Steven Gaffney’s Communication Blog

The 3 Biggest Mistakes Businesses Make

Please click on the links below to listen:

Part One: How to Defeat Troublesome Blindspots

  • The “Four Walls” theory
  • Encouraging debate, suggestions, and feedback
  • Accepting and appreciating being wrong in a discussion


Part Two: How Not to be Too Customer-Focused, While Creating Excellent Customer Relationships.

  •  What customers are not saying – and evaluating their true needs
  • The Confirmation Bias mindset – we’re all guilty!
  • The priceless value of mentors and advisors

The Three Levels of Honesty

Learn about the three levels of honesty and how they can improve your work and personal life.

Source: Public Interest Podcast,

The Cancer Wake Up Call

Some of you may not know, but I am a survivor of testicular cancer. Although I am cancer-free and completely healthy, there were a few things that remained and those were eight very important life lessons that I learned during my journey.

* * *

It was 9:00am on April 13, 2009. I was healthy. Or so I thought. By lunch time, I was not healthy. The roller coaster of life was about to take some major turns…

I was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

The doctor gave me an interesting perspective when he said, “If you have to have cancer, testicular cancer is a good one to have. It’s virtually 100% curable.”

On one hand, I felt extremely fortunate and relieved of the prognosis. However, on the other hand,  I was shocked. I had the BIG ‘C’.   Several thoughts ran through my head:

“Oh my God! This can’t be happening to me.”
“I never get sick.”
“No one in my family has had it.”
“Why me?”

Then I felt guilty for feeling sorry for myself. I tried to “motivational speak” myself into sucking it up and dealing with it.

Let’s fast forward to the end of this story. I was fortunate. My doctors caught it early. I had an operation. I went through nine weeks of chemotherapy treatment. As of today, just as my doctor predicted, I have a clean bill of health. While the BIG ‘C’ is gone, I have learned invaluable lessons that will stay with me forever.

Truth be told – before April 13th, 2009 – I lived like the Teflon Man. I had heard of many tough situations – health challenges, people passing, tough breakups, financial worries, and more – and thought, “Wow. That situation is so awful; so challenging. I feel so sad for that person.” But, after some time, I wouldn’t think too much about the situation and would continue on with my life.

On April 13th, 2009, the Teflon came off. What stuck, changed my life. I’ve outlined the lessons I learned from my experience. I truly hope these lessons will help you as you deal with life challenges.

Lesson 1:  The worst lies you ever tell are the lies you tell yourself.

I have been teaching strategies on how to use honesty to resolve issues and conflicts. As I reflect on my experiences, it took that single day in April for me to shed the Teflon and really get honest with myself.

Yes – I’m the president of my own company, an author of three books, and for nearly twenty years, a professional speaker who teaches people to use honest communication.  But, yet, as embarrassing as this is to admit, I had not been honest with myself.

I had been wasting time – years – thinking I needed to pay my dues before I could take the time to sit back and enjoy my life. I thought I could compensate for the time I was giving up. In other words, I thought that one day, it would all pay off. I always thought:

“One day,  I will spend more time with my loved ones.”
“One day, I will start a family.”
“One day, I will travel around the world.”

It was as if someone was keeping a ledger on my life. If I made enough deposits I could always cash it in later and reap the rewards – the other aspects of my life that I was missing.

Although the doctor did say my prognosis was virtually one hundred percent curable, I couldn’t help but think:

“What if that one day of pay off never comes?”
“What if it’s too late for my ‘I will do it later’ mentality?”
“What if those days to make good never come?”

Honestly, I was living as if time was in endless supply, even though I knew the fragility of health and life. I realized that I just didn’t get it.

Before my diagnosis, I was living as if others would be around when I was ready  to enjoy them… you know, when I fulfilled the goals I was working towards.

I felt silly and selfish for thinking this. After all, if I could have something like the BIG ‘C’, others could have a lot worse. And, the sad truth was, at least in some respects, it actually was too late. Some people were gone. It was too late to enjoy them. I missed the opportunity. Friends have moved on and were gone. My grandparents and several relatives were gone.  Vanished. Done.

Don’t wait until tomorrow to start living your life, make that one day be TODAY!

Lesson 2: Be responsible for what you say.

I would like to say that everything that came out of my mouth during this time was positive. But, alas, that would not be true. I made many mistakes in how I handled this situation. For example, after I had the realization of the number of doctor visits and potential issues that I might have to deal with, I was on the phone with a friend and made a flip, insensitive remark:

“Maybe I will just get hit by a bus. And then I won’t have to deal with all of this.”

I hung up the phone only to hear a loved one in the next room start crying and say, “I don’t want anything to happen to you.”  Ugh! Note to self: Don’t be selfish. Be responsible for what you say.

Lesson 3: In the absence of data, people make things up.

I knew if I withheld information about my cancer to my family and friends, they might make things up and would probably worry more. I decided to be as open as possible so they would be less likely to fill in the gaps.

I used this principle on myself. I realized that the Internet can be a great source of information. I also realized that it can be a source of misinformation and misinterpretation. When I did not know something, I stopped the speculation, guessing, and assumptions. Instead, I searched for someone ‘in the know’ who could answer my questions.

Lesson 4: When people are afraid they say and do silly things.

Chances are, when bad things happen, people don’t know what to say. So, often, they just don’t say anything.  At first I was hurt until I realized that there were times in my life that I had done exactly the same thing to other people.

Others did say things, but what they said did not always come out exactly right.  For example, some people shared about how I didn’t take care of myself or how I work too hard. In essence, they were saying – without coming right out – that somehow I brought this on myself. I wasn’t upset by this. I realized they were trying to rationalize how they could prevent this from happening to them. They were just afraid.

Some reacted to my situation by expressing their own worries. Or, I’d hear cancer horror stories they had heard. Others launched into “fix it” mode and started to lecture me on what I needed to do and how to eat better. Instead of wishing the situation were different, I took control of these conversations and simply responded with: “I understand.” And then, I redirected the conversation. I changed the topic using questions and/or I turned to something more positive. This way, I got the value of their contribution without having to dwell on the situation.

I realized that there are many people who are alone and have no one in their lives. I was very fortunate that I had people in my life who cared about me.

Lesson 5: Ask for what you want. People can’t read your mind.

People would inevitably ask me, “Is there anything I can do?” Most people are not honest with their answer and say, “Nothing.” I chose a different path. When people asked me that question, I was prepared and honest with my response. For example, I asked people to call and comfort my parents. I wanted to help reduce their stress and worry. How could people have known what I wanted if I wasn’t honest with them?  People aren’t mind readers. Be honest and clearly state your requests or desires.

Lesson 6: Besides the “official” patient, there are others who are affected by this disease that go untreated.

As the patient,  I was at the center of things. But, there were other patients – the loved ones. The loved ones are patients too. As I learned, family and friends often feel helpless. For the most part, all they can do is watch, pray, and hope things turn out well. To make matters worse they often store their emotions in an effort to stay strong. Here’s the irony: there’s great patient care but not enough care for the unofficial patients – the loved ones.

Lesson 7: Your perspective dictates your attitude.

Most of my doctors and nurses had great attitudes despite how sick and close to death some of the patients were. How could that be? I asked about this and learned that it was because they wanted to make a difference.  The doctors and nurses were in an environment that was gloomy. But, they chose to look at it as an opportunity to contribute.

As I received my chemo, I met patients – patients who were going to be fine, patients who were not sure, and patients where the end was inevitable. I knew my treatment was short and the outcome was not in doubt. This helped me keep perspective and be appreciative of how lucky I was. My grandfather’s words rang true, “Things can always be worse.” I received a heavy and hopefully life altering dose of medicine – keep the right perspective and appreciate my life.

Lesson 8: You don’t always have control over what happens to you. But, you do have 100% control in how you respond.

I realized I didn’t have control over this situation. It was what it was. I was 100% responsible for gleaning the value from my experience. I was brutally honest with myself. I became a lot closer to the people I should have been closer to all along. I became more spiritually connected. I appreciate my life, the people around me, and the work that I do in more ways and dimensions than ever before.  My Teflon shield is gone. My experience has helped me move from living the “One day I will…” to deciding that the “One day is today.”

As I half-jokingly and half-seriously said to a friend, “OK! If someone was trying to get my attention, they got it!”

* * *

This article was taken from a speech I gave at Penn State University’s “Relay for Life” Cancer Foundation benefit on April 9, 2010.

Honesty Sells

What if Martin Luther King, Jr. had compared himself to others?

Dream Chasers and the Secret to True Success

Imagine a world in which Martin Luther King, Jr. had been nothing more than a preacher with a sizable congregation, Bill Gates was nothing more than an effective manager at an IT firm, and Oprah Winfrey just a newscaster at a Baltimore television station. Suppose Warren Buffet was nothing more than a man who managed his money well in order to provide a nice life for his family. We probably wouldn’t know their names, yet by most standards they would still be deemed successful.

Yet I believe that true success is the degree to which we reach our full potential. By that standard, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and Warren Buffet could not be called successful if they did not achieve what we all now know they were capable of. If they had been satisfied with comparing themselves favorably with others, they may have not been inspired to achieve what they achieved. Where would our society be without the contributions they have made? What would the landscape of twenty-first-century America look like without them?

Fortunately, they did not suffer what many people suffer from–Comparison Success Obstruction ™ (CSO). People with this affliction compare themselves with others to gauge their own success. Those comparisons can sadly set us up for mediocrity. If Warren Buffet suffered from CSO, he could have taken a look at his neighbor and been satisfied with the idea of building a bigger house, purchasing a nicer car, and sending his children to better schools. Oprah Winfrey could have landed her job as a Baltimore newscaster, compared herself to friends and colleagues, and decided she was doing quite well just where she was.

Many organizations suffer from CSO. They even go so far as to benchmark their achievements against other organizations. Perhaps yours does this too. While benchmarking can produce some good results, it can also chain your organization to the common results of others—restraining you from catapulting beyond the competition and producing breakthrough results.

Comparing ourselves to the competition begs the question — so what? So what if you can move widgets faster than Widget Movers Express? So what if you are the leader in a certain technology? So what if you are the highest in retention? Are those reasons to be content? So what?

Maybe your organization has untold “Martin Luther King, Jr.,” potential. Maybe there is a life-changing discovery or invention lurking within your organization — within the minds of your employees. Maybe it is within you! But this is unlikely to happen as long as you or others around you suffer from CSO.

I once heard an interview with John Wooden, the famous UCLA basketball coach who won seven straight NCAA titles and nine titles in eleven years. The interviewer asked Wooden for his keys to success, and Wooden said that after each game – regardless of the score — he asked his players, did you play your best? Think about this. In professional sports, team dynasties result from an effective coach and a few outstanding players who are with the team year after year. But the make-up of teams in college basketball is constantly changing as new students join the team and others move on to graduate. But the changing roster didn’t hinder Coach Wooden. He built a dynasty in part by asking the ever-changing faces on his team, did you play your best?

Imagine if we were asked that on a daily basis. What would your answer be? Is it time to step it up, push ourselves, regardless of what others say? I think so. Not because we have to, not because there is something wrong, but because we can. After all, isn’t that what true success is all about?

That is why I believe we need to drop the judgments and comparisons with others. We need to stop looking behind us to see who is chasing us. Instead we need to run fast regardless of the others in the race and push ourselves to see what is possible. This is what striving for true success is all about.

Are you playing your best, or are you settling for what you think you can get rather than going for what you truly want? What are you willing to do about it? After all, the only person you can control is yourself. You cannot necessarily control what others do, but you are fully responsible for the way you respond and the actions you take to achieve the results you really want. Attaining perfection may be hard, but making progress is easy.

WARNING: If you choose to stop suffering from CSO and strive for what you can become, brace yourself and make sure you enjoy the ride, because there is an ironic twist that will come your way. The twist is that successful people often don’t think of themselves as particularly successful. If fact, the more successful they are, the more they recognize the gap between where they are and what they can become.

