Dear 'GMA' Advice Guru Top 20 Finalists: Annie Zirkel

Read an application from one of our finalists.

ByABC News via logo
November 26, 2010, 10:05 AM

Nov. 26, 2010 — -- Annie Zirkel from Ann Arbor, Mich., is a finalist in the Dear GMA Advice Guru Contest. Read her application below!


If you are looking for someone real, who encourages others to be better versions of themselves, who has been through many challenges and has learned to be good to myself while treating others kindly as well then we should talk. My name is Annie Zirkel. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor and Relationship Consultant in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I give advice for a living but ultimately I hope I help others find their own answers. I took the long way to my career by first making just about every mistake there is. By my late 30s, floundering in both my marriage and the parenting of my three sons (one of whom has severe disabilities) I had some Aha moments and discovered that what I was lacking was a thing called skills. Who knew? So I started learning, eventually earning a counseling degree. I have been passing on my brand of wisdom ever since. I write and teach workshops on parenting, couplehood, bullying prevention, communication skills, power struggles, optimism and gratitude. ...I believe that the key to success is keeping your eye on the prize. In most cases that means good relationships with the people you love, the people you like and the people you spend your time with. I encourage solutions that hopefully, not only resolve dilemmas, but also rise above them. My thinking is that we only have so much time on this earth, so let's make the most of it. So if you are looking for a passionate, positive and down-to-earth professional as your GMA Advice Guru, then let's talk. Either way, thanks for your consideration and take care.

What's the best advice you have ever given? What was the result?

The best advice I've ever given was actually just feedback. I see many parents in my practice who don't seem to know that they already are good parents. Sure, some parents screw up big time, and even good parents can always improve but the message that seems to get lost is that most parents are committed, caring, responsible parents on their way to creating committed, caring, responsible children. Often when I remind a good parent of their strengths I am stunned by their genuine surprise at hearing this praise. In some cases these words have brought parents to tears because so many parents come to me fearing that they are failing their children. Obviously, I do not suggest that there aren't real issues to address but it amazes me that parents don't hear this enough. And I am always so glad to have the opportunity to help them remember.

Annie Zirkel is Finalist in GMA Advice Guru Contest

What would you tell this person: "Whenever there is an issue between my mother-in-law and me, my husband refuses to stand up for me. How do I get him to value our relationship more than the one with his mother?

Do you and your husband agree that marriage is about having each other's backs? If not - I think I've found the real challenge. But if so, then you need to ask him to have yours. In order to grow in your relationship as opposed to grow apart - he will need to set the record straight with his mom that you matter. But here's the twist - because partnership is about having each other's backs - you need to have your husband's too. Right now your husband likely just wants to avoid a no-win situation. So doing what you can to make peace with your mom-in-law is how you support your husband (Hopefully the fact that she raised the man you fell in love with can be a good start). Generosity on both sides is what makes lasting marriages. Good luck.

What would you tell this person: "While cleaning my son's room, I accidentally saw on his Facebook page threatening remarks from his friends. I fear he's being bullied. What should I do?"

The bottom line is to be the kind of parent you son needs. Start by not freaking out - calm parenting trumps crazed parenting any day. Explain how you came to see the posts, apologize for the intrusion and then - calmly - find out what is going on. Your goal is to determine how real the threat is. And that starts with listening. For parents, knowing when to step in can be as hard as kids knowing when a situation is too big for them. If the threats are more "friends" messing with your son - think coaching him to stand up for himself. And encourage him to question the quality of his friends. But if you feel it's a dangerous situation you need to get involved - even if your son would rather you not. Finally, keep track of whether things are getting better or worse and keep the lines of communication open.

Finalist Annie Zirkel Could be New GMA Advice Guru

What would you tell this person: "My boss keeps taking credit for my ideas. What should I do?" Bosses who don't build up their teams are not great bosses. But until we have a magic wand to make others do the right thing, here are some options. Do nothing: Especially if your job is generally satisfying and your boss is OK in other ways; you may decide to stay quiet and even offer up your ideas for the team. Speak up: If your self-esteem or career advancement are at stake, you may decide to say something to your boss or beyond. Raise your integrity by using kind assertiveness: building yourself up without tearing your boss down. But go in knowing that speaking up doesn't mean others will step up. Move on: If all else fails consider a better fit for your talents by changing departments, companies or even careers. Ultimately you want to make choices that you can live with. What those are, only you can decide.

Submissions have been edited for length, style and clarity.

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