How Does Your Family’s “Motto” Influence You?

I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.

Gerry Spence


I Zoomed with my client Jesse (names changed) last week and was surprised he was wearing glasses.


When I complimented him on the new look he told me that he’d never worn glasses before; however, he’s thrilled with the difference they make – he can’t believe how clear street signs are!


For years Jesse thought all signs were blurry because they were far away AND he presumed they were blurry for everyone!


He lived in a fuzzy world and didn’t know it. He just thought, “That’s the way things are.”


Jesse is a smart guy who excels in his job. He’s not a dope. He just didn’t know that there’s a better way to see.


And in that, he’s like so many of us. Take my other client, Richard.


In our first meeting he told me that he hates when people interrupt him. He thinks they’re rude and disrespectful.


He complained that many people interrupt him and he wonders if he’s doing something to encourage them in that behavior.


The following week (this was a short while before Covid emptied out business offices) I sat in on a meeting with Richard and four other executives, as they wanted to explore training possibilities for various teams in the company.


During the meeting, one of the executives interrupted Richard and he immediately shut down. Everything about him changed – his face, his posture, his overall “vibe.” He glared at the guy.


Richard later told me that when growing up, his parents insisted he and his siblings not interrupt when adults spoke – and they didn’t allow for freewheeling discussion. The family motto was: don’t interrupt people – it’s rude.


But is a person automatically rude if she or he interrupts?


I don’t think so.


What about the person who comes from a large family where everyone had to compete to be heard and interrupting was accepted?


Colleen, who works in the Trustees Office of a major not-for-profit, told me that when growing-up she was warned by her parents – “the shy starve.”


Her challenge is the flip side of Richard’s.


So, too, Eva, who is a project manager. She took one of my workshops because she wanted to learn how to manage her “difficult” team. At the end of the day, she shared with me her “Ah-Ha!” moment – it’s not her team that’s difficult, it’s that she is difficult!


Growing-up she was told by her mother, “When your father tells you to do something, do it and don’t ask questions.”


Eva is new to her role as manager and is irritated when her team asks questions. She came into the workshop hoping to learn techniques for eliminating the team’s need to ask questions. She left with a new-found understanding of the importance of asking questions.


Here’s the thing – every family lives life guided by a motto.


Sometimes it is spoken aloud; other times it is implicitly understood. But no matter, this mantra guides a family as it navigates through life.


Family mottos take on their own life.


They influence how we see and interpret people and situations.

They become the air we breathe.


When I was growing up, my family’s mantra was: trust no one.


My father was a cop. His job demanded that he be leery of all. I breathed in that mantra without thought or doubt. Later in life I had to work hard to overcome its limitations and to trust people.


Without understanding your family’s assumptions about how life is lived, you will be setting yourself up in subtle ways for stress and misunderstanding.


Give yourself an “eye exam” and identify your family’s motto.

Does that motto help or hinder you?


now THAT is the business of confidence. . .


Do you want to break through the negative thinking that is preventing you from being influential and heard?

To explore how one-on-one communication skills coaching can help you present you with enhanced confidence,

contact me at:



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *