Relationships

How to Communicate with Your Spouse Part 1

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When it comes to communicating with your spouse or anyone you are close with, the five love languages are a great place to start.  If your spouse feels loved then communication tends to be better and easier.  If they do not feel loved, communication will breakdown.

So let’s take a look at the five love languages.  You can read more about these in Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages

  1. Words of Affirmation

A compliment speaks a Thousand Words! – It’s nice to get compliments from your co-workers, your boss, your friends, your parents or your children, but nothing compares to a compliment from your spouse.

  • This love language helps encourage and give courage to your spouse.
  • If it’s their main love language a simple compliment or word of encouragement can fill a tank for days.

Control that Biting Tongue – Words can kill, damage and destroy.

  • Proverbs 12:18 Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
  • Proverbs 12:25 An Anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.
  • Proverbs 15:4 The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.
  • Proverbs 18:21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
  • James 3:8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. Read that whole chapter!

Dispel Dominance – Real love makes requests, not demands.

  • When you tell your spouse what needs to be accomplished and do so by lashing out over-assertive words, even if you mean well, you will make your spouse feel Stupid and your words seem to belittle their know-how.
  • But if you make a humble request to your spouse, you are affirming their worth and abilities.
  1. Quality Time
    • Being close does not mean being together.
      1. Togetherness involves more of a connection than just being in the same room or the same house.
      2. Togetherness is when you are paying attention to each other while your together. Your giving your full focus, your fully present and engaged and listening.
  • It doesn’t mean you have to always be talking, it could be having a conversation and then going on a walk together, or watching a favorite TV show together or wash the dishes together or prepare food together.

Talk less, listen more

  • Ask questions and make sure you are paying attention. For men, don’t try to fix things, just listen repeat back some of the things she is saying and ask some questions if needed.
  • A great way to allow for this to happen is to ask your spouse how their day was and then shut up and listen.
  • Your spouse needs to be able to talk to you about what’s going on in their world – at work, at home with the kids, with family or friends.
  • Just 5-10 minutes of this can change the entire evening and atmosphere of the home.
  1. Receiving Gifts

Gifts: a Remembrance, a Symbol of love

  • Gifts can make a spouse feel important, cherished and sweetly remembered.
  • If this is a primary love language this will make his/her day and make them feel special, loved and secure.
  • It’s not as much how much you spend, it’s the fact that you thought about them and took the time to get them something.
  • It’s knowing your spouse well enough to know what they really like

The Gift of Self

  • Sometimes you need to give the gift of yourself by being fully present for your family.
  1. Acts of Service

In Everything you do, do it for Love

  • A husband helping with household chores like laundry, doing dishes, cleaning the house, taking care of the children etc or a wife fixing a leaking pipe, mowing the yard, fixing an appliance.
  • These need to be things that are not you normal household duties that you have agreed on.
  • Again it is when you notice something that needs done and do it without being told.
  • It sends a message that you are important to me, our home is important to me, our children are important to me.
  1. Physical Touch

Hold her when she cries

  • This can be hard for most men as they don’t know what to do when she is upset.
  • A loving husband will not turn and leave, go smoke, get a drink or give a lecture – he will hold her in a tight embrace, run his fingers thru her hair, maybe kiss her head, stroke her hand and make her feel safe in the power of his arms.
  • A physical touch can make or break a relationship – It can communicate love or hate

Touch as if it’s always the first time

  • Touch gives an emotional boost
  • It keeps the fire ablaze – is soothing and healing
  • For men physical touch includes sex but more than just the act of sex it’s the touching by both along the way.
  • Slow down and enjoy each other.
  • Just like a child needs physical touch in order to develop, adults need touch to stay emotionally and mentally healthy.

Talk to your spouse about what their love language is and what yours is

Tell your spouse what is most meaningful to you – don’t make them try to figure it out – (Women)

All of these are important even if it’s not a primary language

Start today, tonight before you go to bed.

 

A Key to Stronger Relationships

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I’ve been studying the idea of vulnerability and how that plays out in our relationships.   Brene Brown has some incredible insights on this tough topic.  Much of this post is based on her research.

