4 Reasons Your Partner May Be Shutting Down Communication

How tragic it is when listening breaks down to the point where a person gives up trying to be heard! This can happen in a relationship after a period of time when that person has repeatedly tried to share their feelings or concern and never feels heard. Let’s look at what they may be experiencing and what the listener may be doing to send that message.

  1. The listener is more concerned with how they are going to respond than listening to understand what is said. They might assume they already know what is going to be said so they stop listening all together and mentally work on their response. This is a very selfish way to listen because it shows more concerned about making a point than understanding.
  2. The listener is judgmental so the person no longer shares their feelings about painful and difficult subjects because they are criticized. They feel like they have to defend themselves instead of feeling supported.
  3. The listener continually tries to solve the problem. But before someone is open to listening to a solution they need to know that they are being heard and if this step is skipped than they may not be open to a solution.
  4. The listener is focused on the details instead of the feelings. The listener may hear a fact that they believe is not accurate and so they feel the need to correct it, when really the facts are not the point and correcting facts just frustrates the person speaking.

Here are two simple tips to improve your listening.

  1. Showing genuine caring: Show attentiveness with eye contact, head nods and words of compassion. Also giving your undivided attention by putting the phone down or turning off the T.V. 
  2. Give brief summary statements once in a while as you listen: This assures the person that you’re hearing and comprehending his message. You can ask for clarification to make sure you do understand.

If we are talking about a marriage relationship or your significant other than that person should be held at a higher regard than others, they deserve this attention and it shows love and respect for them. Don’t let your partner shut down because they no longer feel like they are heard. Put your own needs and ideas aside and invest in the relationship. 

Written by Lisa Strong


What Is Your Communication Style? What Makes You Feel Safe?

Do you feel safe when communicating with your spouse or friend? I don’t mean fear of physical harm. What I mean is that you may wonder, why am I feeling stressed right now, they don’t seem to be? It may be because you and that person have different communication styles. Drs Les and Leslie Parrot wrote about safety in communication and they identified 4 categories. 

The first one they labeled Time. Do you get stressed if you feel like your time is not being used well? I am one of these people and once I sense the conversation has slowed then I am ready to move on to the next thing. No use wasting time right? Well if you are not like this then you might be more comfortable with a slower pace, you like to just slow down and it takes you time to process as we are communicating. 

The second is called Approval. If this is you then you are influenced by emotions and feelings. If you sense that the person you are communicating with you is not approving of you then this is stressful. Some people really don’t care how you respond to what they are saying, they are more concerned with facts and information, not feelings. That may sound harsh but it is true. You also might use feelings to influence people, in your persuasion you include feeling words not just facts.

The third is Loyalty. This title is a little confusing to me but it has to do with a predictable routine. Does change and spontaneity cause you to be fearful or anxious? Are you resistant to change? When your friend or spouse drops a surprise change on you does this cause you to feel unsafe and it is hard to communicate at that time? You need a warning so I think the word loyalty is about being consistent and reliable this brings you safety.

The last is Quality. If this is you then you want to do things well and you have a process so when your process is interrupted then it causes you stress. For example if you were buying luggage do you need to shop around, test them out, check for discounts and possibly return it because you eventually found a better deal? Or do you just go to one store, see what you need and get it, job done? Well if you are the first type then you fit in this category, you are cautious, you need to be sure and if someone rushes you through this it causes you stress. 

It is good to consider these types of communication syles. Look at yourself, where do you fit. You may fit into more than one category. It is also good to consider where the other person fits because you don’t want to cause stress in them. So if your partner is in the Loyalty category then don’t spring things on them, give them advanced warning so they have time to process the new information and get comfortable. Or if you have to make a last minute change then show compassion for who they are, don’t get frustrated this only adds to their stress. 

Learning about your own communication needs and your partners can add to the understanding and compassion in the relationship. I hope this is useful. If you need more help and support please call 562-260-4796.

Written by Lisa Strong

How to Help Your Hurting Teen

As a teen and family coach who has worked with thousands of teen, I often hear parents talk about how much their teen is hurting emotionally. In today’s unpredictable world, encountering hurt is as inevitable as paying taxes. It’s even more so for your teen. Add intense peer pressure, a friend’s betrayal, derogatory comments on social media, the cultural rearranging of values and family structure, and it’s no wonder teens face significant trauma.

No parent likes to see her children in pain. When your teen is hurting, you can follow these three principles to help them work through the hurt and develop strength and resilience.

Acknowledge The Pain
Ignoring a hurt doesn’t make it disappear. But you can comfort your teen by saying, “I know you’re hurting. If that happened to me, I’d be hurting, too.” That speaks volumes to your teen about your support.  Don’t compare their pain to any of your pain… past or present.  Don’t tell them to “let it go.”  Don’t talk on and on about the situation at hand with sage advice or anything else.  Just listen, validate and support.

Listen Without Judgement
Emotions are not right or wrong. They’re simply what your hurting teen feels. If you want them to talk, sometimes the best thing to say is nothing.  Stop yourself from telling them what to feel and what not to feel.  Don’t tell them why they shouldn’t be feeling the way they do.  Just accept them right where they are and remember that they are teenagers… most things are a big deal to them!  They will mature emotionally as they grow up and they deserve the time and space to do that without judgement.

Strategize How to Handle the Situation Together
Don’t rush in to fix the problem!  Rather than solving the problem for your teen, encourage him to strategize a path to healing. 

Helping your teen brainstorm his next move will make him more resilient in the future. On the other hand, rescuing your teen from emotional hurt weakens them and promotes a victim mentality. Yes, there are times when he should get an adult involved. But most of the time, them staying in the fight and proactively problem-solving will help them stand strong in life’s storms that we know are sure to come.

When your teen has followed through on their plan, cheer the effort: “What happened to you was really tough. But you were strong and rose above the situation.”

Your belief in your child means more than you will ever know.  

 I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

How Positive Words Can Strengthen Your Marriage

“Marrying you was the biggest mistake of my life!” 

“I told God that I’d rather be dead than stay married to you!” 

“I’m absolutely certain that I married the wrong person.” 

“Come back here and fight me like a man, you chicken!” 

“To be completely honest, I’ve lost my feelings for you.”

Words have the power to start wars, scar hearts, lacerate a person’s soul, create enemies and incite fear. Our words can actually damage a person’s identity for life. That’s how powerful words are!  Believe me.  And if we aren’t careful with our language, we can destroy our marriage.  

I understand that sometimes we use negative words with the intention of motivating the other person to step up, to get their attention and to convey how hurt and disappointed we are.  But it’s important to understand, really wrap your head around, that this may bring momentary change but it will not bring a change of heart, the kind of change you are looking for.  

“I can see this is hard for you but I also see the effort you are making.”

“I appreciate what you are doing for our family.”

“You look nice today.”

“I know we will work through this hard time as long as we stick together.”

These are the words that will actually bring real, lasting change.  These are the words that will motivate your spouse, cause them to listen and to keep trying.  I hear some couples say that they are afraid to say anything nice to their spouse because they are afraid it will lead their spouse to believe that everything in their marriage is going ok and that all the pain and resentment have been resolved.  This isn’t usually the case.  If you truly want your marriage to turn a corner, become more enjoyable and you really want your partner as your lover and your best friend you have to build them up.  There is no other way around it.  

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith


How to Encourage Empowerment vs Entitlement

Thousands of families and kids later I have become able to identify the fine line between an empowered child and an entitled one.  You want your kids to feel empowered. You tell them to speak up, be assertive and reach for their dreams. But what happens when you give your kids too much power? They become entitled which is quite different than empowered. An empowered kid has a strong sense of self, ambitions, dreams and direction.  An entitled kid is bossy, demanding, dependent and usually not enjoyable to be around.  Here’s how to build empowerment without crossing the line in to entitlement.

1.  Give your kids what they need, not everything they want.

Showering gifts on your kids may feel good to you, but children develop an unhealthy sense of entitlement when there are no limits on their wants. Free stuff is okay now and then, but too much free stuff always backfires. And I do mean always.  The more kids are given, the less they appreciate, and the more they demand. When it comes to gifts and rewards, moderation is best. A few meaningful items have more meaning than an endless bounty of plenty.

2. Never let your kids diss you.  

I am routinely shocked by the way children speak to their parents. And that’s saying a lot since I’ve worked with thousands of families!  I see children yell, curse and even hit their parents. Nothing destroys the peace of a household more than parents who let their kids get away with such shenanigans. No kid wants a parent he or she can push around. Kids who talk down to their parents suffer from low self-esteem, poor peer relations, depression and a lack of structure and parameters. So if your kid disses you regularly, don’t be wishy-washy. Put a stop to it. Be firm about behaviors that are unacceptable and strive to create a culture of mutual respect in your family.

3. Don’t be a “Fix Everything Parent”.  

Fix Everything Parents are the hardworking superheroes of parenting, willing to do anything for their child in a heartbeat. However, they have a terrible habit of swooping in and saving their kids from frustrating situations. By doing so, they keep their kids dependent, rob them of growth opportunities and create gaps in their emotional development. Kids with Fix Everything Parents don’t think twice about bossing or manipulating them. It’s better to teach your kids how to work through frustration and come up with their own solutions. Don’t save the day! Remember, frustration is the fossil fuel that drives maturity. Helping your kids work through frustration is far more empowering than saving them from it.

4. Don’t be afraid to be unpopular.  In fact, be ready for it!  

Being a good parent requires making unpopular decisions now and then. If you surrender to temper tantrums or avoid conflicts to purchase peace, you’re setting the stage for bigger problems in the future by teaching your kids that negative behaviors get them what they want—and that’s the last message that you want to send. Grow a backbone, don’t be afraid to be unpopular. Model empowerment.  In the end, your kids will appreciate and respect you more for it.

5.  Fortify your leadership
Put an end to your kids ruling the roost before it begins. Foster an environment of mutual respect in your family and empower your kids with healthy habits that will last them a lifetime.

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

How We Lose Respect Using Emotional Decision-Making

We want others to take us seriously, to show us respect and to listen to us. How can we make that happen? Why isn’t it happening? I think that when others see that we allow our emotions rather than our logic to make our decisions, this causes them to loose confidence in what we say. There needs to be a balance between emotions and logic.

I heard an example the other day of a husband who said that when his wife, after walking by a pet store window, makes an emotional suggestion like let’s get a puppy, he is not likely to take her seriously. But rather if she comes to him with a thought out plan and shows him she is aware of the changes a puppy will bring and how this will effect their lives together than he is more likely to listen. 

The point is that people are less likely to listen if they think that the emotion will pass and then the decision no longer seems like a good one. 

We have many emotions that can influence our decisions. For example, excitement can cause us to underestimate the risk involved. This can happen in financial decisions. Anxiety, embarrassment and sadness can also direct our choices. We may be anxious or depressed about something in our lives and this feeling causes us to be resistant to taking any risk at all. We may want to avoid embarrassment so we change our behavior to protect against this.

A very powerful emotion that we can all relate to is anger. We have all reacted in anger and then done something that hurts either ourselves or someone else. It would be better to take time to calm down and think things through before deciding on a plan of action.

When you communicate a concern or desire to someone they will respect your view if they think you are going to stick to it and if they know that you have thought it through

This is an important point, are you going to follow through? Can they count on you or are you only talking? When I know that the person making a suggestion is going to support their idea by taking action this also makes me respect them more. I can count on them to follow through, they are not only talk. 

Impulsive or emotional decision can affect our relationships, finances, health, career and how we use our time. 

We make the best decisions when we can achieve a balance between emotions and logic. When your emotions run too high, your logic will be low, which can lead to irrational decisions: and if you have a history of irrational decisions then others will not take you seriously or show you respect.

It is not easy to change patterns of behavior. If you need help and support, give us a call at 562-537-2947.

Written by Lisa Strong

Helping Your Kids Set Boundaries

The things is, in a world that is ever encroaching on boundaries… physically, mentally, emotionally and even logistically we must teach and model boundaries to our kids.  It’s important because “every one of us must learn to self-advocate as part of our independent process. Our moms and dads won’t always be there to take care of us.  A parent’s job is to equip kids with coping skills to self-advocate,” said Walfish, also author of the book The Self-Aware Parent. 

Below, are some ideas Walfish shared about how parents can help their kids set boundaries… along with my own commentary.

Get clear on your own boundaries.

Work on setting your own boundaries with your kids and do it appropriately. This affects their behavior and models the right way to create their boundaries for themselves.

Identifying your boundaries and conveying them in a firm, non-negotiable but calm manner gives your children a healthy behavior to emulate. 

Help them honor themselves.

For instance, if you have a shy child, avoid pressuring them to talk to others — which will make them embarrassed and self-conscious and maybe shame the child.

Instead, in an empathic tone of voice say, “You know, I think you’re the kind of person who likes to take time and warm up to someone before you feel comfortable talking, and that’s fine.”

This way, you’re helping your child define a boundary. You’re helping them figure out what works for them and what doesn’t — and to honor that.

Talk about it.

