“Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” -Albert Einstein

In his newest book “Taken” (L.A. crime of the finest), Robert Crais writes about a young woman walking her dog. The dog is strong and the walk is nothing but a struggle and a fight – the dog pulling hard, trying to take off and the woman yanking the other direction, trying to slow him down. Her attitude with the dog is one of upset and annoyance. She keeps pulling, yelling at him and choking him all the while complaining about his bad behavior. They do this every day.

Enters Joe Pike, L.A. private investigator, tough guy, and silent hero.

He takes one good look at the dog who barks at him frantically, pulling on his leash. Pike studies him for a moment, then squats down and holds out his hand. The dog stops barking. Pike reaches out and says “Good boy.” End of story, the two are friends for life.

Have you had moments like these? You are stuck in a life pattern that keeps repeating itself when an outsider steps in and changes everything with one sentence?

Words can have that power. If used effectively, they can transform a situation that is stuck and change negative communication patterns into positive ones.

How Can You Apply This?

Find an area in your life or a relationship with another person that is a constant source of struggle and upset. Something that is impacting your life in a negative way.

Identify the communication pattern you are using. Are you complaining about the situation often to yourself or to others? Does it cause you upset? Annoyance? Aggravation?

Next, find something positive about the situation or the person.

To transform your current negative way of communicating about the issue, you have to start pointing out the positive. Be careful not to make things up. You can’t tell someone that they are wonderful if you don’t mean it. It has to be sincere.

Don’t think you can do it? It’s a matter of shifting your attention: Away from the negative to the positive. From complaining to acknowledging. From blaming to making things right. It takes a bit of practice but once you get the hang of it, you’ll see that it’s easy. With putting your attention on the positive, you’ll be able to take the heat out of any situation.


I was at my local coffee house the other day, waiting in line to get my tea. The store was packed. The wait was long. Usually, this wouldn’t bother me, yet today it was different. People in line seemed annoyed, mumbling to themselves and the barista at the counter was fueling the situation by treating each customer in a short and aggravated fashion, misunderstanding orders, barking at her colleagues and making everyone mad.

I started to get annoyed, too: “What was she doing? What an unpleasant person. If she hated her job so much, why didn’t she quit?”  …

Then, I realized that this wasn’t helping and I relaxed. The woman seemed stressed. Who knows what was going on in her life and why she was this way.

When it was my turn, I gave her my order and said: “Busy day today?” The impact was immediate. She took a deep breath, looked at me and said: “It’s crazy, we are understaffed and just got a big order in that’s waiting in the back.” I smiled at her and answered, “Oh, one of those days.” The whole store took a deep breath and the mood changed by several degrees. I left minutes later with my tea, feeling elated.


Photo Source: Umbrella Shots via Flickr under a Creative Commons License



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