Archive by Author

As We Move Forward: Do Unto Others….

HelpingThis is a phrase that practically everyone has heard. It can be used to encourage the very best behavior. There are some basic presumptions behind this teaching. When we begin life, this is as far from reality as we get. A tiny baby only wants its own needs met immediately. As toddlers, we struggle with putting others first. We learn independent play while others are close by. There is little if any interaction even if there are a number of children in the group. It is still doing what each child wants. The only interaction likely in these situations is likely to happen if one child wants a toy someone else is playing with and makes an effort to take it away.

We do learn to behave better with other people. We learn rules like raising our hand to be given permission to speak, cooperating with others on a group or a team when working on a project or playing a team sport. Even this behavior does not rise to the standard of “Do unto others….” The goal of completing a group project or being successful in a team sport places the goal on completing the task at hand. These efforts may stop at even cooperating with others, using your own particular skill to achieve the overall goal. This may be a worthy goal, but is not the same.

As we mature, hopefully we develop relationships where the needs and desires of other people are important to us. The willingness to treat others in the same way we would want them to treat us requires incredible self awareness. There is a tendency today to react to what others say or do without any real regard to what consequences might occur as a result.

Social media gives us an audience for our instant reaction to almost anything. I have heard many people comment on how easily a text can be misunderstood. Face to face communication, especially with the commitment to listen to what the other person is really saying increases the chances of our treating others with courtesy and respect implied in this advice.

GroupAs we move forward, it serves us well to put ourselves in the other person’s place before we act. Asking how your actions would make you feel can go a long way toward improving all of our relationships. How would anger or other strong emotion that is driving the thing you are about to do make you feel?

We will never be perfect in this, but as we move forward, the progress we make will have some amazing results.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis.

We have a podcast containing the As We Move Forward articles read by Jonathan Bloom.

As We Move Forward: Too Much Information

TalkingWhen you ask questions, do you ever find that the person you are speaking with tells you much more than you wanted in answer to your question? Very likely all of us have had that experience. Turning it around, how many of us find ourselves giving a more elaborate explanation than seems called for in the question we have been asked? Why do you think this is the case?

The answer to that will probably depend as much on how we process information. Some of us simply share everything we know every time we get the chance. Some of us seem to believe that the people we encounter in daily situations are interested in every detail of our lives. Other people act as if every word was worth its wait in gold, and they don’t share any more of them than absolutely necessary. Obviously, some balance between these two extremes in information sharing leads to healthy relationships.

We might find it useful to begin with ourselves and the others with whom we have close relationship to see how the exchange of information is carried out in our lives. Many of us have had someone in our lives who seemed to “love the sound of their own voice.” If this person was an authority figure in our lives, such as a parent, teacher, older sibling or supervisor, we may have had little if any choice in the relationship. In one of these cases, our response may be on the order of listening to the person without really hearing what are saying. This might be described as the equivalent of having a radio or TV on as “background” for an activity like studying. Asking someone in a situation like this what is being said on the background device might produce a response of, “I don’t know. Having it on helps me concentrate on what I’m doing.”

One benefit of using the internet is that it forces us to be specific in framing the question we are asking to be sure of getting the response we are seeking to the search for information.

TalkingAs we move forward it is important to be as aware as possible where our relationships fall on the too much / too little spectrum. If we are receiving too much information from people in our relationships, we might benefit from some basic trading in empathic listening to learn how to help the one speaking get their thoughts out with greater clarity.

The benefits of even modest efforts in this direction can make our relationships more satisfying for everyone involved. Let us strive to move forward together in striving to make each of our relationships the very best it can be.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis.

We have a podcast containing the As We Move Forward articles read by Jonathan Bloom.

As We Move Forward: Honoring Commitments

ChildCommitments are an important part of any relationship. They can go to the most basic human involvements. Each of us is here because at least one person decided to honor the developing relationship between unborn child and mother to see that relationship through to birth. Even here, relationships can become complex very quickly.

