The Power of Atmospheric Change

Certain things spread rapidly among humans: rumors, bad news, accusations, scandals, bad attitudes. The list is long. You know what I’ve noticed about that list? It is full of laziness. It doesn’t take much energy or effort to join in, agree with, throw flames on or perpetuate.

Changing The AtmosphereMoods are just as contagious. A whole atmosphere in a company can take on characteristics from each of them. Salary freezes, layoffs, economic downturns, restructuring, pressure from the top for performance can sink teams and units within a business in minutes and take weeks to months to turn around. Sometimes they never recover. These impact culture and like it or not they transfers to sales, quality and worst of all how the customer feels about the brand.

This same thing can play itself out in relationships and families in the same way. Communities can go from life giving to life sucking with just one sour environment.

Ok, my point is not to focus on the negative here. Far from it. What I want to point out is how often the negative infects our world. I hope by the time I am done you will see that it doesn’t need to be that way.

So what do we do?

We simply change the atmosphere.

A business leader and friend of mine Trent Funk over the last year has taught me the power of a simple phrase. In many conversations he has challenged those he leads to be a thermostat vs a thermometer in any situation.

We bring so much with us into conversations, meetings and relationships. Much of what we bring is garbage. That might sound blunt but it is true.

This is the difference. We hold so much power over the outcome. If we bring a smile, de-escalation, hope, solutions or even silence, that other list quickly dissipates. Remember how lazy those other things are? Well, they don’t put up much of a fight when confronted with the alternatives.

I leave you with this assignment. Test it out. See what happens.

For an example watch the movie clip below. Meg Ryan’s character finds herself in a pretty sticky situation. Everyone around her is making it worse. Then steps in Tom Hank’s character. Watch how he changes the whole atmosphere.

And last, I was able to expand on this topic recently in front of my church. Here is some deeper exploration of how we can change the world this way.

Listen here: Changing the Atmosphere by John Bergquist


This guest post came about from a FB post my friend Vern Hyndman added to his wall. Both the imagery and idea of gaslighting grabbed me as one of the greatest hindrances to people connecting a deep level, heart to heart. Truthfully we all do this to some degree. Vern was kind enough to elaborate on the concept here. As you read think about all your connections from co-workers to family. Are we helping them see their true identity?“I don’t understand why, no matter how hard I try, I suck at being a father!”

Frank therapist waited that pregnant pause. It must be a class they have to take to perfect that pause… and when Frank spoke, it was with the calm authority that years of training and experience provides.

Gaslighting is the act of arranging what a person perceives, towards a lie that is fabricated and guided by another person.

“George, I have been listening to you for months now. I know your honest struggles as a father, I know what you’re intent on accomplishing for your children, and I have witnessed you putting creativity and skill into parenting. You are and you are becoming an excellent father. I’m watching it first hand, and I do this for a living. What would possibly convince you that you’re a bad father?”

Over the next hour, George related event after event, story after story, in which despite his efforts, his attempts at fathering came to naught.

George’s appointments with Frank came bi-weekly. Most people believe it is so that George can assimilate and act on what is happening in the therapy. This is partly true. Frank experienced a complementary truth in the next week. The time allowed the truth and reality of the client’s situation to be acted on by the conscious and unconscious skilled mind of the therapist.

No lawyer ever asks a question he doesn’t already know the answer to. Therapists and pastors may not be that scripted, but the best therapists and pastors allow the question, the key question, to percolate up and into their consciousness. It was the Tuesday ride to work, and the question hit him like a cement truck T-bone at a stop sign.

Frank asked George, “In each of the failures, who is it that delivers the news?”

For years, George has been being gaslighted by his mother. She meets her needs of being needed by nullifying his self-perception of his own fathering ability, leaving her free to be needed by his kids. She meets her needs by destroying him.

Gaslighting is the act of arranging what a person perceives, towards a lie that is fabricated and guided by another person.

The term “gaslighting” came into usage around a movie from the 1940’s of the same name, in which a murderer tries to convince his wife that she’s crazy.

Here’s the whole film…

Gaslighting can convince a man he’s a bad father. It can convince a woman that she’s unintelligent. Gaslighting is the PRIMARY tool of evil in the world, for those of us who believe in evil personified, it is the most effective tool of Satan.

Anyone who attempts to control another person is doing so out of their own sickness, and books like “Emotional Blackmail” by Susan Forward, or “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie help frame out how the attempts at control work, and more insidiously, how the subject of the control unwittingly cooperates with the controller.

