Dear Roz

Dear Roz,

How can I get my sister to realize that the guy she’s been dating for the last 10 years isn’t good enough for her? It’s clear as day to everyone except her.

Thank you,

Jake

Dear Jake,

Our lives unfold in the stories we tell.  Can you see that in your narrative you have made your sister blind, yourself helpless and everyone else a know-it-all? How enlivening is that story?

The major thing to acknowledge is that your statement is your story, not your sister’s. The problem for you is that you want to be able to embrace their relationship, and it makes you crazily uncomfortable that you can’t.  So let’s try to clear her blindness, your helplessness to communicate and the rest of the world’s idiocy in one fell swoop.

Imagine if you were to say, “Oh, most favorite sister, I have a problem. I can’t wholeheartedly embrace your relationship with Don because it looks to me from the outside that he doesn’t treat you with the respect, love, and acknowledgement that I think you deserve. That upsets me a lot.  Do you have any idea why I might be getting that impression? And can you help me see what you see?”

Now you have shifted the focus from a battle over The Truth to something that cannot be disputed, your internal experience. This will give her the opening to speak about Don differently—either lovingly, which will provide you greater understanding, or in a way that lets you in on her struggle. In any case, your sister will show up as more insightful; you will have given her an opening to speak; and you won’t have to call in the rest of the world as backup to prove your point.

Dear Roz,

I am struggling with many issues, including my health and finances. I am desperate to keep my house, but with only disability to live on, it’s almost impossible.

I applied for a part-time job that may save me. How can I get out of my own way and succeed?

Thank you,

Dot

Dear Dot,
You’re doing great: keeping your sights on possibility and envisioning success. The only thing I see holding you back is the language you are using to describe your position. The way we talk about life has a powerful effect on our emotions and thoughts. The word “struggling,” for instance, only refers to a state of mind, not any activity we can witness. You can easily take yourself out of “struggle” and “desperation” by using other descriptors. Try talking to yourself like this: “There is a gap of X dollars a month between what I receive for disability and the cost of living in this house I love. Any extra money I bring in will get me closer, and a part-time job will likely be all I need. I’ll go for it!” And I’m sure you will.
Dear Roz,

How does one simultaneously handle being drawn to narcissists and maintaining good boundaries? My experience is that narcissists suck the air out of a room. They leave you with a paradoxical feeling of being flattered because they were there with you and exhausted because they were there with you.

Thank you,

Looking for Relief

Dear Looking for Relief,
Have you heard the one about the famous actress who regaled a friend with her triumphs, and then said, “Enough about me. Now let’s talk about you. What did you especially enjoy about my last film?” The people you are describing tend to be charismatic, interesting and usually quite successful. They thrive in the light of ­attention and wilt without it. They often get your admiration by ­praising you extravagantly in just the way you would like to be praised. They know all about that after all.
What these people may have in common with those who fall under their spell is a history of unstable ­attention as they grew up—sometimes too much, sometimes too little, but often not the kind that would have helped them develop stable self-regard. The “narcissist” is ­seeking to fill a void—and so is the flattered adorer: the one by creating an aura of specialness, and the other by being able to participate in the exaltation.
As long as the admiring one is still getting something important from playing a part in someone else’s special life, it will be difficult to hold boundaries. That companion of yours is like a helium balloon with a pinhole in it—so much of life becomes a crisis situation, and the need for attention takes on emergency proportions. Who, after all, is going to deny a person in an emergency?
All that being said, my advice to you is to set very simple, very concrete boundaries—for instance, no calls after 9 p.m.—and when these are violated, to become curious about how it is you feel after saying “no.” Put your compassionate attention on an earlier version of yourself whose needs and expectations were so often dashed. When you have defined that feeling of betrayal as a memory of yours, you will be on the way to ­growing beyond where you are, and gracefully too.
Dear Roz,

I would like to see a culture of caring and mutual respect in my workplace. When it gets really busy and some people in management get stressed, tempers flare and they resort to name calling, like, “Why don’t you understand how this is done? You are stupid.” How is it possible to reframe this situation?

Thank you,

Victoria

Dear Victoria,
I applaud you for being willing to tackle such a widespread condition. Our current global (and logically ­untenable) business model, that a business must grow and exceed its prior results, is a perfect recipe for stress. A very common reaction to feeling unable to cope is to blame your neighbor, your colleague, or anyone in your line of view. Blaming is also a cultural norm, so it is probable that people in your business find this way of acting normal. I would suggest you undertake a gradual culture shift:
1. Rename the blamer. Gather a small team of like-minded people, perhaps three or four, and speak of your vision of a best-place-to-work, where there is caring and mutual respect. Agree to intercede, when stress levels are escalating, by asking the blamer, “Is there anything I can do to help?” Acknowledge that the blamer is under stress and not acting like her real self.
2. Enroll others in your vision. Concurrently, ask at a staff meeting for a show of hands as to how many people share your dream that your company could be a best-place-to-work. Say what that means to you. People may try to trivialize what you are doing. Simply laugh good-naturedly, and keep moving the conversation along. Ask for suggestions on how to mobilize the new culture.
3. Manage the new conversation for possibility. Meet with your original group of three or four for lunch once a week and have an obviously good time. Talk about possibility; talk about wonderful events. Pretty soon, one or another of the staff will want some of what you’re having, as in When Harry Met Sally, and your team will expand. Be sure you are being an ambassador for possibility, which means you will not complain.
4. Invite communication and expression. Solicit suggestions from everyone about what might make the workplace more pleasant or more enlivening for them, so they feel heard and see they have a hand in changing things. Then, if you have regular staff meetings, the dialogue will begin to open up between you and them, and possibility will spread beyond you.
“The way we talk about life has a powerful effect on our emotions and thoughts.”  
Are you also eager to see beyond your current horizon? Send your questions to editor[a]theoptimist[dot]com, and write Dear Roz in the subject line. 
Roz is Rosamund Stone Zander, lead author of The Art of Possibility, and you can ask her any question that is close to your heart or concerns you deeply, whether it is about your relationship to family, friends or co-workers, or your place in the world today, or any puzzling situation or compelling issue. One thing is for sure, you will not get a conventional answer. Because Roz looks at your question afresh through the eyes of creativity and possibility.


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Dear Roz

Dear Roz,

How can I get my sister to realize that the guy she’s been dating for the last 10 years isn’t good enough for her? It’s clear as day to everyone except her.

Thank you,

Jake

Dear Jake,

Our lives unfold in the stories we tell.  Can you see that in your narrative you have made your sister blind, yourself helpless and everyone else a know-it-all? How enlivening is that story?

The major thing to acknowledge is that your statement is your story, not your sister’s. The problem for you is that you want to be able to embrace their relationship, and it makes you crazily uncomfortable that you can’t.  So let’s try to clear her blindness, your helplessness to communicate and the rest of the world’s idiocy in one fell swoop.

Imagine if you were to say, “Oh, most favorite sister, I have a problem. I can’t wholeheartedly embrace your relationship with Don because it looks to me from the outside that he doesn’t treat you with the respect, love, and acknowledgement that I think you deserve. That upsets me a lot.  Do you have any idea why I might be getting that impression? And can you help me see what you see?”

Now you have shifted the focus from a battle over The Truth to something that cannot be disputed, your internal experience. This will give her the opening to speak about Don differently—either lovingly, which will provide you greater understanding, or in a way that lets you in on her struggle. In any case, your sister will show up as more insightful; you will have given her an opening to speak; and you won’t have to call in the rest of the world as backup to prove your point.

Dear Roz,

I am struggling with many issues, including my health and finances. I am desperate to keep my house, but with only disability to live on, it’s almost impossible.

I applied for a part-time job that may save me. How can I get out of my own way and succeed?

Thank you,

Dot

Dear Dot,
You’re doing great: keeping your sights on possibility and envisioning success. The only thing I see holding you back is the language you are using to describe your position. The way we talk about life has a powerful effect on our emotions and thoughts. The word “struggling,” for instance, only refers to a state of mind, not any activity we can witness. You can easily take yourself out of “struggle” and “desperation” by using other descriptors. Try talking to yourself like this: “There is a gap of X dollars a month between what I receive for disability and the cost of living in this house I love. Any extra money I bring in will get me closer, and a part-time job will likely be all I need. I’ll go for it!” And I’m sure you will.
Dear Roz,

How does one simultaneously handle being drawn to narcissists and maintaining good boundaries? My experience is that narcissists suck the air out of a room. They leave you with a paradoxical feeling of being flattered because they were there with you and exhausted because they were there with you.

