Relate Well! Blog

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

How to Guarantee Fewer Problems in Your Life

Do you want to experience fewer “problems” in your life?  Great, keep reading.

I was talking with a couple recently, and they consistently used the word “problem” to describe many of the things happening around them.  This situation was a problem, that person is a problem, etc.  Their words sounded as though life was heavy and frustrating and they felt helpless and hopeless.   As I listened, I was reminded of how the words we choose have such a powerful impact on how we think, feel, and respond to things that happen in our lives – especially things we perceive to be negative or difficult.

I said to the couple, “I want you to consider for a moment that what you have been describing are not really problems, but rather challenges.  No one can avoid life’s challenges, but it is possible to keep them from becoming problems.”  I believe the problems many people experience are in reality challenges that were...

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Real Freedom

As an American I am mindful of the value of being free. When our nation’s founders signed the Declaration of Independence, they were focused on freedom from political and religious tyranny, and I am grateful for their vision and sacrifice. But even though we live in the Land of the Free, we can be held captive by our own tyrants – and sometimes we volunteer for bondage. It may be time to declare independence from one or more of these common captors:

Fear of Rejection – Humans have an inherent need to be accepted and loved. Yes, some are extroverts, and some are introverts so appearances can be deceiving. Extroverts often seem to interact easily with others and their fear of rejection may show up as neediness. Introverts are more likely to withdraw if they’re experiencing fear of rejection, feeling as though it’s safer to avoid contact than to risk it. Free yourself from this fear by remembering that you have intrinsic value that is not based on any...

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The Importance of a Dad

If I asked you to tell me about your father, you might give me a variety of responses. Maybe you weren’t raised by your biological father. Instead, you were raised by your mother, a stepfather, adopted father, or grandfather. Or your father may have raised you, but you didn’t have a good relationship with him. Or as is the case for me, your father passed away and all you have left are memories. Or perhaps you had – and still have – a great relationship with your dad.

Is the Role of a Father Really That Important?

There are those who say that fathers don’t play a significant role in the lives of their children and that, in fact, parents don’t really have the kind of influence we once thought they did. This is not true! Parents play a vital role in the lives of their children, and fathers, in particular, have a profound influence on their development. 

A survey of over 20,000 parents found that when fathers are involved in their...

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Talking to Your Kids About Financial Difficulties – Part II

Last time we talked about the importance of including children in discussions about financial difficulties your family may be facing.  Now it’s time to convene the family meeting to discuss your situation, and here are some pointers to get you started.

Prepare in advance – Take time to think about what you want to say. If you are married, discuss the situation without the kids first to make sure you are both on the same page. If you go into the discussion with disagreement, you will likely send conflicting or mixed messages.

Be honest – Tell them how the family is being impacted but strive to find the balance between too much and too little information. 

Set aside plenty of uninterrupted time to talk – Discussion that’s rushed or disjointed makes the situation seem even more stressful. A calm atmosphere will help children believe they will be all right.

Share age-appropriate information using terms they can understand –...

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Talking to Your Kids About Financial Difficulties – Part 1

Listen to any news outlet or scroll the headlines on your phone – or just take a look at your bank statement – and it’s evident that finances are tough these days. The crunch has affected many major companies, small businesses, banking institutions, manufacturers, and individual households. And if you’re feeling the pressure, you can be sure your children are feeling it, too. 

As a parent, one of your primary roles is to educate your children about how to live in the real world, and money management and problems are about as “real” as it gets. Here are some principles to consider as you enter this vital discussion with your family.

Times Have Changed – It’s Not Your Parents’ World Anymore

Many of today’s parents were raised in homes where discussion of money was “taboo.” Some of us were told that the family finances were none of our business and some were “protected” from...

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Escape from Groundhog Day

Have you seen the movie Groundhog Day? It features Bill Murray as a weatherman named Phil with a bad attitude who finds himself reliving February 2nd, Groundhog Day, repeatedly with all its petty frustrations, pointless activity, and irritation. Do you ever feel as though you’re like Phil?

We have all heard the folk wisdom that says the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. While that definition doesn’t quite cover the whole concept, it does capture a part of it. It is not “sane” (rational, logical) to expect things to change if you don’t do something to interrupt an unhealthy pattern to improve your situation. In other words, if you want something to change, you must take the initiative to change it.

I work with a lot of people who are struggling in difficult marriages, where they almost can’t remember what it was like to be attracted to their spouse or enjoy each other’s company....

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Keeping the Spark Alive

Whether you have been married for several months or many years the daily stresses and busyness of life can easily turn the passionate flame of relational intimacy into a dying ember. Every day, hundreds of couples file for divorce claiming that their once vibrant and satisfying marriage is now just a painful succession of conflicts and hollow interactions. Many more couples admit that most of their attention and energy is focused on merely surviving rather than on thriving. Their marriages have become boring and routine.

Research reveals that many divorces could be prevented and many dying marriages revived if the couple were willing to invest time and effort into learning simple strategies for rediscovering and maintaining the passion and intimacy in their relationship.

There is a fresh new year ahead of us, so I want to encourage you to make it a priority each month to sit down with your spouse to review the practical ideas listed below for making your marriage all it was...

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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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