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19 Golden Pieces of Relationship Advice From the Experts

19 Golden Pieces of Relationship Advice From the Experts

Have you ever noticed that when you are having relationship problems, all of a sudden everyone around you is a relationship expert? Friends, family members, work colleagues – the stream of well-intentioned relationship advice seems to come at you from every angle. And most of the time the conflicting advice you receive can leave you feeling more confused than before you brought it up with any of them.

With all the different sources of information we have access to now, seeking advice can get overwhelming. So to make what can be a complicated area of life simpler, we have gathered the best pieces of relationship advice from around the world, and put them all in one place.

1. It’s Not Your Partner’s Responsibility To Make You Happy

How often have you heard people in relationships say “he just makes me feel so bad about myself” or “she makes me so angry”?

The truth is, nobody can make you feel anything.

It is up to you to accept responsibility for how you feel. This is an important part in owning your personal power. Amy Morin, licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist and author explains that nearly everybody has given someone else power over the way they feel, think or behave at some stage in their lives.[1]

She goes on to explain that one of the most effective ways to retain your personal power is to accept responsibility for how you feel.

“Don’t let other people’s behavior dictate your emotions (and) instead, accept that it is up to you to manage your emotions, regardless of how others behave.”

Not only are you giving away your own personal power when you outsource your happiness, you are also setting expectations of your partner that are unrealistic, and that will put a lot of unnecessary pressure on your relationship.

Now repeat after me:

“I am in control of my own happiness” and “My partner is in control of their own happiness.”

2. Effective Communication Is Not Just About What You Say

The most common issue couples have is miscommunication. With this comes frustration and disconnection resulting in a lack of intimacy and trust.

Tony Robbins explains that often people mistake communication for speaking or making small talk which is the underlying cause for unsuccessful communication in relationships. [2]

Robbins continues that everyone has different ways they give and receive information:

“Communication in relationships, at its core, is about connecting and using your verbal, written and physical skills to fulfil your partner’s needs – not just making small talk. Some people like to talk, some prefer touch and others are more visual or respond better to gift giving than an outward discussion of feelings. You probably know which communication style you prefer, but what about your partner’s?”

Effective communication in relationships is not only about being aware of how we send out information, but also how we receive it. Scenarios such as one partner thinking everything is fine and the other thinking “he/ she never listens to me” are all too familiar.

Active listening is integral in the communication process, this involves being fully present to your partner. Put down your phone. Turn off the TV. Get closer to your partner when they want to speak with you (no yelling to each other from another room).

Give your partner your full attention so they know they are your number one priority and that what they are saying matters. Also, clarify that you have heard them properly, and that you understand what they have said by repeating back what you have heard in your own words.

3. Identify Your Love Language

Not only do we all communicate in different ways, we all experience love in different ways. One person’s way of giving and receiving love can be completely different to their partner’s. Because we usually give love the same way we receive it (because that’s our love language), often we are not giving love in a way our partner likes to receive love / feel loved.

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Dr. Gary Chapman, speaker, counselor and author of The 5 Love Languages® series explains that we all experience love differently, and without understanding these differences, it’s easy to get it wrong when showing that you care.

Dr. Chapman calls the different ways of expressing and receiving love the “5 Love Languages.” They are Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch.

His books and his free online The 5 Love Languages® quiz helps couples to understand each other. Each individual has at least one language that they prefer above the other. And once you and your partner know what each other’s love language is, it takes the guesswork out of how to give and receive love in meaningful ways.

4. R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Underpinning everything we’ve covered so far is one of the most important elements of any successful, healthy, long-term relationship — Respect.

The couple that holds the world record for the longest marriage, Zelmyra and Herbert Fisher (86 years) said the best piece of marriage advice they ever received was “Respect, support, and communicate with each other. Be faithful, honest, and true.”[3]

On the website loveisrespect.org, respect is explained in a thorough, easy to understand way:[4]

“In a healthy relationship, partners are equals, which means that neither partner has “authority” over the other. Each partner is free to live their own life, which can include deciding to share some aspects of their life with their partner. Respect also means that, while we may not always agree with our partner/s, we choose to trust them and put faith in their judgement.”

You may be wondering “what is the best way to show respect in a healthy relationship?” Loveisrespect.org clarifies that respect is not a one-off act or word, it is shown in how you treat one another on a daily basis, even in times of disagreement or conflict. “Fighting fair” is part of showing respect in relationships – being able to value and respect your partner’s feelings and opinions, even if they are different to yours.

Respect is NOT about controlling another person (aka your partner) or making them do what you want them to do. It’s about accepting and loving the other person and allowing them to express who they are and having the freedom to be themselves.

5. Have Clear Boundaries

Setting and sticking to clear boundaries can be the difference between a healthy, happy relationship and a toxic, dysfunctional relationship.

Loveisrespect.org exlplains that discussing your boundaries with your partner is an essential way to ensure that both parties’ needs are being met and that you each feel safe in your relationship. [5]

Some boundaries to consider are how much time you spend apart, when you will be physically intimate, who you will talk to about your relationship, what details of the relationship you are comfortable sharing.

6. Know Your Values

Tony Robbins explains the importance of values in his book Awaken The Giant Within:

“To value something means to place importance on it. All decision-making comes down to values clarification.”

Values bring energy and direction; they’re at the heart of what makes an individual tick. When you know what’s most important to you, making a decision is quite simple – individually, and as a couple.

So to start the process of working out your values, Robbins suggests answering one simple question “What’s most important to me in life?” then brainstorm the answers. Once you have a list of answers, arrange them in order from most important to least important (these are your “moving-towards values”).

The flip-side of the exercise is making a list of what Robbins calls “moving-away from values”. These are the things you actively avoid in life. Arrange these in order too. Seeing these will help you get clarity over your avoiding behaviours, and have greater clarity in your decision making.

Robbins’ next step is a big one, something most people may not have done before. Now ask yourself “What type of person do I need to be in order to achieve all that I want in life? In order to be that person, what would my values need to be? What values do I need to add / eliminate?”

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Think about all areas of your life when you answer these values questions, paying special attention to your relationship. What sort of person do you need to be in order to have the relationship you want?

7. Let Go of the Small Stuff

After the honeymoon period is over in a relationship, it can become easy for couples to slip into “the comfort zone”. In this comfort zone are things like laziness, lack of effort and nit-picking over things that you may not have even noticed in the blissful getting to know each other stage.

In their book “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff – in Love“, Dr. Richard Carlson and his wife Kristine Carlson explain how couples can avoid letting the little everyday irritations in life get to them, and how to appreciate each other. Their top tips include:

  • Let It Go Already – in summary, make the decision to forgive, forget and move on.
  • Throw Away Your Scorecard – don’t keep score of what you do and what your partner isn’t doing.
  • Allow Your Partner To Be Human – remember that you are in a relationship with a fellow human who is doing the best they can.
  • Learn To Laugh At Yourself – learn to laugh at yourself and diffuse potential arguments with the power of humour.

8. If You Can’t Avoid the Fight, Fight Fair

No relationship is perfect, and part of any healthy relationship is the ability to have discussions and air concerns with your partner to avoid “bottling things up” and potentially having outbursts about unrelated issues later on.

Another gold nugget from “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff – in Love” is ‘Don’t Fight Unless The Mood Is Right‘. When someone is angry, you are not going to be speaking to the person, you will be speaking to the mood. Giving each other space when one of you (or both of you) are in a bad mood, and coming back to discuss your concerns when feeling more level-headed is a more rational way to deal with disagreements.

The site Love Engineer with relationship experts from around the world has a list of Do’s and Don’ts when fighting (how to fight fair) including:[6]

  • Do not attack or give insults
  • No yelling, throwing, hitting or pushing
  • No blaming, criticizing and / or judging
  • No giving the silent treatment
  • Do take responsibility for what you can change or how you can improve the relationship
  • Ask for what you need in the relationship
  • Work on seeing the other person’s perspective.

9. Parents – Don’t Forget About Your Partner!

Relationships Australia, Inc. has a range of advice sheets to help with different aspects of relationships, with one focus area being Parenting and Relationships. Their sub-topic in this focus area is ‘Don’t forget about your partner’ where they explain the importance of finding time out for yourselves. [7]

If you are overwhelmed by the responsibilities of caring for children, working and all the other items on your to-do list, it’s easy to forget about your partner or start taking them for granted.

Their article suggests to try to find time for just the two of you, even if you are tired or “too busy.”

Which brings us to the next important piece of advice…

10. Make Time for Date Night

Drs. John and Julie Gottman of The Gottman Institute advise that date nights make relationships. And in case you’re wondering what a date night (or morning or afternoon) is, they explain this as a pre-planned time where the two of you take a break from your duties in and out of the home and spend time focusing on each other. The goal of this time together is to really talk and listen to each other, to reconnect on a deeper level. [8]

The Gottmans go on to list the most common date night obstacles, and how to overcome them:

TIME – Scheduling / blocking out time in your calendar and showing up no matter what.

MONEY – Dates don’t have to cost a thing. Going for a walk along the coast or in the bush, sitting in a park watching the world go by, or taking a trip down memory lane going through old photos – you are only limited by your imagination!

CHILDCARE – “Trade childcare with other couples (in your friends group). If that’s not possible, see if a trusted family member or close friend will help you in your quest to spend sacred time together. Look for inexpensive babysitters in your neighborhood, or ask friends for recommendations.” suggest the Gottmans.

11. Don’t Neglect the Importance Of Intimacy

Intimacy is something not always discussed openly, a topic often linked to sex can sometimes even be seen as a taboo subject. However, intimacy is much more than just physical intimacy.

Relationships Australia defines intimacy as:[9]

“Intimacy is about loving trust and support; accepting and sharing in your partner’s feelings, being there when they want to let their defences down and knowing that your partner will be there for you.”

According to Brené Brown, an expert on social connection, the key to unlocking intimacy is the ability to be vulnerable. Brown says that if you want to have deeper relationships, you have to remove your “armor” (the protective layer that a lot of us aren’t even aware we are wearing), no matter how vulnerable it makes you. [10]

An article in Psychology Today titled “The Real Secret To Intimacy (and Why It Scares Us)” also explores this connection between vulnerability and intimacy, explaining that knowing you are seen for who you are and loved all the same, and to give that to your partner may just be one of life’s most fulfilling experiences. [11]

This deeper connection, being able to be truly seen and loved for who you are, and being able to express all of you translates across physical intimacy, emotional intimacy, spiritual intimacy and intellectual intimacy.

12. Leave a Toxic Relationship

So far, we’ve covered advice relating to staying in a healthy, loving relationship. But sometimes relationships just aren’t made to last – toxic relationships. (If you are unsure about whether you are in a toxic relationship you may want to check out this article: 8 Signs of a Toxic Relationship)

Ending any relationship is not a pleasant process, however ending a toxic relationship has a whole new level of complexities and things to be aware of. You will need to be mentally, physically, emotionally and financially prepared to end it otherwise (as most research will show) you will continue to go back to the toxic environment.

However, according to Power of Positivity,[12] there are many ways to get out of a toxic relationship peacefully. We have listed the top 3 below:

  • Surround yourself with positive social support
  • Identify and express your emotional states
  • Find a lesson in the distress

13. Long-Distance Relationships Can Work

With so many people meeting online as well as a lot of people working away from their partner or family, it’s no wonder this is one of the most searched relationship topics. The old saying goes “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, and in the case of a long-distance relationship, never a truer word has been spoken.

Having a strong support network around you is important. The video below offers some helpful advice including communicating regularly and creatively, making plans together and having a goal (end date) for the long-distance element of the relationship in mind.

Let’s take a look at the video:

14. Maintain Your Sense of Self

If your entire world revolves around your relationship and you become all about the other person, chances are you are not taking time to nurture hobbies, friendships or taking care of yourself. Maintaining your sense of self in a relationship is critical, after all, your partner fell in love with you and everything that makes you unique.

Sharon Martin, licensed psychotherapist and co-dependency expert, explains that there are many ways you can maintain your sense of self in relationships including:[13]

“Knowing what you like and what matters to you; Asking for what you want, rather than always deferring to his/her wants; Not keeping yourself “small” or hidden to please others; (and) Staying true to your values”

15. Keep the Spark Alive

The main difference between a romantic relationship and a friendship is the physical intimate connection. The ability to maintain this aspect of the relationship can either make or break couples.

In an article published in Self, several couple’s therapists explain ways to keep the spark alive in a long-term relationship.[14]

From making a game out of it, to checking in with each other every day, all the way through to downloading apps designed to help reignite the flame in the bedroom, the opportunities to keep the embers of love burning are only limited by your imagination.

16. Regain Broken Trust

Dr. Magdalena Battles says it best that:

“Trust is the rock upon which all relationships exist. If that rock is chipped away by deceit, over time the foundation crumbles.”

She continues explaining that when something more serious happens such as infidelity in a marriage, and therefore the foundation that the relationship is built on, are broken in an instant. According to Dr. Battles, it’s not easy to rebuild trust, but it is possible.

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She suggests the COME FORTH method to overcome broken trust in a relationship.

For the offender:

  • C: Come clean
  • O: Open yourself emotionally
  • M: Make meaningful conversations
  • E: Engage in full transparency

And for the person who has had their trust betrayed:

  • F: Forgive
  • O: Open conversations
  • R: Request what you need to get back to a healthy relationship
  • T: Talk about the betrayal to a confidant or professional
  • H: Heal yourself to heal the relationship

17. Be Supportive in Stressful Times

We all know how easy it is to show our support when things are going well, but what about when things aren’t going quite so smoothly?

Robbins Research International has published just how important being supportive of our partner during stressful times really is:[15]

“When we routinely provide our partners with the emotional support they need, we can create a new depth of love in the relationship. Because as ironic as it may seem, when stress makes your partner more ornery, argumentative, or distant, that is when he or she needs you to show up the most.”

18. Be Patient (And Realistic)

Patience is an important element in a healthy relationship, especially in the initial stages when old habits and baggage need to be ironed out or let go.

While patience is a virtue, it’s also essential to be realistic. If your needs are not being met or your partner isn’t honouring their promises to you, it may be time to reassess whether the relationship is right for you.

Monica Parikh, attorney, writer and dating coach, points out that we need to look at our partner’s actions – do they match their words? Has your partner committed to counseling or made a commitment to change? Or are they simply saying what they think you want to hear to get you off their back?[16]

“You have only one life to live. Don’t waste it on a promise and a dream, especially absent a real commitment” — Parikh

19. Love and Fear Go Hand in Hand

Sheryl Paul, M.A., shares insight into her time as a love coach:[17]

“Love is the biggest risk we take. When we love, we open our hearts, our minds, our bodies, and our souls to another, and as such, nothing renders us more vulnerable to being hurt and to experiencing loss.”

Paul continues by explaining that fear isn’t always obvious and can show up as doubt, irritation, numbness or apathy towards your partner or your relationship. She says that when these feelings surface, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re in the wrong relationship; that it’s more likely you are in the right relationship and on a subconscious level, you are protecting yourself from getting hurt as you share love with your partner.

Final Thoughts

Being in a relationship can be the most challenging, and the most rewarding time of your life.

We have covered a lot of advice topics under the umbrella of relationships to help with the most common questions asked. By following this advice, turning towards your relationship and giving it the full attention it deserves, you will be pleasantly surprised with how deep your connection with your partner can truly be, and how fulfilled you will feel.

More Practical Relationship Advice

Featured photo credit: Candice Picard via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Amy Milnes

A relationship coach empowering people to create and maintain loving and lasting relationships.

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Published on September 23, 2020

6 Effective Negotiation Skills to Master

6 Effective Negotiation Skills to Master

I don’t know about you, but many times when I hear the word negotiate I think of lawyers working out a business deal or having to do battle with a car salesman to try to get a lower price. Since I am in recruiting, the term “negotiation” comes up when someone is attempting to get a higher compensation package.

If we think about it, we tend to negotiate almost every day in a wide variety of things we do. Getting a handle on the important negotiation skills can be incredibly beneficial in many parts of our lives. Let’s take a look at 6 effective negotiation skills to master.

What is Negotiation?

First, let’s take a look at what negotiation is. Put simply, negotiation is a method by which people settle their differences. It is a process in which compromise or agreement can be reached without argument or dispute.

Anytime two people or sides disagree on something, they are almost always looking for the best possible outcome for their side. This could be from an individual’s perspective or someone representing an organization.

In reality, it’s rare that one side gets everything they want and the other side gets nothing that they are seeking. Seeking to reach a common ground of sorts where both sides feel like they are getting most of what they want is the key to being successful and maintaining the relationship.

Places We Negotiate

I’ve mentioned that we negotiate in just about all phases of our life. For those of you who are shaking your head no, I invite you to think about the following:

1. Work/Business

This one is the most obvious and it’s what naturally comes to mind when we think of the word “negotiate”.

When you first started at your current job, you might have asked for a higher salary. It could be that you delivered a huge new client to your company and used this as leverage in your most recent evaluation for more compensation. If you work with vendors (and just about every company does), maybe you worked them to a lower price or better contract terms.

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In recruiting, I negotiate with candidates and hiring managers all the time to land the best talent I can find. It’s very common to accept additional work with the (sometimes spoken, sometimes unspoken) agreement that it will benefit your career in the future.

Recently, I took over a project that was my boss was working on so that I would be able to attend a conference later in the year. And so it goes, we do this all day long at work.

2. Personal

I don’t know about you, but I negotiate with my spouse all the time. I’ll cook dinner with the understanding that she does the dishes. Who wants to mow the lawn and who wants to vacuum and dust the house?

I think we should save 10% for retirement, but she thinks 5% is plenty. Therefore, we save 8%. And don’t even get me started with my kids. My older daughter can borrow my car as soon as she finishes her chores. My younger daughter can go hang out with her friends when her homework is done.

Then, there are all those interactions in our personal lives outside our homes. The carpenter wants to charge me $12,000 to build a new deck. I think $10,000 is plenty so we agree on $11,000. I ask my neighbor if I can borrow his snowblower in the winter if I invite him over the next time I grill steak. And so on.

3. Ourselves

You didn’t expect this one, did you? We negotiate with ourselves all day long.

I’ll make sure I don’t skip my workout tomorrow since I’m going to have that extra piece of pizza. My spouse has been quiet the last few days, is it worth me asking her about, or should I leave it alone? I think the car place charged me for some repairs that weren’t needed, should I say something or just let it go? I know my friend has been having some personal challenges, should I check in with him? We’ve been friends for a long time, I’m sure he’d come to me if he needed help. I’ve got the #4 pick in this year’s Fantasy Football draft, should I choose a running back or a wide receiver?

Think about that non-stop voice inside your head. It always seems to be chattering away about something and many times, it’s us negotiating with ourselves. I’ll finish up that report that the boss needs before I turn on the football game.

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Why Negotiation Skills Are So Important

Put simply, negotiation skills are important because we all interact with other people, and not only other people but other organizations and groups of people as well.

We all rarely want the same thing or outcome. Most of the time a vendor is looking at getting you to pay a higher price for something than you want to spend. Therefore, it’s important to negotiate to some middle ground that works well for both sides.

My wife and I disagree on how much to save for retirement. If we weren’t married it wouldn’t be an issue. We’d each contribute how much we wanted to on our retirement funds. We choose to be married, so we have to come to some agreement that we both feel comfortable with. We have to compromise. Therefore, we have to negotiate.

If we each lived on a planet by ourselves, we would be free to do just about anything we wanted to. We wouldn’t have to compromise with anyone because we wouldn’t interact with anyone. We would make every choice unilaterally the way we wanted to.

As we all know, this isn’t how things are. We are constantly interacting with other people and organizations, each one with their own agenda’s, viewpoints, and opinions. Therefore, we have to be able to work together.

6 Negotiation Skills to Master

Having strong negotiation skills helps us create win-win situations with others, allowing us to get most of what we want in conjunction with others around us.

Now, let’s look at 6 effective negotiation skills to master.

1. Preparation

Preparation is a key place to start with when getting ready to negotiate. Being prepared means having a clear vision of what you want and how you’d go about achieving it. It means knowing what the end goal looks like and also what you are willing to give to get it.

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It also means knowing who you are negotiating with and what areas they might be willing to compromise on. You should also know what your “bottom line” is. By “bottom line” I mean what is the most you are willing to give up to get what you want.

For instance, several years ago, I decided it was time to get a newer car. I say newer because I wanted a “new to me” car, not a brand new car. I did my research and figured out what type of car I wanted. I decided on what must-have items on the car I wanted, the highest amount of miles that would already be on it, the colors I was willing to get it in, and the highest amount of money I was willing to pay.

After visiting numerous car dealerships I was able to negotiate buying a car. I knew what I was willing to give up (amount of money) and what I was willing to accept, things like the color, amount of miles, etc. I came prepared. This is critical.

2. Clear Communication

The next key skill you need to be an effective negotiator is clear communication. You have to be able to clearly articulate what you want to the other party. This means both clear verbal and written communication.

If you can’t clearly tell the other person what you want, how do you expect to get it? Have you ever worked through something with a vendor or someone else only to learn of a surprise right at the end that wasn’t talked about before? This is not what you would call clear communication. It’s essential to be able to share a coherent and logical vision with the person you are working with.

3. Active Listening

Let’s do a quick review of active listening. This is when you are completely focused on the speaker, understand their message, comprehend the information, and respond appropriately. This is a necessary ingredient to be able to negotiate successfully. You must be able to fully focus on the other person’s wants to completely understand them.

If you aren’t giving them your full attention, you may miss some major points or details. This leads to frustration down the road on both sides. Ensure you are employing your active listening skills when in arbitration mode.

4. Teamwork and Collaboration

To be able to get to a place of common ground and a win-win scenario, you have to have a sense of teamwork and collaboration.

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If you are only thinking about yourself and what you want without giving much care to what the other person is wanting, you are bound to wind up without a solution. The other person may get frustrated and give up if they see you are unwilling to meet them halfway or care little for what they want.

When you collaborate, you are working together to help each other get what is most important to you. The other upside to negotiating with a sense of teamwork and collaboration is that it helps create a sense of trust, which, in turn, helps provide positive energy for working to a successful conclusion.

5. Problem Solving

Problem-solving is another key negotiation skill. When you are working with the other person to get the deal done many times you’ll face new challenges along the way.

Maybe you want a new vendor to provide training on the software they are selling you but they say it’s going to cost an additional $20,000 to provide this service. If you don’t have the additional $20,000 in the budget to spend on the software but you feel the training is critical, how are you going to solve that problem?

From what I’ve seen, most vendors aren’t willing to provide additional services without getting paid for them. This is where problem-solving skills will help continue the discussions. You might suggest to the vendor that your company will also be looking to replace their financial software next year, and you’d be happy to ensure they get one of the first seats at the table when the time comes if they could perhaps lower the pricing on their training.

There’s a solution to most challenges, but it takes problem-solving skills to work through them effectively.

6. Decision-Making Ability

Finally, having strong decision-making ability will help you seal the deal when you get to a place where everyone feels like they are getting what works for them. Each step of the way you can cross off the list when you get what you are looking for and decide to move onto the next item. Then, once you have all of your must-have boxes checked and the other side feels good about things, it’s time to shake hands and sign on the dotted line. Powerful decision-making ability will help you get to the finish line together.

Conclusion

There you have it, 6 effective negotiation skills to master to lead a more fulfilling life. Once we realize that we negotiate in one form or another almost every day in every phase of our lives, we realize how critical a skill it is.

Possessing strong negotiation skills will help you in nearly every one of your relationships at both the workplace and in your personal life. If you feel your arbitration tools could use some sharpening, try some of the 6 effective negotiation skills to master that we’ve talked about.

More Tips to Improve Your Negotiation Skills

Featured photo credit: Windows via unsplash.com

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