Not if you handle it well

Change has gotten a bad rap in our society. Most “normal” people will say they hate change and yet that is not true. What they hate is “being changed” or being forced to change by someone else.
Think back to times in your life when you decided to change your work, your residence, your whatever. I bet the feelings associated with those self-chosen changes were exhilarating and joyful. I realize that some changes we make we do so only because we see no other viable option and those are not so enjoyable.
But stay with me on this when I say that change is a normal and constant part of life and relationships. We all change over time – some changes for the better and some not-so-much, but we change none-the-less. These changes can be a blessing or a curse to a relationship. They can also lead to one person requesting, at times insisting, that the other change in the same way they are.
And that, my friends, is a serious mistake. Again, most all of us will resent and resist enforced changes by anyone, perhaps especially by those closest to us.
A fundamental requirement for healthy marriage, for any meaningful relationship, is respect. When one party asks the other to change something about him or herself, that request can easily be interpreted as a lack of respect. When that is the case, a positive response to the requested change is highly unlikely.
So what do you do when your mate is doing something hurtful, or not doing something helpful that you desire from him or her? First, you must choose the right time and place to make your request. If you know your mate is tired or stressed or mentally occupied elsewhere, that is not the time to engage with them about your need. Please choose a time and a place when he or she is most likely to be receptive to your request. Don’t just spring it on him or her without some forethought and prior planning.
Second, you must voice your request as a request, never a demand. Think about how you react when someone demands something of you. You’re right to expect your mate will likely react in the same unpleasant manner.
Third, you must be clear about the specific change you seek and certain that your mate understands the change accurately. The only way I know how to do that is to ask him or her to tell you in their own words what they understand you are requesting. So often one person can ask for A-B-C, while the other hears B-C-D. If emotions are high, the other might hear 7-Giraffe-Cadillac. It is also helpful to explain why you hope for the change, and how you feel it will help your relationship.
One technique I have found to be helpful comes from the folks at PREP Inc. They teach the X-Y-Z technique when you have something to say to another person which may be misunderstood or taken the wrong way.  As I wrote n PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Work:
The XYZ technique works this way: When you do X, in situation Y, I feel Z. For example: “When you come in late for our morning staff meetings, I feel disrespected, and wonder if perhaps you don’t realize how that impacts the rest of us, or what a problem it presents for us.”
Note how this approach attacks the problem but not the person. Ideally, the person will be open to hearing more specifics about how their performance is causing problems for others. Many people will simply not care, but many will appreciate being shown that they are creating a problem and will take corrective measures.
Conflict is often a negative experience due to the manner in which it began. All too often when you are upset with someone, (or when you desire some change from them) you might let them know without regard to how they will receive what you are saying. You could be so focused on your own state of mind that theirs is of little or no concern to you. Big mistake!
If you actually want to see a change in someone else’s behavior or performance, then you need to be careful about how you present your request/suggestion. If you begin your comments with a put‑down or insult, you might just as well not say anything else. The person will be so focused on your perceived attack that he or she will be unable and/or unwilling to hear whatever else you might say—even if the point you are making is intended for their personal benefit.
Maintain a non‑threatening, respectful manner, and your words will likely find receptive ears. Put the other on the defensive and you might just as well speak to a wall.

There is lots more that could be said about seeking change in your mate, but hopefully these tips give you something to think about. Always keep in mind that you and your spouse are one, and any requests for change must be for the good of the relationship not either party’s own personal desires.

Can it really be this easy to resolve money differences?

Here’s a news flash for you – differences over money can cause disputes in relationships. Ok, maybe that’s not such a news flash, but this week I share a resource that can be quite helpful in better understanding those differences and working them out in a manner that is satisfactory to all parties involved. It’s included in a chapter in PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Home.

Also, be watching for more information about my upcoming 5 Day Course in CPR – Conflict Prevention & Resolution. More details to come.

Click on this link
for a brief interview with Syble Solomon, creator of Money Habitudes. You or someone you know needs to know about this resource.
Copyright © 2018 Productive Outcomes, Inc., All rights reserved.
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Feeling overwhelmed? Read this

Hi there, I hope you remember me. It’s been a few weeks since my last post and I have some good reasons for that absence. I am so pleased to report that my 2nd book PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Home is DONE!! This project has taken way longer than I anticipated (18 months to be exact), but should be available for sale in just a few weeks. I truly believe people will benefit from reading this book and find healthier relationships with the most important people in their lives.
Today I thought I would share Chapter One with you. In view of how rapidly life is flying by, I think you’ll find it appropriate and beneficial.

Chapter P1

Whelmed? Surely You Can do

Better—Can’t You?

m thinking of taking my life in a new direction with my ultimate goal to be whelmed. To be honest, I don’t know what whelmed is, but I know I don’t wanttoo much or too little of it. In regards to a healthy marriage, being either overwhelmed or underwhelmed can pose serious problems.
The term “overwhelmed” probably doesn’t need much elaboration. I believe it is the scourge of our age—or at least one of them. I don’t know many people who are not stretched these days in far too many directions.


PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Home

I called a friend to ask him to get involved in a project I was working on. After hearing the list of tasks he currently had on his plate, I was exhausted. I, of course, graciously withdrew my request.
This friend’s story is anything but unique. It is important to realize from time to time that your life may be out-of-control busy, and if that is the case, your marriage is bound to suffer. You simply won’t have the time or energy to give it the attention it deserves. I read a book several years ago by Dr. Richard Swenson called Margin. This is an excellent resource for getting a grip on over-commitments and on how to build in periods of re- spite into your busyness. I think I need to carve out some time to read it again.
Along those lines, may I suggest that you take the time to schedule activities and events which are important to the overall health of your marriage. We’ve all heard the expres- sion “find time” to do something. If you have figured out a way to find time, would you please let me know? I’ve been looking for time for a long time.
To “take time” or “make time” seems far more realistic than to try to “find time.” Among the elements which might be worthy of your time are play times just for fun, the state- of-your-marriage conversations, parenting meetings, and even sex.
What did I just say? That’s right, many couples routine- ly schedule times for physical intimacy. They consider it im- portant enough to make it a priority and something which should not get pushed to the side by other life demands. I’ve also heard that one gender in particular prefers some advance notice, while one just needs the other to show up. I’ll let you guess which gender might be which.

Chapter P1

I can’t promise that proper scheduling and prioritizing will do away with all overwhelm in your life, but as my Jewish grandmother used to say, “That and some chicken soup couldn’t hurt.”
Regarding being underwhelmed in your marriage, you simply must take steps to prevent it from happening. I can’t tell you how many folks have come to me for marriage help telling me they have drifted apart. What I can tell you is that this is the likely result when couples stop focusing on their marriage and making it a priority in their lives.
There is nothing wrong with each partner having their own personal interests and pursuits in life—so long as these are not a threat to the marriage or causing undue hardship on your mate. But a couple who spend the majority of their time with each doing his or her own thing is likely a couple I will someday see for divorce mediation.

Schedule time to discuss where you and your spouse fall on the overwhelmed–underwhelmed continuum. Make a plan to ensure you keep time for fun and other important components of a healthy marriage.

You have to know about this

The oft-promised book PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Home is coming soon – I promise. The writing part is finished. I am currently working on recording brief (3-5 minute) interviews with many of the experts I cited in the book and putting links to those interviews in the book. It’s a bit labor intensive, but I’m convinced well worth the effort.
One such interview was with Dr. Mark Goulston in which he describes a simple way to stop any argument in its tracks. I’ll warn you that you will likely want to play the recording more than once, but if you will learn this technique it could pay huge dividends for your relationship.
I’ll be curious to hear if you agree.
To watch and listen to the interview go to or scan the following into a QR Code reader

Can this really turn a relationship around?

One of my favorite songs – my theme song in fact – is “Give the World a Smile Each Day.”
Now I realize we live in serious times, and my list of problems likely runs as deep as yours. But isn’t also true that there are billions of people on this planet who would gladly trade places with us on any given day – we take their problems, and they take ours?
Life is not a competition, and the fact that others are suffering more than we are should not at all help us to feel better. But it should serve as a reminder that maybe our problems aren’t’ so bad in the overall scheme of things.
There is extensive research today that reveals the health benefits of gratitude. I’m talking about mental health, physical health, emotional health, and – you may have guessed – relationship health.
When you are in a close relationship with someone at work, at home, or anywhere else the other person’s faults will likely become apparent to you over time. When you find yourself focusing more on their bad points than their good, the relationship is in or is headed for trouble.
At these moments it is especially important to force yourself to look on the bright side as they say. To remind yourself of the other’s good qualities and what you appreciate about them.
When life gets heavy, and you feel overwhelmed, this is also a good time to pause and remember all that is right in your life. I often suggest to my coaching clients that they make a list of five to ten aspects of life that they appreciate and for which they feel grateful. Each morning or whenever they start their day, they are to write down these specific parts of their life that bring them a smile or warm their heart.
They are then advised to put their list in their pocket and then take it out at various times in the day to read it and remember that in spite of the bad it is still a wonderful life.
Please don’t expect gratitude to help turn a relationship around in just a day or two. I am convinced, however, that implementing the regular practice of feeling and expressing gratitude will indeed have a positive effect on you and on any relationship in your life.

We need more of this today

I am so happy to report that my new book PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Home is getting oh so close to publication I am in the process of recording brief interviews with some of the people I cite in the book. These interviews will be scattered throughout the book and accessible with a QR Code reader, or simply typing the link into a browser. 
Until it’s available, I thought I would share one of my favorite chapters with you. By the way, I’ve recorded interviews with two sources I cite in this chapter – Scott Stanley, and   Dave and Claudia Arp. Since they did most of the talking, I don’t mind telling you they came out really, really well. 

Section Seven: Commitment: A matter of life or death?

“Commitment is making a choice to give up other choices.”
                                                                                          —Dr. Scott Stanley
A husband and wife were having an argument when the husband blurted out, “I was a fool when I married you.” The wife maintained her composure and calmly replied: “I suppose you were, dear, but at the time I was so much in love, I didn’t even notice.” At the risk of sounding like a broken record, married couples will experience times in their marriage when they don’t especially like each other. This shouldn’t come as a great surprise as there are times in most of our lives that we don’t like ourselves all that much. We let ourselves or others down and beat ourselves up for it. If that is true, that we are not always comfortable with our own behavior, what chance is there that we will always be totally comfortable with someone else? And therein lies the great need for commitment if your marriage is to be all that you hoped for when you first said, “I do.”
Commitment appears to be a vanishing quality in our society. When something isn’t working just right, we replace it with a newer, more up-to-date version. This is fine if you’re talking about a mattress or television set. It’s not so good if you’re talking about a marriage partner. My fear is that we have not prepared folks for the reality that any marriage will have challenging moments. Anyone who has been married more than five years and tells you the thought of divorce has never entered their minds will likely lie to you about other things as well. Or if not divorce, they have at least entertained thoughts that maybe they married the wrong person or that getting married was a mistake. That is normal, and those thoughts need to be taken to the recycle bin in your mind and quickly deleted.