One of the things that keeps us from being vulnerable is shame.  Shame thrives in secrecy, silence and judgement.  However when we introduce empathy, shame cannot grow.  So in order to be open and vulnerable we need to be around people that are great at empathizing and we need to learn how to be empathetic with others.  Learning how to be empathetic is one of the most powerful ways to improve your relationships.

In order to be empathetic we need to be able to see the world as others see it.  This is all about perspective, being able to take the perspective of another person and not our own.  It’s being able to listen to someone and not interject our own experience but to really what to hear it from them.  It’s not one upping the person by sharing what you did or how you messed up.  It’s being able to realize that our lens of life and our experiences are different than others and being OK with that.

Empathy also requires that we are nonjudgmental.   Most of us are  judgmental and we are usually judgmental in areas where we are vulnerable to shame.  We tend to judge people that are worse than we are so that we feel better about ourselves.  We do that because we are looking for validation that at least I’m not as bad as so and so.

Empathy is not our default or natural mode, it’s a skill that must be worked on and developed in order for this to happen naturally.  Empathy is usually very subtle, it can be just a knowing look or going to be with someone in a time of crisis instead of calling to express sympathy.

When we empathize with someone, we go to that dark place with them, we don’t flip on the lights and try to cheer them up and fix the problem or make light of the situation.  It’s like walking up to your friend that is in a hole and going down into the hole with them, but knowing how to get back out of the hole because it’s not your hole.  Sympathy is walking up to the hole and asking what happened.  When they tell you, you express that your sorry to hear that, that’s a terrible thing.  Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.  There is a big difference.

When we empathize with someone, we are creating a safe environment for people to be vulnerable.  Being vulnerable is one of the most accurate measures of a persons courage.  To be vulnerable takes bravery, because it is walking into uncertainty, it’s taking a risk and it’s exposing your emotions.  It takes courage because the reality is you can get hurt when you do this with someone that is not able to empathize or keep things confidential.

However if you live in secrecy, and silence you might feel safe, but are most likely miserable.  When we are vulnerable we are our true self.  We are showing that we are imperfect, messed up, awkward and goofy.  The greatest relationships are the ones where you can be all  of that and the person loves you even more.

So if your looking to improve your relationships, first learn how to empathize better with the people around you. Work on those skills of listening and trying to understand their perspective.  Don’t try to fix them or the situation, but let them know we can do this together.  Then work at being vulnerable with the people in your life.  Expose yourself emotionally by being honest about your struggles and your shame.  When we do that there is incredible freedom and life when we push past our fear.

 

Top Ten Relational Needs

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This week I taught a class entitled “The Top Ten Relational Needs”.  It is based on a workbook by that title from Great Commandment Network. 

God made us with needs, and God promised to meet those needs.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

Paul is telling us that God is willing and able to meet all of our needs. It also acknowledges that we all have needs as human beings

Neediness is a characteristic of our God-given identities.

Physical needs:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Sleep
  • Oxygen

Spiritual needs:

  • To experience God’s love
  • To experience God’s forgiveness
  • To experience God’s peace
  • Only God Moments

Here are the Top Ten Relational Needs:

  • Acceptance
  • Affection
  • Appreciation
  • Approval
  • Attention
  • Comfort
  • Encouragement
  • Respect
  • Security
  • Support

These needs are the same for anyone, no matter where your from, no matter how young or old you are.

It’s OK to have needs, it doesn’t mean your weak.  When we understand our needs, it humbles us and builds our character.

Only God and other people can meet our needs.  Why did God create us this way?

  1. Our neediness Encourages us to depend on God and look to him to meet our needs
  2. Our neediness encourages interdependence – We are not robots, we have feelings and emotions and our neediness requires us to have healthy human relationships. We are here to serve one another.
  3. Accepting the reality of our needs helps us to develop a heart filled with compassion for others
  4. Admitting our needs frees us to receive and give care.
  5. Meeting the needs of others expresses care and produces unity in the body of Christ

My question for you is this.  Of the top ten relational needs listed above, which three are most important to you and which three are most important to your spouse or significant person in your life?  If you can figure that out and then communicate clearly to each other about it, your relationship will begin to improve.  You can control whether or not you are meeting these needs with others, you cannot control whether others will meet your needs.  However, if you are loving and serving the other person the likelihood of them meeting your needs goes way up.  If your too needy, that pushes everyone away from you.  You have to first meet the needs of others and show that you can do it in a healthy way.