Teach your kids about what it means to be a good friend, and how to deal with bullying or exclusion from the schoolyard. “If kids say, ‘you can’t play with us,’ teach your kids to say ‘you’re not being a good friend.”

Help them understand that kids who reject them aren’t nice kids — and who wants to hang out with mean kids anyway? Many of us pursue those who reject us, and that’s the wrong pursuit.  Be sure to talk to your child on their level, depending on age.  Don’t talk to a toddler like you would a teen and vice versa.


Ask your kids to play what-if scenarios.  I do this all the time in sessions with clients and it can be a great way to solidify a good behavior and valuable skills.  Ask them what they might say in certain situations. Avoid feeding them the answers, because this facilitates dependency and a tendency to always be looking to you for the answer. And it’s key to praise every increment toward your child’s autonomy.

It is also helpful to give your kids several key phrases they can use to self-advocate, and to teach them to use their words, not their hands.

Remember, boundaries are not necessarily barriers.  They are parameters to protect ourselves and our relationships.  Teach your children from the youngest age possible what this looks like and how to establish and maintain boundaries in a healthy and respectful way.

We understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

Helping Your Kids Set Boundaries

Set Yourself Free From Needless Stress

SDo you find yourself arguing with your family about so many things; your partner is unorganized, your teen procrastinates, your extended family is all about drama? Why do we continually engage in these conflicts over and over when nothing changes?

I think that we assume that if we continue to engage in the interaction and we try to correct their behavior that they will eventually see the wisdom of our ideas and they will change. But this takes a lot of energy and is it really the best use of our time? We think that life would be easier if we could just change these people and they would do things our way. I think we need to re-evaluate, decide where we can best use our energy. 

Let me give you an example. If you are dealing with someone who is a procrastinator, this could be your child, your spouse or a friend. They do everything at the last minute, you can see the disaster approaching, and when it does they might turn to you for help or they complain to you about their situation. So in the past you try to avoid this by warning them continually along the way and then when they don’t listen we step in at the last minute and help them. This takes a lot of our energy and it is frustrating. Why don’t they just listen in the first place?

This is not your problem to solve, so don’t make it your problem. That is the key, we take on problems that we don’t need to. The better strategy is to give your advice once and then let the scenario unfold. Let them experience the consequences and you step away. Focus your energy on something else. 

This applies to many things. Why do we let ourselves get sucked into other peoples drama? Why do we try to change someones way of doing things? There are many ways to do something so unless it effects you then don’t get involved. I understand that some people want to suck you into the interaction because they benefit from your involvement but this is where you have to set a boundary and let them know that you are no longer going to play that role. It causes you stress and is not a good use of your energy. 

When we step away and we set a boundary we get freedom from that stress. We can now focus our energy on something that will bring us joy. Instead of focusing on the thing that your partner or child does that stresses you, focus on something that is positive. Plan something fun you can do together. The other person will eventually benefit too because they no longer have to deal with your stress inducing involvement in their behavior. 

So as we move into a new year, let’s re-evaluate what we want to put our energy into. Minimize the stress that you take on and you will be a more pleasant person for your family and friends. They will have to adjust to the change but in the long run you each will be happier. 

It is not easy to change patterns of behavior. If you need help and support, give us a call at 562-537-2947.

Written by Lisa Strong

How To Handle Change

Let me start by saying that I hate change.  I admit it.  I own it.  Change scares me and triggers all my insecurities.  I avoid the unknown at almost any cost (insert need for a plan and control).  But as this year has harshly and dramatically thrust my life in to upheaval and change I’ve decided to learn and grow as much as possible from it instead of trying to control it or avoid it (insert a very big work in progress so please be patient).  Here’s what I’ve learned so far…change is an unavoidable constant in our lives. Sometimes it’s within our control, but most often it’s not. Our circumstances change, the people in our lives change, we ourselves change.  It can be exhilarating for some and terrifying for others.Fortunately, there are ways to adapt to change, and even to take advantage of it.  Here is a compilation of strategies I’ve researched to help deal with change better.

Accept the past, but fight for the future. Even though we are never free from change, we are always free to decide how we respond to it.

Viktor Frankl championed this idea after returning home from three horrific years in Nazi death camps. He discovered that his mother, brother, wife, and unborn child were all dead. Everything in his life had changed. All that he loved was lost. But as fall became winter and winter gave way to spring, Frankl began to discover that even though he could never go back to the life he once had, he was still free to meet new friends, find new love, become a father again, work with new patients, enjoy music, and read books. Frankl called his hope in the face of despair “tragic optimism.”

Frankl’s story is an extreme example, of course, but that’s all the more reason why we should find inspiration from it. If we fixate on the limitations of a specific change, we inevitably succumb to worry, bitterness, and despair.

Instead, we should choose to accept the fact that change happens, and employ our freedom to decide what to do next.  I know, much easier said than done!  But I’m working on it.

Don’t stress out about stressing out. Our beliefs about stress matter. As Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal argues in The Upside of Stress, your reaction to stress has a greater impact on your health and success than the stress itself. If you believe stress kills you, it will. If you believe stress is trying to carry you over a big obstacle or through a challenging situation, you’ll become more resilient and may even live longer.

When you start to feel stressed, ask yourself what your stress is trying to help you accomplish. Is stress trying to help you excel at an important task, like a sales presentation or a big interview? Is it trying to help you endure a period of tough market conditions or a temporary shift in your organizational structure? Is it trying to help you empathize with a colleague or a customer? Or is stress trying to help you successfully exit a toxic situation?

Stress can be a good thing— if you choose to see it that way.

Talk about problems more than feelings. One of the most common myth of coping with unwanted changes is the idea that we can “work through” our anger, fears, and frustrations by talking about them a lot. This isn’t always the case. In fact, research shows that actively and repeatedly broadcasting negative emotions hinders our natural adaptation processes.

That’s not to say you should just “suck it up” or ignore your troubles. Instead, call out your anxiety or your anger at the outset of a disorienting change so that you are aware of how it might distort your thinking or disrupt your relationships. Then look for practical advice about what to do next. By doing so, you’ll zero in on the problems you can solve, instead of lamenting the ones you can’t.

Focus on your values instead of your fears. Reminding ourselves of what’s important to us — family, friends, our faith, hobbies, etc.— can create a surprisingly powerful buffer against whatever troubles may be ailing us.

In a series of studies spanning more than a decade, researchers led by Geoffrey Cohen and David Sherman have shown how people of all ages in a range of circumstances, from new schools and new relationships to new jobs, can strengthen their minds with a simple exercise: spending 10 minutes writing about a time when a particular value you hold has positively affected you.  I just started this yesterday and I have hope it will help.  Here’s why.

The technique is said to work because reflecting on a personal value helps us rise above the immediate threat and makes us realize that our personal identity can’t be compromised by one (or many) challenging situation.

We’ve all heard it said that the only constant in life is change.  I believe it’s true.  Let’s try to embrace some changes this year instead of avoiding them.

We understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

Reduce Conflict by Considering Your Partners Core Values

Why are our core values important in a marriage or relationship? Is it possible to have a healthy relationship with different core values? 

My own parents had some similar core values and some very different ones. My mom was an artist who valued creativity and beauty while my father was an attorney who valued intellect and logical thinking. They sound very different but I think what kept them together were their shared values of honesty, trust, family and most importantly mutual respect. 

Let me explain what I mean by a core value. These are fundamental beliefs that drive our behavior. These beliefs affect all decisions and the choices that we make. We make our decisions based on what feels right to us and that inner feeling is a core value. Many of these core values are formed in childhood and passed on to us by our parents. 

When I say that I think that the value of mutual respect is what kept my parents together I mean that they treated each other with the same care that they would want for themselves. They listened with kindness and interest and assumed the best giving the benefit of the doubt. 

Here are some examples of core values that might drive your behavior

1. Honesty is always the best policy

2. Family is of fundamental importance

3. Be responsible with your money

4. Religion or spirituality is valued

5. Working hard, no laziness 

6. Being dependable and a person of integrity

These are some things that drive our behavior and when we go against these core values it just doesn’t feel right. I am sure you can see a lot of minefields here if you and your partner do not see eye to eye on these values. Let’s look at examples 1-3: your partner might suggest telling a “white lie”, canceling on a family activity to do something for yourselves or going in to debt to take a vacation. None of these behaviors are horrible in themselves but if it goes against a core value it just doesn’t sit well with you and can cause conflict in a marriage.

I am not saying that all values must be the same, my parents showed me that wasn’t the case, but we need to show respect and consideration of each others core values. Be aware that asking someone to go against their values can cause great anxiety and strife in a person. It is better to come to a compromise that each person can feel comfortable with. This is where the mutual respect is needed. 

We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us! Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Strong