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The foolproof way to have a fight (DW#296)

Whether a relationship is strong, fulfilling and healthy (or not) depends to a significant amount, on the quality of the daily interactions between the people who form the relationship.

What happens during these interactions and communication exchanges on a day to day basis determines the emotional climate of the relationship over time which in turn determines whether or not the people in the relationship feel connected and happy.

Having positive interactions and good communication does not mean that the relationship is free of conflict. Relationship experts agree that to have a relationship free of (apparent) conflict is neither desirable nor healthy. In fact, many would argue that the presence of conflict is an opportunity to grow as an individual and for the relationship to become more intimate as well.

The conflict, does of course, need to be handled skillfully in order for this to happen.

Let’s take a common example from family life to understand this better. The...

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5 problems with telling “little white lies" (DW#294)

We’ve been talking about speaking the truth and the kinds of lies that are far from the truth and the whole truth.

But what about "white lies", the harmless or trivial lies that we sometimes tell, especially to avoid hurting someone's feelings?

Well, according to Sam Harris, neuroscientist and author of the book, Lying, honesty is always the best policy.

"The people who undo their lives, and destroy relationships and careers, always accomplish this through lying," he says. "The decision to not lie is the best prophylactic i’ve ever come across for not bringing needless misery into your life."

Harris firmly believes we should stay away from all lies, including the "white" ones. "They tend to be the only lies that good people tell, while imagining that they are being good in the process," he says.

Here are some reasons that those white lies can damage relationships:

1. We undermine people’s trust.

When people overhear us lying to someone else, it tells them that...

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Wise speech (DW#289)

We’ve all done it. Regretted saying something the moment it came out. We may have said it too harshly, or in a state of anger or not having paused to consider whether it was a good time.

Although we may apologize profusely (that is if we have the slightest desire to maintain the relationship), we get the sinking feeling that the hurt caused is deep and that healing it will take time.

Can we prevent such slips of the tongue which cause such damage to our relationships?

Maybe not entirely but we can certainly make progress towards minding our words if we THINK before we speak.

Here are some time-honored questions to consider in the pause before we speak:
Is what I am about to say:

T – True?
H – Helpful to the other person? To our relationship? To getting my
       message across?
I – Inspiring rather than discouraging?
N – Necessary? Is it necessary at this time?
K – Kind? Am I saying it in a way that is kind and respectful rather...

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Hold the advice!

 

Have you ever been to a doctor and found them writing a prescription before you'd finished saying what was wrong?

Have you ever told a friend (or a parent or a spouse!) about a problem and been told what to do about it before you had even finished telling them what the real issue was?

Have you ever had to grit your teeth while someone advised you to do things you had already tried because they didn't bother to ask what you'd already done?

It is a common experience to have people prescribing solutions before they have understood the problem, isn't it?

This is because we often don't get a key distinction in communication.

Listening and giving advice.

I know, I know. We spoke about this just last week. But it is just so important, that it is worth repeating.

Listening helps others to tell their stories. It requires putting our own agenda (and even our own expertise) on hold and simply "becoming a vessel into which others can pour their worries, their passions, their joys, their...

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The difference between listening and agreeing.

In my experience, one of the things that stops us from truly listening to the other is the fear that listening might indicate that we agree with what they are saying.

What if we don't agree? Should we not start making our case right from the first sentence? Does silence not mean assent?

Not so. Just hear me out. :)

Listening to, and agreeing with, are two different communication processes. And in between the two lies a third one – understanding.

When someone is sharing their experience, their feelings or their thoughts, there is really nothing to agree to or disagree with. The experience, the feelings and the thoughts belong to the person who is having and sharing them. Our role is simply to hear them out and to understand them (if we wish to be connected to them, that is).

For statements or conversations that do require agreement or disagreement (such as making plans or finding a solution to a problem) understanding the conversation before we agree or disagree with it is...

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Listening is uncomfortable

Listening to somebody express their needs, their problems, their pain, their frustration or sadness is not easy and it is not fun. It touches your heart, makes you anxious and you want to make it all better.

