Communication-skills

Learning To Accept Compliments Gracefully

I used to be one of those women that don’t take compliments well. I’d try making my achievements look smaller or non-existent, find excuses or even quickly change the topic and compliment the other person in return. Until I realised I wasn’t doing myself a service and I certainly wasn’t making the other person feel good about complimenting me. Learning to accept compliments was a conscious choice for me and it can be your choice, too.

RELATED: What Makes A Good Listener

Why is it so hard to accept a compliment?

  • For me it had a lot to do with upbringing. I was raised to believe that it was not modest or even acceptable to boast about your accomplishments and accepting a compliment seemed very much like boasting.
  • Often we’d get compliments about things that come so naturally to us that we don’t even see them as compliment-worthy. In fact, these are our strengths. These same accomplishments that we think nothing of don’t necessarily come easily to other people.
  • Not being able to accept a compliment can also be a sign of low self-esteem. We don’t feel that we can possibly deserve the compliment and the person giving it to us is either just trying to be nice or delusional.

Accepting a compliments is a good thing

  • It’s polite. I always feel uneasy when someone is deflecting or arguing with a compliment I’ve given and I now realise that all the people I’ve done it to must have felt the same way. The person complimenting you is doing it because they’ve seen something in you that they value. The most polite thing you can do is to appreciate them for it.
  • We learn about ourselves. By listening to compliments instead of dismissing them we are learning what it is that people find valuable in us and what we have to contribute.
  • It’s good for our self-esteem. Every time you acknowledge that yes, you are what people say you are and yes, you have achieved something worthy, you’re affirming your positive qualities.

How to get started

Here’s a very simple practice. When someone compliments you, just say, “Thank you”. This is probably what you’d normally start your response with anyway, so this should be easy. Then stifle your urge to continue the sentence with “but…”. You can leave it at “thank you” or you can pause and think of something positive to say like “I put a lot of thought into it” or “I’m so thrilled that it went well”. You can also put the honours back to the person giving the compliment, but without changing the subject immediately, for example, “It means a lot coming from you” or “I really appreciate it”.

Think of all the times that you’ve given compliments. How do people’s responses make you feel? Model the ones that make you feel good and exclude the rest from your repertoire.

As anything else, accepting compliments gets easier with practice. Before long you’ll start feeling great about it and never feel awkward again.

Image by PublicDomainPictures via pixabay.com

June 19, 2015

Why Busy Is Another Word for Arsehole

Is the glorification of “busy” killing your close relationships?

RELATED: Communication Skills For Healthy Relationships

Are you always too busy to meet up with your dearest friends? Or, is your partner always using the “busy” card as his excuse for not calling you when he said he would?

The word “busy” carries much weight; it’s such a small word, but it can cause untold damage to our dealings with loved ones.

We’re all busy in this day and age; it’s all about priorities. If you really love and value someone, you’ll always find a way to make time for them.

relationships, better communication, busy

American comedian/author and former Sex and the City writer/consultant Greg Behrendt (pictured) said it best in his hit self-improvement book, He’s Just Not That Into You, which he co-wrote with Liz Tuccillo; an awesome read, I highly recommend:

“Busy is another word for ‘arsehole’. ‘Arsehole’ is another word for the guy you’re dating. You deserve a fucking phone call.”

This advice can be applied to all intimate relationships, I believe – don’t be the person who’s too busy to show they care, or put up with people who treat you the same way.

And my other fave bit of sage advice from Behrendt’s and Tuccillo’s 2004 No.1 New York Times best-seller, which was later adapted into a 2009 film by the same name, is:

“I’m about to make a wild, extreme and severe relationship rule: the word busy is a load of crap and is most often used by arseholes. The word ‘busy’ is the relationship Weapon of Mass Destruction. It seems like a good excuse, but in fact in every silo you uncover, all you’re going to find is a man who didn’t care enough to call. Remember men are never too busy to get what they want.”

Why Busy Is Another Word For Arsehole

So true! No one is ever too busy to show they care.

And in the era of the selfie, have we lost sight of what really matters?

The next time you use the “busy” card as an excuse for not calling and/or catching up with someone – and we’re all guilty of it – but you still find the time to post a pic on Instagram, or send a tweet to strangers, is it high time you actually picked up the phone to a loved one to show you care?

