Archive for the 'being treated with respect' Category

What is Power Over Behavior?

babsPower over behavior is hostile behavior which is considered acceptable in most parts of our society. It is one-up-manship that assumes that in an interaction one person must be superior and the other inferior. It considers sensitivity a weakness.
This mentality is so prevalent on sitcoms, in schools, locker rooms and conference rooms that we hardly even notice it. We may wonder why we feel so tattered and torn after interactions with so many others.

Power over is a mentality in which I win and you lose and sharing power is a poor second to scoring power. I can insult or disrespect you and hurt you. If you complain, that shows you can’t take it. You are too sensitive. To a bully sensitivity is not strength but a weakness.

This model of power is typical among many middle school students, insurance company offices, and tribes of baboons. This mode of behavior is widely accepted, though to a discerning eye, bullies seem no more than knuckle-dragging Neanderthals.
The various forms of power over behavior listed below (and more) constitute verbal abuse. Oh, and by the way, the effects of verbal abuse are widely known to be more severe than the effects of physical battering; causing intrusive thoughts and interfering with the freedom to express one’s self.

So if you are dealing with power over at work, at home or at school, don’t be surprised if you have symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder and reactions that seem like they are out of proportion. Your reactions are not out of proportion. This form of abuse is subtle and insidious. It creeps into the cracks of your self esteem and can highjack your ability to see your own flaws, making you consider yourself at fault when you are not.

Cut yourself a lot of slack. Consider trauma therapy.

Here are forms of power over behavior.
• Not listening
• Failing to make eye contact
• Forgetting your name
• Interrupting you
• Using you statements to blame, shame or define.
• Acting superior with eye rolling, sighs, repeating things slowly as if you were incapable of understanding.
• Withholding – not speaking or failing to greet you.
• Not allowing you into a casual conversation by ignoring you or physically closing you out of the circle.
• Contradicting
• Diminishing or dismissing your feelings or your opinions
• Finding minute fault with what you have said and derailing your message.
• Chronic criticism
• Blame and often shame
• Defining you, for example, “You always have to be right,” or “You think you know everything.”

If you hear these, do not be deceived, you are dealing with controlling, one-up behavior.  I am not trying to be flippant, but the best thing to do is find another playground if you can.  Take it from me.  There are better ones where others play nice.

Are You Really too Sensitive?

Your sensitivity may just be appropriate.Why is it that those of us who are on the receiving end of rude, unkind, dishonest or manipulative behavior are so often accused of being too sensitive?

When most of our minds are shaped by the verbal one-upmanship of television, the ideal behavior is to be tough and unaffected by the hurtful behavior of others.  To the TV shaped mentality, there is only power over another; a zero sum game.

This is a rather primitive, unenlightened mentality for the 21st century.  Sensitivity is seen as weakness.  We give credence to the knuckle-dragging Neanderthal who can dish out the most insults and anger.   In light of this, it is hardly a wonder that half of marriages result in divorce and our children bully each other.

“You’re too sensitive,” is a standard line from the verbally or emotionally abusive.  If one complains about manipulative behavior, the complaint is dismissed and the complainer is defined as being “too sensitive.”  Of course, this criticism is abusive too.  Who is to say that who and how you are is wrong?

There is, of course, a kernel of truth to the “too sensitive” criticism, otherwise we would never accept it.  Those of us who are sensitive do need to learn not to internalize the judgments of others too easily.

It is common for those on the receiving end of verbal and emotional abuse to begin to buy into the criticisms of the abuser – whether at work or at home.  They begin to wonder:  Am I really performing so badly?  Did I really cause him to be angry?  Should I truly have known that answer?  Could I really be mentally ill?  Unfortunately, the abusive live in a reality in which a criticism is merely a ploy to get relative power in any situation.  On the other hand, the sensitive person lives in a reality in which a criticism should be considered as an honest opinion and taken at face value.

For those who survive abusive relationships, this sensitivity is the gift that keeps on giving, making them second guess themselves far more and far longer than they should.  But this is the polar opposite of the healthy sensitivity that discerns that rude, manipulative, hurtful behavior is unacceptable.

