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Learning When to Walk Away

walkawayPhoto courtesy of Rocky Lubbers

As you continue on the path to your best life, it’s only natural that you want to be (now, more than ever) surrounded by like-minded people. After all, the crowd you spend the most time with is very likely to have a significant influence on your state of mind.

Many times we may think that we can help someone else grow and change along with us. If we’re getting better, why can’t they?

If a friend and/or family member expresses an interest in making improvements in his or her life, you’ve struck gold, and the two of you can cheer each other on – all the way to the finish line. However, just because you’re making changes for the better does not mean that everyone else is, too, and this can cause you quite a great deal of strife if you don’t do something about it.

What should you do?

First, you’ll have to silently take stock of which people in your life are the most beneficial to your psyche, and which people are bringing you down. You may find that there are some neutral players in your circle of friends and family – people who neither boost you up nor pull you down. They aren’t causing any problems, so shift your focus away from them and onto anyone that feels like a happiness bandit.

Chances are good that you already know who the Negative Nancy is in your life. Of course, you may have a Pessimistic Paul and a Debbie Downer, too. Determine exactly what it is about these particular people that brings you down the most. Do they constantly complain? Perhaps they always think the worst is going to happen, and are quite vocal about it. Overly controlling people can be quite stress-inducing, as well.

Have a face-to-face discussion wherein you clearly but kindly explain what they do that is upsetting you, or bringing you down. When having this talk, remember to:

  • Start with a positive.  Be sure to express something you love about them before launching into a conversation about what you’d like them to change.
  • Be kind.  Lead by example. Rise above their negativity by showing them respect and kindness during your discussion.
  • Be clear. It’s important that they walk away from the conversation with an understanding of what you need.

Once you’ve taken the time and energy to have a heart-to-heart chat with someone whose values and goals are contrary to your own, give it some time. Remember that significant life changes don’t happen overnight, and the shift may be very small at first.

If, after a pre-determined amount of time, you still feel as though an anchor is attached to both of your legs when in the presence of certain people, you will need to distance yourself from him or her in order to continue your upward momentum. I’m a firm believer in second chances, but I also believe that you reap what you sow. Assuming you’ve been clear about what you need from others during this time in your life, anyone who isn’t responsive to your needs is simply disregarding you, and doesn’t deserve a third, fourth or fifth chance.

Although you may scoff at the idea of ‘walking away’ from a close friend or family member – the alternative is that you continue to spend your precious time with someone who is sucking the life out of you. Whether it is your sister, ‘best’ friend, or even your spouse – you have the power to decide who you want to surround yourself with.

Luckily, “it’s never too late to be what you might have been.” ~ George Eliot

 

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Can Money Buy You Happiness?

moneytalks2Photo courtesy of Daniel O’Neil

“There are people who have money and people who are rich.”  ~Coco Chanel

It’s a concept that’s been debated for longer than any of us can probably remember: Can money buy you happiness?

Minimalist living has increased in popularity as of late, with its proponents loudly proclaiming that they are happier than ever – that apparently money, and everything that comes along with it, was actually preventing them from living their best lives.

Meanwhile, the “rest of us” continue to daydream about an endless supply of cash that would afford us the ability to stop worrying about our next paycheck and start living it up.

So, which is more desirable – more money or less things?

Researchers at Harvard Business School have been keenly interested in exactly this question – so interested, in fact, that a book on the topic, “Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending” has materialized.

According to one of the book’s authors, Harvard Business professor Michael Norton, most people rank experiences, rather than material items, higher on their list of purchases that have given them the most happiness.

In other words, taking an amazing trip with people you love will continue to give you the warm fuzzies a lot longer than that golden toilet you had installed last week. After awhile, the “newness” of the shiny commode will wear off, and it will become just another place to do your best thinking. And what you end up thinking about won’t be the fact that you’re sitting on a golden toilet seat, but the details surrounding the vacation to the Caribbean you took last year. Man, was that fun.

