Ari Sytner

Like 2 Phones Passing in the Night: How to Fire Up Any Relationship

Posted by in Organizations & Leadership, Relationships & Marriage

Do you prefer to text, rather than call? It seems that most of our daily communication today comes in written form. Why do we prefer to text and email people, instead of calling them? 

Well, does it really matter in the end? After all, if the dry cleaning, groceries or children need to be picked up, does it really warrant a phone call if I can more efficiently just send a text message?  Why waste the extra time listening to the ringing of the phone as you wait for the other person to pick up? Why take the risk of getting stuck in a long and drawn out unrelated conversation?

The answers to these questions start by recognizing that the dawn of a new relationship paradigm is upon us.  

Certainly text-based communication can seem more efficient! However, the benefit of this convenience is often outweighed by the cost.

There is a priceless entity known as human, emotional and social capital. It is what makes relationships – relational.  Without it, everything we do simply becomes transactional. In other words, it is not about simply getting the job done, but the partnerships we build with the people in our lives.

Consider the number of innovative business deals which are born on the golf course, through friendly handshakes, or over drinks.  They blossom out of the relationships, trust and common ground that is shared by like-minded people.  If those same deals were being negotiated on paper by a group of lawyers, they would seldom get off the ground, weighted by transactions, rather than propelled by people.

There is no doubt that texting is far quicker and more convenient, but it is a transactional form of communication. Texting may suffice to convey ideas, reminders, needs and thoughts, but may simultaneously bypass and even erode the very foundation of the relationship itself.

What if mundane tasks (like picking up the dry cleaning) were embraced as a part of a healthy, meaningful, and supportive give-and-take relationship? Instead of it being a chore, it becomes part of an intimate dance between two people.  This is where daily living can become relational, and actually uplift and strengthen the bonds that people share.

Scientific research has recently observed that when a parent conveys a message to their child over the phone, the brain detects a soothing and almost therapeutic-like quality, which is absent when the exact message is sent to the child via text. That is the power and intimacy of the voice and relational-based communication.

You may have noticed lately that many people have begun using emoticons and Bitmojis (illustrated caricatures of themselves) to add some life and dimension to their text-based messages. Perhaps there is something wonderfully artistic about this, as it gives an opportunity to color a message with a sense of emotion or flavor. 

Yet, deep down it stems from a desire to feel a deeper connection with other people, one which goes far beyond the words themselves. It comes from a yearning to feel more emotion in our interactions.  Perhaps we are striving to ignite a deeper sense of intimacy within the dull and static text-based communications which fill our days. 

Remember, intimacy is the secret glue that binds two people in a relationship. What is found within intimacy is a secret nonverbal lexicon. It is a dance of communication without words. It is built upon body language, eye contact, inflection and tone, where two people who know and understand each other can enjoy the depth of a secret connection. Unfortunately, this language becomes extinguished in the face of text messages and email, leaving only the hollow words themselves.

What is the answer?  Text less, talk more.

Yet, in today’s high-tech, fast-paced world, we are led to believe that we are too busy to pick up the phone, as if we cannot afford the extra time it will take to speak to someone. 

However, if we are completely honest with ourselves, we will realize that by not constantly strengthening our relationships and investing in our social capital, the cost in the long-run will be far greater to ourselves, our families and society.

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What is the One Word Needed for Happy Relationships?

Posted by in Organizations & Leadership, Parenting, Relationships & Marriage

Countless iconic leaders have boasted to the world how they've clawed their way to the top by setting goals, writing them down and tackling them one by one.

Come on, let’s be realistic! Nobody, no matter how talented, can just predict and script their future. Failure is a crucial ingredient in the recipe for success! Disappointment is actually one of the greatest tools for learning how to grow stronger. Without a healthy amount of frustration, we cannot develop the resilience we really need to be successful. It is only through a hearty serving of disappointment that we learn to become great!

This rule is true for school and business, and perhaps most importantly, adaptability is one word needed for all successful relationships! 

Every relationship starts with shared foundations. However, they are meant to adapt over time as we hit unexpected bumps along the way. Yet, when one spouse is too rigid to flex, the relationship eventually starts to break under the pressure.

I recall counseling one of my clients, a wonderful middle-aged couple, who reached an impasse. The husband argued that when they agreed to get married, she was dead set on staying home to raise the children. However, 15 years later, she found herself bored and unfulfilled at home and wanted to return to school to pursue her career. He felt that she was abandoning her word, and even worse, their children. She felt that her husband no longer respected her happiness.

What were they to do? The answer is simple. Adapt!

Just because something worked in the past, does not mean you should not revisit it as time goes on and people change. Adaptability is a necessary skill that everyone is familiar with.

detourWe’ve all had the experience of being in the car and getting lost. What do you do - pull over and end the drive? No, you simply reroute, even if it means taking a different road altogether.

The same is true in relationships. When a couple has their first big fight and realizes that the honeymoon is over, it does not mean that they pull off to the side of the road and end the relationship. It simply means that you are dealing with a temporary bump in the road. Whenever you have two different people with different opinions and perspectives, they each need to learn how to adapt. This starts by being humble, actively listing, and lovingly supporting one another.

Only with the maturity to understand that a relationship requires constant work to maintain the love and respect, will they find lasting happiness together.

Think of it this way: We can flex now, or break later. Why not give that gift to the one you love and make the relationship long-lasting and full of happiness? 

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Here’s a Quick Way to Stop Those Embarrassing Texts

Posted by in Organizations & Leadership, Parenting, Relationships & Marriage

The pen was once mightier than the sword. Today, there is something even more dangerous – the send button.

I am not afraid of the words I write, for they are easy to edit, undo and delete. The part that scares me is that little send button. It represents a tiny, but dangerous window between myself and the rest of the universe.

Who hasn’t experienced the embarrassment of watching a text message being sent, just as your brain registers the autocorrected version of your text? Instead of telling someone, “ I love you”, you might have just accidentally said, “I loathe you”. Slight difference, right?

What about those times where you sent the right text, but to the wrong person? As one of my clients explained, “My neighbor Jody was really annoying me, texting me day and night. I was so frustrated that I texted my sister to tell her how much I can’t stand Jody. The only problem was that instead of texting my sister, I accidentally sent it to Jody”.

Who hasn’t been copied on a group email from their manager, but inadvertently “replied-all” when responding to their colleagues regarding their ongoing frustrations about the boss?

I shudder to think about how many relationships have been derailed, how many jobs have been lost and how many people have been devastated by such impulsive and silly mistakes. All of these could have been prevented if only a little more restraint was exercised before pressing send.

Abraham Lincoln was famous for composing scathing letters to his critics, where he would unleash his wrath against them. The only caveat was that he would seal the envelopes and place the letters in his desk, never to actually be delivered. He found this exercise to be cathartic, allowing him to say what he felt, but to take great care to not hurt the feelings of others. This form of restraint is a perfect example of how one should pause before pressing the send button.

I have implemented a practice of my own, which I call, “The Slow Send”.

Whenever I am sending a text, Tweet or email, I press my finger on the send button, but I do not let it go for a few seconds. Often enough, during that brief moment of reviewing my message, I will notice an error in what I have said, or to whom I am saying it. Without lifting my finger, I can then slide it over to the side, which resets the send button and prevents the message from being sent, allowing me to correct it before it gets away from me.

While we are so blessed to have so many forms of awesome communication, we must be careful in how we use them. The fast pace and impulsive nature of life around us is aimed at tripping us up and, therefore, requires extra pause. I am glad to hear a lot of awareness regarding the dangers of texting and driving. Perhaps the conversation should start by realizing how dangerous texting could be just while standing still.

Consider using a “Slow Send” and please share below to comment and let me know if it works for you! 

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How to Have a Business You Can be Proud of: Why Venture-Philanthropy is a Game-Changer

Posted by in Organizations & Leadership, Parenting, Relationships & Marriage

Years ago, an older man visited our synagogue once each month to make a modest donation. Although I thanked him each time, he always gave the same reply, “rabbi, please don’t thank me, I do it because I am selfish. I just enjoy the way I feel when I give charity”.

Whether helping individuals or organizations, everyone has different motivations for why they donate, volunteer or help out. In the corporate world, there are new massive trends which encourage charity and volunteerism.

Why would a company care whether their employees donate to charity? Why would corporations like Apple and Google offer programs, where they match the charitable contributions of their employees?

It could simply be because they want to be a part of the culture of “do-gooders”. It might be because industrial psychologists have suggested that employees are more productive when they feel that they are helping the world (not just selling technology). Or, perhaps they give so generously to avoid the extra tax burdens, which will inevitably hit their multi-billion dollar bottom lines.

Regardless of their ulterior motives, you have to admit that great things are happening as a result of these corporate trends which encourage kindness and philanthropy. But, let’s be clear, most companies do not exist, nor were they created just to bring social welfare reform to the world. Only as a result of their incredible success, are they able to give back to the community and help the world.

Imagine, however, if we flipped the model. What might it look like if a company were formed exclusively to help the world, while also yielding a profit?

I recall once partnering with a very generous oral surgeon, who invested in an ice-cream franchise. I curiously asked him why he was expanding into this market, if he was already maintaining a highly successful and lucrative medical practice. He responded, that he works as hard as he does just to be able to give more charity. However, he was frustrated by his own financial limitations.

