October 18, 2022

Healthy responses to unhealthy prompts….

by Rod Smith

Healthy retorts to unhealthy prompts. These are not direct quotations. They encapsulate what I have heard from healthy people:

  • No, I do not feel as anxious as you do about this – it’s not helpful if we are both immobilized. (Wife to husband over a business failure.)
  • This is a conversation it seems you need to have without me – your adult sons and daughters want time alone with you. I understand completely. (Man to his wife in a second marriage.)
  • Your accomplishments at school are yours. When you are doing well I will not take the credit. When you are doing poorly I will not feel as if I am to blame. You already have everything you need (from me) to be a superior student. What do you need to change about your work habits? Start there. No, I will not speak to your teacher. You are perfectly capable of doing that for yourself. Your teacher is not responsible for your performance – you are. (Parent to son of 15.)
  • I am very uncomfortable speaking about people who are not present unless you are full of praise for them. Gossip is not at all good for friendships. (Friend to friend.)
October 18, 2022

Free gifts

by Rod Smith

Free gifts we can give to everyone we encounter – intimate or casual:

We can give each other room to move, freedom, space, permission to be different, and separate. No permission is required given that all people are already free. It seems some do not know it or believe it.

We can offer each other a positive attitude, a can-do spirit, an approach to problems and requests with a cooperative, and creative drive. We have all had the draining experience of legitimate requests meeting unnecessary resistance.

We can give each other the benefit of the doubt, the stance that assumes no malice when things don’t run according to plan. An air of suspicion can kill any relationship, casual or intimate.

We can offer each other a listening ear before leaping to conclusions. It’s discouraging to talk to someone who is not listening or who has decided he or she already knows what you want to say.

We can offer each other hospitality, a welcome, an attitude that says “you are welcome in my life and I am glad you are here.”

We can offer each other genuine respect, validation, empathy and challenge. Subtle forms of rejection or superiority or condescension are easy to detect and deny any welcome we may try to pretend.

October 12, 2022

Fear, anxiety

by Rod Smith

You may have noticed that when you are fearful and anxious – I am not referring to situational fear and anxiety that subsides the minute an immediate threat disappears – but to fearfulness and anxiety as a way of life, you probably don’t make the best decisions.

These emotions run deep. They color our world. They pervert perceptions. 

Fear disturbs sleep. Anxiety distances us from the people we most love. Together they can drive us to erratic behaviors and lead to harmful decisions. 

Fear and anxiety trigger fight or flight responses as a way of life and be so entrenched in our psyches we think it is just the way we are. 

It is not.

It doesn’t have to be.    

Listening, really listening, listening to one’s own life is a necessary skill and an art that can be learned and practiced. It can become one of our greatest gifts we are able to offer others. 

It takes time, discipline, commitment and it possesses the power to reduce anxiety and fearfulness within ourselves and others. 

Sit with your anxiety and fear. 

Using a pencil and paper chart as much as you are able. 

Write the truth about your fears and the origin of your anxieties as you are able and you may achieve some distance, objectivity, even some freedom. 

I know it works. 

I have used the technique for years and seen it set many clients free.

October 3, 2022

Bobby Chalmers

by Rod Smith

My nephew sent me a whatsapp message in the middle of the night this weekend to tell me Bobby Chalmers died. 

Jenny, my sister and I, here in the USA, knew it was coming.

For the last decade or so Jenny, through mutual friends, has built a deep friendship and so she was getting daily updates on Bobby’s condition.

I “knew” him as a soccer star, from the grandstand of Kingsmead. 

Even now, I could tell you the details of some of the finest goals I have ever seen and most of them involved Bobby. 

Long before I met Bobby through my sister, I knew I’d be in Durban for a week or two and I’d be delivering public lectures and so I published a column challenging two of my soccer heroes to attend.

I asked Bobby Chalmers and Durban City goal keeper George Wooten to extend grace to me and show up for a lunch meeting at The Durban Country Club.

They did.

They arrived together and honored my request.

This was a very powerful moment for me as a man and as a writer. Two of my many heroes were showing up for me because I asked them to.

Thank you, Bobby, you gave hundreds of thousands of soccer fans tremendous joy for many years and may you now know incredible Peace.

October 3, 2022

Bobby Chalmers

by Rod Smith

My nephew sent me a whatsapp message in the middle of the night this weekend to tell me the South African soccer icon Bobby Chalmers died.

Jenny, my sister and I, here in the USA, knew it was coming.

For the last decade or so, Jenny, has through mutual friends, built a deep friendship and so she was getting daily updates on Bobby’s condition.

I “knew” him as a soccer star, from the grandstand of Kingsmead.

Even now, I could tell you the details of some of the finest goals I have ever seen and most of them involved Bobby.

Long before I met Bobby through my sister, I knew I’d be in Durban for a week or two and I’d be delivering public lectures and so I published a column challenging two of my soccer heroes to attend.

I asked Bobby Chalmers and Durban City goal keeper George Wooten to extend grace to me and show up for a lunch meeting at The Durban Country Club.

They did.

They arrived together and honored my request.

This was a very powerful moment for me as a man and as a writer. Two of my many heroes were showing up for me because I asked them to.

Thank you, Bobby, you gave hundreds of thousands of soccer fans tremendous joy for many years and may you now know incredible Peace.

September 30, 2022

Tom Jones

by Rod Smith

On a personal note……

I went to a Tom Jones Live concert this past Monday night. 

Yes, the 82-year entertainer is going strong. 

I made the hour-long journey, picked up my son (24), and joined hundreds of middle and advanced aged fans waiting to enter the theater. 

At 7:30pm, using a walking stick, Tom Jones entered the darkened stage, sat on a bar stool and, accompanied by a pianist, sang a moving rendition of “I’m Growing Old.” 

This done, four other musicians joined him, and, from his bar-stool, Tom Jones unleashed the energy of a man quarter his age thrilling the crowd for two hours with many of his hits and other favorites. 

Tom Jones talked of his only wife whom he married at 16 and to whom he was married until her death at 75. 

He reminisced about Elvis and Las Vegas and how Elvis himself gave the title of the King of Rock to Chuck Berry. 

Tom was kind, gentle, and humble. 

I liked that he talked about hip replacements and the aches and pains that come with touring. I liked the fact that it connected me to the days when I was an ardent fan. 

But, most of all, I enjoyed watching my son sing and clap along and have a ball to music most young men his age offer no time at all.

September 21, 2022

Green and red flags in relationships……

by Rod Smith
  • She treats people well, especially people who can do little or nothing for her.
  • He has predetermined values and morals that he puts into practice at work and at home. 
  • She seeks ways to serve and include others, especially those who are on the fringes and are accustomed to exclusion.   
  • He listens without interrupting or trying to fix or make recommendations.
  • She is honest with details and is careful not to exaggerate in order to impress.
  • He is quick to listen, slow to judge, and calm in a crisis.     

Red flag behaviors in relationships 

  • He calls people idiots, even people he doesn’t know or has taken time to get to know. 
  • She cheats or cuts corners with other people’s money like expense accounts or office reimbursements.
  • He has the uncanny knack of making himself the center of discussions and interest in all, or most, of his business and social settings.
  • She gossips and spreads negative news about people who are unable to defend themselves.
  • He is rude and demanding with strangers, waiters, helpers and seems to use rudeness to impress others. 
  • She holds onto grudges for years and recounts them with ease.
September 19, 2022

Improve your functioning

by Rod Smith

Improve your levels functioning in surprisingly easy ways……..

Let your “yes” be your yes and your “no” be your no. Don’t agree to something under pressure from others or resist something under pressure from others. Own both. Similarly, let other adults make their decisions without pressure from you.

Do yourself and your family and friends a favor by removing all guesswork when it comes to relating to you. When it comes to spending time with you, be as clear as you are able about what you do and don’t want, what you will and will not do, and what you will and will not pay for. Expecting others to read your mind or anticipate your needs is foolish and it is usually the genesis of controlling behavior. It will lead to disappointment and misunderstanding. Suggest everyone you know learns to operate this way and you will be amazed at how much more refreshing being together will become.

Genuinely affirm others when you see attitudes and actions worthy of affirmation. Don’t deal out compliments for effect or to get your way or to get someone’s approval. Such manipulative tricks seldom lead to authentic and worthwhile encounters and relationships and usually pave the way to distrust.

September 18, 2022

From healthy assessment to judgment

by Rod Smith

I don’t know about you, but I know the exact moment I transition from healthy and objective assessment of other people and circumstances – all necessary skills for daily life and survival – into condemnation and judgment. 

It’s a flash of inner-reactivity and my prejudices assault me and can result in the loss of an opportunity to grow, to love, to embrace. The opportunity is displaced by drive to wipe the dust off my feet and flee.

It is in these moments, if I catch myself, if I stop, watch what I am doing, give myself time to reflect on my experience, I am made newly aware of how incredibly complicated and wonderfully made we are and how dangerous we can be. In a nanosecond an innocent bystander, someone I have never seen or met, can be inflicted with my prejudices, my unresolved baggage, most of it continents removed from my random victim with origins uniquely within me, decades in the making, before my target was born.

In a split second, if I am not careful, I am unloading my dissatisfaction about whomever and whatever from years ago onto someone I don’t know. 

“Grow up,” I tell myself, “and Go, stone no more.”

September 14, 2022

Client “conversions” I welcome

by Rod Smith

The elevation of the therapist – placing a therapist on a pedestal – converted to regarding the therapist as a man or woman with professional training who is also regularly challenged by life and relationships.

The search for a key, a silver bullet, a set of steps, a formula for success to “fix” life’s problems and dilemmas – converted to appreciating the beautiful opportunities for growth and insight and understanding; the appreciation that a “fixed” life is an illusion and, even if it were possible, it probably wouldn’t be much fun.

The belief in linear, cause and effect, family and personal issues – converted to the understanding that all things are connected, that all relationships impact all relationships, that human life and community is far more complex and beautiful than the result of an endless series of chain reactions.

The belief that undesirable adult circumstances are the direct result of poor parenting – converted to seeing that parenting is an important part – but only a part – of how things turn out for our children when they become adults.

The essential progress from blame and accusations – converted to “what’s my role in this?” and “how may I respond in new ways to open new paths rather than resort to playing a worthless blame game?”