Relate Well! Blog

Addressing the all-important and often perplexing topics and issues related to enhancing your personal growth and professional development

Gratitude Makes Life So Much Better!

I hope you’re reading this with the smell of turkey and pumpkin pie in the air. Thanksgiving is one of the things I am thankful for, because it gives us an opportunity to consider everything we have that inspires an attitude of gratitude.

Everyone is different, and the reality is that some of our tendency to be naturally positive or negative is simply an inborn, unchangeable part of who we are. However, we also found that almost half of the influence comes from what we choose to do. I am thankful for that, because it means we can all intentionally find things to be grateful for and improve our outlook on life.

I came across this list of blessings on the web, and though you may have seen it, it bears repeating at this time of year. 

Blessings

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million who won’t survive the week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of...

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Escape the Argument Trap: A Strategy Guaranteed to STOP the Endless, Pointless Arguing with Children and Teens

As a father of three adult children and three grandchildren who are old enough to talk (and, therefore, old enough to argue) I know a lot about the temptations that can lure you into the Argument Trap. You know what I mean – those circular, relentless conversations that leave you battle-weary and sometimes cause you to say and do things you regret. When my own kids were still at home, I found that, even though I spent nearly every day helping people improve their personal and professional relationships, I could still fall prey to these temptations if I wasn’t careful.

However, as a veteran parent, I have found a strategy that virtually guarantees that I won't fall into this trap again: I filtered my response through ten simple, but critically important questions. Most of the time, recalling even two or three of the questions can be enough to head off a fight and set the stage for constructive dialogue. 

If you want to stop the arguing in...

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Principles for Effective Listening - Part II

In our last blog, we shared Part I of Principles for Effective Listening.  We addressed the “how-to” of listening. If you’ve been practicing the techniques outlined, congratulations! Now that you have started on the path to better listening, here are some barriers and obstacles to watch for – and avoid.

Barriers to Empathic Listening 

• Lecturing, Blaming, Moralizing, Interrupting
• Venting, Defending, Explaining, Questioning
• Generalizing, Disagreeing, Fixing, Reassuring
• Changing the subject, Warning, Pretending

Obstacles to Effective Listening

• Drawing premature conclusions

“I’ve heard this all before; it’s always the same story.”
“Now he’s going to tell me it’s all my fault.” 
“This is the part where she says I shouldn’t go out with my friends.” 
“Here comes the same lame excuse he always uses.”

• Reading into...

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Principles for Effective Listening - Part I

Listening is one of the most powerful tools of communication, leadership and relationships. Here are some things you can begin doing today to develop your listening awareness and expertise. Then watch as your relationships and performance improve, too. 

  1. Listening is Active, Not Passive! 

While simply holding your tongue can make you look like you're listening, active listening also involves a conscious, focused effort not only to hear the words but also to discern the complete message the speaker is sending. It takes into consideration the speaker's intent and non-verbal communication, and it's non-judgmental (which, frankly, can be the hard part, so we'll discuss that next time).

To practice active listening, maintain good eye contact and an open body posture. Put down your pen or phone and relax your hands so it doesn't appear that you're just waiting for the speaker to finish so you can get back to "more important" work. Nod your head to acknowledge understanding...

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How Do I Get My Spouse to Help Me? – Part III

In my first two posts addressing the question of how to get your spouse to help around the house, I talked about two key components to the answer. First, get rid of the mindset that you are a Volunteer Coordinator and replace it with a Partnership mindset. The second part of the answer involves being open, honest and direct when communicating what you think, feel and need from them and when understanding is achieved, ask for agreement. 

Also, a quick reminder that we are approaching this topic from the perspective of a wife who is frustrated that her husband won’t help, simply because that represents the majority of complaints I hear. If your situation is the other way around, the principles can still be applied for effective resolution. 

If your husband is willing to meet your need for equitably dividing up the responsibilities around the home and is in agreement with the final “plan” you are well on your way. Congratulations!  The next step is to...

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How Do I Get My Spouse to Help Me? – Part II

Today I will continue to address the complaint I hear from (mostly) wives about carrying a disproportionate burden of maintaining and managing their home. If you missed the first part, please check out my last blog post. I also want to reiterate that, in some couples, it is the husband who is more concerned about household chores than the wife is, and the principles I’m sharing can work for either partner. 

First, the best solutions to life’s challenges are always those built upon solid principles. One of those principles is that husbands and wives are partners in their relationship and, consequently, share responsibility for managing and maintaining their home. 

What I’m about to share with you today is built on two additional principles. First, the principle of being open, honest and direct with your thoughts, feelings and needs and, second, seeking to first understand your partner, then to be understood. 

I know it’s a big assumption, but...

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How Do I Get My Spouse to Help Me? Part I

In my years of counseling couples in marriage therapy, I have heard a lot of different reasons for the tension and anger that can create strife in even the best marriages. One that stands out as a frequent complaint – usually from the wife – is, “I can’t get my husband to help me around the house. What can I do?” 

Unequal division of labor related to children and household chores became a bigger and bigger challenge in the last few decades as wives and mothers entered the outside workforce. It creates resentment and hostility and often leads to conflict. In fact, a couple’s inability to effectively remedy this problem can significantly undermine the quality of intimacy and connection in their marriage. 

In the next three blog posts I will offer what I have found to be some highly effective tips for solving this very common and frustrating dilemma. 

First of all, it’s true that more wives struggle with this issue than husbands,...

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Seven Promises of a Successful Marriage

A marriage is created by a promise made, but it can only thrive by a promise kept. If you want your marriage to thrive commit to keeping these seven promises of a successful marriage. 

1. The Promise of a Lifelong Commitment - Never give up and commit to a mindset that divorce is not an option. 

“Too many couples marry for better, or for worse, but not for good.”

“Love… always hopes and always perseveres.” 

An elderly couple who, as they were paying for groceries in the check-out line, were discussing their upcoming 50th wedding anniversary, when the young cashier interjected by saying, "I can’t imagine being married to the same man for 50 years!" 

The wife wisely replied, teaching the young girl a lesson at the same time, "Well, Honey, don’t get married until you can."

2. The Promise of Protection – Guard your marriage from outside enemies such as addictions, financial problems, work/life...

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Are You Putting on an Act?

Lights! Camera! Action! When the spotlight of life is focused on you, what do people see? Are you an actor just playing a role or are you the “real thing?” Are you willing to let people see who you really are? Hollywood actors are paid big bucks to portray a make-believe character on the screen, but there are many people outside of “Tinsel Town” who put on a very convincing act every day without ever being paid a dime. In fact, many of them pay a high price. 

You don’t have to be a Hollywood star or public figure to be concerned with the way others perceive you. All of us are involved in personal image management to some degree, and in most cases, this is perfectly normal. In fact, thinking about who you will be with and what you will be doing is a reasonable way to determine what “image” to put on by dressing and behaving appropriately in a given situation. 

There is nothing inherently wrong with putting your best foot forward in...

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Overcoming the Effects of Verbal Abuse - Part II

Just as the healing process for physical illness takes time, so does the healing associated with the harmful effects of verbal abuse. Victims may experience sadness or hurt when they recall being told, “You are not good enough,” or “You are a failure.” It is possible that you are struggling today with feelings of inadequacy, inferiority and insecurity. You may be overly critical toward yourself or have expectations for others that are unrealistic. You may even find yourself hurting others with your words the way you were once hurt.

Verbal abuse attacks a person at the very core of their being. It can make us question our worth, value, competency and even our significance as a human being. When we develop distorted beliefs about ourselves in these areas it automatically impacts our behavior and ultimately our emotions. For instance, if someone believes they are unlovable they will likely behave in a way that supports their...

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