A while back, I saw a documentary about the incredible life and achievements of Martin Luther King, Jr. One of the many things that shocked me was that he was plagued by the thought that he had not yet done enough. Imagine that. As successful and accomplished as he was, he was not satisfied—not even close.

Martin Luther King, Jr., was chasing down a dream. He knew that there was always more to do. There was always more that he could expect of himself. He had a vision for the future, and that vision was not limited by comparisons or others’ expectations. True success is not about how we compare with others, but how we compare with what we truly can become.

Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and Warren Buffet aren’t playing small either. They each have their own vision for the future, a vision that I would argue continues to expand as they achieve more and more. Who can they become? How about you? What dreams can you accomplish?

While others are fixated on comparing themselves with others or preoccupied with looking over their shoulders to make sure no one will overtake them, keep challenging yourself and those around you with what you can become.

Maybe there is “Martin Luther King, Jr.,-Bill Gates-Warren Buffet-Oprah Winfrey” potential in you and the people around you just waiting to be awakened and inspired. Think of the difference that that could make. It can begin now. It’s up to you.

mlk image

Here is a 6-Step Formula to Start You on Your Journey:

1. Recognize you may be suffering from CSO, and do something about it. Throw away the comparisons. They limit your potential.

2. Create a vision for the future that is not a reaction to the past or a comparison with others in the present. Spend some time reflecting on what you believe you can become. Dream. Brainstorm. Use what if? What if we had nothing stopping us? What if we could really accomplish our ideal product or service? What if we had the perfect economy?

3. Avoid dream crushers, vision smashers, and naysayers. Don’t be hampered by low expectations – your own or anyone else’s. Instead, search for people who dream big and believe in themselves and in you.

4. Execute the next step. No matter how big the vision, no matter how daunting the task, ask yourself, “What is the next step?” Then do it.

5. At the end of each day, reflect and ask yourself, “Did I play my best? What can I do better tomorrow?” This attitude is the key to long-term success.

6. Build your support network. Share this article with others. Pass it to others who have remarkable potential. The fewer people who suffer from CSO, the easier it is for you and others to accomplish breakthrough results.


How to Start the New Year Right

The following are 8 crucial actions you can take to Jump Start your new year and make 2017 your most meaningful year yet. These changes, though initially very small, can help to put your life on a different path. Good luck to you and we would love to hear about your successes.

  1. Let go of the garbage that you are carrying. Reach out to someone you have written off (but still think about) or to someone you have given up on or with whom you had a problem. Talk to that person and do what it takes to reach some sort of resolution and put the situation behind you. Ask the other person, “What would it take for us to put this behind us?” Their input can help you create a solution that works for everyone. By reaching out and having a conversation, you are extending the olive branch. This can create a new beginning and trigger conversations and events that can ultimately change your life. Remember: forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.  Make this the year you give that gift.