And, I wonder, how sensitive is too sensitive?  A woman I know complained that her boss greets her with “What is it now?”  A co worker said the problem was that she was too sensitive.  As a manager, I would say the problem is that the boss is too rude…and inefficient.  A neutral greeting would actually be easier and quicker.  But a polite response would not leave the employee feeling insecure and off balance.

And, I suspect that in this supervisor’s sitcom mentality, he needs to create insecurity to have a sense of power.

A client whose husband regularly yelled and swore at her, reports that a marriage counselor suggested she develop a thicker skin about his anger.  She was too sensitive.  I can see no reason for yelling at a spouse unless she’s in the path of a truck or the house is on fire, but somehow the anger was not addressed.  This woman was criticized for not being able to take it.

It often seems that the rude and unkind people who lack empathy are not the problem in our relationships.   We who have empathy enough to be sensitive to the behavior of others should learn to care less about others; be less empathetic.

We should develop thicker skins, be insensitive and unaffected by how others treat us.  What a wonderful world that will create!

More Sins of Omission – Hiding your Light Under a Bushel


Good people often feel that they are promoting good when they simply avoid doing wrong. The new age movement promotes this by preaching non It takes courage to shine brightly.judgment without understanding the concept, and suggesting that inner peace means passivity.

When the enlightened practice non judgment and inner peace, they act, or refrain from acting, from a state of being centered.  Ghandi practiced passive resistance and love, certainly, but his was acourageous stance which he discerned would avoid violence.  He was not passive to avoid action.  When I am passive or non-judgmental to avoid taking a stance, it is a cop out.

More than most people, I understand the power of the unseen and what can be done with energy.  I practice a number of energetic or mental techniques which are invisible and yet quite profound in their results.  But if I see someone drowning, I think it is more appropriate to go physically to their rescue than to send them good energy.  If someone is trespassing, and doesn’t listen to reason, then litigation may be more appropriate than love.  (If you are capable of litigating lovingly, then that’s even better.)

Bullies, abusers, those who lack empathy, sociopaths without conscience…none of these people respond well to good energy.  People who cannot relate to or connect with their fellow humans are often quite oblivious to the energy of others.

In dealing with these selfish forces, those of us who are good should be positive forces for good, rather than passive lumps who are satisfied with simply not being bad.

What does it mean to be a positive force for good? It involves using power appropriately.  We all have god-given power to wield.  It was not bestowed upon us to be hidden or to atrophy from disuse.

Positive goodness may involve speaking up, enforcing boundaries and not allowing trespasses, protecting our dependants, and taking action to promote positive outcomes.  Positive goodness almost always involves courage and risk taking.  It certainly takes discernment to stand up for what is right without continually focusing on what is wrong.

Positive goodness almost always creates a kind of magic in the life of the person who practices it.  Whether you win or lose your particular challenge, the courage you practice and the boundaries you fortify put you in a wiser, more centered place.  From this state of being, your energetic influence on the world is huge and beneficent.

The prize is that you shine more brightly as your true self and experience deep joy rather than fleeting happiness.

Sins of Omission

Survivors of abusive relationships are often accused of choosing to be in that relationship. Yet, I have never met anyone who became involved in an emotionally abusive relationship on purpose or felt they had even an inkling of the abusive nature of their relationship until they were well and truly involved.

Abuse generally doesn’t occur on the first date or even during the first weeks or months of a relationship. People put up with control tactics in the workplace to keep their jobs. When control tactics sneak into a relationship, it is almost always after a commitment is made, and some of these tactics are very subtle.

The accurate hindsight of survivors of verbal abuse can be used as intelligent foresight.  There are some important social behaviors which seem to be lacking or inconsistent in people who are emotionally abusive and controlling.

Covert emotional abuse is very hard to detect by anyone who hasn’t already experienced it! The most insidious emotional abuse involves sins of omission rather than overtly controlling behavior. The abusive behavior is often interspersed with loving behavior, which confuses the situation. The inconsistent loving behavior provides aperiodic conditioning, which is the most powerful kind of conditioning.