Therefore, instead of donating $200,000 to charity, he invested it in a business, which was going to yield more than double his initial investment.  Then he would donate every penny of the annual profit to charity. Additionally, his kindness was bringing a family-friendly business to the community, as well as offering employment to a number of people. Many other small businesses will equally allocate a tithe of at least 10% of their profit to go directly to charitable causes. Thus, the more successful they are, the more they can give back to their community.

It is this win-win-win model of Venture-Philanthropy, which puts the desire to help others as the foundation and motivation to running a successful company.

I was recently introduced to another such inspiring company called Book Bugs (www.bookbugs.net). Their motto is, “where reading meets giving”.

They are basically a monthly book club for kids, where children can receive a brand new book each month to help inspire them to read. Here’s the best part - for every three books that your child receives, a brand new book is donated to an underprivileged child.will

When I heard their mission, I simply could not resist and immediately signed up. While three of my kids love reading, I have not been able to motivate my youngest 3rd-grade daughter to read. I’ve tried getting her all the “usual” books (Harry Potter, Babysitters Club, Junie B. Jones, Magic Treehouse, Judy Blume), none of which kept her interest for more than 10 minutes.

When I joined Book Bugs, they had me fill out a form telling about my child’s interests and hobbies. I was shocked when a few days later a book that I had never before heard of arrived in the mail. It was absolutely perfect and she could not put it down! Clearly they know more about what 8-year-old girls like to read than I do!

Now, my daughter looks forward to a new book every month. But more importantly, I love that I am also helping the world, by supporting a company that is giving the same gift of reading to a less fortunate child. (Its good to note that the company is running a promotion now, where you can get your first month for free with the promo code: GIVEBOOKS2015).

I hope that more companies will embrace this model of Venture-Philanthropy, where their business model will foremost aim to do great things in the world, beyond the wonderful products or services they offer.

While it feels great to donate and help other people, I would hardly call any act of charity selfish! Anyone who helps others is doing a good deed. But if we could direct our entrepreneurial motivations to be built upon compassion and altruism, perhaps we could inspire and help more people in the process. I am not suggesting that a company earn less and report smaller profits to their shareholders. Rather, to change their definition of success altogether.

Perhaps the very success of a company should be measured, not my how much they bring in, but my how much they can give back.

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The Secret to Finding Meaning in Life

Posted by in Organizations & Leadership, Parenting, Relationships & Marriage

Treadmill + Shower + Coffee + Newspaper = Happiness?

Who doesn’t love their morning routine? We all love habits, as they make life comfortable and cozy. Instead of having to confront the dreadful anxiety induced by facing the unknown, we can simply find a soothing rhythm and live within the confines of that comfort zone.

Yet, there is a downside to living a robotic existence. When we settle into a life of complacency, it can quickly become stale, and at best, we will strive for mediocrity. How do we overcome that inclination and utilize our time on earth to truly live an awesome life?

The answer is to remember the power of 1.

Many people assume that the power of 1 refers to what the individual, or perhaps God, can accomplish. However, for me, the 1 represents journeying from zero to something which has a value.

If you had string of 6 consecutive zeros, the number would still be worthless. However, if you simply added a 1 before them, you would suddenly have a million! If we could add a 1 before every action in life, it would be tantamount to infusing purpose and meaning into everything we do.

Suppose your existence were reduced to spending each day turning a wheel. Yomoneyu would probably find it to be a painfully torturous chore. However, what if you knew that the wheel was powering a generator that sustained a person on life support? Sure, the task would still be painful and boring, but having that knowledge ignites a new perspective which adds purpose and transforms empty zeros into millions.

It is specifically through a purpose-filled perspective that we unlock strength, joy and untapped potential that lies within each of us.

When we know what we are living for, it motivates us to do more with our time and to live a greater and more meaningful life. The greatest way to fuel our daily existence is to think about others. By looking for ways to uplift our spouse, children, neighbors, friends and coworkers, we are placing 1’s everywhere we go.

When we can find opportunities to uplift the lives of others, it shifts the focus from our many zeros and adds value to everything we do. Even when we do something as mundane as going to work, the gym or watching TV, having a reason and a purpose (such as for family, or to be more productive) makes those tasks purposeful.

Life has many forms of currency that people value, such as money, clothing, cars, food, movies, trinkets or video games. All of these “things” are placeholders. They are mere zeroes that occupy time and space and will ultimately craft the epitaph that is our legacy.

Thus, even if we were to amass an abundance of all these “things”, at the end of life, of what value are they really?

Therefore, instead of only amassing zeros, and filling our lives with routines that are cozy, let's think bigger.  Imagine what life could be like if we were to pause each day to think about the needs of others and work to break free from our own little comfort zones and routines. By searching for the 1’s, we can learn to put the needs of the world ahead of ours, and add purpose, meaning, joy and goals to everything we do. 

So, what's your "1"?  Please inspire others below by sharing yours in the comment section.

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When a Leader is So Funny, it Hurts

Posted by in Organizations & Leadership, Parenting, Relationships & Marriage

How Humor Can Help or Hurt Relationships

Although every leader has their own style, some are genuine and others are manufactured. Steve Jobs was terrific at inspiring his employees with the innovative vision that Apple so desperately needed. Yet, he also managed to instill terror in the hearts and minds of his employees. Regardless of whether this approach is a replicable model to be taught in business schools, it was genuine. Like it or not, this is just who Steve was. He was not out to make friends, rather, he was committed to his vision and mandate.

Then, there are the leaders take a folksy, humorous approach, where self-deprecation paves the way to creating an environment of humility and friendliness. Employees seem to enjoy coming to a work environment where the boss has reduced the culture of stress and fear and create one of camaraderie. But does this approach really work for maximizing productivity?

It all depends on whether this person is genuine or fake.

Humor is a powerful tool to help put people at ease and build bridges. However, many people use humor as a defense mechanism aimed at protecting themselves when feeling vulnerable. When the CEO is insecure and hides behind humor, it will only last so long before he or she is exposed.

For instance, if unable to remember the names of his or her employees, the CEO dodges uncomfortable encounters by injecting humor, quips and creating witty nicknames, it might seem funny (at least for the first or second time around). However, when this pattern is compounded, people recognize it as being disingenuous. Ultimately, the leader is seen as a fake and may quickly lose the confidence of his team.

There is little shame in being genuine and showing that you care enough to ask an employee to remind you of their name. When employees only see a façade and cannot quite put their finger on who their boss really is, it creates a heightened discomfort, fear, and inability to trust.

Steve-Jobs-470x350

While Steve Jobs may have scared his employees half to death, they knew full well who they were dealing with. However, when a leader is disingenuous and hides behind quick one-liners, he or she may feel safe and protected, but the organization as a whole will remain vulnerable.

Employees thrive when they feel that they are part of an organization which engenders trust and honesty.

A strong leader will constantly strive to be self-aware, know their talents and humbly own their weaknesses. It is through genuine honesty and even being fallible from time to time, that leaders can instill trust, faith and loyalty in the hearts of their employees. 


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Dealing with Difficult People & Egos

Posted by in Blog, Organizations & Leadership

One of the biggest faux pas I have seen in efforts toward organizational development is when the burden of improvement is placed solely upon the organization itself. While spreadsheets and charts are the output of the agency, at the end of the day, their success has little to do with the company, customers or trends and everything to do with the very people at the organization’s core.

Much of my approach to organizational development is taken from my experience in marriage counseling. For instance, every husband knows that he can inflate his ego, stand on ceremony and try to be right. Or, he can be happy! While being confident is a wonderful quality, having an overinflated ego only stands to hurt people. The same marriage principle holds true for organizations.

When ego gets in the way of a healthy work dynamic, nobody wins. It breeds a culture of mistrust and fear, which ultimately deteriorates morale and productivity. Nevertheless, for a number of reasons, there are some people who expect credit, respect and deference. They cannot be removed from the equation, nor will their nature quickly change.

How, then, can the organization be improved under these circumstances?

The way I strive to navigate this terrain is to facilitate progress on two fronts. Firstly, it is working directly with the egoist. In a therapeutic fashion, I explore the personal (not professional) goals of this individual. By helping to present them with a key focus on who they are and what fulfills them, it becomes a new lens with which they operate. Thus, without noticing it, it diffuses much of their tension, ego or insecurity which previously drove them. With a new focus, they are able to work on their own personal development and find fulfillment in their natural work environment and see others, not as a threat, but as part of a support-network. I have found that as a result of this one change, others around them are less likely to be the targets of their barbs and the culture becomes one of greater respect, focus and productivity.

The second approach is to facilitate a series of group conversations, where I am able to create a safe environment for people to exchange ideas and share how they feel. Ultimately, since I am not an employee of theirs and have nothing to lose, I can say the very things that they are afraid to. I am in a position to hold up a mirror to them and help them see how their previous dynamic could be harmful. Through this process, instead of people hiding behind niceties and preventing progress, an honest and mature conversation can be had. Just like in my work with couples, this dynamic helps to promote a sense of vulnerability. At first it feels raw and uncomfortable and makes people defensive. However, as people open up and start to communicate in a more “real” way with one another, the tensions dissipate, and humility and respect become the foundation for the relationships. It is specifically in a culture of mutual-respect and humility that any relationship – personal, professional or marital can thrive. In this case, while colleagues will now enjoy a more peaceful environment, the primary beneficiary of this change will be the organization as a whole.

To contact Ari Sytner for counseling, interventions or feedback, please click here.

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