Contributed by Marriage and Family Therapy Intern, Angela Fisher
The weather is finally warming. We get to think about all the things we want to do: spring cleaning, preparing for a garden, and enjoying the outdoors. We start to create this to do list that might grow legs of its own! I wonder how many of us are intentional about nurturing the supportive relationships in our lives?
How do you nurture those relationships? Great question!
1. Be present. With technology so convenient and frequently at our fingertips, distractions have become a norm. Try setting aside a period of time every day that is free from technology or cell phone free. Eat dinner with others, play a game, or cook something else together and enjoy the conversation.
2. Listen to listen, rather than listening to respond. Many times, when we listen, the things going through our head are the things we want to say in regards to the information we are receiving. Try listening, and instead of responding, paraphrase back to them what you heard them say. This builds connections, lets people know you are really listening to them, and verifies that you accurately heard what they were saying.
3. Pay attention to the emotions behind the words. Think about what the other person is feeling when they are saying something. Rather than focus on the content of what they are saying, sometimes focusing on what they are feeling is more important in the moment. This helps to create an environment of being attune to others.
4. Turn off the fixer. There is a part of many people that wants to fix a problem someone has just told us about. Instead of thinking of solutions to their problems, empathize by responding with something like, “Wow, that must be really tough”. Phrases like this let the other person know that we are really listening to what they are going through. Sometimes people just need to vent. If you have an idea for them, it really helps to ask the other person if they are open to some ideas or if they just needed to vent.
5. Lastly turn off storyteller mode. We all have a story. There is space for everyone’s story, it’s just probably not at the same time. When someone shares a story, there can sometimes be a moment where some would say they have a better story, or try to one up each other. Part of life is sharing experiences not being in competition with each other’s experiences. Enjoy their story with them. They are inviting you into their life, accept the invitation.