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I love it when you . . . (DW#436)

Sometimes we get into a pattern in close relationships when the only time we tell our loved ones how they are impacting our lives is when they are falling short. 

While complaining certainly has its place, it is very helpful to practice giving information about what pleases us as well. We can begin by noticing what our loved ones are already doing right, and how they are impacting our lives in a positive way. And then sharing it with them. 

Appreciation, as we have said before, really is the secret sauce of relationships. In fact, the more we appreciate what is already happening in a relationship, the more likely it is that we will see more of it. And the happier we all are, the giver and the recipient of appreciation. It makes all the hard work of relationships worth it.

So, let's practice this formula:

I love it when you do x in situation y
I love it when you have the food ready when I come home from work
I love it when you take care of our toddler so I can sleep in on...

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I feel... (DW#435)

Many of us have been trained to deny, suppress or hide feelings from others, and sometimes even from ourselves. Suppressing and hiding feelings is almost guaranteed to result in personal distress, and in emotional distance and detachment in relationships as opposed to connection. 

And so it is a good idea to practice emotional literacy – that is to get in touch with what we are feeling – and then to share those feelings with our loved ones to build connection and intimacy. 

The first step to sharing feelings is, of course, to recognize and label the feeling itself. 

Once we recognize how we are feeling, sharing those feelings is quite simple, really. It begins with two short words: "I feel….". 

I feel happy.
I feel neglected.
I feel respected.
I feel grateful.
I feel distraught.

Notice that there is no "I feel that  . . .". The word "that" usually indicates that what will follow is going to be a thought, not a feeling. 

For...

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Tell me more. (DW#434)

Today’s phrase, "tell me more", is one of those phrases that is multi-purpose and an overall great communication tool.

Tell me more can be used when you want to encourage the other person to talk more and share what is going on for them, especially if they are slow to open up. 

Tell me more can be used as a way to buy time for yourself and calm down when you have just heard something which is triggering you. Think of it as a way to give your brain a chance to respond rather than react. It is especially useful when you know that your first reaction is likely to shut down the other person rather than continue communication (such as when you "freak out" at something your children are telling you).

Tell me more can be used when you are really interested in something and genuinely are curious to learn more about what the other person is saying. It is a great way to learn from others and build friendship at the same time as people blossom at the chance to talk about...

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How can I help? (DW#433)

One of the best ways we can be supportive to our love ones is to actually ask them how they would like to be supported. 

Whether it is the morning panic to leave the house, a particularly stressful time at work or another life stressor, asking how we can help lighten their load is more effective than guessing how they would prefer to be supported by us. 

So the next time a loved one appears stressed or overburdened, simply ask: How can I help? Just knowing that someone is willing to do what it takes to ease our situation can be hugely de-stressing in itself. 

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The best things to say in relationships (DW#432)

Over the last two weeks, we did a series of the "10 worst phrases you can say in relationships". We talked about how some words and phrases will annoy, upset and hurt others and are simply not helpful if we want to connect to others in a positive way. 

Now let’s do the opposite. Let us now explore and highlight the Best Phrases you can in say relationships. 

If we start incorporating and practicing these words and phrases in our interactions with our loved ones, we will likely see a positive change and a shift in the emotional climate of the relationship.

Today’s phrase is one that you may already be using: How was your day?

This simple daily ritual of greeting and reuniting with each other at the end of the day has the potential of improving our coping with external pressures and tensions and improving the long term health of our relationships. 

Of course, we need to ensure that when we are having this "stress-reducing conversation", we do it in a way...
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The top 10 worst things to say to your loved ones (DW#431)

Over the last couple of weeks, we have been exploring words and phrases that cause more harm than good in relationships.
 
While all of us might say some of these from time to time, we need to recognize that if we say them often enough, our relationships are sure to suffer.
 
So here is the "top 10" list of words and phrases to stay away from:
 
1.   "Just sayin’"
2.   "You always/you never"
3.   "You made me do it/ it’s your fault"
4.   "I’m sorry, but…"
5.   "With all due respect"
6.   "Fine, whatever"
7.   "I’ll talk to you when you can be more rational"
8.   "Not this again! Can’t you just drop it and move on?" 
9.   "If I were you . . ."
10.  "I told you so"

From tomorrow inshaAllah, we will start exploring the best things to say to your loved ones :) 
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I told you so (DW#430)

This phrase might just be in the running for the worst possible phrase or the least helpful thing that you can say if you want to build strong relationships. 

While yesterday’s phrase "If I were you" is usually said beforedisaster happens, "I told you so" is generally used after the advice is not heeded and ‘disaster’ ensues. 

"I told you so" can be said in many different ways, of course: 
I told you so. 
I knew this would happen. 
I could see this one coming
I could’ve told you this was coming. 
Can I tell you…I thought this might be the result?
I knew it!!
No surprise that this happened, is it? 

The reason it is so damaging to relationships is because we use it when the person on the receiving end is likely already feeling pretty bad about something that happened. And saying I told you so is guaranteed to make them feel worse even though it might make us feel superior and smug by reminding them how much they need our...

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If I were you . . . (DW#429)

Many of us love giving advice, thinking to ourselves: "I should really share the wealth of my knowledge, wisdom and experience – I am sure the recipient of my advice will be very grateful indeed". 

And then we get very confused when the advice is rejected or remains unheeded  . . .

Here’s the thing: one of the worst ways of giving advice is to start it with "If I were you  . . ." before we have finished this sentence, the person on the receiving end of this advice is saying to themselves:
But you are not me
My situation is different 
You just don’t understand 

And all that valuable advice that we so graciously shared has now gone to waste – sigh! Such a shame, no?

It turns out that of the many ways of giving advice, the most effective one is to simply share information about something. A study on this subject found that information advice was the most effective and the one most likely to be heeded. Information advice...

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Not this again! Can’t you just drop it... (DW#428)

Today’s phrase is another variation of blaming the other person for issues in the relationship. 

"Not this again!" can be said in many ways:
"Oh no, here we go again" - eye roll and heavy sigh included –
"You never let anything drop, do you?"
"Why do you make such a big deal about things that are not important?"
etc. etc. etc.

 

The message in each version is similar:

 

"Something is wrong with you that you cannot drop this issue – you have no grounds to be upset. I don’t see it as a big deal, I don’t respect what you have to say and I’m not willing to listen, communicate with you or change in any way. This issue is not important to me even though it matters to you. The problem is clearly you and not me".

 

As you can imagine, this message is more likely to damage the relationship rather than make the issue go away. It is likely to add fuel to the fire as when we are upset, we want to be listened to and heard, not told that we...
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I’ll talk to you when you can be rational (DW#427)

As we have discussed before, conflict is normal and even healthy in relationships. It is how we deal with the conflict rather than the absence of conflict that determines if the relationship is fulfilling or not. 

Even though conflict is normal, it can be unpleasant. When we are in the midst of an argument, it can trigger all sorts of strong emotions that make it difficult for us to have productive conversations. 

When we find ourselves triggered, it can be very helpful to take some time for ourselves to calm down so that we can get back to the conversation in a more helpful way. 

The key, though, is to take responsibility for our own emotional state rather than suggest that the other person is "not being rational"

A statement such as "I’ll talk to you when you can be rational" is guaranteed to make matters worse. It is a statement that is likely to inflict emotional injury and make the other person significantly angrier. 

So the...
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