Observing Others is Really Important

A Deeper Look at the Pleasing Personality

I’d like you to meet some people that I’ve talked with this week.  They have interesting stories that I’m hoping you’ll find helpful, especially if you happen to be the Pleasing personality as these people are.  While you’re reading, keep in mind that Pleasing personalities want relationships more than anything else.  Usually they’ll do most anything to get and keep them.   

The Pleasers here all have the Control-to-Get-Comfort personality.  That’s pretty important; this combination of personalities is very common.  More on that Comfort style later.



Emma, Logan’s wife of 21 years, left him.  True, this was not a complete surprise to him; he’d felt her distancing from him for about a year or so prior to her leaving.  But now looking back, Logan is still shocked at how many moments there were in their marriage that he saw her self-centered, manipulative behavior.

He felt hurt, neglected and discounted, but never stopped to ask himself why she behaved in those ways.  He never asked himself what her actions meant about whom she is or what her motives were.  He did what Pleasers usually do:  stayed unaware.

Karen, involved with her partner for 16 years, finally left him.  Jim’s subtle but constant judgment and criticism, silent and verbal, finally made her so anxious, she was jeopardizing her health.  She teaches a classroom of eight-year-olds.   She was losing her focus and concentration; it scared her.

Yes, it took her almost 14 year to become aware of her feelings, analyze them, and think through the situations that made her anxiety come up.  It took her another couple of years to decide what she wanted to do about it.  It wasn’t until she left that she got around to asking herself what Jim’s actions meant about whom he is or what he was getting from treating her badly.

Sara has an only child, Jason, who is 26 years old.  It’s true that Sara, 49, has made two bad choices in the men she’s been attracted to and eventually married.  But, in spite of those bad decisions, Jason has been well-cared for:  great daycare, private elementary school and a good high school along with Sara’s loving attention.  Jason lives now, as he always has, in Sara’s home.  He does give her a small amount of money each month for utilities, he doesn’t pay rent.  And, she buys their groceries.

Sara feels so guilty for her past mistakes with men and money.  She has apologized to Jason a number of times over the last few years or so; she’s actually asked him to forgive her.

Not only does he not “forgive her,” but he often tells her that she is to blame for his unhappiness with his life, his lack of friends, his lack of a college degree, and on and on.  He’s been “beating her up” with his verbal blame.  He doesn’t speak to her at all; he ignores her.  She’s lonely in her own home because it’s silent.

Just recently has she been able to ask herself (and me) what Jason’s actions tell us about who he is and what does he get from hanging on to old irrational ideas.


What’s Wrong Here?

  1. Pleasers will believe what they’re told by others.  For two reasons:  one, they trust easily.  But also, they’re scared to death that if they seriously question anything in the relationship, it might fall apart.  They won’t do or say anything that will rock their relationship.
  2. Pleasers don’t think much of themselves.  In other words, even though they’re generally extremely capable people, they don’t recognize it.  They’re needy and unsure of themselves and their relationships.
  3. Pleasers don’t expect much from others.  They learned in childhood not to ask for anything.  When they did ask they were ignored, humiliated, embarrassed, punished or worse.  They learned to settle for crumbs in their relationships.
  4. Pleasers are great caretakers and rescuers.  They feel guilty if they, for some reason, can’t supply what their loved ones need.  When there’s anything wrong in their relationships, they always think it’s their fault.   So, they easily accept blame. Yes, it’s irrational but true.

Thank goodness Logan’s, Karen’s and Sara’s feelings became so strong they couldn’t ignore them any longer.  Their feelings of confusion, pain, confusion, loneliness, embarrassment, humiliation and yes, once again, confusion, finally rose to the surface and simply, absolutely, couldn’t be pushed down anymore.

Why so much confusion?  Simple.  Logan, Karen and Sara thought the people they loved, loved them back.  It would never occur to them or to any Pleaser that the people they loved would have ulterior motives or hidden agendas.  It would never occur to them that the people they loved would use them to get something they didn’t want to get for themselves.  It would never occur to the ordinary, non-alert Pleaser (being able to keenly observe is a skill Pleasers don’t have) to think that the people they love could or would be so manipulative.


Solutions for Pleasers and Others.

  1. Tune into your feelings.  Your body will tell you when you’re being taken advantage of.  So many people I talk to insist that:  (1) they don’t have feelings, or (2) they have feelings but can’t label them, or (3) they believe that feelings are a sign of weakness and so they have no value.  And etc.   It’s really too bad.

Here’s the bottom line.  We humans have two centers in our bodies that are always working:  mind and feelings.  The smart thing to do is to tune into both and use them as information sources.  Think of your feelings as well as your mind as friends.

  1. Don’t react.  Reacting is always a bad choice unless there’s physical danger.  Think instead.
  2. Observe what’s going on at the time.  Ask yourself why you would be feeling resentment or anxiety or nervous or just plain bad.  Ask yourself why that other person would be doing or saying what he/she is.  Ask yourself:  what is he/she getting out of the behavior?
  3. Think about what you’ve observed.  Continue to observe and think about it.
  4. Decide what you want. This step is usually very difficult for Pleasers.  They just aren’t used to asking for anything.  When they do they feel selfish and/or guilty.  These are inappropriate feelings.  In healthy relationships both people give and get. That includes you, Pleasers, and anyone else who is living with this situation.
  5. Tell your partner what you want in a way that’s respectful for both of you.  Continue this step even if it doesn’t bring results right away.  Remember, you’re (probably) changing a long-standing process.  Keep sending messages that respect both of you.
  6. Be patient with yourself and your partner.  After all, you’re in a new space in the relationship; you’re trying to build a new process.  Let’s see what happens.


You might want to check out the Defensive Behaviors button on my website menu.  The information there is also about manipulation but from a different angle.


Also, any questions about anything you read anywhere on my website, please email me.

I’d love to hear from you.


Warmest wishes until next time,



Thanks so much for reading.  And, if you think others would enjoy this, please share.



Taking Care of Ourselves – Why Don’t We Do It?

A  Deeper  Look  at Self-Esteem.


As Lily and I talked she told me about a situation at work. She’s a data entry person and is now eligible for the company’s health insurance.  Her boss promised that the insurance information would be available two weeks ago but no one had gotten it yet.

She began by criticizing Kathy, her supervisor. According to Lily, Kathy is loud, bossy and plays favorites. She went on about Kathy’s faults until I spoke.  I suggested that Lily’s problem could be solved pretty easily:  by simply asking.   So, I asked if she had mentioned the delay to Kathy.  Or, had she told her that she was concerned about it.

Lily looked shocked.  She started talking, her voice rising.  What did I mean?   She certainly couldn’t do that.  When I asked why not, she gave a list of reasons all based on her assumptions about the kind of person Kathy was and what Kathy could do to Lily.



    1. Kathy would be angry and would find some way to “get back at her.”
    2. What about Kathy’s boss?  If she heard that Lily was being pushy about the insurance, she’d be angry, too.  And from there, Lily imagined the worst; maybe she’d even get fired.


When I asked if her thoughts made any sense (are they realistic), she just repeated her assumptions about Kathy and Kathy’s boss.  In fact, Lily felt so threatened by my suggestion that she didn’t realize that she was just repeating herself.

No, Lily’s thoughts are not realistic.  The reality is Lily’s a great employee.  In fact, she’s such a good worker that she was promoted four months after she started.  She turns in good numbers every week and gets good comments on her performance.

So, if her statements about Kathy and the possibility that she would fire Lily are not based on reality, where are they coming from?


  1. Lily’s afraid, and,   
  2. Her fears are preventing her from taking care of herself.


When we’re fearful and back away from speaking up for ourselves, it’s easier to assume negative things about the other person instead of taking a look at ourselves.  Until I asked Lily if she was afraid to talk to Kathy, she wasn’t aware of her feelings.  Her mind was preoccupied with Kathy.  Once she realized what she was feeling, we could get at why she felt so much irrational fear.  It turns out that Lily has a few UNconscious ideas that she’s becoming more acquainted with.


  1. Lily doesn’t trust Kathy to really listen and be helpful instead of angry.
  2. Lily doesn’t trust herself to communicate her concerns without getting angry.


Lily actually has good reason not to trust others in general, but especially authority figures who have some power over her.   Neither of Lily’s parents were good nurturers; they humiliated and criticized her all through her childhood.  She grew up not only suspicious but often afraid of people.  Plus, she doesn’t have a good track record when she has tried standing up for herself in the past.

Lily doesn’t know how to open a topic or how to respond to a situation in any way except:


  1. to submit to the other person or
  2. to use aggressive talk to open a subject.


She doesn’t know that there’s a middle ground and that, to stand up for ourselves, to take care of ourselves, the middle ground is definitely where we want to be with our “talk.”   So, Lily agreed that she would learn “assertive talk” in our next conversations.

For now, her “homework” is:


  1. Become more and more aware of when her fear rises.
  2. Confront herself when she wants to think unrealistically ,
  3. Realize that thinking unrealistically gives her an excuse “not to take care of herself.”


How about you?  Are you able to “stand up for yourself” when you need to?  I hope so but, if not yet, you will be able to if you’ll do the homework, too.

Then, coming up next, we’ll do more on exactly what “assertive talk” is and how to use it to protect yourself.    Anytime we’re able to make ourselves equal, respectfully of course, our self-esteem grows tremendously.  Let’s go for it!


Warmest wishes until next time,



            Thanks so much for reading.  And, if you think others would enjoy this, please share.

Positive Self-Talk in Place of Defenses

A Deeper Look at Personality and Relationships.

Often, we don’t understand how powerful our thoughts are about ourselves.  That’s because usually we’re not aware of them.  When other people give us messages about our appearance, abilities, performance, etc., we can actually hear them.  Then, it’s easier to accept or reject them.  But, our thoughts about ourselves are much older and much stronger because they’ve had years of UNconscious reinforcement.  Plus, we’re not usually aware of them.


Why should our thoughts about ourselves matter?


  • It is pretty important to get acquainted with what’s going on in our minds.  That’s where our behavior comes from. 
  • When these internal messages are negative, they’re so damaging. 


So, try this.  If you’ll listen consistently to your mind for about a week, you’ll hear a recording that’s going on pretty much all the time.  It’s talking to you, even though you may not be aware of it.   This “CD” was burned UNconsciously a long time ago when you were young. Most of us aren’t aware if the CD has mostly positive or negative messages.

If the thoughts on your CD are positive, encouraging ones, that’s good.  Your self-esteem is pretty high; so you behave in confident, self-respecting, non-defensive ways.  Your relationships are healthy.

But, when the thoughts on your CD are self-judging, disapproving, critical, or they make you afraid, then you use defensive, disrespectful behaviors.  Neither your self-esteem nor your relationships do well with defensiveness or disrespect. 


Take Emily, for example.  Yesterday we were talking about a home landscaping project that she and Dick, her husband, are having done.  They had both walked the yard with Earl, the landscape guy, to make sure he knew where to place the bushes and flowers they’d ordered. Earl said he was clear about what Dick and Emily wanted.

Earl was about half-way through the job when Emily, who was home that day, noticed that he’d placed a few bushes in the wrong spots.  But, she didn’t say anything to him.   Why?

Emily has three very old and very strong messages on her internal CD.   These three ideas UNconsciously (she’s not aware of them) direct her behavior:


  1. People, including herself, shouldn’t complain.  And,
  2. I can’t speak up when I’m dissatisfied or unhappy about something because it will escalate to conflict.  And,
  3. I can’t handle conflict.


When Dick came home that evening and saw the yard, he was disappointed and upset.

Instead of talking calmly and rationally with him about a plan to handle this problem, Emily became defensive.   She viewed Dick as complaining needlessly.  Even though they had paid Earl to do the work in a certain way, she couldn’t face the idea that she or Dick would ask to have the bushes replanted.  She’d rather blame Dick.

The three beliefs that Emily UNconsciously owns direct her to be afraid.  So, she can’t stand up for herself or her husband either.  Instead, she acts out her beliefs even though the ideas are not rational.   In the process, she cheats herself and her relationship with Dick.  And, isn’t really aware it’s happening.

What’s the cure here?  I asked Emily to:

  1. Start listening carefully to her thoughts on her CD,
  2. Even when her messages sound good, she must ask herself if they “work well” in daily adult living.  For example:   “I should never complain,” and “I must avoid all unpleasantness, no matter what,” simply won’t work in daily life; they encourage Emily to be fearful and that’s never good.  And, there’s no way Emily can treat herself or Dick fairly with these ideas.
  3. As she understands that her ideas don’t fit rational living, she will confront them every time they rise in her mind.  They’ll soon lose their power and,eventually, won’t come up anymore.
  4. Replace them with personally powerful messages that will “work” in the adult world.


Hey, how about you?   Try this great self-awareness exercise.  Promise yourself that you’ll notice any internal messages that put you at a disadvantage, like Emily’s did.  That means you’ll be tuning into your thoughts and actually listening to them.   Do this especially when you feel in a down mood. By doing this you’ll get intimately acquainted with yourself and you’ll have the power to change your thinking.  You’re entitled to create positive thoughts that are based on the reality of who you really are, not who someone else says you are or who you fear you are.

Start now being a friend to yourself.  Discard your negative beliefs and harmful defenses.  Discover your positives and act on them.  And, lastly, remember:  this kind of practice is almost never easy; so, be patient with you.


Warmest wishes until next time,



Thanks so much for reading.  And, if you think anyone you know might like this article, please share it. 


Andy and Julie

A Deeper Look at the Defenses of Criticism and Blame.


Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Have you ever heard the phrase, “emotionally unsafe,” but didn’t quite know what it meant?  Or, have you ever really felt emotionally not safe but weren’t sure why?

You feel that way when you’ve been treated badly by someone who matters to you. That’s how you know. And unfortunately but usually, that person doesn’t even pause; he goes right on.  He doesn’t seem to “get it.”  That feels bad enough but, even worse, if you stand up for yourself, he blames you for what he calls “arguing.”  Then the whole thing becomes very confusing and you know that you are in a bad space. 



Andy had been having trouble handling his finances for a long time.  After struggling for a while, he asked Julie to do a favor for him.  Julie was a long-time friend who had helped him out of his financial clutches previously a few times.  “Oh sure,” Julie said, ever-the-Pleaser, even though she was backed up on her own work.  So, that afternoon she put in more than three hours at the computer, collecting information on bankruptcy, really hoping it would help Andy. 

A few days later, Andy asked for it.  After reading it, he started picking at her.  “Why isn’t there more here?  Do you really think this is going to help?  What??  You’re telling me that the least charge for a bankruptcy lawyer is $150.00.  Where am I supposed to find $150.00?  I’m filing for bankruptcy!!”  Andy yelled.   Julie’s answers, when she could get them in around his “attitude,” were pretty normal.  She didn’t know anything about bankruptcies.  “I was just doing you a favor,” she said, trying to explain.

Hoping to defuse a little of his anger, Julie changed the subject.  She said she was looking forward to seeing the movie they’d talked about earlier.  “Oh no,” he said, he wasn’t taking her anywhere; he was going out with his buddies.  He needed to let off some steam.

A few days later on the weekend, Andy started in on the bankruptcy thing again.  Julie said she wasn’t going to talk about it because he’d hopped on her for no good reason.  She just didn’t want to go through that again.  Andy, of course, denied hopping on her at all.  It was just her “take” on it and he didn’t intend to take “the blame” for their argument.  As far as he was concerned, it was her fault.  She always was oversensitive.


What’s Wrong in this Relationship?

Andy is aggressively defensive; he isn’t taking responsibility for:


  • what he says to Julie, or
  • how he says it.


He doesn’t even think about that.  For him, it’s strictly about getting the information.    It’s not about how he acts when he receives it.

But, here’s the reality.  Andy asked Julie for a favor.  When he got it, he didn’t appreciate it.   How do we know this?


  1. He didn’t thank Julie for her gift of time and care.  He felt entitled to it.
  2. When Andy read what she’d given him, he criticized her because it wasn’t what he wanted to hear.  As though she had control over the data.  In reality, is she responsible for providing something soothing that he wants to hear?  No.  The bankruptcy is his problem, not hers.
  3. Andy criticizes Julie again because she chose not to talk about it a second time.
  4. Lastly, Andy labels her “oversensitive” and blames her for the trouble between them.


So, is Julie “emotionally safe” with Andy.  Not at all.  Did she know it?  No.  Does she now; has she “put it together?” 


So, what about Andy; what does he get out of acting like this?  Most people get a feeling of power and Andy is no exception.  As long as he refuses to give any value to the favor she did for him, he can feel superior to her.  As long as he refuses to be concerned with her feelings, then he has the “top dog” position.

I’m sorry to say that Andy never did “get it,” even though Julie gave the relationship a couple more years.  But finally, the weight of Andy’s criticism and blame and numerous other defenses plus his refusal to take responsibility for what his actions actually meant, just eventually did the relationship in.  It was too bad; Julie loved him.



Solutions for Those of You Who Want a Loving Relationship.

Imagine two people who both know what makes a great relationship and are willing to give that.  Each of those people:


  1. Know themselves pretty well.  (Frankly, all good living starts here.)
  2. Each one understands that they’re responsible for their own feelings, thoughts, and actions, including their “talk.”
  3. Each understands that most of us can be defensive about certain topics or habits but we should acknowledge our defenses, and handle them when they slip out.
  4. Each is dedicated to the relationship between them and each one wants to nourish and enhance the flavor of it whenever they can.  After all, the relationship is the third party in the couple and it has a life of its own.  Relationship people understand this.


The bottom-line success word here is “commitment.”  Each person must be willing to be vulnerable and unafraid to face the other in partnership.  You can see real, authentic, healthy and loving relationship in action when partners value and respect each other.  They are committed to growing the love they share, staying together to come through the hard times. And, along the way even in hard times, they are committed to appreciating and enjoying each other.  I’m telling you: it’s so possible; it’s within your reach.  Go For It!!


Warmest wishes until next time,



Thanks so much for reading.  And, if you think someone else might enjoy this article, please share.

Do You Talk to Your Intimate Partner by Telling or Asking?

A Deeper Look at “Talk” in Intimate Relations


When I met this morning with Jeff and Erika, the topic was how they talk to each other.  These two people love each other; they’ve been married 31 years, have three grown children, and yet have never been able to really communicate at an emotionally intimate level.  That’s sad.



One of the main problems here isw that they are both talking “head” language.  Erika is a “big feeling” person but she communicates in “head” language instead of “feeling” talk.  Steve is a “head” person.  While he’s vaguely aware of his feelings, he’s completely unable to label or talk about them; he only speaks “head” language.   What do I mean by “head” and “feeling” talk?   And why is this important?


  1. When we talk “head” talk, we’re:
    1. Greeting the other person.
    2. Reporting some information, like:  what we’re done that day, what we’re going to do, what classes we had, what errands we did and so on.
    3. Telling our thoughts, concepts, ideas, opinions, etc.  (These sentences often start with “You.”)
  2. When we talk “feeling” talk, we’re:
    1. Remembering and sharing feelings from the past.  (We might share how our childhood Christmas holidays felt.)  Or,
    2. Telling the feelings that we’re having right now.  (“I love you,” or “I’m worried,” or “I’m angry.”  These sentences always start with “I.”)


“I” sentences are always the best way to go.  Two positives come from them:


  1. Because we’re starting our conversation with “I” sentences, it’s obvious to the listeners that what we’re saying is about us, not them.  It’s nonthreatening, so the listeners can concentrate on what we’re saying.
  2. We’re not using “you” sentences.  This seems obvious but many people don’t think about or know about the alarm others feel when we start sentences with “You.”


Notice that any time we’re talking to others and we start our conversation with “You,” people tend to bristle.  They expect an accusation or attack or sarcasm or blame or something personally negative and their defenses come up. When that happens, our own defenses rise, the conversation becomes competitive and we’re both off and running to “win.”


What’s Wrong in This Relationship?

Jeff and Erika talk “head” talk; they’re often starting their sentences with “you” or in some other way that makes them each feel defensive.  Then the frustration and impatience rise and the competition begins.

Because Erika and Jeff sometimes start their sentences with I feel, they think that they’re sharing their feelings.   How can that be?  It happens because we don’t really listen to ourselves when we talk.   Jeff and Erika don’t.  They’re so intent on driving their points of view home that they aren’t aware of:  (a) how they’re saying their thoughts, or even more important, (b) how what they’re saying will sound to their partner.

Jeff and Erika get caught up in the content of the conversation.  By content I’m referring to the subject they’re talking about.  They are each unaware of how they’re sending their messages (the process between them).

Here’s an example:  Erika opened a conversation with Jeff about their oldest son, who is 33.   He’s planning to propose to Tonya, his live-in partner of the last two years.

Erika has strong negative feelings about Tonya and she wanted to talk with Jeff about some of Tonya’s behaviors. But, without realizing it, she actually began by challenging her husband, asking him in a stern voice, “What are you going to say to our son when he asks you what you think about marriage to this woman?”

He responded to her challenge with a strong, closed statement of his own answering her question this way, “Well, I’m not going to say much about it because Michael is 33 and it’s not my business.” He really wasn’t open to any more talk about this topic; he already felt “on guard” and controlled by Erika.  His response made Erika even angrier than she had been.  They were already off and running in an argument (head talk), neither one felt heard by the other and Erika’s concerns remained unresolved.

Did Erika express any of her feelings about the upcoming engagement? No, she did not.  Instead, she told Jeff:  (1) what he should say to their son, (2) her ideas about Tonya’s behaviors, and (3) her thoughts about Jeff’s intentions.  What do you think Jeff wanted to say? 

Fortunately, he didn’t say anything.

This process is what I mean when I say these two people and all of the other couples that I’ve talked with over the years talk about the subject (the content) and pay little or no attention to how (the process) they speak to each other.



Most people are capable on their own of solving whatever problem (whatever content) they’re struggling with.  It’s in how they talk to each other (the process) where they need some help.

Jeff and Erika need a different way of talking to each other.  So, we started with “I” sentences.  An interesting thing happened, though, when I asked them to start owning their thoughts and feelings by starting their sentences with the word “I.”

They did start their sentences with “I.”  Trying to do what I asked, Erika, especially, said “I feel that Jeff . . . “quite a few times.  Clearly, this is not a “feeling” sentence, so I had to stop her.  Why?  When we use the phrase “I feel,” it should be followed by a “feeling” word, not anything else.  More examples:  “I really felt embarrassed when . . .”  “I feel humiliated when workmen tell me . .. .”  “I felt stupid when . . .” “Right now I’m feeling confused because . . . “

Yes, this talk is tricky at first because we’re not used to it.  But, you can see that when we each do this, we only communicate about ourselves and not the other guy.  So, it really cuts down on, hopefully even eliminates, defensive reactions.

Because Jeff and Erika had trouble identifying their feelings this morning (just like we all do when we haven’t tried this before), I gave them a “feeling word” sheet.  I asked them to practice:  (1) getting connected to what they’re feeling, and then (2) name their feeling so that they can (3) speak honestly to their partner about themselves.  Without defenses and without pulling up their partner’s defenses.

We feel respected or not; we feel cared for or not; we feel understood or not.  If we aren’t spoken to in such a way that we feel respected, cared for and understood, we don’t feel an emotional connection, any emotional intimacy.   Feeling emotionally safe is really what’s necessary for two people to completely let down their guards, concentrate on the problem and solve it instead of using their energy to defend themselves.

Where Erika and Jeff really need to concentrate their time and their focus is on how they speak and listen to each other.


Big Thoughts in This Article.

If you are having some of the same or even similar problems with your couple communication, try the following.


  1. Spend some serious time listening to how you talk to your partner. Develop the habit of filtering what you say and how you say it before it comes out your mouth.  This cuts down on reactive talk.
  2. Get in touch with your feelings.  Yes, this will take practice but I promise you, it’ll be worth it.
  3. Listen to others talk and practice identifying head from feeling talk. 
  4. Lastly, think about how you are talking to your partner.  Strive for respect, care and clarity in your talk.  


Warmest wishes until next time,



Thanks so much for reading.  And, if you think someone else might enjoy this article, please share.

Are You Nice or Mean to Your Intimate Other?

A Deeper Look at Relationships

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net



In my talk with Julie this morning the subject of respect and just plain good manners, or lack of them, came up.  I’ve had the same talk in the last four days with three other people, all of whom are either married or living together in committed relationships.  Wow!



Julie and George have been married for 52 years.  It isn’t that George doesn’t love his wife.  He loves her by “doing for her:” by buying her expensive gifts, by taking care of all the family business decisions that Julie isn’t interested in, by encouraging her to visit her family back in New Hampshire whenever she likes.  That kind of thing.

But, when he talks with her, he’s abrupt, his tone of voice is cold, and when he’s irritated with her he starts yelling right away.   He does it to “back her off” and back her off it does.  (She’s afraid of confrontation.)

It’s not surprising that her youngest son, David, who is 45, speaks to her in the same way.  After all, he’s his father’s son.  But, there are a few more inconsiderate behaviors that he does as well.

  1. If Julie asks for game schedules for his children, her grandchildren, he impatiently says he’ll get back to her.  He never does.
  2. When Julie invites his family (there are four of them) for Christmas Day dinner every year, he doesn’t let her know until Christmas morning (dinner’s at three o’clock).  In other words, she can’t count on him to reply within an appropriate time, if at all.
  3. There is never a “thank you” for the substantial money gifts Julie and George give Troy and his family every year.


Jann and Greg have been living together for the last three years.  They’re both 49 years old; neither has ever been married and neither has any children.  They love each other and are trying to make their living together work so that they can feel good about getting married.

In talking with Jann I was struck by her sad tone of voice.  She said she’d told Greg that she felt she was the only person in their couple who was “doing the loving.”  When I asked her what she meant, she gave me some examples of Greg’s behavior.


  1. When she and Greg go out to a bar for a few drinks, he orders for himself but not for her.  She’s on her own.
  2. When they go into a group of people where Greg knows others there but she doesn’t, he doesn’t introduce her.  She’s on her own and feels foolish about it.
  3. Greg’s perpetually late leaving the condo for anything, especially when they’re meeting other people socially.  Since she’s a stickler for being on time, she’s always embarrassed when they arrive late.
  4. When they’re watching TV together, Greg will get up, go to the kitchen and get himself something to eat or drink but never ask her if she’d like something.  She’s on her own – again.


Lisa and Joe are in their early 40’s and have two children, 10 and 5 years old.  Joe is a financial manager at a large corporation, so they have about four or five dressy or formal company events every year.  Lisa’s complaints:


  1. Once there, Joe disappears.  He’s off talking to other people he works with and expects her to be content completely on her own even though she doesn’t know a lot of these people.
  2. When they’re having dinner at these functions, he talks to everyone at the table but her.  He’ll actually lean over her and her dinner plate to make conversation with the person on the other side of her.  Again, she’s not included.
  3. From the time they leave their car, Joe walks ahead of Lisa.  She never really catches up and so she ends up walking into wherever alone.


What’s Wrong in These Relationships?

Maybe the men ( by the way, women also behave in the same negative ways) in these three examples didn’t get good training in their “growing up” homes when they were young.  Or, maybe they were taught good manners and respectful behavior but just don’t behave that way now.

But, either way, their thoughtless and inconsiderate behavior with their partners is hurtful.  And, over time, that behavior will cause resentment to grow, if it hasn’t already.  Any level of resentment is unhealthy but over time, painful feelings like embarrassment, humiliation, and, yes, resentment, build up and build up; they threaten the very foundation of any relationship.



Since respect is the most important ingredient in any successful relationship, our behaviors with each other have to be considerate and thoughtful.  Respect demands that we see other’s needs, wishes, feelings and choices as valuable and worthwhile.

Okay, so what would your behavior look like in the above situations?

You would:


  1. Think about your tone of voice and choice of words before you speak.
  2. Not promise someone something and then not deliver it.  Remember, Julie’s son, David, never did send his mom his kid’s game schedules, even though he said he would. Since she didn’t have the schedules, (time and place), she couldn’t go.  Not going affects her relationships with her grandchildren – it makes her sad.   And telling anyone who’s having a holiday sit-down dinner at the last minute that four more people are coming is just downright rude.
  3. Connect with your spouse or committed partner, ask what she/he would like to eat or drink.  Ignoring is never okay.
  4. Introduce your partner, acknowledge her/him and include her/him in any talking you do.
  5. Not be late, especially when it’s a group activity.  Being consistently late is an arrogant behavior; it says you’re the most important person in the group.
  6. And, I could go on but you get the idea.


Please remember:  if you want to get love, you must give love back.  Not with material gifts but with emotional connection that you show through considerate, thoughtful, loving actions. 




            Please leave any questions or comments about this article in the comments section below.  I’ll be writing more on this subject in the upcoming weeks.   Thank you so much for reading.  Please share if you feel these are helpful ideas.


Warmest wishes until next time,


Pleasers are Really Naïve’ and Unaware

A Deeper Look at the Pleasing Personality.

I was talking with Ryan yesterday.  He’s about seven months into a divorce proceeding and pretty bitter about it.   We’ve talked about his 13-year marriage many times, exploring it from different angles to learn more about Ryan.  This marriage is his third; this divorce is his third.  (And, this is a really great guy!)  Altogether, Ryan has been married 41 years.

Ryan is an exaggerated Pleaser personalityHe was married each time to an exaggerated Comfort personality.  It’s not uncommon for this combination of personalities to find each other.  (More information on Opposites Attracting in future articles.)

The fine point we were talking about this time was Ryan’s view of himself in the marriage.  He sees himself as completely blameless in the 13 years he and Julia had together.  He holds her entirely responsible for the failure of the marriage.  It’s not true, of course.  When we’re in a relationship, we’re fifty percent responsible.  But, here’s why Ryan sees himself as not responsible.

Each of the four personalities (Comfort, Pleasing, Control and Superiority) has a set of core beliefs that directs that person’s behavior.  Here are some of the Pleaser’s core ideas:


  1. I should take care of others, especially those I care about.
  2. I cannot disappoint others, especially those I care about.
  3. I should always be available for others, especially those I care about.
  4. My first response to requests is “Yes;” I can’t say “No.”
  5. I shouldn’t ask for anything for myself because that is being selfish.
  6. I always listen extremely well so that I know what others want.


Now, these are very giving, loving ideas and when they’re used in balance, they’re great.  But, Ryan isn’t balanced; his behavior is outrageously over-the-top unbalanced.   So, when I challenged his idea that he was faultless in the relationship, his response was, “What do you mean? I gave her everything she wanted; I did everything the way she wanted.  How was I at fault?”  I asked him quietly if he was happy being married to Julia.  He thought for a moment and then admitted that, “No, a lot of the time I wasn’t happy.”  I ask if he knew why.  His answer was a simple “No.” He’s naïve’ and unaware.

Pleasers, at their core, are uncertain of their value.  Even though they’re always very hard workers and really capable people, they don’t realize it.

Their uncertainty starts in early childhood when their parents, siblings or both, ignore them, or worse, ridicule, mock or humiliate them.  Because of this treatment, they UNconsciously decide they have no intrinsic value and they begin to look to others to validate them.  They seek this validation with Pleasing behavior UNconsciously acting out the core beliefs listed above.

They become over-responsible usually in every area of their lives:  with relationships, their work, and socially.  They become “yes” people, always trying to prove their worth.

Here’s what they don’t do.  Here’s what Ryan didn’t do.


  1. He never stood up for himself. Not at all in any situation.  When Julia took advantage of him, he never complained.  When holidays came along, because Julia didn’t like Ryan’s grown children, Ryan never had his kids to any celebration at their home. (Think about it; not once in 13 years!)   But, Julia always had her parents and grown children for all kinds of gatherings.
  2. When new things were bought for their home, he let Julia do the choosing.  He never voiced his opinion if it differed from hers
  3. When vacations were planned, Ryan let Julia decide where to go.
  4. When he wanted a broader group of social friends, Julia said, “No,” and he let it drop.
  5. I could go on, but you get the idea.


The one place Ryan was not responsible, but was, in fact, irresponsible, was to himself.  Every time I asked Ryan why he didn’t take care of himself in his marriages, his answers were always the same:  he was afraid of confrontation:  if he even just spoke up, the talk (in his mind – confrontation) would escalate to conflict, the conflict would escalate to separation, the relationship would fall apart and Julia would leave.  ***Ryan is naïve about Julia’s motives and completely unaware of himself in this relationships.

As we talked, over time, Ryan has come to understand that the reality was:  the very thing he feared, Julia’s leaving, happened anyway and probably partly because he didn’t respect himself enough in the marriage to become a real person, an equal emotional partner.

Now, months later, Ryan’s coming to believe in his own value.  He’s learning not to be afraid that no one will ever want him.  He doesn’t any longer depend on others to validate him.  This is all good; Ryan’s confidence level is growing.

Not that his life is perfect yet but he is finally venturing out to meet other people socially.  This gives him a chance to practice new “talk skills” and his success with them helps him grow more sureness.  He’s on the positive side of the learning curve now and he’s feeling better about his future.  He’s becoming less naïve’ and more aware.  Yes!!

Talking with Ryan about responsibility to himself reminded me of a short article I ran across in a paper one day quite a while ago.  It was signed “Anonymous” so I can’t give anyone credit for it.  But, it’s a list of statements that stayed with me for a long time, just thinking about it.  I hope it speaks to you, too, is some way.




You are responsible for what you think.

You are responsible for what you feel.

You are responsible for what you say.

You are responsible for what you do.

You are responsible for who you are.

You are responsible for taking care of yourself.

You are responsible when someone tells a secret you’ve shared; you were a poor judge of that person’s character.

You are responsible when people hurt you using the information you’ve given them about you.  You should learn to tell when you can trust a person.  You should learn to tell when a person doesn’t wish you well.

You are responsible for everything in your life because you allow it to be there.

You are responsible for the ties you have with others because you allow them.

You are not responsible for making anyone else happy.

You are not responsible for becoming what someone else wants you to be.

You are not responsible for distorting the truth so as not to hurt another person’s feelings.

If you don’t like your life style, you’re responsible for changing it.

If you don’t like your job, you’re responsible for changing it.

If you don’t like your home, you’re responsible for changing it.

If you don’t like your husband or wife or partner, you are responsible for taking action of some kind.

If you don’t like the way you are treated, you are responsible for disconnecting or for taking some other action.

If you don’t like you, you are responsible for learning and accepting who you are and then changing your view of yourself.



While every one of these statements is true, the meaning of each of them and the work involved in being so responsible in each situation may seem heavy.  But, I repeat, the essence of each of these statements is true.

Put another way:  even though we may not feel capable of being so responsible to ourselves, it’s true that we can and should know and decide: (1) who we are, (2) who we will allow into our lives, (3) what we will tell others, and (4) everything else connected to us.

Pleasers:  you can take care of you better!

Okay then, why don’t we just do it, whatever it is we need to do? Generally, there are two reasons why we might not be so responsible for ourselves.  They are:  (1) fear of really taking charge of ourselves and our lives, and (2) you lack the practical living skills and the relationship skills you need to effect the changes you want.  (You know, you can always get these skills.)

What’s needed first is Courage to step out and start.  So, go on now, get going with even just a first, small step; that’s a good beginning.  If the first step is disappointing, pull yourself up and get going on another try.  Sooner or later, you’ll have successes and then you’ll really be on your way.


Warmest wishes until next time,



Thanks so much for reading.  And, if you have any suggestions for topics you want to know more about please let me know in the comments.  If you think others would enjoy this article, please share.

A Mother’s Manipulation of a Grown Daughter

A Deeper Look at Relationships — Defenses (Not Listening and Others).

I’ve been talking with Rachel, who is now 21, off and on, since the summer before she entered the University of Missouri. Some of our talks are about worries that are “normal” for a young girl in college:  dating, first love, anxiety over grades and doubt over her choice of veterinary college as her major.

But, most of our talks are about Rachel’s relationship with Taylor, her mom, who is 48.  That relationship is chronically disruptive for Rachel.  It creates the most anxiety and sadness and takes up precious work and study time. Here are some examples of why.



Taylor had come to Columbia to stay overnight with Rachel just for a short visit.  But Saturday afternoon, right after she arrived, she asked Rachel why she thought they didn’t get along a lot of the time.  Rachel said she didn’t want to talk about it. They’d had this conversation many times in the past and nothing ever changed.  It not only upsets Rachel but it’s also exhausting. And, Rachel had to get in some study time before she and her mom went out for dinner and a movie that evening.

Her mother asked the same question again, twice, completely ignoring what Rachel had said.  Rachel thought, “Here it is again, mom’s old habit of pressuring to get what she wants.”  Rachel did what she always did with her mom; she gave in. (Rachel is an exaggerated Pleasing personality).

“Okay,” Rachel said, “One reason we don’t get along is that you don’t listen to me.”  Taylor protested that:  of course she listens.  When Rachel repeated that Taylor really doesn’t listen to her, Taylor asked, “When?”  So, Rachel gave her mom two examples, one from the past when she was still living at home and one from just a few weeks ago.

Rachel’s first example:  Rachel reminded her mom that when the ‘Hello Kitty’ craze happened a few years ago, Rachel was already a senior in high school, 18 years old.  She was too old to be interested but Taylor, who is an immature Comfort style personality loved the ‘Hello Kitty’ products.

When Taylor brought home a ‘Hello Kitty’ pillow for Rachel’s room, Rachel told her mom that she hated the ‘Hello Kitty’ hype.  So, she would appreciate it if her mom didn’t buy her any more of that stuff.  A clear message.

Over the next six months, ‘Hello Kitty’ things showed up often in Rachel’s room.  When Rachel told Taylor that she really appreciated her thoughtfulness, but, again, she didn’t want any more, Taylor cried for a long time. (Crying is one of Taylor’s most used defenses.)  The same thing happened when Rachel protested the third time.  More persistent crying.  Rachel finally gave up trying to be heard and the only way she was able to leave the ‘Hello Kitty’ stuff behind was to go to college the next fall.

Rachel’s second example.  A similar incident happened just a few weeks ago between Rachel and Taylor.  Rachel had been in a year-long relationship with a guy that she cared about.  When the relationship ended, it was pretty painful.

When Rachel, now 21, went home from college for a weekend visit shortly after the breakup, she gave both of her parents some details about why the relationship ended.  She was clear with them that she felt sad about it and wanted to put it behind her.

And yet, during that conversation, Taylor pressured Rachel for more and more details.  When Rachel hesitated, Taylor strongly suggested that Rachel had been the problem in the relationship and maybe that’s why it had ended.  Rachel felt so hurt, she couldn’t even tell her parents the truth:  the guy had cheated on her twice and she was glad they weren’t seeing each other anymore.

How did Taylor take these two examples of her Not Listening? She did what she always has done:  She first denied her own behavior and then she cried for an hour.  Rachel got so rattled that she decided to go out to study rather than trying to concentrate there in her condo.  Rachel has heard Taylor’s crying for so many years she just doesn’t want to handle it anymore.  It’s so tiring.


What’s Wrong in This Relationship?


  1. Rachel is more mature, more responsible and a clearer thinker than Taylor is.

Rachel’s mom may be older than her daughter but in terms of responsibility for her own behavior, Taylor is still emotionally young.

  1. Taylor has been manipulating Rachel since she was a child. Not just by (a) not listening, but also with (b) subtle and not so subtle blame, and with (c) whining and complaining, (d) crying, and (e) feeling hurt when she’s confronted with her own behavior.  All of these behaviors are defenses that keep reality out.  And, until now, they’ve kept Rachel confused and off-balance.
  2. Rachel is a typical exaggerated Pleaser.  She may think briefly about setting verbal boundaries for her mother but she doesn’t follow through.  She always gives in to what her mom wants.
  3. Rachel can’t say “No.”  Pleasers always say “Yes” either with their words or their behaviors, usually both.  It isn’t even a thought in Rachel’s head that she not only has the right to say “No,” but she has the obligation to herself to say “No.”  Everyone has the right to privacy. And, everyone has the right to self-respect.


Two hours after their argument, Rachel returned to her condo after studying.  Her mom acted as if nothing had happened.  This is the way it has always been.  Rachel knows that this kind of “talk” will happen all over again, probably many times, in the future because Taylor is so manipulative.  When you’re in Rachel’s position in a relationship, this sort of exchange is exhausting!  And damaging.  Though Rachel loves her mother, she also resents her. And, unless one of them changes her behavior, the resentment will grow deeper over time.



One.  The whole thing is so avoidable.  If only Taylor would recognize that good relationships need:  (1) good communication which starts with listening, (2) respect for each other’s boundaries, and (3) the people in them to be open and defenseless or they don’t work.  True affection, friendship and/or intimacy just don’t blossom where there’s the poison of manipulation.

But, Taylor is unwilling to look at herself and refused to talk with Rachel and me together.  It doesn’t look hopeful that she’ll agree to work on herself in the future either.  So, any positive change in the relationship has to come from Rachel.

Two.  Rachel must decide to:

  1. Stop being so afraid of damaging the relationship when she respectfully stands up for herself.   Taylor loves her daughter so Rachel’s fear of losing the relationship is unrealistic.  Over time, Taylor will accept Rachel’s changed behavior, precisely because she loves her daughter.  But Rachel has to stay with it.
  2. Rachel needs to learn to set limits, both verbally and with her behavior.  Setting limits is a form of saying “No,” and you’ll remember that Pleasers really are unfamiliar with that word.   Rachel has to practice saying “No” respectfully and consistently.  Sooner or later her mom will accept it.
  3. Rachel needs to understand that she’s not responsible for her mom’s feelings.  As long as Rachel is respectful with her mom, she’s entitled to be responsible and respectful to herself to say the reality when her mother asks.  Her mom is responsible for understanding her own feelings and working them out herself.


If you are either a Taylor or a Rachel, please consider making these changes.  Emotional safety, closeness and intimacy depend on your changed behaviors.

You can learn more about defenses by going to my Defense Chart on my website: www.joanchamberlain.com.


Warmest regards until next time,


Good Relationship Skills Encourage Intimacy

A Deeper Look at Relationship Skills.


I call each of these items below “skills” because in order to become really good at them, we must practice and, sometimes, practice and practice some more.

I saw Marci this morning.  She came to talk with me about her marriage of 33 years.  Her relationship is in deep trouble.  I’ll save some of the complications for another time but today my focus is on what I call “relationship skills.”

What I see in general and specifically in Marci’s marriage, is that we don’t know how to relate to each other.   I can hear you saying, “What are you talking about? We relate all the time.”  Yes, it’s true that we talk all the time but we don’t always “relate.”  That takes special attention. Webster defines the word “relate” as interacting with another person in a satisfying way.      

Okay, so what exactly is relating?  Since “relating” is a complicated process we won’t touch on all the components today but we can get a good start.   We can begin with this idea:  When you relate, you must bring all of you to the table.  So, what’s all of you? 


  1. The most primary thing we bring is respect.  The word “respect” actually means valuing and prizing and esteeming another person in a continuing way.  So, when Marci had concerns about certain alarming behaviors she saw in her husband, Paul, she had a right to ask about them.  Instead of bringing respect to the conversation Paul not only didn’t show respect but blamed Marci for being a “nag.”  Not a good sign since we’re 33 years into this pattern of communication.
  2. Good listening involves many qualities but we’ll settle for talking about two here:  (a) being open and genuine.  Marci wanted to tell him about her hurt feelings the last couple of times they were out together.  She hoped he’d care enough and be interested enough to listen.  But no, that didn’t happen.
  3. If we hope to “relate” well, we need to bring (b) energy to our listening.  That is, put some energy into trying to understand what the other person is meaning.  And then, even better, try to understand how that other person is feeling.  Then we might actually be respecting and esteeming her/him.  Paul brought mostly silence to their “talk.”  He really didn’t want to talk with Marci and being silent was his way of “staying out of it.”  When Marci persisted, she got criticism, disapproval and, eventually, blame.  The respect and positive listening were nowhere to be found.  And, neither was any kind of intimacy.


Here’s a favorite quote of mine that fits in here; it’s from the play “To Kill a Mockingbird.”


“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his/her point of view,

until you climb into his/her skin and walk around in it.”


The same idea was presented many years ago by the famous psychiatrist, Alfred Adler.  He said that when we don’t understand another person’s behaviors, we should pretend to “try on his/her skin and live in it for a bit. Then we would understand.”

Paul either doesn’t know anything about the relating skills we’re talking about here or he knows but chooses not to use them.  I vote for “doesn’t know.”  Marci said that their relating has gone this way for a very long time.  Why tackle it now?  There’s a possible third person in the picture and that’s threatening the marriage in a very serious way.  Time to do something about their really unhealthy “talk.” 

But, it’s so sad to think that it’s taken this long to do something about it.  Both Marci and Paul have experienced so much unnecessary pain.  It’s really too bad.

So, if you’re in the Paul position in your own relationship, are you bringing what you should to the “talk table?”  If not, become more open to offering respect and good listening ; try these skills out.  If you’re in the Marci position in your relationship, you can ask your partner assertively and respectfully to give you respect and good listening.  If all you get is defensiveness, respect yourself enough to leave and try again another time.


Warmest wishes until next time,



            Thank you so much for reading.  If you think others would enjoy this post, please share.   

Pay Attention to Your Feelings – They’re Your Friends

A Deeper Look at Your Feelings.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s amazing.

Here’s the bottom line about feelings.  Our feelings are always, always operating in us, whether we want them to or not, and, whether we actually feel them or not.  They’re part of the human package; so we don’t have a choice about their existence.

What we do have a choice about is whether to fear them, deny them, or (the obvious best choice) be open to them and make our feelings our friends.  Only in this way can we be responsible for our behavior with ourselves and with others.

Try this.  Learn to recognize when your feelings rise.  Concentrate on actually feeling them.  Now, focus on them; be curious about them.  No judging or minimizing or burying them.  Now, learn to name them.   Maybe there are several different feelings at the same time.  Some primary feelings, like fear or hurt, often hide under the surface ones: anger and frustration.

Recognize that all feelings appear for a reason, and ask yourself why yours have risen.  Or, analyze what’s happening in the moment that would create them.  Perhaps you’ll need to trace your current feelings back to your thoughts to understand them.  Remember, whatever it is you are thinking, is generating your feelings.   When you think about the thoughts you’re having and you realize they’ve caused your feelings to come up, you know a lot more about you.  And, not only do you have more valuable data about you, but it also gives you much more control over yourself.  Just think:  no more need to react; you can be proactive instead.

The other possible reason for your feelings to rise would be that you’re having a “feeling reaction” to something outside yourself.  It’s often even more important that you be aware and able to know what you’re feeling in those situations just so that you do not react. 

I promise:  If you’ll use this process, over time you’ll put yourself in charge of your feelings.  Believe it or not, when you aren’t aware of your feelings, they’re in control of you and the situation you’re in. This is because you’re often reacting to them, whether you know it or not. (Remember, feelings are alive and operating in us, even when we’re unaware of them.)

On the other hand, if you recognize your feeling and label it, you have the data to make a conscious, clear choice about what to do with it.  Then, you can direct your behavior smartly rather than reactively.  If you’ll use this process, you’ll rob your feelings of their power to make you confused and defensive.  What a relief!

And, there’s more.  You’ll realize other benefits as you practice learning about and expressing your feelings.

One, when you acknowledge your emotions, you lower your body’s level of physical tension instead of continuing to carry that tension around.  Stress from negative feelings over time can damage your digestive tract, lungs, circulatory system, muscles, joints and your body’s ability to resist infections.  People who don’t acknowledge and/or express their feelings often develop high blood pressure.

Two, acknowledging and talking about negative feelings also reduces anxiety that, perhaps, you’re not even aware of.  Express negative feelings and both anxiety and its buddy, frustration, fall away.

Here’s a bit of homework.  It’s not an easy exercise but it’s important and it will bring you huge dividends if you’ll stick with it.

The next time you find yourself feeling angry, frustrated, closed and/or defensive, try this.  Be quiet.  Why? At times like these we tend to rant, complain or even accuse.  But, it’s because when we don’t know our feelings, we don’t know our own whole story.


  1. be quiet,
  2. feel your feelings,
  3. label them,
  4. think about why they’ve come up right now.

Now, there you go; you have valuable data about yourself.

If you’re making a decision, you factor the information you’ve just gleaned from your feelings into the decision.  Whatever you decide, it’ll be a much better choice because you’ve included all of you, your feelings as well as your thinking center.

If you’re not making a decision, you will use your feeling data to take charge of yourself so that you can go from angry and frustrated to calmness because you understand your anger, where it’s coming from and you’ve put yourself in charge of it.  Congratulations!


*** I’ve put a sheet of “feeling words” both positive and negative ones, to get you started matching names to your feelings.  Good luck with these and any questions, please send me an email.


Until next time warm wishes

                                    to you and yours,



            Thanks so much for reading.  And, if you think anyone you know would like this article, please forward it.