Another problem I see is that many folks have a lowered concept of what marriage can be and therefore settle for less. They also hesitate to fully invest in the marriage for fear the payout will not be worth the investment. Dr. Scott Stanley, who I have cited a few times previously, has authored or co-authored numerous books and journal articles and has participated in several studies designed to find out why marriages fail and how to help them succeed. In his book, The Power of Commitment, Dr. Stanley writes that “only in the context of a total commitment are you free to develop greater levels of intimacy and connection—the things that are perhaps the very essence of oneness.” What a paradox. We want true and lasting commitment, but we’re afraid to give it ourselves for fear it will not be reciprocated.
Dr. Stanley describes two forms of commitment, each of which is vital to a lasting, satisfying marriage. One is dedication commitment, which “implies an internal state of devotion to a person or project.” This is the fun part of commitment. It’s the part where you want to be with your spouse because you are being fulfilled and feel like you are adding value to his or her life as well. Every marriage needs a healthy dose of dedication commitment to be successful and high functioning.
The second form of commitment is what Dr. Stanley calls constraint commitment which “brings out the sense of obligation.” You may not be very happy with the state of your marriage, but the cost of divorce, the impact on the children, and the grief you will cause family and friends serves as a deterrent to ending the marriage. As with dedication commitment, every couple needs constraint commitment from time to time. When things get rough, as they will, you need to buckle down and fix what’s broken. Cutting and running should rarely be an option at all and certainly never the first option. When divorce is a readily available option, folks are more likely to choose it than to do what’s necessary to make things better.
I’m reminded of the Biosphere, a failed experiment of controlled living in a glass bubble in Arizona. There were a few reasons why the experiment failed. One was that researchers underestimated the dynamics and tension that could exist between men and women living in such close quarters “24/7/365,” as they say.
Another reason the experiment failed is that they could not regulate the oxygen properly. The designers had planned that the trees they planted would be a major component of the oxygen system. But the trees died. The reason they died was that they did not put down deep roots. In nature, trees face challenges from winds and other elements. This causes them to put down roots to solidify their standing. In the Biosphere, no such challenges were present, so the trees had no motivation to root deeply. When your marriage faces storms, it can and should be an incentive to you and your spouse to deepen your commitment to each other and to your marriage. Each weathered storm makes the next one that much easier, or should I say, less difficult to face.
Marriage is and should be a serious matter. People should neither begin nor end their marriage without careful forethought. Unfortunately, we as a society have made marriage too easy to get into and far too easy to get out of. Though it is also so much more, marriage is a form of contract between two consenting adults. Can you name any other contract which either party can unilaterally end without incurring penalties?
So, let me challenge you to focus on your marriage in the coming weeks, months, and years. Determine now that you are going to do your part to make it successful and healthy. Don’t worry about what your mate will or won’t do. Just subtly leave this book in a conspicuous place in the house and hope they come to the same conclusion that you have. Or, be brave and let your spouse know you are committed to him or her and to doing your part to increase the harmony and intimacy in the relationship.
Many of you can do this on your own. Buy the book 10 Great Dates to Energize Your Marriage by Dave and Claudia Arp and just do what it says. Others of you will need more personal help in one form or another. There’s no shame in that. If your tooth hurts, you are very willing to go to a dentist. So if your marriage is hurting, then there should be nothing keeping you from going to a counselor or relationship coach to get things to a better state. The investment will be minuscule in comparison to the payoff.

