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Please and thank you (DW#439)

When we are amongst those who are closest to us, we sometimes begin to take each other for granted. Words such as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and other forms of common courtesy that we use with strangers begin to slip away and sometimes disappear altogether.

We sometimes justify this slipping away of common courtesy by saying to ourselves that saying please and thank you should be reserved for favours that go beyond the expected responsibilities towards each other. That we do not need to thank people for ‘doing their job’ especially if they are not doing ‘their job’ up to our expectations.

Here’s the thing: such an attitude is a recipe for relationships going downhill. Even if our family members continue to ‘do their job’, they will be much more likely to do so with happiness and enthusiasm if their efforts are appreciated. As we may have experienced in our own lives, it is challenging to keep showing up as our best...

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You have my support (DW#438)

All of us have areas of life in which we feel insecure and lack courage, and that lack of courage often hinders us from accomplishing the positive things that we would like to do. When we receive support from loved ones in the form of words or actions, we are encouraged to continue pursuing challenging courses of action. 

Having the support of our family members also helps us feel secure in the relationship, builds trust and intimacy and cultivates a deeper connection. 

Support is especially important during times of transition, such as a new job; a developmental change, such as the birth of a child; and grief and loss, such as the death or anniversary of a loved one’s passing.

Being there for a loved one with a compassionate presence and/or with supportive words or actions greatly eases life’s challenges for them and allows us to show our love at times when it really does matter.

What desires or goals have your loved ones expressed recently? Are they going...

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Do you remember when we... (DW#437)

Talking and reminiscing about memorable events in your couple and family history allows you to celebrate how far you have come as a couple and family. How you remember and recall your past reflects how you feel about your present relationship. 

Our time together with our families is more than a collection of dates and events. All couples and families have a story to tell. There is a story about how you met, a story about your first fight, and a story about your wedding day and the birth of your children. 

How couples share what Dr. Gottman calls the "Story of Us" reflects whether their relationship is in the positive or negative perspective. And the positive or negative perspective in turn determines the future health of your relationship. 

In Gottman's studies, couples who had a positive view of their history together were more likely to stay happily together. Happy couples talked about their relationship history in a positive way and filtered the early days through a...

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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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