The Focus On You

*Self-Care & Lifestyle Blog*

Tag: relationships (page 1 of 3)

What Do We Miss When We Stop Listening?

Lately, I’ve been hooked on a new series on Netflix called “13 Reasons Why.” The story is told from the point of view of a teenage girl who dies by suicide.  13 Reasons Why features flashbacks from her past year in high school and all the hardships she faced prior to her death.

This show made me think about what happens when we don’t listen. Listening skills are not just based on verbal cues. What verbal and non-verbal cues do we miss when we don’t listen?

  • When pains in our body may be signaling us to a serious problem.
  • People’s facial expressions when we ignore them to look at our phone.
  • When we dismiss our dangerous behaviors even though someone we love becomes injured doing the same thing (distracted driving, alcohol intoxication, physical violence, ignoring medical treatment, unsafe sex)
  • When we lose a loved one and in hindsight, remember all the lessons they gave us.
  • When a loved one, friend or child averts eye contact and says “nevermind.”
  • Forgetting important dates because we quickly said “yes” before understanding what we agreed to.
  • Being unaware of our surroundings due to earbuds, scrolling social media and other technological distractions.
  • Being unaware of signs of illness in our loved ones or animals.

As a therapist, I have to be in tune with my clients when they enter my space. Did you know that crossing your arms is a non-verbal sign that says “I’m defensive and probably judging you?” I never cross my arms in session. I cannot appear “blocked” to whatever they’re expressing. I noticed that when I’m off work I cross my arms a lot (because I’m truly OFF DUTY).

What are other non-verbal cues to show you’re “actively listening?”

  • Leaning in towards the person speaking
  • Facing the person speaking
  • Making eye contact

In 13 Reasons Why, the main character, Hannah, tells a male classmate, “Here’s the thing. You’ve never been a girl.” As the world demands that our leaders LISTEN to our voices, their failure to pay attention is costing us our lives. Black Lives Matter wants people to LISTEN and take action. People young and old are YELLING for leaders to understand the impact of stripping away our health care. In hindsight, the characters in this show, realize where they weren’t listening to Hannah and appear remorseful for not being a better friend.

There is power in numbers.

The number of people who will listen to us when we need help.

The number of people calling their elected officials demanding that their rights be protected.

The number of parents who petition for change in their childrens’ schools.

There is power in numbers and power in our voice. If we’re being ignored, politely ask for someone’s attention. Find a way to get their attention. Your doctor, a 2nd opinion doctor, your boss, HR, your teenager, the principal, etc.

What happens when we stop listening?

I’m afraid to find out.

Let’s remember to reconnect, to stay in tune with our bodies and keep an eye on the ones we love. It’s hard to ask for help. Open up that conversation with someone and just listen.

Here are a few statements you can use to show someone you are truly listening

(tip: this is good for supervisors and parents)

“I’m on your side.”

“You’re making total sense.”

“I’m sorry you have to go through all of that.”

“I understand why you feel that way.”

“Wow that must have been frustrating.”

Please share this post with any loved ones or colleagues. Active listening is important in our families and workplaces. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of harming themselves, please use the following resources for assistance.





Passive Aggressive Behaviors & Relationships: Part 2

In Part 1 of this series on passive aggression, my guest contributor, Glenna Anderson, breaks down these behaviors and some of the root causes. Glenna, a licensed clinical social worker, has experience in working with children and families in a therapeutic setting. She understands the barriers this behavior places on communication and building trusting relationships.

Although I don’t directly work with children and families, I understand the impact that parenting can have on developing passive aggressive behavior. Many times my adult clients can pinpoint a family history of non-confrontational styles. You may consider my final interview question to be harsh but I think it’s important for parents to hear about messages or behaviors they may be passing onto their kids. No one wants to admit they’re wrong. But there’s no shame in making changes in yourself for the best interest of your children!

Can kids be passive aggressive?


passive aggressive


Yes, kids can be passive aggressive but it’s a little different. Kids are developing their emotions and their communication skills, so depending on where they are age wise and developmentally, that will be the type of expectation that we have.

How to deal with people; You either stand up to them or let them be. You call out the inconsistencies and you give them the opportunity to say how they really feel.

Now the key to doing this is that you have to be very kind about it. You have to offer them a safe space so that they feel comfortable saying how they feel. Healthy communication is a skill just like driving a car or cooking food. The more you practice it the better you get.

So by being kind in your approach, you are giving people a safe place to practice this and it will help them get better. The worst thing that you can do is to fuss or be aggressive about it. All you’re doing is confirming that it is not safe for them to be upfront about how they feel. Fussing with them reinforces the belief that they have to be roundabout in their approach in order to get their point across.

For example, a person that a person grew up in a house where there was a lot of yelling and screaming may have learned that the best way to handle things is to not be confrontational because that will create a hostile situation. So if you are the least bit aggressive or mean in your approach, this may send them back into their shell. And just for clarity, that doesn’t mean that all people or passive aggressive grew up in emotionally abusive homes…I’m just using that as an example.

Glenna’s recommendations: 
If you are a person that is passive aggressive, I always say the very first step to change is acknowledging the fact that something doesn’t feel right. It’s hindering your friendships, dating relationships or you’re just plain noticing a pattern in yourself that you don’t really like.

If you want to start this at home by yourself, I recommend you get some sort of tool that helps you to track your behavior. In my book,“Ms. Glenna’s Little Black Book: The Secret to Starting and Finishing”, I have what’s called a “Self-Care Square”. It is a place where you can write down things that you’re trying to do differently.  It allows you to make a check mark every time you are successful in that behavior. For example, every day that you go without being passive aggressive or every instance that you spoke up for yourself and were assertive, you check the box.  Here, you can monitor your progress.

If you know this is something you cannot tackle on your own, then you should contact a person like me, a mental health therapist. I can help you process your emotions and dig deep to figure out what’s the root cause while coming up with healthy solutions for how to move forward.

Thank you Glenna for your insight about a topic that most of us are too shy to dig into. If you recognize this behavior in yourself, start writing down appropriate or respectful ways to get your point across. Although you may not get the response you want, you can have a clear conscience in knowing you advocated for yourself.

Because focusing on you means learning how to advocate for yourself!!! Click To Tweet

For more inspirational posts from Glenna Anderson, make sure to follow her on Facebook and Instagram!

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