Chapter Challenge: Look for an opportunity this week to thank your mate for putting up with you and assure him or her that you plan to be with them for the long haul. Also, as I suggested with the marriage ground rules, find your wedding vows and have someone write them out in calligraphy suitable for framing. Surprise your mate by hanging them in your house and let them serve as a daily reminder of your commitment to each other.

Private Enemy Number One?

I gave a talk at my Toastmaster’s Club this week and wanted to share the main theme with you. Before I do, I must tell you that if you have any desire to be a better communicator, you definitely should check out Toastmasters. It is a worldwide organization that helps anyone grow from where they are to where they want to be. We meet every Wednesday at 5:30 pm at the Quality Center for Business at San Juan College. There is no pressure to join, and visitors are always warmly welcomed – never embarrassed in any way.
My talk was titled “Private Enemy Number One.” I began by recounting an incident I had some years ago at Tingley Collesium in Albuquerque. I attended a day-long seminar led by motivational speakers such as Rudy Giuliani, Laura Bush, Terry Bradshaw, and many others. It was a delightful experience. At one point in between speakers, I was contemplating what I had heard and people-watching – one of my favorite things to do in life.
As I was looking around, I noticed a police officer walking down the steps just to my left. He took a few more steps, and this thought popped into my mind “wow, I could have just grabbed his gun and started shooting people.” Please let me assure you that I am not a homicidal maniac and that random thought faded quickly into oblivion. But do you, like me, ever wonder where those thoughts come from? Please don’t try to convince me that you don’t know what I’m talking about. We all have crazy, outrageous, totally absurd thoughts come into our minds fairly frequently. Trust me you are not alone.
Many times I find myself wondering who is in my mind anyway who is generating such thoughts. I have an answer I am comfortable with, but it involves aspects of the Bible and Christian thinking. Since I write this post to a wide audience, some or many of whom are not believers, I will keep those thoughts to myself. If you care to hear them send me an e-mail to and I’ll be happy to share them with you.
Here’s the point I want to make. We all are subject to random thoughts that appear in our minds without warning or provocation. We simply cannot control or prevent them from occurring. We can, and must, however, take control of these thoughts once we become aware of them. We do not have to participate in every conversation that begins in our minds.
So I’ll leave you with two suggestions for how you can exercise better control over your thinking and self-talk. One is to pause and ask yourself “who are you talking to?” I have found this to be very helpful in gaining mastery over wreckless thoughts that are rarely if ever, in my best interest. By asking myself “who are you talking to?” I force myself to move into the analytical, thinking portion of my brain where I can quickly determine that the precipitating thought is not from me and not something I need to spend any more time on. I used to beat myself up for having such thoughts in the first place, but since I now have a clearer understanding of their origins I no longer engage in berating myself
The second suggestion is to learn to speak to yourself in the third person. For example, when I notice I am getting upset or that a harmful thought has just popped into my mind, I will pause and say “Ron, what’s going on right now?”or “Ron, what do you think you should do about this?” or “Ron, maybe you should go for a walk and calm down – what do you think?” This practice may sound simplistic to you, but there is much research available that speaks to its relevance and practicality.
We all have a portion of our brain designed for thought, and another portion for emotions. What happens to us far too often is that we allow our emotional brain to make thinking decisions for us and the result is usually unpleasant or worse. Road rage is a clear example of thinking from the emotional brain. The same can be said for Relationship rage.
So I’ll close with the wonderful advice given by Bob Newhart in the YouTube clip “Just Stop It!” (If you have never seen the clip do yourself a favor and carve out 6½ minutes for pure amusement.) When faced with a challenging situation or thought learn to practice self-control, gain mastery over them and “Just Stop It!” I’m not saying it’s easy or that I have totally mastered the practice. I can assure you I am getting better at it every day for with practice comes expertise. Why not give it a try and find out for yourself if what you have just read could have great benefit for you and your relationships.

I’d love to hear of your results. Please share them with me at

Laugh Your Way to Better Health and Relationships



I have a chapter in my soon-to-be-released book PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Home called “Here’s to your health.” In the chapter I propose that how each person in a relationship takes care of him or herself impacts the overall health of the relationship between them. Since I seem to have laughter on my mind these days, I thought I would share with you an excerpt from that chapter.
The reason laughter is on my mind is that I have the privilege of presenting this month’s edition of the San Juan College Broadening Horizons Series, sponsored by Citizen’s Bank. My topic is Health Benefits of Laughter. If you are reading this on February 1 you can come see the presentation this evening at 7:00pm in the College Little Theater. If you are reading this after the fact, you probably didn’t miss much 😊.

Here’s the excerpt:

Along with the normal recommendations for health such as diet, exercise, rest, water, etc., I want to add one more you may not typically consider: laughter. Laughter has many health benefits. In fact, there is an entire science called gelotology which is dedicated to the study of the health benefits of laughter. Laughter can reduce blood pressure by increasing vascular blood flow and oxygenation of the blood. Hearty laughter is a good physical workout as it exercises muscles in the diaphragm, face, legs, and back. The respiratory system also gets worked well during hearty laughter, and stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are reduced. Laughter is said to improve one’s immune system and improve alertness, creativity, and memory. Someone remind me please that I may need to laugh more—just in case I forget.

So to do my part in improving your overall health and that of your marriage, allow me to share with you some words of wit I picked up along my life’s journey. I heard of a nine-year-old boy named Johnny who was spending a few days visiting his grandmother. He came in from playing one day and asked his grandmother what it’s called when two people sleep in the same room and one is on top of the other. Grandmother was a little taken aback, but she decided to tell him the truth. She said, “It’s called having sex,” to which the boy replied, “Okay, Grandma,” and went back out to play.
A short while later Johnny came in, rather irritated, and told grandma, “it is not called having sex. It is called ‘bunk beds’ and Billy’s mother wants to speak with you right now!”
George Bernard Shaw said, “You don’t stop laughing when you grow old; you grow old when you stop laughing.” So if it’s been a while since you and your spouse have done some serious laughing together, may I suggest you not waste many more moments before correcting this imbalance.

Chapter Challenge: Set a time to evaluate your overall health. Determine to take steps to improve in areas that need improvement and to maintain in areas that are currently working for you. Map out a strategy with specific objectives and timelines for how you are going to take good care of yourself. Be sure to include regular times for fun and laughter in your overall plan.
While you’re working on your own health and wellness, it’s okay to encourage your spouse to take good care of him or herself as well. If you do suggest that, please do so with a gentle, loving spirit. And only say it when you are committed to doing the same for him or her. Just for fun, you might want to Google the 1929 song “Button Up Your Overcoat.” It reinforces the point that I’m making here.
Bettering yourself is a big deal. When you’re feeling good, it is easier to put up with little annoyances and not let them get the best of you. When you’re feeling good, it is easier for you to give and receive love from your mate than when you’re down or discouraged or ailing in some way.

Laugh and the whole world laughs with you…

Greetings all,

According to an unknown 3rd grader, the rest of the subject line reads “cry, and you have to blow your nose.” Why is it that young children laugh so freely and regularly, but as we age we do so less and less.

I say we fix that and we start on Thursday, Feb 1 at 7:00 pm. As you will see in the attached flyer, I will be presenting for the Broadening Horizons series at the Little Theater at San Juan College. My topic is the health benefits of laughter, and I promise you will come away healthier than you came.

It’s a free event and totally family friendly so come one, come all. Also, please feel free to share this with your contacts who could use some good laughs right about now.

See you then!

Your Best Relationship in 2018

Hi there, do you remember me? It seems like a long time since I last wrote this blog, but it’s actually only been a few weeks. I know the holidays interfered with my schedule – enjoyable though they were. And this year got off to a horrendous start. I attended four funerals and a memorial service in week one and spent most of week two in bed with the same crud that many of you have had.
But I am excited to see what potential 2018 holds for improved relationships with those who are important to us. I heard recently that since the future is imaginary, so why not spend time imagining a better future than your present situation?
None of us knows for certain what tomorrow, or next week or next month will bring, yet too often we waste time fretting and dreading what that might be. Why do we do that? I wish I could tell you, but I’m not quite sure.
I do know that all of us have to fight an ongoing battle with the thoughts that pop into our minds uninvited and unwelcomed. You know what I’m talking about. Thoughts that you are too much this or not enough that, or that in some ways you just don’t measure up with others.
While I do not know precisely what thoughts you face, I can assure you that all of us wonder at times who is in that marvelous mind of ours anyway?
One common thought most of us have at times is whether or not a relationship that is strained is fixable at all. This is a very dangerous occurrence as the negative thoughts can take on more power and impact while the hopeful, positive thoughts lose their influence. Left unchecked, the relationship is doomed.
So here’s my challenge for this week. Pay close attention to the thoughts you have about your relationship. Are you spending more time looking at the negative, imperfect, and seemingly unfixable aspects, or more time focusing on the good and the possible? Do the former and you will be out of that relationship in short order. Do the latter and you will begin to see gradual changes and improvements over time.
Today is the only day you have to work on improving your relationship – or keeping it healthy and strong. You do not have tomorrow and you certainly do not have yesterday. All you have is today so why not find one thing you can do that contributes to the overall health of the relationship and do that today? This need not be huge and life-changing all by itself, but by doing one positive gesture (more are welcome if possible) each day, the cumulative effect will be a restored, happy, healthy and thriving relationship within just a few months.
Am I prepared to give you a money-back guarantee that what you just read will work? Well, actually I am since you didn’t pay to read it. But seriously, doesn’t it just make sense that concentrated efforts to improve anything should result in improvements? It’s kind of like a cruise ship that is going the wrong way and needs to turn around. It does not remedy the situation in one massive turn, but rather in a series of small, almost unnoticeable turns that add up to the proper course correction.
Nobody ever said relationships should be easy, but I have 30 years of experience in watching relationships end because one or both parties stopped doing their part to make it work well. Please don’t let this happen to you.
And, lastly, if you will permit me some shameless marketing. I will be speaking at the San Juan College Little Theater next Thursday evening February 1 at 7:00 pm. This is part of the College’s Broadening Horizons series. My topic will be laughter, humor, and fun in life. If your relationship is hurting I promise you this is an area that is deficient and needs addressing. The event is free, so please come join me as we spend an hour of life and relationship helping laughter.