221: Agreeing to disagree isn’t good enough

Something I have noticed lately is a tendency to ignore rather than discuss difficult situations. So many of us worry about saying the right thing the right way so that we don’t cause conflict or drama. We want the other person to not be upset with us, or reject us. So, for the time being, we believe it’s best to avoid the difficult interaction. We do nothing about the situation or we might walk away saying, “Let’s agree to disagree.”

The more I study interactions and the TELL message, I realize avoidance is actually false logic. Bringing up a difficult situation with someone does not have to imply conflict and drama. Nor does it imply rejection or the other person being upset.

Actually, not bringing up important, difficult disagreements with those closest to you is what may eventually cause conflict and drama in life. If the disagreement is about a behavior that is not benefiting each of your life stories or not benefiting your relationship, it is better to talk about this sooner than later. Learning to TELL better in such moments may not be easy in the short run but worthwhile for the long run. Relationships grow deeper when you can lovingly discuss disagreements.

Having a conversation when there is a disagreement is seldom easy. It requires being bold. It requires focusing on accurate and reliable facts. It requires empathic listening in order to hear the other person’s point of view and bringing out the relevant facts. It requires being able to affirm the common points of view and narrowing in on the actual disagreement. Discussing a disagreement takes courage.


Disagreements become emotional, and that is what complicates matters. We tend to ignore facts and speak emotionally in our pain. We allow our anger, frustration, disappointment, or hurt to be the center of words and actions. When we ignore disagreements, do not talk about disagreements sooner, the emotions definitely build up.

On the other hand, disagreements are how people and ideas grow – for better or worse. Relationships and situations grow when disagreements are resolved. When people discuss facts and have a desire to make the story better, that is how the experience can cause the relationship and situation to become better. When the disagreement remains a conflict, the relationship and situation suffer for the time being.

The other day, I was talking with a friend about having disagreements, and he added, “Well, don’t both people have to agree to resolve the disagreement? What if I want to resolve and the other person just continues to focus on the disagreement?”

It certainly is much easier to interact when both people want to resolve a disagreement; however, your words and actions become even more critical in situations where a person remains in conflict, remains in the disagreement. In those moments, you can be the catalyst toward a resolution by asking questions, by becoming curious to hear the other person’s thoughts behind the disagreement. “Why do you think that?”; “How do you know that?” If it is personal, “How would you like me to respond?” In other words, the manner you handle such interactions can be the difference.  You can be the reason the disagreement has a chance to move toward resolution. At a minimum, you can be the reason the interaction doesn’t grow more negative.

It’s not easy to have these interactions. We all have a tendency to react to the words we hear, the actions we see – especially when the experience stirs emotions. This will continue to be difficult for you unless you start developing the habit to TELL in such situations.

Today, or the next time you are in a disagreement, bring to mind thoughts such as ‘resolution’, ‘curiosity’, ‘listen’, ‘patience’…. it might just turn the conversation around into a good TELLing moment! #TELLforGood

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220: Walking in someone’s shoes… helps or hurts?

Last week, I wrote about a situation where I disagreed with someone dear to me. I talked about why I should have taken the time to walk in her shoes – and how I wished she would have walked in my shoes. I related this to the phrase,”Never judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” This was post #218 if you have a desire to go back and read it.

Today, I was talking with this same friend, and as I was leaving I mentioned the idea about walking in each other’s shoes.

She commented, “That’s my problem, I am so busy trying to help others by walking in their shoes. I don’t walk in my OWN shoes enough.” Then she continued, “Do you think that’s because I don’t want to deal with things in my own life? It’s easier to walk in their shoes than my own?”

My immediate thought… “What is she TELLing me?” Does she really think she was walking in my shoes the other day?

It sure didn’t feel like it… Instead of judging and responding, I decided to be still and ponder.

Besides, as I mentioned, I was walking out the door at the time. Now, I can’t help but think deeper about this as I write this blog.

Through the years of studying interactions, I have noticed the pattern of trying to help others progress or helping others move toward success. “I’ll do whatever I can think is possible to help them create a better life. I’ve tried this…. I’ve tried that…. I’ll do whatever I can just for them…”

Does whatever you’re doing help? How does the person respond? What message are you really TELLing this person?

One the one hand, it’s admirable to have a desire to help others be better; I believe we all should have that desire! Yet, is this really what they are doing? Are they really helping the other person? I decided to go back to the quote.

The saying “Never judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes” does not mean you take your shoes off and you control the steps ahead. When you do that, you are walking in their shoes, but not really. You’ve just borrowed the shoes for a moment.

For example, I love to borrow shoes from mom when I visit her. She has many; I have few. She buys cool shoes, I buy practical ones. But, she wears a 6 1/2 shoe, I wear a 7. Because of our size difference, some of the sandals fit, but not all; certainly none of the closed-toe shoes fit comfortably. In other words, some shoes I can walk in, others no way! They hurt!

If the size and style fits in the moment, the walk may be okay, but if it is not a good fit, the walk is painful!

If the message you are sharing fits the other person, they may agree and the walk together may be okay. They may even appreciate your advice. But if your ideas do not fit with theirs, or they are not willing to listen, the result is pain.  It may still feel like you are helping, but to the other person it feels like judgment because you are not really walking in their shoes – you borrowed their shoes for the moment.

Walking a mile in their shoes really means walking the journey together. You are walking with them in their shoes, not for them. It means letting them be a part of the steps ahead, not you taking over and controlling their steps. You allow others to evaluate what is acceptable and unacceptable. You allow the person walking beside you to have a thought in the next step.

“Never judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes” has a deeper meaning than the majority of people ever consider.

Today, think about how you walk a mile in someone’s shoes. Do you borrow their shoes and still do the walking by yourself, or do you walk with them in their shoes? Do you walk and listen to them; do you allow them to share thoughts and feelings on the walk? Does your walk and talk teach, encourage, and love others to decide which step is needed to move forward? It’s not until we walk with them, in their shoes, that we begin to better understand and help one another.

My friend’s full statement today was “That’s my problem, I am so busy trying to help others by walking in their shoes. I don’t walk in my shoes enough.” Then she continued, “Do you think that’s because I don’t want to deal with things in my own life? It’s easier to walk in their shoes than my own?”

Her latter comment I am still contemplating – and need to talk further with her about this — maybe you’ll be reading about that in another blog! In the mean time… #TELLforGood.


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218: Walk a mile in their shoes to TELL better

Have you heard the saying, “Never judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes”?

That phrase hit home for me the other day when I got into a disagreement with someone very dear to me. Neither one of us took a step in the other’s shoes. Instead, we walked and stomped our own shoes!

On the one hand, I felt I should know and do better. On the other hand, this became an opportunity to know more and do better in the future. When there is a disagreement, the messages we teach, encourage, listen and love matter a great deal. The words we speak really do matter. We TELL to make the situation better, or worse.

When we experience a disagreement with someone, it is critical to take our own shoes off and walk in their shoes – at least a few steps. Walk with them and listen to their reasoning. Become curious about the steps they are taking. Why is that? What do you mean? Do you think…? How can I help?

Too often, we are quick to judge and react accordingly.  We judge acceptable or unacceptable – and then we speak with the verdict in mind. We speak using only our own point of view.

How different would it be if we stopped and wondered where are they coming from? What is his or her story? What facts are being used to support the words being spoken and felt? I needed to walk a few steps in her shoes instead of solely walking and stomping my own shoes….

If only I would have thought about this when I was in that disagreement the other day. Maybe the exchange would not have focused on judging one another and defending ourselves. Maybe we would have been able to TELL each other better.

The way I see it now is I did not walk in her shoes, nor did she walk in mine. The heated exchange did not teach, encourage, listen, and love a positive message in the moment. I realize now I need to go back and do better. Relationships grow stronger when we TELL beneficial messages to one another over the long run.

The truth is, we never fully understand another person’s point of view; however, we can aim to understand better by walking in their shoes. Today, become more curious. Take your shoes off and walk some steps in someone’s shoes…  #TELLforGood



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214: Why, how, and what you T.E.L.L.

I’ve analyzed hundreds, if not thousands, of interactions over the years. I’ve studied numerous interactions involving adults and children, some involving adults only, and too many to count interactions I have with myself! With striking consistency, every interaction always has four components:

There is a thought being communicated, idea(s) the individual(s) desire to be known about the situation or relationship. Implicitly, or explicitly, the interaction Teaches each person’s idea.

There is a motivation, a desire to move the situation or relationship physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. Implicitly, or explicitly, the interaction Encourages each person to move in thought and/or deed.

There is an exchange of hearing and understanding that determines the flow of the words and actions. To varying degrees, the individuals Listen.

There is a mood or tone that is consistent with speaking and acting in Love – or not Love.

Every interaction involves these four components. We T.E.L.L. using words and actions. We T.E.L.L. based on personal thoughts and feelings. Not once have I observed an interaction where one of these components is absent.

In every interaction there is a distinct thought and motivation you are communicating depending on your thoughts and feelings in that moment. You always are teaching, encouraging, listening, and loving a message. The question is if the message is for better, or worse.

You might want to ask yourself the same questions I ask while studying interactions: Why did they TELL the messages? How did they TELL the messages? What did they TELL? After I think about these three questions in this order, I record how the exchange began, and ended? For better or worse?

Ask yourself next time Why did I TELL the message? How did I TELL the message? What did I TELL? After you think about these three questions in this order, think about how the exchange began, and ended? For better or worse?


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212: We all TELL well – and poorly – because that’s life!

I’ve been studying and developing the T.E.L.L. message for close to 10 years now. Before T.E.L.L., I had been studying interactions between adults and children. All in all, I have been studying interactions – for better and for worse – for close to 30 years now.

In the last post (Show & T.E.L.L. Post 211), I mentioned how people do not think deeply about their every day interactions, and it won’t be until people become more aware of their interactions that they realize how well – or poorly – they are are T.E.L.L.ing.

Whenever I make this statement, I get a variety of responses:

About 1 in 4 people – around 22 percent – say something like this one man stated: “I just say what I say and I let others do the same. I hate to think I have to sugarcoat everything that comes out of my mouth just to make sure I don’t upset someone. Just take it, or leave it.”

About 2 in 4 – or 54 percent of the people – talk about it being difficult to T.E.L.L. in a positive way when so much depends on the person with whom they are interacting.  As one woman said, “If I’m interacting with a person who T.E.L.L.s poorly, I have to choose to either walk away or if I try to interact and T.E.L.L. them better, it rarely works. We both end up T.E.L.L.ing poorly.”

And, slightly 1 in 4 – around 24 percent of people – genuinely pause and think deeper about their words and actions; they become curious about how they T.E.L.L. They want to talk further and figure out how they might possibly T.E.L.L. better. In other words, they look inside with heart and mind to consider why the words they use may do a poor or good job of teaching, encouraging, listening, and loving.

What about you? Will you respond, ‘I just say what I say, etc.’ or ‘If only others would interact with me that way’? Chances are, if you continued reading this post, you are starting to consider how your words impact – at times positively and at times negatively –  no matter what the other person says.

The truth is, we all experience both positive and poor interactions. That’s part of life, and every poor interaction can help us learn to T.E.L.L. better.

You would think after 30 years of intently studying interactions and 10 years of explicitly studying and developing the T.E.L.L. message that I would be decent at T.E.L.L.ing. Well, I am better than when I first started; however, I admit there are always interactions to conclude ‘poor T.E.L.L.ing’. And it is in these moments that I seek to give myself spiritual, mental, and emotional nourishment. I T.E.L.L. myself to know better. I need that nourishment so I can learn more about T.E.L.L.ing – and I can continue to share valuable lessons learned with others who also want to T.E.L.L. better.

Today, notice which of your interactions go well – and ask why is that? Notice which of your interactions go poorly – and definitely ask why is that? You may not be able to clearly state the why, but you can become more aware of evaluating your interactions.

No interaction is neutral, but that is for another day!

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211: ‘TELL’ helps you remember and understand

Growing up, how many of you heard – and used – the phrase “Roy G Biv”? Do you remember why “Roy G Biv” was significant?

Roy G Biv wasn’t an actual person. This was a memory aid, a mnemonic, for recalling the order of the colors of a rainbow. The order being Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet. Mnemonics are often used to help us remember and use material without much conscious mental effort. It’s much easier to recall Roy G Biv than to remember the actual colors.

Other common mnemonics you may have heard:

  • The names of the Great Lakes are: Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, Ontario. The mnemonic Super Man Helps Every One is one of the phrases used to help remember the order of the great lakes from west to east. Do you remember using this saying, or something similar?
  • The names of the planets (to date without Pluto) are Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Teachers often use mnemonics to help students remember this, such as My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles. If you look online, you will find a number of them. One that I remember is My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming Planets (including Pluto) or the similar more to date phrase My Very Excellent Method Just Speeds Up Naming (not including Pluto)

Two of my personal favorites:

  • To help remember the musical notes in the scale (E,G,B,D,F) using Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge. As well as F.A.C.E….
  • Righty tighty, lefty loosey’  to help remember to tighten a screw, nut, bolt, etc, you turn to the right. And to loosen, you turn toward the left.

From an educational point of view, the best mnemonics help not only to recall information (like Roy G Biv) but also better understand and apply that information (Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge). Hearing the mnemonic helps to involve higher-level thought processes. The best mnemonics are not just an aid to memorize by rote but to help build deeper understanding.

TELL could be considered a mnemonic. Not only can it be a reminder that every interaction you tell a message, but more specifically in every interaction you Teach, Encourage, Listen, Love by your message. Thinking ‘T.E.L.L.’ or ‘How can I T.E.L.L. right now?’ allows you to remember you Teach, Encourage, Listen, Love by your words and actions.

Thinking about the mnemonic ‘T.E.L.L.’  can also help you understand your interactions at a higher-level. The more you think about, practice, and understand why and how you Teach, Encourage, Listen, Love in every interaction, the more you learn to create stronger – more nourishing – messages.

I T.E.L.L.

You T.E.L.L.

Let’s all T.E.L.L.


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