Here are some sins of omission that are emotionally abusive and are often precursors to more overt behavior. When you encounter these behaviors in a relationship on a consistent basis, I suggest you stop giving the benefit of the doubt and run like hell in the opposite direction.

Failure to Respond. In the absence of a severe hearing impairment, anyone who does not respond to your greetings, comments or questions is controlling the communication in an anti social way. Relationships in which power is shared involve two way communication. Refusing to respond could be hostile or it could be an indication of a personality problem. You cannot have an equal relationship with anyone who gives you the silent treatment.

Withholding. Whether it is information, affection, approval or resources, withholding is the sign of a competitive relationship. A competitive relationship is not an equal relationship. When you meet someone who fails to make eye contact or say “hello,” I’d recommend you leave skid marks rather than stick around and invite more of this behavior.

Countering.  It may be disguised as a simple difference of opinion, but whenever someone immediately dismisses your point of view without consideration, you are not being treated as an equal.  Argument and discussion involve listening to each others opinions and this should go both ways. 

Forgetting. Some forgetting is simply a failure to remember, and is really a form of withholding if it happens all the time. There simply is not any good excuse for not remembering a spouse’s or partner’s birthday. Subtle forgetting is forgiven more often than it should be. A person who has been a close friend or partner for many months or years, should know who you are, remember important details about you and your life and remember the details of plans you have made together.

In a potentially romantic relationship, forgetting can include forgetting earlier encounters and this can get very confusing. The man (or woman) who looked deeply into your eyes last week and told you that you were significant, but barely remembers who you are when you next meet, is either severely impaired or abusive. This on again off again behavior also has a lot of power to condition you to hang in for the next reward.  In the long run, it won’t be worth it.

When you detect any of these sins of omission repeatedly, stop hanging around. Get out of Dodge! If sins of omission are interspersed with attentive or loving behavior, this is an even worse sign! This is not the behavior pattern exhibited by anyone who can engage in an equal relationship.
These sins of omission don’t just occur in romantic relationships, they are quite common in business and voluntary organizations. If you always volunteer but don’t get recognition, your boss takes credit for your work, or your team leader fails to greet you, you are experiencing control tactics. Start looking for a new organization to join.

Stick with people who give you positive and consistent social cues that they recognize your existence and respect it. Anything less is not good enough.

What is enlightened interaction like in a group?

Most of us hate going to gatherings when we don’t know anyone there. The typical experience is to be ignored by group members who don’t know me – which makes me want to hide behind a curtain. Sometimes, though, a well meaning group leader kindly makes a big deal of me and my attendance – which makes me want to hide under a chair!

These extremes do not apply to all groups, only about 98% of them. Enlightened group interaction is uncommon. I used to think it would occur in enlightened groups, but I’m not sure those are common either.

Up until a month ago, I would have told you that enlightened interaction is not possible in a group setting. But, I spent a day with a group that interacted in an enlightened way – at least they did the day I joined them.

What made their interaction different? It seemed that everyone in the group shared power with all the others. But what does that mean?

Here are the ways power was shared:

Everyone was treated as equally important. I was new to the group and had never met any of them before, yet I felt welcomed – not smothered or made much of, but welcomed and included as if I were a longstanding member of the group. The group was led by experts and everyone showed them respect, but no more than the experts showed respect for the rest of the group.

Everyone got the same airtime. Group discussion followed a protocol to give everyone an equal and uninterrupted time to contribute. But such protocols often result in big talkers taking the floor for long periods. This group had a more balanced discussion that seemed to arise from the mutual respect.

Everyone was open to interact with everyone else. Although a number of these people had known each other for a long time, there were no cliques to deal with. I could join their conversations. People approached me and engaged me in conversation. When I approached others and opened a conversation, they responded. Some were quiet but no one was aloof. Some were talkative but no one monopolized the conversation.

Everyone was honored with attention. When I spoke people listened and responded reasonably. No one interrupted me when I spoke, or let their attention wander as if they couldn’t wait for me to finish my sentence. I attribute this kind of attention to being present and aware. Real listening is truly the honor of another’s presence.

It may be that this enlightened interaction occurred because I was in a group of enlightened people; people practicing being present in the moment; people who know where their personal boundaries are. People who are present in the moment can enjoy a state of flow.
The resulting interaction had an elegance that reminded me of a school of fish or a flock of starlings, in which the individuals are in the flow, moving in synchrony; never colliding, never going separate directions.

How can you have more enlightened interactions? It helps to have enlightened friends. How do you know if your friends are enlightened? Don’t go by what they tell you. Watch how they behave.

How You Look from Behind

I used to sit in the back of the room at staff meetings and um, well, uh, I would… daydream.  In one especially riveting meeting, I noticed that 8 out of 10 women present had styled their hair on the front and sides, but had left the back uncurled or uncombed!  From the front, these ladies presented a very together appearance, but they were totally unaware of what they looked like from behind.

This is the way subconscious feelings and patterns affect us.  You meet someone who presents a cheery, positive face to the world, but you sense an underlying insecurity, sadness, or even anger.  No matter how positive and socially skilled you are, your innermost feelings are there, broadcasting subliminal messages that may contradict your demeanor.

Most of the time, this is no big deal.  We all have a mix of conscious and unconscious stuff going on.  But if you are pretending to like someone you truly dislike, they will sense it.  If you are secretly insecure, I guarantee, most everyone else is aware of it on some level.

How do you know what unconscious obstacles and patterns may be tripping you up if you are not conscious of them?  You can become conscious of the unconscious by looking at reflections of yourself, much as my colleagues at the meeting should have done when fixing their hair in the morning.

The first mirror is body feelings.  Many of us have been schooled to ignore feelings, but they never lie.  Make an affirmation about your wildest dream and see how it makes you feel.  For example, “Men find me so attractive they run up to me at the mall and offer me gifts.” Then listen – really listen – to your body.  If the statement is true you will feel peaceful.  If the statement is false, you will feel some dissonance, or tension, somewhere in your body.  (Hint:  probably in your belly, but maybe in your chest.)

Another great mirror is other people, but look at the reactions of a number of other people not just a few.  Do you get odd reactions from people in general?  Are people often rude for no reason?  You are probably not a truly awful person, or you wouldn’t be reading this.  People are sensing some dissonance in your person.  They probably are not conscious of their reaction, so don’t bother asking them.

The third good mirror is an intuitive coach, counselor or consultant.  Find one who has expertise in the area you have trouble with, whether relationships, marketing, managing people, or communications.   Intuition helps the expert to quickly identify your unconscious patterns and obstacles and point them out to you.  Their expertise helps them guide you to deal with the issues identified.  A good intuitive expert will not distort your reflection much.

When ignorance is not blissful, ‘tis helpful to be wise.

Being the Stalker Instead of Being Stalked

Those who are in relationship with critics or controllers can develop the habit of reacting to events but avoiding positive action.  Being reactive will save your skin when you under attack of any kind, but being reactive is not so useful for getting whatyou want out of life, and it narrows your horizons until your goal is simply to get by.

If you are a student of popular new age metaphysics, this reactivity is reinforced by the notions of using the power of thought and being open to receive.  These ideas can be powerful, but not without the magic of inspired action!

When the subconscious mind is full of limitations and receiving is limited to the next criticism or argument, action becomes reactive instead of inspired.  Getting away from trouble will probably not lead toward fulfilled desires.

If this becomes habitual, you are the stalked, not the stalker. Here are a few exercises you can try to get into stalking mode and actively or proactively seeking rather than reacting.

When religious evangelists come to the door, asking if you ever think about the afterlife, tell them you definitely do!  Greet them enthusiastically and invite them to your church.  Keep a church bulletin handy to press into their hands and tell them you hope to see them this Sunday.  Of course, most of these groups are not allowed to take material from other churches.

Is there someone in your family who frequently asks you for money or loans or favors?  Pick up the phone now, dial them and ask them for $50 until payday or see if they will commit to helping you clean the gutters.  Of course, unlike you, they’ll probably have plenty of excuses handy for why they can’t help you out.

Next time you see a panhandler in front of the post office, approach him or her and ask for a quarter for your parking meter so you won’t get a ticket.  Of course, they won’t have any spare change, though they were hoping you did.

Who knows?  If you try these activities, you could get some money or help or have new guests at church.  My guess is you’ll simply discover that even the panhandler has better boundaries than people who live with critics or controllers.

The more important gift will be to have some practice at pursuing instead of avoiding.  You may even find yourself going after more important desires… or telling your critic to stuff it.

You are now the stalker.

Interaction with the Enlightened

The 1st Dalai Lama

When I coach people, I tend to learn only about their interactions with people who are aggressive, abusive, or just plain weird.   But there are those who have enlightened interactions with others and we can cheer and encourage ourselves by appreciating such people and modeling ourselves after them.  Most of us can cite someone who has made us feel singularly special and understood.

At the very pinnacle of enlightened interaction, in my book, is the Dalai Lama.  Do a Google search on images of “Dalai Lama with…” and see him with various important people.   Of course, there’s his beaming, joyful face, but what’s really fun is the looks on the faces of those around him.

Here is George W. who looks solemn and uncomfortable even at baseball games, for heaven’s sake.  But this is a different George W.  He is grinning from ear to ear and the smile extends to his eyes and body language.  He’s very much enlightened by the Dalai Lama’s interactions.  These photos give me great hope.

Now see His Holiness with the Prince of Wales.  Charlie’s British aristocracy has slipped askew like an ill fitting hat.  He is as red in the face as a newborn and his smile is broad enough to show his molars!

Oh, my goodness! The Dalai Lama is holding Charlie’s hand! What is going on here?  Something in these interactions seems to cheer these people and cut through the B.S. in short order, so we see them as their mothers probably saw them.

After half a century of keeping a stiff upper lip, the Prince of Wales would not completely thaw within fifteen minutes unless … well … unless he felt safe;  unless he felt respected; unless he felt that someone was relating to him on a profoundly personal level!

Clearly, the enlightened interaction occurs in the present moment and the other person must be feeling accepted and loved or he wouldn’t be grinning like that.  But I accept and love people all the time and they rarely react so positively! What is the difference?

Consider what the Dalai Lama is not doing in his interactions.  I’m just making a guess here but I’m willing to bet my IRA that His Holiness is not even a little bit concerned about what other people think of him.  (He’s wearing an orange flowing outfit in the land of somber business suits, after all.  And he’s not wearing a two foot high mitre to make himself look imposing, either.)

If an important state leader flinched when the lama reached out to hold his hand with interlaced fingers, I’m willing to bet the lama did not take it personally any more that you would take it personally when a child resists your overtures.

If a head of state looked grumpy when first meeting the Dalai Lama, I’m quite sure the lama did not think, “Oh no!  I can tell he doesn’t like me.”

I believe the joy in these interactions results from one person being totally present for another.  This presence precludes self consciousness and allows one to truly see who the other person is.  When I am able to practice really being here in the moment with another, my interactions are  much more rewarding.  To what little degree I have learned to be present, I experience a bit of the magic of an enlightened interaction.

I’m hardly in a position to fully understand someone like the Dalai Lama.  But I think that being  profoundly present with another person, in the moment, allows a connection with the essence of that person.  Connecting in that way is love and it feels wonderful, I know!  Just look at George grin!

Will the Meek Inherit the Earth?

There is a subset of our population who are only out for themselves. They compete rather than collaborate. They are exploitative, envious and arrogant. They feel they are special and entitled – even to that which is yours; and they lack empathy so they don’t understand or care why others don’t like their behavior. They may have narcissistic personality disorder or they may have narcissistic traits. My grandmother would have called them “just plain naughty.” Whatever the label, if you get entangled with one of these lovely people, it can make your life Hell.