Gaslighting is a covert activity, and insidiously it causes a person to develop serious doubts in themselves. It is horribly destructive.
Common examples;

The husband who is insecure about the strength of his marriage to his beautiful wife, so he sets about convincing her she’s incompetent and is incapable of fending for herself with out him.
The wife who is insecure about the strength of her marriage, so she sets about to convince her handyman husband that he is incompetent and useless, and that no woman would ever put up with him if they ever got to know him. She convinces him that she’s the only woman who would ever stoop to marry him, and that he should be thankful.
The parent who is afraid of being abandoned, so they sabotage the careers and romantic relationships of the children by subverting the parental ability to interpret to inject toxicity. (Your boss just has it in for you, everybody gets in fights at work. Your fiancé is unreasonable; it’s unthinkable that a young couple would want to spend Christmas anywhere but here on the couch with me.)

I use these examples because they’re common, and because they’re so amazingly destructive to both the controller and the target.

To build a sense of security, because in both examples their family of origin damaged the self-worth of the controller, the controller effectively destroys the self-worth of the subject.

The endpoint of the destruction is that the subject actually believes. The gaslighted might be DEAD, and the gaslight subject continues to believe the lies.

Sounds hopeless. It’s not.

Hope is found in truth. Hope is found in a community that not only practices seeing each other clearly, as beloved sons and daughters of God first, and then the truth, positive and negative, of the other’s lives. The community first affirms the value of the person’s identity as infinitely valuable, which is true for everyone, but is not a commonly voiced truth. And then from the security of being loved, the community reveals and polishes the amazing parts, finds and heals the wounds, and carefully acknowledges the faults and failures, so that these cannot accidentally seep into the self-perception of true identity.

Who you are is not what you do. Who you are is not defined by the situation you find yourself in. You are beloved. These are the tools that decimate the work of the gaslighter.

And for those of us who believe evil is incarnate and has a name, we find that Satan is the biggest and most prolific gaslighter ever. He invented the lies that make it work.

Recovery from gas lighting has a beautiful freedom that produces life; and for those who recover, we can’t walk by someone suffering gas lighting without at least pointing it out. And in God’s grace economy, if they’re still alive, God will sometimes send us back with grace and forgiveness for our gaslighter. Gaslighters gaslight out of terror, and love is the only answer to fear. When God sends us back, it’s not to condemn, but to remind even the gaslighter, “You are beloved. You don’t have to try to work it out yourself.”

Some folks are in relationship with a person who has a specific form of personality disorder called “Borderline Personality Disorder” or BPD. A person with BPD will invent a reality to coincide with what they feel, rather than correlate their feelings with reality as a healthy person does. The family of borderline folks experience gaslighting on a whole new level. If this is you, make sure you have supporting healthy community, get professional help, and read “Walking on Eggshells”.

Find out more about Vern at Heart Forge where he and others work as “first Responder to men and couples experiencing relational trauma”.

I want to give you all my money

Have you every learned about a cause, a charity, or a movement that stirred your heart so much that you just wanted to hand over all your possessions to help them achieve their goals?

Recently I have encountered two groups that created that response in me. I get a lot of people asking me for help. I feel honored that many see me as having a knowledge and understanding of how to connect and build a tribe. I would love to help many more than I have the ability to. But in a world of much need it is easy to become “cause numb”.

How did they do it?

gateThe first organization is Africa New Life Ministries (ANLM). I need to begin with a small disclaimer. The companies where I work, operate directly with ANLM to support our efforts in Rwanda and fulfill our mission to love the people there recovering from genocide.

My family traveled to Rwanda and saw all that ANLM is doing. All of it is incredible from schools, professional trade schools for women, day cares and much more. I was impressed not just with the organization but all of their employees. This is what dazzled me though. When we returned home, like many who have visited Rwanda, I was a bit traumatized. There is a great deal to process. While a great amount of hope and recovery is occurring, there are still plenty of remnants of the 100 days of genocide 20 years ago. While I had studied the history extensively, I had never heard first hand accounts from people I now call friends. It took me weeks to even feel comfortable telling anyone about the trip. But then ANLM’s Ministry Engagement Manager Matt Stein met me for a debriefing coffee. We talked for nearly three hours. He truly listened and cared. I walked away wondering what the difference was. I worked for nearly a decade in the NGO world. It is easy to become jaded and loose hope in what sometimes seems like an impossible task, changing the world. But like Matt, every person I met who worked for ANLM had hope in their eyes. It was a strong and convicted hope too, not naive and uninformed. It was Matt’s heart that helped me begin to tell others about what I learned in Rwanda. Most of all he helped me tell stories of hope.

