Looking for help in discussing issues with your partner?

I suggest you “Discuss your needs from a place of self-respect”

Finding my voice and speaking my truth in a relationship is a sacred act of trusting both myself and my partner….

Please find the rest of my thoughts on this topic at the following helpful site.  I have shared my thoughts here along with others.


How To Make Effective Decisions


Complex decision making is a part of everyone’s life. The decisions we make shape our life. Some important decisions people are faced with are: Should I go to college? What career should I pursue? Where should I move? The PrOACT model is one of the most effective decision making models to use when making a decision. The PrOACT model can be broken down into five steps.

The First Step: Define The Problem 

The entire process of the PrOACT model begins with a problem. How the problem is framed directly impacts the decisions made about the problem. To effectively frame your decision problem start by writing down your initial assessment of the basic problem, question it, test it, and hone it. Here are some helpful tips to use when framing your decision problem:
1) Ask what triggered the problem.
2) Questions the constraints of your problem statement.
3) Identify essential elements of your problem.
4) Understand what other decisions impinge on or hinge on this decision.
5) Gain fresh insights by asking others how they see the situation.
6) Reexamine the problem definition as you go.

The Second Step: Identify Your Objectives

The second step of the PrOACT model is identifying the objectives of the problem. Objectives are the decision criteria that will help you evaluate the solutions that are open to you. Objectives do the following:
1) help determine what information to seek
2) help explain the decision to others
3) determine a decisions importance
4) determine how much time and effort the decision deserves

Without objectives it is impossible to clarify what is important when making a decision. Begin by writing down all your concerns you hope to address with this decision. Convert those concerns into objectives. It may help to create an objective list. An example of an objective list is below:

Objective Sub-objective
Quality Job Needs a job in the film/video editing industry
Wants to work 40 hours a week
Likes hours to be scheduled rather than flexible

The Third Step: Consider Alternative Solutions

The third step of the PrOACT model is create and consider the alternative solutions you can make. Alternatives solutions represent the range of potential choices you can make when pursuing your objectives. Here are some important points to consider when creating alternative solutions:
1) Do not box yourself in with limited alternatives- once you find one possible solution, look further. Generate alternatives that could lead to a better solution.
2) Use your objectives to guide your search for alternative solutions.
3) Set high aspirations.
4) Create alternative solutions first and evaluate them later- this will help you broaden your range of alternative solutions.
5) Allow time for your subconscious to operate- your subconscious needs time to stimulate other potential alternative solutions.


The Fourth Step: Lay Out Consequences of Each Solution

Laying out the consequences of each solution is the fourth step in the PrOACT model. The main benefit from describing consequences is to help you understand. You need to really understand the consequences of your alternatives before you make a choice. Here are some tips for laying out consequences:
1) Create a free-form description of the consequences of each alternative- write down the consequences using words and numbers that capture key characteristics of the solution.
2) Make sure the descriptions of the consequences are accurate, complete, and precise.
3) Systematically compare the consequences of the alternatives- list the pros and cons relative to the others.


The Fifth Step: Evaluate the Tradeoffs

Important decisions usually have conflicting objectives, and you have to make tradeoffs. One needs to give up something on one objective to achieve more in terms of another objective. At this point in the process, you should be able to eliminate some poor alternatives. The choices that remain will seem to balance each other: alternative A will be better than alterative B on some objectives, but worse on others. Here are tips to determine the tradeoffs of each solution.
1) Balance long term with short term- determine what you would be willing to give up in the long run in order to gain something in the short run and vice versa.
2) Use the swap method- Weigh the value of each objective in terms of another. When you think about the value of one objective in terms of another, you will be able to eliminate objectives. As more objectives are eliminated, more alternative solutions can be eliminated, and the decision becomes easier.



Hammond, J., Keeney, R., & Raiffa, H. (1999). Smart Choices: A Practical Guide To Making      Better Life Decisions. New York: Broadway Books.

How To Feel Better About Yourself

Often a person comes into therapy wanting to improve their self esteem. They feel bad about themselves in comparison to others. I find the concept of self esteem to be outdated and often useless or even detrimental. Most people identify self esteem as how they feel about themselves. This is measured by others expectations of them or society expectations of them, rather then their own unique strengthens and abilities. No one measures up to society expectations of looks, intelligence, ability, or wealth. We are not tall enough, skinny enough, rich enough, good looking enough, and neither are our children. Hence we all feel bad about not measuring up. Our value is based on what others think of us. The result is low self esteem.

I find a much better way to help people feel better about themselves is to talk about the concept of self. Carl Jung defines the self as bringing all aspects of a person together. I encourage a person to go back and think about the stories of what they were like before age 5. Did they always climb on top of the furniture? Don’t be surprised if they love adventure. Were you always creating art projects? Or building with Legos? Could you sit still, or were you into everything? Did you talk up a storm, or love to read? These give you clues into your own unique being.

Often people find it very difficult to identify what is unique, special or positive about who they are. They can quickly list off what wrong with them and how they are bad. But what is good? Wow that is hard. The process of identifying what makes up who you are is so valuable. As you move through this process you begin to value yourself and not rely on others to validate you.

The process of defining yourself

  • Identify your character traits and write a list.
  • Begin to take these traits and create a collage about you.
  • What is missing? What do you want that is not in the list or collage? Write those out.
  • Ask if it is a realistic? What might you have to give up develop that trait?
  • Do you like what you see? Is this you? Can you begin to accept your ok? Maybe even wonderful?



From Volume 11 of the Collected Works of C.G. Jung Psychology and Religion: West and East Princeton University Press, 1969

The Rule of Reciprocation: Why We Feel Obligated to Return the Favor

The rule of reciprocation is one of the most powerful tools of influence. This rule essentially says that if someone gives something to us, we feel obligated to repay that debt. How many times have you borrowed something and felt obliged to return in in better condition? How many times have you received a gift and felt obligated to give something in return? How many times have you received an act of kindness and felt obligated to repay that person with an act of kindness? How many times have you asked for a favor and then felt obligated to repay that person with a favor? That is the rule of reciprocation. The three persuasion tactics that enhance the rule of reciprocation are listed below.

The Not-So-Free-Sample

A strong marketing procedure that relies on the rule of reciprocation is the not-so-free sample. This persuasion tactic is based on providing the consumer with a free sample of the product. When one receives the free gift, an automatic response to reciprocate ensues, and one feels obliged to purchase more of the product.

The Rule of Reciprocity Can Trigger Unequal Exchanges

The rule of reciprocation allows a person to choose the nature of the favor and the debt-canceling favor. As a result, one can easily be manipulated into an unfair exchange by those who wish to exploit the rule. For example, say you need your car jump started, so your friend came to help. After your car starts up, you tell your friend that if they ever need a favor to let you know. About a month later, your friend comes and asks to borrow your car for an afternoon. Based on the rule of reciprocation, you would feel obligated to say yes. This is an unequal exchange that people often get manipulated into.


The rejection-then-retreat tactic says to increase chances of compliancy make a large request followed by a smaller request; the smaller request is actually the desired result. When the initial request is denied, one feels obliged to comply with the smaller, compromised request. An example of this is when your friend asks you to drive the carpool for the week, even though it is their week to drive. You know you can’t drive the carpool for the entire week, so you say no. Then your friends asks if you can drive just one day that week. You feel bad for saying no the first time, so you feel obligated to compromise and to say yes to drive just one day.

Defense Against the Rule

The best defense is to reject the rule. If you feel the initial favor is a trick to get you to oblige to something, then reject the rule completely. Give without expecting to receive. Rather than being exploited by the rule, it is better to accept the offers and favors for what they are. Understanding what one is obliging to, prevents one from being exploited. To engage in this arrangement is to participate fairly in the “honored network of obligation.” Understanding what you’re committing to when you take gifts or favors means you understand that you’re obligated to return the favor in the future.


Cialdini, R. B. (2009). Influence: Science and practice (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon      (Pearson Education). ISBN13: 978-0-205-60999-4 or ISBN10: 0-205-60999-6 softcover.

The Grief Cycle

Grief can be a wild ride, or grief can be a gentle sail across a smooth lake. Grief is not something to get over, something to move through, or something to stuff away. Rather, grief can be a process that adds depth to our being and meaning and purpose to our lives. There is no right way to grieve. There is no right amount of time to grieve. We should not be over grief in three days, three weeks, or three months. Instead, we experience grief as a loss throughout the rest of our lives. Grief brings a richness to our being while leaving an emptiness at the same time.

Grief happens as a result of loss. It can be death of family, friends or pets. It can also be a break up, a divorce, a miscarriage or abortion, a job loss, a financial crisis, or a loss of identity. Although there are similarities between any type of loss, ultimately, each loss has its own unique characteristics.

In her 1969 class Death and Dying, Elizabeth Kubler Ross describes the process of grief. Ross identified a five stage process which has become the basis for our understanding around grief. The stages of grief are not linear or sequential. We move through them multiple times, multiple ways, in multiple patterns, over multiple years.