Those of us who are nice guys (and gals) are deluding ourselves if we think we can win these people over with loving kindness, for they see it as weakness. But it is equally mistaken to think we must sink to their level or play their game. It builds bad karma and most of us do not have it in us to act that way, (thank Heaven.) Besides if you are a nice guy (or gal,) you certainly cannot win at their game. These people value only those who can help them and respect only those whom they fear.

It is best to avoid or repel these people, but most of us end up bumping up against a narcissistic person on the job, in our families or we discover we’ve been dating one for weeks but couldn’t tell. We all have some degree of narcissism. I have read estimates that around 4% to 20% of the population could be significantly narcissistic. Based on the effects of narcissistic business managers and politicians, I would guess that close to 100% of the population have been victims.

The best way to avoid a narcissist in personal interactions is to be strong and have very healthy boundaries. Just as the way you carry yourself can make you less likely to be victimized on the street, it can make you less appealing to a narcissist. Like a predator on the prowl, the narcissist wants easier prey – someone with self doubts whom they can manipulate or use. Many of us have not been raised to have healthy boundaries and when an exploitative person finds the chink in our armor we are vulnerable. But boundaries can be learned and the anger that results when we have been used or manipulated is a great building block for healthy boundaries.

In fact, as a good gal myself, I believe it is the responsibility of those of us who would play fair, to make it more difficult and unrewarding for the narcissistic among us to pursue their selfish ends. I have watched the narcissists in my life think twice about bothering with someone who is psychically and emotionally strong. I have also seen them back off from me as I learned to manage my thoughts and feelings in ways that make me powerful.

If we are strong and difficult to manipulate, we will condition the selfish among us to behave more like good citizens. Perhaps over time, we could make narcissism a losing proposition!

What is Enlightened Interaction?

Enlighened Interactions invite respectful treatment.

How do you respond to verbally abusive behavior, aggression, or rudeness?  If you are unable to respond with assertion when it is called for, you may respond in a passive-agressive way.  Those of us who follow a spiritual practice are often taught to be non-judgemental but this can make us social doormats for those who abuse our acts of kindness.  If  you are truly successful, you should be able to handle interpersonal stresses without being thrown off center and without stooping to bad behavior yourself.

You do not have to give your power away to others who wish to manipulate or control you.  You can find a force within that enables you to interact with power and command respect.  You can learn to manage the energy of your thoughts and feelings to remain centered and present in such a way that you find yourself treated with dignity or at least able to maintain your peace of mind.

If you must interact with people who are verbally abusive, aggressive, or unfriendly on a regular basis at home or at work, you have probably noticed that these interactions take your mood down several notches and drain your energy.  Sometimes the other person seems to get a charge out of the encounter.  This sort of interaction can be annoying or distressing.  If you are living or working in close quarters with someone who is verbally abusive or manipulative, it can be extremelly draining and even traumatizing.

You can deal effectively with negativity by being present and centered and calling on the power that is within you.  You can manage your thoughts and feelings so that you are free of mantipulation and able to be in charge of your life.   You may think that you must get power over others so they will not have power over you, but this is countering aggression with aggression.

Enlightened interaction is having power over yourself so that others do not have power over you.  It involves genuine self expression, setting boundaries and requesting that they be observed.  It involves honoring your own truth and preferences.  Enlightened interaction shows respect for others and assumes they will show respect to you.

Many of us grew up in environments in which criticism, anger, and blame were the common.  We became comfortable with that behavior.   If we experienced this sort of abuse from parents or teachers over whom we had no power, we may have come to accept the negative and neurotic projections of others.  We became susceptible to verbal abuse and many experience that same form of interaction in many if not most of our relationships.

While it is not your fault if you experience this sort of behavior, you need not be helpless.  When you change the way you think, feel and behave, those around you must change.  When  you learn to tap into your inner power, people become much more respectful.   You also become less susceptible to negative people and begin attracting more satisfying relationships

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