Real Communication. Real Results.

Author, speaker, and coach, Betty Lochner is a passionate leader, with over 25 years of experience specializing in improving interpersonal skills, building and leading teams, training supervisors, and working with different communication styles and generations. 

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wedding kiss 1978This month was my 38th wedding anniversary.  Being married to a complete opposite isn’t easy, but it sure is worth the hard work…..

Like most marriages, my husband and I have many important things in common – our shared belief in God, our treasured family, and some interests and hobbies including music, hiking, dogs, and cop shows (I follow the relationships, he follows the action).

Also, as in most marriages, we are very different in many, many ways. For example, we view money differently (I spend, he saves) and we don’t always agree on how clean our house should be (I’m a slob, he like things orderly) and, well, I could go on for a while on our differences.

In discovering our differences, we’ve learned that enjoying a good marriage is really hard work. It is usually how we communicate, or how we don’t communicate that makes or breaks our time together. Without exception, our biggest struggles come when we aren’t communicating well.

Here’s an example from a recent conversation: we were traveling in the car on our way to a movie. My husband was quiet and smiling smugly. I said, ‘What are you thinking?’ He replied, ‘I was just thinking how critical you are.’

“My natural instinct was to say “I am not critical!” But, instead, I took a pause and asked, in as kind of tone as I could muster, ‘What does that mean, that I’m critical?’ He replied, ‘I mean our family couldn’t exist without you. You are so critical to me.”

So glad I asked. In earlier days of our relationship that misunderstanding, followed by some assumptions, and added with a tone of sarcasm, would have set us into quite an argument.

While we are still practicing most of these on a daily basis, here are 10 tips for improving communication in ANY relationship.

1) Use complete sentences. “Good”, “yes”, “no”, “don’t know” and other shorthand answers can convey you aren’t listening or don’t really care.

2) Be as specific as you can. This goes hand in hand with #1, and is also critical. Don’t use vague words like “the thing”, “that way”, or my personal favorite: “look”! – (look where? up? over? down?)

3) Ask for what you need. Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements to share what is on your mind, what it is bothering you, or what you need. For example, instead of saying, “You never come home for dinner on time,” say, “I feel neglected and hurt when I have dinner all ready and have to wait for an hour.”

4) Don’t assume ANYTHING. If you expect something and don’t tell the other person, don’t be surprised when they have no idea what you are talking about because, quite frankly, mind reading is frustrating.

5) Don’t blame. Use “we” instead of “you,” when things go wrong. “I thought we agreed to go to this party tonight” works better than “why are you home late again?” And, say you are sorry for your part in whatever misunderstanding is going on.

6) Be kind. Make an intentional effort to be kind and thoughtful on a daily basis. Say what you appreciate (“I love that you make coffee in the mornings!”) and do small acts of kindness (give a flower from the garden, offer a drink or snack, compliment on what they are wearing).

7) Show genuine interest. If your spouse has a specific interest that you could care less about, try your hardest to listen, pick out interesting parts and comment, and be patient.

8) Smile. Try to look for the positive in every situation. When in doubt, hold your tongue and choose to smile.

9) Give the gift of time. Slow your life down a bit and take time to give your relationship the attention that you did when you first met. Put regular dates on your calendar, take a vacation together, hold hands, snuggle up.

10) And, finally, and most important: Say “I Love You” often, and sincerely, even when you are cranky or mad. Because, let’s face it, it’s hard to stay mad when you see compassion and caring in your partner’s face.

Top_of_CamelbackCommunication specialist, author, and professional speaker Betty Lochner teaches individuals and organizations how to make small changes in how they communicate that make huge differences in their relationships at work and home – improving morale, confidence and productivity. She is the author of Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home and 52 Communication Tips. Both are also available on Amazon.com.

To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit our website:http://www.cornerstone-ct.com

 

 

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Saying Goodbye to Ruben

by Betty Lochner on June 28, 2016

ruben in his hole gardenI wrote this blog a month or so after we lost our Ruben, but never managed to hit the “send” button.  It’s been about 5 months now and I just found it in my “drafts” folder.  It’s time to say goodbye….

If you’ve read any of my posts, you probably know about our “mini” dachshund, Ruben.

Ruben was our daughter Kalli’s dog, adopted when her big brother went to college, as a fitting replacement for her daily companion. Ruben, named after Ruben Studdard won on American Idol in 2003,  was supposed to be a registered, mini-dachshund.  He was expected to reach about 9-11 pounds, but quickly grew to be rather large  – finally weighing in at about 28 pounds.  It was always a source of entertainment to introduce him as a “mini.” When Kalli left for college and then to start her life with her husband, Ruben chose to stay with us.

Ruben was a character with conflicting traits: grumpy and sweet,  shy and loud, exasperating and lovable, stubborn and hysterical.  He was a discerning guest greeter — he either loved you and demanded attention by barking loudly at your feet, or he walked away as if to say “not worth my time.”  He loved to dig holes in my garden, so much so that several years ago we dedicated a whole section to him rather than have him randomly destroying bits at a time.  He was mean to our other dog Penny, but secretly loved her. She adored him but knew better than to try to snuggle with him or get between him and his food.

Ruben developed congestive heart failure about three years ago, and as time passed became the most high maintenance dog you may ever see.  My retired husband, Ken, spent most of his day administering medicine and taking care of his every need.  At the end, Ruben cried almost constantly.  Not because he was hungry or in pain, but because he was so frustrated that things weren’t the same as they used to be.  He couldn’t go on long walks, or dig for very long.  He needed help climbing the stairs and getting into the car.  And, we eventually knew it was time.

We spent his last weekend doing all of his favorite things – car rides, treats, a trip to his favorite dog store, visits with his favorite people, a dog chase, some window barking, and had one last dig in the garden.

Ruben was such a regular at the vet clinic that when we finally took him in, everyone there was in tears, including his doctor.  And, while it was very difficult, Ruben made it easier by willingly getting up on the vet table. He looked at us as if you say “will this make it all better this time?”

Ruben died peacefully in our arms and we were suddenly very much at peace.

Ruben was a dog like no other, and that’s the way it should be.  Good dog, Ruben. We miss you.

Ruben_2016

Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of  Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transform your life at work and at home, 52 Communication Tips, and Gladie’s Gift.  To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit our website.

 

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6 Steps to Help you Handle Conflict

by Betty Lochner on June 8, 2016

ConflictConflict is unavoidable. It’s all around us. It happens every day. And, if you are like most of us, you try hard to avoid it. Most of us aren’t comfortable dealing with conflict when it happens. We remain silent and hope it will go away – letting a small thing eventually turn into a bigger one.

Others like to jump to anger right away. Recently I backed out of a parking lot and “almost” scrapped a really nice convertible.  In my defense, he was parked crooked. As I started to pull away a man came running towards me yelling at me about how I almost hit his expensive car. He said some things that weren’t very nice and I immediately felt my heart beating faster.  Fortunately, his friend came out and calmed him down. But this guy was clearly a “jump to violence when you are in conflict” kind of guy.  So, what should I do?

When conflict happens, do you jump to silence or violence?  Neither are very good options.

When you find yourself in or near a conflict situation, you always have three ways you can respond.

You can:

1) Avoid it and hope it goes away,
2) handle it poorly, or
3) handle it well.

Most of us don’t always handle conflict well.  And by handling it “well” I mean handling conflict in an assertive, productive, respectful way.

Do you handle conflict well? If you could brush up or use some new conflict management skills, here  are 6 steps for you to practice and follow.

1. Stop, breath, and think.

Stop whatever you’re doing, take a couple of deep breaths to control your tension, and then think about exactly what you need to do and say next.

2. Acknowledge the conflict.

Say something like: “I’m sensing that there are some issues between the two of us that we need to talk through,” or, “I’m feeling that getting so close to your nice car upset you. Can we talk about it?”

