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3 Relationship “Truths” That Are Actually Dangerous Lies

3 Relationship “Truths” That Are Actually Dangerous Lies

Do you hear that?

It’s the sound of another good relationship breathing it’s dying breath. And your relationship could be next. People everywhere are believing popular advice that’s killing their relationships. Thankfully, you can protect yourself with a few changes in your thinking. If you’re ready to give your relationship a fighting chance, read on. These three dangerous but common lies get passed off as wisdom online and in-print.

Lie #1: Love yourself and everything else will fall into place

The lie is that you need to focus more on loving yourself in order to love others well and attract good things into your life.

The truth is there is no lack of self-love in our world. You don’t lack self-love and neither do I . The idea of loving your neighbour as yourself is not a directive to love yourself more. If our relationships are going to work, we actually have to focus less on ourselves. We need to be others-focused. The concept is simple but is hard for many to comprehend because it involves changing your way of thinking. Think about it — even when you are focused on your own inadequacies, you’re still focused on and loving yourself (in a way).

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The flip side of lesson number one – the truth that actually works – is: Focus on providing the best relationship for your spouse that you can. This doesn’t mean you should be a martyr. Sometimes, loving someone well means letting them see that being self-centered doesn’t make them happy either.

Lie #2: Confront your problems

The lie is that problems get solved by talking about them at all times. The lie teaches you that you should learn conflict resolution skills and improve your ability to tell your spouse what you’re unhappy with.

On the other side of the lie is the truth — “You have to make 1000 positive deposits into your spouse’s bank account before you can make one negative comment or criticism.” That means, if you’re fighting all the time, you likely don’t have the credit with your spouse to be commenting on things you don’t like.

If I’m doing 1000 (give or take) nice, caring things for my spouse before telling him that I don’t like one thing that he’s doing, I’m betting he will be a happier man.I’m betting that a happier man will do nicer things.

Here’s the truth; the flip side of lesson number two: You reap what you sow. If you want care and kindness to grow, you have to do things that sow care and kindness.

It’s really easy for me to forget the truth that I reap what I sow. Sometimes, I find myself operating on the ‘You reap what you tell your spouse needs to change about them’ principle.

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Yup. That works as well as you think it would.

There are people, though, who have made whole careers out of telling couples to set their marriage problems aside and put their energy into trying to connect. They teach to build goodwill and top up your relationship bank accounts before dealing with your problems. Here’s the best part: a bunch of your problems will go away on their own if you’re sowing good things into your spouse’s life.

Lie #3: Follow your heart

Conventional wisdom says to follow your heart, meaning decide based on how you feel. But that is just wrong because feelings are not your operating manual.

In fact, feelings are reactions to past situations more than reflections of your value system. Are you sure you want to make major life decisions based on a past heartbreak?  Or would you rather decide based on what you want to create in your future? Following your heart actually makes you a victim of your emotions.

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Instead of giving in to emotions and following your heart as it leads you to disaster, seek wisdom from sources you can trust. Allow your brain to absorb whatever information you are taking in before you react and then make a wise choice after considering your options.

So the flip side of lie number three – the truth that really works – is to use your instinct and intellect to rationally make decisions based on what you know, not what you feel.

The best relationship test ever

I dug up a blog article called The List that Saved My Marriage where author Becky Zerbe’s Mom hits a marriage advice homerun. In short, the author had decided her marriage was over and went to her parents for support. While committing to support her daughter, the mom asked her to complete one exercise first.

She said to take a blank piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the center. On the left, she was to write all bad things about her husband; the reasons she wanted to leave. The wife easily completed the list.

Then, the mom told her daughter to write her own corresponding behaviors on the right side of the page. For example, next to the complaint that “He doesn’t tell me when he’s going to be late home from work” the wife had to write, “I sulk and give him the silent treatment”. Finally, the mom took the paper, cut it down the middle and threw away the list of her son-in-law’s failings. Handing her daughter’s list of behaviors back to her, she sent her home to reconsider.

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I would fail

How would you fare if you had to consider an honest list of how you’ve handled yourself in your marriage? Would you feel as ready to give up on your relationship? I know I would be humbled. Consider your own behaviors and weed out the relationship lies from your thinking. Instead, replace them with truths that lead you toward trust, love, and honesty.

Featured photo credit: IMG_5060-Editar_mini/Nicolas Fuentes via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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