Five Steps toward a Trusting Relationship

Show up to meet face-to-face.
Showing up is over half-way there.
Walk the talk. In the sea of life, you can’t swim if you don’t get in the water.

Stand up to be noticed, to become visible.
Don’t shuffle in, don’t burst in…just show up, ready for some action.
Let yourself be looked at.
It’s true that someone said: “anyone who stands up makes a good target.”
But don’t let it stop you.
Try not to hide, to be sneaky, to be indirect, to appear so cautious that others think you don’t have anything to say.

In your own voice, not someone else’s.
Speak from your heart, trust yourself. Right or wrong, it doesn’t matter.
Be true to your own viewpoint, your own experience.
Give voice to what you observe, what you think, what you feel, what you want.
Don’t shout, don’t intimidate, don’t threaten, don’t measure what you say by what you think others want you to say.

Listen to the Other Person’s voice.
Try not to be defensive, try not to discount the other’s viewpoint.
Discover another viewpoint, just as valid, just as solid as your own.
Let yourself feel. Bite your tongue but not your heart.
If you feel pained, consider that you are considered trusting enough to be spoken to directly, honestly. Consider that your listening brings out the Other’s voice.

Sit down to slow down.
Because a world will open unto you as you are trusted to listen up,
And as you trust yourself to really speak up.
Discover the wisdom of a relational perspective:
All real living is meeting. (Connecting is what life is all about)
A bird needs two wings to fly. (trust is a two-way street)


How we learn

Look before you leap!” When it comes  to learning, there are three approaches: Lookers, Leapers, and Landers.


Lookers are keen observers of the world around them, armchair philosophers who usually have answers for almost everything. But they hesitate to leap because they’re not sure where they will land.

So…they think and think into Analysis Paralysis.


Leapers are great at leaping, not so good at looking. So when they land, they can’t figure out how they got there.

So they leap onward in  Aimless Action.


Landers have figured out that if they look before they leap, no matter where they land, they can modify their looking and leaping to land where they really wanted to be.

So they move onward in Persistent Progress.

Lookers, Leapers, and Landers illustrate a model of human learning based on the principle of Knowledge of Results. [Read more →]

Relating Face to Face

Why you can’t tickle yourself, and others can (tickle you)

A profound question, yes!

You’d think there would be better things to ponder. But maybe this one is at the core of life itself.

Let’s start with an experiment.
Get a large book, something with a little heft (5-10 pounds will do).
Find a friend and ask her to extend her right arm with her hand palm up.
Place the book on her hand and have her hold it for about 10 seconds.
Then, quickly, without warning, take the book away.

Observe what happens.
Her right hand will jerk upwards briefly as the weight is removed.
No surprise here.

But wait.
Repeat the procedure.
Have her hold the book for 10 seconds.
But this time ask her to remove the book herself.

When she removes the book, her right hand will remain steady.

What happened?

When the book was removed suddenly, she was not anticipating it.
Neurologically, her sensory-motor system was not anticipating it.
And by not anticipating it, she could not prepare for it.
Her hand jerked up as her muscles remained flexed.
When she removed the book on her own, she was anticipating it, and her hand did not jerk up because her sensory-motor system anticipated and prepared her.
Her eyes and hands were coordinated so she had anticipatory control.

Food for thought? Definitely.

We humans are anticipatory beings, through and through. We need anticipatory control to scratch, groom, and care for ourselves. But we also need to get beyond our anticipations. We cannot tickle ourselves because our sensory-motor system gives us anticipatory control.

Try as we might, there is no thrill because our tickling fingers are connected to our skin in a sensory-motor loop in our body and brain, giving us anticipatory control of our experience. When we don’t have anticipatory control, we and our nervous systems are open for surprises.

The absence of anticipatory control is a necessary condition to be thrilled.

Now, consider this line of thought in terms of relationships, especially face-to-face interactions. When we are face to face, we have anticipatory control only of our own behaviors. As much as we might want to, we truly cannot read the mind of another.  But we do indeed anticipate what might be on that person’s mind in our assumptions, guesses, hunches. And, you know what? The other person is doing the same with us when we’re face to face. It all happens in microseconds. I guess what I’m getting at is that to be thrilled in life, we need to let ourselves be tickled, to be surprised, to be touched, moved, and even buffeted by forces that go beyond our own sensory-motor system.  Healthy relationships are inherently conflictual because they involve more than one person, more than one sensory-motor system. The separateness can foster disconnection, but it is also the necessary condition for us to deal with someone different than ourselves. Then thrill becomes possible. But our current anticipations are based on our past experiences. When those past experiences involve relationship trauma, face-to-face interactions can become torturous.

The Difference Between Heaven and Hell

I heard this story at a scout campfire years ago and haven’t forgotten it.

A man died and went to Heaven. At the gate St. Peter met him and said: “You’re not coming in yet. I want to have you see Hell so you’ll really appreciate Heaven.”

They then went to Hell and stood before huge doors. As the doors opened, the man saw banquet tables as far as his eyes could see. The tables were piled high with beautiful abundant food. But everyone in Hell was miserable and starving.

Why? Because each person in Hell had splints strapped to each arm, so they could not bend their arms to get the food from the table to their mouths.

That’s Hell. Being so close but unable to get at it.

Then they went to Heaven. As the doors to Heaven opened up, he saw the same scene. Huge tables filled with abundance. And everyone there also had splints clamped to each arm. But everyone in Heaven was happy and well fed.


(Think a moment before you scroll down for the answer)








They were feeding each other.

We humans are profoundly interdependent. We swim in the same soup of life. But when we can’t reach out to each other, when we can’t be reached out to, we might as well be in Hell.

When we are face to face, we not only breathe each other’s air, but we are at the gate of Heaven or Hell.