Wednesday, November 30, 2011


             Not getting your reasonable needs met by others in your life be they family, friends, and even casual acquaintances? Consider that the problem may be a lack of communication skills on your part. Here's the fix that can serve you forever, strengthen your relationships, get your needs met, and who knows - maybe even promote world peace.

            Like pieces of a garment pattern, each communication ability makes more sense when seen as part of the whole concept. 
              1. “Process awareness” is the foundation skill of effective verbal communication. It is being aware, without judgment, moment by moment, of your and your partner’s key attitudes, physical and emotional feelings (including hunches and intuitions), thoughts (inner voices), real communication skills, and other needs and objective awareness, and, finally, how you are talking together. Use “process awareness” in all key situations, including when you are alone. With practice, it becomes a habit.

            2. “Metatalk” is honest, clear, and cooperative discussion with a partner about how you are communicating together. It is based on mutual respect and process awareness, and uses a special vocabulary. You build this language over time to your own personal values and style of communicating.

            3. “Empathic listening” is a conscious decision to: suspend your opinions and other needs for the moment; briefly feedback your sense of your partner’s main thoughts, feelings, and needs and vigilantly and objectively note their reactions. This is used when your partner’s emotions are intense and he or she cannot listen to you. Listening empathically does not, however, mean you agree with your partner. Mastering these first three skills is essential for effective “assertion” and “problem solving.”

            4. “Assertion” (the skill or art of) is: clearly knowing what you really need, right now; asking for it plainly and without guilt; calmly expecting a defensive response; respectfully listening to it; and then, firmly repeating these steps until you either get (1.) agreement, (2.) an acceptable compromise, or (3.) switch to the last skill, “problem solving.”

            There are three effective assertion essentials: (1.) Valuing yourself and your partner’s need to communicate equally; (2.) firmly believing that your present needs are legitimate; and (3.) knowing that if you are making a request, compromise and “No” are okay; or, if you are making a demand, they are not okay.

            5. “Problem solving” is used to meet enough of everyone’s real needs when people disagree. This skill involves cooperatively uncovering what each person really needs now, and creatively brainstorming all options to evolve a win-win solution. Effective “problem solving” uses all of the other four skills and requires self-respect and mutual respect, optimism, imagination, patience, and good will. Well used, the power of this skill is enormous.

            We rarely study the skills we rely on the most to get many of our daily and business needs met. Effective verbal communication happens when each person gets his or her major needs met enough and feels good enough about the way he or she did and each person involved.

            A powerful key to success that most people are unaware of is the non-verbal relationship messages that we get from each other all the time. Only when we each decode these face, body, and voice-dynamic signals as, “You see me as a respected equal here,” can effective communication work. If any partner reads, “You seem to feel ‘one-up’ or ‘one-down’ to me,” communication withers. A deadly variation, “I see me as ‘one-down’ also steadily wrecks the outcome of any communication.

             The three most basic verbal communication tools to build are: a healthily love and respect for yourself and your own needs; an equal respect for every partner’s worth, dignity, and needs; and, a knowledge and proactive use of all five of these skills.

Reading about these skills will change little. Trying them patiently and with cautious optimism will cause positive communication and relationship changes, over time. The more you use communication basics and skills to do win-win problem solving, the more automatic and effective it becomes—a priceless life-long road to success.


Thursday, November 10, 2011


Relationships in blended/stepfamilies are new, untested, and not a given as they are in traditional families. Even when everyone is in tune, what is missing is the comfort of knowing that there is a bond taken for granted, a biological bond of caring and love. Now, outward signals and signs are continuously needed to show that caring and loving, or respect, really exist. Children in blended/stepfamilies also have at least one extra set of grandparents and extended family which can leave everyone on both sides confused about what to do.

These children become siblings, residential stepsiblings, nonresidential stepsiblings, residential half-siblings, and nonresidential half-siblings. There are even two subtypes of half-sibling roles: those of children related by blood to only one of the adults, and the half-sibling role of the mutual child. Children also have step-grandparents and ex-step-grandparents.

Even though blended/stepfamilies are a large segment of the American families today, our language has not yet caught up with the proliferation of new family roles. As family members separate and join new families, the new kin do not so much replace as add to kin from the first marriage. What are the new relatives to be called? There may be stepparents, step-grandparents, and stepsiblings, but what, for instance does a child call the new wife that her or his non-custodial father has married? Or, if a child alternates between the two households in a joint-custody arrangement, where does he or she call “home,” and where is his or her “family”? It takes the entire family working together to make the adjustment easier for everyone.

Stepfamilies look pretty much like biological families. They have many common characteristics. And, they also differ in about 60 important ways. There are commonsense things that work in an average biological family that will not work, or will even backfire, in a normal multi-home stepfamily. For example, an earnest stepfamily adult (or co-grandparent) believing they must quickly love their young step-kin just like their own blood will usually stress everyone out, starting with themselves. The reality? Shoot for initial mutual respect.
This stepfamily identity-formation involves members gradually clarifying and melding ideas on who has what “jobs” in their multi-home family, including non-custodial biological parents, their new spouses, step-grandparents, ex in-laws, and half-siblings. The reality is that grandparents can see a new child as altering their estate bequests, or as an exciting blessing and joy.

Therapists, clergy, doctors, and teachers can often cause unintended confusion by using labels that do not emotionally fit for a given stepfamily. As authority figures, their choice of title can carry more weight (especially with kids) than a non-professional’s. Most stepfamilies find it best not to force names or titles on members, but to experiment over time and consider the comfort levels of all key people involved, including both biological parents and all grandparents. Each family will evolve its own titles—there is no absolute right way to label here.

Gloria Lintermans is the author of THE SECRETS TO STEPFAMILY SUCCESS: Revolutionary Tools to Create a Blended Family of Support and Respect,