosperous I was to be driving a nice car, even though it was the same beat up car I was complaining about before. When I started thinking like a rich, prosperous person then riches and prosperity came into my life.

I used to think, “Yeah, I can be rich some day.” I was confident that I had what it took to be rich, that I was deserving of it, and that would become rich. But I didn’t believe that I was rich. That is what the law of attraction is all about—believing that you are already there, that you have already achieved success.

By believing that you are already at your desired destination, the forces in the universe will align to deliver you to that destination. It took me a while to figure this out even though I had read and heard it thousands of times. Like I said, I’m a slow learner.

So my advice to you is to make the causes now that you need to achieve your desired goals. These causes include planning, preparation, research, desire, and dedication. But the most important is believing that you have already achieved your goals; that you are living your goals. When you live you goals, when you feel the energy of having achieved your goals, then, and only then, will your goals be achieved.
 
 
It’s a myth that there are more suicides during the winter holidays. This long held myth was explained that lonely people felt left out of celebrations and became more depressed. The fact is that it is one of the few times of the year that people have to reconnect with family and friends. There are many opportunities for you to get together with others and since others are in the holiday spirit, you may find them come looking for you.

Sometimes there is a stigma (real or imagined) with being alone. A lone person sitting at a restaurant table or a person buying only one ticket to a movie may get second glances. A single person seems to stick out in situations where we’re used to seeing couples or groups. But don’t feel embarrassed and ashamed.

Being alone is totally natural. Even when we are with a group of people or in a crowd, we are actually alone. We are alone with our own feelings, thoughts, and interpretations of the world around us. No one can or ever will know us like we know ourselves.

The ability to be alone with yourself is not something that everyone is capable of. To be able to sit still, listen to your own mind, and to be quiet with your thoughts is not something that everyone can do. Some people would rather lose themselves in the noise and bustle of a crowd than have to spend time with themselves alone.

And there is a difference between being alone and being lonely. You can be by yourself without feeling lonely. Maybe your friends are busy so you decided to go to a movie by yourself. Maybe you just don’t feel like talking to anyone at the moment. Maybe you just need to some room to think.

If you’re feeling lonely then you can reach out and make friends. An important Emotional Intelligence skill is the ability to form Interpersonal Relationships – to greet and meet new people, to develop intimacy, and to work through relationship problems.

I was somewhat introverted and shy during my high school years. The Christmas after high school I received as a present a book about overcoming shyness. One of the exercises they recommended was just saying “Hi” to strangers. What’s the worst that could happen? They don’t say “Hi” back?

Sales clerks are good people to practice your interpersonal skills with; they are a captive audience, they are often bored, and it’s their jobs to make the customer (you) happy. Go into any store and say “Hi” to a sales clerk and make small talk about the weather, current events, or about what they’re selling (“What’s the most popular brand of refrigerator?”).

In my hippy days I hitchhiked around the US, Canada, and Mexico. It was this experience that helped me become a great conversationalist—not by talking everyone’s ear off, but by listening and asking probing questions. Turns out that people believe that the best conversationalists are those people who hear them and ask them questions about the things that they’re interested in.

Join clubs or take classes about things that interest you. Right there you have an instant bond with your fellow club members or classmates—you’re interested in the same thing. From this bond you can create intimacy by sharing appropriate personal information. Suggest getting together for a cup of coffee or lunch so that you can continue to share this intimacy. This is how all relationships develop, whether it be acquaintances, friends, or lovers. Take things slow, build trust, and enjoy the company.

Again, if you’re alone don’t sweat it. You have to learn to be happy by yourself before you can be happy with others since happiness is something that’s generated from the inside. Once you learn to be happy alone, others will be attracted to you!
 
 
Some have predicted that the world will end on December 21, 2012. This prediction is based on the fact that the Mayan calendar ends on that day. Did the Mayans know something? Or is it just the simple fact that they just ran out of physical space to add any more dates onto their calendar?

There are people who obsess over the end of the world; they’ve been planning for months if not years. Some have made preparations to survive whatever calamity strikes that day. They have stored food and water into fortified shelters. Others have sold everything, quit their jobs, and are living life to the fullest right up to the end (why they waited for the end of the world to live life to the fullest is beyond me).

This isn’t the first time that the world’s end has been predicted. It seems as humans we are terrified yet relieved that the end is near. Unfortunately many people are unhappy and see the end of the world as an end to their unhappiness. The end of the world is an end to their misery.

But the world continues and their sadness continues. The world ending or a knight in shining armor bringing us instant happiness are just fantasies. Nothing outside ourselves will bring us happiness since happiness is generated from within. It is our own mindset that determines how happy or sad we are.

