228: Do you TELL with eyes open and ears attentive?

It just makes sense, if you want to build positive relationships and improve situations, it matters what you say and do. Especially in difficult situations, where you and others may not see eye to eye, your words and actions really matter. Every person is merely TELLing a point of view. You TELL whatever you see, hear, and pay attention to in a given moment.

The TELL message has made me realize if you genuinely want to TELL for good – build stronger relationships and improve situations…

You interact with open eyes and see beyond yourself. You really look with your eyes to see the other person; you notice body language; you look to see them. You look at them kindly, softly and with curiosity.

You listen and hear with attentive ears. You realize what is being said to you is more important than what you have to say.

You pay attention to the other person. You notice what may be happening in the other people’s lives and recognizing/accepting it may be different than your own life. Somewhere I read, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” So true… when we pay attention to others, we are being generous by looking for their needs, who they are, and where they are coming from.

We TELL everything. We teach and encourage depending on how well we see, hear, and attend as we interact. We demonstrate how well we listen depending on where our eyes, ears, and attention are focused. It isn’t until we have eyes open and ears attentive that we show someone love and care.

To build strong relationships and improve circumstances, it requires seeing, listening, and paying attention in the ways described above. Of course, the best case is when everyone interacts with a set of open eyes and attentive ears, but my experience is that is often not the case. However, each person can choose for themselves to TELL with eyes open and ears attentive.

Isn’t it true that our strongest relationships are with those who interact with open eyes and ears attentive? Especially when faced with a difficult situation where we don’t see eye to eye, or like what we hear… opening our eyes and ears to each others’ point of view is how we get through situations and grow stronger relationships. These interactions make us stronger.

So now, I can’t help but think about the younger person in our lives. The youth and adult will seldom see eye to eye about situations.  The younger person does not have the life experiences to possibly see most situations the same way as an adult. We as the adults have so much to TELL them, and we want to have a strong relationship with them. Yet, too often the youth are expected to do more listening and paying attention to adults. What they really need are adults who see, listen, and pay attention to them.

When we don’t see, hear, or pay attention to another consistently, chances are likely this relationship is not getting stronger. When we do see with open eyes and hear with attentive ears, we are more than likely building a deeper relationship with that person.

Today, can we all put a little extra effort into seeing, hearing, and paying attention for good….especially towards the younger people in our lives?  #TELLforGood

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129: You interact with either a loving heart or a deceitful heart

We all find ourselves in situations that feel like we’re being dragged down. You have that gut feeling, call it intuition, that something is not right here. Our heart and current situation are at odds. We are not at peace. There is a strong disagreement inside and outside of us.

It’s more than a simple misunderstanding of perceptions, as discussed in Post #128. This disagreement is stronger than incorrect or incomplete information, or varying perceptions. This situation has elements of dishonesty, immorality, or injustice. Because there is disagreement inside AND outside of us, our heart becomes involved in the interaction. This is when we tend to speak from the heart.

Be careful.

Our hearts are deceitful or they are loving. We tend to think of the heart as always being loving; however, in tough moments, when our insides and outsides are at odds, our hearts gravitate to deceit. We do more than think wrong, we feel at the bottom of our heart wrong. The wrong can control our thoughts, feelings, and messages we communicate.


Personal growth can be hindered or halted by a deceitful heart. Relationships are definitely negatively impacted. Interactions with a deceitful heart break trust, hope, confidence, joy, peace, and unity. It creates distrust, disbelief, doubt, chaos, and isolation. The deceitful heart has potential to destroy the weak, young, isolated, and unguarded individual. Deceitful messages hurt, maim, and discourage others and you….if you let them.

The truth is, throughout life you will be on the giving and receiving end of both loving hearts and deceitful hearts. It’s human nature. It’s life.

Today, do yourself a favor and begin to realize this. Also begin to realize you choose how you respond. You choose whether to respond with your deceitful heart or loving heart.

At this point, the question that always arises is, “How do you flip to a loving heart when you are so angry?” I mean, this is not the case of being easily angered as in Post #124. We are very angry, disappointed, hurt, discouraged, thinking “ENOUGH”! Our heart is hurting.

It is nearly impossible to say to yourself, “OK, calm down, let me be loving!”

What to do?