Balance

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A Balanced Life

Are You Courting Burnout?

What do you do to keep your life balanced?

THREE STEPS TO BALANCE:

  1. Get Organized around your purpose.

When you know your purpose it brings better focus to your life.  It determines the patterns in your life and the disciplines you pursue. Finding your life purpose is a process that everyone should go through. It will take some time and effort but it’s worth the time and energy.  A great place to start is to answer this question: What would I want my family, friends, co-workers and neighbors to say about me at my funeral?  Not what would they say now, but what would you want them to say.  Think about that and start writing down some things.

When we understand our purpose better, it helps to simplify our lives.  It allows us to eliminate the things that distract us and say yes to the things that further that purpose.  I my own life I’ve developed a purpose statement of Leading myself and others to grow in Faith, Character & Leadership.  That statement drives what I do at work, at home and in my spare time.  It’s what I write about in my posts, it’s what I talk about with the people around me.

Balance in life is possible if we practice life according to a single priority, and that single priority is our purpose.

  1. Define the dimensions of your life.

FOUR DIMENSIONS IN LIFE

  • Intellectual – This includes all activities that stimulate our ability to think.  It includes our work, what we read, what we research, what we study. Are we still learning and growing or are we stagnate and declining?
  • Physical – This includes how active we are, how much we exercise, the amount of rest we get and how we eat.  Basically how well we take care of ourselves physically.  Are we getting better or worse from a physical dimension?
  • Spiritual – This includes what we believe about God, about where we will spend forever, about the world around us, about why we are here and who put us here.  This includes our prayer life, going to church, serving other people, how well we love others.  Are we growing spiritually or declining spiritually?
  • Social – This is all about the relationships in our lives.  Immediate and extended family, close friends and casual friends, people you work with and people that work for you, current neighbors and previous neighbors, people you know from church, clubs, sports teams, people you went to school with, teachers, mentors, coaches and even the stranger you just met.  Are we developing and strengthening our relationships or are our relationships declining and dying?
  1. Build Capacity.

Balance is achieved when we establish, build, and maintain capacity in each of the four dimensions of life.  How much time and energy do we give to each of those areas of our lives?  That will only happen if we are intentional about focusing on each of those areas of our lives.

 

Reflect and rate yourself on the four dimensions in your life:

Play …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Work

Intellectual

Couch Potato ………………………………………………………………………………………………..Cross Fit Freak

Physical

Dead……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….Alive

Spiritual

Poor …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Awesome

Relationships/Social

Take this quiz to gauge whether or not you’re headed for burnout. (Pay attention not only to your answers, but also the way you react to the statements.)

1)     Despite getting adequate sleep each night, I wake up tired.

True

False

2)    Lately, I’d define myself as moody.

True

False

3)    Increasingly, I see the negative, or what needs to be fixed, with my work and others’. Positive comments and thoughts are rare.

True

False

4)    My vision or purpose is becoming blurry, or harder to focus on, despite being clear in the past.

True

False

5)    If I were totally honest with myself, I’d say I’m going through the motions at work or home, rather than contributing everything I can.

True

False

6)    I shorten (or wish I could do so) my workday just to leave work or get away.

True

False

7)    I lengthen many workdays to get the job done, instead of delegating or managing my time or mindset more effectively.

True

False

8)    I cut down or stop other activities (such as hobbies or other rejuvenating activities) in order to keep up with work responsibilities.

True

False

9)    I don’t have time to reach out to connect with colleagues,mentors or friends on a regular basis.

True

False

10)  Relationships within and outside of my work are not as strong as they were.

True

False

Score Yourself:

1-4 “True” answers: You should be in the normal ebb and flow of business ownership, or work. Continue to find ways to improve.

5-7 “True” answers: Burnout is rearing its ugly head. Within the next week, schedule two days away from work to reconnect and clarify your vision or purpose, and identify at least 5 action items that you can do to change the course and refuel your engines.

8-10 “True” answers: Stop, your in trouble. Stop everything and take a deep breath. In the next week get away for awhile to revisit your vision and purpose. Reconnect with colleagues and mentors. Write out your vision and an action agenda to get you back on track in doing what is important.

TEN TIPS FOR AVOIDING BURNOUT AND INVITING BALANCE:

  • Breathe deeply
  • Take a walk
  • Eat well
  • Drink water
  • Slow down
  • Team up
  • Sleep well
  • Loosen up
  • Have fun
  • Get away

Where do you need to focus more and be more balanced?

Life Verse

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NewPointe Community Church is currently in a series called “Life Verse”.  A life verse is a Scripture that someone keeps coming back to over and over again and that guides them in their life.  As I thought about that several passages of Scripture came to my mind.  As I thought about which one I should write about I realized that this Scripture is the one that I often quote and talk about.  I’ve used it at weddings and funerals and in mentoring sessions with individuals and couples.  This Scripture is challenging to me and a constant reminder of how I should live my life.

It’s often called the Love chapter because it gives us a very clear description of what love is.  It’s not just one verse, it’s actually 4 verses.  So here it is:

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done. Love takes no pleasure in evil but rejoices over the truth. Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always endures.”

I’ve often put my name in place of love, which makes it personal and very humbling, because I realize that I have a ways to go in understanding and living out this idea of love.  So here are some points about this powerful passage of Scripture.

  • Love is a verb not a noun – This passage is all about the actions that we take not thoughts that we have.  It deals with what kinds of emotions direct our lives and what kind of behaviors come out of us.  Love is all about doing and showing the people around us that we love them.  To be patient, kind and trusting takes actions that show those traits.
  • Love is others focused – When it comes to understanding love it’s all about being focused on the people around us and not on ourselves.  It’s paying attention to the people in our lives and taking the time and energy to love them and serve them.
  • Love is powerful – If love is your base, it can overpower all the negative emotions we struggle with.  Love brings us back to the way God designed us.  It fights against the resistance that pushes us to be selfish, self-centered and negative.  Everyone wants to experience love whether they admit it or not. When we love it shows strength and character.
  • Love is long-term – When we love the way this Scripture says to love it keeps us focused on the big picture and the long-term health of all our relationships.  It looks beyond the current situation or pain and sees how things could and should be.  It allows us to be patient and to trust when the situation doesn’t feel like we should.  Love is what gets us through the dark times in our lives. Love is what picks us up and gets us through.
  • Love Works – We all want to be around people that love well. We are drawn to people that live out these actions.  Jesus was the perfect example of love.  When we put his name in place of love we can say yes that’s Jesus.  I think that is why people were so drawn to him and why so many people are still following him today.  Love really does work, love gets results and changes lives.

So here is the challenge.  We can all grow in this area of love because non of us are Jesus. Love is the key to life because when everything else is stripped away love remains.  Whether it’s loving other people or loving God, that is what changes lives.  When we allow God’s love to penetrate and take over our hearts, our behavior starts to change, our thoughts start to change and our perspective starts to change.

If your relationships are not working ask yourself how much love you have in your heart.  If there is not much there, then turn to God and ask Him to fill it up with that kind of love.

Verse 8 starts off with this – “Love never fails.”  God never fails, he never gives up on us and always believes the best about us even when he knows the worst about us.  Love Well!

The Power of Forgiveness

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One of the most powerful and helpful things we can do to be healthy emotionally, physically and spiritually, is to practice forgiveness.  Forgiveness enables a person to release buried anger, resentment, bitterness, shame, grief, regret, hate and other damaging emotions that live inside of us.  Forgiveness releases layers and years of hurt and begins the healing process.  Forgiveness leads to an ability to love well.

It is important to know what forgiveness is and what it is not.

  • Forgiveness is not forgetting – Forgetting is a long-term by-product of forgiveness.  Once you choose to forgive someone, then healing and forgetting the hurt can start to happen.
  • Forgiveness is a choice – Everyone can choose to forgive, but typically we don’t feel like forgiving, because we like to hold onto our anger or resentment in order to protect ourselves.  When we don’t forgive we stay chained to our past.  Nobody can fix your past, but you can be free from it, it is your choice.
  • Forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequences of another person’s sin – We all have had someone hurt us and we can either live in the bondage of bitterness or the freedom of forgiveness.  No one gets off God’s hook, we all have to give an account for our actions and there are always consequences for our actions.
  • Forgive from the heart – Just saying the words I forgive you is not enough.  It’s important to bring back up the painful emotions and memories of the person that hurt you so that those emotions can be healed and not buried.
  • Forgiveness is choosing not to hold someone’s sin against him or her anymore – This does not mean that you put up with abuse, we all need healthy boundaries and there are consequences for sin.  This means that we won’t bring up old offenses after forgiving someone.  Remember that God freely forgives us and does not hold our sins against us.
  • Don’t wait until you feel like forgiving – Most people will never get there.  Make the hard choice to forgive, even if you don’t feel like it.  Once you choose to forgive, the hold on you is broken and God can start healing your damaged emotions.

We should never base our decision to forgive on a person’s good behavior compensating for previous hurtful behavior.  Forgiveness is something that happens inside of you, it comes from your desire to forgive for the sake of forgiving.  Waiting until a person is worthy of forgiveness will feed your damaged emotions and cause further hurt.

Always remember that it takes only one person to forgive, but it takes two people to reconcile.  You can forgive a person even if they don’t forgive you, but reconciliation always requires the wills of both parties involved.

There is so much more to forgiveness than what is covered here.  Some of the principles I covered come from Neil Anderson and his booklet called Steps to Freedom in Christ.  If your having a hard time making the choice to forgive, ask God to help you.  He can give you the strength to do it.

Encouragement is Incredible

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Being positive and encouraging people is more important than you might think.  If you want to turn around your workplace, your company, your marriage or your relationship with your children this is the way to do it.  Here are some interesting quotes from a great book called How Full Is Your Bucket by Tom Rath:

  • The number #1 reason people leave their jobs (relationships) is they don’t feel appreciated
  • Bad bosses (spouses) could increase the risk of stroke by 33%
  • A study found that negative employees can scare off every customer they speak with-for good
  • 65% of Americans received no recognition in the workplace (home) last year
  • 9 out of 10 people say they are more productive when they’re around positive people
  • The magic ratio: 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction
  • Extending longevity: Increasing positive emotions could lengthen life span by 10 years

So it’s clear that the majority of people don’t get the positive reinforcement they need.  I believe this is true at work and at home.  Some people are just naturally more positive than negative, but all of us can get better at this.  Here are a few simple things you can do this week to be more positive or encouraging:

  1. Say Thank-you – this simple gesture goes a long way.  Be sincere and specific.
  2. Write a note – hand-written notes take time and are more meaningful than emails or texts
  3. Smile – your face matters
  4. Listen – when you actively listen people feel valued
  5. Slow down – Take some time to actually get to know someone or have a meaningful conversation
  6. Touch – a high-five, knuckle-bump, touch on a shoulder etc sends positive signals.  With your spouse this could be a hug, kiss, holding hands etc.

One thing to be aware of as you work on being positive is to be careful what you are taking in.  What you watch on TV, what you read, what you listen to, all affect how positive or negative you are.  Feed your mind positive good things and you tend to be more positive to other people.

Lead On

Love in Action

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I’ve been thinking and studying this idea of love.  I have to say that I need to work on this area of my life.  I think most people would say they can do a better job of loving others.  But for most of us we don’t know what that looks like.  I work at a church so what I look to in order to learn and grow is God’s Word.  I was reading this today and it really struck me and challenged me.  I hope it does the same for you.  This is found in Romans 12:9-21 in the New Century Version of the Bible:

9 Your love must be real. Hate what is evil, and hold on to what is good. 10 Love each other like brothers and sisters. Give each other more honor than you want for yourselves. 11 Do not be lazy but work hard, serving the Lord with all your heart. 12 Be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes, and pray at all times. 13 Share with God’s people who need help. Bring strangers in need into your homes.

14 Wish good for those who harm you; wish them well and do not curse them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and be sad with those who are sad. 16 Live in peace with each other. Do not be proud, but make friends with those who seem unimportant. Do not think how smart you are.

17 If someone does wrong to you, do not pay him back by doing wrong to him. Try to do what everyone thinks is right. 18 Do your best to live in peace with everyone. 19 My friends, do not try to punish others when they wrong you, but wait for God to punish them with his anger. It is written: “I will punish those who do wrong; I will repay them,”[a] says the Lord. 20 But you should do this:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him a drink.
Doing this will be like pouring burning coals on his head.” Proverbs 25:21–22

21 Do not let evil defeat you, but defeat evil by doing good.

Just that first sentence, your love must be real is enough for me today.  You can’t fake love.

Love is all about doing and taking action.  It’s about how we think about ourselves, others and God.  The best way we can worship God is by loving others well.

 

What Grace Does

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I’ve been thinking about grace lately.  What does it mean to give someone grace?  If your a follower of Christ, you’ve heard of God’s grace.  Grace is giving someone something that they don’t deserve.

When the grace of God shapes our relationships, we respond to the sin and weakness of others with grace. So here are some questions to consider:

  • Do you hold people to a higher standard than you hold yourself?
  • Do you fail to overlook minor offenses?
  • Do you spend more time catching people doing wrong than doing right?
  • Are you better at criticizing than encouraging?
  • Do people feel accepted and loved by you or criticized and judged?
  • How do you tend to respond to the weaknesses, sins, and failures of those around you?

A grace mindset enables us to serve others out of a heart of compassion, gentleness, patience, kindness and love.  The closer we get to people the more these attitudes are needed because the closer we get the more we experience their weaknesses and sins.

When grace is shaping our relationships it means we are ready, willing and able to forgive.  Forgiveness starts with a transaction between God and us.  It’s talking to him about the offense and entrusting that person and the offense to God.  That prepares us for the interaction with the person that hurt us.  On our own it is very difficult to truly forgive and let go of the hurt.

Grace also enables us to humbly ask for forgiveness as well.  The truth is that we all hurt others from time to time and need to take responsibility for those actions or words.  When we ask for forgiveness, we are admitting our responsibility for sin against others, without justification, excuse or blame.  Being able to say something like this brings great healing:  “I was wrong for saying __________.  Please forgive me.  I am sorry for the pain I caused you.”

  • Grace enables us to make peace
  • Grace enables us to speak the truth
  • Grace enables us to serve others
  • Grace enables us to grant forgiveness
  • Grace enables us to learn to say no
  • Grace enables us to recognize, develop and use the gifts and abilities God gave us.

Ask God to help you have more grace in your life, it can transform all your relationships and change your circumstances.

How to Communicate with Difficult People

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We all have people in our lives that are hard to get along with.  It may be someone you work with, live beside or even live with.  While we cannot change the other person or force them to treat you differently, you can change the way that you respond to them.  You see, many times it’s the way we respond to bad behavior that drives even more bad behavior.  This is hard to do because we all have emotions and sometimes those emotions can take over and take us down a path that causes more damage.

When we work on ourselves, we can change our attitude, our words and our non-verbal communication.  Here is a simple communication rule that may help you make progress in those difficult relationships:

People who are hard to get along with allow their anger, frustration, insecurity and disappointment to drown out most everything good around them.  The good news is that they don’t act that way all the time, even though it may seem that way.  Eventually they’ll leave the safety of their negative emotions-even it’s only for a moment.  They’ll do or say something nice, show concern, or offer to help with something.  It is in those moments that you need to recognize their best.  Let them know the good you see in them.  Show them how much you care and how much they mean to you.  When you look for and focus on the good in people, you help them to see what is possible in their lives.  You give energy to what is right about them.  Your love and attention creates an environment where they can choose to change and respond differently themselves.

It’s in those critical moments when they do something right that we can choose to be positive and re-enforce good behavior or be negative ourselves and destroy any glimmer of hope.  Every person has some good in them, even though it may be buried deep inside them.