Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Empathy and Understanding

What is often the case in life is that we are so unaware of how unaware we are about so many things, especially to the feelings and experiences of others. One typical example is when we might say to someone, "I know how you feel" when they are going through a difficult time of loss, sickness, betrayal, suffering, depression, or divorce.
Unfortunately, such a trite and shallow statement is often meant to spare our discomfort because we often don't know how to validate the struggles of others. The fact is that it is impossible to know how others feel; no situation is truly comparable to another. Rather than using competing sympathies such as these, it is much better to openly acknowledge that we are at a loss as to what to say. By recognizing our limitations, it can lead to more authentic and genuine conversations and relationships.
With this in mind, I created this conversation in which a husband (played by me) is completely unaware on how his poor communication style is affecting his relationship with his wife. What have been your experiences on this topic?

Monday, April 2, 2018

Why Run?

I am often asked why I "enjoy" doing long-distance running events, and the answer comes down to learning how to push through physical and emotional barriers and build greater resilience to difficult things. That said, I think we all desire to be a little stronger, even if it means just being able to get out of be in the morning and greet the new day. Every effort, no matter the distance, is a feat deeply worthy of respect and congratulations.
What is pretty amazing about such running events is the overwhelming feeling of support among runners, no matter if your first or last.
In thinking of mutual support and difficult experiences, I created this listening activity. Give it a try:

Friday, March 30, 2018

Presentation on Death and Grief

I gave a presentation on death and grief in Chicago yesterday, and I heard many personal stories of resilience and courage.
My thoughts were specifically geared toward helping people become more trauma and grief informed in the way in which we interact with others who have experienced loss, specifically the death of family and friends, but other attendees brought up trauma due to divorce, unemployment, violence, and abuse.
Whatever the case, my thoughts centered on deeply validating pain and loss, and avoiding the tendency to interject competing sympathies in such discussions ("Oh, your mom died? My mom died last year, so I know how you feel.")
The reality is that we really don't know how people feel, even though we might suggest that we do. Each person's experience is so unique, and it is impossible to know the depths of their experiences. All we can do is to sit with others in their discomfort and pain and validate their stories.
I created this listening activity for English students to become aware of possible language they can use in such situations:

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Remembering Our Son

Today is our son's birthday. Joshua Scott Davis.
He would have been 26 years old today.
He died six years ago.
That said, my fondest memories don't surround his passing, but rather the profoundness of his life. I certainly embrace and accept all the struggle that was a part of his being, but I also don't let that be the definition of his life either. I simply long to show a greater depth of compassion in any small way, for that is the defining richness of what it means to be human.
Thanks, Josh.
Your grateful and loving father.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Finishing an Ultramarathon

Over the past two days, I posted a couple pictures on Facebook of me and the mountains, but I was somewhat vague on what I was doing.
To be honest, I was participating in a 100-mile (160 kilometer) running/hiking race on a place called Antelope Island, and I didn't want to report anything until I actually crossed the finish line.
Well . . . I did finish, and although I ended near the back of the pack, what matters to me most is that I got it done. Such races are called ultramarathons, and I enjoy them for the emotional and physical challenge they present.
Here are some of the observations I made about my experience:
1, Remember that your ability to finish simply hasn't be the result of your own efforts - Family, friends, and race volunteers have often supported you in your preparation, and you need to give them so much credit for believing that you can do hard things.
2. Keep in mind that people show extraordinary kindness in the most needed moments - In this specific event at mile 70, a total stranger at an aid station volunteered to walk/run with me for the next 30 miles if that would help me finish. For me, that would have been hours and hours of support. And although I graciously said that I would like to complete the race on my own, just knowing that strangers are often willing to help in moments of great difficulty are signs of true greatness and our humanity.
3. Never count anyone out of the race (of life) just because they are having a down moment or their style/pace of running is different from your own - Sometimes, we unfortunately rush to quick judgments or conclusions based only on what we can momentarily observe. I have been in too many races where I have passed a runner who was struggling to only have that same person fly by me with renewed energy 10 miles later. Shedding a little of our certainly can allow us to be more open to new ideas and ways of thinking.
4. Focus on the moment, not on the distance - If I go into a race thinking the amount of distance I still need to go, this thought can almost paralyze you ("Oh, I still have 95 miles to go!"). Rather, just focus on the present moment, and your ability to run or walk at all. Be grateful that you are alive, and you just might be able to see past your own difficulties and notice another runner nearby who is in need of some encouragement..
5. Take care of the small things in your life - Every twenty miles, I washed my feet and put on a fresh pair of socks. This might not seem like a big deal, but unless you do something like this, people often end up with terrible blisters on their feet which can force them to drop from a race. The same thing applies to daily care. Good habits can lead to a happy life.
6. Be grateful for each moment of life, which is never measured in distance of miles, but in courage in the moment - For some people, the hardest thing in life is just getting out of bed due to illness or physical limitations. Those challenges often far exceed our own.
I wish you all great courage in your own "races" of life.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Being Honest

Being honest is important in any relationship: in business, with friends, in a marriage, and with strangers. Unfortunatel, all too often, we tell an unreliable story to look good. In this conversation with my daughter, we play the roles off members at a health club, and the man tries to impress the woman. Give it a try:

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Listening Favorites - esl-lab.com

I'm often asked what has kept me involved in developing my listening Web site for the past 20 years. Well, I certainly wasn't expecting much back then; I had no idea on how the Internet would explode into what it is now. That said, much of my thoughts on listening activities have remained the same: i've always wanted to make them interesting, engaging, and thought-provoking, including the use of children's voices.
So, take a look at this page: a list of my all-time favorite listening activities. Tell me which one is your favorite, too:

Alcohol Addiction

There are times in our lives when we need to speak up, be honest, and share what we feel even when the message might not be well received. Many of my conversations on my site are humorous, but some deal with tough topics like addiction. In this conversation, my wife and I play the roles of a man who is struggling with alcohol addiction, and his sister is trying to get him to wake up to the realities of his problem. A hard, but important topic to discuss.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Being a Perfect Friend

Everyone can be a perfect friend, perfect spouse, a perfect grandparent, and a perfect parent in hindsight . . . because we become more aware of what we could have or should have done with the passage of time. Yet, I have found that dwelling on past mistakes only limits our ability to move forward because we allow ourselves to remain tethered or bound to the old us.
One of my favorite books is called The Gifts of Imperfect by Brené Brown, in which she discusses how our imperfections can lead to greater vulnerability, growth, and self-worth. Definately a good read.
This book has also helped me try to develop more meaningful connections with others, including my children. In this video, I talk about the basic lessons of parenting that I have slowly learned over the years. Feel free to share your thoughts on this:

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Visiting Thailand

During the last part of January, my wife and I visited three cities in Thailand, in part as I presented at different meetings of English teachers from around the world. Perhaps the best part of the trip was meeting so many kind and gracious people who took the time to share with us the love o Thai culture. Here is a short video on some of our experiences:

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Sleeping Problems

From time to time, I have students that tend to fall asleep in class, but I realize there are many causes for this. At times, students are struggling with homesickness and can't get
their families of their minds; on other occasions, they are still adjusting to life in a new country. Yet, other times, students are just staying up to late with friends.
Listen to this conversation, my daughter and I play the role of a brother and sister. Give it a try: