ONE WORD CAN TRANSFORM ANY RELATIONSHIP

Valentine’s day is coming up and if you are anything like me you find yourself trying to think of the perfect gift. Who doesn’t want to get a gift we know the receiver will just love? It doesn’t have to be Valentine’s day. It can be a birthday or any other special holiday. What if I told you one word can help you find the perfect gift? It doesn’t matter who you are buying the gift for, or what the occasion is. Would you like to know what one word this is?

One of the greatest gifts we can give each other is the gift of happiness. To do and say things that not only bring joy to spouses, friends, family and coworkers, but quite often truly touch their heart. What if I told you this magic word would allow you to know just the right things to say and do, and perhaps just as important, what things to avoid saying and doing, would you be interested?

How can one word unlock the key to making people happy as well as avoiding making them upset? How can that same one word help us pick out the perfect gift that we will know that they will love? This word can do all that and more! It can also show this person their feelings are important to us. It can show them we pay attention to what they say and we value them as a part of our life.

“Wait a minute Neil! You are telling me one word can do all of this?” Yes it can. I personally use this word daily in all of my relationships. I have to thank Margie. It was a trip to the grocery store that began my use of this powerful word. I was at a local co-op shopping for produce and other such fun things. At the time Margie was at home creating one of those cakes that look so good you cannot believe it is edible. Considering how hard she was working and how much I was loving her, I wanted to bring her home something to surprise her and let her know how much I love her and was thinking about her. Then it hit me, I had no clue what that was. I began to push the shopping cart up and down the aisles one by one. My head was spinning. To be honest, I cannot even remember what I settled on that day.

Fast forward a few weeks later. Both of us were at this same store and I was about to tell her how frustrated I was last time I was here looking for that little surprise for her. (Men if you know something you could bring your lady home from the grocery store that makes her feel loved, you are far ahead of most) Right before the words were going to leave my lips a voice in my head spoke to me. Generally these consist of urging me to do things I shouldn’t like eat another slice of pizza or hit the snooze one more time. This time was different, it was a eureka moment. I discovered the magic word and since then I have used it to not only transform my relationship with my beautiful Margie, but virtually everyone in my life and now you can use it too.

What is this magic word? Before I share it with you, a few words of caution, do not dismiss this word based on its simplicity. I promise if you utilize this word in the way described in this post you too will experience a great increase in the quality of your relationships. The word is LISTEN.

When we say listen we mean active listening. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Wikipedia defines active listening as “It requires that the listener fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said.” Read that definition once more slowly. Read it out loud. You may even wish to write that down somewhere. Active listening is most commonly used in conflict resolution. Can you imagine how much difference your disagreements would be if you used active listening? If we are completely honest, we often listen with the intent of responding and not understanding. This is especially true during a disagreement. As the other party is explaining why they are upset we are already busy in our minds composing our rebuttal or how we can prove their point wrong. Changing that to concentrating, understanding and maybe repeating what they said to make sure it is understood as well as remembering what they said to avoid the disagreement in the future would certainly improve your relationship.

Although helpful, so much so I thought I should include it, this is not about disagreements. Let us go back to that day in the grocery store. Instead of sharing my previous frustration with Margie, I decided to watch and listen to her very carefully that day, making mental notes of items she looked at and what she said she liked and did not like. Yes, this kind of listening requires both your ears and your eyes. Up to 90% of communication is nonverbal. Watching her eyes light up with this product, or wrinkling her nose at that product helped me learn a lot more about the wonderful woman I share my life with. I learned more about Margie in that one grocery shopping trip than I normally learn in a month.

The next time I found myself at that grocery store I gleefully picked out several items (little oatie, peach rose) and was confident they would bring her joy when I returned home. I was correct and it filled me with a sense of confidence and accomplishment. I made the woman I love truly happy. It also showed Margie I had listened and paid attention to what she enjoyed. It showed her that her, and her likes and dislikes were very important to me. I began to practice this kind of listening with her more often. I watched and listened to what made her smile, what made her laugh. Even when I make mistakes, I notice what makes her upset. I do my best to practice the active listening mentioned above.

If this sounds like a lot of work, or that you may freak out the one you love by watching their every move, rest assured this is not what we are talking about. Try doing this a couple of times a week. If you are out to dinner notice what sides she likes, how she orders her steak. This is not just about food or even picking out gifts you know they will love.

If we listen long enough people will share with us what makes them happy as well as what makes them unhappy. They will tell us what they enjoy and what they do not. Next time you are out having coffee with a friend, notice what they like to talk about. Notice what interests them. Do they like to talk about history? Maybe a book on Ancient Egypt would make a good birthday gift.

This takes a little effort, but the returns are worth their weight in gold. Do this long enough and you will be the best spouse, friend, or coworker. Picking out gifts will be easier than ever and they will be received with more joy than ever before. The conflicts in your life will be reduced. You will find people will want to spend time around you and enjoy doing so. So remember the magic word LISTEN. Use it daily and your relationships will be better than ever.

ARE YOU IN CONTROL??

In every situation in life that we approach the one and only thing we can have control of is ourselves. The reason I said can have control of is because quite often we relinquish that control. We allow others to determine how we are feeling and acting.

Instead of taking actions that we choose for ourselves and the course we would like to take our life on, we live our life in reaction based on the actions chosen by others. If someone were to ask you directly if you would let someone run your life for you the answer usually is a resounding “No!”. That is exactly what you are doing when you live in reaction to others and your environment.

Taking charge of your emotions is not the easiest thing to do, but the rewards far outweigh the risk of giving control of your life to anyone but yourself. One simple way to begin to take back control of your emotions and as such your life is to ask yourself this question several times a day, “How would the best version of myself deal with this situation?” This especially proves helpful in times of challenge and conflict. Even if you discover you do react instead of acting, take some time after the event is over to replay it in your head and think of how the best version of yourself would have handled things. By doing this, even in your head, next time you find yourself in that situation you are more likely to choose your actions instead of having others decide how you will act.

feel free to share your tips for controlling your emotions in the comments below!

WHAT I HAVE RECENTLY LEARNED

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So it is only a few days into the new year and I am hoping you have a written description of who you want to become. I know I have. Here is the funny thing, I say funny because it sounds better than disappointing. Guess how long it took me to do something contrary to my vision of who I am to become in 2016? I am not sure exactly, but the time frame could be measured in hours. I am sure a lot of us may run into this. Perhaps your goal is to become a healthier version of yourself, but then your coworker brings in their delicious cheese cake they only make once a year. You are halfway through your first piece before you realize it is not quite a healthy meal. Well, allow me to share with you my fall and what I learned.

First, the most important lesson is that if you stumble, you don’t have to stay laying down. You get back up and work even harder. The second thing was a bit more complex. Part of who I want to be is a person who is more careful what they say, especially in emotional situations. Again, I dropped the ball a little with a friend of mine on that one. As I was relaying my disappointment in myself to a trusted friend of mine he shared something similar that happened between him and his wife. “I really screwed up” he began. He went on to explain that in the heat of the disagreement he voiced his opinions and concerns in such a way a man of the religious order would blush. I inquired to whether he apologized and tried to better explain himself. “yeah, but it won’t work. She told me she just keeps replaying everything I said in her head and it is making her feel worse and worse”. I was shocked to hear somebody would do that to themselves. As I soon discovered, a lot of us do.

Let us begin by discussing our emotions. If you have been following my blog for any length of time you know our emotions come from inside us, not from outside circumstances. It is not the actual event that makes us feel a certain way, but what we decide it means. We also have a choice of what to focus on. Truly this gentleman did not always speak to his wife that way, and truly she did things to make him feel loved and happy, not just upset. I know because I have seen how high on love this fellow has been. He seemed sad, but not angry. I asked him if he had thought about the things she may have said or done to make him upset. “Yeah, a little, but I just can’t help but thinking about how cute she looked before I left for work and how much I am missing the love we share” he replied.

The difference was obvious. When someone hurts us, that is on them. Certainly if they say or do something harsh it can cause us great distress. Let’s face it, reflecting on it is a natural and almost automatic response. When we do focus on the painful things people have said or down to us however, we are actually hurting ourselves. In the case of a husband and wife, and even in really close friendships, it should be clear that the intent is never to hurt the other person if the relationship is healthy. Knowing that the other person does not want to hurt us can at the very least, take us from pain and anger to confusion. OK, so if they do not want to hurt us why would they say these things that are so painful? That at least is a better question. Perhaps they are hurt as well? Perhaps there has to be a healthier outlet to discuss such things? Perhaps we had a roll in causing their reaction? Whatever the answer may be this brings up the next point. It changes our focus. When we just replay the hurt in our mind, we are living in the problem. Nothing moves forward and we can literally make ourselves physically sick. When we start to ask the ‘why’ questions and throw in a few thoughts of loving and/or nice things this person may have done, we move towards a solution mindset. Maybe the solution is to remove this person from our life? That would be the most extreme answer, and usually doesn’t come to that, but there are a million other choices. Remove the situation? Refocus? Perhaps change or eliminate the situation?

When we replay negative experiences we also replay the feelings they gave us and essentially hurt ourselves. Would it not make more sense to replay positive situations and the feelings they gave us? Make no mistake, I understand how extremely difficult this can be, but the positive effect it would have on our lives is worth the change.