#42 Develop More Empathy

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#42

Develop More Empathy

Empathy plays a major roles in our ability to be socially competent. It is a key trait found in healthy relationships. None of us can exist on our own. Societies thrive when their citizens embrace the values of helping one another. While it’s true that we are all responsible for our own actions, it can be easy to forget just how much the desire to understand others and to work on their behalf matters also.

Benefits for Those Who Give

When we think of being empathetic and doing compassionate deeds, our emphasis is usually on what the person in need, or who is receiving the assistance, gets. It’s rare to look at what you can gain through working on behalf of someone else. Of course, you get the satisfaction and warm feeling of helping. It’s an increase in feel-good neurochemicals that leads to this. Performing compassionate deeds lowers our levels of stress and improves our health.

Empathy for others influences our social growth and competence, as well. Such actions force you to look beyond yourself and broaden your perspectives. Doing so can lessen your own emotional issues such as depression and anxiety. Reaching out to others in times of need builds social connections and enhances interpersonal skills necessary for healthy relationships.  

What Receivers Gain

Those on the receiving end of your empathetic efforts gain the sense that others care, which can go a long way toward improving overall mental outlook and sense of self. They gain trust in the outside world and feel seen. When others show compassion, it can lead receivers to believe that they are being perceived as worthwhile and of value. They feel more trusting and are often more motivated to work toward self-improvement goals.

We never know how the empathy we express may affect the person who receives it and I’m not sure we can have too much empathy as long as we are establishing healthy boundaries along the way. Empathy, compassion, and perspective work hand in hand to make great relationships better. If you’re seeking more growth you can work to….

Develop more empathy.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#43 Create a Romantic Road Map

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#43

Create a Romantic Road Map

Did you have a year end review with your boss? Did you review goals and set new ones? Do you have a workout plan? Have you made a commitment to work out or lose weight? Are you in school? Do you know exactly what classes you need to complete in order to meet your objective? These are common ambitions at the beginning of the year and yet I find that very few people turn the same attention to their romantic relationships.

Long Term Growth

Your relationship is a long term objective. It requires nurturing and effort and as such, it will benefit from all the energy you commit in designing a plan for its own specific growth and development. Indeed, those that are ignored rarely flourish.

Making a Road map

Where do you see yourself as a couple? What do you have in common? What are your individual growth aspirations? How are you supporting one another in achieving them? When do you spend time together and what do you do? How have your needs changed? Do you have savings goals? Projects to complete? All of these questions can be a springboard in helping you design your relationship road map.

Togetherness

Of course, in designing this road map, you’ll want to do it together. You may want to individually craft some ideas to save time and then blend them together in a more organized manner that moves you toward a common theme. The most important element of the road map is a clear plan to GROW your relationship. Defining dedicated time together is perhaps, the most common mistake that couples make and it’s apparent when the show up for relationship counseling.

Follow the Map

As with any effort of getting to a new place, we seldom end up there randomly. It’s important to have a plan and follow it – even if you get sidetracked. In fact, it’s helpful to have a plan B or some contingencies that will offer some breathing room for you to get back on track. We can’t always plan for the things that life dishes out but knowing that we’ve dedicated some energy to knowing how to stay focused on the end game is helpful.

Grab your partner, a tablet and pen, a cuppa coffee or glass of wine, and devote a few hours to designing the map of your romance. Keep it alive and well by…

Creating a romantic road map.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#44 Stop Arguing

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#44

Stop Arguing

Arguing, what’s it good for? Arguments are rarely ‘won’. When you think you wond an argument, what did you win? The ‘loser’ at least learned something, right? But what did you get? Debating practice, ego satisfaction, and diminished brain power is all.

Reduced Brain Power

At times there are things that need to be debated, but most of the time, it just isn’t productive. You may want to argue the point, but what do you get from a useless debate? The more important question is what do you lose? I say you use effective brain power.

There is at least one thing we can probably agree on and that is that a person listening to arguments can learn something from both sides. But, what about the people in the middle of the argument? Are they even listening to the point or are they totally focused on being ‘right’ and ‘winning’? At what point does the onus of the argument shift from making a point to ego satisfaction?

