As the new year approaches people are looking for ways to improve themselves and their lives. Some want to lose weight, save money, and start or stop doing this or that thing. Eat right. Go to the gym. Quit smoking. Do better at work. These are the easy ones. The problem is, most resolutions are broken even more quickly than they are made. Life happens and old habits are hard to break. The notion that you have to wait to improve something or to look outward to make changes waters down our resolve and makes it lose it’s efficacy.
People look out on the world and want improve the globe. We can get so caught up in looking outward we forget there are things we can do every day, at home, that will have the most positive impact.
If you really want a better world, start at home with your family and close relationships. All relationships — especially the ones near and dear to you — take work. It’s easy to be distant, grouchy, snarky, bitchy and uncompromising at home and expect everything will be okay. Not so. It makes everything in your world worse. You can easily change that behavior. According to Christina Steinorth, MFT, a psychotherapist and author of Cue Cards for Life, “Relationships don’t magically take care of themselves — as with most living organisms, they need nurturing.” Relationships blossom when you tend to them.
One of the best things you can do easily and every day is to treat others how you want to be treated. We all want to be listened to, understood and cared for.
Start by changing your attitude from negative to positive and be mindful with whom you spend your time. Negativity is infectious and people like to complain about how hard life is. But when we surround ourselves with people who are negative and mean, we are likely to become negative and pessimistic, making it much harder to get through life’s difficulties. Separating ourselves from complainers is as important as resisting our own urge to complain.
It’s easy to start arguments with people we love. They give us so much material with which to work. Whether it’s about what movie to watch, what to have for dinner, or who is going to walk the dog; small disagreements can quickly escalate into a full-scale war. If we work to find the upside in tough situations, and work hard to fix problems, we can positively impact our relationships.
What’s a Person To Do?
1. Listen. There’s a difference between hearing and truly listening. Too often, when people speak, we get busy constructing our response. We refute, discount, and inject our beliefs and opinion into every situation. Listening requires making eye contact, observing the person’s body language, hearing the words and the feelings that underlie those words.
2. Act lovingly even when it’s hard. People may forget what you say but will remember how you make them feel. Be thoughtful and compassionate.
3. One of the best things you can do is to listen to another person and believe they mean exactly what they say. Avoid second-guessing. Give the person your undivided attention even if they seem not to make sense to you. Give advice only when you’re asked.
4. Empathize. Instead of correcting the person’s perception or arguing, get out of yourself and ask yourself what must it be like if you were having the same concerns. Psychologists call this “Walking in the person’s shoes and feeling the blisters.”
4. Steinorth says, “Fight fair. It’s not conflicts that cause problems but how you approach them.” Focus on the issue not the person. Avoid bad mouthing the person. Address one issue at a time and move on to the next. Avoid bringing in stuff from old arguments. That will derail the process.
5. It’s takes two. Be prepared to bend. Seek compromise if you can’t find resolution. Sometimes bending is more important than standing your ground. All relationships require compromise.
6. Tend to your relationship’s needs. “If you value your relationship, give it what it needs—be it time, compassion or love.”
7. Become aware of what you giving to and taking from the relationship. That doesn’t mean keeping score.
8. Be good company-someone others want to be around. If you commonly nag, complain and dish out negativity, your relationships will suffer.
Let hope smile on your new year. Resolve to listen, be kind, compassionate, good company and willing to bend. When you’re able to do these things, many areas of your world will improve.
© Dr. Rachell N. Anderson, Psy. D. January 3, 2016
Dr. Rachell Anderson is a native of Tunica, a licensed Clinical Psychologist in 3 states, a Professor Emeritus and author. She taught at the University of Illinois and ran a Private Clinical Practice in Springfield, Illinois for 40 years. She now lives and writes in Tunica. Check out her website at WWW.drrachellanderson.com for more articles and books.