Perhaps it’s imperative we all started spending more quality time reconnecting with the actual people we know and love. Just saying…

What do you think? Is “busy” just an excuse for poor communication skills?

Images via agbeat.com; hairbrained.me; timemanagementninja.com; and huffingtonpost.com.

March 23, 2015

5 Ways To Develop Empathy

Empathy is the ability to recognise and understand another person’s emotions, and it’s one of the most important skills you can bring into your relationships. While some of us are more perceptive naturally, empathy is a skill that anyone can improve on with practice.

RELATED: Communication Skills For Healthy Relationships

1. Be curious

Practice curiosity about the people around you. Observe their facial expression and body language. Turn it into a game and ask yourself, “What are they thinking about?”, “What are they feeling?”, “What are they going to do next?”

When you’re having a conversation, go beyond the weather topic. Ask deeper questions and get interested in the other person’s story. People love talking about themselves, so not only you’ll get to practice, but you’ll also make others feel important.

2. Listen deeply

In conversations let go of all distractions and focus on what the other person is saying. Don’t try to predict what’s coming next, don’t come up with solutions or think about your own response while you’re listening. Simply take it all in and imagine what it would feel like if you were that person.

3. Keep an open mind

Often we interpret events in our lives in a way that may or may not be true from another person’s perspective. For example, if a friend is not returning your calls, it can be easy to assume that she doesn’t care about you, when she may have lost her phone or having difficulties in her own life. I made that exact conclusion about someone and later it turned out that my friend’s dad had just passed away. Clearly, returning phone calls was the last thing on her mind and understandably so. Instead of making a fast judgement, keep an open mind and try seeing the event through the other person’s eyes. It’ll help you understand others better . You’ll also see that more often than not people’s reactions are not about you and there’s no need to take everything personally.

4. Read fiction

A good book has the power to take you into the character’s mind.  We have the opportunity to put ourselves in situations that we may never experience in our real life. We get to try on the characters’ lives and emotions, which helps us increase our own range.

5. Get to know yourself

It’s much easier to understand other people when you’re in touch with your own feelings. Many of us try to escape strong emotions (even positive ones!). Next time you experience anger, sadness or intense joy, instead of looking for distractions, allow yourself to feel fully. If it gets hard, take a few deep breaths and stay with it for as long as you can.

Developing empathy doesn’t have to take any extra time out of your day. It’s easy to find opportunities to practice in the interactions you’re already having in your life. It takes some focus, but it can also be fun and you’ll be rewarded by better relationship with others and with yourself.

Image by johnhain via pixabay.com

October 27, 2014

Communication Skills For Healthy Relationships

Whether you’re looking for better friendships, a business partnership or more depth in your intimate relationship, effective communication is what helps you understand other people, lets them understand you and creates stronger connections. If you’re looking for ways to develop your communication skills, here are a few areas where you could focus your attention.

Listening

Shutting out all distractions, making eye contact and focusing on the other person may sound easy when you’re happy and relaxed, but try doing it when you have a million things on your mind and it turns into a challenge. It takes a conscious effort to stop everything and listen to your kids, friends or partner, but the effort is well worth it. It makes the other person feel loved, important and understood (and it may take less time than you think).

RELATED: What Makes A Good Listener?

Clarity

In relationships clarity is often lacking when people are trying to communicate what they need. You don’t want to be a burden, you fear rejection or you believe that if others want to give you something, they will, anyway, out of their own good will. When they don’t, you feel neglected and eventually resentment builds up. But your partner, friends or children aren’t mind readers. Most likely, they’d happily give you what you want if they only knew what it was. Practice asking without attachment to the answer and you’ll be surprised how often people say ‘yes’.

Open-mindedness

You’ll have more productive conversations and more meaningful relationships, if you enter each interaction without expectations and without pre-conceived judgement. If you’ve already made your mind without considering the other person’s opinion, then your communication is not likely to achieve an outcome that both of you will be happy with.

Acceptance

A healthy relationship is one where you accept each other as you are without trying to change the other person. Show others that they may be different and you may disagree with their opinions, but you respect them and appreciate them just the way you are.

Empathy

Empathy is the ability to recognise and share other people’s emotions. It makes all the skills I mentioned earlier easier to master – if you can put yourself in the other person’s shoes, you intuitively know how to show that you’re there for them, you can see their point of view and you can easily accept who they are.  While some people are naturally more gifted than others, empathy is a skill we can all learn by being mindful and curious about the people around us.

Image by GLady via pixabay.com

October 18, 2014

Ditch Date Nerves For Good

Ever gone on a dinner date with some hottie and been totally struck down with a bad case of nerves? Yep, you know what I’m talking about. That awkward silence. It’s just the two of you, face to face, with nothing to say. Rather than reaching for that extra glass of alcohol, here’s a few tips on how to start a conversation and get those nerves back in check.

Conversation starters

Rather than talking about yourself, which can be a total turn off, particularly when it dominates the conversation; ask them some questions about themselves. For example, how they chose their career, what hobbies they might have and what interests them, if they are close with their family, do they have a particular place they like to go or any travel they’ve done or have planned. There’s always something you don’t know about a new love interest. Dinner dates give you both the perfect opportunity to get to know each other better.

The trick to reducing those date jitters is being able to start the conversation. Using open-ended questions is the key. These are the types of things you ask someone, which require more than a one or two word response. Close-ended questions can be a barrier to communicating, especially when you’re a bit nervous. Here’s a few of examples of both so you can appreciate the difference.

Close-ended questions

“I know you’ve been working at (wherever they work) for a while. Do you like working there?”

“ It’s a nice change to get dressed up and go somewhere different. Thanks for bringing me here. Have you been here before?”

“You said that you like the footy. Do you play or like to go and watch?”

Open-ended questions

“I know you’ve been working at (wherever they work) for a while. How did you end up working there?”

“It’s a nice change to get dressed up and go somewhere different. Thanks for bringing me here. What made you choose this place?”

“You said before that you like the footy, but I’m not sure if you play or like to go to games. I’d really like to hear more about that?

As you can see, the first set of questions can be answered with a single word response; while the second set opens the opportunity to begin a conversation. Listen to what your date has to say and you can build on the conversation, using more open-ended questions. This will keep the conversation flowing. Asking closed ended questions is okay once the conversation has begun.

There is an art to effective communication. Remember, if you are nervous, chances are your date is as well. Increasing your ability to communicate effectively will ease the nerves for you both and will result in an exceptionally enjoyable and successful date.

Image via http://www.chatelaine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/c32e3b684c71abc5b51dbbf1857c.jpg

October 8, 2014

What Makes A Good Listener?

When someone is really listening to us, we feel drawn to that person and willing to open our hearts. Listening is one of the most important skills we need to build meaningful relationship. But what does it mean to be a good listener?

RELATED: How To Be A Better Friend?

We’ve all been taught to make eye contact, not interrupt and not get distracted by TV, phones or other gadgets (and half of the time we still forget). But it takes more than that. I invite you to dive deeper into your conversations and use the following qualities of a good listener.

Mindfulness

Be present for the other person and listen to what they’re saying without judgement. Don’t try to guess what’s going to follow next, keep an open mind and allow the conversation to unfold.

Focus on the other person

We often process the conversation through our own stories. This may be how we relate to other people’s experiences, but it can be annoying when we always respond with ‘Me, too’ or ‘I have a better story’. If someone shares their achievements with you, acknowledge them and be happy for them (even if you have done better). If they’re expressing a concern, give them the space to voice it without immediately sharing a similar challenge that you may have had or advice they may not want to hear.

Another easy trap to fall into is thinking about what you’re going to say in response. I do this a lot. As an introvert, I need some time to think before I speak. I often panic that the other person will finish talking and I’ll have nothing to say, so I start composing my response in my head while they speak. But if that’s what you’re doing, you’re not truly focusing on them, but on yourself, and you may be missing out on important cues and information. With practice, I learned that there’s nothing wrong with pausing for a few seconds to think before responding. In fact, the person you’re talking to appreciates it a lot more.

Attentiveness

Show that you care by having open body language and eye contact. Asking good question will send the message that not only you’ve heard and understood what has been said so far, but you’re willing to go deeper. And don’t change the subject!

No one is a perfect listener all the time, but we can all get better with practice. There will be times when you get distracted – gently bring yourself back to the conversation and admit that you’ve missed something, or acknowledge that this may not be the best time for you to have that conversation and schedule a different time. People will appreciate your honesty much more than a pretend smile and non-committal remarks.

Image by Mark Sebastian via Flickr.com

September 29, 2014