Maandelijks archief: oktober 2015

What Your Teen is Really Saying When They’re Angry

What Your Teen is Really Saying When They’re Angry

Here are four ways to respond to your teen’s anger—and a mindfulness practice to encourage smoother communication.

By  sebra/Dollar Photo Club

sebra/Dollar Photo Club

Your teen is sending you messages with their behavior—especially the most off-putting, anger-laden actions. The key is whether you are willing to respond to the real message behind their behavior. In addition to the general desire for your engaged attention, below is a list of what teens are generally very interested in. When these factors are (from the teen’s perspective) being “denied” them—particularly by you, anger can follow.

Here’s what drives anger for most teens. It wells up when they feel they’re not getting:

  • Respect . . . Your teen will flare up during interactions with you because they are assuming you think they don’t deserve this. They believe themselves to be more capable than you (in their perception) will ever admit.
  • Space . . . They want you to give them the physical and emotional room to try things out, explore, and basically have a go at life without your rules, reminders, and your identity. They want their own.
  • Validation . . . You know this better than anyone—teens experience things intensely. Their emotions are strong and often in flux. With all this intensity, and (believe it or not) because your perspective has a great deal of impact on them, they are looking for you to validate them. Or to use a less therapy-thick term, they want to know you understand and accept their feelings as real.
  • Provisions & Peers . . . And you’ve encountered this as well—they want stuff from you. They want access to fun and distraction, and so they want your money. But why? Primarily, so they can spend time with their peers. They want the acceptance and belongingness that only their peers can provide, and trips to the mall and to the ATM are the keys—and they want your car keys as well!

You can still set limits on their disrespect or lashing out, but you can also try acknowledging that you understand that something real (for them) is driving how they feel.

I’m sure none of these are a great surprise to you. Perhaps you remember the importance of each of these when you were your child’s age. Regardless, it’s not the mere knowledge of these that will make the difference. It’s your ability to communicate the reality of these meaningful factors to your teen that will largely determine what happens when their anger surfaces. It will do much to connect you to your child, and will also be a fuel for helping your teen improve their behavior and capacity for managing the demands of their daily life.

The key is to pause, take a breath, and connect with what’s truly behind your child’s angry actions. You can still set limits on their disrespect or lashing out, but you can also try acknowledging that you understand that something real (for them) is driving how they feel.

Mindfulness Practice: Pause Before You Respond

  1. Consider a recent stuck communication with your teen—one that seemed to have hit a dead-end.
  1. Finish the following sentence: “When it comes to addressing this situation I . . .”
  1. To the degree you finished the sentence with anything like “ . . . have thrown up my hands” or “ . . . have tried everything and don’t have a clue what to try next” or “ . . . think it’s really my kid’s fault,” then try the following:
  1. Sit with your eyes closed for a moment. Visualize your teen’s appearance and behavior during that angry / communication deadlock situation. Try on the following statements as questions to ask as opposed to your standard rigid mental chatter:
  • What am I willing to give to my teen right now so that they see how much I want to help us out of this situation?”
  • “Whatever I do in the next moment, what’s more important: venting and reacting, or doing and saying what matters most?”
  • “What am I willing to authentically say about what seems to be behind their upset? Am I willing to respond (or “RSVP”) to what’s real for for them in order for them to be more likely to hear what’s important on my end? 
  1. In your mind’s eye, imagine what might happen in the next moment of this particular communication breakdown with your teen if you acted from one of these internal questions? Would things be the same rigid and fixed “breakdown as usual” or might there be some room for growth there?

How to Be More Compassionate at Work

How to Be More Compassionate at Work

How compassion can short-circuit stressors in the workplace.

By  focusphoto/Dollar Photo Club

focusphoto/Dollar Photo Club

Have you ever dreaded going into work because the people around you were in a negative spiral of energy? We are emotional beings and we can’t help but be affected by the varying moods and interactions we have with others. Life is always changing and this constant change can create difficult thoughts and emotions, which can flow into the workplace. The silver lining is that if we can meet suffering at work with concern and care, compassion naturally arises. Work environments that cultivate compassion create a much more positive and productive place to work.

We can experience a variety of difficulties at work. Organizational actions may trigger suffering like job loss and downsizing. It was found in a study that downsizing unsettles people who lose their jobs and distresses survivors who are concerned about their colleagues’ losses, along with their own job security (Mishra et al. 2009). Suffering at work may arise from events in an individual’s personal life, including marital or relationship difficulties, a child’s special needs, divorce, or loss of a family member.

When distressed employees received acts of compassion like emotional support, time off from work, or flowers, they demonstrated more positive emotions such as joy and contentment, and had greater commitment toward their workplace organization.

Compassion is an interpersonal process involving the ability to notice, feel, or perceive another person’s pain and to be with or take action to alleviate that person’s suffering. Over the last 6 years, Jane Dutton at the University of Michigan has studied an array of organizational settings (hospitals, universities, and businesses like Macys and Cisco). She found that when distressed employees received acts of compassion like emotional support, time off from work, or flowers, they demonstrated more positive emotions such as joy and contentment, and had greater commitment toward their workplace organization. These results existed regardless of whether employees received compassion directly or merely witnessed it.

As a consultant supporting workplaces to be healthy and mindful, I teach and encourage compassion for oneself and others in the workplace. When mindfulness (paying attention to the present moment) and compassion are present, they support greater stress resiliency. Stress inevitably spills into the workplace and this often contributes to less productivity and higher health care costs, but with a dose of compassion, we can bounce back from the ups and downs of life with strength and greater ease. Below are some tips that I have encouraged and research also supports.

Compassion in Action At Work

  • Take greater notice of your fellow employees’ psychological well-being. For example: If an employee has experienced a loss, such as a divorce or death in the family, someone should contact that employee within 24-48 hours and offer help. Melwani et al. (2012) demonstrated that people who act compassionately are perceived more strongly as leaders and that perceived intelligence (i.e., how clever and knowledgeable the person is) bridges the relationship between compassion and leadership.
  • Encourage and display more positive contact among employees. In many workplaces where I consult, there are meeting spaces that can be utilized for informal groups and gatherings. Planned groups can be encouraged weekly or monthly and allow for more opportunities to notice when someone needs help or support and then to offer it.
  • Invite more authenticity and open communication in the workplace. If we can keep the communication lines open with respect and kindness, we allow for time to talk about what may need attention and/or empathic connection.
  • Take on the perspective of the other person. In other words, this person is “just like me.” This is also known as “cognitive empathy,” or simply knowing how the other person feels and what they might be thinking. This type of empathy can help in negotiating or motivating people to give their best effort.
  • Start with self-compassion. In order to truly have compassion for others, we must have compassion for ourselves.

Self-Compassion Practice

Recall a time in the last few days when you experienced some difficulty. Invite compassion towards yourself with these simple phrases.

As you breathe in and out, repeat these phrases as many times as needed. If it is challenging to offer compassion towards yourself, imagine someone who has love for you saying the words below:

May I, you be free from sorrow and pain

May I, you find ease in this struggle

May I, you find peace and healing

May I, you find openness of heart

In the Blooming Lotus online course, we practice mindfulness and well being in daily life. The focus for September is compassion and we would love to have you practice with us.

What if you went to work in a place where you felt trust, compassion, and enthusiasm? Practice more compassion towards yourself and others and let me know how it goes.


  1. Dutton JE, Lilius JM, Kanov JM. 2007. The transformative potential of compassion at work. In Handbook of Transformative Cooperation: New Designs and Dynamics, ed. SK Piderit, RE Fry, DL Cooperrider, pp. 107–26. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press
  2. Dutton JE, Ragins BR, eds. 2007. Exploring Positive Relationships at Work: Building a Theoretical and Research Foundation. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc.
  3. Mishra AK, Mishra KE, Spreitzer GM. 2009. Downsizing the company without downsizing morale. MIT Sloan Manag. Rev. 50(3):39–44
  4. Melwani S, Mueller JS, Overbeck JR. 2012. Looking down: the influence of contempt and compassion on emergent leadership categorizations. J. Appl. Psychol. 97(6):1171–85