If you want to become a good listener there are certain traits and skills you will need to learn. Listening is a great skill to develop and it can improve all areas of your life. People love to talk and are always looking for someone to listen to them.
When listening to someone your goal should be to understand their point of view. Listen to everything they say before forming your own opinion, and remember that you do not necessarily have to agree with them. Everyone deserves, and should form, their own opinions on various topics.
Paying attention is the next trait. If you don’t pay attention you will miss out on important information. Always be aware of what is going on with the person who is speaking, and don’t forget to pay attention to your surroundings.
The action of making eye contact with the person who is speaking, shows them that you are paying attention. If you start looking around you, you are giving them the impression that you are not interested, or have become bored.
Try to look at their point of view and ask yourself if they might be the person who is right.
Allow the person to finish talking. This often takes a little patience, but it can be helpful for both sides. First the person talking can vent their opinions or frustrations. Secondly it helps the listener to fully understand the issue at hand.
A good listener will also think before responding back. Again they often ask what if this person is correct in their way of thinking. People have the bad trait of speaking before thinking and this can lead to all kinds of awkward or difficult situations.
It is perfectly normal for your brain to want to respond quickly, stop yourself and think before you speak!
Sometimes it can be hard to stay focused on a person, it is normal to want to look away. If you find yourself doing this try nodding to the person or making direct eye contact with them. This signals to them that you are paying attention. If you really need to look away for a second, then muffle a cough behind your hand!
Other tips that you might want to use to show that you are paying attention include:
Saying the person’s name now and again
Using facial expressions
Using body language
If you make an effort to put these five traits into play consistently, you will become a much better listener for it.
How Can a Healthy Imagination Help Our Relationships?
There’s no doubt about it; relationships are hard. It can seem nearly impossible when you are trying to make two lives work together. If you are struggling in your relationship, it may be worthwhile to examine your imagination. Believe it or not, a healthy imagination can truly help your relationship.
It has been said that “the world of reality has it limits; the world of imagination is boundless.” (Jean-Jacques Rousseau)
It has also been said that “imagination is more important that knowledge.” (Albert Einstein)
Imagination (Re) Ignites Passion
When you are with the same person for so long, it can often seem like the passion will fade, or maybe things will seem to get a bit boring. Well, imagination is one of the main ignitions of passion. If you improve your imagination, the passion in your relationship will improve as well.
For example, you could cook your significant other a fancy dinner and serve it to them on a picnic blanket on the floor. Then use your imagination to imagine you are in Paris! You might just be surprised by how much fun the two of you have with imaginative ideas like this.
Imagination bring hope back into hopeless situations. You don’t have to give up on your relationship situation. You can reignite the passion by igniting the imagination of how things could be…in the future.
Imagination Helps You Make Plans
One of the main indicators of caring about someone is making plans that involve them. Without a healthy imagination, it can be difficult to see past the dreariness of day-to-day life. If your relationship seems to be in a rut, then it’s time to tap into that imagination to create something fun for the two of you to do! Try to think of something you haven’t done before, and don’t be afraid to try something incredibly unique.
Start small and take small risks in your relationship. Step out of the comfort zone. The effort itself will prove your willingness to try to change even if things don’t do perfectly for you.
Imagination Can Help You Through the Rough Patches
All relationships have rough patches, where you may not be happy with your partner or feel that you aren’t going to make it as a couple. Sometimes, if the relationship is truly worth it, you need to persevere to get there, and imagination can help you through that. Imagination can help you envision a future together where things are better.
It can help you solve problems that are causing challenges in your relationship. It can even remind you of past times you have had together and how fun they were, even if things are currently difficult.
Whether or not you realize it, imagination is essential to helping your relationship last. Imagination is an integral part of passion, making plans, and surviving the rough patches that will inevitably come along. So if you are in a relationship that is currently struggling, it’s time to work to improve your imagination today. Even if you aren’t currently in a relationship, a healthy imagination is a great method of preparing yourself for future relationships that may come your way.