Seek peace. Instead of trying to think love, focus on peace. Become a peace-maker and at the very least try to not interact as a peace-breaker. Ask “what and how can my words and/or actions can lead to peace in this moment?” Seeking peace seems to be an easier choice than seeking love, and perhaps can be the bridge from a hurtful place to a loving place.

As a peace-maker, you think about how to pursue a path that will advance a sense of harmony and heal the relationship. When you are a peace-maker, you think and speak words to hopefully initiate the opportunity to reconcile conflict between others and yourself. You choose words to break down the division. You work for understanding. You listen, you care, you don’t take sides about who is more or less wrong. You don’t take their side or your side – you stand on the third side, the side of peace. You choose peace. You make peace-full choices.

The alternative is to permeate a nagging, irritant message and giving pieces of your mind. You can be a peace-breaker or choose to be the peace-maker. Every moment in these heart-breaking situations, you choose to add to the heart breaking by peace-breaking or you think peace-making and add to the heart-mending. As you listen and speak, think, “Peace-breaking or peace-making?; “heart-breaking or heart-mending?”

Do you see how whenever you feel insulted, despised, or any behavior that breaks you down, your deceitful heart awakens? Let that be your signal to pause, and think about how you might respond instead with better knowledge, wisdom, and peace.

Here’s a personal example:

Someone I’ve known for quite some time, I’ll call her Sam. Our sons are about the same age. She and I would meet up periodically at school events as our children were growing up. Through the years,  we would get together for coffee or dinner with and without our boys.

One summer day, she came by the house with her sons and asked if her boys could stay there while she ran some errands. “Sure.” She came back almost four hours later, and honestly at the time I was fine with that.

However, two days later, Sam came by again and asked the same question. In that exchange, I shared the message, “Sam, I am happy to help you out on occasion, but please don’t expect me to watch your sons whenever you need to run errands just because I am at home.”

Sam became furious, called me selfish, questioned what kind of friend I was, on and on. She thought she could count on me, etc. She spoke from a deceitful heart in response to what I said.

I listened to a point, and then interrupted in a calm voice: “Stop right now, let me get this straight you are saying …. Because you feel ….”

She started again with her deceitful words, and I stopped her again, saying calmly, “Sam, you are asking me to do you a favor by watching your sons. It’s not yours to decide when I do you a favor, it’s my choice.”

I had to say ‘no’ to her behavior that day, maybe my choice of words was not perfect; however, for me to remain at peace and our relationship healthy, I had to say something to keep the situation and relationship in love. Saying nothing and eventually becoming frustrated or angry would be peace-breaking in the long run. I would be keeping a record of wrong.

To keep peace, to be a peace-maker, it was important to have the difficult conversation sooner before the more deceitful heart got louder. In the Sam story, there was a peaceful resolution, and we have remained friends.

However, this is not always the case. There are interactions that continue to be spoken with deceitful hearts – by others and/or you. There are the interactions that continue to record the wrong.

For you to work on being a peace-maker and not a peace-breaker, try this: focus your thoughts and words on insights or understanding of the circumstances or on facts. For example, above “let me get this straight you are saying …. Because you feel ….” and then later, “Sam, you are asking me to do you a favor by watching your sons. It’s not yours to decide when I do you a favor, it’s my choice.”

Focus on understanding the circumstances and present facts that matter in the situation. Do not focus on the deceitful messages, the wrong. Seek to solve the problem and save the relationship.

As you learn to tell better, you will begin to intuitively sense the direction the conversation is heading – within love or without love. You will learn to continue giving knowledge, wisdom, and peace to the point you realize the interaction is going further downhill, the deceitful heart is getting louder. You will learn to do everyone a favor and excuse yourself. Do not participate in conversations where deceitful hearts are speaking and individuals are stuck in records of wrong.

To continue growing and maturing in wisdom, we all need loving interactions with others and ourselves. Humbly, I admit often I have been on the receiving end of these difficult conversations. Family and dear friends have said to me, “Stop. We can be better than this.” What a blessing!

The bottom line is: Each of us choose our words and actions. The messages we create are based on past experiences. Every day, we have new experiences and interactions with one another.

Today, ask yourself if the messages you tell yourself and others are for better, or worse? How often do you tell with a deceitful heart? Can you shift your intention to interact as a peace-maker instead of a peace-breaker? These are the decisions we make every day as we interact with one another.

For now, Happy Monday. Tell yourself and others better this week! Try and be a peace-maker! Mature your loving heart; do not cultivate your deceitful heart! Keep telling yourself better!

Focus: LoveTags: #, #, #, #, #, #, #, #, #

071: Allow your children to be themselves

In a nutshell, creating T.E.L.L.ing interactions with a child is about providing and allowing moments where

1) your thoughts and feelings focus on guiding, supporting, and understanding the child;

2) the child feels free to be himself or herself; that is, the child is allowed to share personal thoughts and feelings with you, and you accept these thoughts and feelings are different than yours; and

3) you think about your words and actions being age-appropriate.

The majority of the Show & T.E.L.L. posts so far have focused on the first point, emphasizing how your thoughts and feelings matter. Feel free to look through the archives and read these posts. There are a few Show & T.E.L.L. posts that discuss points 2 and 3; however, today I’d like to expand on point #2, how we interact so children feel free to be themselves.

Allowing an individual to feel free to be himself or herself means interacting in such a way the individual can genuinely share thoughts and feelings without a fear of being judged. It’s a freedom to be open and honest. This is easier said than done.

Too often, without realizing it, adults start right away to correct and fix any feelings and thoughts they believe may be getting in the child’s way. Adults do this because we believe we know better and we want the child to feel better. However, when we start right away trying to change them, it often stops children from being his or her authentic self. Children get the idea they have to be somehow different. Instead, try and focus on not fixing and changing them but helping the young ones to discover for themselves.

To interact and help a child discover and just be themselves, you can try the following suggestions. Many of these suggestions can be done with children as early as 18 months old.

  • Ask for your child’s opinion … and then listen!
  • Say “I understand” and genuinely mean it.
  • Praise the child for telling the truth.
  • Smile all you can.
  • Acknowledge the child’s feelings.
  • Avoid excessive lectures. Remember, this is a two-way conversation.
  • Do not be critical or make fun of anything the child says.
  • Praise effort.
  • Hug the child.

mom and toddler

Two things to remember…

1) When a child feels a freedom to be just who he or she is in the moment, you create a relationship grounded in acceptance and trust. This allows you to be in a better position to help your child discover more about himself or herself, as well as build a stronger relationships with one another.

2) When a child is hurting, he or she can act unlovable. In these moments, it’s even more critical you allow the child to be himself or herself. Be there for them. Accept their thoughts and feelings in the moment, learn as much as you can about them so you can help guide the child toward something better in themselves.

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062: Do you practice T.E.L.L. principles?

As I write today, I can’t help but wonder if those of you reading the Show & T.E.L.L. blog have intentionally tried to do a better job T.E.L.L.ing the children in your life. Have you thought about how your words and actions impact the message you give a child in the moment? Do you think about giving a child an interaction that is positively Teaching, Encouraging, Listening, and Loving?

It’s one thing to believe your message can Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love. But do you put these principles in action? Do you intentionally think about the principles of Teaching, Encouraging, Listening, and Loving a child when you are interacting? When you put the T.E.L.L. principles into action, you should begin to notice…

1) A positive impact on the child’s self-esteem. (Self-esteem describes the emotional evaluation of how a person views his or her worth.) You give the child an opportunity to know and do better. The child starts thinking and believing “I can do this.”

2) A stronger relationship with the child. By you T.E.L.L.ing the child, your message is “I care about you; I am here for you to help you do better.” You build trust, which builds a stronger, loving relationship. The loving relationship is not taken for granted.

3) Your words and actions impact the child’s mindset and skillset in the moment and in the future – you will notice the child trying to make sense of what you are T.E.L.L.ing him or her.

Finally, I often hear along the lines… “When I try and practice positively T.E.L.L.ing children, I almost feel like I benefit more than the child does!”

There is no magic formula. To T.E.L.L. a child is based on principles for interacting with children. Start today practicing how you:

Teach your child

Encourage your child

Listen to your child

Love your child

We are here to help your learning. Please send us any questions or comments. There is a place below for you to communicate with us. Now, go T.E.L.L. someone!


About the author of this post:  Denise Forrest, Ph.D.

Denise is a mother of three grown children and has been a teacher to thousands of students.  She is the creator of the TELL message and Founder of TELL Our Children, Inc. Denise also serves K-12 schools as an educational consultant focusing on mathematics education and instructional decisions for student learning. You can contact her by emailing denise@tellourchildren.org.

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