It’s holiday time again. A time filled with family, fun, friends and… fights.
With family gatherings and the pressure to be and make everyone happy, December and January can be the most stressful months of the year. How can we keep our cool to be sure our relationships stay strong and improve in 2014? I offer you 5 simple tips to keep peace and grow your relationships.
5 Ways to Fight Less and Love More in Your Relationships
1. Pick the Right Battles
Your spouse comes home from work drenched from the rain because he forgot an umbrella. You told him to take one that morning after you heard the weather report. Before you start criticizing him for being soaked, ask yourself this wise question, “Does this affect me?”
In this example, it doesn’t. He is drenched, not you. So don’t pick that battle. In the future, when a family member, friend or co-workers makes a mistake that doesn’t affect you, rather than using a “fight line” like “I told you to take an umbrella, you should have listened to me!” use a compassionate love line like, “You’re all wet. Do you want a towel?”
FYI… If you find it hard to say those words, just say nothing.
Related: 7 Ways to Have Lasting Relationships
2. Give a Character Compliment
In researching my book we did an on-line survey and found some interesting results that can help us understand how to have better relationships. There is a specific type of compliment that people want to receive. When we asked individuals “would you rather your mate compliment you for being kind or good-looking?” the result was that 84 percent of people said “kind.”
The lesson: find daily opportunities to compliment other people’s character (such as his/her generosity or kindness to a friend, relative or colleague). Offer up character compliments to your children whenever possible.
3. Avoid Premature Arguments
My clients are smart people, who often have dumb arguments. One type of these battles threatens almost every relationship. I call it the “premature argument.” Look out for those times when you get into a brawl with someone about a decision that doesn’t have to be made for weeks, months or years, such as where to spend Christmas Day… the following year, or who to invite to your 10-year anniversary party when you’re only married eight years.
When you realize you’re arguing about something prematurely, stop yourself and say, “Hey, we’re having a dumb argument. Let’s stop talking about this now and continue the conversation in the future.”
Related: How to Communicate Effectively
A little bit of remembering shows a lot of caring. If you know your good friend has an important meeting, doctor’s appointment, job interview etc., be sure to follow up with him or her that day. Call, email, text or ask in person, “How did it go?” This sends a clear message: I care about you and you are important to me.
Make it a habit to do this whenever a friend or family member tells you about something important that is happening in his/her life. If you seldom have anything to follow up on, that’s a telltale sign that you don’t know or care about what is going on in other people’s lives.
Related: How to Argue in a Relationship
5. Disagree without Being Disagreeable.
An easy way to start a fight is to quickly jump in to say “You’re wrong” or “that’s a stupid idea!” Meanwhile, a better more tactful way to make the same point is to use a wise question. The moment you know you disagree with what someone said, stop and ask one powerful question, “Why do you think that?” Listen to the answer, (you may uncover some new information to alter your opinion), then feel free to disagree without using judgmental words.
By holding your tongue and listening first (even if it’s only for a minute), you show respect. And when children overhear you, they learn an important lesson about how to turn a disagreement into a conversation.
The values we hold dear to us: respect, appreciation, compassion, loyalty and companionship are fostered or destroyed every day by our word choices and actions. If you resolve to use these 5 simple communication tips, you will discover that you relationships will be stronger and better than ever.
Laurie Puhn, J.D., author of the national bestseller Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In, is the creator of the empowering Fight Less,Love More course offered nationwide. She is a Harvard-educated family lawyer, family and couples mediator and television personality.
Featured image by seanmcgrath