Avoid Getting Your Buttons Pressed on Thanksgiving!

Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation 

is not to utter words, but to live by them.

John F. Kennedy

Last Thanksgiving I went to friends’ home for dessert.

John’s (names changed) parents were at the table when I arrived. I’ve known them for many years and while they’re more socially and theologically conservative than I am, we’ve had a mutual affection. 

As soon as I sat down, John’s mom made a statement that centered on the two things you shouldn’t bring up at a holiday meal – religion and politics. 

What she said was factually incorrect and I instantaneously became irritated. 

My answer was snappish, though I pulled back (I think) in time before turning into a rude guest. 

John’s mom had a sarcastic comeback and I upped it! We both knew what had happened and we backed off.

I’m embarrassed that I snapped. 

I teach, write and speak about dealing with difficult people and in the heat of that moment, none of it meant anything. 

I was humbly reminded that, truly, old habits die hard.

Why did I care what this woman blathered on about?  

Well, she was wrong and I was “right” and here’s what went through my brain at lightning speed: 

“I think you’re being stupid and therefore I’m going to fix you – at the dinner table – and I better do it quickly because I only see you once a year.”

With that kind of thinking, who’s the “stupid” one?!

Truth be told, what I’m really annoyed about is that I’m not perfect and I wasn’t the person I wanted to be. 

I don’t want to be the smug guy who’s snappish with little old ladies who love Limbaugh! 

Here’s the thing – if you know you’re going to be spending time over the holidays with people who can push your buttons, be mindful of who you want to be and how you want to behave.

We always have a choice.

What does it mean to have a choice?

While I’m not sure I can tell you how to ‘survive’ the holidays, I will remind you of something crucial that you mustn’t lose sight of: people are consistent in what they say and do

I can promise you that if you’re going to share Thanksgiving with people you shared it last year, their behavior will be much the same. 

The most obnoxious person from last year probably will be just as obnoxious this year. Whoever fell asleep watching TV in the living room last year, most likely will fall asleep this year. And the person who bored you to tears last year will do so again Thanksgiving – unless they took a workshop from me this year! 

People are consistent. Holiday celebrations take on rituals of their own, within which we each play a role. 

Given that, what should you do with the relatives that drive you batty, if not to tears? 


Change the way in which you deal with them because, if you don’t change, and they’re not going to change, then nothing is going to change and the 2022 holidays will again end up being from hell!


  • How do they press your buttons? 
  • Why do they have the ability to press those buttons? 
  • What’s really going on with those buttons?

Once you’re aware of what they’re doing, then you can decide if you are going to allow them to upset you. 

Understand that it really is a game. 

Consciously or unconsciously you and the other person are doing a relationship dance. 

Don’t like the dance? 

Then change your steps. 

 For instance, if someone asks you a rude or seemingly insulting question, rather than getting angry just play dumb!

Pretend you don’t understand what they mean and ask them to explain themselves. 

 Are you at the table with someone who has a history of deliberately riling you up? 

Laugh instead of getting annoyed. Do not give them what they want (your annoyance) and they’ll become frustrated and eventually move on.

You can make the holidays cheery and bright


miserable and bleak

The choice is YOURS!

now THAT’s the business of confidence!

The Power Of Not Wanting

The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.

Last week I Zoomed with two clients who were as different as night and day, though each shared a similar fear.

Leslie is a new referral who’s been out of work for five years. It is now clear that Leslie has a knack for sabotaging herself. The main way she does so is through her obsession with perfection.

A few years ago her goal had been to become a CPA. She signed-up for classes and got a steady stream of “C’s”.  Since nothing less than an “A” would suit her, she labeled herself a failure and quit. She says she still wants to become a CPA but is paralyzed with fear of “failure.”

Another client, Doria, recently received an exciting job offer – one she wasn’t sure she should take. For the last four years, Doria’s been working in a comfortable job that hasn’t demanded much from her. And that’s how she’s wanted it. She burned out running her own business and had wanted a job where she could replenish. She found it, but now she’s afraid – can she take on this new job with all of its challenges?

I have no doubt she can – she’s successfully reinvented herself several times. But she has the nagging fear, “what if I fail?” – and the even more nagging, “what if I succeed?”

Leslie, too, worries about success and admitted she doesn’t know what she’d do if she became a CPA.  I told her there’s only one way to find out! 

By the end of my session with Leslie, she had tears in her eyes, overwhelmed by it all.  

By the end of my session with Doria, she had a big grin on her face, as she knew what she had to do.

Although I’m not a psychologist, I know that within each woman there are deep “issues” stirring. 

I think, though, each was wrestling not only with what she wanted BUT also with what she did not want.

Doria reached a place in her life where she no longer wanted to sleepwalk through a job. That feeling of “not wanting” gave her strength to push aside fear and claim what she did want.

Leslie is at a place where she doesn’t want to let go of her need to be perfect. To believe that she could live a satisfying life imperfectly, is too frightening a proposition. She doesn’t want to let go of the image of how she should be and so she’s stuck.

Growing-up we’re often asked, “What do you want to be?”  

Maybe, though, the real question is, “What do you not want to be?”  

Answer that question and you’ll have the strength to choose your life with courage.

now THAT is the business of confidence. . .

Do you want to explore what you want from yourself – and what you DO NOT want?

To explore how life- skills coaching can help you live your life

 with enhanced confidence – and joy 

please contact me


250 Things A Confident Person KNOWS About “Confidence”

Michael Sorkin was an influential architecture writer who, in his classic book, What Goes Upchampioned “the city” as the center for nourishing and nurturing spaces – spaces sustainable and just.

Pentagram is a renowned multi-disciplinary design studio. Their 2021 holiday card was based on Sorkin’s “250 Things an Architect Should Know” from What Goes Up. The 250 items on the list contain everything Sorkin believed an architect should know.

Sorkin’s 250 items not only inspired me – they got me thinking about what a confident person should know about “confidence.” Or, more precisely, what are the truths a confident person believes that allow them to be confident?

Over the past weeks (whole recuperating from heart surgery) I compiled my list. I have no doubt my list has items that will surprise you, that you might disagree with, and that might even puzzle you. I also presume that you could add your own items that I’ve not included – and I invite you to do so in the comments


Note: the first eight are a grateful nod to Sorkin

250 Things A Confident Person KNOWS About “Confidence”

  1. The distance of a whisper.
  2. Something about Feng Shui.
  3. What the client wants.
  4. What the client thinks they want.
  5. What the client needs.
  6. Another language.
  7. Shakespeare, et cetera.
  8. The depths of desire.
  9. How to talk to a call center rep.
  10. The necessity of back-up.
  11. The reasons for their tenacity.
  12. Accidents will happen.
  13. Sentence structure.
  14. Creation is a patient search.
  15. How to listen for what is not said.
  16. What they are afraid of.
  17. The proper way to behave with direct reports.
  18. How to engage with those providing a service.
  19. The fragility of human life.
  20. What to refuse to do, even for the money.
  21. The fine print in the contract.
  22. What makes them old-fashioned happy.
  23. How to give directions, efficiently and courteously.
  24. Everyone has a story.
  25. Everyone is a story.
  26. The story they have.
  27. The story they are.
  28. How to appreciate the whack-a-do of life.
  29. How they b.s. themselves.
  30. How they b.s. others.
  31. The complexity of failure.
  32. How to become healthier from failure.
  33. What a client is afraid of.
  34. How to engage in lively small talk.
  35. Their body.
  36. Their biases.
  37. Their demons.
  38. How to stare at a wall without guilt.
  39. How to ask questions that elicit mindful answers.
  40. In what setting they are least comfortable.
  41. In what setting they are most comfortable.
  42. How to “take in” a room.
  43. How to say “no” without awkwardness.
  44. How to give a heartening compliment.
  45. How to warmly receive a compliment.
  46. How to say “thank you” and mean it.
  47. How to enjoy a meal alone.
  48. How to enjoy a meal with strangers.
  49. The ways in which they sabotage themselves.
  50. How to smile genuinely.
  51. How to smile fakely when needed.
  52. The power of a euphemism.
  53. How to talk to a child.
  54. How to tell a story.
  55. How to remember details about another person.
  56. Who they want to be.
  57. Why they want to be who they want to be.
  58. They are responsible for their bucket list.
  59. How to graciously end a conversation.
  60. How to energetically conclude a business meeting.
  61. The kindness of strangers.
  62. How to be a kind stranger.
  63. How to laugh at themselves.
  64. When to stop talking.
  65. How to decipher body language.
  66. How to ask for what they want.
  67. For what they need.
  68. How to meditate.
  69. That today is a gift.
  70. That the past is the past.
  71. That the past is in the present.
  72. That the present is in the future.
  73. Old habits die hard.
  74. How to entertain.
  75. Their limits.
  76. That it’s okay to have limits.
  77. People do not always mean what they say.
  78. People want to believe what they say.
  79. People do not see everything.
  80. People are peculiar in what they remember.
  81. People do remember how you made them feel.
  82. Confidence is not arrogance.
  83. People want to be seen.
  84. What makes them attractive.
  85. And not so attractive.
  86. Words create reality.
  87. Any sorrow can be endured if a story can be told about it.
  88. How to apologize.
  89. How to demonstrate responsibility.
  90. How to make the other feel like the most important person in the world 
  91. Or at least the room.
  92. The importance of preparation.
  93. What gives them joy.
  94. Their friends’ birthdays.
  95. When not to speak.
  96. Why they’re going into a meeting.
  97. Business is all about relationships.
  98. That office politics are real.
  99. And have consequences.
  100. Shouting is most often a signal of weakness.
  101. The power of “I’ll handle it.”
  102. The difference between realistic and unrealistic expectations.
  103. Not to say anything about themselves they wouldn’t want others to say.
  104. How to appropriately embrace their style.
  105. That “sh*t” happens.
  106. That a title is just a title.
  107. How to maintain a capacity for surprise.
  108. What it is to be loved unconditionally.
  109. What it is to love unconditionally.
  110. The comfort of friendship.
  111. How to refreshingly spend time alone.
  112. How not to be held hostage by what others think.
  113. How to deal with guilt.
  114. How to keenly observe.
  115. How to shrewdly see.
  116. What they are feeling in the present.
  117. How to delight in “the different.”
  118. Confidence is not a continuous state of being.
  119. There is a difference between fear and paranoia.
  120. Evil exists.
  121. Their perspective is limited.
  122. Their family’s motto towards life and people.
  123. When to ask, “why not?”
  124. Not to be annoyed with an invitation.
  125. How to ask for help.
  126. From whom to ask for help.
  127. They are not reinventing the wheel.
  128. Risk.
  129. They are odd.
  130. The pleasure of reading.
  131. How to respect life’s mysteries.
  132. Fear is not to be feared.
  133. But respected.
  134. And learned from.
  135. The power of ritual.
  136. How to ignore their ringing phone while in conversation.
  137. How to reject intimidation.
  138. They are more than their ideas.
  139. The deep satisfaction of teaching.
  140. Mentoring.
  141. Coaching.
  142. They will screw up.
  143. The “different” are not to be demonized.
  144. It is never about them.
  145. Though sometimes it can be.
  146. You don’t need a big vocabulary to make a big impact.
  147. Jealousy is real.
  148. How to prepare.
  149. The ways in which they can be annoying.
  150. Not everyone needs to agree with them.
  151. The impact of a felt smile.
  152. How to say “I don’t know” without arrogance.
  153. How to be silly.
  154. How to network.
  155. The importance of checking their perception.
  156. How to find enjoyment in ordinary moments.
  157. How to be content with limited sources of enjoyment.
  158. John Naisbitt got it right with his high tech / high touch prediction.
  159. It’s foolish to put anyone on a pedestal.
  160. There’s more to life than bullet-pointed lists.
  161. The difference between “I can’t” and “I don’t want to.”
  162. They don’t need to do it alone.
  163. There’s no such thing as perfection.
  164. Just the pursuit of perfection.
  165. Logic doesn’t always rule the day.
  166. How to meaningfully ask, “how can I help you?”
  167. How to let go of the word “should.”
  168. They don’t need to become a savior.
  169. The effect of words can last a lifetime.
  170. They don’t have to act on their emotions.
  171. What they know.
  172. There’s a lot they don’t know.
  173. They don’t need to know it all.
  174. Relationships are a dance.
  175. It’s okay to cry.
  176. Dark words hobble the soul.
  177. Silence can equal death.
  178. Silence can be a balm.
  179. They will be judged.
  180. That’s okay.
  181. How to feel the fear and still do “it.”
  182. There are worse things than making a fool of yourself.
  183. Though not many.
  184. The luxury of graciousness.
  185. How to manage their Imposter Syndrome.
  186. The nuances of the lies they tell themselves.
  187. How to say, “enough!”
  188. They will not like everyone.
  189. Not everyone is like them.
  190. Not everyone will like them.
  191. They don’t have to please everyone.
  192. Effectiveness is grounded in strategy.
  193. How to trust experience.
  194. “That’s just me” is a bogus boast.
  195. Humor is a tricky tool.
  196. Humor goes a long way when deftly employed.
  197. There is no “how” without a “why.”
  198. How to prevent routine from becoming a rut.
  199. Pleasure from saying, “tell me more.”
  200. How to moderate their quirks.
  201. How to be resourceful in finding essential resources.
  202. The respect offered an adult needs to be offered a child.
  203. “Respect” is another word for “Recognize.”
  204. More than they did a year ago.
  205. How to cook a favorite meal.
  206. How to revisit a difficult conversation.
  207. How to express their uncomfortableness with an idea.
  208. How to appreciate a well-crafted euphemism.
  209. Their obligations to creating clarity over equivocation.
  210. The dangers of meanness.
  211. How to be vulnerable.
  212. How to affirm vulnerability shown by others.
  213. How not to be distracted by obvious distractions.
  214. How not to suffer fools easily.
  215. Confidence can be fickle depending upon the circumstance.
  216. How not to be discouraged by that fickleness.
  217. There is an abiding pleasure in helping others.
  218. How to be generous with encouragement.
  219. The feel of operating from a place of gratitude.
  220. The virtue of Eutrapelia.
  221. The difference between confidence and courage.
  222. How to forgive their own self.
  223. How to forgive the other.
  224. They have no need to boast.
  225. They have no need to be needlessly modest.
  226. The magic of looking someone in the eye.
  227. How and why and when to post to social media.
  228. How to tell an entertaining story.
  229. The value of therapy.
  230. That “I wish” is not a wish.
  231. The closer they accomplish a goal, the wilier become their doubts.
  232. Public presenting is a gift and not a chore.
  233. Asking for help is not a character defect.
  234. Asking for help is a compliment.
  235. Good people don’t always do what they say they’re going to do.
  236. Becoming ever more fully human requires conscious commitment.
  237. How to relax.
  238. People can’t read their mind.
  239. They can’t read another person’s mind.
  240. Not to confuse “similar to” with what is unique in the moment.
  241. There’s no benefit in rewriting history.
  242. The difference between hope and catastrophic expectations.
  243. People are consistent – for good and ill.
  244. Most people want to avoid conflict.
  245. The value of a healthy, difficult conversation.
  246. Cynicism is toxic.
  247. Life, ultimately, is all in the details.
  248. To change is to be human.
  249. Confidence is an acquired trait.
  250. Life is good and worthy of their best.

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:



There Is No Secret To “Change”

If you don’t have room to fail, you don’t have room to grow.

Jonathan Mildenhall

As I wrote in previous posts, change is difficult.  

In fact, the #1 question I get from clients is: how can I change? When asking that question, clients hope I have some clear-cut formula they can follow.

There is no formula, but there is a process for change and it’s summed-up in five words:  






My client, Bob, wants to become more comfortable when speaking assertively. His great challenge has been to resist the power of his debilitating fear of, “I don’t want to upset them.”

Recently, Bob had an unsettling encounter with a woman in HR. He casually mentioned something he did in his personal life that led to his children being disappointed. The woman went nuclear, accusing him of being an irresponsible parent. She did this with co-workers looking on.

Without going into details, I can say that what Bob did was ill-advised, but it did not come close to being irresponsible.  

That night he was terribly upset – not with the HR woman, but with himself – he questioned whether he was a good father.

Next day, he reached out to the woman, but she adamantly refused to speak with him.

A week went by and he insisted she hear him out. He apologized for upsetting her and as he spoke, he noticed the anger was draining from her.

She revealed that her dog has brain cancer and she’s been on edge. She’s single, has no children and the dog is her only companion.

Bob offered sympathy and told her if she ever needed to talk with someone, she could turn to him. 

Bob works in a company that is beyond toxic. He’s battered from various corners and his job is in jeopardy. He’s made enemies by speaking truth to incompetence. He’s striven mightily to learn how to assert himself in his dealings with co-workers who are lethal in their passive-aggressive tactics.

He came to me, though, feeling confused and frustrated. He felt he failed himself in his encounter with this woman.  

I reassured Bob that he didn’t fail himself. He did make what I thought were some missteps – and that’s okay because there’s a lot that Bob did right:

  1. He didn’t engage her in the heat of the moment.  
  2. He extracted himself from her tirade.
  3. He didn’t let the incident slide.  
  4. He sought closure.
  5. He didn’t attack her and sought dialogue.

Bob had good instincts as he wanted to assertively, honestly deal with an unpleasant encounter.

Old habits, though, die hard. And some of what he did was not in his best interest:

  1. He repeatedly told me that she had hurt his feelings. Why? This woman clearly was unhinged and behaved in an inappropriate way. Why let her hurt him?
  2. He didn’t allow himself to feel anger. Bob believes he needs to control his emotions; but, in doing that he ignores what he’s feeling.
  3. He questioned his own abilities as a dad. In doing so, he gave power to this woman. Why should a verbally abusive person have the right to assess his parenting skills?
  4. While his instincts were spot on in going to clear the air with her, he approached her from the position that he had done something wrong. He apologized, but she did not. She explained the situation with her dog, but did not take responsibility for her actions.
  5. Bob is a good person. While his offer to listen to her laments about her dog is generous, it’s not to his advantage. The company is toxic. This woman has shown herself to be emotionally volatile. He’s not paid to be her friend and there’s not been enough history for a friendship at this time.

So, what does this all mean?  

Bob is engaged in the tough process of expanding his communication skills set. And that’s what he’s been doing in his work with me.

Bob’s determined; he has fire in the belly.  

He’s willing to practice different communication techniques.  

As a result, he’s experienced the messiness of learning. He makes mistakes; he’s tempted to throw in the towel. But, he’s sticking with it.  

In our coaching sessions, he reflects on what he’s doing.  This is key and it’s one of the advantages to having a coach.  

Bob takes all this and with keener insight repeats the process.

I’m convinced that this is what the business of confidence is all about!

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: