I . . . I . . . I Love You

We spend our lives wanting to hear those adoring words, “I love you.” But there…

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Love Hard, Forgive Harder

 Good advice can come from unusual places. Last week my friends Joe and Barbara sponsored…

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When Honesty and Kindness Collide

“Honey, do you like this dress?” Danger!  Danger!  Rocky passage ahead! For many reasons one…

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A Little Bit of Oil

As a boy I spent countless nights with my flashlight, reading science fiction in bed…

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The Light Bulb Has to Want to Change

This morning I received a letter from an enthusiastic reader of my first book, People…

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Predictions Have Consequences

“I decide my life when I do not understand.  I understand my life in living…

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Take Responsibility for Your Performance

The other day I was hurrying along the sidewalk on my way to get a…

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Chocolate Ice Cream and Parallel Paths

One of the more important lessons I’ve learned in life is that we all walk…

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Mindreading – If You Loved Me I Wouldn’t Have to Ask

I used to believe that if I had to ask you for something then even…

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Improve Your Relationship- Catch Them Being Better

Imagine you have wanted your partner or spouse to change their behavior for a long…

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Life is a Team Sport

I’m in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival, where every year I like to see as…

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Communicate Positively – Yes I’m Sure

Today a friend asked me for some advice on how to deal with a problematic…

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“No” Before “Yes”

  “No” is a verbal wall. It separates you from other people, and is generally…

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The Equal Relationship Is an Enduring Relationship

  I believe that every good relationship must be perceived as approximately equal by both…

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The Family Conference

  When I was seven or eight my father started holding “the family conference.”  The…

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The Marriage of Action to Consequences

  Let me tell you a story. Before starting a week-long vacation, two parents gave…

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Throw Your Stereotypes in the Wastebasket

As a child, I adopted many chiseled-in-granite ideas about how an adult should live. That…

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No I Not

My mother used to tell me that when I was two years old my favorite…

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You Don’t Always Have to Answer the Telephone

  When I was growing up we had one telephone in our home. My brother…

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You Are My Valentine

  If you are looking forward to St. Valentine’s Day, as I am, you might…

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Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask First

  Everyone who has traveled on a commercial airliner surely remembers the words, “In the…

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Will You Please Do Me a Favor?

  How do you respond when a friend asks you for a favor? While this…

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Let’s Talk about Money

  Talking about money is a taboo for most of us. We talk about politics,…

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How to Be the Right Person

  My childhood fairy tale was to grow up, fall in love, then get married…

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The Best Defense Is No Defense

  When I think of defense I think of forts in the 19th century American…

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The Five Kinds of I’m Sorry

  Many people never say “I’m sorry.”  I’m sorry for them because they are going…

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My Trip to Bountiful

  I’m reflecting on the play A Trip to Bountiful, in which an elderly lady…

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Is It Safe?

  In the 1976 movie, The Marathon Man, the hero “Babe” Levy, played by Dustin…

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Long Ago and Far Away

One Sunday afternoon when I was a kid, my family drove to the beach. I…

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One Partner Who Is Both Reliable and Exciting

I am cruising down the Danube River on a brand new Viking River Cruises boat. …

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Cuddles

  “Cuddles” is not your local lady of p . . . leisure.  She, or…

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The Sizzle and the Steak

  One enchanted afternoon, I met my wife while I was shopping in a rare…

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Catching a Feather

  When we were kids, my brother and I had the mother of all pillow…

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Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Boss? Nine Tips

  Bosses are inherently intimidating, even though most of them aren’t actually big, or bad. …

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Patterns Persist Because We Are Creatures of Habit

  Whenever I visit a buffet restaurant I eat more than I had intended. This…

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I Always Want the Best for You

  I always want the best for you, even if what you want for yourself…

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Things Are Only Things

  When I was eighteen I took the thousand-dollar inheritance from my grandmother, added some…

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Belt Buckle: Actions Always Speak Louder Than Words

  “It’s simple,” the all-star defensive lineman explained. “The great ball carriers like Jim Brown…

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If the Yolk Breaks, Fry Another Egg

When it comes to breakfast I am a creature of habit. Years ago every morning I fried one “over easy” egg for myself. I liked the yolk medium, not hard. One morning, as I dropped the egg into the frying pan, the shell punctured the yolk, which broke. I frowned, and resigned myself to another unhappy breakfast because I knew that when I turned the egg over the yolk would become hard.