Honoring this basic commitment may involve the mother and the father agreeing to accept, and raise the child. Other possibilities for the relationship with the newborn child may involve one or more of the biological parents. The primary relationship with the child might involve one or more other individuals, with or without any biological connection to the child. Commitment to the relationship may be temporary or long term and may be based on a variety of motivating factors.

This look at circumstances surrounding each of our first relationships shows how incredibly complex our relationships can be from the very beginning. From here it is easy to see how involved making and honoring commitments can be from the very beginning.

I dare to suggest that relationships and the making and honoring of commitments only becomes more complicated from this point on. Children can quickly develop preferences among the people in their lives. Choices of who a child will associate with, likes and dislikes are apparent at an early age. Many early relationships are based largely on the like/dislike factors in a relationship. Making and honoring commitments in these early relationships often comes down to who we like and who we do not.

As our understanding of the world around us grows, our basis for making relationships shifts to shared ideas and shared beliefs. We make and honor commitments more and more often based on things we agree on. As these relationships and the commitments that grow from them become more and more based on shared ideas and beliefs, the commitments tend to be of a deeper, more long lasting nature.

This is not always a straight line path. As we grow up, some of us enter relationships and make commitments where we do not share ideas nor beliefs. It may be excitement or a sense of adventure that draws us toward relationships that are outside what has been the norm for us. Honoring commitments in these new relationships may cause conflict with some of our previous relationships.

FriendsAs we move forward, it might be useful to think about relationships we are a part of and the commitments that are part of those relationships. How do we feel about the commitments in these relationships and how they are honored? We live in a world where commitment can easily be called into questioned or even held up to ridicule. It is not uncommon to have long-held beliefs not just challenged, but criticized or ridiculed, often with no real basis other than the fact that someone says we are wrong.

As we move forward, we might find it helpful to have as clear an understanding as possible of our relationships and the commitments that are part of them. In this way, we can be sure that the relationships we are part of and the commitments that are part of them make the most sense. In this way, we can seek to be consistent in how we live our lives and our relationships, and how we honor our commitments.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis.

We have a podcast containing the As We Move Forward articles read by Jonathan Bloom.

As We Move Forward: Managing Disappointment

Disappointed

Think of a time when you experienced real disappointment. This is more than simply feeling sad about something that did or did not happen. Disappointment regarding something significant that we expected to happen that did not. It can also involve one or more people who promised us something that did not come to pass. Disappointment does not necessarily involve something of major significance. It just needs to seem that way at the time. Not being chosen for a particular team as a child may seem like a major issue at the time. It becomes a disappointment if it becomes part of a pattern of experiences that has a major effect on our lives.

Some people look back at having to move as a child and losing things like friends, a school they liked, a house and neighborhood that had significance for them as a disappointment. Our response to an experience like this is highly subjective. One person might view this move as a tragedy affecting their whole life. Another person might view a move like this as an exciting adventure that opened doors of opportunity and exciting growth.

This suggests that a big part of experiencing things as either disappointment or opportunities for growth is found in our attitude toward these times of change. It can be helpful to examine the causes of our disappointment.

If a person seems to be the cause, what is it about our relationship with that person or group of persons that allowed events to reach the level of a disappointment? Are there other, similar events in your life that did not result in a real disappointment? What was different those times?

Thinking

It is also helpful to look at our reaction to disappointment. There are people who simply give up. After a while and a number of disappointments, these people show no willingness or ability to rise above disappointments. There are some people who lash out at every situation that might lead to a disappointment. These people tend to find someone or some event to blame. Their anger serves as their escape from ever having to deal with a disappointment head on. Their anger becomes the arena in which. They live their lives.

As we move forward, let’s focus on ways we can do problem solving when confronted with a situation that might become a disappointment. Logical, reasonable responses will often go a long way toward resolving a situation in ways that benefit everyone involved. The increased understanding that can come from problem solving can keep many situations from turning into disappointments.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis.

We have a podcast containing the As We Move Forward articles read by Jonathan Bloom.

As We Move Forward: Making Choices

Choices

One of the things that sets us apart as humans is the process of making choices. Tiny babies respond to stimuli like hunger and tiredness and the attention of others. Gradually children learn to differentiate in which things and even persons to respond to and what the response will be. Making choices starts with little things like choosing which toy you want to play with. As children get older, they begin to express preferences and gradually have increasing discretion in what foods they eat, what clothes they wear and what activities they engage in. This is all a part of the very complicated process of making choices.

This is where the whole making choices thing starts to take off in some very interesting directions. Choices have consequences. To choose to go in one direction opens up many opportunities, but it also closes some off. Our families make choices for us that

Even though I grew up within a few miles of one of the Great Lakes, I did not have the opportunity to learn to swim as a child. I did take lessons as an adult, but I have never been more than a barely adequate swimmer. I made the choice to seek out summer jobs at an early age. Because I lived in a tourist area, part time seasonal jobs were readily available for young people. I chose to enhance my discretionary income through part time work and found that to be very satisfying. Some of those efforts have led me to be adventurous throughout my adult life.

I can trace many outcomes in my life to simple choices I made in areas like education, vocation, relationships and even things involving travel and recreation. It amazes me how often a single, seemingly isolated event has brought about a choice or even choices that have far reaching consequences in the future.

Thinking

As we move forward, it can be helpful to examine where our lives are at presently and to examine some of the choices that seem to have led us to where we are. At the very least this examination can lead to greater understanding of how we came to be where we find ourselves. This increased understanding might also lead us to greater acceptance of ourselves as products of the choices we have made and other people who have made different choices.

I believe we make the best choices we can given the information we have. As we move forward, let us strive to make the best informed choices possible in every situation.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis.

We have a podcast containing the As We Move Forward articles read by Jonathan Bloom.

As We Move Forward: Above and Beyond

Helping

When you are asked to do something for someone else, ask yourself how you tend to respond. Several responses could include ignoring the request. This might be easier to do in certain relationships such as those involving family, friends or acquaintances. The more serious consequences of this type of response would include disappointing people. Continuing to behave this way will almost certainly lead to major tension in these relationships and may ultimately result in some of these relationships being terminated.

Another possible response involves doing just as much as necessary in each instance. An example of this might be a student who figures out what the minimum response is required in each situation and does only that. This could include attending class but participating only when specifically called on and then giving only the minimally acceptable response. This could include doing required assignments, but only to the extent of meeting the basic requirements in each situation.

An employee performing at this level might do all the things specifically required in the job description without ever volunteering for anything extra or contributing and extra effort or energy to any aspect of the job. This behavior is certainly more acceptable from an employee than refusing to comply with requests would be. It seems a large number of employees perform at this level. Employers appreciate people who perform at the acceptable level. The consequences to performing at this level could include lack of opportunities for advancement and little in the way of recognition beyond a basic appreciation for doing the job for which someone was hired.

Another response could be described as going above and beyond. In personal and informal relationships, this behavior would start with a real desire to know the needs and desires of someone else and to constantly think of ways to do things to make someone’s life better and happier. The person behaving in this way is someone sought after and valued as a friend.

In school, this is the person who not only volunteers in class, but who does extra reading and study and who seeks to make the educational experience the best it can be for everyone.

The employee who goes above and beyond is always thinking of how things can be better for follow workers and everyone involved in the organization. This person tends to receive recognition and responsibility for their actions which make things better overall.

Helping

As we move forward, it is helpful to look at how we respond to requests from others. If we sometimes tend to not comply or are only doing the minimal, it might be helpful to ask what in that relationship makes us want to make that response. Why do we go above and beyond when we do? Why do others go above and beyond? Are there things that could make over and above our normal response? The consequences of that discover could make our lives and the lives of others better and happier.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis.

We have a podcast containing the As We Move Forward articles read by Jonathan Bloom.

As We Move Forward: Acceptance and Approval

Group

 At first look, these two words may look very similar. On closer examination, there are some significant differences. Acceptance signifies the beginning of a relationship. It is most often based on a set of expectations rather than a mutual interest or shared set of experiences. We can be accepting of someone with whom we have serious disagreements as long as we have enough respect for the person and their ideas to see value and worth in the person and their ideas even if hold a different opinion.

It is possible, for example, to accept and even admire someone with interest and ability in sports, music, drama or any number of other areas in which a person does not share either ability or specific interest. Most of us have expressed the desire to be something when we grow up, even if we have little or no common ability with anyone who does this particular thing.

Approval takes this to the next level. Approval embraces common interests and abilities and adds much more actual involvement or at least the desire to become involved in the activities and beliefs of others.

We can be accepting of someone with differing philosophical, cultural or social beliefs. In fact, I have had some of my most rewarding discussions with people with drastically different points of view than mine. I value the relationships I have developed with these people. After all, I learn very little from people who see everything the same way I do.

Approval is a different matter. I do not necessarily approve of the beliefs of everyone I accept. Far too often, in our current culture, it seems that people demand both our acceptance and our approval of them and their position on everything. The two are not necessarily mutually inclusive. I miss the open dialogue of being able to offer acceptance without necessarily offering approval at the same time.

Group

As we move forward, I believe it is important to understand the distinction  between acceptance and approval. It is polarizing to be told I am prejudiced or insensitive simply because I cannot approve everything I can accept.

As we move forward, I invite you to be as accepting as possible, even if that does not always include offering approval. Both have value, but they are not the same.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis.

We have a podcast containing the As We Move Forward articles read by Jonathan Bloom.

As We Move Forward: Give and Take

Mom and Child

These two words—give and take, can be used to describe what takes place in each of our relationships. Whatever relationships we enter into, we give  who we are and what we bring into the relationship. We take what the other person has to offer that meets our needs. One of the reasons the first smiles of a baby are so much appreciated is the very fact that the beginning of the parent child relationship involves almost total giving on the part of the parents, especially in the infancy stage. It seems as if the newborn takes constantly everything he or she needs to be content. That first smile is seen by the parent as this child giving back love and appreciation.

In early life we learn a lot about the process of give and take in our various relationships. An ongoing question of what is from nature and what is nurture comes from watching a child develop their unique personality and their tendencies to be more of a giver or more of a taker in relationships as they develop.

It is tempting to over simplify our conclusions about where people fall on this give and take scale based on what we think we know about someone. It is easy to conclude that a spoiled, pampered indulged child will show signs of being a chronic taker. While this does sometimes seems like the simplest explanation for certain behavior, it is not always an accurate description of what is happening.

There are certainly occasions where someone who has always seemingly received everything they might want turns out to be more of a giver, while someone who was denied many of these things becomes a taker in their relationships.

What are some of the behaviors that seem characteristic of givers and takers in relationships? Takers seem to be focused on themselves and their needs and wants. They tend to view relationships in terms of what is in the relationship for them and how they can get others to do what they want. In defense of takers, it does seem that. Many of them are unaware of this tendency. They tend to believe that their way of looking at things is the best, if not the only way to see things.

People who tend toward giving have a tendency to see every situation in how it will affect others. Givers often tend to abdicate decision making to takers because they can seem unwilling or unable to make decisions.

Friendships

As we move forward, it can be helpful to look at ourselves and others with whom we are in relationships to see where we line up as givers and takers. As in most things, the goal is to achieve a balance in our relationships. At  the very least, having an understanding of where we fall on this scale in our relationships can help us find the best balance to make all our relationships as productive as they can be.

As we move forward, may we achieve this balance in each of our relationships be our goal.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis.

We have a podcast containing the As We Move Forward articles read by Jonathan Bloom.

As We Move Forward: Reasonable Expectations

How do you know what you can reasonably expect from a relationship? That may sound like a fairly straightforward question, but in reality the answer may involve more than we might imagine. Relationships, even very basic, simple ones have many dynamics.