The second group surprised me while I attended their annual banquet this past Sunday night. I came to support my friends who hadlamp
started a safe home called House of Engedi for women over 18 being rescued from sex trafficking. I walked away completely excited about the work of Compassion First. I have come to know more than a few agencies and NGOs fighting sex trafficking around the world in the past two years since writing on assignment in Thailand. What Compassion First did to wake me up was pretty simple. They connected me by telling great stories, sharing some of why each of the staff was doing what they do and as odd as it seems, being unashamed to ask for financial help, volunteers, encouragement, any kind of help. Most of all they were humble about their efforts. The night was truly enjoyable. It is really tough to take such a dark subject like trafficking and put on an event that leaves the attendees hopeful and energized to help. But they did it so well. Some may say “well it is just because they hired a great event planner”. I have been to many events. And just as I can not stand posing in other people, posing in an organization is just as intolerable. Compassion First is the real thing. Surely not perfect, but oh so refreshing.

You control it

You have eaten till you are sick. Bloated, dizzy, tired, and worn out, like a kid the day after halloween. You’ve stuffed yourself with every news story and social post for days. You might have even hovered over that “delete account” link.

Feed by Nat Iwata

Feed by Nat Iwata

And it doesn’t matter if it is an election cycle, holiday season or summer. We have access to an endless stream of information. Extreme cases are showing up of people who are suffering from internet addiction disorder (IAD). Every like, share, mention and comment can take over our brains just like a drug response. We end up depressed, disenchanted and actually disconnected from others.

Are you bummed out now? Well I don’t want you to be. I want you to be truly connected to others. And I want you to be able to use tools that get you there.

Over the years I have returned to the topic of what we allow into our lives via the web. There is the news stream that demands we stress out over every “they will read if it bleeds” story headline. For that I have been editing and updating how I personally stay in touch with current events. It changes often.

It is up to us. We have the control. What media, social media sites, advertisers and campaigners rely on is us being lazy. Algorithms and targeting that caters to our desires and habits lose power when we don’t give them control.

I spent today cleaning up lists on Twitter, Facebook, deleting apps and making some lists of friends that I want to reconnect with (and saying goodbye to acquaintances that have fallen to the side. There is a good post coming on that one.) And just as an example yesterday I recorded how FB displays things in my main news feed. Talk about crazy. This timeframe of friend posts being fed to me. 3hrs ago, 3hrs ago, Oct 18th, yesterday, 13 hrs ago, 23 hrs ago, 5hrs ago, 23hrs ago, 5hrs ago, Oct 18th……. it is ridiculous!

I want you to ask yourself a few questions before I end. Feel free to add answers or more questions and comments.

-How much time do you spend on any given social media?
-Have you ever thought of coming up with a personal news plan?
-Do you have relationships that need to go deeper and ones that need to fade away?

All of these platforms are incredible. All of them can be used to help others, spread great information, build important communities and enjoy real connection.

Oh and thanks to Nat Iwata for the drawing. You will see a lot more of him here since we are working on a cool secret project together. Isn’t he amazing!?

If you want to know more about how I go about staying trim on the web you can read more on the following posts.

-All the News that is tailored to read

-Posts about Twitter lists

-Taking control of your Facebook feed

Who Helps You Get Back Up?

This week I was discussing the video below with one of my best friends Chris Skaggs, a real trenchmate if there ever was one. One learned quickly in the world is that we get thrown off our plans. And we get thrown often. I don’t care if you are setting out to be a good wife or husband, parent, friend or starting a new business. You get thrown more than you really like or could have ever imagined. Yes there are those that have success right out of the gate but believe me I don’t know anyone that has not eventually experienced failures, disruptions and devastation.

I have been tracking the launch of John Eldredge’s latest book with his oldest son Blaine called Killing Lions. In the online magazine his three boys recently launched and the video series to go with the book, they have been exploring the steps a young man takes to manhood. In the third video called The Right Decision, they document the grueling pain and discouragement of “lions”. The obstacles and challenges we all face in life.

In the film the narrator says, ‘in life there are lions we choose to face, and then there are lions that come out of no-where” like being thrown off a plan in our pursuit of something great. The lions are not what define us but how we deal with them.

The guys are on a long mt. bike ride through Utah’s Moab desert. What happens next is an unexpected fall for one of their friends, Naz. The fall is not his fault either. It is one of those “out of no where” lions. What really makes the difference is John’s words of encouragement, guidance, truth and love. His dialogue with Naz, the young friend is priceless.

Naz: I just wanted to finish.
John: You will. You will. Look at me. The trip is not over. It’s not over yet


I feel so fortunate to have many trenchmates who speak those same words. They help me get back up and back at it……every day. If you don’t have any go find some. Invite them in. Is it risky? Of course it is. But they are worth more than all the riches in the world.

Thanks John Eldredge and sons for reminding us.

You can watch the film here:

Wes Roberts: Connectors Series

This is the 2nd post in a series on connectors. Read the 1st one about C.C. Chapman here.

This past month Wes Roberts and I started communicating daily. We’ve known each of each other in the digital realm for a few years and have so many mutual friends (dozens in fact). But through mindfulness Wes took a step further recently and offered up his time and best of all his heart.

wesI speak often on the subject of the stages of men’s lives from boyhood to death. One thing I have realized is that it is rare to find a man that is truly alive in his “sage” years (60s and up). Too often I see down turned eyes of resignation, regret and sadness. Many men have given up or relish in a lifetime of stored up treasures, giving little back. I have found a few that are out-competing their earthly bodies, racing to the finish line with vigorous excitement only to be matched by a young boys aggression and love for adventure. Wes is one of those men.

I’ve lost many of the wise men in my life to death and circumstance. Wes surprised me by offered up love, wisdom, and a watchful eye over my life. Best of all he offered sagely friendship. I answered YES!

This could easily be a post on mentorship, something Wes knows so much about. But really it is more about mindfulness, time and living. As a recent Fast Company article stated, there is always time for mentoring someone. Building margin into our lives to connect is a simple decision. It is one many of us forfeit for something else. I’m no innocent here. I get stuck in cycles of busyness to often.

C.S Lewis in one of my favorite of his writing said “…our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between two people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously- no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption”

Thank you Wes for taking so many souls seriously.

Wes’ Leadership Design Group is located in Denver Colorado and serves many leaders throughout the world with creative mentorship.


C.C. Chapman: 1st in a series on connectors

I first met C.C. Chapman through Cast of Dads. My friend Jeff Sass had first introduced me to the podcast and I was drawn to CC’s heart as a fellow dad. Anyone who follows him anywhere on the web quickly learns how much the man delights in his family. It is authentic and touching. It is also refreshing when most headlines highlight broken marriages, walkout parents and selfishness over trustworthiness and commitment.

cc-sox-smileI am not sure when our friendship went deeper but about a year ago it became common for us to check in and connect just about daily (mainly on twitter but often on Facebook as well). It reminds me that we need those daily touches in our lives. Someone who gets us and we can turn to when life hits a bump or even when we have something to celebrate.

Having friends like CC really keeps us grounded and optimistic. He and I have so many common interests from photography, storytelling, humanitarian efforts and writing (and that is just the short list). And in many ways we find ourselves in the same trenches. One of CC’s most recent podcast really sums upmercybracelet the reason why I so enjoy my friendship with him. So much is going wrong in the world. It is one reason I don’t allow myself to get swallowed up by the mainstream medias parade of bad news. Most of all it keeps me connecting with good folks like CC.

I highly recommend getting to know CC. Check out his latest collaboration highlighted in his post When a Crazy Idea Becomes a Beautiful Reality. It really illustrates his heart.

And CC, thanks for adding to my life daily!

From selfie to changing the world

Posing was a big topic of conversation for Kristine and I today. I have had the opportunity to study why people pose (project images of their lives that are far from the truth) in great detail since I regularly speak on the topic at least once a year. It was fitting that my friend Sarah shared Tripp and Tylers latest video An Honest Facebook Movie

Posing can be so amplified today with the the tap of glass and the click of a button. Don’t get me wrong. I love celebrating big moments, sharing common events like the current big winter snow and ice storm in Oregon. I also love hearing about needs and trials. Being able to know what others are going through and pray or how to help is important. But if you hide behind smiling selfies, post only the skimmed moments of your life that hide deep pains or addictions then we really don’t know you at all. I’m not saying tell everyone everything. That would be crazy. Some things we should only share with those closest to us. And for some it is just fine to not share anything at all.

