Two Ears One Mouth

One friend, one person who is truly understanding, who takes the trouble to listen to us as we consider our problems, can change our whole outlook on the world.
-Dr.  Elton Mayo

How many of you reading this blog today can think of at least one person who takes the time to actively listen to you?  How many of you would say that you are an active listener?

Two ears one mouth, listen more, talk less, a simple solution to helping others solve their own problems.  I know this sounds easier said then done.  It takes intentional listening to become an active listener.  It takes learning to be still in the moment and know that it is OK not to have all the answers and OK if you do not to give them.

If you struggle with the active listening part of a conversation, you might benefit from this challenge.  This challenge will help you grow into a confident communicator, who is able to connect in community through the process of listening well, asking good questions and pausing on purpose.

One-day challenge, you will need a notebook or form of data entry.   I challenge you to write down all the times you were the one talking and all the times you were the one listening.  At the end of the day look at your data, evaluate how well of a listener you were as well as a communicator.  This is intentional communication and it starts way before the conversation.

After doing this exercise several days in a row my data showed me the ugly truth behind my lack of listening.  First, I listened less and spoke more when it came to parenting my teens, often cutting them off midsentence believing that I already knew what they were going to say. 

The message I sent them was one of arrogance and hypocrisy.  I had to adjust my habit to fix, lead with my ears and shut my mouth.  My teens needed to learn to find the answers within, a God given gift that they both posses, instead of me handing out advice like  it were going out of style, I needed to hold back and be silent.

Secondly, I noticed while going over my data that in my marriage I was quick to cut off and even quicker to interject my thoughts and opinions when all my husband needed was a safe place to share.  His eyes would light up as I learned to listen more and talk less.  He started becoming more confident in his own decision-making skills and less reliant on mine.

Whether you are a spouse, parent, business owner, friend, if you are in relationships, the greatest and most important gift you can give to one another is the gift of listening well.  Believing in others so they can believe in themselves is the first step that helps motivate people to become active listeners. 

Good luck to all who choose to take the challenge.  I would love to hear from you after you formulate your data, share your details and allow me to keep you in prayer as you learn to become a more active listener.

He who answers before listening, that is his folly and his shame
Proverbs 18:13

Coach Cris

Barriers to Communication

Part 3

Understanding roadblocks and High-Risk Responses. 

 People Skills/ Dr. Robert Bolton

At first glance, some of these barriers seem quite innocent.  Praise, reassurance, logical responses, questions, and well-intentioned advice are often thought of as positive factors in interpersonal relations.  Why, then, do behavioral scientists think of these twelve types of responses as potentially damaging to communication?  High-risk responses have a tendency to send a message of judgment, problem solving and avoidance.  Which in turn becomes the roadblock of communication?  Let’s explore why.

1.  Criticizing
2.  Name Calling
3.  Diagnosing
4.  Praising Evaluatively
5.  Ordering
6.  Threatening
7.  Moralizing
8.  Excessive/Inappropriate Questioning
9.  Advising
10. Diverting
11.  Logical Argument
12.  Reassuring.

Criticizing:  Making a negative evaluation of the other person, or attitudes.  “You brought it on yourself- you have nobody else to blame for the mess you are in.”

This is one of the judgmental roadblocks.  Many feel they ought to be critical or people will never improve.  Parents, teachers, supervisors.  Meanwhile, it is worth observing our interactions with others to see how frequently we are critical.  For some people criticism has become a way of life.

Name-Calling and Labeling:   This behavior usually has negative overtones to both the sender and receiver.  Labeling prevents you from getting to know others as individuals:  there is no longer a person before us-only a type.  

Labels and classifications make it appear that we know the other, when actually we have caught the shadow and not the substance.  Labeling ourselves and others replaces human meaning and unique feelings and growing life within and between persons.

Diagnosing: This form of behavior has plagued mankind through the centuries.  Some people, instead of listening to the substance of what a person is saying, play emotional detective, probing for hidden motives, psychological complexes, and the like.

