Relationships are difficult. Sometimes damned difficult.
In my experience, the hard things are difficult, but not complicated. Regardless of whether a relationship is difficult because it is complicated, because you are going through a rough season, or you are over your head, there are some basic things that you can do to change how you see the relationship and in the process change yourself.
According to the Oxford dictionary, the English language currently has about 600,000 words. If you have an average vocabulary, you use around 12-20,000 words. Just for context, really smart people use around 25,000 words. This means that even the Smarties out there only use about 4 % of our available words!
We don’t need a lot of words to create decent relationships, a respectful workplace or a better society. By my count, it will only take about 20 words.
The 20 words that will improve your relationships in 2017
Please and Thank You – I get it, this is basic. In fact, these four words are part of communication basic training… or rather they should be. I cannot tell you how hard it is to teach your kids just to say these four little words. Things like opening doors for strangers, helping someone you don’t know lift a heavy object like a TV at Costco, and saying please and thanks are the basics. In reality, Please and Thank You are like Salt and Pepper. They should be used everywhere.
Excuse Me – Interrupting others communicates that what you need is more important than what they need. Will it kill us to wait for a minute? If you really need help waiting for the other person to finish what they are saying, you could try one of the following suggestions:
- Meditate for 60 seconds
- Count sheep
- Practice an Inner Ninja routine (whatever that is, go for it).
- Okay, the previous three are not recommended because they are simply alternative ways to ignore the person you are with. Want to do something radical? When you are talking to someone, just listen.
When we wait until the other person is focused and when we say excuse me, we show respect. A habit of talking over other people is like being a verbal bulldozer. It is just another way of saying that my needs or ideas are better than yours so I will bulldoze you.
I’m Sorry and How Am I Doing Now? It is easy to say I am sorry, but it takes balls to ask for feedback on how we are doing. Some of us will use Sorry like reverse permission. We say sorry after the fact, but it means nothing because we meant to do it and we’ll just do it again. But when we try to change and ask the other person how we are doing, we communicate that we are serious about it.
Good Idea! Many people live unacknowledged lives. We long to be seen by another person. Acknowledging when others do good work is seeing them. I get it, acknowledging that we really see another person takes time. We need to ask questions and take time to understand them. I admit, I get busy and I don’t always take the time to see the people around me. But this year, I am working hard to improve where I put my relationship attention because people notice when you notice them.
Without seeing, there is no sight and no insight
What I need from you is… Yes, I am being intentional in putting what you want at the end of the conversation skill-set. That is because asking for what you want will take some work. In fact, asking for what you want should be only 28% of your most valuable communication (By my count, it makes up 6 of your most valuable 20 words).
When you communicate your needs after showing value to the other person, you will set yourself apart from the crowd. Most people put their needs at the beginning. They start off a conversation by asking for what they want. It’s a little like asking first and then assuming we will figure the rest out later.
If a person begins their conversation with what they most want, they are communicating that their needs are the only priority that matters. Is that what you most want to communicate?
Boundaries are about reciprocal decency. If you have been gracious about your boundaries and the other person continues to push back, at that point you should move the “What I need from you is…” to the forefront. Sometimes when you assert healthy boundaries, you may need to be more selfish. But this is way different than selfishly asking for your needs to be met first.
For example, if you are trying to quit drinking and a ‘friend’ keeps offering you alcohol, then go ahead and move the “What I need from you…” to the forefront.
If you are reading this, you get it. The 20 words are not new. But I promise you that the more you use these 20 words, you will be wiser and more remarkable.
One more thing: You can say the 20 words any way you want. The actual words don’t matter, what matters is the spirit behind them. It is about being a decent human and treating others the way that you want to be treated. Is that too much to ask?
If you like this post, you will want to check out some of my other writing:
The 8 Words that can Keep Any Conversation Going, a humorous post about communication.
I write articles about wellness, leadership, parenting and personal growth. My hope is to deliver the best content I can to inspire, to inform and to entertain. Sign up for my blog if you want to receive the latest and best of my writing. If you like what I have to say, please share my work with your friends.
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Keep it Real
Photo by Alan Levine