Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

Don’t Try to Put Pants on a Snake!

April 12, 2016

I was recently facilitating a workshop on building healthy relationships and several people mentioned how frustrated they were that others didn’t always listen to their advice. This seemed to apply to personal and professional relationships. It made me chuckle because of course we all want to be heard and most of us feel as if our wisdom and advice are golden. We just can’t understand why people don’t consider it as valuable as we do. I’ve learned that while I can offer an opinion, based on my experiences; people aren’t always going to think of it as a gift from heaven.

For a long time, in my relationships, I made things more complicated than they needed to be. I would try to push a square peg into a round hole and then allow the frustration to make me nuts. I finally realized that I wanted to feel important and also, I guess it was a control thing. I was always a stubborn and bossy child. I once spent two solid weeks trying to train a pet turtle to roll over at my command.

Fortunately, I began to realize that although it is a virtue to try to help people, there is also a benefit to realizing that when someone ignores your advice, it is often futile to keep trying to change his or her mind. And unless it is a life or death situation, you may have to accept that other people are as capable of making their own decisions as you are!

I have adopted the motto “Never try to put pants on a snake….it frustrates you and annoys the snake!” On the surface, it seems goofy and meaningless, but if you really think about it, it’s very wise. So many times in life, we try to make other people do what we want them to do and then get angry when they don’t live up to our expectations. I’m not suggesting that these people are snakes; I’m just using that phrase to make a point. You might have the answer or the solution or the experience that you just KNOW would benefit someone if only they would come over to your way of thinking, but if that person isn’t receptive to your ideas…well, you know the rest.

In order to live a happy and well balanced life, I think each of us needs to find our own barometer by which we can measure and monitor our frustration level. It’s all about choosing our battles and prioritizing and deciding what’s worth the effort and what’s not. If something’s not working, we should rethink the way we’re doing it because if we keep doing what we’ve always done, we’ll keep getting what we’ve always gotten!

If we insist on writing the script for everyone else’s life and will not be flexible when things don’t go our way, we will always be in turmoil. There are just some things that will keep frustrating us…like trying to teach a turtle to roll over, trying to make someone else agree with everything we say, or expecting people to always do the right thing, as we see it. Is it really worth it? It’s like trying to put pants on a snake. It’s not really necessary, it never really works out and it just frustrates you and ticks off the snake!


Linda Henley-Smith is an author, speaker and life coach who sometimes still tries to put pants on snakes.  www.lindahenley-smith.comsnakepants

A Few Words About Forgiveness

November 19, 2015

I often write about forgiveness, so I’ll make this brief. Here is the thing: forgiveness is not for the person who offended, it is for the person who was hurt.

Today, I facilitated a workshop on recovering from betrayal and hurt. One of the main comments I heard was that people equate forgiveness with letting the other person get away with hurting them. This belief is a sure way to stay miserable!

Here is what forgiveness is NOT….

Forgiveness is not an emotion…it is a choice of will. And it is a wise choice for us to make because it frees us from reliving the past over and over again. Refusing to forgive gives power to our pain and eventually, it will weigh us down. We will become victims rather than victors.

Forgiveness is not about saying the words but still acting as if they were not said. When we allow our egos to get in the way, we subtly (or not so subtly)constantly remind everyone of how we were damaged. We are essentially giving  lip service to forgiveness, but we aren’t releasing the toxins of anger that will eventually eat us alive.

Forgiveness is not based on another person’s behavior. No matter what anyone else does, you must own your reaction.

Forgiveness is not allowing yourself to be abused or hurt again. It does not mean we continue being a victim.

Forgiveness is not excusing what someone did….it is refusing to allow their actions to destroy your heart and steal your joy.

Here is what forgiveness IS:

Forgiveness is giving yourself permission to let go of the bitterness while remembering very clearly your rights to healthy boundaries. In one sense, it is impossible to truly forget hurtful acts that have been committed against us. The phrase “Forgive and Forget” is really unrealistic. We cannot selectively “delete” events from our memory. But although we can’t forget what someone has done to us, we can try to live as if we don’t remember it.