Another example cited by Norton is the thrill of buying a luxury vehicle. While it may seem that driving a brand new, fully loaded luxury car would definitely heighten your enjoyment of a daily commute, in a few weeks the newness will wear off. What you’ll be left with is what you had before: a commute to work. Oh, and when it snows, you’ll still have to dig your luxurious vehicle out, which might even make you vaguely miserable.

Perhaps you’d be better off buying an economy car and hiring someone to shovel you out after each snow storm. The experience of not having to shovel anymore will make you happier much longer than the initial thrill of owning a cool car can last.

In our world, it’s inevitable: money talks. To someone earning $20,000 a year, an extra ten grand has the potential to increase their satisfaction with life – but only if they spend the extra money on making their lives more enjoyable in the long run.

Is Donald Trump happier than you? Not necessarily. I know several pretty wealthy people and they definitely don’t seem to be all that blissed out on life. On the other hand, they probably aren’t sitting around chewing their nails to the quick, worrying about whether or not they can make rent this month.

So, to answer the original question: Can money buy you happiness? The answer is sometimes, but most importantly – only if you spend it right.

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Learning to Put Your Own Happiness First

worryPhoto courtesy of Amanda Lynn

I ask my children every day, “Are you happy today?” I ask my spouse, too. Their satisfaction with life is extremely important to me – but not more important than my own.

While that may sound selfish, it’s actually a very healthy mindset. Many people put everyone else’s needs so high on their list of priorities that they risk their own happiness in the process.

“The Constitution only guarantees [Americans] the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”  ~ Benjamin Franklin

Since it is considered such a “normal” practice to put our own happiness on the backburner – it’s even more critical that we stoke our own fire on a regular basis.

Why should you stop worrying about everyone else all the time and put your own happiness first? There are a lot of reasons! A few of them include:

  • Everyone must figure out how to be happy on their own. At some point, they need the skills to find their happy place without you pointing them to it every single time. They’ll never develop these skills if you don’t let them try.
  • Your own happiness shouldn’t depend on someone else’s. Even if they never find their way to their happy place, you’ve got to be ok with that and be able to be happy anyway.
  • Believe it or not, you don’t hold the only key to happiness.  In fact, if happiness actually is hidden behind a magical door somewhere, everyone holds a key. We all have the skills and abilities required to find our own version of happiness.

Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway!), the exception, of course, is very young children. As our children grow, they do need the adults in their lives to guide them along the path of life toward discovering what makes them happy.

In fact, I’m a big proponent of teaching children to live mindfully as young as possible, giving them the skills they’ll need to find extraordinary happiness in simple, everyday activities.

Raising children and finding one’s own happiness can be done! They are not mutually exclusive events, and it has been shown that the best parents are, you guessed it, happy! Taking time out just for yourself and nurturing your inner self is great for you and your children.

The thing that we all need to realize is that our own satisfaction and joy needn’t be derived from someone else. Sure, being a part of their happiness is an amazing thing; however, it’s important to continually practice being happy without watching the smile on someone else’s face.

Instead of tiptoeing around someone else’s mood and holding off your own happiness until they decide to crack a smile, find the closest mirror, and just grin.

Trust the knowledge that the people in your life have what they need to find happiness - they will get happy when they’re ready. In the meantime, you get to be happy now.

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Why Happiness Makes You Look Sexy

 

smilePhoto courtesy of Lauren Rushing

With things like the return of the twerking fad and the fact that every other person you meet has probably gone under the knife at least once for some sort of physical enhancement, the definition of ‘sexy’ may be up for debate.

What I’ve always noticed first about a person, though (male or female), certainly doesn’t have anything to do with how well they can bust a move. In fact, the sexiest thing about you can actually be taken away with too many plastic surgery procedures, rather than the other way around.

Sexiness? It’s all in your attitude.

Have you ever seen someone from across a crowded room and felt instant desire, only to have your attraction dry up the minute he opened his mouth? The opposite can happen too – you may meet a person and not feel a thing until you experience their personality - and then bam! Sexiness overload.

