Daymaker - a person who performs acts of kindness with the intention of making the world a better place.
~ David Wagner
, author of Life as a Daymaker; how to change the world by making someone's day ~

DayMaker - any thought, word, or deed that spreads happiness, compassion, or fruitful ideas.
~ Annis Cassells ~

Friday, January 31, 2014

Stepping it Up in 2014: Asking the Ultimate Question

Life is all about relationships. It’s about building and keeping strong connections with people who matter to us. They may be family, friends, co-workers, students, teachers, and others whom we deem essential in our lives.

Through years of observation and trial and error, most of us have learned how to deal with friends, co-workers, and even strangers. We make an effort to use non-offensive terms. We don’t ask questions that are not “our business.” And nagging? That’s out of the question.

With our families and those closest to us, though, we may ditch behaviors that allow us to get along in other relationships. Before we know it, we’ve let loose with words or repeat behaviors that shut down communication, fuel unhappiness, and jeopardize our relationships.

My friend Lillian introduced me to world-renowned psychiatrist William Glasser’s Choice Theory a number of years ago. I’d heard of Glasser before and used his techniques in my classroom. But, when I took Lil’s week-long Basic Intensive Training seminar, his theory resonated with me. It validated what I’d felt and experienced but didn’t know how to articulate. That week and the concepts I learned resulted in great strides in my personal development and enhanced how I take care of relationships.

How do we keep the people we need in our lives close to us? In his book, Choice Theory, Glasser, among other things, provides fresh insight on how we sustain relationships. He proposes that we ask the ourselves “Ultimate Question”: “If I say or do _______, will it bring us closer together or will it push us further apart?” We let the answer to that question guide our behavior and words. 

This doesn’t mean we never tackle the hard stuff, the problems, the dilemmas. But we approach them in a caring way, without using what Glasser calls the “Seven Deadly Habits.” When we criticize, blame, complain, nag, threaten, punish, or reward to control (bribe), we’re on a straight path to losing those whom we need in our lives. Instead, Glasser urges us to use the “Seven Caring Habits”: supporting, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting, respecting, and negotiating differences (to a win-win).

More about Choice Theory as we Step it Up in 2014. But for now, let’s begin to ask ourselves the ultimate question when dealing with others. “If I say or do _______, will it bring us closer together or will it push us further apart?” And, let’s choose to consciously practice one of the seven caring habits. Those two steps will make a difference to us and to our loved ones. 

For whom will you ask the ultimate question? Which of the seven caring habits will you choose?

~ xoA ~

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Stepping it up in 2014: No Name-Calling Week

This week, January 20-24, is No Name-Calling Week. Inspired by a popular young-adult novel by James Howe called The Misfits, this year marks the 10th anniversary of one of the largest anti-bullying initiatives in the United States.  Howe’s book is a story of four junior high friends who encounter bullying head on. They prevail by gaining the principal’s support for instituting a “No Name-Calling Day” at their school.

GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) first picked up on the idea and began providing publicity and even lessons for teacher use. Then Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing joined in, and now we have the No Name-Calling Week Coalition. Like Bobby Goodspeed, the main character in The Misfits says, “One person can have an idea, but for the idea to translate into action, a whole community has to get behind it.”

This year, I’ve been using The DayMaker to share ideas about how we might communicate with each other, the importance of choosing our words carefully and using the language of validation. No Name-Calling Week meshes perfectly with this theme.  

I’m encouraging all of us, in the words of James Howe, to instead of calling names, “Think. And if you can, don’t speak. Don’t say the names.” Maybe we can turn No Name-Calling Week into a month and then a year, and then…  Just imagine.

~ xoA ~

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Stepping it up in 2014: The Language of Validation

Dr. Sidney B. Simon

In my life-long career as a teacher, I’ve had the good fortune to learn from some of the best. One of those teachers who grabbed my heart and mind is Sid Simon. Nowadays, Sid is retired as Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, but our first encounter was in Ann Arbor, Michigan, when I taught there. His book, Values Clarification, his engaging presentations, and his heartwarming manner made a huge impact on my life and my teaching. 
A dozen years later, Sid landed in Bakersfield for a two-day intensive workshop. This is when I learned about the power of the language of validation and how heartfelt, genuine, affirming words change lives. Near the end of the workshop, after many personal exchanges among participants, Sid presented the concept of validation and provided a list of ways to begin. We practiced on each other; visibly basking in the glow of the words we’d heard and the words we’d spoken.

I came across Sid Simon’s validation sentence stems recently in a book called Love Builders;Powerful Validation Tools to Enhance Every Relationship that Sid co-wrote with Sally Crosiar. They are reminders of how we can speak to envelop those whom we love with validation. Try some of these:

I appreciate… (how you have…    that you…   the ability you have to …)
I like … (the way you…    when I see you…    the times when you…)
I respect you… (for how you…    every time I see you…    because you’re a person who…)
I admire you… (for your gift of…   for your way of…    for how you can…)
I applaud … (your ability to…  your courage in…  your discipline when…)
I celebrate… (your …  the ways you…  the talents you…)

As we begin to use the language of validation more frequently, it may feel strange or sound mechanical. But practice and positive feedback in words and deeds will help using these words become a natural part of us. Spoken in a genuine, meaningful way, without qualifying statements or “buts”, the language of validation feeds the souls of our loved ones.

“Buts” negate the validation and chip away at the bond we try to create. For example, “I admire your way of creating a beautiful home, but it drives me nuts to never know what color the walls are going to be when I walk through the door.”  This roller coaster statement, with its ups and downs rings an alarm bell instead of making the listener feel valued. No “buts” about it.

So go ahead. Try out the language of validation on those whom you love. Dish out encouragement by surrounding them with affirmations and acknowledgement of their gifts and talents. Everyone wins.

~ xoA ~

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Stepping it up in 2014: Choosing our Words

“Warmth and goodwill extended to one person not only make that person happy, but spread the joy to others around, and the chain goes on.”  ~Author Unknown

If we can stop and think about what we say, we hold the potential to change the world, or at least OUR own world.  Replacing negative words with positive, loving words can make a huge difference in our relationships.  It can change the course of our lives as well as those of anyone with whom we come in contact.

Our words are powerful. They create a reaction in the people who hear them, whether the words are directed to them or merely witnessed by them. Genuine encouragement, appreciation, love, acceptance, and affirmation can mend and strengthen. Their opposites debilitate and crush. We can see another person blossom -- or crumple -- depending on the words she or he routinely hears.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will make me go in a corner and cry by myself for hours,” said Eric Idle, English comedian, author, and actor. Words create emotional responses that intensify an individual’s reaction. What may seem like a harmless comment to one person may have such emotion attached for the listener that it chips away at her self-confidence and self-esteem.

Then there are folks like one of the women in my writing club who consistently notices others’ talents and admirable qualities. Liberal with her “thank you’s” and genuine with her praise, she chooses words that validate, and when she speaks them about us and to us, we glow. Her words serve to encourage everyone within listening range.

Let’s make 2014 a year of being conscious about our word choices. Let’s use the power of positive words to build others up and to enhance our relationships and our world. 

Sticks and stones may break some bones, but appreciative, affirming words uplift and heal.
~ xoA ~