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A simple way to improve communication (DW#634)

Yesterday we talked about how gratitude helps when you mess up communication during conflict.

Today let us look at some evidence that practicing gratitude can actually help improve communication overall.

A study by Amie Gordon, a psychologist from U.C. Berkeley, has found that "highly appreciative" couples tend to communicate much better in relationships.

While talking to each other, these spouses leaned in, made eye contact, and responded thoughtfully to what the other was saying. In other words, they made it clear that they were listening to and digesting what their spouse said, showing that they valued their spouse’s opinion. Appreciative couples were also more likely to use touch and physical encouragement such as a pat or hand holding to encourage the other to speak more and express themselves.

From the above it appears that appreciating and valuing your spouse includes valuing what they have to say and it makes sense that this mindset would greatly improve your listening...

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Protect your marriage from the negative effects of conflict (DW#633)

Let’s be honest. No matter how many communication skills we learn and practice, it is rather challenging to actually use these skills when we are in the midst of conflict with our spouses.

When we are in the midst of an argument, we get triggered and often forget what we have learnt and practiced. We end up saying things which can hurt the other and end up damaging our relationship over time.

The good news is that practicing gratitude in our relationships can protect our relationships from the effects of conflict.

In a study by Allen Barton (which we shall look at again in a couple of days), he found that spouses who showed poor communication patterns during conflict but reported high levels of gratitude from their partner did not seem less committed to the marriage or more prone to divorce.

"As long as they still felt appreciated by their spouse," said Barton, "their levels of marital stability were similar as those couples with more positive communication patterns."

In other...

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Keeping your eye on your own grass (DW#632)

A sure way to destroy your relationship is to start noticing how the grass seems greener on the other side . . . . if you know what I mean.

Expressing gratitude for what you have counteracts this tendency and inhibits comparing your loved ones to others.

If you are genuinely thankful and appreciative for the positive qualities that your spouse does have, rather than focusing on what they lack, you are less likely to pay attention to, or envy the qualities that your friend’s spouse appears to have.

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Strengthen your relationships and social bonds (DW#627)

An attitude of gratitude impacts relationships in many, and sometimes surprising, ways. Over the next few days, we will explore some of them.

Psychologists have begun to explore how gratitude can help build social bonds, strengthen existing relationships and build new ones. This is a very important area of research these days, given the recently discovered link between social relationships, wellbeing and longevity.

Several studies have shown that practicing gratitude can produce feelings of connectedness with others. Feeling gratitude towards people (even if not directly expressed) has the impact of feeling closer to them and reporting higher quality relationships with those people.

Experts like Robert Emmons hypothesize that when you become aware of the value of your friends and family, you are likely to treat them better, producing an "upward spiral," a sort of positive feedback loop, in which strong relationships give you something to be grateful for, and those feelings of...

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Don’t say good bye (DW#615)

O mankind! There hath come to you an admonition from your Lord and a healing for what is in your hearts. [Quran 10:58]

As we end the Holy Month of Ramadan with the festivities of Eid, let us pause for a minute and remind ourselves that the passing of the Holy Month does mean that our relationship with the Quran has to be put on hold until next year.

In the above verse from Sura Yunus, Allah reminds us that this Book has something that we human beings need: It has timeless wisdom to help us navigate the challenges of modern life by reminding us of the eternal principles of virtue in the quest of peace and happiness. For those who are receptive to its guidance, the Quran is a cure for various ailments of our hearts, including ignorance, doubt, hypocrisy, rancor, hatred, enmity, grief and despair. The book is a mercy as it helps one acquire virtue and perfection of character and adorns one with wisdom and knowledge.

So let us take the spiritual energies of this great Book of Wisdom...

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The five principles of healthy discussion (DW#614)

Let’s remind ourselves of the principles of healthy discussion and debate from the Quran which we have been exploring over the last few days

1) Use respect and compassion during conflict
and dispute with them in a manner that is best [Quran16:125].

2) Appeal to reason
Has man not seen that We created him from a drop, and behold, he is a manifest adversary?
And he has set forth for Us a parable and forgotten his own creation, saying, "Who revives these bones, decayed as they are?"
Say, "He will revive them Who brought them forth the first time, and He knows every creation [Quran 36:77-79]

3) Do not offend
Do not revile those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they should revile God out of enmity, ignorance. [Quran 6:109]

4) Present a balanced perspective.
they ask you about wine and gambling. Say, ‘There is a great sin in both of them, and some profits for the people, but their sinfulness outweighs their profit’ [Quran 2:219].

5) Respond rather than react
Repel...

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Appeal to reason (DW#610)

The Quran exemplifies the model of appealing to our sense of logic and reasoning. It does this by asking questions for us to ponder over and reflect on.
 
In the following verses, the Quran uses rhetorical questions to help us reflect and come to logical conclusions:

Has man not seen that We created him from a drop, and behold, he is a manifest adversary?
And he has set forth for Us a parable and forgotten his own creation, saying, "Who revives these bones, decayed as they are?" 
Say, "He will revive them Who brought them forth the first time, and He knows every creation [Quran 36:77-79]

These questions are posed to those who rejected the resurrection and final accounting. Their argument was: how can we be recreated if our bones have already turned to dust? The counter-argument presented through rhetorical questions is that the recreation cannot be harder than the original creation. He who created you in the first place, can He not bring you back? 

 
When...
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How to debate and dispute (DW#609)

In the following verse from Sura Nahl, Allah says: 

and dispute with them in a manner that is best [Quran16:125].

 

Communicating effectively and mindfully with respect and compassion does not mean that we always agree with the other person. Reality is that in relationships and in life, we may find ourselves on opposing sides of an issue.

 

This verse reminds us how to engage in communication when there is clearly a difference of opinion or values.
 
Firstly, such conversation needs to be done with the right intention. We can speak up for what we believe, defend our truth, remove doubts and misconceptions, but we must always do with respect and compassion. When we dispute or argue in this way, we are not defending our own power of status. We come from a place of respect, love and compassion, intending good for all concerned.
 
For the next few days, let us explore the elements of a good discussion or argument. 
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Let not aggressive speech upset you (DW#608)

Yesterday we discussed how to deal with aggression towards our faith and values. 

Today’s verse is related to the same idea. In Sura Yunus, the Prophet (saw) is told: 

And let not their speech grieve you; surely all honor belongs to Allah; He is the Hearing, the Knowing. [Quran 10:65]

 

As we have been saying, words are powerful. They have the power to heal and the power to hurt. Even if we work on being mindful of our words, reality is that not everyone will respond. We may still encounter aggression and criticism. And sometimes such words will greatly impact our emotional and mental wellbeing, especially if we sense that they are unfair and are motivated by hate rather than love. We may replay these words again and again in our minds, allowing them to fester and unbalance our wellbeing. We may lose faith and confidence in our beliefs by being subject to such hate speech.

 

This verse reminds us that the words that others may speak are not necessarily...
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Speak insightful words (DW#607)

These are they of whom Allah knows what is in their hearts; therefore turn aside from them and admonish them, and speak to them effectual words concerning themselves. [Quran 4:63]

The verse from Sura Nisa teaches the Holy Prophet (saw) how to deal with the hypocrites – those who professed belief with their tongues but harboured resentment and ill will towards the Prophet (saw). They were perhaps the most challenging enemy that he dealt with because they posed as friends and used covert means rather than open warfare to try and derail his mission. 

The Prophet (saw) is instructed to turn away from these disbelievers—that is, to avoid openly punishing them. Instead, he is to admonish them and seek to persuade them with penetrating words rather than confronting them aggressively with force. 

Scholars explain that turning away here may also mean to refuse to accept their excuses. Instead, he is to politely but firmly speak to them with Qawlan Baleegha,...

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