I glared at the offending egg. I tried to console myself by thinking about lunch. Then a thought popped into my head. “This egg costs about twenty cents. I can throw it away and cook another egg exactly the way I like it—‘over easy.’”

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Apologize- Even if You’re Right

  We all know that apologizing can be one of the most difficult, yet helpful…

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Saying “No” – In 7 Easy Steps

Have you ever found yourself taking out your credit card to pay for something that you didn’t really want? Have you accepted an invitation to a party when you actually preferred to stay home, or entertained dinner guests far into the night because you weren’t comfortable asking them to leave?

You are not alone. Saying “no,” when appropriate, is one of the more difficult tasks in life. Many brides have told me they married their boy-friend because they were afraid to say “no” to his proposal. Of course, most did say “no,” far more painfully, a few months or a few years later.

The good news is that saying “yes” when you really mean “no” is a pattern that you can change. By paying attention to the following seven steps you can train yourself how to say “no,” and make it stick.

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10 Tools for Building Better Relationships

  Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve often found myself saying, “I wish someone…

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An Audience of One

Last Friday I appeared at the beautiful Barnes & Noble bookstore in Santa Monica, California for a People Tools book signing. The sidewalk was slippery, so I held on to Daveen who was carrying an extra box of books, just in case the bookstore ran out of copies.

Frank, the event manager, walked us upstairs to the auditorium which was filled with chairs. My assistant, Lauren, and her fiancé were seated to the right. My dad, who will be 100 years old in July, took a chair halfway back. Two friends were seated on the left.

Front row center sat a friendly woman, Saudy. I smiled at her, and said “hello.” We had a brief chat, as I thought, “Only one member of the public here? If she leaves I’ll really be preaching to the converted.”

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The Ticker Tape

I agree with Ralph Ellison and I am, at least in part, “an invisible man.” How is it possible not to be? I have so many thoughts and feelings that it is impossible for me to convey to you all that passes through my mind. Also, I am selective. That is a polite way to say that I edit before I talk. If I think that you will dislike certain words or ideas I will trim my speech to suit your taste. I will censor myself in an attempt to avoid your disapproval. (And, of course, there are certain topics, which “nice” people simply don’t talk about.)

All of this is perfectly normal. But occasionally I want something which is going to slip away from me forever unless I act immediately and make myself completely visible. This was the case when I first met my wife Daveen more than thirty-five years ago. In the 2011 movie We Bought A Zoo the leading man, Matt Damon, advises his son that to woo and win his ladylove he needed “Twenty seconds of insane courage.”

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Pineapple Fluff

For me, and perhaps for you, one of the more difficult emotions to deal with is anger.

My father used to get angry a lot. If he was worried about money he stormed around the house and the rest of us stayed out of his way. When I asked for something he didn’t want to give me he shouted. When I broke the glass table in the living room . . . well, I won’t go further into that.

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Stick It Out

Today I drove 77 miles North from Los Angeles to attend the first 100th birthday party I have ever been invited to. I stopped at a drug store to buy a card for Bill, the birthday boy. Finding no greeting cards for a 100th birthday, I bought two cards congratulating him on his 50th birthday. The cards were funny and turned out to be a hit.

I have been a guest at Bill’s birthday parties for more than twenty years. At first there was a dinner at the home of one of his two daughters, but in recent years Bill has lived in a bed, mostly reading or sleeping, in an assisted living facility. He was born in 1914, before the start of World War One, and has been a friend of my father’s for more than 80 years. My father will celebrate his own 100th birthday in five months, and I’m looking forward to mine on March 5, 2040.

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Your Money or Your Wife

At age 21 I was married and living with Jo Anne in a one bedroom furnished apartment on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Los Angeles. I was enrolled in law school, but during the summer I held a full time job with the National CPA firm Peat, Marwick, with offices in downtown Los Angeles.

I commuted to work each day, and figured it was cheaper to commute by bus for twenty-five cents than to drive fifteen miles each way and pay for parking. When I returned home in the evening the cost of one additional “zone” on the bus was seven cents. Even though I didn’t like walking, I left the bus at Beverly Glen rather than ride another few blocks for seven cents more.

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Throw out the Dish Towel

Tonight is New Year’s Eve, when we celebrate out with the old. Good riddance, I say. The coming New Year has all the promise which we could possibly desire – we can lose weight, save money, and improve our relationships. When was the last time we had that golden opportunity?

I remember. It was about a year ago when I viewed the first sunrise of 2013. Funny how each year gets old, just like we do. How can we ensure that twelve months from now 2014 will not join that awful 2013 in the dustbin of our mind?

First, practice laughing at yourself.

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The Gift of Yourself

Tonight is Christmas Eve and most of us are shopping, anticipating, or trying to complete whatever before year end. Here I am at my dining room table writing a blog. For your sake, and mine, I’ll make it short.

I have an idea for a single gift that will cost you nothing, is already gift wrapped, and will bring joy to you and to hundreds of others for the eight remaining days this year, and the 365 days available in 2014.

Give the gift of yourself.

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Kids Will Be Grownups

I have nine children. Three are from my first marriage, two stepsons from my second marriage, and three daughters from my third marriage. (My final marriage, as Daveen would say.) For those few of you who check the numbers like I do, I add one foster child who graduated with honors from Tufts University.

They range in age from 26 to 51. Each has graduated from college. They have earned twelve graduate degrees among them. And every single one was once seven years old, as well as sixteen years old — just like you and me (unless you’re now younger than sixteen – but even so, there is already an adult blossoming inside of you).

I mention all of this not to brag, though I am extremely proud of each of my children, but to point out that every one was once an adult in waiting. I never spanked a single child. I never “grounded” a child. What I did was to consistently expect responsible behavior.

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“Knock Knock.” “Who’s there?”

“Would you like to have lunch with me tomorrow?”

“That would be fine.”

“Are you sure?”

Aye, there’s the rub. “Are you sure?” The words are polite, the intent pure, but the implications to a relationship are as perilous as a poisoned dart.

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No One’s Child

“Foster” is variously defined as “substitute,” “temporary,” or “short-term.” So a “foster child” is an actual human being who is a “substitute,” “temporary,” or “short-term.” The antonym is “natural,” so a foster child is also not natural.

We met N (No One’s Child) after her mother could no longer care for her. As best I recall, N was about ten years old and a friend of one of our daughters in school. Both were young girls, both were in the same class, both were smart and ambitions. There was one slight difference. N was temporary and our daughter was permanent.

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My Wife

  says that she married Mr. Right. She just didn’t realize that my first name…

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Cutting Through the Fog

Yesterday afternoon the airplane carrying me from London was on approach to the airport in Palma, Majorca. As I looked through my window I was concerned that we were landing in a rather heavy fog, but I had confidence in ground radar and our pilots. After we landed safely I looked through a window on the opposite side of the plane, to see no fog at all. I looked back through my window. Heavy fog.

Was there fog on my side of the plane and not on the other? No. My window was fogged over, creating the impression of fog outside. Beyond my window the air was clear.

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How to Find the Right Person

Tom had never found the woman of his dreams. Although he cared for a ten year old son from a short term relationship, he had never married. Then Tom met Vanessa. Their relationship progressed beautifully. They enjoyed camping out together, practicing yoga, and he found her to be his best companion ever.

Tom was about to leave on a five day camping trip with friends when his cell phone rang. It was Vanessa, sobbing. Tom could hardly understand what she was saying. Through her spasms of crying Vanessa seemed to be repeating the word “Princess” again and again. After a few minutes she calmed down slightly and Tom finally understood her message.

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From Whence Flows Love

What builds in a relationship over years or decades and can be lost in an instant?

A stand-up comedy show in Edinburgh is a strange place for me to receive the best compliment my wife has ever given me. And this was not in private and Daveen was not even talking to me. She was answering a question asked by a comedian, David Morgan (who I certainly recommend), in front of an audience of thirty people, four of them dear friends.

The comedian was making fun of the fact that few of us feel pretty, and he pointed to Daveen and asked, “Does your husband ever tell you he thinks you’re pretty?”

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Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

I am more than sixty years beyond my first childhood, but today I smiled to see children playing the age-old game of hide and seek. Everyone else hid while “it” counted to ten then called, “Here I come, ready or not!”

When “it” found and tagged another player, he or she became the next “it.” Several children ran fast enough to touch home base before being tagged and were safe for the next round. Finally “it” called, “Come out, come out, wherever you are,” and the players still hiding raced for home with many delighted shrieks and giggles.

I was never quick at hide and seek, so I had to be clever in hiding. But I wasn’t clever at hiding either, so I was “it” most of the time.

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