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The Only Relationship Help You Need to Save Your Relationship

The Only Relationship Help You Need to Save Your Relationship

Everyone seems to be searching for one–The One. There are enough dating sites out there to indicate that people, young and old alike, want to be in a relationship, or at least save the one they have. People want to share their lives with another person; they want a witness to their journey. It would seem then, that finding someone and living a life with that person would be a cinch, a piece of cake, a walk in the park.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

Building a strong and solid relationship can be as difficult as running a marathon without going through the proper training.

Think about it… How much training do we get in constructing and maintaining strong and healthy relationships? Parents have “The Talk” with their teens; schools focus on math and science; social media on “hooking up”, etc. But there are no schools out there that teach you how to help your relationship when it gets into trouble. And most relationships do, at one point or another. It’s a fact of life.

You can’t expect two people coming from different backgrounds to get along fabulously all the time; to never have disagreements that turn into something more serious. It is at these critical times that relationships need a save.

Perhaps you find yourself in a relationship such as this. If you do, I want to remind you that almost all relationships need saving every once in a while. That does not mean that the relationship is bad or that it’s doomed to fail. Before you call it quits, I’d like you to try the facilitative relationship savers below. They may sound silly and ineffective, but allow me to prove you wrong. They may, in fact, end up being the only relationship help you need. Remember, often the simplest things are the most effective.

Before I present you with these conducive approaches, keep in mind that in order to have a strong and healthy partnership you’ll need to have the following ingredients: 1) Trust 2) Loyalty 3) Honesty, 4) Respect, and 5) Compromise, to name but a few. The following suggestions will help you achieve these relationship must-haves.

So, without further ado, let’s begin!

1. Become Teammates

The first thing you need to remember is that you chose to make a life with this person. There are reasons you did so. No matter what’s going on right now to make you doubt that, look at your person and know that you’re both on the same team.

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Focus on your similarities; the things you love and respect about each other; the things that brought you together in the first place. Take time to review the history channel of your life with each other. You may currently be at odds, but if you say to yourself, “Wait a minute, this person is on my team. We are in this together! Maybe we just need a referee,” you might find your perspective shifting from Enemy to Ally.

Any time my husband and I have a falling out, or we start to argue, our reset is always to say: we’re on the same team! Let’s look at what’s really going on. How can we make things better, not worse?

Ask yourself, “What were our original goals? Do they need to be modified?” In her article, 12 Powerful Habits of Happy Relationships, Tiffany Mason writes, “Work as a team toward goals (short & long term).” When you understand you’re teammates, you’re more apt to want to work together for the benefit of the unit, not the benefit of the “I”. You’ll feel a camaraderie and discover that teamwork strengthens the relationship; that teamwork can save it by unifying it instead of ripping it apart.

When I was in graduate school, often times the professors would break us up into groups to work on certain projects. It would always turn out to be a huge bond-building exercise. The team members felt connected and worked steadfastly on promoting their team efforts.

2. Find a Common Ground

When you’re in the middle of a heated dispute, it’s important to find something on which you both agree. I once treated a couple fighting over what to do with their 7-year-old son. Dad wanted to send “Billy” to summer camp and Mom was dead set against it. He thought it would be good for Billy to have the experience away from home. Mom was fearful that Billy would be too far away, and should anything happen, they wouldn’t be there to care for him. The situation was tearing Mom and Dad apart. They needed a save.

Finding common ground did just that. In this case, the common ground was that they both loved Billy and wanted the best for him. Each of them had different ways of expressing that love. Once they remembered that they both had their son’s best interest at heart, they started talking. They agreed to let Billy go on the condition that they could call the camp site and check in on him. And if at any time Billy felt like he wanted to come home, they’d go pick him up. In order to find the much-needed common ground, it was necessary for both Mom and Dad to take a step back and listen to each other’s thoughts and ideas. They had to respect each other’s perspective and come to an understanding.

In an article written by Collen Morris, a counsellor and family therapist, she talks about “accepting influence.”[1] She states that in a conversation with your partner, that might mean saying “Good point”, or “I see”. She points out that, “Giving the respect of acknowledging your partner’s opinion is the beginning of negotiation…If that rarely happens in your relationship, it may be time to step back and listen to your partner’s thoughts on the subject at hand, instead of responding from a negative, closed position.”

3. Tell Your Partner What You Need

Nope, no one is a mindreader. Not you nor your partner. Yet often in relationships, you might hear someone say, “If he loved me, he’d know that I need some time away from cooking!” Or, “If she loved me, she’d let me spend some time with my buddies.”

One of the things that causes relationships to break down is a breakdown in communication. Each person is assuming that the other person should know what they want. In the film The Break-Up, starting Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn, there’s a scene that clearly encapsulates a total communication breakdown. Vince Vaughn’s character yells…

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“Fine! I’ll help you do the dishes.”

“That’s not what I want,” says Aniston’s character.

“You said that you want me to help you do the dishes.”

“I want you to want to do the dishes.”

And on it went. Neither one expressed what they wanted in a clear and concise way. This led to fight after fight until their relationship became too far gone to save.

If you want to save your relationship, one of the best saves is to communicate exactly what you need. Warning: Do not use your own personal language code.

For example, you’re sitting on the couch and are feeling a little cold. Instead of saying, “Honey, while you’re up, would you close the window for me?” You say, “I’m feeling a little chilly,” as you wrap your arms around yourself. Don’t make your partner guess, then punish them when they don’t guess correctly. It’s unfair and cruel.

You might have insight into your partner’s psyche, but you don’t know everything they need under every circumstance and vice versa. It’s important to Ask and Tell. Take all the guess work out of your relationship.

4. Give Your Undivided Attention

Recently, my husband, who installs home elevators, called to check in with me. He started telling me about the rails he was installing, the top of car wiring he still needed to do, the problematic door locks, and battery lowering something or other. He was going on and on in great detail. My eyes started glazing over. What the heck was he talking about? I found myself checking emails, Twitter, and Facebook.

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Then it hit me: I was not listening, only pretending to do so. I felt terrible. I knew better. I closed up all the windows and without any distractions, started to really listen. I realized that it was rude to be saying, “Mmm. That’s interesting! Rails? Cool!” when I had no clue what he’d said.

A relationship cannot be saved if you have no interest in your partner or what they do. Showing genuine interest in what your partner does can make or break the relationship. If your partner knows you’re interested in them, that you’re not on the phone, the computer or reading a magazine, but are truly invested in them, then you’re on your way to creating a stellar coupledom.

Your undivided attention can breathe life into a dying relationship. Why? Because it makes the person feel heard and special, as if they really matter. And isn’t that what we all want?

5. Play Games Together

No, not mind games. When was the last time you sat down and played Scrabble? Truth or Dare? Deal or No Deal. Playing together can be a way to bring fun back into a withering relationship.

When all you do is work and take care of business, letting your hair down and having some time together playing a game (that you can make trés romantique), might just be the save you need to bring your problematic relationship to life.

Playing games can, 1) Add a fun, competitive edge to your relationship. 2) Make you laugh. And 3) Get you in a good mood.

Being in a rut is one of the things that can make a couple feel as if their life together is circling the drain. No relationship is dead until one or both people give up. Before you do, get creative. You will be surprised how doing something as simple as playing a game can relax you and diminish any stress that’s currently infecting your connection with each other.

6. Send a Quote

Before you think I’ve lost my marbles, hear me out. Imagine that you’re really upset at your partner. Your anger has been bubbling for a while. He comes home every night and sits in front of the TV. It’s his way of winding down, but you feel excluded and unloved. You start to think, “hmm… this marriage sucks. It’s dead in the water.” You go upstairs to fold laundry and hear your phone vibrate. When you pick it up, you read: “You are the sexiest woman alive. So glad I married you.” How mad will you be then? I’d venture to guess, not so much. This is an invaluable save.

Don’t be underwhelmed by its simplicity. I guarantee you that if you send love quotes to your partner on a regular basis, you will be pleasantly surprised. Just this morning, after my husband left for work, I decided to send my own love quote. I wanted to test out the theory for myself. I texted, “My life wouldn’t be the same without you.” No more than three minutes passed before I received the following text in return, “Nor would mine, hon! You are the light that shines in my heart.” Awww…that made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. I guarantee it will do the same for you.

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Sending loves quotes works! This is probably one of the most effectual saves. It’s easy, can evoke immediate feelings of love, and dissipate any residual anger you might have over some stupid, petty thing. I highly encourage you try it.

Final Thoughts

Right about now, you might be thinking to yourself, these “saves” are too simplistic. Being teammates, finding common ground, talking to your partner, paying attention, playing games, sending quotes? No way could any of these save my messed up relationship.

I beg to differ. All you have to do is implement these saves into your relationship. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Try one, two, three, or all of them. But give it the good, old college try.

Broken relationships can be fixed. But there has to be a genuine desire to do so.

You have to be willing to fight for the relationship, not to fight with each other to get out of it.

All relationships face challenges at one point or another. Don’t let that scare you. It is just an indication that you have to pay closer attention to what’s going on. Consider it a nudge. You may have fallen asleep at the wheel. Just refocus and get back on track before the relationship crashes.

“All relationships go through hell, real relationships get through it.” — TheloveBits

Using the six saves above can inject some much needed and beautiful energy into your troubled liaison. Sometimes all you need is to hit the reset button and start anew.

So what are you waiting for? Hit RESET!

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More About Saving a Relationship

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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Rossana Snee

Rossana is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. She aspires to motivate, to inspire, and to awaken your best self!

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

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