Too much arguing creates a habit of looking for arguments more than for facts. We tend to get more deeply rooted in a rut as the defense continues and even avoid opposing evidence that may validate the other’s view so that we can be ‘right’. Ultimately, digging a rut and dismissing evidence doesn’t make us better thinkers at all; it diminishes our power.

Listening

Some things we argue about are based solely on fact and while we may think we are helping the other person learn if we have our facts correct, we’re really just challenging them – sometimes that completely backfires. If I say the earth is closer to the moon than the sun but you disagree, we’re either headed for a science lesson or a tug of war and chances are that the misinformed person will have negative feelings about the debate.

However, I say that nature is more important than nurture and you think it’s the opposite, we can both have solid positions based on our experience and current knowledge. These kind of debates are based on value, experiences, and poorly defined terms – often perspectives that are neither ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. We could argue all day on defining “what’s important in life” without any winner. In this position, the only logical, kind, and compassionate thing to do is to listen and both parties will likely learn something.

To break the habit of arguing, ask opinions and questions and then listen without judgement. You can ask for clarification but it’s best not to offer contrary ideas. This isn’t always easy to remember but with practice, your likely to be in less hot water and get to know people better.

It’s just a good idea all around in the effort of increasing your happiness and living your best life to …

Stop arguing.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#45 Make Eye Contact

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#45

Make Eye Contact

How did you feel the last time you talked with someone who didn’t make eye contact with you? Were you left wanting more? Suspicious? Disbelieving? It turns out that making eye contact during conversations is a type of communication in and of itself.

Positive characteristics

It’s a social skill. It’s good manners. It’s a sign of interest and attention. Indeed, according to the research, people who are able to make and sustain eye contact are perceived as more dominant, powerful, warm and personable, qualified, trustworthy, honest, confident and emotionally stable. Who wouldn’t want to be associated with those characteristics?

Positive Consequences

People who engage in direct eye contact make more sales, date more frequently, and report more satisfactory interpersonal interactions. Each one of these consequences can improve the quality of our lives. It’s postulated that our eyes are have evolved specifically to assist in our ability to communicate.

Communication

Indeed, they contribute individually and specifically to non-verbal communication. “I saw it in his eyes” or “Her eyes told the story”…. Statements that describe a ‘look’ we can all relate to. Our eyes convey attention. We are more apt to listen to people who are looking directly at us and we will feel more intimately connected when making eye contact with other people. Intimate connections convey trust and belonging.

Difficulties

People who find it hard to make direct eye contact with others may be challenged in a variety of areas. It’s very difficult to keep a gaze when we are being dishonest. Darting eyes can be an indication of a false story. People who are fearful of being judged may also find it hard to make eye contact. And, because our eyes communicate so much information, people who are masking emotion may not allow themselves to make eye contact for fear that their eyes will disclose too much information.

Work on It

If you find it difficult to make eye contact – ask yourself why. Perhaps it would be helpful to seek guidance for any insecurities or fear. If you realize that your effort to avert a gaze is simply a bad habit, make a conscious effort to work on it. Eye contact can be overdone, it’s not natural to stare constantly at someone so practice moving your eyes aside from time to time; side to side movement is the least disruptive to communication.

If you want to improve your connections, your communication, and ultimately your confidence…

Make eye contact.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#46 Hone Your Good Manners

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#46

Hone Your Good Manners

Good manners are defined as polite or well-bred social behavior. My mother used to call them “social graces” and my grandmother preached “you don’t have to have money to have good manners”.  Simple things such as saying “please” and “thank you”, not interrupting people, not demanding attention, asking permission, and knocking before entering are the most basic manners that are recommended we teach our children.

There are others.

Emily Post

Emily Post was the Queen of manners, also known as etiquette. For more than fifty years, she taught the ‘average person’ how to behave within traditional and acceptable social parameters. Most of her advice is still valid but there are other graces she couldn’t have imagined; cell phone manners as an example. The Post family has maintained the work of their matriarch at emilypost.com and outline good manners in business, for weddings, and lifestyle.

Awareness of Others

On their website, they describe good manners as “as sensitive awareness of the feelings of others” and I couldn’t agree more about this as a guiding principle when it comes to considering how to behave. Some manners are formal (not sitting at the table before the host sits) but others are simply common sense if we are considering the people around us (not farting at the dinner table).

Changing Times

I often hear older people speak to the fact that younger generations haven’t upheld familiar manner standards. Frequently, they are talking about ‘thank you notes’ and the absence or neglect of younger people sending them. Everyone wants acknowledgement and appreciation and so when we receive a gift and/or a benefit from someone, a thank you is the least of the considerations and “awareness of the feelings of others”. Today, it is acceptable to send an email instead of snail mail.

Some Things Stay the Same

When parts of our culture change, some elements of manners will change but others continue on with adaptations. It was never courteous to jump up and answer the telephone when it was attached to the wall if you were in the middle of communicating with someone else. The same courtesy remains even though the phones are no longer attached to the wall. If you are engaged with someone, turning your attention to a cell phone is simply rude.

Good manners used to designate social class but they certainly don’t have to. Behavior is a choice and the classification of manners is available online and in library books, free of charge. There is no excuse, or reason that basic manners can’t be observed so take a look and make an honest assessment of your own behavior. If it can use more sensitivity and awareness of the feelings of others it may be time to…

Hone your good manners.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#47 Ask More Open-ended Questions

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#47

Ask More Open-ended Questions

How many times have you asked the question “Did you have a good day?” – receive a “yes” and then felt disappointed because you got a one word answer? Frankly, you asked a one work question and set yourself up for the disappointment. Getting in the habit of changing the way you ask questions will most likely dramatically change the answers – and therefore, the information – you receive; giving depth to your conversations.

“Tell me about your day, what was good about it?”

“What was the best part of your day?”

“What are you plans tomorrow?”

“Why are you irritated?”

Asking questions that start with who, what, where, when, why, & how are always going to require more than a one word answer and will generally give you the information you seek. They are conversation questions and when you keep them going, so too… does the conversation.

Depth

Open-ended questions require more thought to answer and generally elicit responses that move beyond the surface, deepening the connection between those who are speaking or at least, providing more detail. They are one of the keys to better communication and feelings of belonging.

Dinner Convo

I find this helpful when talking with kids – especially teens – who are short on describing activities, thoughts, and feelings; especially with parents. Dinner conversations are much more interesting when we ask “If you could redo any part of your day – what would it be?” or “What are you looking forward to tomorrow?”

We may feel as though our conversations aren’t fulfilling without conscious regard to the way we are asking questions.  A quick and simple effort to ask for information differently will dynamically change the way you interact; all because you…

Ask more open-ended questions.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

 

#48 Monitor Your Body Language

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#48

Monitor Your Body Language

Sometimes, our bodies do the talking for us. Non-verbal communication is one of the ways we get create context and emotion in our communicative exchanges . Do you know what you were saying with your body?

Generalizations

Psychologists have studied body language for eons. There are a number of generalizations about what certain body positions mean. Are you aware for example, that crossing your arms while someone is speaking typically means you are not open to receiving the message? Even if that’s not your intent, the person who is speaking may perceive that you are closed off and might develop a defensive reaction as such. When I am conducting couples or family therapy, I often hear comments such as “ I can just tell by the way he looks at me” or “when she stands like that I know what she means”.

Reading Body Movements

Most therapists receive specific training on how to posture their body so that clients will feel heard and safe in a session. Essentially, we are taught how to be aware of our body language so that it fosters an inviting atmosphere. This suggestion is designed to help you develop an awareness of your own body language. Do you stand straight-representing confidence? Or do you slump your shoulder and shy away from your environment? Do you Sit straight or slouch? Do you maintain eye contact when speaking with someone, or do you dart around and glance away? Do you roll your eyes? How does your face register disapproval?

Check Assumptions

While counseling a teenage girl and her mother for communication issues, we discovered that mom raised an eyebrow whenever she was interested in a particular topic her daughter was speaking of. The daughter, interpreted that body movement as disapproval and would often shut down the conversation. While generalizations are a place to start – do NOT make assumptions based on them. Check in with the person you are talking to… “are you thinking/feeling [this] way?”

Body gestures have been found to be genetic as well as environmental. We all know the classic… Italians talk with their hands. Twin studies have demonstrated that twins separated at birth will often still demonstrate similar gestures; often with similar meanings.

