Tag Archives: communication

The Other Side of the Couch – Loss, Again

girl and sky

She called this afternoon.

I knew immediately that something wasn’t right. For days now I have been having a sense of something being wrong – some disturbance in the Force, in the energy that surrounds us all. I had laid it to the time of year, always a challenging one for me. As soon as the cherries bloom, every year, I am back in those unquiet days before my mother’s death, driving back and forth to the hospital, and seeing the most beautiful and radiant of springs unfolding throughout the poignant April days.

I have been aware of being sad, of missing my mother this year in a more particular way. Perhaps as I approach her age at her death, and realize how much more life I wished for her, and how much more life I hope for myself, I am shaken by the gossamer threads that hold us to this planet, this plane of existence. The unexpected lurks, and there is much that we cannot control.

The call telling me that a dear friend, younger than I, had lost his battle with cancer, a cancer that metastasized in the same way that my mother’s had, and that ended in a similar, brutal way, recapitulates all losses. The weight is the same, the heavy leadenness, the what-does-it-matter feeling, the tears always ready to be shed, the questions to which there are no answers.

I grieve for his wife, for his daughters, for my husband, who treasured him as a close friend. I grieve for the circle of lives that he touched, which are myriad. He was a giver. I grieve for the life he didn’t get to live. And yet, I know that he lived life with gusto, with joy, with presence. He appreciated the life he had. He knew that it wasn’t guaranteed. He knew that before the cancer ever came.

So today I am doing my best, in the midst of sadness, to celebrate the life of a special man, who gave much to the world, to his family, to his wife, to his community. He gave the best hugs. His life philosophy upheld and lifted. May all of us be so mourned. His was a life well lived. He will be missed.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”  Contact Susan at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com

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Building a Following: Attraction Rather Than Promotion, Part II

davidreneetennessean2001 copy

We are continuing this month with David Bates of Bates Nursery and Garden Center, indeed my better half and a very bright light.  Photo: Renee and David Bates, circa 2001.

When I asked David how he prepares for writing the newsletter each week he said, “I rarely know what I’m going to write about. I schedule time to write. I sit down and some thought comes or I think about what has transpired over the week and I begin typing. As the type goes onto the screen, that’s where I become inspired and, it’s important for me to have a deadline.”

People often tell me that they get several newsletters but David’s is one that they always read. David’s late friend, Rebecca Bain of Nashville Public Radio, told him that his articles were good though he needed to keep them brief. Mark Twain once said, “I apologize for the length of this letter as I did not have time to write a short one.” Writing with brevity takes time. Most weeks David keeps it to 350 words as his homage to Rebecca. He also tries to keep the self-promotion aspect low in newsletters. Topics are generally informational and not about promoting specific items.

Tracking outreach, he notes that about 1,500 people open the email within the first hour. People sign up for the newsletter through his website, www.batesnursery.com, or when they check out at the register and sign up for Bates Rewards, a loyalty program.

Regarding social media, Bates’ has Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr sites. David also co-hosts a weekly radio show, At Home with Josh Cary and David Bates, on WWTN 99.7 FM. He tries to coordinate all aspects of promotion across these formats.

Bates’ Twitter account has over 81,000 followers and Facebook has close to 3,000 likes. The Twitter following has more of a global audience and when he began in 2009 he said he didn’t really have any idea what he was doing. He spent an average of 2 hours a day for 2 ½ to 3 years building it.

He is committed to keeping viable content on social media. “Keep people engaged,” David offers. “Facebook has a decidedly more local audience. The up to date information is posted more to that site.”   When I asked him about whether he had delved into paying to promote on Facebook he replied, “Not yet.”

When asked what advice he would give someone who was just starting out with social media, he said that he would take his father, Earl Bates’ advice: “If you are going to copy someone, copy someone who has been successful. Don’t try to make someone else’s failure work for you.” David looked at what others were doing successfully and emulated their practices. Apparently it works.

About Renee Bates

Renee is an artist focused on growing a newfound ability to express herself through oil painting, recently leaving her role as executive director of the non-profit Greenways for Nashville to pursue art and product development. Renee likes being in nature, hiking, birding, and working in the garden. Married to David Bates of Bates Nursery and Garden Center, she appreciates that the legacy of the 3rd generation business was begun in 1932 at the height of the depression by a savvy woman, Bessie Bates.