Maybe you have found, that communication tends to be thwarted when one person informs another that she/he is being defensive, or self-deceiving, or that she/he is acting out of guilt or fear or some other unconscious motive or “complex.”

Praising Evaluatively There is a common belief that all honest praise is helpful, not so.  Many people in authority, parents, teachers, managers, and others endorse praise without reservation.  Praise is suppose to build confidence, increase security, stimulate initiative, motivate learning, generate good will and improves human relations.  Thus, at first sight, praise seems to be an unlikely candidate to qualify as a roadblock.  However, positive evaluations often have negative results.

  Praise is often used as a gimmick to try to get people to change their behavior.  When someone with ulterior purposes offers praise, there is often resentment, not only of the effort to control, but also of the manipulativeness experience.  Even when it is not used manipulatively,  praise often has detrimental effects.

Ordering:  An order is a solution sent coercively and backed by force.  When coercion is used, people often become resistant and resentful.  Sabotage may result.  On the other hand, people who are constantly given orders may become very compliant and submissive.  Orders imply that the other’s judgment is unsound and thus tent to undermine self-esteem.

Threatening:  A threat is a solution that is sent with an emphasis on punishment that will be forthcoming if the solution is not implemented.  Threats produce the same kind of negative results that are produced by orders.

Moralizing:  Many people love to put a halo around their solutions for others.  They attempt to back their ideas with the force of social, moral or theological authority.  Moralizing speaks with “shoulds” and “ought’s” but it chooses other wordings, too.  “It’s the right things to do.”  “You don’t visit me enough.”  “Shoulds” are often implied, even when they are not stated directly.

Excessive or Inappropriate Questioning:  Some kinds of question have their place in communication.  However, questions can be real conversation-stoppers.  A large percentage of the population is addicted to questioning.  While there are constructive ways of asking occasional questions, extensive questioning, usually derails a conversation.  A question can be a poor substitute for more direct communication.

Advising:  This is another of the most commonly used of the roadblocks.  At its worst, it represents an “interfere-iority complex.”  The advice-giving trap is a rather constant temptation for most people. 

Advice is often a basic insult to the God given ability to think for oneself.  It implies a lack of confidence in the capacity of the person with the problem to understand and cope with his or her own difficulties.  As Norman Kagan puts it, “In essence, we implicitly say to someone, “You have been making a “big deal” out of a problem whose solution is immediately apparent to me, how stupid you are!”

  Another problem with advice is that the advisor seldom understands the full implications of the problem.  When people share their concerns with us, they often display on the “tip of the iceberg.”  The advisor is unaware of the complexities, feelings, and the many other factors that lie hidden beneath the surface.

Diverting:  One of the most frequent ways of switching a conversation from the other person’s concerns to your own topic is called “diverting.”  The phrase “Speaking of….”  often signals the beginning of a diversion.  Much of what passes for conversation is really little more than a series of diversions. 
  Sometimes people divert a conversation because they lack the awareness and the skills to listen effectively.  Sometime they are grabbing the focus of attention for themselves.  Other times people divert become they are uncomfortable with the topic.

Logical Argument:  Logic has many important functions.  When another person is under stress, however, or when there is conflict between people, providing logical solutions can be infuriating.   Though it may seem that those are the very times we most need logic, it nevertheless has a high risk of alienation the other person.

  One of the main problems with the logic in situations of personal or interpersonal stress is that it keeps others at an emotional distance.  Logic focuses on facts and typically avoids feelings.  When persons use logic to avoid emotional involvement, they are withdrawing from another at a most important moment.

Reassuring:  This can seem like away to comfort another person while actually doing the opposite.  The word comfort comes from the two Latin words, con and fortis.  The combination literally means, “strengthened by being with.”  Reassurance does not allow the comforter to really be with the other.  It can be a form of emotional withdrawal.  Reassurance is often used by people who like the idea of being helpful but who do not want to experience the emotional demand that goes with it.

