Self-Confidence: Its Source And How To Grow It

Sandra Dillon: February 12, 2018

While facilitating one of my Building Better Relationships workshops, an attendee asked me, “How can I give my girlfriend the self-confidence she needs?” Depression or mental illness was not a factor—just low self-confidence, which had supposedly manifested in her not expressing what she wanted, arguments, silent treatment when she didn’t get her way, a general feeling of discontent, and lack of action toward going for what she wanted in life. My reply was, “You can’t give your girlfriend self-confidence. She has to earn it for herself.” (1)Self Confidence

What is Self-Confidence?

Self-confidence is the realistic, positive belief that you can influence your world—that you have the abilities, personal power, and judgment to overcome obstacles and get what you want in life. You’re not immune to occasional fears, doubts, and failure, but overall you trust yourself and what you can do!

Self-confidence can only be developed and sourced from within. No amount of participation trophies, positive words, or kind gestures can build self-confidence, because these are only externally applied props. These supports can be cheerleading tools and enjoyable rewards, but are not substitutes for hard work and sacrifice.

You can’t ask, beg, or pay any one any amount of money to do the hard work that it takes to build your self-confidence. What spouses, partners, friends, and family can do is be supportive by providing encouragement, brainstorming, and feedback which is akin to helping a person help himself. You’ve likely heard the expression—do with and not for.

How to Grow Self-Confidence

The only times I’ve seen self-confidence grow in adults is when they attacked challenges head-on, worked hard, worked smart, and never gave up on improving themselves and their situations. When they hit a wall, instead of turning around and giving up, they instead figured out a plan of approach to get to the other side. They found a way of either digging under it, blasting through it, crawling over it, or stepping around it.

When you get to the other side of the wall, look over your shoulder, and can honestly say to yourself, “I did that,” that is the point when your self-confidence climbs another rung on the ladder. Self-confidence increases when you put your heart, mind, and soul towards something and accomplish it, proving to yourself you can get to the other side of the wall.

Role of Family and Friends in Building Self-Confidence

When spouses, parents, and friends do for you what you should be doing for yourself, they are robbing you of the opportunity to grow your self-confidence. When they rescue you from the consequences of your decisions or actions, they’re again robbing you of a teaching opportunity that can grow you. They may not be stealing a piece of you, but they are starving you of what it means to be a fully functioning, resilient, and ultimately happy individual.

The next time someone wants to bail you out or do something you know you should be doing, I would suggest you say, “No thanks. I can do it, but I sure wish you’d keep checking in on me. I may need your support, and this is what support looks like…”

(1) Men as well suffer from poor self-confidence.

About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, life, and premarital/marriage coaching.  She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her at

Business Trust: Its Importance, Value, and How to Build It

Trust 1In leadership circles, it’s well known that to move people from where they stand today to a better place of tomorrow, a leader not only has to paint a compelling vision of the future but must also convince them that standing in their current comfort zone is unacceptable. If you agree with this concept, you may be asking how does this apply in building organizational trust. I’ve heard managers and functional leadership agree they “want more trust,” then make decisions and act in ways that show their employees they don’t value trust. They’re not uncomfortable enough with the level of distrust operating under their leadership. Why? Perhaps, they haven’t suffered from or come to appreciate the magnitude that distrust has in undermining their business’s vision, mission, and goals.

Why Trust Is So Important

Without trust, you can’t build anything of sustainable value. Since trust is the foundation on which business relationships are set, creating trust should be a business’s number one priority. Without trust operating throughout its culture, a business is vulnerable to silo-ed decision-making, information hoarding, and higher employee and customer turnover to name a few. These behaviors directly increase costs and slow down response time. Employees, customers, and suppliers come to realize that for someone to win, another must lose, so everyone makes decisions to protect their position.

After food, water, clothing, and shelter, Maslow’s second hierarchy of human need is safety (security). In business, colleagues, customers, and suppliers first seek to answer the question, “Can I trust you?” If someone can’t affirmatively respond, a healthy relationship won’t develop.

When enough people on a team feel they can’t trust one another, the culture becomes distrustful and then toxic. Interactions become finely crafted dances to ensure that neither is hurt in the process. The energy of the organization goes into managing distrust as opposed to creating value and meeting goals.

Why Trust Is So Valuable

In a trusting business culture, people feel connected. They know that for someone to win, somebody else doesn’t have to lose. They’re a team working collaboratively with transparency and driving on their individual strengths. When people feel respected and appreciated, they go the extra mile. They don’t hoard information like a distrusting culture where information is power. A collaborative culture achieves increased creativity and problem-solving, resulting in more satisfied customers and profits to the bottom line.

How To Build Trust

Some think building trust is treating people well, forgiving mistakes, and giving lots of praise. Not exactly. Although these behaviors exist in cultures of trust, Brown (2017) describes specific elements that must be consistently practiced and reciprocated over time to build trust.

  • Boundaries: Communicating and honoring clear expectations
  • Reliability: Doing what you say you will do again and again [Note: It’s important to understand your limitations and not over-commit]
  • Accountability: Making a mistake, owning it, apologizing, and making amends
  • Confidence: Not sharing with others what is shared in confidence
  • Integrity: Practicing, and not just professing values, in which you may have to choose courage over your comfort or right over fun, fast, and easy
  • Non-judgment: Helping when another falters and being vulnerable to ask for help when needed [Note: One-sided help sets the giver up to feel superior over time]
  • Generosity: Believing in good intentions when the behavior is a mistake

Do People Trust Me?

This is one of the most difficult questions in which to get an honest answer, because if you have trust, people will say yes, and if you don’t have trust, people will still say yes for fear of repercussions. Because of anonymity with individual finger-pointing, it’s easier to get an honest answer by asking the question, “On a scale of 1-10, how much does trust operate within this company?”

If you’re a leader challenged with growing trust within your business culture, I suggest two approaches:

  • Honestly answer for yourself how much capacity you have to trust others. You can’t give what you don’t have. Work on improving your own insecurities and behaviors regarding trust.
  • Know what behaviors garnish trust and hold yourself and others accountable to make the right decisions and lead with those behaviors.

Changing culture is possible, and it takes time, patience, and thoughtful words and actions. You must trust the process that will take you from where you stand today to a more trustworthy culture of the future.


Brown, B. (2017). Super Soul Sessions Video: The Anatomy of Trust. Retrieved from

HE21118Davis_07-medAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in leadership, business development, and sales. She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops. She has a passion to help organizations engage all their colleagues. You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at

Leadership: How to Influence People and Outcomes

Sandra Dillon: January 25, 2018

leadership is influenceThere’s a reason why Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People has been in print for over 80 years. Its longevity owes itself to the timeless understanding of what drives human behavior. With leadership synonymous with influence, leaders should embrace Carnegie’s (1964) principles in how to (1) handle people, (2) make people like you, and (3) win people to your way of thinking.

In my experience, 20% of business success can be attributed to knowledge with the balance to a person’s skill in implementing Carnegie’s techniques—meaning 80% of business success comes from how you lead yourself and engage with others. Many of these learnings come from Carnegie asking himself three questions after every encounter:

  1. What mistakes did I make?
  2. What did I do that was right, and in what way could I have improved?
  3. What lessons can I learn and apply in the future?

If you’re able to master Carnegie’s key principles, you’ll likely find yourself in the top 5% of those who can influence people and their circumstances. Below is my winning summary of Carnegie’s best.

Techniques in How to Handle People

  1. Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain. Instead try to understand people and why they do what they do. Humans naturally have prejudices and are motivated by pride and occasionally vanity in their words and actions. Criticism only puts a person on the defensive, incurs resentment, and causes him* to justify himself.
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation. A strong human need is the desire to feel important which is why people crave appreciation, especially from their superiors and those whom they respect. Be careful with flattery—otherwise known as counterfeit appreciation—which comes across as insincere.
  3. Focus on what the other person wants and show him how to get it. Unselfishly serving others brings enormous advantages to the relationship.

Six Ways to Make People Like You

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people as opposed to trying to get people interested in you. Help others in ways that require your time, energy, unselfishness, and thoughtfulness.
  2. Smile, smile, and smile. Your smile is a messenger of what’s inside you, and it has the power to brighten someone’s life by conveying “I like you” or “I’m glad to see you.”
  3. Remember a person’s name. A person’s name is the sweetest and most important sound to him. Use it generously, and spell it correctly.
  4. Be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves. Ask people a lot of questions and validate the stories and words they share in conversation.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests. Talk about the things the other person treasures most.
  6. Make the other person feel important. When people believe you sincerely think of them as important and appreciate them, they will respond positively to you. Reflect on something you can genuinely admire and then recognize them for it.

Win People to Your Way of Thinking

  1. Avoid an argument. You can’t win an argument, because if you lose it, you lost it, and if you win it, you lost it. Why? Because someone who has lost an argument feels inferior, has his pride hurt, and will ultimately resent the triumph. The only successful way to change someone’s mind is to help him come to that conclusion himself. It’s better to manage a disagreement by trying to see the other person’s viewpoint, look for areas of agreement, and encourage him to think over your ideas.
  2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions and never tell them, “You’re wrong. You cannot change opinions when you’ve hurt someone’s feelings.  When you hurt someone, they’re not receptive in listening to anything you have to say.
  3. If you’re wrong, admit it clearly and quickly. Stating those words clears the air of defensiveness and helps solve problems.
  4. Begin any controversial conversation in a friendly way. As the old saying goes, “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”
  5. Get the other person saying, “yes, yes” immediately. Begin a conversation by emphasizing the things in which you agree. Several initial “yes” responses keep the listener moving in an affirmative direction.
  6. Let the other person do most of the talking. Think the 80/20 rule—the other person talks 80% of the time and you only 20%. Let them talk themselves into what you want them to do. [Note: This one is difficult for the extrovert.]
  7. Let others feel that the idea is theirs. Suggest, suggest, and suggest. Then let the other person think about it so much that he thinks it’s his idea.
  8. Try to see things from the other person’s point of view even if the other person is wrong and doesn’t think so. By validating the other person’s viewpoint, he will likely have a open mind to hear your ideas. [Note: Validating is not agreeing.]
  9. Be sympathetic to the other person’s desires. Validating someone even if you don’t agree will go a long way in keeping emotions in check and leaving them with a positive feeling towards you.
  10. Assume the other person operates with noble motives. People will react favorably toward you when they believe you consider them honest, upright and fair.
  11. Dramatize your ideas. Stating the simple truth may not be good enough. You may have to make the truth vivid, interesting, and dramatic in order to get the other person’s attention.
  12. Throw down a challenge. People have a competitive spirit. If you want to get things done, stimulate some competition and tap into to people’s desire to excel and prove their worth.

Practice Makes Perfect

A leader’s job often includes setting people up for success by helping them change their attitudes and behaviors. Carnegie’s (1964) suggestions to accomplish this are simply stated:

  1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation
  2. Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly
  3. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person
  4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders
  5. Let the other person save face
  6. Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement
  7. Compliment the very trait in a person that you want him to live up to
  8. Use encouragement and make any fault seems easy to correct
  9. Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest

With over 30 recommended behaviors, a person may feel overwhelmed on where to start. I would suggest rating yourself on a scale of 1-10 on how well you perform on each behavior. Select three behaviors that you are committed to improve upon and brainstorm specific approaches or words that will produce a more favorable outcome. Changing behaviors can be difficult at first, but repetitiveness turns new behaviors into old habits.

In my opinion one of the most impactful behavioral changes you can make is to remove one word from your vocabulary. What word? The word “but.” “But” negates everything that was said before it and closes down the conversation. If you replace “but” with the word “and,” you’ll see a dramatic difference in where the conversation goes. Don’t be discouraged when you realize how difficult it can be to remove that conjunction from your sentence structure. New habits are right around the corner.


Carnegie, D. (1964). How to Win Friends & Influence People: The Only Book You Need to Lead You to Success. New York, NY: Gallery Books.

*He and him also refers to she and her. He is used as opposed to he or she to make it easier for the reader.

About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in leadership, business development, and sales.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help organizations engage all their colleagues.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at

The Immeasurable Gift of a Simple Thank-You Letter

As we get into the swing of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, people rack their brains, scour the web, and sometimes agonize over what gifts to buy for their family, friends, colleagues, and business associates. Although I’d wager you’ll not completely eliminate certain aspects of this pre-holiday preparation, I can suggest a new tradition that may make it easier for you to “buy” for at least three people on your list.pen and paper 2

How many descriptively, meaningful hand-written thank you notes have you received? Most people’s answers range from never to less than a handful. This year I hope to change that by suggesting a tradition I started in 2011 while on a Thanksgiving road trip.

That year I thought how memorable it would be if I started mailing handwritten thank-you notes to a few people who had the greatest impact on my life that year. These friends, family, associates, authors, or public figures could have performed a service, shifted a paradigm in my thinking, changed my life path, showed a kindness, or did something worthy of thoughtful recognition.

During a time when electronics rule, cursive is akin to hieroglyphics, and the depth of relationships is being sacrificed to accommodate width, the arrival of a handwritten thank-you note that describes the impact you had on someone’s life is guaranteed to be one of the greatest gifts anyone can receive. Why not start this tradition and make someone feel appreciated?

If this concept sounds intriguing, I would suggest this perfect gift is no further than the pen and paper sitting in your desk drawer. Spend some time reviewing the conversations and interactions you’ve had this past year and select 2-3 people that are worthy of a shout out of praise. Get into the details as you write those letters. Surprisingly, you may find that as you think of those people of influence, the gift you receive in return is one of gratitude.

About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in leadership and business development. She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help organizations engage all their employees. You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at

Will You Live Your Legend?

liveyourlegendAs Hurricane Harvey cleanup continues, Houstonians are left with the task of restoring their lives.  Many survivors are asking themselves, “What does my life look like post-Harvey?”  With a potential paradigm shift, I hope people are asking the important question: “What is the purpose of my life?” Is the answer pre-hurricane status or something different?

Harvey challenged people to exercise their survival muscle and care for the needs of their friends and community.  Whether or not directly impacted by rising floodwaters, I bet most would agree Harvey had a blessing—a catalyst for change to strengthen spiritually, build greater confidence, and live out purpose as well as to restore community during times when the country has been in civil and political divide.  During Harvey’s punch, people were blinded to any labels of religion, race, and politics as people helped people.  Harvey enabled everyone to focus on what was important—people.

The aftermath of Harvey can also provide the opportunity for a new life versus one of the past—perhaps a life richer in purpose, work, community, and relationships.  Some may question how can they rebuild a life without following the old blueprint.  I would start by exploring and identifying the core values which reflect the essence of oneself.  Values reflect what one is willing to struggle for and the pain one is willing to endure to achieve an outcome.  A reconstructed life may also reflect answers to the following questions:

  1. What do I want more of in my life?
  2. What do I want less of in my life?
  3. What will I regret if I don’t try or do it?
  4. What one thing can I change that would have a positive impact my life?

Everyone is the author of his/her life.  What will you choose to do with your one life?  If you are a parent, are you allowing your children to live in their purpose, or are your fears and desires manifesting themselves in how you design their lives?

When you find your purpose, your energy will continue to feed that passion.  Be encouraged through adversity, because anything worth achieving requires struggle.  Do not give up hope, but be hopeful.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey some people are finally questioning their purpose and taking steps that will allow them to Live Their Legend.

About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in leadership and business development.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help organizations engage all its employees.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at

Leadership: Collaborating Across Generational Cohorts

Based on my birth date I am a confused Baby Boomer/Gen-Xer, because I sit in both camps depending on what study defines the age range for each generational cohort. By my self-assessment, I primarily identify with the characteristics of the Gen-Xer. However, no one fits all stereotypes, and I see my profile as a bell curve with my tails in the Boomer and Millennial camps. What concerns me most about the current workplace dynamics is the lack of collaboration and appreciation that cohorts have for one another. Has there ever been such an emotionally charged divide?

How Technology Impacts Generational Cohorts Attributes and Collaboration

Studies show that having the authority and left to their own preferences, people promote and invite into their ranks those who have similar values, interests, and styles. What might this mean for all employees? The likely assumption would be more cohort division and clustering of similar thinking and approaches. When these dynamics are interwoven with current communication platforms, one would naturally forecast that there would be fewer cohorts sitting across the table from one another. Does technology allow shared-thinking groups the ability to silo themselves and hang onto preconceived ideas and stereotypes? Would the absence of web-meetings, working remotely, iPhones, call-in conferencing, etc. force the generations to collaborate and appreciate each other more?

No doubt, technology has expanded the width of our network, yet has it come at the expense of the depth in our relationships? Companies bring more colleagues together through technology platforms, yet have they invested the corresponding resources to foster effective collaboration?

How to Build Bridges toward Collaboration

How can generations learn to appreciate and collaborate more with each other to deliver superior solutions? Part of the answer involves understanding the impact of mindset.  Will people hang onto their beliefs and look for evidence to support how they feel, or will they choose to engage, brainstorm, and build a superior team?

Where would one start? First, acknowledge that technology will continue to be a force that shapes team collaboration across all cohorts. Second, appreciate that generational cohorts are shaped by their macros experiences that form their worldview. Third, be cognizant that people are individuals and some do not hold the same characteristics of their birthed cohort. Fourth, choose to respect and actively work with each style to extract the best of what it can contribute to the situation.

Gen Communication

As the table suggests, cohorts’ preferences differ in what and how to communicate, problem-solve, decide, and lead. Most would agree that good communication is a key competency in influencing outcomes and achieving goals; therefore, colleagues need to answer three questions regarding their communication: (1) how much, (2) how to, and (3) to whom.

Given how technology has expanded access to information and communication platforms,  it should come as no surprise how cohorts’ styles and mediums have evolved. Baby Boomers have a more guarded view of information and prefer face-to-face communication; whereas, Millennials are more collaborative and utilize social media to communicate information. Each style has its merits and drawbacks. Millennials readily share information so teams can make decisions.  Baby Boomers prefer to make more decisions within their peer group and inform the team. The argument could be made that the Millennials’ preferred communication style lends itself to better decision-making because of its increased diversity and inclusion. However, the drawback is the increased risk that sensitive information would be leaked as more employees are involved in the collaborative process.

How to Collaborate through Consensus with the End Goal in Mind

Generational cohort preferences are rooted in human judgment in how best to work towards a goal.  For example, many of my work processes are classic Gen-Xer. My leadership style takes the form of coaching, and when I am asked to lead a meeting, my first inclination is to create a PowerPoint slide deck to lead the discussion.

I propose that cohorts will only increase in collaboration when they choose to de-emphasize a preferred, prescriptive process and focus on developing the best way to meet the objectives. Teams should allow their members some nonjudgmental space and flexibility to carry out their best work. Every member must learn to appreciate and find value in the other work styles as well as remain flexible. The surprise outcome may be the discovery of a hybrid team work style that delivers the right product at the right time.

Generational cohort conflict cannot be solved, because it is rooted in different values and worldviews. Poorly led organizations ignore cohort differences. The better organizations seek ways to manage this conflict, and the best companies leverage these differences to win.

HE21118Davis_07-medAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in leadership and business development. She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops that address her clients’ specific business needs. She has a passion to help organizations fully engage all its employees. Reach out to her at or 281.793.3741 to further the conversation and determine how she can help you grow your business.

Networking: How to Think of It as Fun When You Think It’s Not

Networking 5You probably read the title of this article and don’t necessarily agree that networking is fun, but you were intrigued enough to read more. If you don’t think networking is fun, we probably have a different definition or approach.

I know plenty of people who are highly networked and consider it a necessity of doing business, yet I know far more who say they need to start networking in case they lose their job. Sadly, many people don’t practice networking until they need something such as a job lead, referral, or recommendation. Networking then becomes a fearful activity as they live in a tight time frame to secure a job while managing the risk of rejection.

I propose that the definition of networking extends beyond a job and the industry connections where one earns a living. Networking is a life skill and a fun one to practice across all life relationships. Why? Because networking is not about asking for anything but about giving to others.

People were designed for networking, because people were designed to be in relationship with one another. Networking is about building and sustaining relationships. People get off track when they approach networking as a give and take or a score to be kept. Ninety-nine percent of networking should be giving and blessing others without the expectation of receiving anything in return. When we give, how can we be rejected? If you approach every contact as an opportunity to help, you will be surprised how your relationships strengthen.

So how do you start networking with sincerity? Ask powerful questions to learn more about people, where they are from, and their interests. You might find some interesting common ground off which to build. You might deepen the conversation by asking “-est” (extreme) type questions such as: 1) What is the biggest challenge you have faced? (2) What accomplishment are you proudest? and (3) What is your best piece of advice?  You may then ask, “How can I help you?” You’ll be surprised how easy and fun it is to have a conversation when you only have a desire to connect and serve. When you do eventually find yourself in a position of need, you may find that your network turns around and asks you, “How can I help you?”

HE21118Davis_07-medAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in leadership and business development.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops that address her clients’ business needs.  She has a passion to help organizations fully engage all its employees.  Reach out to her at or 281.793.3741 to further the conversation and determine how she can help you grow your business.

Communication Intelligence: How Would You Rate Your Listening Skills?

listening 3The media is flooded with research and articles on Intelligence Quotient (IQ), Emotional Intelligence/Quotient (EI/EQ), and their role in personal life success.  On the contrary, few studies have mentioned the importance of Communication Quotient/Intelligence (CQ/I).  Whereas IQ measures mental capacity to learn and EQ the use of emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, CI reflects the ability to communicate effectively.  Communication intelligence is a complex concept encompassing both effective speaking and listening skills.

In American culture, extroversion is valued more than introversion and speaking is emphasized over listening.  For those who may not have thought about this concept, I would ask, “When was the last time you were complimented for being a good listener?”  Perhaps the only time you can recall was as a child, when your parent thanked you for listening and doing what you were asked after behavior to the contrary.  More likely than not, you have complimented colleagues and friends on a giving a powerful speech or presentation and leading a great discussion.  Have you complimented a peer for listening well?  Whether the environment is school, work, or home, there are few rewards for listening well and in contrast typically punishments or negative repercussions.

Listening TableNot only are people not rewarded for good listening, they are generally not highly skilled at it.  Why? I would propose, because effective listening is rarely taught.  Burley-Allen (1995) compared four communication modes with their percentage of time used and formal years of training.  Although the majority of communication (40%) is spent in listening mode, the American education system spends a fraction of the time teaching effective listening skills. Instead, most of our learning is modeled by our parents in early childhood and reflected in our reward and punishment patterns.  Our communication intelligence is built on the socialization process started in our families.

Listening is a skill that everyone can improve upon.  You first need to understand where you are on the listening effectiveness continuum.  Step one is gaining self-knowledge: being aware of your listening abilities and evaluating their effectiveness.  We can all benefit by reflecting on our predispositions and assumptions brought into our conversations and what filters we use to interpret messages.  Burley-Allen (1995) describes filters such as memories, values, strong beliefs, expectations, attitudes, past experiences, prejudices, assumptions, and feelings.