Forgiveness is like setting a prisoner free and finding that the prisoner was you.

Forgiveness is a process.

Forgiveness is a clog remover. It allows the healing process to begin.

Holding onto anger and holding out for revenge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die! It has been said that forgiveness of self and forgiveness of others are just two currents in the same river, both hindered and cut off completely by the dam of resentment. Once the dam is lifted, both currents can flow.


Linda Henley-Smith is an author, speaker and coach. Check out her website at

How Do You Re-Stuff a Bean Bag Chair?

October 6, 2015

A few years ago, I decided to relive my days of yore and I bought a couple of bean bag chairs. As you know, they are stuffed with those tiny little squishy Styrofoam balls that stick to everything if they escape from the zippered lining. If they ever get out, it’s impossible to round them all up and herd them back to where they belong. The slightest breeze carries them into corners and they become like little magnets, attaching themselves to skin, hair, clothes and any animals that happen to be within a mile!

The point is, if they get loose, there is no hope of collecting them all because they are carried to parts unknown. You can never re-stuff a bean bag chair and restore it to its original condition.

I recently facilitated a relationship workshop in which we were discussing what happens when you say snarky things and hurt someone. Many people suggested that you just apologize and all is well. Others brought up the point that apologies don’t always make all of the hurt go away because angry words can sting and their impact isn’t easily forgotten. Some in that workshop said that they are still affected by things that were said to them years ago.

That made me think about the crazy little balls in my bean bag chair and how you can chase them ‘til the cows come home, but you won’t ever get them all back. Words can be kind of like those little Styrofoam pieces. You can try to retrieve them all but some are going to stick to the person you hurt and possibly be carried for a long time. And if you gossip about someone, other people may carry those words and spread them.

You may be sorry that you ever opened that zippered chair and let  that stuffing out, but that doesn’t change the fact that you did and and the chair will never be quite the same. And you may be sorry that you let the nasty words fly out of your mouth, but that doesn’t change the fact that someone may still be carrying them around and they will never be quite the same.

We all say mean things at times and regret them soon afterwards. Of course, we apologize and hope that our words haven’t made a lasting impression on the injured party. But every person is like a piece of delicate rice paper and our words leave a permanent mark on that paper.

The message here is that we need to think before we speak unkindly. We may just throw out words in an angry fit and then be over it, but the recipient of those words may not recover so quickly and may hold onto that hurt for quite a while. So be aware of the danger in spewing angry words….and never unzip a bean bag.

Linda Henley-Smith is an author, speaker and coach. Visit her website at

What Roles Have You Chosen to Play?

August 19, 2015

In a recent workshop, I asked the attendees to think about some of the roles they play in their relationships; personal and professional. The resulting discussion was very interesting and also very revealing.

We all have chosen to play certain roles in our relationships, and we have fallen into those roles for various reasons. If everyone in any relationship is satisfied with the arrangement and it works for all concerned, there is no problem. But if someone feels compromised or less than satisfied with the way things work, it’s probably not healthy and sooner or later, something’s got to give!

Here are some of the relationship roles that people in the workshop listed as problematic. Read them and decide if any of them are familiar to you:

The Enabler: Has a strong need to take care of and please other people, allowing them to get away with negative or abusive behavior. It is easy to become addicted to approval and that is a sure path to low self-esteem.

The Excuse Giver: Woe be unto those who are in a relationship with one who plays the Excuse Card on a regular basis. This person has a well-stocked pantry of reasons why he did or did not or is not able to do something. The Excuse Giver is always well prepared and hones his craft diligently.

The Bully: Sadly, the world will always have bullies. They are Mr. or Mrs. Bossy-Pants and try to establish their leadership through intimidation and being mean-spirited.

The Whiner: When a whiner is in the mix, there is a constant need to call a Waaaaambulance! No relationship is enhanced by someone who consistently contributes to Global Whining!

The Rescuer/Fixer: Inadvertently keeps other people in a dependent position. When we rush in to be someone’s savior, we are sending a message that the other person is not capable of managing his own affairs. When someone constantly arrives to make everything OK for another person, the fixer is depriving him of being accountable for his own life and well-being. Serial rescuers need to take a look at their own motives for their actions and make sure they are not allowing their egos to dictate their behavior.

The Enforcer: Plays the role of “policeman” by monitoring other people’s actions. Unless the relationship involves a minor child, the enforcer needs to stay in a Clint Eastwood movie!

The Punisher: Tries to make other people stay in line by manipulation and threats. We all know these people! These are the ones who make you feel as if you will pay the price if you don’t do what they say! It can run the gamut from the silent treatment to payback!

The Guilt-Giver: Gives guilt; the gift that keeps on giving! If you have ever been in a relationship with someone who acts as a travel agent for guilt trips, you know what it’s like!

The Martyr: Risks his or her own mental or physical health while putting everyone else’s needs ahead of his or her own. There are no medals given for being a martyr and anyone who plays this role in a relationship should realize that when someone drops from taking on everyone else’s responsibilities…people usually just say things like, “Wow, she should have taken better care of herself!”

Throughout life, we all search for our place in our relationships and hopefully, choose more positive roles than those mentioned above. If you recognize yourself in any of the descriptions, you may want to reassess your role choices. We also occasionally encounter people with whom we work or socialize that fill some of those less than desirable roles. We can’t change other people…unless they are in diapers…but we can choose how we deal with them. Choose Wisely!

Disconnect and then Connect

June 4, 2015

We live in a techno-world! Wherever you are at this moment, take a look around and see how many people in your immediate area are plugged into an electronic device and tuned out of what’s going on around them.

Technology definitely has its place and in many ways, it has made life easier, but the drawback is that we have forgotten how to talk to each other face to face. People sit across from each other in restaurants and if they aren’t looking at their phones, they have them sitting right on the table so they can catch every FB update, text message, instagram or e-mail that might come through.

The way things are going, gradually, the art of conversation will be a distant memory! Our kids may be able to text with rapidly firing fingers, but I feel we are nurturing a generation of people with over-developed texting thumbs who have no idea how to converse without their electronic devices!

Maybe it is time to unplug and get back to the gratifying experience of actually looking at the person to whom we are speaking…watching their facial expressions, laughing together (not LOL but really laughing!) and listening to their voice when they are talking to us! Part of conversing with another human being is having the opportunity to be in the moment; reacting to each other’s comments and gaining insight into the other person’s feelings.

Communication is critical in keeping any relationship strong; whether it is personal or in business. While it is true that digital communication is sometimes necessary, it would be a shame if it caused conversation to become extinct. Talking to people face-to-face is a sublime experience that should be valued and enjoyed. When we “talk” electronically, sometimes we’re not as mindful of what we are saying as we would be if we were looking another person in the eye.

In my communication seminars, we explore the value of saying what you mean and meaning what you say. I have found that some people are initially uncomfortable in the face-to-face communication exercises that we do. But after a while, they are laughing, talking and raving about how much they enjoyed disconnecting from their electronics and actually connecting with real live humans!

It has been said that “A conversation is so much more than words; it is the eyes, the smiles and the silences between the words.” Try it….you’ll like it!

You May as Well Face it, You’re Addicted to Approval!

May 28, 2015

Do you remember the Robert Palmer song “Addicted to Love” which was popular in the 80s? If you don’t, then you are probably younger than most of my shoes. But I think of those words when I see people trying so desperately to please everyone in their lives. At home, they cultivate a hectic and unsustainable routine of cleaning up after others, volunteering for every extracurricular event, being the caregiver to anyone who needs help; hosting family events and making sure everyone is happy.  Every night, they fall into bed still wearing their Super Hero capes! At work, they are constantly seeking approval and sometimes they don’t offer their opinions because they don’t value their own ideas.

In order to avoid conflict, a person might continually acquiesce to the desires of other people, for fear of rocking the boat.  This person probably doesn’t understand that if you don’t rock the boat when it’s necessary, your boat may hit an iceberg and sink! If someone will only be in your life if you do what they tell you, that is not a relationship worth continuing!

