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Limbo: A Relationship Game-Changer

Have you ever felt like you were in a state of limbo - like you were suspended in that interminable span of time where nothing seems to move forward or backward?

It may have felt like your legs wouldn't or couldn’t move things forward - like you are bending backwards under a stick trying to make your legs move forward.

If you are in a state of limbo about anything right now, I have good news for you.

You have limitless choices ahead of you. The future is bright. You can take control – gently and easily. It will require some positive intention and some effort and you can do it. You must believe it is possible.

Let me show you how….

Whenever there is a situation or problem that causes you dissatisfaction, you have three choices and only three choices:

  1. Accept it.

  2. Change it.

  3. Leave it.

Those choices are a game changer. The secret word here is choice.

It’s critical for you to know that – in every situation – you have choices. When we exercise our choices, it feels good. It can make us feel like we have some control over a situation. As our feelings of control increase, so do our levels of satisfaction – at work, at home and in our relationships. Exercising our choices means that we are moving our feet forward – definitely more fun than being stuck under the bar.

If you have ever heard yourself say, “Well, I tried to change it and it didn’t work,” you may be stuck under the limbo bar. Revisit the three choices. Try something new this time. Switch it up.

Here’s an activity designed to provide some ideas.

Identify a situation that causes you some frustration. (I’m unhappy/frustrated about ________.) Try to be as specific as possible – one problem/issue/person at a time.

Consider: Are you willing to accept it? If you answered “yes,” then you’ve already made a decision and should feel better. Select a new problem and start again. If you answered “no” then proceed to the next question.

Consider: Are you willing to leave it? If you answered “yes,” then you’ve made a decision. Be strong and implement your decision. Select a new problem and start again. If you answered “no” then proceed to the next step.

Consider: What can you do to change it? (You should attempt to generate 5-10 ideas each time you do this. Here are some ideas to get you started….)

Change the other person.

  • Express your views - make the other person aware of problem.

  • Heighten the other person's sensitivity, over time, with consistent positive communication about the issue.

  • Notice incremental changes/efforts and express appreciation to the other person.

  • What additional ideas do you have for changing the other person?

Change the situation.

  • Talk to someone else about the situation, asking for their help.

  • Interact with that person less or in different ways (e.g., if face-to-face communication is nonproductive, can you interact via e-mail or phone instead?).

  • Change elements of the situation – people present, location/timing of meetings, etc.

  • What additional ideas do you have for changing the situation?

Change your thoughts, behaviors, attitudes, habits, skills, responses, confidence level, etc.

  • Choose to change the way you think, act, or respond.

  • Change your verbal message (i.e., what you say). Do you need to say more? Say less? Say it differently? What’s something new you can try?

  • Change your nonverbal messages (i.e., how you say it). When you speak about this issue, do you tend to have a shaky voice? Speak too quickly? Too loudly? With too much emotion? What’s something new you can try?

  • Change the way you approach the other person. Try this experiment: approach the other person with a genuine smile, a question about their weekend and a positive wish for the day. Repeat.

  • Change your responses to the other person (e.g., when they say something sarcastic or unkind to you, don’t take the bait – choose not to engage in nonproductive interactions. Find a way to make a smooth exit.)

  • Change the way you interpret the other person’s communication to you. Try to understand their motivations – their responses are likely to stem from their own insecurities.

  • Change the way you communicate to the other person (e.g., if you tend to express your thoughts when you are stressed or after things have built up and you are ready to explode, try selecting a time when you are calmer; ask yourself how the other person will best be able to hear your message and try communicating in a way that will make them more comfortable – remember it is in your best interest that they hear what you have to say.)

  • Increase your awareness of personality and/or communication style (e.g., understand your own style and/or preferences and try to understand theirs; when the message is important, make an effort to communicate to them in a way that helps them to hear your message – they are more likely to communicate better with you as a result).

  • What additional ideas do you have for changing your own thoughts, behaviors, etc.?

Write down your ideas for initiating positive change. Brainstorm with a trusted coach or confidant. Strive for more than one solution. Be creative about it. There is always something we can do to improve a situation.

As always, invite some fun into the process.

L - Look with fresh perspective.

I - Identify new strategies for change.

M - Move forward, one step at a time.

B - Bring about positive outcomes.

O - Be Optimistic remembering that you always have three choices.

Limbo, no longer an interminable state, is once again a Caribbean dance with music and laughter. Approach the bar. Hope for success. Try a new angle. And then try again.

© Kathy Sturgis, Ph.D. Kathy is founder of Refreshment Zone and is an organizational and personal development specialist with a doctorate in communication. Contact for more information on motivational programs or team/individual coaching.

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