Use Love Languages to be creative in your imagination
The 5 love languages was created by Gary Chapman and written about in a book by the same name. The languages include words of affirmation, quality of time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Speaking your partner or family members love languages makes them feel loved. We tend to speak our own love languages which may not match up with others missing the mark. Knowing others love language allows us to use imagination that has a more powerful influence for the future.
A good marriage isn’t something you find. You have to make it great, and then you have to keep making it that way. Most people stop working on their marriage right after the honeymoon is over. They get bogged down in work, kids, mortgages, and all the trials of life. If you don’t stay focused on then intimacy in marriage, you will lose it. Here are a few tips to help you keep the flame of love and happiness lit:
Show Them Respect
Every healthy relationship must include respect. Without it, you are doomed to fail. When your partner wants to speak with you, take the time to do so. Don’t mock their words or belittle them in any way. By showing your significant other that you value their thoughts, feelings, time and effort, you will let them know you respect them.
The opposite of respect is contempt or criticism. That is poison to the relationship and part of the “Four Horseman” of the final days of marriage. The other two destructive forces in marriage are stonewalling and defensiveness. These latter two “horseman” refer to emotionally shutting down and overly protecting oneself.
John Gottman, marriage researcher and author states: “Successful long-term relationships are created through small words, small gestures, and small acts.”
Give Them Priority
Your partner may not always be your number one priority, especially if you had children before you entered the relationship or have another situation that demands a lot of your time. If your partner is always last on your list, though, there will be trouble. Giving your partner at least some priority shows them that you value them.
Marriage needs balance to succeed. After work and kids are gone, couples end up with nothing. Put some time into one another, through date nights, talking after the kids go to bed, enjoying hobbies or activities together, reading, etc. What you do isn’t as important as the fact that you are doing things together.
Have Fun Together
Make time to laugh together. Plan fun activities and do new things together so that you can always remember the experience. Making memories builds bonds. This will give you and your partner good feelings when thinking about one another, because of the great times you have when you are with each other. Fun can involve the children too. Watch funny movies, tell jokes, ask about the highs and lows of the day so marriage and family intimacy deepens.
Learn with Them
Take a class together, or embark on learning a new hobby as a duo. When you stretch your brains in regards to the same subject, it gives you something to talk about. When a couple feels like they are challenging each other and helping each other to become their best, it brings strength to the relationship.
If you are struggling in some area of your relationship this is an excellent topic to read a book on or attend a course. There are thousands of YouTube videos and podcasts. Listen to one on the way to the store or off to visits grandparents. You might discover that one magic idea that causes your relationship to soar.
It has been said that the “capacity to learn is a gift, the ability to learn is a skill, the willingness to learn is a choice” (Brian Herbert).
Maintain Your Individuality
Although time as a unit is important, don’t do absolutely everything together. Give yourself the opportunity to grow your other friendships and hobbies. When you do this, it gives you a break so that you can appreciate each other when you are together, and it also gives you something to talk about.
Women are more likely to connect with friends than men. Developing relationship as a couple and then branching out or reaching out might be something men can work on. Getting involved in men’s groups or sports can be an excellent outlet for men as well.
Express Your Appreciation
Let your partner know that you are grateful for them and who they are. When they have made sacrifices to do something kind for you, write them a thank you card or cook them their favorite meal. Showing your thankfulness and appreciation never goes out of style. The opposite could also be true: Stop showing appreciation for others and they might stop doing the things we appreciate!
Be Creative in Showing Your Love
Say “I love you” to your partner, but don’t stop there. Get creative in the ways that you show your love. Demonstrate it by using your own personal talents through actions such as writing them a poem, making their favourite dessert or composing a song for them. Plan a relaxing vacation weekend or even a one-on-one movie night together at home. It doesn’t take a lot of money to demonstrate that you love your partner.
Gary Chapman wrote a popular book: “The 5 Love Languages”. It outlines how everyone feels most loved in unique ways. We tend to show love in the ways we like to feel loved versus loving them in their own way.
The 5 Love Languages include: Words of appreciation, physical touch, gifts, acts of service, and quality time. It is possible to have more than one but learning your partners special way of feeling loved is an act of love in itself. Try taking the online quiz to learn with your spouse at https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/love-language
If you would like more help learning how to make love last, consider talking with Ron Huxley for online couples counseling today.
Sadness might be telling you it is time to cry. Loneliness might be telling you of a need for connection. Shame might be telling you to increase self-compassion. Resentment is talking about people (or self) you need to forgive. Emptiness may be sharing a desire for more creativity. Anger could be trying to tell you to add more boundaries in life. Anxiety could be telling you to breathe more, or at least exhale! Stress might be telling you to slow down and take one step at a time.
Feelings are often untrusted physical and emotional sensations that can lead us to make impulsive, irrational decisions. But I believe this is more due to our mis-understandings of them than their inherent deceptiveness.
We are taught, from childhood, to stuff our feelings and keep them under control. How are we then able to partner with them for greater emotional intelligence in later life?
Most men funnel all their emotions into their anger. Anger is respected and awarded to men in most cultures. They are told to “man up” or “keep a stiff upper lip” when it comes to other emotions.
The consequences of squelching emotions are poor communication that stonewalls relationships, increases disease risk, and destroys self-esteem and personal worth. The answer is to begin making friends with our emotions and see them as messengers who provide you with wisdom for life’s journey.
Start learning the vocabulary of emotions. Most men in couples therapy appear to have no capacity for emotions or refuse to comply with the therapist’s and partners’ requests to share feelings. The real problem is lack of competency, not compliance. They don’t know the words. When men are presented with a list of feelings words to describe what they are experiencing, they can share a dozen real emotions.
Why could they share their emotions when they have a list but couldn’t come up with it when asked in the “heat” of the interaction with the therapist or partner? Often, it is simply a lack of practice recognizing their feelings.
TIPS FOR MAKING FRIENDS WITHFEELINGS:
Allow your feelings to be neutral. Think of them as messengers designed to help you interpreting information from the sensory world. Our bodies are not machines but complex information processing systems. They are your “gut instincts” that can guide you through complex situations.
When your feelings are your enemies, you will be in a continual “fight or flight” state. Creative problem solving shuts down in this hyper-response situation. Conscious thought is powerful but slow. The body/brain system is rapid and responsive but will hijack you every time. Make friends with your feelings by practicing calming strategies.
Deep breathing is an easy way to connect with feelings. Science has proven that breathing in a pattern of longer exhales will bring almost instant relaxation. Try repeating a 4 second count for inhale and an 8 second count on exhales.This simple exercise engages the “vagus nerve” responsible for “rest and digest.”
Do this exercise as many times as you would like but most people start to feel more relaxed after two or three tries. Once you are feeling relaxed, check in with your body and notice what physical sensations and feelings are located in your body. Put you hand on this location and do the breathing exercise again. Allow the sensation or feeling to speak to you…what does your body need you to know? Maybe you are just sitting in a weird position and need to adjust yourself. You didn’t even realize you were sitting so oddly.
Start to journal your feelings and narrate what they are saying. Give them a name and watch when they show up in your daily life and how they are trying to help guide you with some wisdom. What happens when you listen or ignore them? Where the consequences helpful or harmful? Use a feeling wheel or chart to build your emotional vocabulary. Practice using feeling words in your communication with the simple script of “I feel X when Y happens.”
Thank your feelings for coming to your aid. I know, it sounds weird to talk to your feelings but they will show up in the wrong ways at the wrong time if you ignore them…Start by making friends today and learn to hear the important messages they are trying to tell you.
What’s your parenting style? Are you happy with the results you get from your interaction with your children? What about with your spouse? Do the two of you work well together or do you have oppositive ways of parenting that results in arguments and resentments?
This doesn’t have to spell D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R for your family. Even complete opposites can learn how to work together by focusing on each other’s strengths and compensating for each other’s weaknesses.
Parenting styles can be categorized into four main styles that correspond to a balance of “love and limits” that include:
* Rejecting/Neglecting Style: Low Love and Low Limits.
* Authoritarian Style: Low Love and High Limits.
* Permissive Style: High Love and Low Limits.
* Democratic or Balanced Style: High Love and High Limits.
“Love and limits” are terms that describe a parents discipline orientation. Parents who are oriented toward a “relational discipline orientation” are said to use love as their primary style of parenting. Parents who use “action discipline orientation” are said to use limits as their primary style of parenting.
All parents incorporate both love and limits in their style of parenting. It is the balance of love and limits that determine a parent’s particular style. Only the democratic or balanced parenting style have both high love and high limits. In addition, each style has strengths and weaknesses inherent in them and are learned from the important parental figures in our lives. These figures are usually our own parents.
Parents who use love as their primary style (permissive parents) consider love to be more important than limits. They also use the attachment and their bond with their child to teach right from wrong. They spend a lot of time with the child communicating, negotiating, and reasoning. Their value is on “increasing their child’s self-esteem” or “making them feel special.”
Parents who use limits as their primary style (authoritarian parents) consider limits as more important than love (relationship). They use an external control to teach right from wrong and are quick to act on a discipline problem. Consequently, children are usually quick to react and rarely get their parents to negotiate. The value is on “teaching respect” and “providing structure.”
Parenting styles are defined as the “manner in which parents express their beliefs about how to be a good or bad parent. All parents (at least 99%) want to be a good parent and avoid doing what they consider to be a bad parent. Parents adopt the styles of parenting learned from their parents because
1) They don’t know what else to do
2) They feel that this is the right way to parent.
You can learn how to balance love in limits in your relationships using our Family Healer School ecourse “Parenting Styles: How to Balance Love and Limits” (CLICK HERE).
How do you get from point A to point B? You can put in your own destinations for each point… The answer is simple. Look at a road map or in our modern technological society, tell your phone to pull up the map.
The “point” is that if you want to get anywhere you have to have a road map (or in the case of our phone, a GPS). In relationships, we need a love road map. When it all hits the fan, and it will sooner or latter, we need to know how to get back to a place of love and trust.
The research of John Gottman, PhD, shows us that the road to relational stability requires this type of emotional guidance system. In order to be a master of relationships and not experience the disaster of it, you can start building this map today. According to Dr. Gottman, you have to know a lot about your partner or child to navigate through difficult times and moments of disagreement. The process to build this map is asking a lot of questions that search the soul of the other person. Questions like what do you think about injustice or what countries you would like to visit or how do you feel about your career in life? These are open ended questions that go deeper than did you do your homework or pay the electrical bill?
How does your partner feel about their role as a mother or father? Does your child enjoy his or her friendships? After these heart-probing questions are asked, you have to remember the answer because this is what you will use to work through conflicts. The intensity of our fights with our most intimate companions aren’t really about an “F” on a test or dishes in the sink. They are really about our hopes and dreams and desires. They can also be about our disappointments, fears and losses. The more deeply connected you are with the former, the better you will find your way through the latter.
When people ask you these questions they show their interest in you. It makes you feel valuable. Conversely, scanning for mistakes, even with the motivation to help the other person be better in life, destroys intimacy and trust.
It has been said that a joyful life is created in the little details, conversations and moment to moment interactions. This is exactly how you build a love road map that will help you deal with conflict. Conflict is part of the human relationships and can’t be avoided so be prepared and get to know the inner world of others.
Action plan:Ask some deep questions of people who are closest to you in the next 7 days. Take notes of their answers. There will be a test!
If you heard someone described as a powerful person, you might assume he or she would be the loudest person in the room, the one telling everyone else what to do. But powerful does not mean dominating. In fact, a controlling, dominating person is the very opposite of a powerful person.
So what exactly is a powerful person? Here are 8 traits of a powerful person:
1. THEY DO NOT TRY TO CONTROL OTHERS.
Powerful people do not try to control, convince, or manipulate other people or their behaviors. They know it doesn’t work, and it’s not their job. Their job is to control themselves.
2. THEY CREATE A RESPECTFUL ENVIRONMENT.
Powerful people are able to consciously and deliberately create the environment in which they want to live. They don’t try to get people to respect them; they create a respectful environment by showing respect. They deliberately set the standard for how they expect to be treated by the way they treat others. As they consistently act in responsible, respectful, and loving ways, it becomes clear that the only people who can get close to them are those who know how to show respect, be responsible, and love well.
3. THEY REFUSE TO BE A VICTIM.
Life does not happen to powerful people. Powerful people are happening. They are happening all the time. They are not controlled or infected by their environment. Powerful people refuse to play the victim by shifting responsibility for their choices onto others.
4. THEY REQUIRE OTHERS AROUND THEM TO BE POWERFUL.
When powerful people encounter a powerless person, they are not tempted to dive into any unhealthy emotional ties or attachments. They hear a victim’s sob story and ask, “So what are you going to do about that? What have you tried? What else could you try?” These questions confront powerless people with their responsibility and their capacity to make choices and control themselves. This is the only option a powerful person will offer to powerless people: become powerful, make choices, and control yourself.
5. THEY MAKE DAILY DECISIONS THAT ALIGN WITH THEIR VISION.
Powerful people do not simply react to whatever is happening today. They are able to take responsibility for their decisions and the consequences of those decisions–even for mistakes and failures. They can respond to today and create tomorrow. Powerful people have a vision and mission for their life, and can use the events of each day, whether positive or negative, to direct themselves toward that vision.
6. THEY LET THEIR “YES” BE “YES” AND “NO” BE “NO.”
Popular opinion or the pressure of others does not sway the language of powerful people. They know exactly what they want and how to communicate their desires. A powerful person says, “I will. I do. I am.” Powerful people can say both “Yes” and “No,” and mean it. Others can try to manipulate, charm, and threaten, but their answer will stand.
7. THEY LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY.
A powerful person’s choice to love will stand, no matter what the other person does or says. When powerful people say, “I love you,” there’s nothing that can stop them. Their love is not dependent on being loved in return. It is dependent on their powerful ability to say “Yes” and carry out that decision. This protects their love from external forces, or from being managed by other people.
8. THEY CONSISTENTLY DEMONSTRATE WHO THEY SAY THEY ARE.
Powerful people can be who they say they are on a consistent basis. And because they know how to be themselves, they invite those around them to be themselves. Only powerful people can create a safe place to know and be known intimately. They say, “I can be me around you and you can be you around me. We do not need to control each other, and we don’t want to control each other.”
We all have room to grow in becoming powerful people. No matter what, know that every step on the journey to getting free and being a powerful person is worth it. Choosing to say “Yes!” to a life of responsibility will be one filled with adventure and joy. Do not let powerlessness and a victim mentality steal from you any longer. You are a powerful person who can make powerful decisions. And more importantly, you are a powerful person who can choose to love–because He chose to love you.
You would like your Boomer husband or boyfriend to open up more and talk about his emotions. He’s probably aware of his feelings; he just hasn’t said them out loud very often. He may be fearful about getting into this emotional dialogue arena with you because he knows you’re far more skilled. He needs to feel absolute trust with you before he attempts what he probably considers a death-defying act. Opening his heart with you may be a first for him in a relationship. His feeling safe is important. You already knew that an authentic relationship requires emotional dialogue, so your patience while he tries to speak from his heart is critical towards achieving this goal.
He’s likely going to have to overcome lifelong, negative feelings that trace back to his boyhood. His lesson was simple; acting like a man meant never showing or talking about physical or emotional pain. Need proof regarding how difficult talking about feelings is for men? Ask any ten men how they feel about something, and nine will respond by telling you what they think, instead. Getting him to engage in this conversation with you is a high bar for him to hurdle. His senses of safety and trust are tantamount for his success.
The point you want to share is that he can only get what he wants or needs from you if he knows how to ask for it, based on his feelings. If you and your partner follow these simple guidelines, you can deepen the intimacy in your relationship, and move it to the next level. While helping him in this endeavor isn’t your responsibility, your relationship will benefit exponentially, so consider helping him as an act of love instead of a thankless task.
1. Explain to your partner that you’re willing to abide by specific conditions if he’s willing to share what’s in his heart. Assure him in no uncertain terms that he won’t receive any judgment, opinions, or criticism from you when he’s finished, because you recognize that his feelings, like yours, are his absolute truth. Everything spoken from his heart is his truth, and as such, is not open for debate. Alternatively, his thoughts are simply his opinions, and are always open for debate. It may take a while before he’s able to separate the two and handle each as different entities.
2. Suggest that he take a few moments before speaking to connect with how he’s feeling, in his body. Is he anxious or nervous? Let him know that you’ll wait while those feelings dissipate before he shares, and that pausing might help him to more easily convey the appropriate emotions. It’s important that you wait until he’s completely finished sharing his feelings with you before responding. He may stumble a bit and need your patience while he tries to make his point. Feeling that he has control of his end of the emotional dialogue will afford him a sense of autonomy.
3. Remember, the point of asking him to share his feelings with you wasn’t to please you, but rather, to have him speak from his heart to you, without fear. You wanted to discover how he feels about you and your relationship, and now he’s told you. Whatever follows, he’s learned a critical relationship communication skill, and you’ve gotten a better sense of what direction your relationship is headed. That’s invaluable information towards building a better working relationship. He’s your equal partner now in an arena few men dare enter with a woman. Thanking him for what was probably a Herculean effort, will encourage additional emotional dialogue in the future. This is a win/win, by anyone’s standards.
Ron Huxley’s Reply: This isn’t the typical parenting post for the Parenting Toolbox blog but perhaps it should be…So many women complain over the lack of emotional sharing from dad. They assume this is due to “complacency” or lack of “compliance” (i.e., stubbornness). Often, the real reason is due to “competence” or lack of experience/education. It could also be due to low “capacity.” This last area is usually a result of early life trauma that many men suffer but society refuses to acknowledge.
Next time you are frustrated with your husband, try to be patient and take the time to retrain them. Nagging only backfires!
I have spent a lifetime being defensive. The world, frankly, is a harsh place to live and over time one can become quite hyper vigilant and self-protective. It takes some risk to put yourself out there after suffering rejection and betrayal. Unfortunately, that is the only way to live in an intimate relationship with other people, like your family.
I get that there are abusers out there and it may not be wise counsel to open yourself to that. I am not asking for anyone to be a victim. I am addressing the more basic, day-to-day willingness to be open and non-defensive. I have spoken about the benefits of this in other posts on TransPARENTcy, etc. It may be worthwhile to read those posts.
Try an experiment with me: Put your worst foot forward. Instead of covering up your mistakes or telling little white lies about your parenting performance, try sharing a parenting issue you really want to change about yourself. You will have to pick the right moment and to be safe, the right person at first. After you do that, ask for some honest feedback. I mean really honest. Look the person in the eye and don’t talk until they are done. If they hedge their comments, ask for further clarification until you get to the bone of truth. Finally, state your appreciation and willingness to consider incorporating that information. Take the next 24 hours to do just that.
I wonder what response this will initiate in others? I am curious what it will do to you if you can live in a non-defensive position? Protecting ourselves takes energy. Lots of it. What would happen with all that creative juice if you applied it to making your parenting better versus avoiding change?
Change is uncomfortable but nothing real and satisfying is achieved by avoiding it. The biggest therapeutic truth I know (I didn’t say I always practice it) is that you have to go through the pain to get to the other side. I wonder what that other side will look like for you in your closest relationships.