Life is a mind game; we have to play tricks on our minds to get the results that we want. If you want to be happy then you have to believe that you are happy. Don’t wait for your desires to be fulfilled; for the perfect job to come along, for the right person to love you, for the million dollars to fall in your lap. The time is now!

If you want to be happy start right now, right where you are, right this minute. What has worked for me is imagining happiness as an orange ball of fire in the palm of my hand. It’s like a little sun that I’m in control of. I can control its shape and size, making it long, square, big, or small.

As I’m imagining this ball of fire, I feel the happiness inside me. All of us have experienced happiness at some point in our lives. Recall a time when you were happy. Relive that feeling. Feel that happiness in your heart.

(Here are some graphic images I created to help you visualize your ball of fire.)

This exercise follows the precepts of the Law of Attraction; the energy we concentrate on is what we attract into our lives. If we dwell on the unhappiness in our lives, then we have sadness in our lives. But if you use the exercise above, then you will find more happiness in your life.

I’ve been doing this for a while for six things I’m attracting into my life: Peace, Love, Happiness, Confidence, Passion, and Prosperity. The results are amazing!

Since I began doing this I feel much more happy and happier more often. I don’t have more things to be happy about; I haven’t won the lottery or anything. But I am happier with what I have. My happiness is stronger and things are less likely to get me down.

Part of being happy is being optimistic; having hope and seeing a brighter future. Studies have found that optimists and pessimists have the same number of negative thoughts throughout the day. The difference is that optimists are able to stop their negative thinking and change their thinking to positive. Whereas pessimists continue their negative thinking, feeding it and letting it fester.

The next time a negative thought enters into your mind, imagine the ball of fire in your hand and feel happiness inside you. It may be hard to let go of the negative thoughts and summon the positive feeling of happiness, but with practice it gets easier.

Use this technique on a daily basis and I know that you will see amazing results. Use it for all the values that you want to attract into your life and you will no longer wish for the end of the world. Instead you will be wishing for the start of each new day and the adventures that it will bring.
 
 
Life is full of problems. Problems are a part of everyday life. It’s been said that the only people without problems are in the cemetery. Everything can be seen as a problem: What clothes to wear, what to eat, what work deserves top priority, etc.

With so many problems in our lives, it’s important to know how to deal effectively with problems. Problem Solving is an important Emotional Intelligence skill necessary for success, especially for business leaders. As any entrepreneur or business leader knows, a myriad of problems are faced every day.

The fact that problems are a daily experience, it’s important that we have the right attitude when dealing with problems. We could dread and avoid problems, or we can embrace and welcome the challenges that problems present us. My motto is, “Life, give me more!” I’m ready and eager to face any and all challenges because I know I will be a better person for having survived the experience.

I have developed an easy seven step process for problem solving that goes by the acronym D.I.C.T.A.T.E.:

D – Define the problem

I – Ideas, brainstorm ideas

C – Chose one of the ideas as a solution

T – Try the solution

A – Analyze, did the solution work?

T – Try another idea if the first solution didn’t work

E – Enjoy the process

Defining the problem might sound simple enough, but it is a critical step. Really study the problem and ask questions such as, “Why is it a problem?” Keep asking “why?” until you whittle down to the root of the problem.

Along with defining the problem is defining who owns the problem. For example, you may be irritated by someone tapping their fingers on a desk. Whose problem is this? It’s not a problem for the person who’s doing the tapping; you are the one getting irritated.

The traditional view of brainstorming is that ideas shouldn’t be criticized as to allow the free flow of ideas. But new studies in brainstorming have found that it’s important to debate ideas. Debating and criticizing ideas will help generate even more ideas.

Next choose an idea that might be a viable solution and try it out. Take this action step can take come courage and you might have to overcome some fears (see Overcoming Your Fears Is Easy As ABC (DE)).

After implementing the solution, you need to analyze if it’s working. If the solution isn’t working satisfactory then chose another solution from your brainstorming ideas.

Most important of all is the last step: Enjoy the problem solving process. Life is full of problems so you might as well enjoy the challenges that life throws your way.
 
 
Ernest Borgnine, who passed away last July, once said that he initially turned down the leading role on TV’s McHale’s Navy saying, “I’m a motion picture actor now. I don’t do television.” Borgnine had won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1955 for the movie Marty.

The next day a boy came to his home selling chocolate for a charity. The boy said that Borgnine looked familiar. Borgnine joking said that he was James Arness, lead actor of the then-popular TV show Gunsmoke. The boy said he knew he wasn’t Arness. So Borgnine said he was another popular TV star of the day. Again the boy said that he knew Borgnine wasn’t that actor. When Borgnine finally told the boy his real name, the boy didn’t recognize it.

Borgnine immediately called up his agent and accepted the role on McHale’s Navy.

Although I enjoyed Borgnine’s work over the years, I really became a fan of his when I heard that interview (watch the interview here). One reason was because of his charm and passion. The other reason was because of his down-to-earth demeanor and unpretentiousness.

Often times when people attain a certain level of success, their egos become over-inflated. They think that they are the guru who knows it all, has it all, is it all. They boast, brag, and show off. They become insufferable to others, yet ignorant of that fact themselves. If they’re lucky, reality will hit them in the face the way it did to Ernest Borgnine.

Reality testing is an important Emotional Intelligence skill. It’s the ability to correctly judge what’s happening in the surrounding environment. The degree to which one has the capacity for Reality Testing is the difference between what really exists (the objective) and what we perceive (the subjective). The more closely that these two elements match, the better our ability for Reality Testing.

Reality Testing is a continuum with neurotic-catastrophizing on one end and overly optimistic-egomania on the other end. On one end we think that everything is going wrong. On the opposite end we think everything is going right.

Both of these have their drawbacks. If you always see things as going wrong, then you lose hope, avoid new experiences, and can only see problems and never see the opportunities. On the other hand, if you see everything as always going your way you may avoid planning by thinking that things will always work themselves out.

Ernest Borgnine said, “It’s much better to be a character actor and be working forever.” Had Borgnine let his ego get the best of him and only done leading roles in movies then would he have been as well known and loved? Up to the end, Borgnine was still working, doing the voice of Mermaid Man on Spongebob Squarepants (not the role you would expect an egotistical “movie star” to do).

The capacity for Reality Testing can reap benefits for us the way it did for Borgnine. By being firmly planted on the ground and pragmatic, we can seize the opportunities around us. If we are ego-centric, then we let good opportunities pass because we think they’re beneath us.

Remember, success is a journey, not a destination. We achieve success along the road of life, we do not become successes. Once we rest on our laurels, we lose the opportunity to grow and become better people.
 
 
The hippy movement started in the 1960s as a rebellion against the middle class values of the previous generation. Middle class kids rejected their parents’ vision of the American Dream: Go to school, get a job, get married, buy a house, raise a family, work for fifty years, then retire.

The hippies rebelled by letting their hair grow long, dressing in bell bottoms jeans and paisley shirts, and moving into communes. They replaced their parents’ values with their own: Respect for the environment; valuing peace, love, and harmony; the pursuit of happiness; and self determination (i.e., liberation).

I, myself, rejected my parents’ values in the 1970s and began to grow my hair long while in high school. My mom insisted that I tie by hair back for my high school graduation photo so that my grandmother wouldn’t be shocked by my long hair. After graduating high school I decided to travel instead of taking the traditional route of going to college. I hitchhiked around the US West Coast, up into Canada, and down into Mexico—it was a better education than I could have even gotten by going straight to college.

So it is with the modern entrepreneur who has rejected the dogma of the industrial age for the liberation of self-directed enterprise. The industrial age needed employees so it invented the public school system that churned out students with the necessary rudimentary skills. Also, the design of the teacher-pupil relationship mirrored that of the boss-employee and students spent as much time in school as employees did at work.

Many of the information age entrepreneurs have eschewed this traditional route: Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle; Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers; Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, co-founders of Apple; and Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft. These entrepreneurs have been set the example followed by many of today’s new breed of entrepreneurs. As a matter of fact, in today’s economic downturn, many have questioned if college is worth the expense.

So if you want to be an entrepreneur, where do you get your education from? It’s sometimes called, “The School of Hard Knocks.” Aka, “Life.” Go out into the world and try new things. Try your hand at running a business. You can start off small with a business at the local flea market, craft fair, or swap meet. There are ample opportunities online to start your own ecommerce business. Multi-level marketing is a great way to enter into entrepreneurship and gain the experience of mentors and a business system.

There are business books and websites that say you need to get all your ducks in a row and write elaborate business plans. But my experience is that you just need to jump into it and get ready to fail. Only by failing, by experiencing business and life, do we learn. The traditional route of school teaches us the opposite, that to fail is bad. But the truth is that success lies in learning from our mistakes.

I’m not suggesting that anyone drop out of school or quit your job. But I do encourage you to get your feet wet in the world of business in any small way that you can. Start off small with a minimal amount of money. Be ready to fail, and when you do congratulate yourself and accept the fact that failing is part of the learning process, not a reflection on you personally.

Most of all, learn. Read books, blogs, websites, and magazines. Listen to audio books, inspirational speakers, and watch how-to videos.  Join a business club, multi-level marketing, or Toastmasters. Just take that first step, no matter what it is!
 
 
Empathy is the ability to emotionally read other people. From their words, tone of voice, facial expressions, and body gestures we get clues as to what a person is thinking and feeling.  Empathy also includes taking an interest in and concern for others.

Some people give off clear, unmistakable clues as to how they’re feeling: A red face, gritting teeth, and steam coming from their ears and we have no doubt that they’re angry. Others don’t give us such obvious clues, though with practice we can develop our senses and learn to read the not so obvious clues that they do give us.

Although facial expressions don’t always really shows us the underlying emotional state (people are very good at faking it), they are a good indicator of what a person will do next. Physiognomy and personology are psuedosciences that believe one’s character can be determined by one’s facial features. It is believed that one’s face can tell you if the person is intelligent, honest, kind, patient, etc. For example, pointed ear tips, it’s believed, indicate reliability; a downward pointing nose indicates unreliability.

Since our brains have two hemispheres, the two sides of our faces indicate different things. The left side of our brains is where we find logic, language, numbers, and abstract thought. The corresponding right side of our face is a social mask, controlled, and conscious. The right side of our brains is where we find intuition, imagination, metaphor, and emotions. The corresponding left side of the face shows deeper emotions, basic attitude, and underlying character.

So if we want to read a people’s emotions, we should look at the left side of their faces. Study what their various facial features are doing. Look at the eyebrows, eyes, mouth, forehead, nose, jaw, cheeks, and neck. For example, in happiness the eyebrows are slightly lowered, the eyes are bright and partially closed, the corners of the mouth are lifted, and the cheeks are raised. In anger the eyebrows are drawn together, the eyes are opened wide and fixated, the teeth are clenched, and neck muscles are strained and rigid.

One way to practice picking up on facial clues is to look at photographs of people’s faces. Concentrate on the left side of the face. Look at the different facial features. What are the eyebrows doing? The eyes?  Mouth? To learn what facial features do in different emotions pretend that you are angry, sad, surprised, etc. Make faces in the mirror to see what your different facial features are doing.

Make a copy of a photograph of a person’s face. Horizontally flip one side of the face and put both pieces together so that you have the left side of the face paired with the flipped left side of the face. Do the same thing for the right side of the face.  Click here for some examples of what I mean.

You’ll notice how eerily different the faces look. Each side of the face is definitely telling different stories. Of course, the photos I used are of politicians who artfully fake emotions on a regular basis, but still there are definite differences in what the right side and left side are portraying.

Continue to practice reading others’ faces to find clues to their underlying emotions. Remember to focus on the left side of the face. Body gestures and posture, tone of voice, the speed at which people talk, and volume also help you decipher what a person is feeling.
 
 
Roadblocks to communication are what we hear (or say) when we deliver a message but the listener doesn't accept what we’re saying. The listener resists our message and attempts to end or divert the conversation by one of the following methods:

Ordering, Directing, Commanding (Do this; Don’t do that; Stop it; This is what you should do . . . ).

Warning, Admonishing, Threatening (Do this or else; If you don’t do this then . . . ; I’m warning you; Be careful).

Moralizing, Preaching, Imploring (You should do this; It’s your responsibility; It’s your duty; I wish you would).

Advising, Giving Suggestions or Solutions (In my opinion . . . ; Here’s what I suggest . . . ; I think the best thing for you to do is . . . ; I have a better idea).

Persuading with Logic, Lecturing, Arguing (The facts show . . . ; Here’s the way it is . . . ; The right thing to do is  . . . ; Logic dictates that . . . ).

Judging, Criticizing, Disagreeing, Blaming (You’re wrong; That’s stupid; It’s your fault; You’re being foolish).

Praising, Agreeing, Evaluating Positively, Buttering Up (You’re so smart; You’re always right; That’s great!; You have lots of potential).

Name-Calling, Ridiculing, Shaming (You’re sloppy; You’re stupid; You messed up; You talk like an engineer).

Interpreting, Analyzing, Diagnosing (You’re jealous; You have problems with authority figures; You’re paranoid; You’re saying that because you’re angry).

Reassuring, Sympathizing, Consoling, Supporting (You’ll feel differently tomorrow; It’s always darkest before the dawn; It’s not that bad; Don’t worry, be happy).

Probing, Questioning, Interrogating (What made you do that?; What have you done to solve it?; What makes you think that?; Why?).

Distracting, Diverting, Kidding (Think about the positive; Sleep on it; Let me tell you what I think . . . ; That reminds me of a story . . . ).

Some of these may not seem like roadblocks, in fact some seem good and helpful. How can reassurance or praise be bad? Isn’t it good to give helpful advice or praise? But the fact is that what we say could keep the other person from continuing to share their feelings. Of course there are those who won’t stop talking no matter what and plow through any roadblocks no matter how hard we get them to shut up.

But for many people it is hard for them to share their feelings. The best way to listen is active listening: Listen attentively, assume their posture, and repeat back what the other person is saying so that they know they’re being heard and understood. By listening we not only help the other person, but we can also learn.