If we grew up without learning the life skills that help us communicate our wants and needs, how do we go about learning and applying these skills? It is easy to read and understand what they do. It’s not as easy to apply them to our life.
First, be honest.
Perhaps the hardest thing for us to do is to stop blaming. Ask yourself in the privacy of your own thoughts, how has my attitude affected my relationships with my boss or other people at work? How has it affected my marriage?
Taking responsibility for our emotions and responses does not mean we simply let people walk over us or we have no say. It simply determines how we handle situations.
Second, determine what you want
How do you want to live your life? Would you like to be more open and flexible to ideas and differences of opinion? Then make a point to listen to opposing points of view without predetermined judgment or bias. Listening respectfully and genuinely doesn’t mean you have to agree.
Would you like to be more caring and accepting of people? Purposefully set aside time to reach out to someone in need. Perhaps it is simply acknowledging a grief or loss, being present for someone going through a tough time, being willing to do something for someone, doing a good deed or saying a kind word where one is neither expected nor necessary.
There are so many opportunities in our everyday life where we can express kindness, understanding and assistance without it costing us a dime and in most cases little time.
Third, do unto others what you would like others to do unto you
Would you like to be accepted more by others? Then be accepting of others. Would you like to be respected? Then respect others. Even if you do not get an immediate payback from doing this, you will find it gratifying anyway.
If you want to be respected, then respect the boundaries and opinions of others and express your own boundaries. We often get hurt because we don’t know what we will accept and won’t accept.
It takes time to put a new skill in place. But remember when you choose the principles you want to apply to your life you are doing it because you want to feel good about yourself. When we set aside old behaviors and responses that do not reach our personal and social goals, we can replace them with confidence.
Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC