Men and women may never truly understand each other, but as a nationally-known educator and expert on understanding the sexes and their influence on one another, Alison Armstrong may come quite close. Her research and knowledge became the foundation for Partnership, Adoration, and Xtasy (PAX) Programs Incorporated, and as CEO and co-founder, Armstrong inspires staff and participants alike with her approach to creating harmonious connections between men and women.
PAX workshops celebrate the concord and discord of the sexes, and educate students with the skills necessary to create successful relationships. Armstrong has had a hand in activist work too, working with the homeless, hungry, and children for many years, and is the founder of the Orange County Summit for Children.
Yogi Times: What has been the most challenging aspect of your personal journey, and how has that strengthened you?
Alison Armstrong: To have the impact I want to make on our understanding of gender, with both its gifts and its challenges, I have to be willing to be misunderstood by people to whom I may never have a chance to explain myself. This happens to all public persons. Meanwhile, since I hate being misunderstood, I’m motivated to constantly improve as a communicator by being aware of who is listening, and through which values or filters.
YT: What do you consider to be your greatest strength, and your deepest weakness?
Alison Armstrong: My integrity is my greatest strength and the source of all the goodness I’m privileged to create. My deepest weakness, I think, is my avoidance of criticism, which my integrity ultimately makes me face, but I hate it. When I asked Greg, my husband what he thought my weaknesses were, he was quiet for awhile. Then he said, “Sometimes you hang things on door knobs.” I have a good life, yes?
YT: What gets you out of bed every day?
Alison Armstrong: Besides Greg smiling and asking hopefully, “Are you going to make my lunch?” since he loves my lunches, what gets me out of bed is my current obsession. Greg and I joke that I just move from one obsession to another. It’ll either be some form of physical beauty I’m creating (like landscaping), or a new program or book that will bring more understanding and freedom to others.
YT: Who was your greatest teacher and why?
Alison Armstrong: Men. They have patiently explained why they do what they do, and delighted in my curiosity and humble inquiries. Listening to men for many years, striving to make sense of their approach to life, has completely altered my approach to life.
YT: Was there a defining moment in your life that placed you on your current path?
Alison Armstrong: There were two. The first was when my friend was called a ‘frog farmer,’ and I saw it was true about me. A frog farmer is a woman who turns princes into frogs. That was the beginning of wanting to understand what brings out the best and worst in men. The second moment was when Ellen Hurst patiently explained to me all the ways she knew I was emasculating men, and asked me to stop. This was the beginning of me wanting to share my new-found understanding of men in a way that would transform women’s fear, anger and frustration with men and enable them to create partnerships instead.
YT: How do you define success?
Alison Armstrong: Like many, I see success as a way of living rather than a destination. The people I think of as successful are passionately engaged in providing the gift each of us was born to give, whether it be to one other person, an organization, community, nation or planet. Recently many people have congratulated me on my new success. It’s been strange to me, since I’ve felt successful from the moment the first woman shifted from hating men to loving men, from disabling men to uplifting them.
YT: What do you consider your greatest success?
Alison Armstrong: Professionally, my greatest success would be in “practicing what I preach,” not only by celebrating men in personal life, but also in the way that our company conducts itself. We celebrate both masculinity and femininity, we have our attention on setting up our staff to win at their jobs and we care about what each individual needs. We honor our customers’ courage, yet won’t sell our souls to keep them. Personally, my greatest success would be the level of affection and communication my children have with me. I feel blessed to be so included in their lives.
YT: What brings joy into your life?
Alison Armstrong: The moments when the men and women in our workshops have an insight which sets them free. It’s like letting birds out of cages. How much our workshop leaders enjoy those moments as much as I. My husband’s touch and laughter, my daughters’ smiles and victories, my son’s inquisitiveness and when he’s purring over a meal I fixed, my friends’ love and encouragement. How my dad tells everyone to read my book and listens whenever I’m on the radio.
YT: What word of wisdom do you have to share?
Alison Armstrong: Of all the words I love, and I’m a dictionary reader, I’d have to say “empowerment.” In partnership with others it’s possible to give power in a way that costs the giver none and enriches all.
YT: What is the next step for you?
Alison Armstrong: To keep providing for the 145 women and men who are developing ways to communicate our understanding of men and women in contexts as varied as church and therapy, teenagers and corporations.
If you are looking to deepen your relationships and learn the basics of authentic communication (with yourself and others) take a look at this online course – Transformative Communication – an easy and life-enhancing approach for better relationships.