Thank you,

Looking for Relief

Dear Looking for Relief,
Have you heard the one about the famous actress who regaled a friend with her triumphs, and then said, “Enough about me. Now let’s talk about you. What did you especially enjoy about my last film?” The people you are describing tend to be charismatic, interesting and usually quite successful. They thrive in the light of ­attention and wilt without it. They often get your admiration by ­praising you extravagantly in just the way you would like to be praised. They know all about that after all.
What these people may have in common with those who fall under their spell is a history of unstable ­attention as they grew up—sometimes too much, sometimes too little, but often not the kind that would have helped them develop stable self-regard. The “narcissist” is ­seeking to fill a void—and so is the flattered adorer: the one by creating an aura of specialness, and the other by being able to participate in the exaltation.
As long as the admiring one is still getting something important from playing a part in someone else’s special life, it will be difficult to hold boundaries. That companion of yours is like a helium balloon with a pinhole in it—so much of life becomes a crisis situation, and the need for attention takes on emergency proportions. Who, after all, is going to deny a person in an emergency?
All that being said, my advice to you is to set very simple, very concrete boundaries—for instance, no calls after 9 p.m.—and when these are violated, to become curious about how it is you feel after saying “no.” Put your compassionate attention on an earlier version of yourself whose needs and expectations were so often dashed. When you have defined that feeling of betrayal as a memory of yours, you will be on the way to ­growing beyond where you are, and gracefully too.
Dear Roz,

I would like to see a culture of caring and mutual respect in my workplace. When it gets really busy and some people in management get stressed, tempers flare and they resort to name calling, like, “Why don’t you understand how this is done? You are stupid.” How is it possible to reframe this situation?

Thank you,

Victoria

Dear Victoria,
I applaud you for being willing to tackle such a widespread condition. Our current global (and logically ­untenable) business model, that a business must grow and exceed its prior results, is a perfect recipe for stress. A very common reaction to feeling unable to cope is to blame your neighbor, your colleague, or anyone in your line of view. Blaming is also a cultural norm, so it is probable that people in your business find this way of acting normal. I would suggest you undertake a gradual culture shift:
1. Rename the blamer. Gather a small team of like-minded people, perhaps three or four, and speak of your vision of a best-place-to-work, where there is caring and mutual respect. Agree to intercede, when stress levels are escalating, by asking the blamer, “Is there anything I can do to help?” Acknowledge that the blamer is under stress and not acting like her real self.
2. Enroll others in your vision. Concurrently, ask at a staff meeting for a show of hands as to how many people share your dream that your company could be a best-place-to-work. Say what that means to you. People may try to trivialize what you are doing. Simply laugh good-naturedly, and keep moving the conversation along. Ask for suggestions on how to mobilize the new culture.
3. Manage the new conversation for possibility. Meet with your original group of three or four for lunch once a week and have an obviously good time. Talk about possibility; talk about wonderful events. Pretty soon, one or another of the staff will want some of what you’re having, as in When Harry Met Sally, and your team will expand. Be sure you are being an ambassador for possibility, which means you will not complain.
4. Invite communication and expression. Solicit suggestions from everyone about what might make the workplace more pleasant or more enlivening for them, so they feel heard and see they have a hand in changing things. Then, if you have regular staff meetings, the dialogue will begin to open up between you and them, and possibility will spread beyond you.
“The way we talk about life has a powerful effect on our emotions and thoughts.”  
Are you also eager to see beyond your current horizon? Send your questions to editor[a]theoptimist[dot]com, and write Dear Roz in the subject line. 
Roz is Rosamund Stone Zander, lead author of The Art of Possibility, and you can ask her any question that is close to your heart or concerns you deeply, whether it is about your relationship to family, friends or co-workers, or your place in the world today, or any puzzling situation or compelling issue. One thing is for sure, you will not get a conventional answer. Because Roz looks at your question afresh through the eyes of creativity and possibility.


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