090 -Relationship Skills: Tips to Improve Relationships
Counselor Toolbox

 
 
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Relationship Skills
Presented by: Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes
Executive Director, AllCEUs
Objectives
~    Steps for Building Empathy
~    Tips for overcoming the most common communication barriers
~    Tips for fair fighting
~    Tips for Sweetening Your Relationship
~    Tips for a Closer Relationship
~    Tips for Compromise
~    Tips for Getting Your Needs Met
~    Tips for Giving Emotional Support
~    Tips for Being More Thoughtful

Individual Differences
~    Extroverts vs. Introverts
~    Sensing (Details)vs. iNtuitive (Big Picture)
~    Thinking (True/False) vs. Feeling (Good/Bad)
~    Judging (structure) vs. Perceiving (spontenaeity)
Expression of Love
~    The Five Love Languages (Gary Chapman)
~    Receiving gifts
~    Quality time
~    Words of affirmation
~    Acts of service (devotion)
~    Physical touch

Common Communication Barriers
~    Over-explaining
~    Being vague
~    I’ll pick you up this afternoon
~    You are so insensitive
~    We never spend quality time together
~    Mind reading/Assuming (You always want…)
~    Distractions
~    “You” driven language
~    Universal statements (Always, never…)
~    Blaming
~    Only noting the negative

Effective Communication
~    One person talks and the other listens…and only listens
~    Stay seated
~    Talker
~    Owns feelings, desires, opinions
~    Uses objective, observable terms
~    Sticks to one thing at a time
~    Listener
~    Paraphrases what is heard
~    Verifies accuracy, THEN responds
~    Repeat the process until the issue is resolved
Tips for Sweetening Your Relationship
~    Love is a combination of emotions and actions including talking, compassion and trust.
~    Rewrite your vows/promises
~    Have a re-commitment ceremony
~    Imagine what life would be like if your partner were gone
~    Communicate to your partner in his or her love language
~    Receiving gifts
~    Quality time
~    Words of affirmation
~    Acts of service
~    Physical touch
Sweetening
~    Make an effort
~    Write down a list of things your partner could do that would make you feel loved/happy and exchange them.
~    Remember (or get Google to remind you) of birthdays, anniversaries, or just happy occasions and celebrate
~    Celebrate for no reason
~    If you have a disagreement, take a step back and try to see it from your partner’s point of view

Sweetening
~    Don’t let fear of being vulnerable or abandonment undermine you
~    Share hopes, dreams and fears.
~    If becoming vulnerable makes you also become critical and defensive, identify and work through the reasons
~    Think back to hopes and dreams you shared when you were dating…make it happen
~    Remind you partner of the qualities you love about them.
Building Empathy
~    Empathy vs. sympathy
~    Put yourself in their shoes (with their experiences)
~    Identify 3 alternate reasons you partner may be feeling/acting the way he or she is
~    If your child was going through this situation, how would you feel?
~    Remember that what you would want and need is not necessarily what your partner wants and needs.
~    Allow yourself to listen as if your only job is to understand
~    Without preconceptions
~    Knowing that you know nothing
~    Free from trying to create consistency between your feeling/perceptions and your partner’s feelings and perceptions… for now just focus on understanding the unique experience of your partner.

Empathy
~    Think of a difficult time that you experienced and answer all the questions
~    What was your perception of the occurrence?
~    What was troubling about this occurrence?
~    What were the emotions that you felt at the time of the occurrence?
~    What emotions are being expressed in this moment?
~    What do you need from you (which is often just to be empathetic)?
~    Start by taking time by yourself to practice using these skills on yourself… your ability to understand your own emotions will directly affect your ability to empathize with your partner.

Empathy
~    When your partner is relaying a difficult experience, listen to be able to understand:
~    What was his/her perception of the occurrence?
~    What was troubling about this occurrence?
~    What were the emotions that he/she felt at the time of the occurrence?
~    What emotions are being expressed in this moment?
~    What does he/she need from you (which is often just to be empathetic)?
~    This can also be practiced in group or at home using media clips of people arguing.
Tips for a Closer Relationship
~    Use relationships to teach you how to be whole (and not require another person to complete you)
~    See (and accept) your partner for who he or she really is
~    Be willing to learn from each other
~    Be willing to compromise
~    Get comfortable being alone (address abandonment issues)
~    Develop awareness of why you fight (your stuff, his stuff or y’alls stuff)
~    Own who you are
~    Embrace ordinariness
~    Let go of expectations and embrace what is
~    Converse…Plan conversation starters

Tips for Compromise
~    Create a win/win
~    Compromise based on priorities
~    Compromise based on needs
~    Compromise between extroverts and introverts
~    Compromise between detail oriented and big picture people
~    Compromise between rationally focused vs. emotionally focused individuals
~    Compromise between structured vs. spontaneous people

Tips for Getting Your Needs Met
~    Know what you need and define it in observable terms.  “I want to be happy,” isn’t helpful.
~    Don’t expect mind reading
~    Assertively state and own your feelings wants and needs
~    Communicate in the person’s preferred learning style
~    Remember it is about balance.
~    Sometimes you have to meet your own needs

Giving Emotional Support
~    Not everyone is comfortable with feeling words.  Reflect their vocabulary.
~    Don’t assume you know why someone feels a certain way.
~    Emotional support can be shown through actions, not just words.
~    Help eliminate vulnerabilities
~    Ask!  (Brooklyn 99  Terry & Rosa)

Being More Thoughtful
~    Pay attention and ask what he or she likes (and dislikes)
~    Do things you don't want to do
~    Keep a running list of gift ideas
~    Write sweet notes/sms, or just a thank yous
~    Remember important dates
~    Truly listen to what your SO has to say
~    Be there during tough times, even if you're busy
~    Start some personal rituals for the two of you: Daily, Weekly, Annual

Summary
~    Relationships are complicated.
~    Basic areas to focus include
~    Compassion/Emotional Support
~    Effort/Thoughtfulness
~    Compromise
~    Embracing what is good instead of focusing on what is wrong.

Recommended Readings

~    Empathy Building Exercise  http://www.thoughtsfromatherapist.com/2011/06/08/empathy-building-exercise-%E2%80%93-learning-to-be-empathetic-%E2%80%93-increasing-emotional-understanding/
~    Improving Relationships: http://tinybuddha.com/blog/10-ways-to-create-a-strong-intimate-relationships/