I have a story to tell you from my personal life. And I was trying to build a stronger relationship with a very important person, the daughter of my partner, 20-year-old daughter. To do that, I thought, “Let’s have a great evening out, just the two girls together.”
Translator: Hui chu Chen I’d like to introduce you to these five chairs because they are actually the real protagonists of my talk. They have a special message to give to all of us, and the message is about what behaviors and attitudes we bring into the world in every moment. Now, to show you what I mean, I have a story to tell you from my personal life. And I was trying to build a stronger relationship with a very important person, the daughter of my partner, 20-year-old daughter. To do that, I thought, “Let’s have a great evening out, just the two girls together.” And I chose a special venue, the Blue Note Jazz Club in Milan. That night, the Manhattan Transfer, which is my favorite jazz group, were playing. So, we meet, atmosphere is fantastic. We are getting on very well, and I’m happy. Being a baby boomer, loving the music, I thought, “Well, is she liking it as much as I am?” So in that moment, I just turned to look at her to check. And what did I see? I saw this. She was on her iPhone. Now, how to react? I had some choices. First choice. Excuse me. What is she doing? She’s on her iPhone. I mean, I spent all this time and money thinking of a fantastic evening, I bring her here, and what? After two minutes I take my eyes off her, and she’s on her phone? I mean, what is wrong with this generation? I mean, they got the attention span of a fruit fly, for God’s sake. (Sighing) Choice number two. This was a mistake. (Laughter) Why did I bring her here? I mean, she’s bored; she’s not interested; she doesn’t like the music. What was I thinking? I mean: Why should she like the music? I mean, this is stuff for baby boomers. She probably thinks she’s spending the evening with a dinosaur. Oh, God! Choice number three. Hold your horses. Count to ten. Take a deep breath. Don’t jump to conclusions. You don’t know what she is doing on her iPhone. So just relax.Take it easy. Have another drink. (Laughter) Choice number four. Now, you know, what’s really important for me is that this evening together is special, that she feels that after this evening, she can really open up to me; she can feel safe with me, and that – I’m always an open door for her, that’s what’s really important for me. I just hope it’s going to happen – I just hope. Choice number five. What’s important for her? What’s going on in her world right now? What’s important for her? I really would love to connect to her. What do I need to do that? (Sighing) You know, I was having real problems trying to answer that question. And in that moment, she turned to me and she said, “Louise, did you know that this is the only Blue Note in the whole of Europe? And there’s one in New York, and then there’s two in Japan, but this is the only one here in Milan. That’s incredible; the Italians have got it.” And she said, “Oh, and I’ve looked up the Manhattan Transfer. Do you know that they’ve been playing and singing together for 40 years? That’s incredible!” And she said, “Also, look.” She handed me her iPhone; she’d sent a message out on Facebook; it said, “In the Blue Note in Milan, with the Manhattan transfer and Louise, the best!” Now, that was a close shave. I mean, I could’ve really spoiled that. Because I could have sent her a disapproving look from this chair. And she could’ve started telling herself about me, things about me, like, Louise, she’s controlling. She’s difficult. It’s not easy to be around her. And that was not my intention at all. And in fact, she was completely engaged. She was there, multitasking in her digital way, but she was enhancing our reality. So, in milliseconds, I could have destroyed that beautiful moment that we were creating together. And this is what we are doing all the time, we are making choices about the behaviors that we bring into the world. And the choices that we make have a direct impact on the conversations that we have, the relationships that we form, and the quality of our lives in general. So, what can we do at a practical level to help us be more conscious about this? Because they don’t train us this in school. It’s not on the school curriculum – how to behave well, really. So, what can we do? The idea of the five chairs came to me when I went and attended a nine-day course in nonviolent communication with its late founder, Marshall Rosenberg, an extraordinary man, who did so much for world peace. And after that, it sort of changed my life. After that, I decided that it was a message that I needed to get into our workplaces. Workplaces where I spend most of my time being a coach, a facilitator, and the trainer. And also, where we produce some of our most questionable behaviors, sometimes toxic behaviors. So, the idea of the five chairs is to help us slow down how we are behaving in every moment of our lives and to analyze what’s going on. So, what I would like to do is look at the chairs more closely and explain them. The red chair. This is the jackal chair. I mean, jackals are incredibly clever, incredibly opportunistic animals. They always on the lookout to attack. And in fact, this chair here is the chair where we misbehave the most. In this chair we love to blame, to complain, to punish, to gossip; but our supreme game in this chair is to judge. And if you don’t believe me, I invite you to go on a mental diet; I invite you to spend