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Month: May 2018

Healing Grief: The Secret of Peonies

Paeonia lactiflora “Hermione” was easy to find in early June. The pink, fragrant flower is widely available and is an established cultivar of the peony family. It was the clear choice because peonies were my mom’s favorite flower. These proud, pink, showy blossoms were abundant at her funeral in 2004. I didn’t realize how much I would appreciate peonies until a few years later, when I discovered their power to heal grief.

Peonies no longer symbolize grief for me.
Peonies in Kay’s garden.

Each time I see a peony, I think about my mom, especially in May, when Mothers Day coincides with their early blooming season. They don’t grow in the desert where we now live, but my friends all over the country regularly post photos of them when they bloom. This year, my dear friend Kay posted her photos (shown here, with her permission) and my mind was again drawn to mom.

After 14 years, I don’t often become sad when I think of her, but I am reminded that healing from grief is slow and unpredictable. And in the aftermath of the death of someone close, grief can be overwhelming.

Healing from grief

What heals us from grief? It’s different for each person, but for me it was a combination of several things. I focused on four of her traits:

  • Gratitude – She modeled grateful and abundant living. Each time I do something I learned from my mom, I express thanks that she taught me how to live independently and with gratitude.
  • Courage – She took on situations with bravery and fortitude. I inherited her courage and think of her when I face tough situations.
  • Challenge – Beyond being brave, she seemed to have endless endurance for new and difficult tasks. It was in that spirit that I taught myself to sew last year, knowing she would be proud that I challenged myself with a new skill.
  • Joy – Laughter was one of my mom’s hallmark traits. Whenever my parents got together with their friends, contagious laughter filled the house and the people who occupied it.

Honoring memory

My mom was imperfect. But even in her imperfection, she seemed to draw strength from gratitude, courage, challenge, and joy. I still tell my favorite stories of her foibles and missteps – the same ones we laughed about together when she was alive. And I still feel her loss at times when I know she’d have an answer that I struggle to find.

But most of all, I know that I honor her memory by living fully, gratefully, bravely, stalwartly, and happily because that’s how she taught me to live.

Bradley K. Ward, ACC is a leadership and transformational coach at The Mission Coach, LLC in Palm Springs, CA. Contact Brad to find out how coaching can help you do what you do, better!

Related: Mothers Day Revisited

Communication: The Legacy of Words

Communication: The Legacy of Words

Carol Burnett
Lifetime Achievement Award Portrait – Carol Burnett;

Carol Burnett said, “Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own.” In contemporary terms, we might say, “Words, once they are tweeted, have a life of their own.” However we choose to do it, what we say, write, tweet, blog, text, or email, has the same root issue: communication without thought can become problematic.

We often think of communication as a simple human task using words. But communication is more than words – it’s five components that combine to create this complex thing that is often no more than a sentence.

Communication Loop

The source (or sender), using their own cultural and experiential filters, creates a message that is transmitted through some medium to the receiver, who uses their own cultural and experiential filters to interpret the message and create feedback – all of which is called a communication loop. Then the process starts all over again, originating with either party to create a series of loops that make up a conversation.

No wonder we sometimes fail to understand each other!

The bad news about this complex thing called communication is we all experience its frustrations. But the good news is we can improve our ability to communicate with some thoughtful preparation and practice.

Making Meaning

To start, consider that communication is simply the process of creating shared meaning. But as you can see in the Communication Loop description, both the sender and receiver(s) rely on their own experiences and background to write or interpret the message. Differences in culture, beliefs, or gender identity can get in the way of creating shared meaning.

Additionally, the medium or method used by the sender to transmit the message may have an impact on shared meaning. Email and text messages are poor ways to convey emotion compared to a phone call or face-to-face conversation.

How to Communicate Better

Here are some practical and simple ways to improve how you communicate.

  1. Slow down. If there’s no emergency, give yourself the luxury of a few minutes to collect your thoughts and sit with the information before you do anything.
  2. Think first. If you’re the sender, take a few minutes to recall what you know about the person or group receiving your message. If you don’t know them well or at all, think about what kind of first (or second) impression you want to make.
  3. Be direct. There’s no need to be flowery or obtuse. Add something friendly or courteous, but be sure your language is direct and clear. You can edit if the tone isn’t right, but don’t side-step the issue to be addressed.
  4. Show authenticity. Sometimes communication evokes emotions that we think we should hide. Rather than giving in to that idea, find a constructive way to express the emotion you’re experiencing.
  5. Be concise. It’s tempting to use more words than necessary to fully express what’s on your mind, but it seldom results in greater clarity. The same holds true for repeating yourself.
  6. Ask questions. Be sure you’re fully participating in creating shared meaning by asking questions to clarify anything that seems fuzzy or unclear. If there’s any lack of clarity, you may not be creating the same shared meaning as the other(s) in the conversation.

If Carol Burnett is correct, and I think she is, remember your words live on beyond the moment you express them. Improving your communication will leave a legacy of clarity, directness, and kindness others can learn from and follow.

Bradley K. Ward, ACC is a leadership and transformational coach at The Mission Coach, LLC in Palm Springs, CA. Contact Brad to find out how coaching can help you do what you do, better!

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