Thank you Dr. Bolton for your wonderful writings that have helped many people throughout this world learns to be better communicators so that we can grow in our communities with confidence and understanding. 

If you or someone you know struggles with this area please feel free to pass along my information. 

I am a passionate life coach who loves to help people confidently learn to lead themselves and others into healthy community through listening well, asking good questions and learning to pause with intention.

Coach Cris
“Empowering Personal Leadership”

Barriers to Communication

Part 2

Breaking free from roadblocks to communication. 12 ways to  identify the undesirable responses that cause break down in communication and barriers to be built.

1.  Criticizing
2.  Name Calling
3.  Diagnosing
4.  Praising Evaluatively
5.  Ordering
6.  Threatening
7.  Moralizing
8.  Excessive/Inappropriate Questioning
9.  Advising
10. Diverting
11.  Logical Argument
12.  Reassuring.

These twelve ways of responding are viewed as high-risk responses.  They are more likely to block conversation, thwart the other person’s problem-solving efficiency, and increase the emotional distance between people when one or the other communicator is experiencing stress.  Knowing this we as communicator should try to avoid all roadblocks when under any kind of stress.

Please do not misunderstand me, there are times when people use these responses with little or no obvious negative effect but that usually happens when stress is absent and trust has been built so be aware of miss using these barriers.

The twelve barriers can be divided into three major categories:
1. Judging/ criticizing, name-calling, diagnosing, praising evaluatively

2. Sending Solutions/ ordering, threatening, moralizing, excessive/inappropriate questioning

3.  Avoiding the other’s concerns/ diverting, logical argument, reassuring

Join me tomorrow as I share in detail the major categories of high risk responses.


Barriers to Communication

A barrier to communication is something that keeps meanings from conversations.  Meaning barriers exist between all people, making communication much more difficult than most people seem to realize.  It is false to assume that if one can talk be can communicate.

-Reuel Howe,
Theologian and Educator

Have you ever entered a conversation excited and thrilled only to feel silenced and shut down?  You might have even prepared in advance what you were going to speak about only to find yourself once again feeling unheard and possibly rejected.

Since there is in most of us a strong desire for effective communication, why is it so rare and difficult to establish? 

One main reason this happens is that without realizing it, people typically inject communication barriers into their conversations.  It has been estimated that these barriers are used over 90 percent of the time when one or both parties to a conversation has a problem to be deal with or a need to be fulfilled.

The challenge is to understand how you communicate, as a giver and receiver of information.  We all are responsible for how we choose to represent our information and how we choose to respond to information give. 

The good news is, barriers can be broken.  Break through happens when we choose to understand the barriers and how they work.

Communication barriers are high-risk responses- responses whose impact on communication is more times then not negative.  These roadblocks are more likely to be destructive when one or more persons who are interacting are under stress. 

They frequently diminish the other’s self-esteem.  They tend to trigger defensiveness, resistance, and resentment.  They can lead to dependency, withdrawal, feelings of defeat or of inadequacy. 

They decrease the likelihood that the other will find her/his own solution to her/his problem.  Each roadblock is a “feeling-blocker”; it reduced the likelihood that the other will constructively express her true feelings.  Repeated use of these road blockers can cause damage sometimes permanent in relationships.

If you feel stuck in your communication skills, most likely you are experiencing barriers that need to be broken. 

Join me tomorrow as I post about the undesirable responses that cause such blocking.



Enjoy the questions as much as the answers.

Offset what is wrong by making twice as many things right.

Do not insist on everything being your way.  Life is full of surprises.

Surprises are full of life!

A Three-Hour Tour

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale

a tale of a grateful trip,

that started with a coffee cup,

and ended with a sip.

The call came at a certain time,

The friends were sure to share,

The conversation set sail that day,

for a three hour tour,

a three-hour tour.

The chatter started getting deep,

the emotions came to head.

If not for the courage of the fearless friends

The phone call would be dead.

The phone call would be dead.

Family members checked periodically to see what I was doing. With Tony peeking through the door, Vito called my name, Sami being one of us, was doing just the same.

Drew became a comic and tried to tell a joke, interrupting Shannon as she began to quote, words on faith, community, story, voice and truth, mama kitty kept her warm while purring through the truth.

(Ending verse)

So this is the tale of a friendship,

That started year ago, two women

On a journey who pressed into their no.

They traded in performance embraced

Reality, they made the best decision

When choosing to be free.

No chains, no bars, no sentences, their free

As they can be. And even though their

Far away their close as they can be.

So, watch them chat and giggle,

See them share and talk, as women who

Communicate on a three-hour tour, a three-hour tour.

Cris Nole

Happy Heart-Healing Body

Greetings From The Front Porch!

Battling sadness “There are times when even to live is an act of bravery.”

Accident proverb

For those of you who are chronic pain patients, I believe that this quote rings true to you.  The days when all you can do is lift your head from the pillow to greet the sun is the day you also need to realize “you are brave.”

It takes bravery to choose to say thank you instead of why me?  It takes bravery to refuse to be a victim and step into participating in your own healing.  Being brave means learning new ways.

I believe we need to learn to be kind to ourselves, starting with our body, soul and mind.  We are what we think and choosing our thoughts for the day might be the only sense of sanity we have when faced with severe physical pain.

I have learned that before my feet hit the floor or head raises from the pillow I list off the three greatest things I am grateful for in that moment.  It allows me to start my day with a heart of gratitude rather then one of an attitude.  Be brave my friends, you can do this.

My List

Three Things:

1.  Thank you God for this moment that allows me to realize that I am fully alive.

2.  Thank you God for the family and friends who walk beside me and love me through those difficult times, regardless of how I feel, look and act.

3.  Thank you God for loving me enough to not take me out of the struggle but enter into it with me.

If you could list three top things you were most grateful for at this moment, what would they be?  I promise you this, a happy heart will help a healing body.


Lighten Up

Greetings from The Front Porch,

To learn something about my dependence on technology, and show that this is not the only way for me to live, I have chosen to avoid using my cell phone and computer on Sundays.

For those of you who might have felt neglected or rejected by my lack of my responding to your voice messages and emails, it was actually for the benefit of our relationship.

I am a better wife, mother, friends and all around communicator when I unplug and give my brain a break.  When I choose to feel the pages of a book instead of the plastic on my key board, I am reminded about how the simple things in life allow me to find peace.

The three benefits I found from my simple decision to disconnect from this form of modern technology were these:

1.  Fully folding into the moment with my family without any distractions.

2.  Completely embracing the love of a book not just for the story but also for the feel.

3.  A gently reminder that I do not hold it all together.

Happy Monday

Cris Nole


"I don't feel old just outdated."

How to stay young and age gracefully. As a woman over the age of forty I feel like I am in a constant battle to do both.  Is it possible to stay young and grow up gracefully at the same time? 

There are false messages sent through advertisements that come in the form of anti-aging.  Our society has treated aging as if it is a bad habit or a cold war. It is a selling tactic that keeps women stuck, like a ping-pong ball being tossed back and forth.  All this advertisement has nothing to do with helping us actually age well or stay young and everything to do with making a buck.  So, take note, do not buy into the lie.  Staying young and aging well is not about a pill, a bottle or surgery.

A few days ago I was sitting in my living room when my 14-year-old son came home from visiting his old school. “Ugh!” he said “second graders with cell phones!”  He was irritated at the fact that when he was their age he did not have his own cellular devise.
I looked at him and said, “so son, do you feel old?”  And without skipping a beat he just answered back with a tone of confidence, “no mom, just outdated.”  I almost chuckled aloud at his simple but profound response that resonated in my soul the minute it left his mouth.  I thought to myself “you can easily update what is outdated but reversing the aging process is a whole different story.”