The “People Pleaser” always wants to make sure that he or she never gives anyone a reason to be angry or to dislike him or her. People Pleasers will usually say that it is all done in the name of love, but that kind of love isn’t always healthy. If you have no boundaries, people will push you until you lose yourself.

When we are addicted to finding approval from other people, we’re on the wrong track! We try to please everyone else, even when it’s not in our own best interest. And that kind of validation is never enough! No one else can prove your self-worth; the only long-lasting and worthwhile approval is when you value yourself! If you base all of your decisions and feelings on how others are going to view you, you are just setting yourself up for disappointment. Everyone is not going to like you and that’s okay! Invest in yourself because YOUR opinion of you is important!

Remember these wise words: You may as well like yourself, because wherever you go…there you are!

Ostriches and Zebras

April 2, 2014

Nature is full of symbiotic relationships. For instance, looking at a zebra and an ostrich, we wouldn’t necessarily think that they were good buddies. They don’t look alike and I wouldn’t automatically assume that they would have much in common or even want to hang out, or get together for drinks after a hard day on the savanna.
I was surprised and delighted to learn that zebras and ostriches DO often travel together and they look out for each other. This relationship keeps them safe from predators, because they make a great team. Zebras have a keen sense of smell and hearing, but they have poor eyesight. On the other hand, ostriches have great vision, but their hearing and smelling capabilities are not so great. Each animal benefits from the strengths of the other and they warn each other of impending danger.

When I read about this phenomenon, I once again marveled at the amazing intricacies and relationships in nature. There are many examples of how members of both the animal and plant kingdoms work together and depend upon each other for survival. That started me thinking about humans and how we relate to one another.

The news reports are full of accounts of conflict between various people, countries, political parties, etc. and that isn’t new; it has been going on since the beginning of humanity. Even more troubling to me are the stories I hear every day from people who are embroiled in arguments, bitterness, jealousy, resentment, and other negative situations in their personal and/or professional lives. Some people seem to be so concerned with competition and being “right” about everything, that they have lost that precious element which makes any relationship work….symbiosis or mutual benefit.

It isn’t about helping someone so that they will, in turn, help you. It is about respecting the value and opinions of people in our lives and appreciating that when it boils down, we all really want the same thing out of life…we want peace of mind and it just might be possible to help each other in that quest. Sadly, some people are under the impression that in order for them to feel peace and joy, someone else has to give up those feelings.

Sometimes, I guess it doesn’t seem possible for problems between people to be solved. Egos become involved and things get blown out of proportion. Perhaps we would all benefit from emulating the zebras and the ostriches and all of the other creatures in nature who seem to have worked things out in more simplistic terms than the human race. Granted, we usually don’t eat each other….but are we willing to hang out with those who look and act differently than we do? Are we quick to lend them our strength in an area in which they are not as strong? And are we willing to work together for a common goal?

Think about that the next time you are at the watering hole.

Are You a Who or a What?

July 23, 2012

I just had a thought.  Since that doesn’t happen very often, I would like to keep it in my head and run with it! So here it is: I think it is possible to spend too much time being concerned about WHAT you are, and not enough time nurturing WHO you are. Whoa…..…that is deep……..for me.

Think about it; we all tend to play different roles in life, depending upon situations and the company we are keeping. If we are honest with ourselves, most of us can remember times during which we “morphed” or changed personalities in order to impress, compete or possibly fit in. Consider how we behave in new relationships; we seemingly know exactly who we are when we first meet someone, but we may find that soon we are altering that authentic self a bit; to be what the other person seems to want us to be. If our behavior is at odds with our deepest values, we become a WHAT rather than a WHO.  Why does this happen and is it a natural part of relating to others, or do we not fully comprehend the benefits of maintaining the integrity of our authenticity? I think it is perfectly natural and healthy to be flexible and willing to compromise on some things. And certainly, when we are in relationships with other people, we want to please them, …and we should. It is also good to expand our horizons and possibly adopt new attitudes. But if we become like quick-change artists and hop from one set of values to another, we run the risk of losing who we really are. It’s like an actor trying to play all of the parts in a play; sooner or later, he’’s going to get confused and forget which costume he should be wearing or which accent he should be using when he speaks!  It might be entertaining to see a six foot tall man with a beard wearing a frilly dress and talking like a southern belle, but he woul’d lose his credibility. This is assuming the play wasn’’t supposed to be a comedy!

What does it mean to be authentic, anyway? The word is defined as “being worthy of acceptance based on who one is; being true to one’’s own personality, spirit and character.” In other words, it is the “you” that can be found at your deepest core, when everything else is stripped away, is your authentic self. It is not defined by your job and the roles you play to live up to other people’s expectations.  It is honoring the gifts you were given and the person you were designed to be. My daughter calls it “your default character.” By that, she means that your authentic self is the one to which you revert when the other personalities you have tried don’t work …because they aren’’t truly you. The interesting thing is that if you will pay attention, you will hear your authentic self; your WHO, if you will….whispering to you.  If you are becoming a WHAT, and spending all of your energy trying to fit into someone else’’s value system; one that is not allowing you to be true to yourself, that whisper may get louder. When the whisper becomes a yell, it is a good indication that you are not honoring your authenticity.

We just need to make sure that we understand the difference between authenticity and justification for unwise decisions or inappropriate behavior.  (Imagine the little cartoon angel and devil perched on your shoulders. If you’’re being poked by a pitchfork, …you may be on the wrong track.)  Being true to yourself doesn’’t diminish the opinions of others and it doesn’t mean that you should just accept your flaws and not try to improve yourself or ignore another person’’s needs. But think of how much more you can offer if you allow yourself to be aligned with your life’’s purpose.

So there you have my opinion about Who and What. Possibly, I will address the When, Where and Whys of life next time. Ha!

“Forgive Your Enemies…Nothing Annoys Them as Much!” —Oscar Wilde

May 14, 2012

It happens. Chances are; at least once in your lifetime, someone will betray you. Somewhere along the line, most of us experience the feeling of being let down by someone and we end up feeling sad, mad and most definitely, we feel like we’ve been had!

Since we are human, our emotions play a huge role in who we are. When we put our trust in someone and they don’t live up to our expectations, we get disappointed and hurt, and if we don’t deal with it in a healthy way, that resentment grows into a monster troll that can eat us up. Hanging on to anger and being an active participant in “blamestorming” can cause us to get stuck in a rut of despair.

When we think someone has “done us wrong,” it’s easy to hop onto the revenge train and imagine how we can get even or how we can punish the person responsible for our misery. Little evil gremlins sit on our shoulders and tell us that if we forgive, it is the same thing as giving a “free pass” to the person who hurt us. They tell us that we would feel better if only we could make the other person pay for what he or she has done.  When we listen to the nasty little voices, we are allowing toxic thoughts to poison our minds and our bodies. Negativity turns in to stress. Stress turns into illness. Making another person feel guilty can make us feel like we’re in control, but that’s a convoluted and sick kind of power. The healthier path is to get over yourself and put your ego aside!

The act that hurt you will always remain a part of your history because you can’t go back and erase it. But, choosing to forgive can allow you to focus on other positive parts of your life and even allow you to adopt a new and improved attitude about things. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you are justifying the wrong, but it does mean that you are refusing to be a volunteer victim. It means that you are choosing to be bigger than the betrayal!

As a child, when I felt betrayed, I perpetrated my share of revenge acts…none too serious, thank goodness! Okay..I admit to burying Joey’s crayons in his glue bottle after he hurt my feelings, and I will own up to opening Ellen’s lunch box and taking bites out of her sandwich, when I found out she told a lie about me. I grew older and the hurts seemed to run deeper; I learned that I can’t wait until I FEEL like forgiving because that day may never come. Forgiveness isn’t a feeling…it is a choice. And forgiveness is not so much to benefit the other person (who may or may not even realize they have hurt you) as it is for your own benefit! It feels good to release those trolls and gremlins and make space for happier thoughts!