Parent & Child

Take a fundamental relationship like the one between parent and child. The parent is assumed to love the child and always place the child’s interests ahead of their own. Most of the time this seems to work pretty well. What complicates things are all the factors taking place in the life of the parent that may seem to have nothing to do with the child, but which actually have a great deal to do with how the parent interacts with the child.

Now, think of the lowest moment in your life, the time when you were ashamed of everything you were thinking and feeling. Maybe it is a time you yelled at other people, were impatient with hem, were rude and insulting. Hopefully, this was one of those times you regretted your action as soon as you had done them.

If the parent is experiencing stress in their own life, whether it is personal or work-related, this can have a direct bearing on the relationship between parent and child. Reasonable expectations for a child to have in a stable, loving home can be far different than reasonable expectations in a home where stressors, such as financial insecurity, abuse of alcohol or other substances or other factors outside the child’s direct experience may have a serious impact on what are reasonable expectations.

This can happen in settings like school and work. Things happening in the personal life of a teacher, supervisor or co-worker can change what are reasonable expectations, sometimes without our even being aware of what is going on. Unfortunately, our culture tends to place more value on critical reactions, than measured, reasonable responses. A sudden change in behavior in one of these relationships may be easier to identify and understand than one that is long term.

Restaurant

This can even affect casual relationships. It is reasonable to expect that a server or a salesperson will provide the product or service in a polity, even friendly manner. The things going on in their life at the moment may turn  things around to the point that it seems they are doing us a favor by doing thing that could be reasonably assumed to be their job.

As we move forward, we should try to always remember the unique opportunity being in relationships with others gives us to have an impact on someone else’s life. Whenever things don’t seem quite right, we can take a step back and try to understand what is going on.

I believe we each do the best we can given what we know. As we move forward, I encourage you to make it your goal to know as much as possible in each of your relationships to do everything you can to insure that each of your relationships are as reasonable and productive as possible. It is a worthy goal. Let us move forward together.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis.

We have a podcast containing the As We Move Forward articles read by Jonathan Bloom.

As We Move Forward: Two Natures

Deep Thought

We have two natures in our lives, and they are in a constant state of conflict with one another. If we think about the tensions in our life, this makes sense. Why are there times when we think only positive, noble thoughts and other times when our thoughts are the exact opposite? As an example, imagine the best day you’ve ever had, when everything was going your way. Imagine that time when you were feeling on top of the world, when you could see the best in every person and every situation.

Now, think of the lowest moment in your life, the time when you were ashamed of everything you were thinking and feeling. Maybe it is a time you yelled at other people, were impatient with hem, were rude and insulting. Hopefully, this was one of those times you regretted your action as soon as you had done them.

Contrast this to a time when you were positive, encouraging and complimentary to others, one of those days when you were pleased with yourself and the way you are relating to everyone you meet. Your self esteem is at its highest. You believe this is a moment you can take on the world and win.

Now imagine that these two natures occur almost simultaneously and continuously, day in and day out for the duration of our lives. That is one way to describe these two natures existing side by side within each of us and being in a constant conflict with each other.

You’ve experienced this if you’ve ever gone from happiness to anger in the span of a moment, sometimes without even being aware of what has caused the extreme shift. Many people report a real feeling of losing control at these moments. These clashes between our two nature seem to happen more frequently in some people than others. That may be the case. It could also be that some people have learned better control over these two natures, particularly the one that can lead to negative consequences for us and for others.

Group

As we move forward, it can be very helpful to reflect on these conflicting natures as they occur in us and in those around us. Do people you interact  with tend to demonstrate behavior based mostly on one or the other of these conflicting natures? How do you respond when you are confronted with one of these conflicts in others? How do you respond to sudden outbursts of anger or tears in another person? How do you respond when you sense one of these conflicts happening within yourself?

As we move forward, it is helpful to realize that everyone experiences these conflicting natures. Let us work to learn to respond to these conflicts, either as we experience them in ourselves or others.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis.

We have a podcast containing the As We Move Forward articles read by Jonathan Bloom.