Do you believe that attempting to reason with unreasonable people is an exercise in futility? Or is it an opportunity to create love?

Dr. Joseph Shannon, a seasoned psychologist, presented our symposium with an impressive set of methods for communicating with especially challenging individuals. Effective communications require a blend of reasoning (head) and compassion (heart). 

In heated discussions, are you able to clear your resistance to love and interact from a place of openness and non-judgment?

In heated discussions, are you able to clear your resistance to love and interact from a place of openness and non-judgment?
In heated discussions, are you able to clear your resistance to love and interact from a place of openness and non-judgment?

Use this idea as a measure of whether you are open and closed in your spirit: If you leave a conversation feeling more angry, lost and unheard, you may be blocking your senses and using your ego to preserve your power.

Here are Dr. Shannon’s 5 key strategies to help manage uncomfortable conversations with compassion and grace.

  1. Listen. Feeling heard promotes emotional healing more than anything else. It sends the message to others that you honor them. Use soft eyes and a relaxed posture to let the other person know you are present.
  2. Focus. By asking someone his or her feelings in a tough moment has a calming effect. It creates the opportunity for him/her to de-escalate and slow down their racing mind and confusing emotions. ”Can you tell me how you are feeling right now?”
  3. Identify. What core beliefs are being triggered? When listening carefully, you will notice that the person repeats certain words. These key words contain strong indicators of insecurities below the surface:  “I am not good enough.” “I am entitled.” “I feel abandoned.”
  4. Seek. Can you look for the strengths of the other? Take the opportunity to remind someone of his or her ability to cope/find humor/breathe in tough times. Strengths help them find their center and take an emotional break. Then link their strengths to how they can deal with the situation at hand. “You are a great listener. If your heart could tell you something, what is it saying?”
  5. Understand. Humans are essentially built to respond positively and reasonably when core emotional pieces are in place. We desire to:
    1. feel understood and appreciated
    2. be given the benefit of the doubt and treated equally
    3. have freedom to decide


How many times a day do you search for your keys, phone and wallet?

When you are out and about, how often do you see posted signs that remind you to hang on to your valuables?

For most of us, our valuables are kept in a special place. Our valuables could be anything at all – a gift, a photo of a happy time or a family recipe. Whenever we enjoy these valuables, we pause, smile and are reminded of the meaning we have attached to them. If we lose something valuable, we tend to express sadness and frustration because something important is missing from our lives.          


To the rest of the world, our valuables may seem weird, distorted or even crazy. How could anyone possibly understand why our unique collection is so important?  

And then, there are times when we sense the meaning behind our valuables has shifted or diminished. What happened? Maybe you are clearing a space for a new valuable. Maybe your valuable is no longer significant. Maybe you want to be free of valuables that keep you trapped or limited in some way. Practice this imagery exercise today and listen quietly for answers.

Take a deep breath in and breathe out. Move past your senses and into the TV screen of your mind.

  • What’s on your shelf?
  • Do your valuables need dusting or is it time to give them away?
  • How do you feel when you gaze upon each valuable – content or disgusted?
  • Are you ready to remove the big valuables that take up so much room in your life like worries, disappointments and resentments?
  • Are you ready to polish and care for the small and fragile valuables like love, understanding and patience?

Slowly return to your surroundings. Write or draw any messages that came through for you.

Moving forward…

Schedule a few minutes in your morning – ideally before you start running around – and search for your valuables. What are you hanging onto right now? If this valuable isn’t useful, send it to the recycle bin. Then, commit to only hanging onto your life-boosting valuables throughout the day. Share these valuables with love. No doubt, your efforts are invaluable to you and to the world.


When going through hard times we make promises to avoid future heartache.  We say next time “I’ll approach things with an open heart, not ready fists.” Next time “I’ll be kinder to myself.” 

“Humans have come to accept life as struggle. Instead, seek heroic landscapes of peace, love and joy. Write your script around these themes. 

Despite such promises, another story emerges and again we head straight into the boxing ring. Round after round of mental and emotional blows are exchanged. At the end of the match a referee announces no winner. Our thoughts and feelings are reeling from the stings of these blows. What happened to our vow of an open heart and kindness? 

Human beings have come to accept life as struggle. We can easily identify people  whose entire life story is to walk around as a victim of one terrible circumstance after another. They have trained themselves to feel put down, sick or lost. They have mastered tolerating both their unhealthy thoughts and unhealthy interactions. They accept this script – which they have written!!! – and they believe this is how life happens To Them versus For Them.

Client Marjorie has a long and rocky relationship with her past. A broken record of same old thoughts and feelings cycle through her mind. Marjorie invents new lyrics of similar chaos to keep listeners tuned in, but the stories are essentially a theme of loss and struggle.

Higher Truth: Change Your Thoughts/ Change Your Life.

Script yourself as the heroic protagonist rather than the downtrodden victim. Become your own hero. Seek heroic landscapes of peace, love and joy. Write your script around these themes. Ditch the depressing drum beats.

And when struggle and loss come knocking nonetheless, see them through the prism of how peace and love can unfold themselves in unexpected ways. Commit to seeing yourself and your circumstances with fresh eyes.

Inner growth happens in the mind. Imagination (IMAGE) resides in our mind’s inner sanctum. Picture yourself strengthening in spirit and your return to innocence and wholeness is that much more in view. To open yourself to strength try this clearing exercise.

Close your eyes. 
Image you and your struggle together in the boxing ring.
See yourself standing tall. Slowly expand and grow strong. Feel inside what you see.
A bright spotlight now shines down encircling only you. Feel its warmth.
Bit by bit image your opponent shrinking. At last they disappear.
Surrender to the scene you have created. Stay with it. Feel your feet firmly rooted.
You are now alone in the ring, standing tall and purposeful.
The light shines brighter and brighter. You are its only focus. Feel your True Self.
As you exit center right, watch yourself depart in full light and love. 
You are on a new path.  Stay with it. Don’t look back.

Is it time to feel strong again? Rita can show you how!


Don’t we love a good movie? When we watch films, we anticipate connecting to a memorable story and something larger than ourselves. A good storyline captures our imagination, requires attention, and captures deep emotions. Powerful stories contain multiple scenes which often ricochet from intrigue to action to despair – and finally resolution. 

“How we tell our stories is important. Our stories play out and are interpreted by each of us.

If we consider, each human being is living out his own movie.  “All the world’s a stage,” comes to mind. Even as we star in our own productions, we take various roles in others’ productions as well. Sometimes we are cast as villain. Others have us appear as heroine, or simply sideline us as reliable friend.  We engage as lovers, fighters, rescuers. There is probably no role we have not played, although victim is among our favorites. We likely conceal that we are ourselves victimizers, a role we vehemently deny.

How we tell our stories is important. Our stories play out and are interpreted by each of us. We interpret meaning to ourselves and then share them as well with others, often without being aware. Meaning is transmitted through our words, tone of voice, and gestures. They are key clues to how we and others find meaning, acceptance and resolution to each scene. Make the best use of your storytelling techniques in these two ways:

1. Decide why are you telling the story. Are you using it to inspire, entertain or teach? Are you looking for empathy and connection? Trying to prove yourself? Gain power you’ve lost? Are you searching for your story’s truth?

A typical question I get from clients who are in the process of divorce is, “How do I tell this story?” The underlying fear is that others will pass judgment or humiliate them for making this tough decision. Emotions run high during such a life-changing event.  How we tell our story – to others and ourselves – determines if we recover quickly or are confined to struggle and self-doubt.

2. Set the scene. Who or what is the story about? Are you casting your spouse as a lazy and angry person? It’s better to offer straight information without interpretation.  Being overly dramatic can be judged as manipulative and confusing. Listeners will draw their own conclusions anyway.

As a Wellness Coach I counsel clients to tell their story in a way that keeps them strong and empowered. We discuss how to communicate to others they are okay, but may need time. We select specific words to better match the language they are unconsciously communicating through their eyes, voice and body. 

Rehearsing lines helps clients find a script that is honest, easy to remember and authentic. It is also a means of intentionally building up energy to synchronize with their mindful direction. Others are then better able to see the leading actor taking charge of their destiny, and heading towards resolution. Isn’t that what heroes are made for?

How are you telling your story? Pay attention to your reasons for sharing it and set the stage. Be aware of the emotions you stir up in yourself and others. Know that emotions are the most telling barometer for testing whether or not your story is harmful or constructive. 

Your mission: Make sure your story promotes connection and enhances trusting relationships.


Hearing a good joke or laughing at life brings ease to our days and closeness to others. We are naturally attracted to and seek out people who make us happy. Humor is a strong leadership and communication skill. When humor is done right, it reduces stress, promotes creativity and builds connectivity within social groups and work teams.

Humor helps our bodies.

Stress is no joke. Unhappiness in the United States comes at a really high cost. In fact, stress research indicates it is one of the six leading causes of death. Billions of dollars are spent on foods, vitamins, workshops, therapy, drugs and exercise on the pursuit of stress-free living. It is said that laughing is the fastest and most dependable way of turning off the stress button. And it’s free!

Humor opens our minds.

“When humor is done right, it reduces stress, promotes creativity and builds connectivity within social groups and work teams.

— Rita Abdallah

Humans are built with the innate capacity to create and be creative. Laughter gives our controlling, confused and chaotic brains a rest. Flow and focus effortlessly show up as we step more into our imagination.

Humor lightens our hearts. 

Laughing time is not a waste of time, especially in the workplace. Humor breaks up awkward and challenging situations throughout the day. When I worked at the cancer center, humor opened up broken hearts, physical pain and distress. Patients and loved ones need and depend on humor to get through cancer’s messy moments. As staff, humor helped us cope with non-stop work demands and losses.

Some Do’s and Don’ts on sharing and promoting healthy humor at home and work:


Use universal humor. Jerry Seinfeld and Friends were highly successful TV sitcoms looking at the quirky side of life and relationships.

Avoid jokes targeting a specific group of people such as those of different ethnic/racial backgrounds. This can be a tough one to practice.  If you think you’re crossing a humor line, you probably are. Apologize if necessary.

If someone starts a joke and you sense it veering off, it may be best not to stay for the punch line. At some point, tell the jokester the joke was not acceptable or appreciated. Otherwise, the jokester will continue to joke in this manner.


Don’t laugh at anyone because of the way they dress, wear their hair and eat their food. Gossip is hurtful and harmful. 

Don’t continually make yourself the butt of jokes. This is a sign of low self-esteem and insecurity. If you know the comedian Rodney Dangerfield, you will get my drift.

Don’t use sarcasm. People are super-sensitive. Why go through the effort of trying to be funny in your eyes only? Sarcasm can be interpreted in unexpected ways.

Join Rita for two workshops on workplace humor. Workshops are for social workers, counselors and psychologists. 3 CEUs are available per course.


Are you a teacher or a student of life? 

“A learner is someone curious about life. Because you are both teacher and student, there is much power in seeing which ideas wake up your spirit and which ideas positively strengthen you.

— Rita Abdallah

For some time I questioned whether or not teaching others was a good idea. Would my messages mean anything to the world? Isn’t it easier to be a lifelong student? I stressed about my need to keep people excited and interested with unique ideas. The struggle ended once I figured out that expressing ideas of love never get tired, old or dull. I see that sharing love messages is a rewarding service.

Believe it or not, you are in constant learning mode. Depending on your life experiences at any given moment, you will end up either sharing or learning an idea. If you have an idea you are sharing it. If you share an idea you are learning it.

A learner is someone curious about life. Because you are both teacher and student, there is much power in seeing which ideas wake up your spirit and which ideas positively strengthen you. Activate your learning mode to make healthy and loving choices in these four ways.

Write a list of your top three beliefs. According to Webster’s Dictionary, belief is “a feeling that something is good, right or valuable.” Believing in something means you invest your faith in an idea that guides you during transitions and unsettled times.

Live judgment-free. When you are in learning mode, the world is an endless question. Asking questions free you from labeling an experience or person. When you are confused or facing difficult choices, find your answer by checking internally: “What can I learn here? Will my decision be a continued projection of my beliefs or a twisted version of my ego?” Hopefully, you will cut to the chase and make your next move based on what is good, right or valuable.

Practice your beliefs. When you write, speak or send energy to someone, it is an extension of your belief system. For example, I am a big believer in joy. When I project joy in any form I am teaching joy. Others are now inspired to project joy too because it makes them feel good. Because joy is so valuable to me, I seek opportunities to reinforce and increase it.

Unleash useless beliefs. Does fear drive your life? Do you feel safe in the world? If you are in doubt right now, take a moment and understand that fear in any form means you believe in it. If you are driven by fear you are teaching fear. Remind yourself that you can change direction at anytime. Persuade your fear to go into retreat. Awaken your mind to your deepest genuine beliefs. Remind yourself of the values which resonate within your heart.

Learning mode allows you to be more clear about who you are and your place in the world. It also gives you the opportunity to discover and open yourself to spiritual enrichment. A delicious quote from Master Teacher Jesus Christ says: “Remember that if teaching is being and learning is being, then teaching is learning. Everything you teach you learn. Teach only love, and learn that love is yours and YOU are love.”

Work with me to learn more about your Amazing Self – I’d love to help you!


As a kid, I loved the popular American TV game show “Name That Tune.” A well-known song played aloud over the airwaves for several seconds, while two contestants went head-to-head trying to be the first to correctly name the song’s title. As a devoted viewer, I tried hard to get the song’s correct name even before the contestants. I loved yelling at the TV with an answer and being part of the action.

Can you name your tune and win? Image:
Can you name your tune and win?

As I reflect back on this favorite show, I am hit with a flash of inspiration. As humans, we compose the rhythms of our lives, often as if on auto-pilot, sometimes outside our own awareness.  

Quick: Can you name “Your Tune” in 10 seconds or less? Or, are you tuned out? Here are three strategies for buzzing in with the winning answer.

1. Recognize your music.

Name the most frequent emotion or feelings arising in your heart in the last 24 hours? Were you able to figure it out in mere seconds – or did you need to repeat the question before an answer showed up? 

Tell me, what tune are you playing? Is it a love song, country music, classical guitar, hard rock, New Age or the Blues? Write a Song!

When we are clear and plugged into our hearts, we can quickly figure out how to strengthen or adjust the beat. I immediately hear my inner voice tell me, “New Age,” which I interpret to mean I am heading for adventure. Tuning in further, my voice tells me the New Age is connected to growth in my career. I’m excited!

Listen with focus to the notes.

Write down the feeling you just heard. Is it a feeling that makes you sing or causes you to slow down?

When we’re alone, it is easier to pay attention to whether or not we’re out of sync. Silence gives our mouths a break. Silence allows our ears a chance to hear what our heart is saying. These days I’m being told “openness.” It’s a challenge to look at my schedule and identify any natural flow. All I see are days filled with commitments, and I wonder if I will have enough fuel to get me to the end of the year. Yet, when I stay focused on being open, the temptation to feel overwhelmed settles down.

Buzz in!

Which emotion buzzes first into your heart … fear or love? 

Fear can make or break your chances of claiming your heart as your own. When we’re afraid of our feelings, we may surrender them over to others. Soon, our heart feels empty and lost. Remind yourself: It’s okay to love myself and be in charge of my heart. I now choose love. To hear our inner voice acknowledge love comforts us.

The past few weeks have been emotionally demanding with loss and family flareups. The opportunity to express tenderness, compassion and forgiveness expands my heart. These are new tools designed for practice and sharing with others. 

And the winner is…You! Pay attention. Buzz in with confidence. Commit to the practice of inner awareness. In this way your heart will find it’s winning groove, and you’ll learn that the music your soul composes is intended to guide vs. accompany you throughout your life


Regular doses of humor fuel our whole selves from the inside out. Within minutes of a humor injection good vibes start to percolate in our cells and flow outward. Humor relaxes us and points us in a positive direction. Our brains get excited and imaginations crack open. We naturally settle into a playful place and break away from the stress zone. What is humor?

Humor maximizes and strengthens the joyful part of us and gives us so much good energy.
Humor maximizes and strengthens the joyful part of us and gives us so much good energy.

Does humor transforms us and our relationships? Yes! Humor breaks down barriers between people and shows us we are not so different after all. In that place of silliness we bond to others. Resistance lessens. We return to the playground where humanity intersects with the heart.

How can we maximize and strengthen the joyful part of us which gives us so much energy in return? Tap into these four valuable humor insights:

Have you ever met someone who laughs at something most people would find painful or hopeless? Life gives us reasons to experience laughter and tears. Some of us have figured out that humor busts our minds out of the grind and keeps us feeling young and well. Others learn that crying is better reserved for special occasions and is not a productive daily activity. As a social worker at a cancer center, I witnessed patients who used humor to heal, and others who believed cancer was no laughing matter.

Isn’t it great when we look back at our lives and break down in uncontrollable laughter? Think about it: just remembering someone’s laughing face from the past makes us laugh. Whenever I run into people from high school, I get a twinkle in my eye and tell my belly it’s time to shake. No doubt, these encounters serve as opportunities to dig up a funny memory and laugh together. I am grateful time makes no difference when it comes to humor.

Who tickles your funny bone? Let’s face it. Funny people are irresistible. We are drawn to and depend on people who make us laugh. Just the thought of a funny person can put a smile on our faces today and maybe will even 100 years from now. We can instantly visualize the way they speak, use facial expressions, and even their bodies to heighten delivery. They are Master Maximizers of Humor. 

As I turned to YouTube for comedic inspiration, a Robin Williams video (RIP) popped up.  I watched it with great appreciation for his over-the-top gift of hilarity. Then I shared the video with my husband so we could laugh it out together. This instant comic relief was a wonderful surprise that uplifted us.

How does humor show us a lighter side? Humor creates unique breakthroughs in times of breakdowns. It also makes it easier to travel back to a trying time and see things from a lighter perspective. It clears up dried debris, filling us with a fresh glass of fun. Laughter releases parts of the brain and heart that hold on to negativity and suffering. It instructs emotions to wake up on the right side of the bed.

I won’t forget a joyful lady named Carol at the cancer center. She had brain cancer, and for years came in for a weekly treatment. Carol sat in the same chair every Friday. She spread her laughter all over the place. “Carol’s Corner” became a hub where patients clamored for one of the coveted treatment chairs to be near her. Staff loved it when Carol was around because her light helped them smile and get through the day. “Laugh and the world laughs with you” was Carol’s cancer-fighting creed for living.


November draws us close to the beautiful season of thanks. We contemplate good and memorable times with those we appreciate. It is a joy to express our thanks for those who inspire us each day to live from a place of peace, love and joy.

A grateful heart opens us to the beauty all around us.
A grateful heart opens us to the beauty all around us.

Research reports, “Those who practice gratitude – taking time to notice and reflect upon what they’re thankful for – experience more positive emotions, feel more alive and energized, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and possess stronger immune systems.”

On tough days our egos strive to overtake us. They block us from appreciating the opportunity to learn something new, gain perspective and grow. Instead we prefer to sit in our sorrows, defend our rightness and hang on to anger. If this is all we experience in life we get tired, stuck and sad. By being grateful we are able to move past this stuff and take a break from the drama. Just a simple act or a grateful thought for even a few seconds can be a great heart opener!

Once you start planting seeds of gratitude in your heart, you may find that a daily dose of it can make a big difference in how you see the world. Gratitude goes beyond being a giver or a receiver of favors and compliments. It creates grace, joy, belonging and a positive flow with our fellow human beings. 

Authentic gratitude is not low-level lip service – dispensing favors and compliments. A true gratitude practice shows us how to change with ease, lift our moods and soften our edges. If you’re new to a gratitude practice or a gratitude guru play with these fresh ideas to expand your toolkit.

  1. Gratitude practices align with values. One of my values is integrity, meaning acting with authenticity and being truthful regardless of the situation. I can’t tell you how many times my insides have turned upside down with life events over this past year. At first running away from the situation and hiding from others seemed like the perfect solution. But my integrity button kicked in and those options were not okay. I had to dig deeper for authentic and truthful answers. Eventually I got there and discovered the right answers led me to peace and a release from my own drama. 
  2. Go back in time. Do you carry worn out childhood or past relationship stories that require a re-frame? In your mind’s eye bring up an old file. Look at the event. Now, with intention, create re-imaged scenes allowing gratitude to flood the experience/relationship. Take a look at the person or event you keep bringing up from time to time. Can you find at least two ways to be grateful for this experience/relationship? Take your time and find the gifts – they are there. Did it make you stronger? Did you get the chance to stand tall or speak up for yourself? Did you get to walk away only to discover something bigger and better?

    Feel yourself firmly rooted, empowered by a mental revisit which transfers power, understanding and compassion to your long ago Self.  Close the file when gratitude has accomplished its transformation magic. Toss outdated and self-defeating scenes to the trash heap.
  3. Be grateful for yourself. What is the compliment you receive most from others? Are you a great listener? Generous of heart? Kind? Genuine? Put your hands on your heart and repeat out loud the following affirmation. Fill in the affirmation with your words.

Put hand on heart and repeat aloud, in this or your self-styled version:  “People say I am sincere. And so I gratefully express sincerity in meaningful ways. I am grateful to share sincerity with the world. When I am sincere I inspire others to sincerely express who they are and what they feel.”


An attitude of gratitude…why bother? 

These days, research, articles and books highlight the positive benefits of a simple thank you. Are you ready to super-size your gratitude scale? 

A grateful person draws people in, is emotionally stronger and finds richer moments in their daily activities. 

Like any other skill, you can exercise your appreciation muscles for maximum benefits. Start your gratitude practice in small and mighty ways. 

A grateful person finds richer moments in their day-day life.
A grateful person finds richer moments in their day-day life.

Self-awareness is the root of all healthy change. Try these 3 strategies to embrace your Gratitude Guru and boost your long-term happiness.

Hunt for appreciation opportunities. Track your day and notice how much time you spend in a state of gratefulness. Is there room for more acts and expressions of gratitude? Each night, I spend a few moments looking back at my day and writing down three things for which I am grateful. Over time, my journal entries revealed a true appreciation for walking outside, moments with loved ones and material things that bring ease to my days. Gratitude gurus seize opportunities of appreciation to infuse their lives with more joy and greater connection to others. 

Be aware of your gratitude signals. At presentations, I ask audiences, “what is your personal ‘gift’ that you easily share with others?” It stirs them to think about how their unique style of caring with clients, patients or loved ones. Whenever possible, I prefer to thank people in person with thoughtful words and soft eyes. Find natural ways to use your whole self – your voices, gesture and body language to show appreciation. You may share a warm smile, write a heartfelt note or send flowers. Gratitude gurus use their imagination and creativity to find appreciation-driven possibilities from the time they wake up to when they go to sleep. 

Manage your life with gratefulness. Recall a time when you didn’t feel grateful for your life. Imagine every aspect of that moment and notice how you feel right now. Is it pleasant? When you don’t get your way, don’t win or don’t know what’s coming next, your thoughts and hearts feel heavy and dark. Practice gratefulness to step out of yuck and into hope. Gratitude gurus believe that a gratefulness mindset enhances their overall wellness, outlook and productivity in all areas of their lives.