active listening

Fine Tune Your Relationship

Why do some relationships last forever and others fall apart? Here are some ways you can make your partner feel appreciated again and prevent your relationship from becoming a casualty.

 

    1.    Treat your partner as you would your boss, best friend, or best customer.

 

    2.    Think about what your partner wants and give it to him or her.

 

    3.    Think of ways you can do the unexpected and be thoughtful. Remember how you acted when you wanted to win your partner over.

 

    4.    Pay attention to your appearance. Dress nicely; get into shape.

 

    5.    Express your thoughts carefully. Being married doesn't give anyone permission to let it all hang out.

 

    6.    Spend regular time together alone.

 

    7.    Look for ways to compliment your partner.

 

    8.    Hug when you say hello and goodbye. It feels good and it makes people feel loved.

 

    9.    Learn and practice communication skills. Relating successfully to another person requires a set of skills that can be learned.

 

    10.    Be polite. Just because you are married doesn't mean you can forget your manners.

 

    11.    When you want something, say please.

 

    12.    When your partner does something for you, say thank you.

 

    13.    When your partner comes home after a day at work, greet her at the door and say hello. Ask how her day went.

 

    14.    When your partner leaves for work in the morning, say goodbye and "I love you" or "Have a good day."

 

    15.    When your partner faces a challenge at work during the day, ask how it went when you get home.

 

    16.    During your evening meal together, avoid the temptation to watch television or read the paper or mail. Look at your partner and have a conversation.

 

    17.    If you want to make plans that affect how your partner will be spending time, check with him first and make sure it's convenient.

 

    18.    When you ask your partner a question, make eye contact and listen to the answer.

 

    19.    When you disagree with something your partner says, pay attention to your response. Do you express your opinion without putting her down? You can express your opinion assertively rather than aggressively. For example, you can say, "I have another opinion. I think we should wait until spring to have the walls painted," rather than, "That's silly! We should wait until spring."

 

    20.    Pay attention to how much of your side of the conversation is asking questions versus making statements. If you tend to be the dominant one, ask more questions.

 

    21.    Ask open-ended questions to encourage your partner to open up and talk. Open-ended questions begin like this:

    a.    Tell me about...

    b.    What do you think of...

    c.    What was it like when...

 

    22.    Have you become passive with your partner because that's the easiest way to avoid conflict? Over time, this is not a good idea. You will inevitably begin to build up feelings of resentment because you are stifling your feelings, thoughts, and opinions. If you think you are choosing passive behavior too often, think about discussing it with your partner and asking him to help you be more assertive.

 

    23.    Researchers have found that people whose marriages last the longest have learned to separate from their families of origin (their own parents and siblings) and have appropriate, healthy boundaries. They value and honor their own privacy and separateness as a couple. This means they have regular, appropriate contact with their extended family, but that it is not excessive or stifling. How do you compare?

 

    24.    Check your communication with your partner and beware of using "You" messages. These are statements that begin with you. For example:

You need to come home by 6:00 tonight.

You shouldn't do that.

You should call me from the office and tell me when you'll be home.

Here is what you ought to do.

"You" messages are damaging because they make the other person feel bad or disrespected. It feels like you are talking down to him or her.

 

    25.    If you want to demonstrate to your partner that you respect and esteem him or her, try speaking with "I" messages instead. When you start your statement with "I," you are taking responsibility for the statement. It is less blameful and less negative than the "you" message.

You can use this formula: Your feelings + Describe the behavior + Effect on you. This is how an "I" message sounds: When I heard that you'd planned a weekend up north, I was confused about why you hadn't asked me first, so I could be sure to get the time off. It takes some practice and you have to stop and think about what you are going to say, but your marriage deserves to be handled with care.

 

    26.    Make a list of your partner's positive qualities. Share them with him and tell her why you think each is true.

 

    27.    Ask your partner to do the same for you.

 

    28.    Respect each other's private space. Over time, many couples let this slide.

 

    29.    As the years pass, many couples begin to feel like they are living in the same house, but have parallel lives. Their paths cross in fewer places. What is the trend in your relationship and what do you want to do about it?

Find out your partner's love language to find out how to meet your partner's specific needs. Go to www.5LoveLanguages.com to take a short quiz.

Build People Skills

Build Your People Skills

 

How would you like to get along even better with others in your personal relationships and in the workplace? Getting along well with people sounds kind of general and is difficult to do much about, so let's break it down into some manageable and specific skills. By building the following skills, you will get along well with others:

    1.    Build others' self-esteem.

    2.    Show empathy for others.

    3.    Encourage people to cooperate with each other.

    4.    Communicate assertively.

    5.    Ask productive questions and demonstrate listening skills.

    6.    Respond productively to emotional statements.

People skills (which are also known as emotional intelligence) can be thought of as six specific skills. Let's take a brief look at each one.

    1.    Build others' self-esteem. When you are in a situation where you are made to feel good about yourself, you feel good. You can do the same with others by doing the following kinds of things:

    a.    Make eye contact with others.

    b.    Call others by their names.

    c.    Ask others their opinions.

    d.    Compliment others' work.

    e.    Tell people how much you appreciate them.

    f.    Write notes of thanks when someone does something worthwhile.

    g.    Make people feel welcome when they come to your home or workplace.

    h.    Pay attention to what is going on in people's lives. Acknowledge milestones and express concern about difficult life situations such as illness, deaths, and accidents.

    i.    Introduce your family members to acquaintances when you meet them in public.

    j.    Encourage your loved ones to explore their talents and interests.

    k.    Share people's excitement when they accomplish something.

    l.    Honor people's needs and wants.

    m.    Take responsibility for your choices and actions, and expect others to do the same.

    n.    Take responsibility for the quality of your communications.

    2.    Show empathy for others. Empathy means recognizing emotions in others. It is the capacity to put yourself in another person's shoes and understand how they view their reality and how they feel about things.

Being aware of our emotions and how they affect our actions is a fundamental ability in today's people-intense workplaces. People who are cut off from their emotions are unable to connect with people. It's like they are emotionally tone-deaf.

No one wants to work with such people because they have no idea how they affect others. You have probably met a few people who fit this description.

    3.    Encourage people to cooperate with each other. Whether you are managing a family or a work group, there are some specific things you can do to create an environment where others work together well:

    a.    Don't play favorites. Treat everyone the same. Otherwise, some people will not trust you.

    b.    Don't talk about people behind their backs.

    c.    Ask for others' ideas. Participation increases commitment.

    d.    Follow up on suggestions, requests, and comments, even if you are unable to carry out a request.

    e.    Check for understanding when you make a statement or announcement. Don't assume everyone is with you.

    f.    Make sure people have clear instructions for tasks to be completed. Ask people to describe what they plan to do.

    g.    Reinforce cooperative behavior. Don't take it for granted.

    4.    Communicate assertively. Assertive communication is a constructive way of expressing feelings and opinions. People are not born assertive; their behavior is a combination of learned skills. Assertive behavior enables you to:

    a.    Act in your own best interests.

    b.    Stand up for yourself without becoming anxious.

    c.    Express your honest feelings.

    d.    Assert your personal rights without denying the rights of others.

Assertive behavior is different from passive or aggressive behavior in that it is:

    a.    Self-expressive

    b.    Honest

    c.    Direct

    d.    Self-enhancing

    e.    Constructive, not destructive

Assertive behavior includes both what you say and how you say it.

    5.    Ask productive questions and demonstrate listening skills. Listening skills help you show that you are hearing and understanding another person and are interested in what he or she has to say.

    6.    Respond productively to emotional statements. A communication skill called active listening is especially useful in emotional situations because it enables you to demonstrate that you understand what the other person is saying and how he or she is feeling about it. Active listening means restating, in your own words, what the other person has said. It's a check of whether your understanding is correct. This demonstrates that you are listening and that you are interested and concerned.

Active listening responses have two components:

    a.    Naming the feeling that the other person is conveying

    b.    Stating the reason for the feeling

Here are some examples of active listening statements:

"Sounds like you're upset about what happened at work."

"You're annoyed by my lateness, aren't you?"

"You sound really stumped about how to solve this problem."

"It makes you angry when you find errors on Joe's paperwork."

"Sounds like you're really worried about Wendy."

"I get the feeling you're awfully busy right now."

Actively listening is not the same as agreement. It is a way of demonstrating that you intend to hear and understand another's point of view.

The ability to get along well with people in your personal relationships and in the workplace is a set of learned skills. No one is born knowing how to build others' self-esteem, show empathy, encourage cooperation, communicate assertively, ask productive questions, or respond productively to emotional statements. These skills can be learned and developed with some practice. By taking the time to develop these skills, you will be able to build better relationships at home and at work.