  1. Stop negotiating things that are not negotiable. Are you suffering because you are being flexible and letting go of standards and principles that are important to you? Decide what is negotiable versus what is really not negotiable to you. If you are not clear, how can others be? Then let others know and take a stand. Many people get inspired when boundaries are set because clarity gives them power to focus their time and energy on areas of flexibility.
  1. Adopt accountability partners. What is one of your behaviors that you really want to change? The truth is that if you really want to achieve this change, you will. Set up accountability partners and consequences to help ensure that you will make that change. For example, if you find yourself repeatedly complaining about a particular issue and you want to stop being so negative, tell five people you are going to stop complaining about the issue. Every time you complain about it, give them each a dollar.  The point is to send a message that your promises are not empty and you are committed to changing the behavior. Being accountable is one of the most important ingredients in lasting change.
  1. Use your strengths. Your relationship with yourself and your talents is the most important one you will ever have.  Appreciating yourself and your strengths is at the core of your ability to create and enjoy the life you want. When you appreciate yourself, you are also more likely to take action and make changes on things that are important to you. Focus on what makes you happy. Don’t overlook your talents and make sure to maximize your full potential. If you’re good at something, why not become great at it? This year, if you remember to appreciate yourself and foster your strengths, you will be more self-empowered and confident to face anything to come.
  1. Choose a coach or mentor. Whether it is personal or professional, everyone benefits from someone who guides and advises them. Athletes don’t get better at their specific sports by simply playing on their own each day. They improve by employing a coach who challenges and inspires them to grow and achieve success. Athletes also don’t improve their skills by playing teams equal to or worse than they are. They advance the most quickly when they are challenged by a better team.  It is important for your mentor to be someone who may be wiser, more experienced, or more successful than you are to help you reach the goals you have.
  1. Apply your personal method of success to a current problem. What is the biggest problem you are currently facing, professionally or personally? Once you’ve identified that problem, change gears and take a moment to remember a specific moment of success in your life. What were the keys to help you achieve that success? Brainstorm a few ideas of why you think you were able to be successful in achieving the results you wanted.  Over a person’s lifetime, we develop a few “go-to” methods to help us achieve success in various situations. Many times, in problem areas, if you think about it, you are usually not applying one of your normal success methods to help you through it.  Now, return to that original problem. Of the ideas you’ve brainstormed, which are you currently not doing to help you tackle this issue? Apply them and you will see new direction to help you resolve it.
  1. Decide on your number-one goal and create a plan to achieve it. Make sure your goal is measurable and that there is a deadline for completion. You might think this is simple – and it is – but people often neglect to set clear goals or create so many that they do not accomplish any. I see this frequently with organizations that have so many goals that people do not know on which to focus. The result is they try to focus on many and often achieve little. Remember confusion causes delay and often failure. Clarity and focus gives us power and inspiration to achieve.
  1. Distance yourself from the dream crushers, naysayers, and negative influences.  Just like we are what we eat, we are a product of the people with whom we spend our time with and the information we digest from them. With whom are you surrounding yourself? Are those people negative or are they inspiring to be around? What kind of books and materials are you reading? How much are you dwelling on negative news stories?  I am not suggesting that we put our heads in the sand. I am suggesting that we fill our minds with the influences that empower us.  Take the time to clean house.


If you run into challenges and need help or have questions along the way, send us an email at or give us a call at 703-241-7796 and we will do our best to help you.

The Power of Appreciation

How to Create an Organizational Culture of Appreciation that Impacts the Bottom Line

My grandfather lived in a nursing home during the last several years of his life. During one of my visits to see him, a nurse pulled me aside and told me what a great man my grandfather was. I appreciated that and asked her why she thought so. She said, “He is on of the only people here who consistently says thank you.”

That’s the power of thank you. They may be just two words in the English language, but those words mean so much to so many people. To this nurse, they meant everything.

Thank you. How often do your employees or co-workers hear those words? Many work extra hours, often for no additional money or benefit, and often without the benefit of hearing someone say thank you. Why do they do it? Because, like you, they want to make a difference in their jobs, and they want to contribute. In fact, through conducting seminars, I have learned that one of the biggest fears that people seem to have in common is the fear of dying without making a difference. We all want to know that our lives count, and we need to feel like we matter to someone. That’s what makes appreciation so powerful.

In fact, appreciation is so powerful that it affects the bottom line. People who feel valued and appreciated are more likely to remain in their jobs, making appreciation a key factor in employee retention. Furthermore, sincere expressions of appreciation open the lines of communication and improve teamwork because people tend to be more open with co-workers who appreciate the job they do. This makes people more likely to express ideas and feedback, which also positively affects the bottom line.

As managers and co-workers we often need to share difficult feedback and constructive criticism. But how often do we share positive feedback – praise for a job well done? I’m not talking about employee awards. Those have their place, but I’m talking about words. “Thank you, that was just what I was looking for.” “Thanks for the extra time that you put into this. I know you had to sacrifice some personal time.”

I heard from an employee of a Fortune 500 company who was recently nominated by her team for a formal award. She appreciates the nomination – particularly that the entire company received the text of her nomination. She said, “The public nature of it was quite validating. It doesn’t even matter if I receive the formal award. The initial nomination is enough. It makes me want to work harder and motivates me to want to invest myself more fully in what I do.” But she went on to say this: “Receiving acknowledgement from people throughout the year, in a less formal way, helps me to get through each day in a way that no amount of money could.”

When you express your appreciation, you are basically saying, “I notice you. You are important. You are significant. You are making a difference.” Acknowledging others comes with a wonderful side effect. When we express appreciation, we have to think positively, at least for that moment. The more we acknowledge and appreciate others, the more positive moments we have. Over time, that makes us feel better about those around us and about ourselves.

Developing an organizational culture of appreciation may sound like a lofty goal, but it’s worth the effort. Once it gets going, appreciation is contagious. It creates positive feelings in the person saying thanks and in the one receiving it.

Do you know anyone who has ever left a job (or a relationship) because they received too much appreciation? Of course not! Now think about the people you know who have left jobs – despite a good salary and benefits – because they didn’t feel appreciated for the work they did or failed to see how they made a difference. Managers often think a salary increase is what employees value most – and for some that may be the case – but for most, receiving appreciation is even more important.


Four Keys to Effective Appreciation

To ensure that your expressions of praise and appreciation have a significant impact, remember these four keys:

I = Immediate

Even if it is over the phone or via e-mail, express your appreciation immediately. Often we want to do something special to show our appreciation, but that can take time. It’s important to do something quickly, even if it is something small. You can always do something special later. If you don’t do something immediately, the person you appreciate may feel unappreciated. Seize the moment. Do it right away.

S = Specific

Make the acknowledgement specific. Rather than saying, “Thanks for all your help,” say, “Thanks for the detail you put into the report. It obviously took a tremendous amount of time and dedication.” Being specific adds importance and validity to the appreciation.

O = Often

Few people have ever suffered from too much appreciation, but many have suffered because there was not enough. Don’t be stingy. Offer it frequently, appropriately, and creatively.

S = Sincere

Say it only if you mean it. People are smart, and they can tell if you are faking it. A sincere expression of appreciation that comes from the heart is a powerful motivator.


Make It a Habit

There’s an exercise I sometimes do with my seminar attendees to help them practice the power of appreciation. I ask everyone to write down sincere compliments and “thank yous” for their co-workers. At first it feels like a silly game, but after a while people feel less awkward and begin to enjoy it. The exercise opens up lines of communication. During debriefing at the end of the seminar, people always talk about the unexpected results of this exercise. Some participants even save the notes of appreciation for years.

Many of us inherently understand the power of appreciation, but few of us practice it regularly. To successfully develop the habit of acknowledging others and expressing appreciation, ask everyone in your office to commit to appreciating five people a day for one month.

Sticky notes are a great way to express one’s appreciation. Remember ISOS. We all have them in our offices and all it takes is a quick note to say “thank you.” Adhere the note to a good report or memo you’ve just reviewed, or stick a note on your co-worker’s computer monitor or chair. However you do it, the note will always be received positively. People do save these notes and soon, you may even see these sticky-notes covering one’s office wall!


The Greatest Gift

Benjamin Disraeli said, “The greatest good you can do for another is not to share your riches, but to reveal theirs.” That is the job of any leader – of a family, of a team, of a department, or of a company. Reveal the riches in others by expressing appreciation for what you see. Remember to say thank you. The gift of appreciation is the greatest gift you can give. Tell someone today what a difference they have made in your life. Then watch the difference you make in theirs.

Beware of the Halloween Principle


Spooked: Beware of the Halloween Principle

Are there life principles that you used to live by, but now you don’t? Have you ever allowed someone to spook you to such an extent that you change your behavior? It’s natural to let someone’s bad reaction derail us from doing what we know needs to be done. I encounter this reality so often as I speak with people across the country about communication issues that I have a name for it: The Halloween Principle – because people get spooked, and then they start living according to fear rather than the life principles they believe in. The sad part is we often do this subconsciously, meaning that we’re unaware of how much a past situation is affecting our present. If left unnoticed and unchecked, our changed behavior could even alter our future. It often takes someone to point it out before we can say to ourselves, “That is so true. I know what needs to be done and I know certain life principles work, but I’m not living that way.” To help you see whether you’ve been spooked, let’s look at a few life principles that most people believe in but have trouble living by because the Halloween Principle has taken over.



Honesty Is the Best Policy

Most people I meet believe that honesty is the best policy. They may even believe they live by it. But on further examination, they don’t. When they are upset, they stuff what they are thinking and feeling and tell others that things are okay. Or when people ask them for feedback, they spin their answers to sound nice and pleasant out of fear that if they say what they really think, that person will get defensive and react badly. The result is that people don’t get their issues handled. In our personal lives this can lead to all kinds of trouble. Spouses fall out of love and get divorced. Kids fear telling their parents the truth or just don’t feel comfortable talking, so they stop talking with their parents and get advice and support from peers instead. Good friends get annoyed or angry, drop out of communication, and friendships slips away. When issues aren’t handled in our professional lives, program and project problems can escalate into bigger problems; good employees get fed up and leave, and clients and customers stop hiring us. Considering all these negative ramifications, why do people continue to withhold, spin, and alter the truth when they know that honesty is integral to fixing problems? After all, someone can’t fix a problem if they don’t know about the problem. When I ask people why they withhold or spin the truth, they often say, “I used to be more honest and straightforward. But awhile back, I was in a situation and….” And then they proceed to tell me how a boss, a spouse, a co-worker, or a friend got upset when they spoke the truth and took it out on them in one way or another. No wonder people get spooked.


The Law of Reflection

The Law of Reflection says that whatever we give out in life, we tend to get back. You may say it another way: what goes around comes around, you reap what you sow, do unto others, but it’s all the Law of Reflection. Most people know this is a sound principle to live by, but few implement it to it its fullest capability. For example, sometimes a person chooses not to give as much as they could because in the past they encountered someone who took and took – and kept on taking until they drained that person dry. So that person allowed someone’s selfishness to stop them from giving their heart and soul to others. In other words, they allowed the person to spook them and started to live by the Halloween Principle. On further reflection, this person may realize that we all run into selfish people from time to time, even people so selfish that they’ll take advantage of others. But that is no reason to stop living the Law of Reflection — because there are always exceptions to the rule. In general, however, the more we give and help out others — whether that’s our boss, our co-workers, our employees, our spouse, or our friends — the better our life will work.


Choose to Overcome the Spook

No principle will always work out just right. But as a whole, these life principles do work and provide benefits to us and to others. For that reason, we have to stop letting people spook us. We need to make our choices and live by our principles rather than allowing others to derail us and dictate how we’re living. When we become aware of the Halloween Principle, it gives us the power to choose a different course of action— the one we know is right for us. Here are a few practical recommendations for disarming the Halloween Principle:

1. Separate: When you feel an internal disconnect between the way you want to live and the way you currently are living, try to remember when that disconnect started. Then ask yourself why you’re allowing that situation to continue to affect you. Maybe it is time to separate from the situation by forgiving and letting go. If you can’t let it go yet, implement some practices to work on it. If you are not sure of one, contact us and we can give you some simple recommendations that produce a profound effect.

2. Counteract: There are several ways to counteract the Halloween Principle. First, surround yourself with people who have the attributes you want to live by. If you believe that honesty is the best policy, make sure the people around you are willing to tell you the truth and who won’t get defensive as you speak your truth. If you want to live by the Law of Reflection, then choose to be around people who try to help out and give value to others. Another important key to counteracting the Halloween Principle is to read books and articles, listen to podcasts and radio broadcasts, and watch DVDs that provide information, advice, and encouragement to live by the principles that are important to you. Remember this: insights can happen in an instant, but sustained change takes effort, reinforcement, and reminders.

3. Model: In the future when you encounter someone who spooks you from being yourself, ask yourself whether this is an exception or the new rule. Remind yourself that every life principle has exceptions, but overall, they do work. Choose to live your life principles – modeling them for yourself and others — rather than being controlled by your reaction to an exception. Think about the situation as a valuable reminder of the importance of standing up for what you know is right and taking responsibility for your life. Who have you allowed to spook you? Have you stopped living by any of your life principles? Now that you are aware of the Halloween Principle, what are you going to do about it?