Relate Well! Blog

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

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....

Continue Reading...

Why Most People Avoid Conflict... and Why You Shouldn't

If you can think and talk, and if you ever encounter other people, there is the potential for conflict. Conflict is an inevitable, completely normal part of the human condition, yet most people readily admit that they intentionally avoid anything that even remotely resembles disagreement or confrontation.  In fact, much of my work in therapy and coaching involves helping people to understand – and even embrace – the value of conflict and overcome the fears that feed their aversion.

There are many factors that can influence conflict avoidance, such as self-doubt, lack of assertiveness, inadequate communication skills, fear of rejection, disapproval, criticism, or loss of security and more.  In other words, people avoid conflict to minimize perceived threats to their self-esteem and sense of well-being. 

Let me be clear – I’m all for avoiding real danger and I never recommend that anyone intentionally subject themselves to hostile conflict or...

Continue Reading...

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...

Continue Reading...

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...

Continue Reading...

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...

Continue Reading...

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...

Continue Reading...

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...

Continue Reading...

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...

Continue Reading...

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...

Continue Reading...

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,...

Continue Reading...
Close

Relate Well! Blog - Sign Up Today!

Receive weekly posts to enhance your personal growth and professional development.