3. Use your active listening skills.

Don’t interrupt or try to defend or convince. Listen to their side of the story first! Say, “Tell me more.” or “I understand you are feeling angry”.  Resist the urge to interrupt to defend yourself.  Always Listen first!

4. Stick to the issue, not the person.

When responding: focus on the issue at hand instead of how you feel about the person. Focus on the unwanted behavior or the issue in the core of the conflict. Be gentle on the person and tough on the issue:

• Be specific and descriptive. Describe what specifically happened? Describe the Gap: “Here is what I was expecting; here is what happened. Let’s talk about the gap.”

• State your thoughts, feelings, and wants. What are you thinking and/or feeling? What do you want to have happen?

• Focus on the actions and behaviors, not the person. Don’t blame the person; describe the actions or behavior that caused the conflict.

• Pause and check for understanding. Say, “Do you understand what I mean?” and “Did I understand you correctly?”

5. Keep it respectful – do your absolute best to conduct yourself in a calm and respectful manner—regardless of how the other person responds. Be kind and keep a cool head.

6. Clarify your intentions. What needs to happen next? What are the next steps that need to happen to resolve the conflict? Make a plan and agree on it. Set a specific action to happen by a specific date, then remember to follow-up.

Will it be easy? Of course not! However, that doesn’t change the fact that although you can’t control what others do, you certainly can (and do) control your own behavior.

By learning the communication skills you need for successful conflict resolution, you can keep your personal and professional relationships strong and growing.

_______

Betty Lochner GrammaBetty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of  Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home, 52 Communication Tips, and Gladie’s Gift.  All are available on Amazon.com. To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit our website:   www.cornerstone-ct.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Communication Tools: The Power of Micro-Connects

by Betty Lochner on May 10, 2016

I can live one or two months
employee engagement on one good compliment
– Mark Twain
One of the deepest human needs is to feel appreciated.  It’s what makes us feel valued. It’s what makes us happy and it’s what motivates us.
 We live in a culture that is appreciation deprived.  Studies show that up to 70% of workers feel they are not appreciated. But, the good news is that when you give appreciation to someone on a regular and informal basis, you will see a 40% increase in their performance. Wow!
Why don’t we do more of that? Mostly it’s because we don’t realize how great of an impact it makes and how important it is to make a concerted effort to regularly practice giving appreciation.
Small Changes Make Big Differences
One of the best ways to make simple change in this area is to focus on your communication “micro-connects.” Micro-connects are small things you can do every time you interact with someone that shows you care and appreciate them.
One of the best ways to improve our micro-connections with someone is to be a better listener. You can do that by consistently paying full attention, pausing (don’t interrupt), asking clarifying questions to make sure you understand, and using good eye contact.
Here are some other great ways to add micro-connects to your daily interactions:
  • Change your body position to get on equal level with who you are talking to (stand if they are standing, sit if they are sitting)
  • Smile (the corners of your eyes should crinkle if you’re doing it right!)
  • Notice small things and mention them (i.e. a new picture in someone’s office)
  • Remember birthdays (especially those who don’t expect you to remember)
  • Remember names and use them (start with the one wearing a name tag at the grocery store)
  • Go out of your way to do something nice for someone
  • Catch people doing something good and tell them (and their boss!)
  • Write a short note of appreciation or thanks
  • Create fun: tell a joke, share a funny story – engage in a fun topic

Get out of your comfort zone and make better micro-connections with everyone you come in contact with. Exercise your appreciation muscle often through these simple micro-connects and they will soon become habits. You will immediately see changes in your relationships.  You’ll notice right away the differences: better engagement, responses and results!

Betty hikingBetty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of  Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home, 52 Communication Tips, and Gladie’s Gift.  All are available on Amazon.com. To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit our website:   www.cornerstone-ct.com
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7 Ways to Improve Your Relationship with Money

Studies have shown that even a very small college savings fund significantly increases the likelihood that a child will attend college. So, finding the money to save even a little can go a very long way.

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How do you spell R-E-S-P-E-C-T? It’s much easier to see what a lack of respect looks like in others, than to recognize when you aren’t showing respectful behavior. Test out how you are doing.

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