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"I Wonder If You Could Help Me With Something..."

Friendship Two Women Friends Hugging

Do you need to say something to someone that might be hard for her to hear?

Do you need to ask someone to change her behavior for you?


These can be awkward situations. It is difficult to break disappointing news or to communicate any kind of message that might result in the receiver feeling embarrassment, guilt, conflict, or anger. Yet, sometimes, honesty requires it and healthy relationships demand it.


I recall a man who did a beautiful job of this. I had just moved into my first house and I was in the backyard with the gate open to the alley. My new neighbor approached me and I felt a little apprehensive for some reason. My guard was up as I anticipated what could possibly be the problem. As he neared, he smiled and said, "I wonder if you could help me with something." I instantly melted; my heart opened up, and I could feel myself being receptive to whatever he was going to say next. He then explained, "When you dump the concrete water here in the alley, it pools in this spot right in front of my garage and then I end up tracking it into my garage floor.  I wonder if you could just dump it a little closer to the fence." "Sure,"  I happily replied as we introduced ourselves.  As I walked back to the house, I reflected on how badly that whole incident could have gone if he had just yelled at me for being so careless and inconsiderate.


I think that many of us are good people. We identify with being generally helpful, kind to others, and responsive to their needs. Even the nicest people, though, will probably contract into a defensive posture when threatened. If you want others to be open and responsive to you, don't give them any reason to feel defensive. Be respectful and validate the legitimacy of their position. This can be very disarming and it helps them to feel emotionally safe. By validating the other person's reality, you increase the likelihood that they will be able to validate yours.

Man & Woman At Odds
"We Need to Talk"

Of course, never ever start a conversation with "we need to talk." Nothing good ever comes after that phrase. As soon as we hear it, we shut down in preparation for some kind of attack. We become well defended and resistant, ready to attack back. This will make it much less likely that you will get your needs met. So, it serves your interests much better to use a gentler introductory statement that leaves the listener more likely to stay or even become open to hearing whatever you say next.


I suggest you put the phrase, "I wonder if you could help me with something" in your back pocket and try it sometime. It is an "I" statement, which is the gold standard in the communications and counseling worlds. It implies ownership and self responsibility which helps the receiver to not have to feel confronted or attacked. Did you notice that my neighbor's last sentence was also an "I" statement?, "I wonder if you could just dump it closer to the fence." That is much better than "You should" or "Why don't you."



Of course, here is the small print. All of the above is all very nice. And, you need to know that it may not work at all. It is so frustrating when you do everything right and then the other person doesn't cooperate with the reaction the self-help book said they would have.  This leads me to another topic that we will get into sometime: We cannot change or control anyone. Using the above suggestions will do only two things. 1) It will increase the likelihood of a positive response, and 2) You will know that you conducted yourself with kindness and class. And that is priceless.


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"Guilt or Resentment: Hmm... Which Shall I Choose Today?"

Road Signs No Right Turn and No Left Turn

Do you ever feel like you are caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place? Someone has just asked you for a favor and on this particular day, you want to say "no."

"Can you watch the kids for me this Saturday night?" 

You really don't want to. You like this person alot and you think it is a reasonable request. It doesn't matter what your reasons are; they are legitimate and you just don't want to say "yes" today. But, if you say "no," you will feel guilty. And, on the other hand, if you say "yes," you will feel resentment. You can't win. Guilt or resentment are your only options. I remember a client who once lamented, "Geez, I have to pick between those two every day!" So, what do you do?

Pick guilt. Seriously. I know it would be better if you could make a choice and not feel either of these. But you are not quite that evolved yet (keep reading this Blog; you will get there!), and you are realistically going to have to choose between these two unpleasant and frustrating feelings. Pick the answer that leaves you feeling guilty rather than resentful. In this case, say "no." Then swallow hard and resist the temptation to fill the awkward space with all kinds of real or contrived excuses that will legitimize you and your "no" answer.

Why? Because it is easier after the fact to deal with your guilt and let go of it than it is to deal with your resentment and let go of it. Guilt is a burden. But resentment is a bigger burden. You can deal with both of them and eventually let go of them (stay tuned; we will be covering how to do that in later posts). It is just that resentment is more insidious and difficult to untangle. A good talk with a good friend can reassure you and often help you let go of your guilt. A good talk with a good friend does not do much to help you release the resentment you have been carrying around.

So, go call a friend and ask him to remind you that you have a right to say "no" and that you are still a good and kind person.  You have a right to take care of your needs, and that means that you will sometimes have to say "no" to others, even though it is hard to do.

Oh, and by the way, can you watch the kids for me this Saturday night?

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Best Words of Comfort Ever: "You're Still the Best Football Player on the Block"

Kris Playing Football on Holstein Rd. BackyardFunny, how the most off- hand comment at the time can mean so much to a person and you never even knew it. This is one of those stories, and Joey, this one's for you.

It was the spring of 1967 and we were in the 7th grade at Sacred Heart School in Swedesburg, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. My best friend, Mary Jo (Joey) and I had sneeked up to the choir loft during one of the mid-week masses attended by the whole grade school. Only a few select 8th grade girls were allowed up there, so of course, we had to be there.  Sister Veronica Anne asked what we were doing there. We lied and said that Sister Camilla told us we should come up there now to learn because we would be going there the following year. Of course, we told Sister Camilla that Sister Veronica Anne had said the same thing. I have no idea what anyone was supposed to be doing in the choir loft; there was no choir at these mid-week masses. We just always needed to be doing what we weren't supposed to be doing and besides, Sister Veronica Anne somehow accepted our explanation and we were allowed to stay. Our two older sisters, Kathy and Jane, were perfect Catholic girls in every way, so the nuns always extended the benefit of the doubt to Joey and me. We got away with so many broken rules, the parish priest was quoted years later as saying, "Yes, Joey and Kris ran that school." I admit I am kind of proud of that.

So, here it was, just about Communion time, and

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