Of all the things that cause stress in people’s lives, relationships rank high on the list. Whether it’s between adults, family, friends, or children, relationship challenges are inevitable.
Here are three tips for significantly improving relationships and making them less stressful.
1. Give Affirmations
A simple acknowledgement can have dramatic results. This is especially important with young people. They want to assert their independence and autonomy. Just acknowledging that you have HEARD their point of view, regardless of agreement, can have a profound effect on how your growing young one feels about the relationship.
2. Use quality listening time.
Quality time is quality-driven, not necessarily quantity-driven. Simply give your full attention to the person speaking. By using eye contact, a … >>>
If you want to help children overcome challenges, then personal connections are the key. In fact, strong relationships can curb almost any problem. Letting people know you care is the most important thing you can communicate.
Here are two questions to ask yourself—especially when working with young people:
1) Does the person feel safe with me no matter what happens?
2) Have I used kind and encouraging words in my relationship with the person?
Unfortunately, when it comes to discipline and helping youth overcome challenges, many adults use counter-productive approaches. In an attempt to discipline or “mold the youth,” they enforce rules. But if a child breaks a rule, what is the parent’s natural tendency? Response: to enforce the rule … >>>
Positive people are more likable. Think about the people in your life. Do your favorite people tend to be positive or negative? My guess is that they are the more positive people you associate with.
The fact is that you will be more likable to others when you focus on being positive.
When I was young, my mother often told me that if I can’t say something nice about a person, then don’t say anything at all.
This is great advice, not only for your communications with others, but also with yourself. In other words, if you can’t say (or think) something nice about yourself, then don’t say (or think) anything at all. Instead, exert discipline to turn your thoughts … >>>
Do you think society, including relationships, has become more stressful or less stressful over the years? Most people think it’s more stressful today than it was just a decade ago. One of the factors contributing to the stress is the rate of change everyone and everything is going through.
A number of factors have changed society over the years, not the least of which is technology. Unfortunately, however, technology has not helped to improve relationships. In fact, in far too many situations technology has actually hindered relationships, leading to increased stress levels. As a result, people continue to use ineffective approaches—mainly coercion—to influence others.
Here are two former American giants who made the point that coercion is ineffective.
Classroom rules are counterproductive and prompt stress between adults and young people. This is because rules place the adult in an adversarial relationship. Relying on rules is coercive and promotes obedience rather than responsibility.
The reason is simple. If a student breaks a rule, our tendency is to enforce the rule. The assumption is that if the rule is not enforced, people will take advantage of it. Therefore, in order to remain in control, we must enforce all rules.
Rules are essential in games. But in relationships, reliance on rules is counterproductive because the enforcement mentality automatically creates adversarial relationships. Enforcing rules too often promotes power struggles that rarely result in win-win situations.
When you alienate others, you prompt negative feelings in them. Have you ever had the experience of wanting to buy something, but the salesperson alienated you? Perhaps you were turned off so much that you did not buy from that person—even though you really wanted the item. That’s how strong the negative feelings can be.
Every successful salesperson knows not to alienate the customer. However, too often we talk to people in ways that prompt negative feelings, which alienate and often promotes stress. Negative feelings stop any DESIRE to do what you would like other people to do. People do good when they feel good—not when they feel bad or when they feel coerced.
Saying NO to others is common. Have you ever had to say “no” to a person? Of course you have. We all have.
“No” is one of the shortest words in the English language. However, its constant use can prompt some of the biggest challenges in family and in other relationships.
“No” is a negative word. How did you feel that last time someone said “no” to you? Chances are you felt sad, deflated, or maybe even angry. When you ask for something and hear “no,” it’s common to feel negativity.
The negative response not only may prompt stress for the receiver of the comment, but it can also prompt negative feelings and some stress for the person giving the … >>>
Being a good listener is one of the keys to having strong relationships. If you’re not a good listener, chances are that many of the relationships in your life are strained.
Think about this: If you ask yourself how you know someone cares for you, one of your responses is likely to be that you know because the person listens to you. Ask a husband about a good wife, and he is likely to say that he knows his wife cares for him because she listens to what he has to say. Ask a wife about a good husband, and she’ll respond that he listens to her.
Even if we are saying something that is not really worth listening to, … >>>
As you’ve undoubtedly noticed, no two children (or adults for that matter) are the same. Each individual, young or old, views the world differently, interacts with others in a distinctive way, and processes information uniquely.
Differences are good. It would be boring if everyone acted, behaved, and thought the same way. But sometimes, interacting with people who are vastly different from you (as with many parent/child relationships) can be stressful.
Noticing behavioral styles among people is nothing new. The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung was the first to categorize behavioral styles. Jung postulated that every individual develops a primacy in one of four major behavioral functions: intuiting, thinking, feeling, and sensing. If you and your child operate from different behavioral styles, … >>>
A number of experts in sales emphasize the importance of building relationships for achieving success. Such an approach also makes interactions with others less stressful.
Here is a classic from Ed Oakley’s “Enlightened Leadership.”
There is a famous story about a life insurance company. The salespeople went through the training program and were very successful for about 18 months. After 18 months, their sales dropped off.
The company made quite an intensive investigation as to the reason. They found that the people followed the training approach of the company, which was to ask questions. Using this approach, the salespeople not only got to know financial problems and concerns, but also something about the people themselves. The questioning approach led to … >>>
One of the best stress management tips for parents and teachers is to understand how personality affects behavior. When you know this, you can better manage your relationships with your children and students, and thus reduce your stress.
In my all three of my books (available here), I lay out the personality styles of thinker, feeler, doer, and relater. An image of a directional scale will help you picture and remember the styles. Visualize a thinker in the north, a feeler in the south, a doer in the west, and a relater in the east. In short, a thinker (north) analyzes and can be described as someone who processes information using a great deal of thought. A feeler (south) … >>>
Cultivating stress-free relationships in your life takes time and practice. One tool that enables such relationships to grow is charisma. However, most people, including heads of state, chief executives, parents, teachers, and other leaders, are not born with the power to inspire.
For much of human history leaders have been depicted as having various characteristics. The topic has been of interest to me since my masters’ thesis included a study of leadership characteristics.
Leadership is now commonly defined as a social process, as opposed to a trait, that enables a person to motivate others to help achieve group goals. Having this trait often has a side benefit of fostering stress-free relationships.
Leaders often have some kind of charisma by using … >>>
The key to solving relationship problems is to give. And while you can give without loving, you cannot love without giving.
At the root of so many relationship problems is the fact that people just stop giving. The type of giving that I am referring to involves giving of oneself—not necessarily “things.”
This is especially the case in parent-child relationships. Parents often give “things” rather than experiences. They mistakenly think that’s what the kids want. Then, when the kids grow up, they have little to remember.
Years ago, Charles Frances Adams, a 19th-century diplomat, wrote in his diary one day, “Took my boy fishing today. A wasted day.” His son, Brook Adams, wrote in his diary the same day, “Went … >>>
What is the best way to influence people? Every day of your life you are influencing others in some way. But which way is best? Here are common ways to influence people:
Using coercion or force. Threat or punishment is the approach here. This works as long as the threat is more powerful than the desire to resist it.
Offering an incentive or reward. With young people, the incentives are generally those that appeal for immediate satisfaction, rather than to those that build responsible character development and mature values. This approach is commonly used in homes and schools to get the young to do what the adult wants. It promotes a mindset of “What will I get for doing it?”
As a youth I developed an attitude that I still use to this day: Be kind to myself. I learned at an early age that I was not perfect, that I made mistakes, and that sometimes I was sorry for what I did or said. Realizing that I could not undo the past and rather than punishing myself with negative thoughts and feelings, I decided to embrace the attitude of the great baseball player, Satchel Page, who said: “Don’t look back; something may be gaining on you.”
When you choose to be kind to yourself and others, your outlook on life changes and your stress level diminishes. Being mean and mentally punishing yourself does no good; rather, it causes enormous … >>>
We all have experienced toxic people in our life. While toxic people may play to their advantage with us, we have a choice to play the victim or not. Be aware that this is a choice. By simply being aware of this, you are able to determine how far someone can go before he or she pushes your buttons. Maintaining an emotional distance requires awareness and is a key approach to reducing your stress.
Toxic people may attempt to consume you by having you swim in their problems. They really don’t want to see solutions. They are often comfortable in their unhappiness. They can waste your time by pressuring you to join their pity party. Don’t allow others to determine … >>>
Dealing with difficult people is a part of life. The good news that these difficult people don’t have to control you or your emotions.
When you feel offended by someone’s words or deeds, consider viewing the situation in multiple ways. For example, I may be tempted to think that a co-worker is ignoring my messages, or I can consider the possibility that he has been very busy, has family problems, has heard bad news about his health, or simply that he may have a hearing loss. When we avoid personalizing other people’s behaviors, we can perceive their expressions more objectively.
Remember, people do what they do because of their situation, more often than because of us—or what we do. Resist … >>>
Conflict resolution is a skill everyone needs. Why? Because arguments are a natural part of life, even between best friends, close family members, and long-time co-workers. Realize that arguments are really just disagreements. So if you can find something to agree upon, you can engage in real conflict resolution.
Unfortunately, so many arguments focus on the past and attempt to blame by focusing on what and who should have done what. Even worse, when something goes wrong and you try to explain, the other person often interprets it as an excuse, which then extends the argument. The reason is that the other person thinks you are not being accountable. Rather than get defensive, ask yourself if what the person is … >>>