The definition of sexy has so much more to do with what a person has on the inside. Flawless makeup, chiseled muscles and big boobs are only skin deep, and while they definitely have their fans, most of us are looking for an attraction that runs much deeper.

As we’re all working to improve our happiness level and our overall satisfaction with life, the good news is this: the happier we get, the more attractive we’ll be to others. The happiest people typically do the right thing in morally challenging situations. What’s sexier than a man (or woman) who has a strong moral compass?

I’ve definitely noticed that as I get happier, I treat other people with more respect and concern. That comes from the compassion we develop as we move through life’s tough times, overcoming hurdles of our own. Helping others or treating them with the kindness they deserve is very appealing. I know that when my husband regularly sacrifices his own time to help the less fortunate, I find him extremely appealing.

The happiest people also tend to take responsibility for their own mistakes. I don’t know about you, but I find it very sexy when a man can admit that he was wrong. Those people who refuse culpability at all costs are really unappealing to others. No one wants to be around someone who’s constantly oppositional, defensive and argumentative. The ability to see the error of your ways? Well that’s just plain Sex-y.

Finally, the sexiest people are living authentic lives. In a nutshell, that means they are who they say they are. They’re real, and they’re constantly working to make their lives even better. They have the ability to laugh at themselves, see the error of their ways, and they are well-aware that they aren’t perfect. Making mistakes is ok by them, because they’ll take a mistake and learn from it.

The more in touch you are with yourself and the closer you get to that ultimate level of inner peace, the more attractive you become. So, although bringing sexy back may not have been your goal when you decided to live mindfully and get in touch with yourself, it happens to be a really great added bonus.

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The Working Woman: How to Ask Your Boss for a Raise

boss

Photo courtesy of Kheel Center at Cornell

Did you know that a gender gap still exists in regards to salary?

According to the National Women’s Law Center, over a lifetime of working, women make approximately $400,000 less than their male counterparts who are employed in the same field with equal credentials. To catch up, women would apparently have to delay retirement for an additional 12 years, working well into their so-called ‘golden years.’

It sounds a lot worse than it really is, though.

After reading several articles in popular media regarding the gender pay gap, I set out to do some research on the topic. I discovered that there is a ton of media hype surrounding this issue, most often led by feminist and political groups attempting to make their voice heard or secure more female voters.

Digging a little deeper, I found out that, while a discrepancy does exist, it actually has little to do with discrimination. Many reports suggest that what women expect, want, and demand out of their professional lives often differs from the goals of their male peers.

Women are four times less likely than men to initiate a conversation with their superior(s) about a pay raise.  In fact, women also don’t fare well when it comes to negotiating their starting salaries during interviews, which sets the pace for their future income. They dominate when it comes to negotiating for someone else, like perhaps the company they work for. Unfortunately, a lot of women don’t put themselves high enough on their own priority lists, and also have cited “fears of asking for too much and being denied” as major deterrents when it comes to asking for more money.

If you’re a working woman, or if you’ve got a close friend or family member who is, beat the odds and get that raise:

  • Do your research – Know ahead of time what your magic number is, and bring solid evidence that will show your boss that you’re being paid less than you deserve. Get a really firm grip on what your market value is before your one-on-one with the head honcho.
  • Create a collaborative vibe – Start the negotiation meeting off by saying that you understand that money might be tight at the moment. Approach the situation with a positive attitude - be upbeat and friendly. Avoid playing the victim card.
  • Inquire about your job performance – Ask your boss how pleased he or she is with your work. From there, see if they are aware of your market value. Keep the talk focused on the job – not on you personally.
  • Think small – You know how we feel about tiny steps in the right direction here at TinyShift! Be prepared to accept incremental boosts in pay rather than a gigantic raise all at once. Even if you’re getting paid less than someone else in your department, catching up in salary can take time.
  • Have options - If the negotiation seems to be headed south, let your superiors know that Company SB has offered you a position at the salary you desire. If you’re an excellent and important employee, you’ll be hard to replace, and a good boss will recognize it.
  • Be good at what you do – Going into your boss’s office and asking for a higher salary certainly means you know you’re really good at your job. Right?  If you’re slacking, or even just giving “average” effort – instead of getting a raise, you might end up getting fired.

Lastly, in today’s challenging economic times, be sure to approach any discussion about a raise with caution, and use your best judgment regarding when to make your request. Be sure that your boss is in a really good mood and has recently experienced some kind of “win.” Be mindful of the fact that you have a job, keeping in mind that many Americans are struggling to even get hired, let alone make more money. That being said, it is possible to negotiate for a better paycheck as long as your approach is cautious, positive, and reasonable.

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5 Ways to Ask Better Questions

thinkingPhoto courtesy of Jacob Botter

As I’ve become more in tune with my everyday experiences, I’ve starting noticing that a big indicator of success is how good someone is at the fine art of conversation.

That’s right – discussion, chit chat, a good old repartee: newsflash – if you can’t hold a solid, two-sided convo, your potential for success may be limited. How far you’ll make it on your quest for happiness, money, wisdom – whatever it is that you’re looking for – can be determined by how well you hold up your end of a discussion.

Regardless of the setting, be it professional, personal, or on a tier somewhere in between, so many of us ask simply awful questions. The average adult tends to go on and on in extended soliloquys without even noticing that their intended audience isn’t even listening.

Silence makes some people quite uncomfortable, as does looking ignorant or uninformed; therefore, they cover up their lack of knowledge and fear of quietude with a long line of monologues. Afraid to be direct, many people today just aren’t willing to ask the tough questions – instead they ask boring, yes or no questions just to fill the silence.

Rather than trying to fill a quiet room with sound, view every potential conversation with someone as a potential to grow and learn. Likewise, asking yourself the right questions can inspire you to take action rather than lead you toward apathy and stagnation.

Most people spend a lot of time thinking about how to answer things in the smartest, most favorable ways. As it turns out, asking good questions is much more impressive than giving the “right” answers.

  1. Ask open-ended questions. The best questions are formulated creatively. Avoid long-winded questions that leave your conversation partner confused, though. Be concise, creative and clear about what you’d like to know.
  2. Refrain from filling in the blanks. Sometimes, what starts out as a question ends up offering your respondent multiple choices, which can skew his or her answers. End your questions at the question mark, even if you’re not immediately presented with an answer. A little bit of silence is normal, and ok.
  3. Have the courage to ask tough questions. As a general rule, people love it when you ask them questions! It shows them that you are interested in what they have to say, especially if your questions are well-thought-out and graze more than just the surface. If it makes you feel more comfortable, add a disclaimer, such as, “Let me know if this is too personal, but…” Most people will respect your tenacity and appreciate your confidence, making them more likely to confide in you.
  4. Pay attention to the answers. Although asking the right questions is of great importance, remember to stay focused on the answers rather than dwelling on what to ask next. An authentic give and take is what a good conversation is all about.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask a follow-up question. If you asked a difficult question and got a non-answer, don’t be afraid to stop them before they’ve gone off in a completely different direction. Gently interrupt and re-word your question, and be sure to apologize for being unclear.

Another good thing to remember is this: if you truly don’t understand something, avoid the temptation to nod along as if everything is perfectly clear to you. Ask as many follow-up questions as you need until the answer starts making sense.

“Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” – Anthony Robbins

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What Can Mindfulness Add to Your Sex Life?

kissongrassPhoto courtesy of Jon Rawlinson

Mindfulness makes for an existence that is much more enjoyable, simply because you’re living in the moment and paying attention to your life. Living a mindful life means that, regardless of what you’re doing, you are present – mentally as well as physically. Many people skate through life distracted, thinking about everything else except the moment at hand. What does that mean for the moment at hand? Well, it gets passed over, ignored: an experience lost.

When I was a child, I remember feeling like I always wanted to have “something to look forward to.” Continually excited about the future, getting older, having adult experiences.  Hindsight tells me there are so many moments I must have missed.

Rather than dwell on what I didn’t experience when I was ten years old, I will give my young self credit for one thing: knowing that life only gets better and better with age. As we gain self-awareness and clarity of mind, we learn how to seek out the kind of experiences that will make us happiest. One of those adult experiences just happens to be… sex.

It’s true that, as a general rule, people don’t typically put “mindfulness” and “sex” in the same sentence, but they should! I am here to tell you that it is absolutely impossible to have a completely satisfying sexual encounter if you’re not fully committed to the moment.

In fact, many cases of sexual dysfunction have improved drastically with the practice of mindfulness, according to Lori Brotto, professor of gynecology at the University of British Columbia. Both women and men suffering from low libido or low self-esteem were able to “…increase their sexual desire by [becoming more] attuned to their body’s sexual responses.” Not only did their desire increase, but they enjoyed the act of sex more, too.

For those of you who already have a decent sex life – wanna kick things up a notch? Luckily, applying mindfulness strategies in the bedroom isn’t only for couples with existing problems.  The reality is that most long-term, committed couples admit to wanting to spice things up after awhile. They don’t necessarily have any complaints – but a little something new wouldn’t hurt, either.

According to Marsha Lucas, PhD., a huge percentage of her clients ask for advice about how to spice up their sex lives. Years of the same old, same old can get, well – old!  Mindfulness meditation is what she prescribes to her patients who want help in this area. At first, most of them look at her funny, but they always come back the next visit and thank her profusely.

It’s often helpful to try exploring mindfulness as a couple outside of the bedroom first. Together with your partner, take turns sitting in a chair while the other person feeds you different pieces of fruit with your eyes closed. Practice focusing on the sensation and taste of the fruit in your mouth for a full minute before swallowing. During this time, also notice how your body feels in the chair, and how your feet feel touching the floor. Push all other outside thoughts away anytime they enter your mind.

To bring mindfulness with you into the bedroom, you’ll switch from focusing on food to focusing on your partner (and yourself). Again keep all other thoughts at bay and pay attention to how your partner’s body feels, tastes and smells as you explore it. It’s also ok to observe how the bed (or table, floor, etc) feels against your body. It’s easy to find these things exciting with a new partner, but they sometimes need to be rediscovered or rekindled in long-term relationships.

To learn more about bringing mindfulness into your love life, check out this book written by Dr. Lucas herself: Rewire Your Brain For Love: Creating Vibrant Relationships and Using the Science of Mindfulness. Oh – and remember – practice, practice, practice! ;)

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The Golden Rule: Reversed

goldPhoto courtesy of Mykl Roventine

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

We’ve all heard some version of this quote before, usually as children when our parents were attempting to turn us into decent people. “Remember the Golden Rule,” my mother would often remind me - before I did something I’d end up regretting. As it turns out, following the Golden Rule is a pretty effective way to ensure that you treat other people with respect.

But – what should you do when those other people aren’t returning the favor? Do you still have to follow the Golden Rule? My vote’s on no – but don’t stoop to their level, either. Putting up with poor treatment and disrespect simply shouldn’t be on your To-Do list as you move toward the life you really want. Be on the lookout for anyone who wants to subject you to:

  • Abuse – I think we all know that it’s not ok to get knocked around by someone and then stick around for more. But remember, emotional abuse can be just as, or even more damaging, and should be treated so. If someone is abusing you – in any form – they don’t love you, and it’s time for you to move on.
  • Taking you for granted - Many people bring this one on themselves, but that doesn’t make it right. If you’re being treated more like the hired help than a spouse or a friend, it’s time for you to wake up and smell the insult. You deserve to be acknowledged for your efforts.
  • Inconsistency – You need people in your life who you can count on when you need them. Constantly receiving mixed or contradictory messages from those who are close to you can leave you feeling discombobulated instead of how friends should make you feel: understood and confident.
  • Mean girl behavior – You know this personality type from way back in middle school. It comes in the form of tightly knit groups of (usually) girls who are eager to spread rumors in such a passive-aggressive manner that you end up thinking you’re the crazy one. Unfortunately, mean girl behavior has stuck with some women well into adulthood, and it can be just as traumatizing to you now as it was at age 12. The mean girl (or guy) typically draws in at least one other friend to harass or bully their peers. Doing so gives her a sense of control, and takes the attention off of her own insecurities. My advice on dealing with mean girls in adulthood? People can only bring you down if you let them.
  • Jealousy - Feelings of insecurity can lead others to believe they are inherently “not good enough.” Because of this, any perceived threat to your relationship with them will be met with anger – and fear that you will discover their “unworthiness.” Although you may think that consistent reassurance can eventually put an end to any behaviors a jealous friend subjects you to; that’s simply not going to happen. Since jealousy stems from a low sense of self, the change will have to come from within the person who is feeling jealous. Don’t allow yourself to be punished for someone else’s low self-esteem.
  • Lying - Being lied to can range from annoying to extremely frustrating, depending on who’s telling you the lies. Everyone lies from time to time, but a close relationship with a compulsive or pathological liar can be maddening.  Getting a true compulsive liar to see the hurt they’re causing is difficult; in fact, you may need to resort to an intervention of sorts. Be forewarned – lying can be indicative of a much larger problem like narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder. If it’s not a relationship that you plan on keeping for the long term, say bye-bye to the liar and pursue relationships with more honest and forthright people.

The Golden Rule tells us to treat others how we’d like to be treated. In cases where that’s just not working, treat yourself how you’d like to be treated. Kiss the mean girls good bye and pursue outside relationships with people who make you feel good rather than drag you down.

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When Opposites Attract: Does it Last?

oppositesPhoto courtesy of Ragnar Jensen

We all know that the ever elusive ‘true love’ is a mysterious phenomenon that happens at least in a lifetime – if you’re lucky.

So what exactly constitutes “falling in love?” On a quest to determine if there is indeed more than one way to find your “love of a lifetime,” I set out to do some reading on one of the most debated of relationship types - The Odd Couple.

Does the theory that opposites attract hold any weight? Psychoanalysts have been debating this concept for years, and some believe that when we feel an attraction to someone who is very different from us, there are very scientific reasons at work.

Feeling drawn to a lover simply because they possess qualities we may be lacking can elicit a heady high that is sometimes mistaken for true and long-lasting love.

It’s actually quite common for people with vastly different romantic ideologies to make a love connection. The reasoning behind having an attraction to your exact opposite may go something like this, “He completes me.”

But will it last?

Relationships between people with extremely conflicting personality types are often filled with passion and fire. The bad news is that the passion and fire often shift to irritation and arguments. Especially in the case of polar opposites – soon enough the early passion may fizzle, leaving two totally different people looking questioningly at each other, as if to say, “What are we doing here?”

When the initial appeal wears off like a buzz, what’s left is similar to a bad hangover. You’re in despair and agony and probably vow never to do it again – but the attraction of someone with abilities and traits that you lack can repeatedly draw you back because you find them so fascinating and attractive.

The good news is that you absolutely do not have to seek out and marry someone exactly like you. How boring! Most people with the longest lasting and most satisfying relationships have some really solid things in common with their mates. Notably, they also report that there are at least a few things about their partner that are strikingly different from their own personalities.

And the proof is in the…sweaty t-shirt?

You may not understand where I’m going with this, but bear with me. The most interesting study (to me) was one in which researchers at the University of Liverpool asked women to smell men’s dirty t-shirts.  They were then asked to rank the shirts according to how attracted they were to the smell. The results implicated that women typically sniff out men with at least a 50% difference from them in a specific set of genes. The MHC (major histocompatibility complex) were the genes in question during this particular study.

Women who reported marital satisfaction (in heterosexual relationships) showed differences in their MHC genes when compared with their husband’s. Couples who shared more than 50% of the same MHC genes typically admitted to an adulterous affair on the part of the wife. The MHC gene has not been shown to affect men’s relationship satisfaction at all.

Just as it is with all of the other fun stuff on this journey called life - for best results in the relationship arena – everything in moderation. Next time you’re on a date, you’ll know what to do. If the pit fits, he’s a keeper!

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6 Steps to Improved Real World Communication

omgPhoto courtesy of Tama Leaver

As a parent of children born into Generations Y and Z (born between 1980-present), I’m feel like I’m constantly nudging them to communicate more.  You know, the “old fashioned” kind of communication – the kind where you speak to others, face to face, without using an electronic device, and really laughing out loud.

With the constant advancement of technology, it’s a safe bet that the way we communicate with our friends and loved ones has changed forever. The important thing to remember is that it doesn’t have to change completely.

Those of us who grew up in Generation X (born 1965-1979) were raised with a pleasant mixture of basic technology awareness combined with real world communication skills. Most of us who are now approaching 40 spent our crucial developmental years without even one computer in our homes! We whiled away our childhoods playing with the neighborhood kids, engaged in make-believe games - and as teens, writing love notes on paper and talking endlessly on phones with cords.

Our children, on the other hand, have been raised with cell phones to distract them while we changed their diapers, iPod touches on their 8th birthdays, Instagram accounts and Facebook profiles.  Even their school interactions are shifting toward the impersonal, with more and more learning and instruction taking place on Smart Boards, iPads and laptop computers.

As a result, many of today’s young people have a serious deficit when it comes to communication skills, making real life relationships difficult to navigate. I’ve witnessed this phenomenon first hand, and frankly, I’m more than a little bit concerned. Fostering and nurturing friendships and family bonds are skills that are learned. The problem?     No one’s teaching them.

If you have a Gen Y or Z child (or are one yourself), try implementing some of the following simple steps to ensure better all-around relationship success.

  1. Say those three little words. With the foundations of so many relationships today being built on the internet and via text messaging, many people have had a brainfart when it comes to showing emotions in person. If someone is important to you – tell them! Show your appreciation for the people in your life, and say “I love you” to your family members at least once a day.
  2. Make eye contact. This is a skill that has fallen victim to the replacement of real life conversations with text messages.  Many people today find eye contact uncomfortable simply because texting doesn’t require it. To get more comfortable with looking into someone’s baby blues, you’ll need to practice. When you’re listening to a friend speak, look at them. Try not turn your attention away at the slightest distraction.
  3. Quality over quantity. It’s ok to text and email. There’s no fighting it – we’re living the technology era. However, it doesn’t take much effort to spend some quality time each day with those who mean the most to you. Quality in this case means in-person interactions with no screens.
  4. Call instead of text. The next time you need to get ahold of somebody – why not give them a ring instead of shooting them another text? A phone call is more personal, and many people have simply dropped the habit of talking on the phone.
  5. Ask questions. During those times you set aside for quality interaction – show your interest in others by asking them poignant questions about their well-being.  Inquire about their day, or simply ask pointedly, “How’ve you been?”  Maintaining eye contact and listening intently to the answer lets people know that you care about what they have to say.
  6. Leave the phone at home. I know it sounds impossible, but it’s really not.  After you leave your phone at home once, you’ll experience a sense of freedom. If it’s not an absolute necessity, turn it off or let it charge on the kitchen counter while you’re enjoying time with your friends or family.

Most importantly, make real life interactions a priority. If you must have your cell phone with you during family or other social outings, keep it silenced and refrain from checking it too often. As you try to make the most of this self-learning process called life, staying engaged in the people around you is one of the most enjoyable things that you might’ve never even realized you’ve been missing.

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