Personal Responsibility

Obviously, good communication requires that we develop awareness of and take responsibility for the message we intend to send when we speak. Part of that message is delivered with our bodies. Because so much of our body language is innate and/or unconscious, it’s important that we give someone we trust permission to highlight or identify those gestures that communicate meaning. As a side note, I would include tone of voice in the body language awareness project… Some people are perceived as yelling when in fact, they are simply expressing their message with passion or enthusiasm. Still others, seem to lack any excitement in their voice at all and are interpreted as to be unmoving, or uncaring. In both cases, an understanding of one’s tendency is important so that we are delivering our messages accurately.

Make the effort today to become a better communicator and …

Monitor your body language.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#49 Do a Science Experiment

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#49

Do a Science Experiment

I know, when I think of this heading / topic, I immediately think of my refrigerator and all of the items that made their way into the far back; the things that are currently growing various forms of mold and each qualify as hazardous substances. They are unintentional science experiments and not the kind I am recommending you try.

As many people – especially your 7th grade science teacher – will tell you, science is cool. From observing and understanding magnetic properties and chemical reactions, basic scientific principles are interesting to observe and promote our sense of wonder and curiosity – two elements that contribute to feelings of happiness.

Some science experiments are magical. There are several here in this YOU TUBE video that will make you the most amazing aunt, uncle, grandma, pop pop, or parent in the world if you can pull them off. Most of them use household items and create rather magical effects – even though they are all the result of science happening.

If you don’t have a scientific background, I recommend that you stick to those things that you can find in books or online. Attempting to mix chemicals without knowledge of their interaction can be very dangerous and there are more than one news reports of people killing themselves because the lit something or mixed something that shouldn’t have been.

Whether you get a book or go online, there are hundreds of experiments that you can do to satisfy your curiosity or perform magic at the next family party. All you have to do is gather a few supplies and practice. Grab a friend, a kid, or a neighbor and surprise them as you…

Do a science experiment.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#50 Window Shop

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#50

Window Shop

This term is probably on the brink of being obsolete as very few of us can identify at all with the notion of walking down a street lined with shops that promote their wares in the big front window. It was that stroll that identified the substance of Christmas lists of yesterday. Today, we ‘window shop’ by browsing through the ads injected throughout our social media accounts.

Inspiration

Window shopping can offer inspiration for a number of different areas of your life. It can inspire design when you see complementary colors positioned together. It can inspire a haircut you saw on a mannequin or it can prompt you to go home and recreate the skirt it was wearing. Window shopping can inspire you to cook more, read more, or exercise more just by glancing at the ‘message’ conveyed via the storefront display.

Motivation

Likewise, it can move beyond inspiration and sincerely motivate action to do any of the above. It can motivate you to clean house, organize, and redecorate. It can motivate you toward a goal after seeing something you would really like to have.

Patience

Window shopping can encourage and teach patience. When we only buy something once we have discerned it is the right time and the right price – we are acting in our best interest. Walking past a display two, three, or four times across a few days, weeks, or months may be just the amount of time we needed to make sure that our purchase wasn’t impulsive. A decision made after waiting and thinking is typically a better decision.

Staying Current

Window shopping is one of the ways that we can stay abreast of current trends and styles. Merchandise design is a specialty in and of itself and consequently, we are often exposed to the newest thing when we walk past a storefront – a cleverly designed space to lure you into the shop where you are welcomed to spend your money.

Reinvent

Since many of us don’t have a ‘main street’ to stroll down, window shopping can take on a whole new meaning. Certainly, we browse through the mall from time to time – that counts. We can also internet browse by scrolling through Pinterest and the sites of our favorite stores. I will sometimes open those ad emails that get stuffed in my inbox and peruse the sale items… just looking to see if there is something that commands my attention.

Yes, there can be a downside to window shopping… if you have no impulse control – don’t do it. If you lean into greediness or jealousy – don’t do it. If you are resentful or bitter about your financial situation – don’t do it. Generally speaking, it’s a pleasant way to spend a little time now and then. If you’re in the market for something, need some inspiration or motivation, or just need to connect with the times, all you have to do is…

Window shop.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.