5 stages of grief     

  • Denial- this can’t be happening to me
  • Anger- what or who is to blame
  • Bargaining- If only I did… I promise I’ll be good if…
  • Depression- Why? why me? I feel so bad, so sad
  • Acceptance- I understand it will be ok

When we experience grief, we feel many emotions. At times, we feel relief if the person who passed suffered or caused great suffering. At times, we feel lonely or lost; we may experience great fear around what will happen to us. Our lives may not have noticeable change, or our lives may dramatically change. However, we can’t compare our experience to other people’s experience, because no one grieves the same way or at the same time.

How to cope with grief

Give your self time. Time to sleep, time to rest, time to feel. Racing back into the hustle and bussle slows down the process.

Be gentle with yourself. At times, you may be forgetful, or easily overwhelmed, or irritable. Often it’s easier to pull away from others. While pulling back can be taking care of yourself, it’s also important to not isolate.

Ask for support and allow others to help. Be specific. Do you want meals brought in or gift cards to use as needed. Do you need child care, housework, yard work done? Or someone to listen?

Be extra careful with your physical health. Maintain a healthy diet or at least as healthy as possible. Be aware of using food as comfort. Get some exercise; it’s good on so many levels and reduces stress.

The anniversaries and holidays can be difficult. There are certain life events where you long for your love one to be with you to share the experience.

Difficult times can be triggers as your loved one may have be your main support and strength to get though life’s challenges. Facing life’s challenges alone can be a huge obstacle, and you may lack some of the skills to meet the challenge. Asking for help at these times is vital.

Journaling can be extremely helpful in processing feelings. Writing and an art journal can help you express the multitude of feelings you are experiencing.

Most of all, be kind to yourself each day. This is a journey which takes a lot out of you, and the journey is uncharted for you.



  •  Kubler-Ross, E (1973) On Death and Dying , Routledge, ISBN0415040159

Why Do Difficult Conversations Threaten Our Identity?

The article “Identity and Difficult Conversations” explains how identity issues can threaten our identity, but we have the power to learn from the issues and ground our identity. Identity issues revolve around three core concerns:
1) Am I competent?
2) Am I good person?
3) Am I worthy of love?

When humans are communicating, especially within a difficult conversation, the communication process can pose a threat to the three concerns that influence identity. If one answers “no” to any of these questions, one’s identity is threatened and their sense of being is disrupted.

There is not a quick fix regarding these identity issues; however, one solution is to avoid the all or nothing syndrome. When faced with negative information about ourselves, all or nothing thinking results in two unhealthy options.
1) We try to deny the information that in inconsistent with our self-image.
2) Or we do the opposite: we take in the information in a way that exaggerates its importance to a crippling degree.

Neither denial nor exaggeration is a healthy way to ground your identity within the communication process. In order to ground your identity, it is important to recognize that identities issues exist and that our identity is complex. Further, it is important you accept these three things when grounding your identity:
1) you will make mistakes
2) your intentions are complex
3) you have contributed to the problem.

Understanding and accepting these three things allows for a balanced and informative communication process even when the process is difficult. Below are more tips for grounding your identity during difficult conversations.

1) Become aware of your identity issues- What patterns tend to knock you off balance during conflict? What about your identity feels at risk?
2) Let go of trying to control the other person’s reaction during conversation- You can’t control other people’s reactions, and it can be destructive to try.
3) Imagine the conversation in advance- What can you learn about how the other person might respond? In what way do any of these responses implicate identity issues for you?
4) Remember, their identity is also implicated during the conversation.


Stewart, J., Zediker, K., & Whitteborn, S. (2005). Constructing Identities In J. Stewart (Ed.), Bridges Not Walls: A Book About Interpersonal Communication(11 ed., pp. 73-84). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Stone, D., Patton, B., & Heen, S. (1999). Identity and difficult conversations. In J. Stewart (Ed.), Bridges Not Walls: A book about Interpersonal Communication (11 ed., pp. 91-99). New York: Penguin Books.


Rules For Fair Fighting

Disagreeing with one another is an inevitable piece of every relationship. So how do we fight with kindness, respect, and fairness? Here are some tips on fair fighting:

  • Start from a place of love. What you say will be burned in their heart.
  • Monitor your voice speak softly and calmly.
  • Be curious of the others person’s position. Do you really understand what    they are saying and where their feelings come from?
  • Clarify what you both are discussing. Is it the same topic?
  • Be as specific as possible about what you are discussing.
  • Ask questions.
  • Remember you can’t read your partners mind. And they can’t read yours.
  • Discuss only one topic at a time.
  • Set a time limit. 30 minutes is long enough.
  • Set up an appointment to finish discussing the issue. Then keep the appointment.
  • Recognize the difference between your feelings and your thoughts.
  • No yelling, no name calling, no blaming, and no bringing up the past.

The goal is NOT to WIN. This is a relationship, and when one person wins everyone really loses.