one hour with some human beings and see if you can do it without one single judgment going through your mind. I mean, watch ourselves. Somebody walks in the door, we go: bzzzzzzzzz, I like, don’t like, not really interested. And we don’t know anything about them at all. So, this chair here is a judging chair. There’s actually another game that I love in this chair, it’s the “I’m right” game. And I used to do that all time, all the time until my brother gave me some feedback. I used to do it with my mother because my mother likes to exaggerate. So she would say something like, “Oh yes, there were 30 people at the family gathering.” And my job was to correct her. I’m saying, “No, Mom, they weren’t 30, they were 13.” So, I was the policewoman of the situation. My brother touched me on the arm, and he said, “It doesn’t matter,” to which I reacted, “What do you mean it doesn’t matter? Of course, it matters. She’s wrong. And she needs to be corrected for her own good.” He touched me on the arm again, and he said, “Do you want to be in a relationship with your mother, or do you want to be right?” Big lesson. From then on, I always looked upon my mother’s exaggeration as a form of abundance. So, here in this chair, what we tend to do is we tend to see what is wrong with other people rather than what is right. Mother Teresa reminds us, “The more we judge people, the less time we have to love them.” The next chair is the hedgehog chair, the yellow chair. Now, the hedgehog – When we behave like hedgehogs, we feel very vulnerable, and we curl up, we protect ourselves against what we feel is an evil world. And what we do is we mercilessly judge ourselves in this chair. So we turn this chair, the red chair, on ourselves. And we say things like, “I’m not intelligent enough. I cannot do this. Nobody believes in me.” And we have certain fears, we have fears of being rejected, fears of disappointing, fears of failing. And we also play the victim. So it’s, “Nobody cares for me, nobody loves me.” But in fact, when I use this in companies, and I ask managers, and I say, “Where do you spend the most of your time?” Hardly anybody comes and sits here. Because it’s quite difficult to admit our weaknesses sometimes. We need a lot of courage. And yet, we all suffer from self-doubt. But it’s really, what do we do with our self-doubt? Do we give up and give in? Or do we say no? I want to find the resources and grow. And Krishnamurti says something wonderful, he says, “The highest form of intelligence is the ability to observe ourselves without judging.” So, next chair. This is the meerkat chair. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a meerkat. They are not many in Italy, but they are incredible. When they are on sentinel duty, they can stay for one hour just like this: one hour moving their head and only their head. Incredibly vigilant. And when we are in this chair, this is what we do. We’re mindful; we’re very aware; we are observant; we stop; we pause. We take a deep breath, and we’re conscious. This is the WAIT chair. W-A-I-T. What am I thinking? What am I telling myself? So here we become very curious. If somebody is angry, instead of saying, “For God sake: grow up, will you?” We think, “I wonder why that person is angry?” And we feel interested. So this chair here is … When I think of Nietzsche, this is such an important quote for this chair. He says, “You have your way; I have my way. As for the right way and the only way, it does not exist.” So here we have a choice. The red pill or the blue pill? It’s the sliding door chair. And in this moment when we make the right choice, we move into this successful living. Next chair. Here we go into the world of detect. Now, why detect? Detect because we become detective of ourselves, like Sherlock Holmes of ourselves. We take a magnifying glass, and we look at our behaviors. It’s a beautiful chair because we become self-aware. We know who we are. We know what we want. We know where we’re going. We’re not afraid to speak our truth. But we also create our boundaries. We look after ourselves in this chair. But we’re very very powerful. We don’t give our power away. Here we give our power away. So here we grow, we become free. We come into our full power. We become assertive, but not aggressive. Aristotle said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” We can be here for our whole lives. Why the dolphin? The dolphin because it’s such a wonderful animal. It’s playful; it’s intelligent; it communicates beautifully. When I think of the dolphin, I think of us at our very best as human beings. So, next chair. This is the giraffe chair. Very beautiful chair, very difficult. I don’t know if you know, but the giraffe has the biggest heart of all land animals; it’s that size. And not only does it have the biggest heart, it also has the longest neck. So it has incredible vision. So when we are in this chair, we are displaying empathy, compassion, and understanding. And in this chair, we put our egos on the back burner, and we listen to people. We hold people in our presence, and we care for them. Stepping into somebody else’s shoes and understanding them is a great act of generosity. Abraham Lincoln once said, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” So in this chair, it’s an invitation to look at other perspectives, to embrace other realities, to embrace diversity, and to become tolerant. And the most important question in this chair is what is important for him or her in front of me? And the intention in this chair is to stay connected whatever happens. So these are the chairs. How do we translate this into daily life? Well, you can imagine, if you go to work, maybe you can go, and you give a presentation, and it goes really well. So you are here, thinking, “Great, fantastic!” Then, maybe you have a meeting and things go badly, and we sink into these chairs. Now our challenge every day is to understand how to find the balance between sitting here and sitting here. Because if we’re sitting here, life is not that happy. But if we’re sitting here, in these chairs, we’re more rational; we’re more open; we’re more intelligent; we’re more thoughtful. Something that really moved me very very deeply when I first read it was this: Viktor Frankl, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, said, “Everything can be taken from man but one thing. The last of human freedoms – to choose our attitude in any given set of circumstances.” This is so powerful. So when you next want to snap at your children, or argue with your partner, or punish someone at work, try and come into this chair here and think. And if by chance, you end up in this chair – which very often happens – can we find the courage to say “I’m sorry” and make everything right again? So, my invitation to you is to take these chairs home with you. Play with them. Make them your own. Teach them to your kids; they get this immediately. Put five of them in the boardroom at work and watch how your meetings will improve. And the next time somebody presses one of your red buttons, just think: five chairs, five choices. Can we all commit to making our homes, our workplaces, and this world a better place? One behavior at a time. Thank you. (Applause)
Want to Make your marriage better? Set resonable expectations.
Setting expectations for your marriage can be a balancing act. When your expectations are high, you’re more likely to rise to the challenge of creating a rewarding relationship. However, if your expectations are too lofty, you could set yourself up for disappointment and resentment.
A disconnect between what you expect from a relationship and what you’re willing to put in. A close and lasting bond requires regular nurturing.
Success as a couple, be realistic and committed. Try these tips for developing reasonable expectations for your marriage.
Spending Time Together
The average couple spends about 2 hours a day together, and one-third of that goes to watching TV, according to the Office of National Statistics. If you’re struggling to meet your expectations, you might want to increase the quality and quantity of your interactions.
Try these techniques:
1. Plan date nights. Be intentional about your quality time. Take turns, planning romantic and entertaining evenings away from home.
2. Invite other couples. Make friends with couples whose relationships you admire. Socializing with other married adults can help you to learn new skills and possibly appreciate your partner more.
3. Seek balance. While it’s important to share time and meaningful activities with your partner, you also want to preserve your identity. Stay connected to your relatives and friends. Give yourself a chance to enjoy your own company.
Communication plays a significant role in any relationship. You can strengthen your skills by practicing on your own or with your partner.
These strategies support effective communication:
1. Listen closely. Pay attention to what your spouse has to say. Validate their feelings and experiences even if you happen to disagree. Resist the urge to interrupt. Create an environment where you both feel safe to speak freely.
2. Resolve conflicts. Conflicts are natural in any close relationship. They can even draw you closer together if you deal with them promptly and respectfully. Learn to distinguish between the things you can change and the things you need to accept. Be willing to forgive and apologize when you’re wrong.
3. Express gratitude. Let your partner know how much you appreciate them. Sprinkle small gestures of love and kindness into your daily life. Please take out the garbage when it’s their turn. Put love notes in their suitcase when they travel for business.
4. Share meaningful discussions. It’s easy to fall into a rut where your conversation is mostly about home repairs and orthodontist bills. Remember to connect on a deeper level. Talk about your shared goals. Share difficult issues with your partner and encourage their input and help.
1. Consider your purpose. Marriage was sometimes a necessity for previous generations concerned about financial security or raising children. Today, your expectations may have more to do with companionship or personal fulfillment.
2. Take responsibility. Remember that you’re responsible for your happiness and choices in life. Your partner can be supportive, but it’s up to you to take charge of your development.
3. Work as a team. At the same time, it can be easier to reach your goals when you have someone on your side. Share household chores and take a unified approach to parents.
4. Set boundaries. Healthy couples build and preserve reasonable limits. You have the right to decide how to be treated and what the consequences will be if someone fails to respect your guidelines.
5. Embrace change. Your marriage keeps evolving. You may feel disappointed that the honeymoon is over, or you may be glad to discover a more stable and mature sense of intimacy. Update your expectations as needed.
Adjusting your beliefs could enhance your married life. Use your expectations to make your relationship more joyful and satisfying.