Relate Well! Blog

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

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 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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Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: Make Parenting Count

Kurt and Emily stood beside Michael’s crib gazing in wonder at their brand-new baby son. The months of waiting were over, and the guest of honor occupied the beautifully decorated nursery at last. Kurt and Emily smiled at each other. They felt blessed beyond words. They were thrilled; they were fascinated – they were terrified! 

It has been said that the theories of child rearing are really quite simple; it’s only when we begin putting them into practice that they become difficult. Although parenting is as old as the human race, the challenges seem to grow more complicated as time goes on. 

Changes in society have moved children further away from the center of our care and concern. Two-career families, the rising divorce rate, loss of extended family support, and declining values all contribute to the difficult task of raising healthy, secure children. Yet we hear messages through various media that would have us believe that parenting is a part-time...

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5 Keys to Being a Great Dad

What makes a great dad? I have found that great dads practice five key principles: love, discipline, nurturing, instruction and training, and provision and protection. Read the following five points, and you'll learn how to not only strengthen your role as dad, but you'll also understand what being a "great" dad is all about.

As a great dad, you will:

  1. Love your children.

Just as the foundation of a new home has to be poured before the building can be framed, a father's love for his family is the foundation that supports and sustains everything else he does. When your actions and decisions are motivated by love, your family is on solid ground.

  1. Discipline your children.

Discipline clearly defines the boundaries of behavior and often dictates where we can and cannot go. Remember, there's a big difference between discipline and punishment. Discipline is for the purpose of teaching your children good character and encouraging good choices. Punishment is often motivated by anger or...

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Blending Them In Without Mixing Them Up (Part 2 of 2)

In our previous blog we began talking about some ways to start out on the right foot if you re-marry and bring two families together. Those initial tips were: Make Your Marriage a Priority, Be Sensitive to Your Child’s Feelings, Develop Realistic Expectations and Be Supportive of Your Child’s Other Biological Parent. Those tips focus on ways to deal with the adjustment you and your children will go through with the life-changing step of blending them into a new family structure. Today we will share some ways to help your new family grow stronger and become closer.

Develop strong listening and communication skills

Effective communication and listening skills are vital to the success of any relationship. The true test of your skills comes when you are emotionally charged. It’s easy to say the right things when you feel happy, but throw in a little anger, a dash of jealousy and a pinch of disappointment and you have the ingredients for communication breakdown –...

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Blending Them In Without Mixing Them Up (Part 1 of 2)

One of my first introductions to a blended family was The Brady Bunch. Every Friday night, we tuned in to watch Mike Brady and his three sons and his new wife, Carol, and her three daughters skillfully navigate the challenges and pitfalls of their blended family -- and all in less than thirty-minutes.

Some say the Bradys didn’t have it as rough as most blended families, but, hey, what about the time the entire clan had to help Jan cope with the trauma of wearing glasses? Or when Greg was faced with the gut-wrenching decision of voting for someone other than his stepsister to be captain of the cheerleading squad? Boy, those were tough times! If not for the Solomon-like wisdom of Alice, the housekeeper, the Bradys could have easily ended up as just another divorce statistic.

If only step-parenting could be as easy as The Brady Bunch made it look! In reality, blending families together without mixing them up can be enormously difficult and challenging.

Studies show that half of...

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10 Things That Turn Women Off

Stressful times can really put a strain on relationships, and intimacy in marriage can be negatively affected when one or both partners are feeling the outside pressure. But even before Covid brought extra stress into our lives, mutually enjoyable intimacy was a delicate issue.

In counseling, men sometimes complain about their wives' lack of interest in physical affection and sexual intimacy, but further discussion often reveals that they often fail to understand how they might influence this indifference or lack of desire. It might come as a surprise, but a woman’s sexual desire has strong connections to some very non-sexy issues.

To get to the point: Guys, if you want more affection and intimacy in your marriage here are ten turn-offs you will want to avoid:

  1. Harsh words and a critical or dismissive tone of voice
  2. Impatience with the kids and the inability to balance discipline with fun and affection 
  3. Disinterest in meaningful conversation and pretending to listen 
  4. ...
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