Here are some words that come to us from a very smart man who lived 2500 years ago. In situations where there is conflict, it is one of the greatest challenges to remain calm. Trust me, I know this personally. When you feel you have been wronged, or someone has violated a principle that is near and dear to your heart, it would be extremely unlikely to avoid emotions entering into the situation. The benefits of limiting emotional aspects of any conflict should be relatively obvious. I think the quote from the Taoist master above is easy to understand, but very difficult to put into action. One of the things that could help us stay calm in the face of conflict is to remember the why the conflict exists to begin with.

Have you ever been arguing with someone so long, that you can’t even remember what the point of the disagreement is all about? I think a good amount of us can say we have fallen into that situation at least once in our lives. In a relationship that has not evolved, the goal can feel like it is to hurt the person who hurt you. While this may seem like a good idea at the moment, seldom is that really the solution. It is 100% certain it will not feel good in the long term. I find asking yourself, “What is the reason I am so upset?” throughout the argument will help keep you on track. An even better question to ask is, “What is the solution I hope to have with this disagreement?” This not only helps you stay calm, but keeps you solution oriented. Asking, “How can I use this disagreement to create a new sense of closeness and growth?” can be a very empowering question.

It can also be a little selfish to remain calm. The one who is the calmest usually can steer the conversation and resulting actions in the direction they choose. While the party ruled by emotion is usually in a state of reaction, the one who is calm can operate from a state of action. Trust the words of a 2500 year-old wise man. Next time you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of a disagreement, ask yourself one of the empowering questions to remain calm.


This is one of those lessons that seem like a no-brainer. To be honest, this is one that needs reminding in the lives of all of us. Margie really helped me master this concept. It is also one of the most difficult to remember in the heat of an emotional disagreement. The question is how can we change from having arguments to having discussions? I think there is a two-fold answer to this and it begins as soon as the situations comes up.

When we are hurt/sad/upset/angry with something that someone else did or said, or maybe even something we think they did or said, it is important we bring that feeling into light. The reason it is important is because repression grows into resentment. You might want to read that last part again. When we repress our emotions, the other person may continue to do the very thing that angered us in the first place again and again. Not because they are trying to make our life some living hell, but because they are ignorant to the fact we are upset in the first place. That is our fault and our problem to address.

Here is where it gets a little tricky. Before we begin to convey our feelings, we should take a second to ask ourselves some very important questions. The first question I would ask myself is, “If I was in their place, how would I want this brought to my attention?” Nobody likes to hear they upset someone or hurt their feelings. It can feel like they failed. It is also important to not place them on the defensive. Saying things like “You really hurt me” and “You did this just to make me mad!” Can place people on the defensive. Even if they did do something malicious on purpose, you will only compound the issue by attacking them. Remember to ask yourself how you would like to be approached. A more positive approach, and one I recommend very highly, is to ask them for help. Nobody likes to be reprimanded, but everyone likes to feel like they helped. An example could be, “I was wondering if you could help me with something. When you said _____ it really hurt my feelings. I know that wasn’t what you meant to do, but is there a way we could word this differently?” You notice you are asking for their assistance in discovering a solution? You also give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their intent, which we can never truly know anyway. How would you respond if someone approached you that way?

The second, and just as important, thing to ask ourselves is “What is the desired outcome?” Seldom is the answer “I want to make them feel bad because they hurt my feelings.” It may feel like that at the time, but if we are honest with ourselves, the answer is completely different. We usually want to create a mutual understanding that what was said or done caused some emotional distress. It is important to do that with eloquence. Once it is said and understood, immediately switch to working to create a plan to avoid the same situation from happening in the future. I actually ask myself that several times in my head in the course of a discussion. “What is my end goal?” Again, ask for help. “How can we work together to make this work in the future?” stands a far greater chance of success than, “You better not do that again!”

Remember, in any relationship, when there is a disagreement, a discussion is a far better result than an argument. Focus on how you would want to be talked to and realize the other party would probably like to be talked to in the same manner. Stay focused on a solution and not dishing out blame. In fact, blame does little or nothing to create solution. Ask for help. involve the other party and you will have many more productive discussions.


It never ceases to amaze me how many times this shows up in my life. In the past, it used to show up in my life. On occasion it still does, but for the most part I have learned the importance of expressing one’s emotions. I know in the grips of painful emotions this is not always easy. It took a great deal of effort and a good deal of patience and help from Margie to help me develop this skill. Here is what I learned. If you are able to express yourself in a healthy constructive manner your results will be far better.

How often have you heard one of your friends tell you about someone who is really doing something to upset them? When you ask if they have told them, the answers vary. Sometimes you hear things like “They should know!” or “They could tell by how upset I am.” These always make me laugh. How can someone be so upset as to tell an uninvolved third party, but not the offending party? I get it. I was guilty of this in the past. You may very well think this person knows, but never under estimate the ingnorance of some individuals. You really cannot hold someone accountable unless you are 100% sure they know what they are doing. Let me be specific here. The only way to be 100% sure is by telling them.

Here is where it can get a little tricky. Simply telling them what a jerk they are being or how much they are upseting you will only make things worse. Think of how you would feel if someone had to tell you that they were upset with you. That is a good measure of how to say something. Often, being told you are doing something that upsets someone can put us on the defensive. Nobody likes to think of themselves as ‘the bad guy or girl’. That is why it is helpful to begin with a phrase like, “I’m sure you don’t mean to, but I want you to know it upsets me when you ___” or even ask for their input by saying something like this, “It upsets me when you ___. I am sure that is not your intent, but how do you think we could fix that?” Be open to understanding that you may play a role in helping. Perhaps approaching things from a different perspective. In some cases it may require patience, compassion and understanding from you as the person works with you to resolve whatever issue is bothering you.

On the opposite end, when someone comes to you with something you are doing that upsets them it is important to exercise the same things. First, remember they may do so with more of a confrontational style. Not everyone has learned the proper way to express their hurt and pain. Realize by bringing it to you they are really having a cry for help. It may seem and feel as if you are being attacked, but remember this person is in pain and may not be acting in their best nature. This can be very difficult to do. Being able to do so, however, will make people feel more comfortable to come to you in the future. This will not only make your relationships better, but it will help you grow as a person as well. At some point, you could even use this as a teaching moment. Saying something like, “I really appreciate you letting me know that I have upset you. That wasn’t my intent. In the future could you please let me know before you get too upset. I do not want to risk losing you as a friend.”

Being able to do these things is not easy. It will take patience and having a thick skin. You cannot take the way people bring their pain and upset to you. Especially before you have a chance to discuss that aspect with them. Being able to do so will allow them to feel more comfortable to do so in the future. When bringing up your own upsets, remember to ask yourself, “How would I like to be told about this?” That will insure you do so with attention to the other parties feelings. Following these rules will transform your life for the better.


In this blog we explore many ways in which to have an amazing life. A lot of that focus tends to fall on how to have an amazing relationship. After all, relationships, more than anything else, have a great impact on our lives. Let us be honest, if our relationships are less than amazing, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for our lives to be amazing. That is why I recommend relationship building as a life-long study regardless of the field you are in.

Even in the best relationships things can go south. Despite our best efforts, despite all of our best intentions and study, things often zig when they should have zagged. It happens. When we find ourselves in a state that seems to be less then amorous with our partners it can be easy to stray from the things we know we should do. The ironic part is that is when it is most important.

One of the things I always do for Margie is open her car door. To me it is a sign of respect. It is a little thing I can do to show her how much I value and treasure the lady she is. Another thing we do for each other is kiss each other at red lights. This does two very important things. First, it places a loving action in what is generally a mundane and occasionally stressful activity. Second, it turns red lights from something to dread, to something to look forward to.

When things in the relationship are running on less than ideal terms certain thoughts come to mind. I am reminded she is physically capable of opening her own door and how nice it would be to get into the car and relax myself. There are times when I could look straight ahead and focus on the waiting for the red light to change instead of leaning over to kiss her. It is these times, however, when it is most important to do these actions.

This is why. When I open the door for her even when we are not seeing eye to eye, it shows her that even though I may not be happy with the situation, I still respect and honor her as my lady. When I lean over to kiss her at a red light on a night we might not be on the best of speaking terms it says, “Even though we not be liking each other a lot right now, I still love you.” It is vitally important to maintain little actions that show respect and love in times of discord. Quite often these can soften the hardest of hearts, even if that one is your own at times.

Here is a great side-effect that arises from maintaining these loving actions. At the end of the day you can look back and know that despite circumstances, you were the best version of yourself. You can also be confident that you did what was right for your relationship. It would be easy, and even excusable, to forgo certain loving actions when you are angry. What it will not do is give you an amazing relationship. That, as we discussed earlier, will make it very difficult to have an amazing life.


This is a great litmus test to put our words through. How many times a day do we let something escape our lips that we shouldn’t? Having these 3 questions in mind would help prevent that from happening. Remember you cannot unsay something.

How do we keep these questions front and center? Use this picture as your screensaver, pertain jot them down on an index card you carry with you. Then, put it into practice. Try doing this just for a conversation here and there. Eventually, it well become a way of not only speaking, but thinking as well.

So you don’t feel too down on yourself when you first try this, allow me to share my experience. I tried this at work and all I can say is “wow!” I never realized how many useless negative things I say there! Even someone who writes positivity for a living! Although a bit taken aback, I was excited. There is so much room for me to improve my conversation skills.

Try this yourself. I’m about to meet a friend for coffee and am going to try again. I think you will notice different people bring out different conversations. I would love to hear your experience as well!


Valentine’s day is coming up and if you are anything like me you find yourself trying to think of the perfect gift. Who doesn’t want to get a gift we know the receiver will just love? It doesn’t have to be Valentine’s day. It can be a birthday or any other special holiday. What if I told you one word can help you find the perfect gift? It doesn’t matter who you are buying the gift for, or what the occasion is. Would you like to know what one word this is?

One of the greatest gifts we can give each other is the gift of happiness. To do and say things that not only bring joy to spouses, friends, family and coworkers, but quite often truly touch their heart. What if I told you this magic word would allow you to know just the right things to say and do, and perhaps just as important, what things to avoid saying and doing, would you be interested?

How can one word unlock the key to making people happy as well as avoiding making them upset? How can that same one word help us pick out the perfect gift that we will know that they will love? This word can do all that and more! It can also show this person their feelings are important to us. It can show them we pay attention to what they say and we value them as a part of our life.

“Wait a minute Neil! You are telling me one word can do all of this?” Yes it can. I personally use this word daily in all of my relationships. I have to thank Margie. It was a trip to the grocery store that began my use of this powerful word. I was at a local co-op shopping for produce and other such fun things. At the time Margie was at home creating one of those cakes that look so good you cannot believe it is edible. Considering how hard she was working and how much I was loving her, I wanted to bring her home something to surprise her and let her know how much I love her and was thinking about her. Then it hit me, I had no clue what that was. I began to push the shopping cart up and down the aisles one by one. My head was spinning. To be honest, I cannot even remember what I settled on that day.

Fast forward a few weeks later. Both of us were at this same store and I was about to tell her how frustrated I was last time I was here looking for that little surprise for her. (Men if you know something you could bring your lady home from the grocery store that makes her feel loved, you are far ahead of most) Right before the words were going to leave my lips a voice in my head spoke to me. Generally these consist of urging me to do things I shouldn’t like eat another slice of pizza or hit the snooze one more time. This time was different, it was a eureka moment. I discovered the magic word and since then I have used it to not only transform my relationship with my beautiful Margie, but virtually everyone in my life and now you can use it too.

What is this magic word? Before I share it with you, a few words of caution, do not dismiss this word based on its simplicity. I promise if you utilize this word in the way described in this post you too will experience a great increase in the quality of your relationships. The word is LISTEN.

When we say listen we mean active listening. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Wikipedia defines active listening as “It requires that the listener fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said.” Read that definition once more slowly. Read it out loud. You may even wish to write that down somewhere. Active listening is most commonly used in conflict resolution. Can you imagine how much difference your disagreements would be if you used active listening? If we are completely honest, we often listen with the intent of responding and not understanding. This is especially true during a disagreement. As the other party is explaining why they are upset we are already busy in our minds composing our rebuttal or how we can prove their point wrong. Changing that to concentrating, understanding and maybe repeating what they said to make sure it is understood as well as remembering what they said to avoid the disagreement in the future would certainly improve your relationship.

Although helpful, so much so I thought I should include it, this is not about disagreements. Let us go back to that day in the grocery store. Instead of sharing my previous frustration with Margie, I decided to watch and listen to her very carefully that day, making mental notes of items she looked at and what she said she liked and did not like. Yes, this kind of listening requires both your ears and your eyes. Up to 90% of communication is nonverbal. Watching her eyes light up with this product, or wrinkling her nose at that product helped me learn a lot more about the wonderful woman I share my life with. I learned more about Margie in that one grocery shopping trip than I normally learn in a month.

The next time I found myself at that grocery store I gleefully picked out several items (little oatie, peach rose) and was confident they would bring her joy when I returned home. I was correct and it filled me with a sense of confidence and accomplishment. I made the woman I love truly happy. It also showed Margie I had listened and paid attention to what she enjoyed. It showed her that her, and her likes and dislikes were very important to me. I began to practice this kind of listening with her more often. I watched and listened to what made her smile, what made her laugh. Even when I make mistakes, I notice what makes her upset. I do my best to practice the active listening mentioned above.

If this sounds like a lot of work, or that you may freak out the one you love by watching their every move, rest assured this is not what we are talking about. Try doing this a couple of times a week. If you are out to dinner notice what sides she likes, how she orders her steak. This is not just about food or even picking out gifts you know they will love.

If we listen long enough people will share with us what makes them happy as well as what makes them unhappy. They will tell us what they enjoy and what they do not. Next time you are out having coffee with a friend, notice what they like to talk about. Notice what interests them. Do they like to talk about history? Maybe a book on Ancient Egypt would make a good birthday gift.

This takes a little effort, but the returns are worth their weight in gold. Do this long enough and you will be the best spouse, friend, or coworker. Picking out gifts will be easier than ever and they will be received with more joy than ever before. The conflicts in your life will be reduced. You will find people will want to spend time around you and enjoy doing so. So remember the magic word LISTEN. Use it daily and your relationships will be better than ever.


In every situation in life that we approach the one and only thing we can have control of is ourselves. The reason I said can have control of is because quite often we relinquish that control. We allow others to determine how we are feeling and acting.

Instead of taking actions that we choose for ourselves and the course we would like to take our life on, we live our life in reaction based on the actions chosen by others. If someone were to ask you directly if you would let someone run your life for you the answer usually is a resounding “No!”. That is exactly what you are doing when you live in reaction to others and your environment.

Taking charge of your emotions is not the easiest thing to do, but the rewards far outweigh the risk of giving control of your life to anyone but yourself. One simple way to begin to take back control of your emotions and as such your life is to ask yourself this question several times a day, “How would the best version of myself deal with this situation?” This especially proves helpful in times of challenge and conflict. Even if you discover you do react instead of acting, take some time after the event is over to replay it in your head and think of how the best version of yourself would have handled things. By doing this, even in your head, next time you find yourself in that situation you are more likely to choose your actions instead of having others decide how you will act.

feel free to share your tips for controlling your emotions in the comments below!



So it is only a few days into the new year and I am hoping you have a written description of who you want to become. I know I have. Here is the funny thing, I say funny because it sounds better than disappointing. Guess how long it took me to do something contrary to my vision of who I am to become in 2016? I am not sure exactly, but the time frame could be measured in hours. I am sure a lot of us may run into this. Perhaps your goal is to become a healthier version of yourself, but then your coworker brings in their delicious cheese cake they only make once a year. You are halfway through your first piece before you realize it is not quite a healthy meal. Well, allow me to share with you my fall and what I learned.

First, the most important lesson is that if you stumble, you don’t have to stay laying down. You get back up and work even harder. The second thing was a bit more complex. Part of who I want to be is a person who is more careful what they say, especially in emotional situations. Again, I dropped the ball a little with a friend of mine on that one. As I was relaying my disappointment in myself to a trusted friend of mine he shared something similar that happened between him and his wife. “I really screwed up” he began. He went on to explain that in the heat of the disagreement he voiced his opinions and concerns in such a way a man of the religious order would blush. I inquired to whether he apologized and tried to better explain himself. “yeah, but it won’t work. She told me she just keeps replaying everything I said in her head and it is making her feel worse and worse”. I was shocked to hear somebody would do that to themselves. As I soon discovered, a lot of us do.

Let us begin by discussing our emotions. If you have been following my blog for any length of time you know our emotions come from inside us, not from outside circumstances. It is not the actual event that makes us feel a certain way, but what we decide it means. We also have a choice of what to focus on. Truly this gentleman did not always speak to his wife that way, and truly she did things to make him feel loved and happy, not just upset. I know because I have seen how high on love this fellow has been. He seemed sad, but not angry. I asked him if he had thought about the things she may have said or done to make him upset. “Yeah, a little, but I just can’t help but thinking about how cute she looked before I left for work and how much I am missing the love we share” he replied.

The difference was obvious. When someone hurts us, that is on them. Certainly if they say or do something harsh it can cause us great distress. Let’s face it, reflecting on it is a natural and almost automatic response. When we do focus on the painful things people have said or down to us however, we are actually hurting ourselves. In the case of a husband and wife, and even in really close friendships, it should be clear that the intent is never to hurt the other person if the relationship is healthy. Knowing that the other person does not want to hurt us can at the very least, take us from pain and anger to confusion. OK, so if they do not want to hurt us why would they say these things that are so painful? That at least is a better question. Perhaps they are hurt as well? Perhaps there has to be a healthier outlet to discuss such things? Perhaps we had a roll in causing their reaction? Whatever the answer may be this brings up the next point. It changes our focus. When we just replay the hurt in our mind, we are living in the problem. Nothing moves forward and we can literally make ourselves physically sick. When we start to ask the ‘why’ questions and throw in a few thoughts of loving and/or nice things this person may have done, we move towards a solution mindset. Maybe the solution is to remove this person from our life? That would be the most extreme answer, and usually doesn’t come to that, but there are a million other choices. Remove the situation? Refocus? Perhaps change or eliminate the situation?

When we replay negative experiences we also replay the feelings they gave us and essentially hurt ourselves. Would it not make more sense to replay positive situations and the feelings they gave us? Make no mistake, I understand how extremely difficult this can be, but the positive effect it would have on our lives is worth the change.