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The Other Side of the Couch –Listening


I recently had the pleasure of attending an unusual conference in our nation’s capital. NO, the conference had nothing to do with politics (although we did have a surprise visit from “President Obama” – for split seconds the audience really did think this very talented impersonator was the real thing!)  The theme of the conference was Joyful Aliveness, and the hotel was rocked by shouts of “You are Amazing!” from the presenters, the participants, and anyone else who was brought in for any purpose.

I was attending the annual conference of Imago Relationship Therapists. IRI is an international organization that brings together Imago therapists from all over the world.  This year there were participants from 21 different countries, including 8 from Estonia, 17 from South Korea, and 4 from South Africa.

Imago Relationship Therapy, first developed by Harville Hendricks and his wife, Helen LeKelly Hunt, is a way of healing relationships through the use of a variety of processes, most importantly through the use of Dialogical processes.  First developed nearly 25 years ago, Imago is used by over 1000 therapists around the world, changing the world, as we say “one couple at a time.”  (For more information, check out www.gettingtheloveyouwant.com, or just google it on Youtube.)

Imago processes are based on very precise and attuned listening, a skill that most people have never been taught.  What more often than not happens when two people are talking about a subject that brings up any feeling of conflict is that while one person is talking and the other is ostensibly listening, what is really going on is that the supposed listener is actually listening to what is going on inside his or her own head, so as to effectively challenge or contradict the other.  The same thing goes on when the other person is called upon to listen.  WE DON’T LISTEN, and we, therefore, often base our behavior on erroneous information.

What was beautiful about this conference was that I was in a community of trained and respectful listeners who, even in the midst of disagreement (and there were disagreements), were able to listen, take in new information, even change their positions based on new information.  I enjoyed it so much!

Below is a poem that was shared after the conference.  It sums up my thoughts about listening.  Enjoy!


“Reduced to Joy” by Mark Nepo

We can grow by simply listening, the way the tree on

 that ridge listens its branches to the sky,

 the way blood listens its flow to the site

 of a wound, the way you listen like a basin when

 my head so full of grief can’t look you in the eye.

 We can listen our way out of anger, if we let the heart

 soften the wolf we keep inside.

 We can last by listening deeply,

 the way roots reach for the next inch of earth,

 the way an old turtle listens all he hears into the pattern of his shell.


About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”

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Effective Communication: It May Seem Simple, But It Ain’t Easy



“Take that skeevy dust bunny and throw it on the devil strip.” (For translation see www.wordnik.com)

Ever felt like you have no idea what the heck your coworker in the next office (or spouse, or friend) is talking about? You hear what she’s saying, and she’s speaking English, but geez…she makes no sense!

Welcome to the mystifying world of interpersonal communication.

We all communicate in different ways, use our common language differently, read others differently, and have different ways of judging whether we’ve been understood. The opportunities for misunderstandings and miscommunications in the workplace are endless.

Especially if you’re in a leadership position, it’s incumbent on you to do everything possible to ensure effective communication happens. These four rules will help you to set the right communication tone, no matter the situation:

Assume nothing:

Just because you know what you’re saying doesn’t mean anyone else does. Assuming others understand you is dangerous. You also can’t assume you always got the same message a speaker intended to send.

Always give the benefit of the doubt:

One of the quickest routes to a toxic environment is for people to attribute motives to each other erroneously.  Terse emails and throwaway remarks are responsible for countless conflicts because people jump to negative conclusions rather than believing the other person is well intentioned, but not necessarily always well spoken. You have the opportunity to urge people to check their responses until they’ve clarified what someone else meant.

Encourage candor:

Candor clears clogged communication lines. People who say what they think, speak directly to difficult issues, and aren’t afraid to disagree keep communication lines open and keep issues from festering. If you expect and model communication that includes respectful candor, you will set the right tone in your relationships.

Put a premium on clarification:

A simple recap at the end of every conversation will go a long way to minimizing misunderstandings.  Take a few seconds to summarize the key discussion points and takeaways; ask others for confirmation or disagreements, and prod those hesitant listeners to speak up about what they heard.

If you’re not sure you can remember all four, then focus on the last one and get it right. It will save you a world of missteps.

About Dr. Debra Fish

Dr. Fish is a consulting psychologist whose writing and work focus exclusively on helping individuals and teams lead more effectively. Her firm, Fish Executive Leadership Group, LLC, counts among its clients everything from Fortune 50 corporations to small, privately-held professional service firms.

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