Recently I have been studying the Exodus story. The Israelites as they came out of Egypt began to build what would one day be known as one of the great wonders of the ancient world, the Jewish temple. Every part of the process was given throughout the book of Exodus. Before the priests could enter into the inner rooms of the temple they had to wash their hands and feet in a bronze basin. The basin was made from the beautiful polished bronze mirrors that the women left Egypt with. How fitting. What was once used for vanity was turned into something that symbolized becoming pure and clean.

Today social media is often a mirror. Only this mirror is being broadcasted out to potential millions. Last year was embarrassingly named the year of the selfie. What would it look like to use those same tools of influence to change the world instead. Each of us has so much power to influence, broadcast events, expose wrong doings and help others. It all lies in what we choose to do with that next tap of glass and key stroke. Maybe we should all come clean.

Here are some other posts on posing:

Striking a Pose

Willfully Ignoring Inputs

Staying Allocentric with Curiosity

It’s your move

Every day our world is more digital, more remote (I’ll share my review of Jason Fried’s book Remote soon), and more isolated from in person interaction. And that is nothing bad. In fact I think it is remarkable. But, and this one is huge so don’t miss it, nothing replaces face to face. I work about 200 of my 225 work days in a year remotely, away from my co-workers. I also serve in a volunteer organization where the leaders are very close. Just like my co-workers we all live in different cities. When we do get together it is a rich and treasured time. (You can read a case study United Airlines did on our unique company model for thriving using a remote workplace model.)

doorWhen I have a package being delivered to my house, I look forward to meeting the one who delivers it. For our household, they are always bearers of great things: cool new leather, telescope and science gadgets, books from friends, updated passports or visas, and a myriad of technology.

A few years ago I noticed a significant change in our deliveries. UPS stopped waiting for me to open the door. I would hear my doorbell ring and by the time I opened the door the delivery person was already driving off, leaving only that distinct diesel engine sound as evidence of who delivered it. Often the packages they leave are of significant value. Honestly it feels weird. FedEx on the other hand has never rang and run. Maybe this is a convenience thing. But does it really warrant the sacrifice of customer interaction?

Now with that I do want to add a really cool story about UPS. My sister and brother in law run their businesses from a pretty remote area in the mountains. They started a tradition many years ago with their UPS man. My brother in law and their man in brown both love chess. So every delivery also marks a new turn on a physical chess board. The driver takes a second to make a move on the dedicated chess board sitting next to the door. Some of the games will take 4 to 6 weeks to finish. Over the years it has resulted in a great friendship. I hear the UPS delivery man is in a winning streak of “epic proportions”. Not surprisingly, most of their business is now with UPS, where it used to be with FedEx.

In your business, your family and most of all your friendships, never forfeit human touch, eye contact and face time over convenience. Remote work is incredible and freeing. Facebook can be a precious way for friends and family separated by miles to stay in touch. We can easily connect with thousands more today with a click of update, tweet, plus or upload. But, if you can, choose to connect with your eyes, a handshake and a smile. It makes such a difference.

I didn’t write a Christmas post this year. Mainly I’ve realized I may never top my 2010 one. So with that I hope you have an incredible 2014. 2013 was one of the best years of my life for so many reasons. One of them was connecting with you, my reader. Thanks so much.

Does Permission Expire?

My good friend Jon Dale was writing what I was thinking early this morning so I asked him to write a guest post. And just so you don’t miss it check out the app Jon mentions. It is incredible!

In an age of permission marketing where everyone is building huge lists of people who’ve given them permission to email them, I think it’s time to examine a new question. When does permission expire?

If you’re anything like me you start every morning with a full email inbox. But only a tiny percentage of the emails are actually personal messages to you. Most of them are bulk email…not technically spam…because they’re from people that you once upon a time gave permission to.

Seth Godin talks about using permission to send messages that are anticipated, personal, and relevant. But it seems to me that most organizations that I’ve given permission to over the years are only asking one question. Do I have Jon’s email address?

You might say, “Jon, good marketers don’t send many emails.” And that’s sometimes true. Saddleback Leather is one of my favorite companies and they only send newsletters a few times a year. But the truth is I’d love to hear from them every week. At the other end of the spectrum I get daily bulk emails from Nextdraft, Fast Company and Ransomed Heart that I devour as part of my daily routine…but those guys are all sending me anticipated and relevant content I love…not self promotion.

So, I think it’s time for email marketers to ask a few questions.

If I stopped sending email would anyone contact me to ask what happened?

And does permission expire? And if so, what should you do about it?

Meanwhile…check out Until marketers figure this stuff out, unroll will give you your inbox back.

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