As soon as possible.

And so you start offering solutions to make the other person feel better…

"Cheer up. Its not so bad."
"Look on the bright side"
"Be grateful. There are so many people who have it much worse"
"Be positive. Its all in your mind."
"Don't be sad (or angry, or upset, or frustrated or whatever). It will get better soon".

A question for you: how is that working out for you and for your relationship?

Does the person thank you for your wisdom, calms down, takes your advice and becomes cheerful?

No, I didn't think so.

Here's the thing: there is a time for listening and a time for offering support, guidance or advice.

And you generally have to do one before you can do the other.

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Why work on listening?

There are many many reasons why it is important to work on our listening skills. Apart from being a key skill in the workplace and in life, it is not an overstatement to say that the art of listening is critical to successful relationships.

Without listening, we have what George Bernard Shaw called "the illusion of communication". We can tell when there exists a lack of listening in a relationship when there are frequent misunderstandings, hurt feelings and feelings of frustration regarding unmet emotional needs.

It is said that being listened to is so much like being loved that most people don't know the difference.

Truly listening to another human being and allowing another person to express themselves without interrupting, judging, refuting, or discounting is a gift of love – a sacred gift - that we can offer.

For the one expressing themselves, being listened to, heard and understood is like emotional oxygen. When the core human need to be listened to and understood is met,...

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Test yourself on your listening skills

How do you know if you listen well or not?

Here are some questions to reflect on.

Do you:

Tend to speak more than others.
Interrupt, and believe this is a natural part of conversation.
Think ahead, finishing peoples sentences for them.
Come to conclusions quickly and form options of what needs to be done before the speaker is finished.

Get impatient if the speaker is slow and taking a while.
Find yourself thinking about what you want to say instead of  concentrating on what the speaker is saying.

Are easily distracted.
Fake attention when listening to others
Make judgments about the speaker.

Want to get to the bottom line quickly.
Want facts rather than ideas.

Are not interested in how people feel, you just want to know what they've done.
Often forget what people told you.
Listen selectively, dipping in and out of attentiveness.

Are more interested in content than feelings.
Don't observe body language and facial expressions, and stare into space while listening.
Tend to listen without...

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Notice the gift of the rain puddle

 

Let us continue our discussion on expanding our awareness in life to notice blessings rather than just focusing on problems and issues.

Here is a lovely poem, particularly apt in the current fall weather we are having in North America:

Gifts of the Rain Puddle
Beth Kurland

I woke up from a funk today of too many bills
too many emails to return, not enough time –
From that irritability that creeps in insidiously like a dark shadow ready to swallow us all
if we let it in.

I woke up to discover
that I inherited a small fortune!

Actually,
if truth be told,
would you believe that I forgot that it was here all along?

My neighbor reminded me this morning –
the little guy in the overalls and dirt filled fingernails.
I saw him laughing hysterically
as he jumped in a giant puddle,
a leftover gift from the torrential rains;
as he soaked himself,
and went back for more,
then began running and shrieking
through the wet grass
with his unsteady gait
until he fell down in a heap,
all smiles.

I...

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Don’t take it personally



Salaams and Good Morning !

Here is your daily dose of Wisdom for Living Your Best Self!

A very effective step towards equanimity is to practice taking things less personally.

Let us understand this through a Taoist fable from Chuang-Tzu, which I learnt from one of my teachers, Rick Hanson.

Here is how he tells it:

It is a beautiful day and you are floating in canoe with a friend on a slow-moving river on a beautiful Sunday.

Suddenly there is a loud thump on the side of the canoe, and it rolls over, dumping you and your friend into the cold water. You come up sputtering and realize that somebody swum up to your canoe and tipped it over on purpose, for a joke and is now laughing at how annoyed you and your friend are.

How do you feel when you experience this?

Now let's imagine a slightly different scenario.

The scene is exactly the same: same boat, same river and same beautiful but cold river. Your boat is hit, tipped over and you are cold and wet. Except that when you come up and...

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