I allowed the two words to dance in the middle of my mind, old vs. outdated, which word would I have chosen to describe how I felt if asked about the same kind of situation my son had gone through. 
Scientist, physiologist and even biblical scholars have proven  that as a women thinks she becomes.  I believe it would be safe to say that staying young and aging well is a matter of perspective rather then a number, a pill, bottle, cream, surgery, exercise, the list can go on.

It is not so much how we look that keeps us young, but rather how we act, what we know and where we go and what we do.  The truth is, I actually enjoy growing up and I find myself more confident and less nervous, more at peace with who I am  and less concerned at who I am not.  I am learning to find those who have gone before me, who have aged well and are still young and follow in their footsteps.

The wrinkles on her hands and face faded as she shared her life story, in a few brief words she had captivated the breakfast table.  She was the oldest one among us, by at least thirty years our senior. The more she shared the younger she became.  As the conversation traveled around the table, we all agreed almost in unison that she was by far the youngest one amongst us and we wanted to know the secret.

Her eyes opened wide with anticipation as she started to share her fountain of youth secrets.  With delight and sincerity, she shared with us as if we were a bunch of kindergartners sitting in circle time.  “Wake up thanking God for being alive,” she said with a grin and a chuckle, “everyday!”  “Dancing four times a week with your husband of forty years that will keep you young as well.”  You could tell by the far away look in her eyes that she was picturing her partner swinging her on the dance floor.  She quickly came back to the moment and filled the space with stories of learning, moving and living.  She was the picture of someone staying young and aging well.  I believe if I stared long enough at every wrinkle, spot and crease on her body, they would have told of a story that of a life lived to its fullest. 

I watched my new friend travel around the table through her conversations, I watched her become ageless, I heard wisdom from her experiences and youthfulness in her tone as she shared her journey to learn new things daily and not use her age as an excuse to stop living.  Not even a severe car accident, broken back and months in a halo stopped her from living. 

What impressed me the most with my new friend was that she was not afraid to ask for help.  After breakfast, we sat in the living room of the bed and breakfast as I taught her how to bring up her flight info on her phone.  She pressed into her questions fully confident in the ability to learn something new, this friend is aging gracefully and makes one young. 

I walked away from my experience that morning with a whole new perspective on life, on living, on aging.  I felt this understanding that lack of knowledge makes the young look foolish and the aging look old.  Who wants to be either?  What is the key then to staying young and aging well?

The lesson I learned from my new friend was this,  the key to staying young and aging well was living and learning and not being afraid to ask questions, trying  new things and embracing change.  It is the fear that causes age to creep in and take over ones mind.  “I might look foolish if I have to ask.”   Women get stuck and stop to growing up and start growing old when we allow our fear of looking foolish to take over .  Fear has a tendency to cause wrinkles, sags and creases in our attitude regardless of our physical age.

Therefore, my friends, it is possible to do both, stay young and age well.  Remember, we are a product of our thoughts, what we think about we bring about.  Choose to live, learn and even be the fool at times, it will keep young as you age well.

What do you know today that you did not know yesterday because you were not afraid to ask?

Proverbs 3:27, "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he."


“What is the 
one thing, that if you achieved it over the next week or so would make you really pleased with yourself?”

I would love to hear your answer, keep it simple and straight forward.  


True Beauty

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True beauty is in the way she laughs
True beauty is in her eyes
True beauty is how she acts
True beauty is inside
True beauty is unseen
True beauty is only felt
True beauty is not mean
True beauty is herself
True beauty can't be cruel
True beauty is bare
True beauty within you
True beauty is always there
True Beauty can't be covered with makeup
True beauty means true love
True beauty can't be baked up
True beauty is the flight of a dove
True beauty has no flaws
For True beauty is all that matters after all

Jean Pullman 

What you can do!

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.