We should all be conscious of our filters and how they are affecting our ability to listen well.  Partnering with a coach can help you develop a plan to improve your listening abilities and communication effectiveness.  The reward?  Building listening capacity and skill proficiency increases personal success in relationships and leadership influence.


Burley-Allen, M. (1995). Listening: The Forgotten Skill. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons

HE21118Davis_07-medAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including leadership, life purpose/plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.  She can be reached at or 281.793.3741.


What is Your Primary Love Language?

Couple under umbrella

Love is a verb, not a feeling

As a marriage coach and mentor, couples ask me what one book I would recommend that would help them have a strong and lasting marriage.  Without a doubt, my answer is The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. From my perspective, this book is a must-read for any couple who is seriously dating, engaged, or even married.  People who are single and will begin dating or are dating can also greatly benefit by investing the time to understand the key principles that satisfy their needs and build love in connection.

The concept of the love languages is incredibly powerful in its simplicity. What are these 5 love languages? Chapman (2015) lists them as (1) quality time, (2) acts of service, (3) words of affirmation, (4) gifts, and (5) physical touch.  He proposes that everyone needs to receive a least a little of each language but that one has at least one or two primary languages.  When people do not receive the bulk of their love through their primary love languages, they will not feel truly loved or connected with their partner.

Without understanding the concept of these five love languages, people love others in the languages that predominately speak to them.  For example, if a man has the primary love languages of quality time and physical touch, he will feel love and connection by holding hands, hugging, and kissing while enjoying a festival without the distraction of phones and social media.  If his partner feels love primarily through gifts and acts of service, she will likely enjoy spending time with him but will feel more loved by receiving a bouquet of flowers while he offers to take out her trash before they head out on their date.

There is no better or worse love language, and none of the love languages have a gender bias. Communicating your primary languages and purposefully acting in ways that align with his or hers will grow and deepen the relationship. Love is not necessarily a feeling but a verb, the act of loving your partner in the ways that speak love to him or her.

Some couples ask me whether you should partner with someone who has the same primary love languages.  The truth?  Plenty of people, who do not have the same primary love languages, have wildly successful marriages.  For those who overlap in their top languages, loving each other is easy as love is given and received in the same way.  Naturally effortless!  If your primary love languages are different, it will likely take more conscious thought, energy, and effort, but hopefully after practice, it becomes second nature.  I encourage you to buy the book, take the quiz at the end, tell your partner of your primary languages, and start loving your partner in their desired love languages.


Chapman, G. (2015). The five love languages: The secret to love that lasts. Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing.

144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.  She can be reached at or 281.793.3741.

Are You Listening? What Did You Hear?

Attentively ListeningEffective listening is one of the most demanding components of any communication exchange, because it involves a mental process that requires self-discipline and demands tremendous amounts of focused energy.  As a life coach, my profession requires that I demonstrate a high proficiency in effective listening, and I must admit, I have to continually work at maintaining this skill.  Without continued practice, it is easy to slip into old and more comfortable listening habits.  The good news?  Effective listening is not an innate skill but one that everyone can learn and master.

What is effective listening?  Burley-Allen (1995) defines specific elements of effective listening which include (1) taking in information while remaining empathetic and nonjudgmental, (2) acknowledging the speaker in a way that invites the conversation to continue, and (3) providing encouraging feedback that carries the other person’s idea one step further.   Effective listening is harder than you might think to practice, because it involves not just tuning into the other person but tuning into oneself.  Have you had the chance to listen carefully to what you said and how you said it?  Have you ever recorded one of your serious or passionate conversations?  If you have, were you surprised in how you came across in the conversation?  Try it!  Next time you plan to have an important discussion, consider using effective listening techniques, record your conversation, and review the recording.  The feedback may surprise you, while providing you with valuable information in self-awareness and self-reflection.


Burley-Allen, M. (1995). Listening: The Forgotten Skill (2nd ed.). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.  Email: