Communication Tips for Heart Healthy Relationships

It doesn't matter how old we are, matters of the heart go on forever. It is well known that a healthy diet, exercise, and attitude are powerful determinants of a healthy heart. But, knowing how to give and receive love and appreciation may still be the heart's best medicine. Since healthy relationships are so vital to living our best life, as a Life Coach, relationships often naturally integrate themselves into whatever life change my client is trying to make. Relationships are a big part of our personal Spirit, Mind Body landscape and affect every part of our being. Good or bad-how they play out in our life, and physical, mental and spiritual health, is up to us. And no, if we are not happy with our relationships, it's not the other people you need to change -there's no place for blame in a healthy relationship-it's us. It is often at midlife that we finally realize that having healthy relationships is up to us and no one else. Once a client has accepted this, the real work can begin. Taking a holistic approach, here are some ways to prevent problems in, or refresh relationships, that I've found helpful for myself and my clients.

1. Be Generous With Your Appreciation.

How often do you feel or give appreciation? How important is appreciation? Studies show that appreciation of others and of ourself is strongly correlated with happiness and health. I know of people who have quit their jobs for not feeling appreciated for their contributions in the workplace. I've also seen the opposite. When people are acknowledged for their efforts, they feel better about giving and often go beyond the call of duty. Experiment with this and experience the magic for yourself. Appreciation changes people. In families, appreciation can minimize or prevent problems. Start appreciating those you care about for things you wouldn't even think of appreciating them for! All those things you take for granted, like "Thanks for being out there earning a living so we can pay our bills each month; Thanks for the juggling you do everyday to take care of our family; Thank you for being a wonderful kid; Thank you for cleaning up your room; Thank you for bringing up this issue that we need to deal with; Thanks for the great meals you make for us"? You get the idea. Make it a habit. Get the whole family involved. It may feel awkward at first, but after awhile the energy in your home will change, and problems will begin to disappear. It works just as well in the workplace. Good job when?It made me smile when?I know you've been working really hard lately and?then watch company moral skyrocket!

One other interesting phenomenon, if you want something from other, you must give it first. So if you want more appreciation in your life, start doling it out and watch your wish come true!

2. State Your Intention or The Purpose Behind the Communication.

According to Dr. Rick Brinkman, a lifestyle management guru and author of "Life By Design", whenever we communicate there is always a purpose behind that communication. A very effective way to communicate is to let people know your purpose or your (positive) intention first to avoid misunderstanding. Without the desired intention, defenses easily go up. People often need to know where we are coming from before they can really let go and listen. For example, you might say, "I love you and I really need to clear the air about what happened the other night". This states the intention first and has a loving, positive tone. Consider the difference if the person had said, "I feel frustrated about what happened the other night and I think we need to talk about it". The intention is unclear and immediately causes the other person to put up a protective wall! Always state your intention first.

3. Assume a Positive Intention in Others.

Always assume the best intention in others. People will literally fall all over themselves to fulfill your positive expectations of them. There have been studies that prove when students work with teachers who believe in them to excel, they do. The expectations of the teachers get projected on to the students and in such cases, the students IQ is tested higher than normal for that student. This is the power of your projections! If we want to bring out the very best in our spouse, clients, employees and kids, we can start by just assuming the best and projecting positive expectations. Sometimes an intention is good, but the actions are not welcome.

For example, your husband decides to surprise you and rearrange the furniture. His intentions were good, but you hated what he did. If you just said, "You shouldn't have done this, you need to move everything back the way it was"-do you think he would take the initiative to do something "nice" for you again? Probably not! But, if you said, "Thank you honey for caring about the way our home looks, it was really great of you make this effort for me. But, what you didn't know is I really don't like it this way, can we try something different?" With this response he will not be afraid to try to please you another time.

4. Seek First to Understand.

An argument is two people wanting to be understood when neither one wants to understand. How to resolve an argument? Let the other person feel understood first. When they feel understood, they will then be able to give their full attention to us. Listening is the key to understanding. Let them know you are listening by giving specific feedback so the other person knows they are being heard and understood. The best way to do this is to simply take their words and give it back to them. This is a special technique used by counselors and coaches. Their words are special to them; it doesn't work as well to try to use our own language. We can ask questions for clarity if we need to. Listening and caring provides the feeling the other person is looking for. The final step is to confirm the other person feels understood by saying something like, "Do I understand this correctly?" Then it's our turn to talk.

5. Enjoy Differences.

Recognize it is wonderful to have differences, and then to respect them. Each individual processes feelings differently according to their own life experience. If we are sensitive to this we can discover the best way to support the other person and get both needs met. A really useful question to ask when some one close to us starts a statement with " You don't?", is "How would you know if I did?", For example, " How would you know if I supported you?", or "How would you know if I cared for you?". Keep in mind, the people close to us often have their own criteria for getting their desires fulfilled based on their own model of the world! And it may not be the same as ours, so we need to ask. For example, one person's criteria for a romantic evening may be very different than their partners! The intent may be the same (wanting intimate time together), but how to fulfill that intent is often not. Again, asking questions helps a lot! Ask, "What does a romantic evening look like for you?", and then you may need to find a compromise.

6. Notice the Energy of Your Intention.

According to the bestseller "A Return to Love" by Marianne Williamson, when we come from a place of love and acceptance, and truly accepting people as they are, has the miraculous effect of helping them be better people. When we are always telling people what's wrong with them, we don't help them, instead, we paralyze them with shame and guilt. When we accept others unconditionally, we help them to feel good about themselves, to relax, and to find their way. This doesn't mean we can't share constructive criticism, but again, and energy of positive intent is important. It is the energy, good or bad, that is carried in our communication. The miracle is the authentic intention to communicate with love not fear. According to the book, "?the key to communication is not what we say, but rather the attitude that lies behind what we say".

? A Relationship Tool to Try.

The following relationship tool can help with maintaining healthy relationships. It is called a relationship agreement. Sit down with your spouse, your son/daughter, or your business partner and come up with some agreements about how to communicate with each other. Then when things start to go amuck, (and when our feelings turn into emotional reactions, they easily do!), you can get the agreement out and say "Remember how we agreed to communicate?"

Examples of mutual relationship agreements might include:

* To have weekly meetings.

* To communicate without blame.

* To communicate only from love-not fear.

* To take turns with who gets to start when settling an argument

* To create and have a plan for how to exit an argument so you can come back to it after you've gained some perspective.

* To always state the positive intent first.

Every two people who come together bring uniqueness to that relationship, so each particular relationship agreement will be unique as well. Other useful strategies include creating special and sacred time alone with our spouse or child, bringing new skills or hobbies to a relationship to share and appreciate together, and reading relationship books or listening to tapes with partners and discussing how we might apply the information to our own relationships.

Try this: Think of one relationship in your life that is meaningful to you, but is not going as well as you would like. Choose from the ideas in this newsletter that feel comfortable for you to try. Then apply the changes you want to make. Be patient and journal the changes you begin to see in the other person and in yourself.

Debra Betterly, a Life Coach whose specialty is midlife mastery. This article is derived from her newsletter, "Second Acts", a spirit-mind-body approach for women re-inventing the second half of life. Please visit to subscribe to this free monthly eNewsletter and also to learn more about her program "Put Your Dream to Work" and her eBook "Awakening the Spirit Within". You can also email her at [email protected]

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