Tag Archives: relationships

The Artichoke Workout: Find the Good in People, Improve Your Relationships

So many of the problems we have in relationships are due to attributing negative intentions to another person, with or without justification.  Remember, whether something comes across to you as positive or negative depends entirely upon your own perception.

When we stop looking for the bad, the flaws, the failures, and start looking for the good in people, we see them in a different light and consequently we treat them differently. Relationships improve.  Try out this “workout” about finding the good and see what difference it makes in your life.


1. Pick an Artichoke

Choose a situation with another person for which you have negative feelings.  We will call the other person’s actions in this situation “the artichoke” (because we are going to peel away the layers).  Now, as if you were a newspaper reporter, summarize the situation or actions with a headline and write it down. You just named your artichoke. (No, I don’t generally name my produce.)

2. Peel the Artichoke

When you peel away all the layers, at the heart of an artichoke is something good, tender, and if prepared properly, delicious.  Likewise, if you peel away enough layers, at the heart of every action is a good intention.

Below your headline, do the following:

  •  Start listing all the possible intentions behind the other person’s actions.  Circle the positive ones.
  • For the negative intentions, start peeling away the layers to find the good ones.  For example, if one of the intentions you list is “revenge”, what positive need would motivate someone to seek revenge?  A sense of fairness?  A desire to avoid or ease the pain of loss? A need to build one’s own self esteem?
  • Once you have peeled away the negative layers to get to the positive, cross out the negative and circle the positive. Look at the list.  If you know the person well enough to zero in on one or two, do it; otherwise, leave your list as-is.

3. Prepare the Sauce

Based on this new perspective, identify one action you could take to improve the situation.  What will you do?  How will you treat the person differently?

That’s it.  There’s your workout – give it a try!


With the possible exception of people with specific medical disorders, everything we do has a purpose.  Psychologist Alfred Adler is credited with saying that “All behavior is purposeful.” This is true.  Now, whether or not the behavior is accomplishing the intended purpose is another matter.

I’m going to take it a step further and say that all behavior has at its root a positive intent.  This is where people may start to disagree with me, but frankly, I think I’m right.  When you peel away all the layers you find a positive need someone is trying to fill.  I have yet to find a situation where I haven’t found one.

Before we go any further, let me be the first to acknowledge that somewhere between positive intent and action something can go horribly wrong.  When I discuss this with students we do an exercise where I use the example of murder.  Most people would describe this as a tragic, evil and wrong act.  My students are always highly skeptical at first, but when they start listing possible core intents (self protection, protection of a loved one, a desire for control of one’s one life, seeking justice, etc.) they find things that are not in and of themselves bad.  In fact, they are fundamentally positive intents.  In our example of murder, between intent and action something went very wrong in how they chose to accomplish the intent.

Now, I am in no way condoning murder – far from it – but it is important to recognize that what fundamentally drives people are positive needs.  If we are able to find a positive intent deep behind a heinous act, how much more likely are we to find positive intents behind the everyday acts of people in our lives?

I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again: You see what you look for.  If you look for the positive intents behind people’s actions towards you, you will find them.  In fact, you will more often than not find one of two things:

  1. The person has genuinely good intentions towards you, even if it did not come across that way; or
  2. It actually has nothing to do with you at all – the person is just dealing with their own stuff.

Think about how liberating it can be to see the world that way. The next time you have an argument with a friend or loved one, the next time you have to give a speech or presentation, or the next time someone posts something stupid about you on social media, give it a try.  When you see things from the positive perspective you will deal with them differently and more effectively than if you go looking for the negative. You will find your connection with other people to be more meaningful and your own life enriched. Guaranteed.

B.U.I.L.D. Better Relationships

In any personal relationship, whether it be a close personal friend, a business contact, or even just someone you encounter on the street, there is a possibility for, shall we say, “differences of opinions.”  When the inevitable interpersonal conflicts come up, how do you handle them?  How do you resolve conflicts and improve relationships?

One simple but extremely powerful technique that I’ve never had fail me or anyone I’ve taught it to is the B.U.I.L.D. Method (originally developed as B.R.I.C.K.S. – I was teaching a group of construction management students).  Years of training and experience in managing conflict, plus a study of human communications and relationships, plus years of (would you believe) martial arts and combatives training, plus an obliging body of scientific research helped bring this method to life.  It is simple, but effective.  Give it a try!


Okay, so I once came across an NLP expert who said this wasn’t necessary, and for only $250 he’d tell you why.  Biology would say he’s wrong, but I won’t go into it.

In this step, pay attention to your breathing.  You don’t even have to take time away from the discussion or situation – it can be done on the fly. Are you holding your breath?  Are you breathing too fast?  Slow and control your breathing.

Often all it takes is one slow, deep breath and you can return to a breathing rhythm that helps you be calm and more focused.  Deliberately keep your breathing slow until you don’t have to think about it anymore.


Let go.  Let go of your position for a moment.  Let go of the need to be right. Let go of the fear of failure. Let go of your ego.  It is really hard to do the next three steps unless you do this one.  Frankly, it is next to impossible to reach a true resolution without it.  If you paid attention to the Breathe step, untethering is much easier.


Invite the other person to engage in a conversation, and invite them to share their perspective first.  The invitation can be through words and/or body language.

For example, make eye contact (as culturally appropriate) and use an engagement phrase such as one of the following.

  • “Let’s discuss this.  What are your thoughts?”
  • “Tell me more about your [thoughts, feelings, etc.] on the matter.”
  • “I’d really like to know more about…”
  • “Help me understand what you mean by…”


Really listen to the other person and genuinely seek to understand.  Don’t be thinking about what your next argument or comeback will be, what you’re going to have for dinner, why they chose to wear that color combination, etc. – focus on the other person.  You can strengthen this step by using connected listening techniques. Listen for not only what they say they want, but why.  What are the underlying values, needs, interests and emotions?  What are they really saying?


Once you have listened to the other person, then you can share your perspective.  Don’t just attack what the other person has said, but explain how you see things and why.  Then have a dialog (not a debate) about the different options that could resolve the situation.  Ideally, you’ll look for options that will address each person’s needs and concerns.


Once you B.U.I.L.D. a positive connection you have the foundation for resolution.  Even if you don’t ultimately agree, if you have put genuine effort into following the steps you can end with a positive note and an improved or strengthened relationship.

Be a Kindness Sniper

Have you ever experienced a bad day, where out of the blue someone said or did something nice for you and it brightened your day?  

Whether they be few and far between, or regular occurrences, most people have had experiences like this.  An unexpected kindness, perhaps at a time when it is most needed, that lifts you up and gives you the strength to go on. It’s a pretty cool experience, right?

What if instead of receiving that experience, you were to give it? 

I have a little bias that goes something like this: We are not here on earth to just receive but to give.  The interesting twist on this – and science will back me up – is that giving has far more benefits to you personally than receiving.

So, add this short little workout to your daily routine:

Kindness Sniper Exercise.

  1. Pick at least one person (your “target”)
  2. Pick a time when they would not be expecting to hear from you
  3. Send them a short, positive message (The “shot”. it can express a compliment, share something you appreciate about them, congratulate them on an accomplishment, share an uplifting quote you think would be meaningful to them, etc. Be creative and genuine.)

That’s it.  You can communicate by email, text, phone, social media, old school letter, or whatever.  It only takes a few minutes of your time and can mean the world to the person you send it to.

Try it every day for a week (a different person each time) and see what happens.


Feel free to share your experiences below.  Did you try it? How was your experience?

You Gunky! Quick Tip for Dealing With Insults

“Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

What rubbish!  That is one of the greatest falsehoods we are taught as children.  Words do hurt.  But they don’t have to.  Here’s an audio I dug out of my archives, where I share some quick tips for dealing with insults.  There are other ways, of course, even some good ones, but give these some thought.

Here's the bite sized summary:

Identify what type of insult giver they are.

  1. Attention Seeker
  2. Child
  3. Assassin

Choose the appropriate response.

  1. Ignore it
  2. Respond from a place of love and compassion


Note: I recorded this while driving in my car, so please pardon the "road fuzz"

The Name Wizard Workout: 5 Easy Steps to Remembering Names

Have you ever met someone new only to realize a few minutes later that you have forgotten their name?  You may be able to muddle through the initial conversation without giving away your lapse, but what if you meet them again later on?  “Hey, how are you doing, er, friend?“   It can be awkward and embarrassing, right?

Let me tell you, I’ve always had a great memory for faces.  I don’t know why, but I have.  The problem was, I was terrible with names, particularly if I ran into somebody outside of the context I originally met them in.  I’d think to
myself, “I know you.  How do I know you and what is your name?”, and then try to fake it as best I could until I could figure it out.

If you’ve ever had a similar experience, then this Social in 7 workout is for you.  Here are five simple steps you can practice to become a name wizard and never forget a name again.

The Name Wizard Workout

The next time you meet someone new, practice this technique.  You can even
deliberately put yourself in a situation where you are meeting new people.  In a few minutes or less you will remembering names and making new connections.

The technique is simple.  Just Care and S.A.V.E.

1.  Care.
Experts tell us that the number one reason we don’t remember names is
that we don’t make it a priority.  Genuinely care about the other person
and see them as worth remembering their name.  Focus on the persona and
make remembering their name a priority.

2.  Say it.  When someone tells you their name, repeat it back to them.  “Nice to meet you, Susana.“

3.  Ask.
Ask about the name – how it is spelled, pronunciation, preferred name (ex. Jim or James), origin, etc.  In the appropriate situation, ask for a business card so you can glance at the name periodically.  If you’ve already forgotten it, ask them to repeat it.

4. Visualize.
Create associations between the name and things they tell you about themselves (”Paul likes to paint.”) or between name and something in your experience (”David – I had a roommate named David”).  You can also create mental pictures, create rhymes (”Jane has a cane.”), use alliteration (”Mark manages marketing.”), etc.

5.  Express.
Use their name periodically throughout the conversation.  Don’t overuse it.  Close the conversation with their name.  “It was nice talking with you, Alejandro.”

If you like, you can practice this on somebody you already know and who you trust not to laugh at you (laughing with you is okay).  Just tell them what you are doing.  It only takes a few minutes and most real friends will be glad to help.

Giving credit where credit is due, this technique was developed from the work of Jim Kwik, Colin Rose, and Benjamin Levy.

How to Connect with Someone New Without Saying a Word

No, the title does not mean we’ll be discussing how to use texting to introduce yourself.  Here we’ll harness the power of body language.

Ever been in a social situation where you had (or wanted) to meet someone new?  Was it hard or easy for you?  How quickly did you build a rapport (assuming you did).  How would you like some simple ways to establish a connection before you even say a word?

Would You Talk to You?

Before we introduce the techniques, do this.  Stand in front of a mirror and observe your “normal” look. How inviting and personable is it?  Would you be interested in talking to you?  Now approach the mirror as if you were going to introduce yourself to someone.  Ask yourself the same questions.

Do you look open, inviting, and friendly?  What does your facial expression say?  “Hi, nice to meet you”, “I’m top dog and don’t you forget it”, or “I’m completely scared to death so please be nice”?

How is your posture?  Is it erect?  Hunched?  Challenging?  Non-threatening? Confident?

Reach out your hand to shake hands and look at your hand position.  Take note; we’ll discuss that in a minute.

4 Non-Verbal Ways to Build Instant Connection

If you want to connect with someone before you even say a word, try these four things.

1.  Smile.

Put a smile on your face.  Make it genuine – a fake or mocking smile will have the opposite of the intended effect.  A simple smile can have a huge impact on how someone responds to you.  Don’t believe me?  The next time you go out somewhere smile at everyone you meet.  Sure there will be some grumps, but more frequently you’ll get a smile in return.

2. Tilt Your Head.

Tip your head slightly to one side, with your chin angled down.  This tends to indicate comfort and trust.  Chin up to high and you look like you are haughty and looking down your nose at the person.  Head tilted too far and you just look weird.

3. Stand Erect and Open the Bubble.

Stand with your body in good, erect posture, and slightly angled away from the person you are meeting.  Standing with good posture indicates confidence and comfort.  A slight angle is open and non-threatening.

Find a balance.  Being square on can be somewhat threatening.  Being turned too far away makes it look like you are disinterested or ready to make a break for it.  In the self-defense world this slightly angled stance is called “blading.” Since that doesn’t sound particularly non-threatening, in the interpersonal relations world I call it “opening the bubble.”

If you want to test this, have a friend or colleague help you.  Stand facing each other, with bodies squared against each other.  Slowly move forward towards each other and stop when it starts to get uncomfortable (note: this exercise doesn’t necessarily work so well with an intimate partner).  Stand there for a moment and feel the bubble of uncomfortable energy.  Now, simply step one of your feet back half a step so that you are slightly angled to the other person.  You will feel a release of that energy.  The bubble opens up and the energy dissipates.

4. Use the Open Hand.

No, don’t slap them!  If culturally appropriate, shake their hand.  How you shake their hand matters.  Reach out with your palm turned slightly face up. This is an opening and inviting gesture.

Palm down indicates that you are placing yourself in a position of power.  Palm perpendicular is neutral, neither welcoming nor dominant.  Perpendicular is okay, but doesn’t particularly speed up the connection building.  Palm up is much more friendly and inviting.

When shaking hands, match the pressure of the other person.  Don’t crush their hand, but don’t be a dead fish either.


Put these four things together and you have a winning combination for making a quick connection and a good first impression.  Since you won’t necessarily be a natural at doing these in a well, natural way, if you need to you can practice in front of a mirror until putting them together becomes comfortable for you.

Now, go get connected!