Greetings from the Front Porch!

I love John Wooden, his legacy of leadership and his commitment for growth is the reason I would pick him if I had the opportunity to go back in time  and spend one day with anyone,

His insight, integrity and faith have been a guiding force in my pursuit to become a participant in life instead of a performer. 

I use to be a woman who spent a good part of my life performing, hiding behind my masks, my tasks and my roles. 

If you would have asked me to tell you what I was good at back in the day, what you would have found  from me would have been a long silent pause while I held back my tears, composed my thoughts and rehearsed my lines, of course in my head.

I was good at trying to please everyone, all the time.  Did it work?  No, never.  It left me completely and utterly exhausted and the feeling of defeat was always following close behind me.

Over the last several years I have learned to trade in the masks for hats, which I have learned to hang up on a rack when not in use.  I traded my ticket of performance in for participation, granted, it is much messier now then back in the day when I rehearsed every line, every action every detail of my life but, I am free to be me. 

I have also taken my tasks, to do’s and check boxes and narrowed  the twenty plus a day down to no more then five must do’s on any given day.  Granted, there are days when I might have to add a few more but also days where I get to take off a few more as well.

Through the process of learning how to participate instead of perform I have also been able to discover who I am.  I have learned to focus more on what I can do instead of what I cannot do while celebrating the fact that there is still so much I can learn if I choose to.

Also, through this process of learning how to participate instead of perform; I was able to discover my voice, the voice that shouts from the rooftop, everyone matters even me!  The voice that likes to listen well and ask good questions, the voice that likes to encourage, motivate and inspire.

Through this process of trading in my ticket of performance I also was able to understand my story, the one that starts with, once upon a time there was this little girl who longed to be heard and ends with and when she grew up, she found her voice.

Through this process of trading in my ticket of performance I also was able to put dimensions to my dreams, the ones hidden deep with in my heart that were being hidden behind all the things I believed I couldn’t do.  The dreams of helping others find their voice, know their story and live out their dreams as well.

Today I will do as Coach Wooden has suggested, I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.

What can I do?  I can listen well, ask great questions and pause on purpose through the process of helping people discover their voice, know their story and live in their dream, this I know I can do.

What can you do?  Please feel free to a leave a comment, I would love to hear from you.  Remember, your voice, your story and your dreams point to the things you can do.


Walk beside me and be my friend!

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.
Albert Camus

Bare Naked Ladies, no I am not talking about the music group for those of you who remember them from back in the day. 

I am actually referring to a group I belong to of women from my community.  

We started meeting a few years ago, a handful of women who were looking for authentic relationships with other women.  We came together to share our friendships as well as our faith journey.

As we sat around a coffee shop one evening laughing and sharing about body parts, relationship struggles and our faith, we decided that we were going to keep it real, bare it all and not hold back.  Thus the name, Bare Naked Ladies evolved and the rest is history.

We are an eclectic group to say the least.  Some of us have been on our faith journey longer then others but we are all headed in the same direction.  Focusing on HIS face, that of our FATHER, who saved us through His son Jesus Christ.

We made a promise as a group not to try to fix, change or rescue one another.  Instead, we have learned to listen well, ask good questions and pause on purpose allowing God to lead the way.

I had recently stepped away for a few months from the group to walk through a grief class, a long process of finding healing from the loss of my mother as well as that of other loved ones.

Tonight was my first time back to BNL and it felt good to be home.  I have missed the laughter, conversation and connection with the most amazing women in the world.  

What I have missed the most about my time with these ladies was the spontaneous giggles that happen naturally in the middle of our conversations, brought on by past memories of experiences over the last two years.  

All we have to do is look at one another with a certain expression, say one word or act a certain way and it triggers a belly laugh from us all.  This friends is community, this is where true life happens.  

Tonight as I prepare to place my head on my pillow I will say a prayer for each of these ladies who have chosen not to walk behind me or in front of me but beside me as my friend.