Truth or Myth: In Order To Be Vulnerable, You Need To Be Courageous

Truth! Society often portrays being vulnerable as the opposite of courage—that if you are vulnerable that you are weak. You need to be invincible and so we seek to try and control as much of the outcomes that we can. However, the truth is that courage and vulnerability work hand in hand and it takes vulnerability to be courageous. The truth is that it takes courage to be the first to say that you are sorry and that takes being vulnerable. It takes courage to bring a child in this world and that means being vulnerable realizing you don’t know how to be a parent. It takes courage to put yourself out there in the dating world and risk rejection and that requires being vulnerable.

Brene Brown, the vulnerability guru, emphasizes this truth about courage and vulnerability describing a visit to Fort Bragg (the largest military base in the world—and where my brother-in-law and his family will be stationed in a few months):

“I was recently at Fort Bragg speaking to soldiers and joint special operations. It’s a hard group to talk about vulnerability with, because in a combat situation vulnerability equals death, and their job is to minimize vulnerability. So I asked them to come up with an example of courage that they’ve witnessed that wasn’t completely defined by a willingness to be vulnerable, a willingness to engage in risk, uncertainty, and emotional exposure. And no one could come up with an example.”

So take the leap of faith and have the courage it takes to be vulnerable. Vulnerability holds a lot of power. When you risk and reach out, that is where the magic happens, where connections are made and strengthened. As Brene Brown says: “Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage. Tell me how vulnerable someone is willing to be, and I’ll tell you how brave they’re willing to be.” Be Brave!

5 Ways Humility Can Help You Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

There is a natural tendency that we all have to compare. Even a two year-old is capable of quickly recognizing if they have less fruit snacks than their siblings. Comparing in of itself is not wrong and can be a valuable skill set—for example– comparison shopping can allow you to get the best deal on your new phone, car or groceries. However, we often have a tendency of comparing apples to oranges. We will look at our weaknesses and compare them to the strengths of others. We will stand in awe of the woman who obviously makes it to the gym in the morning when we are struggling to get our kids to school on time. We will focus on something we are struggling with and then notice the person who seems to excel in that area and this usually does not foster positive feelings towards that person. This usually leads in the direction of self-loathing and being critical of our ourselves and our weaknesses or to feelings of envy and jealousy of the person we view as successful in an area we are lacking in. However, there is one characteristic that everyone can develop that will directly counter these outcomes of our natural tendency to compare: humility.

One: Being humble is a way that you can still recognize your own weaknesses and the strengths of another without the overwhelming negative feelings. Humility allows you to recognize and remember that we all have strengths and we all have weaknesses that we can improve. Humility allows us know that there is room for growth in all of us for a reason. We can focus on our own self-improvement and look of ways to work on and get better and allow others the same opportunity.

Two: Being humble also helps us to be kind to ourselves. When my mom is overwhelmed, she often says, “I am only one person.” It is helpful to remember this and that we are not meant to be more than just one person–a person who will make mistakes–a person with flaws but a person who is learning. We are one person but we make a huge difference.

Three: Being humble allows us to create true connections. It does not mean being weak nor that we should allow ourselves to be at the dictates of someone else. Recognizing that we have weaknesses does not mean that we negate our strengths. In fact, it helps us relate and connect more to others realizing that we all have strengths and things that we offer to this world that make a difference. Humility allows for us to reach out for help when we need it and creates connections with others which is the strongest predictor of happiness. (truth-or-myth-connection-is-the-strongest-predictor-of-happiness)

Four: Being humble also allows us to remember that everything we have–our time, our talents and skills, our health and energy, even our very lives come as free gifts from God. When you recognize that you have been given talents and gifts, it makes it much easier to share them.

Five: Being humble means being teachable. We can seek to learn from those that have strengths in areas that we might be lacking. We are not meant to know everything but we are meant be be able to learn. Being humble is what makes the true difference in learning. My daughter was having a difficult time with a particular subject in math. I can remember this feeling as I was in math class in high school. Math had been pretty simple for me growing up and then for some reason geometry happened and I can remember looking around in class thinking I was the only person who just wasn’t getting it. My counsel for my daughter was the same counsel I would have given my 9th grade self–raise your hand. Acknowledge if something is hard for you to understand. Your teacher does understand it and can help you. When you acknowledge what you don’t know, you allow your mind to focus on learning that exact information. Humility is the key to learning.

So, the next time you recognize the feelings of envy that are derived from comparing, give yourself a dose of humility. Refocus your energy on ways in which you can use the talents that you have been given and look to learn from those around you. Being humble makes a real difference.

Truth or Myth?: Forgiveness means that you forget. Myth! {Find out how knowing the truth about forgiveness can help you be more successful.}

Forgiveness is not easy. However, there are a few key myths that make it so forgiveness is even harder than it needs to be. One of the most perpetuated myths is that “You Forgive and You Forget.” Forgiveness does not mean amnesia. We are not meant to have a “Skip That Chapter” mindset in order to forgive. In fact, if you forget there were atrocities, we are likely to repeat those atrocities and if we don’t deal with our past adequately, it will return to haunt us. From an evolutionary standpoint, our brains are wired to remember negative events so that we don’t get bitten by the saber tooth tiger twice.

Forgiveness is not forgetting or pretending that things happened differently than they did. Forgiveness is knowing and believing that chapters in a book are simply that- chapters and not the end. It is the ability to know that you have the power to move forward and write the next chapter without holding onto the anger and the hurt. Forgiveness is the way for you to have a path to move forward to write your story. It does not mean that restitution or justice should not be required or that in order to completely forgive that they need to be a part of your life. Clear boundaries are an actually an essential part of the forgiveness process.

My favorite way to understand forgiveness is a quote by Paul Coleman, a licensed therapist and contributing author to the book, “Exploring Forgiveness”:

“When you forgive, you do not forget the season of cold completely, but neither do you shiver in its memory.”

Forgiveness does not mean that we need to forget but through the process of forgiveness the emotions and feelings–that at the time were so intense and had the power if left there to fester to write a different ending for ourselves– those feelings will dwindle and diminish. Forgiveness does not mean that anger or hurt vanishes immediately but it will wither in time. Despite genuine efforts to forgive, some remnants of the old hurt may remain but they will remind us of that cold season and how far we now have come and how those feelings do not have the power to continue to be the focus of our lives and write our stories. There is no greater gift that you can give to yourself than forgiveness which allows you to flip the page and begin again.

Three Valuable Tips Learned From Being An Ambulance Driver That Will Improve Your Relationship

When my brother was younger, he worked as an ambulance driver. This is a job that I would struggle to do well at since I have a difficult time seeing a bloody nose let alone a more serious injury, but is something that my peacemaker brother really excelled at. He would receive a call with an address and arrive at the scene of an accident where first aid was administered to the person who required the most treatment regardless of who was at fault. That means if a driver was speeding and runs a red light and accidently hits another vehicle but ends up more injured than the other vehicle, the paramedics are trained to treat the speeding driver first.

There are several things about being an ambulance driver that could be really helpful in dealing with the emotional injuries in our relationships. Here are three valuable tips learned from being an ambulance driver that will improve your relationship.

One: Just like an ambulance driver is not aware of what they are dealing with when they receive a call for help, many times we are just as clueless when we are dealing with a situation or an argument. When they arrive on scene they have little information and a few facts. This is important to remember for us as well. Even if we think we have more facts about the situation we are arguing, it is important to remember that we are naturally biased. We are looking at things through our own biased lenses and we are much more capable of knowing our own thoughts and feelings {since we are the ones experiencing them} than we are at knowing the thoughts and feelings of another {since the only way we truly know what they are thinking or feeling is what they communicate}. Also, naturally speaking from an evolutionary standpoint, anytime we feel hurt, we are going to be more prone to dealing with our own emotions rather than hearing the thoughts or feelings of another. There is a Japanese story that really does a good job illustrating this point:

The man doesn’t know that there is a snake underneath.The woman doesn’t know that there is a stone pressing on the man.

The woman thinks: “I am going to fall! and I can’t climb because the snake is going to bite me! Why can’t the man use a little more strengh and pull me up!”

The man thinks: “I am in so much pain! Yet I’m still pulling you as much as I can! why don’t you try and climb a little harder?!”

The moral is: You can’t see the pressure the other party is under, and the other party can’t see pain you’re in. This is life, no matter whether it’s with work, family, feelings, friends, family, you should try to understand each other, learn to think differently, think of each other, and communicate better. It is important to remember that we don’t know everything.

Broken Heart with Band Aid

Two: After arrival on the scene, the focus of the ambulance driver is immediately on healing. When the ambulance arrives, they are not looking for blame or an explanation. Their goal is to help and administer aid as soon as they can. In fact, many times they begin treating the patient who in fact was the cause of the accident. There is power in being able to take a step back, look at the argument from the viewpoint of an ambulance driver and work on healing rather than being right. When you get in an argument, it is helpful to recognize it the way an ambulance driver would. It is important to recognize and acknowledge what is happening. You are in an argument and regardless of how you got there and whose fault it is that you are here it is happening and your objective just like an ambulance driver should be focused on healing rather than looking for blame, an explanation or to justify hurt feelings (no matter how valid you feel that they are). You can simply acknowledge that you are here that you have had an accident and you don’t want to stay hurt. With a few simple, sincere phrases, you can stop the bleeding and change the focus to be on healing. For example, “I don’t want to fight.” or ” “You matter to me. I’m sorry.” Remember the goal is to heal. Are the words you are speaking working towards that goal even if you are the hurt party in this situation or are they a hindrance to healing? Healthy couples argue and fight but they are quick to repair, fix the hurts and reconnect. Injuries in relationships are inevitable and learning how to repair those injuries is a necessary lifeskill.

Three: The final lesson to be learned from viewing relationships from the viewpoint of an ambulance driver is that speed matters. I was always envious of my ambulance driving brother at times when I was stuck in traffic and late for an event that my brother was able to ignore traffic signals and circumvent the rules of the road to transfer patients. However, my brother would probably be the first to tell you that when he had a patient enroute to a hospital, his main objective was doing his best to get his patient where they needed to be to get the treatment they needed as quickly and safely as possible. This objective should be the same for us with our relationships. Speed and time matter too–and when we are hurt, we often can stonewall or try not to care so much building a wall to protect ourselves and offer the silent treatment to our spouse. This is crucial time as emotional disconnection hurts our relationship more that the injury itself. Forgiveness is a process that begins with the decision to choose to forgive and not necessarily with waiting for the feeling to want to forgive. If you wait until you feel forgiving before you choose to forgive, it may be a long and arduous wait. Seeking to forgive doesn’t mean that instantaneously the hurt feelings simply evaporate but it does allow for a path to move forward on rather to stay in isolation. Be mindful of the fact that emotional injuries derail relationships. You can inflict a great deal of pain on your partner simply because you matter so much–you are the one they depend on. Forgiveness is the key to reconnecting and repairing relationships and the faster you can get to that place of healing for yourself, the better the outcome.

The truth is that accidents happen. What makes the biggest difference in the happiness of couples is not that their spouse never did anything that hurt the other but that they were quick at acknowledging hurt or pain, quick to apologize and seeking to forgive. There is a lot that can be learned by looking at our relationships and treating them the way an ambulance driver would allowing you to be able to quickly repair any emotional injuries you may encounter.

Truth or Myth: Feeling Depressed and Suffering from Depression Are The Same. Myth! {Four Ways Suffering From Depression Differs}

Myth! Feeling depressed and suffering from depression are two very different things. So what is the difference? For the sake of being able to differentiate the two distinct emotions, I am going to substitute the word sadness for feeling depressed. Here are four ways to be able to distinguish whether or not what you are feeling is sadness or if you are suffering from depression.

How Does Sadness Differ From Depression?

One: Sadness is a normal emotion that EVERYONE will experience at some point in their life. Whether it is because of a friend moving away, or the end of a relationship, the death of a loved one, snowfall in May, or the last cookie being eaten, sadness is usually triggered by a specific situation, person or event. However, with depression, no such trigger is needed. A person suffering from depression feels sad or hopeless about everything. This feeling of sadness becomes so pervasive that suffering from depression causes you to lose the ability to experience pleasure or joy.

Two: Sadness lasts for a temporary time–you might feel down for a few days about the event or situation, but you are still able to enjoy simple things- the smile of your grandchild, your favorite tv show, or your favorite food. With depression, you no longer enjoy activities that you may have once enjoyed. Clients have best described this feeling as “numbness”.

Three: When you experience sadness, you may slightly change up how much you sleep–either more or less–but you are able to sleep as you usually would. Your desire to eat or motivation to accomplish things diminished slightly but you still have an appetite and are able to accomplish some things during your day. When you experience depression, your sleeping and eating patterns are completely disrupted. You have a lack of energy, an overall feeling of fatigue with a diminished capacity to focus and make decisions.

Four: One of the most distinguishing things from feelings of sadness to suffering from depression is your thoughts. With sadness, you might feel remorse or regret for something you said or did, but there is no permanence. Those who are suffering from depression often experience an intense sense of worthlessness and self-directed negative thought patterns. Thoughts of self-harm or suicidal thoughts are not experienced by those feeling sadness but can be pervasive when suffering from depression.

Whether or not you are experiencing sadness, or suffering from depression, there is hope. Although we all experience moments of sadness and depressing events will happen in this life, these feelings were not meant to be permanent. If you can no longer feel joy in your life or have thoughts of self harm or ending your life as an escape from this unending pain, know that there is hope and help. No matter how low you may feel now, there is a way to enjoy life again. This is a road to recovery that is not walked alone. Seek out a trained professional and/or call and speak with a clinically trained professional at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for free 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 or text “talk” to 741-741.

The Art of Inclusion: Two Lessons From “Chalk Day” That Can Erase Bullying

This past week I was able to spend some quality time volunteering at my children’s elementary school. I was lucky enough to be able to pass the last afternoon with 16 of some of the most extraordinary Kindergarten kids on the planet on one of the best days of the year: “C” Day or better known as “Chalk Day”. They were simply given two large buckets of chalk to share and then were given free reign to draw on any of the concrete within the Kindergarten gates (and of course admonished to not draw on themselves or the actual school building 😉 ). I watched in awe as they all, armed with their stick of chalk, went and staked their claim on their concrete slab that would become some of the greatest masterpieces.

I loved how there were no two drawings alike and not one of them seemed worried that they had drawn something different than their classmates. They each seemed to value their own ideas and even if they struggled to make the design come to life that they pictured in their head, they didn’t stop trying. One little girl became frustrated with the star she was drawing. As I bent down to see her drawing I complimented her choice to stick with it. I told her how I could remember being little and practicing drawing stars over and over to try and get it right-just like learning to snap my fingers. I also told her that every star is different but they all light up at night. Reinvigorated, she turned her square into a twinkling skyline that would brighten anyone’s night.

At the end of “Chalk Day”, each student wrote their name under the phrase, “We love Mrs. Wilson” that I wrote. Every name was once again as unique as the personalities that drew it, and together, the combined art became a masterpiece. Experiencing “Chalk Day” reminded me of two points that are the key to address and erase bullying: Kindness and Inclusion.

Kindness matters. Not only is it important to be kind to others, it is really important to be kind to yourself. When things didn’t go as originally planned, I loved how the little girl drawing stars persevered despite the challenges. Eventually, she knew she would get better even if she wasn’t the best right at this moment. This kindness that she showed to herself, to be able to allow for progression, allows her to show more kindness to others. Those who show the most bullying behavior are often the ones who experience the least acts of kindness and have lost this skill to be kind to themselves. It is important to remember that we are all a work in progress.

The second key to decreasing bullying is inclusion. The world was created to be different. Somehow as we grow older we lose the ability to recognize that our differences and what makes us unique is what makes us stronger. Instead, we have a tendency to try and fit into what we view as expectations rather than focus on progressing and growing the talents and abilities that we have been blessed with. Maya Angelou was quoted as saying, “It is time for parents to teach young people early on, that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”

There is an importance to not just accept but celebrate our differences and that we are unique. I loved how each student on “Chalk Day” had their own idea of what they wanted to draw—no one was worried about what was expected and each felt valued for what they wanted to contribute. I can assure you that unfortunately “Chalk Day” in my daughter’s 4th grade class would not have been the same as it was for my son in Kindergarten as they are already concerned with fitting into the “norm” and meeting expectations. How boring would this world be if we all drew the same art with the same stick of chalk? Different view points and talents are what make the world diverse and together the world is better and stronger. Every parent desires for their child to fit in and it is heartbreaking when you recognize when they are being excluded. The greater lesson to teach your child is how to embrace their being created to be unique and how their gifts and talents matter in the world. Help them to recognize and celebrate the uniqueness in others. Once as I was leaving a tumbling class with a group of young tumblers and their mothers, a tumbler looked at the sucker one of the classmates was delightfully devouring. With all the disgust a 4 year old could muster, she turned to her friends and pointed at the classmate and said “Gross!”. The young girl quickly pulled out her sucker and was about to put it in the trash when I intervened and said, “Isn’t it great that God gave us all our own tongues to decide what we think is gross?” The girl quickly reinserted her sucker into her mouth and said, “My tongue loves it!” There are unique things about us all that need to be recognized and celebrated.

So, today’s tip: Learn the art of inclusion. Seek to develop an inclusion mindset– to look for ways to include others and create an environment where everyone has value. Find ways to celebrate the differences of others and to share what is unique about you. This world was created to be full of diversity and everyone contributes to this masterpiece.

Truth or Myth? Curiosity May Kill The Cat, But It Can Save Your Relationship. Truth!

The truth is that our brains are wired to crave new things. Our brains love to learn new things and you can see from a survivalist standpoint why our brains would want to notice and be alerted to new things and thus survive any new threat or overcome any new obstacle. However, unlike the curiosity that kills the cat, maintaining or creating this curiosity in your relationship can actually can save it.

There are two ways that curiosity can save your marriage. For one, curiosity is the spark that can ignite your brain to pay more attention. Remember when you first met your spouse? How you wanted to know everything about them? Psychologist Dorothy Tennov back in the 1970s first coined the phrase limerance which refers to the sometimes intense state of mind at the beginning of a relationship–where you want to know everything about that person and want them to reciprocate the same desire.
Since then, there have been several studies on the effects of “falling in love” and the brain. Researchers have found that increased levels of dopamine are released in your brain which are responsible for the feelings of pleasure and euphoria. Love is like an addictive drug. When the novelty of a new relationship wears off as your brain chemistry changes (usually around 12-18 months), you can jump start your desire to continue to learn more about your spouse by simply staying curious. What is their favorite part of the day? What is something they have always wanted to do but never done before? How do they feel loved? What is something that makes them feel successful? Curiosity is what can keep your desire to increase your connection with your spouse even after the novelty wears off.

The second way curiosity can save your relationship is by being curious together. Recent research by Dr. Arthur Aron, a professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and one of the top researchers on romantic love, indicates that couples can recharge their romantic chemistry by intentionally opting for novelty in something new they do together. In these studies, couples who engaged in fresh activities gave their relationship significantly better satisfaction ratings afterward.

The theory is that dopamine and norepinephrine highs are generated both by novel activities and romantic love. To some degree, your brain doesn’t care whether the source of the high is from your partner or the things you do together. When you do something new, interesting or exciting together, some of the novelty chemistry positively impacts your relationship.

So, go on a new adventure- learn a new skill you have never learned before (snowboarding, horseback riding, deep sea diving, kayaking etc), go to a new picnic spot, take up a new hobby together, move the furniture, try a new restaurant. Do something novel together and see how being curious about each other and new activities can excite and save your relationship and increase your connection. Yes, novelty by design wears off, but curiosity never has to.

Number One Advice Tip for Newlyweds That Will Improve Your Relationship No Matter How Long You Have Been Married

It seems like any bridal shower you attend, there is a plethora of advice given for the bride and groom. I mean, you hear you whole life that marriage is hard and yet it can be hard to fathom why when you are in the bliss of dating. There is one piece of advice that I usually share with the ‘Brides to Be’ but in reality, it is the number one thing that will improve your relationship no matter how long you have been married. And it is this: If you want your spouse to continue a behavior, you simply need to express your gratitude for it everytime that they do it.

Everyone enjoys to be recognized and acknowledged by the one that they love. Especially when you were first dating, you would be quick to open doors or to send them a text to let them know that you were thinking of them. As a newlywed, you are constantly doing small acts of service to show your new spouse that you are thinking of them whether it is a packing a lunch for them for the next day or leaving a love note in their car that they would find later. However, seemingly without even noticing, these small acts dwindle and the routine to think of yourself returns. You no longer acknowledge when they do the dishes or wash the car–in fact, it becomes almost like the standard division of tasks and it turns those things to become automatically expected. We are more quick to acknowledge when they don’t wash the dishes or if the car looks dirty.  The lack of gratitude tends to lead to criticism that can invade your relationship and sometimes can damage your relationship beyond repair.

Acknowledgement and gratitude are the things that will make the biggest difference in turning that around. So take a moment to figure out what act of service makes you feel loved and make a point to acknowledge and express your gratitude for it–even if it is something that you already expect. If you spouse says you look nice today, instead of replying in her head, “Well, took him long enough to notice!” say, “Thank you. It means a lot that you noticed.” Or when your spouse makes a point to send you a text or call you, make sure you acknowledge the effort and say thank you and let them know the impact that it made. They will want to repeat a behavior when they feel like it matters and you express gratitude for it. Life is full of repetitive needs–cooking, mowing the lawn or shoveling the driveway, cleaning, driving to work, dishes, laundry etc… These mundane tasks can become ways you can look for to express your gratitude for the ways in which your spouse meets your needs. Expressing gratitude is the antidote for criticism and is the key to improving and sustaining a healthy relationship. So, look for ways to express gratitude for what you have and make it a habit to acknowledge and express gratitude for the little things. Gratitude is the antidote to criticism and will improve and strengthen your relationship before, during and after you walk down the aisle.

Truth or Myth: Any Therapist Will Be Able to Help You Where You Need To Go

Myth! The truth is that just like in any profession, there are those that are good at their jobs and there are those that are not. Sadly, therapists are no different and they are not created the same. Just as you wouldn’t want to take your car to just any mechanic but would search out for one that was qualified and able to address the needs of your car, you are going to want to invest in finding a therapist is qualified and will be able to address your needs or the needs (or the needs of a loved one) as well. It is a very difficult road to come to the decision to seek out a therapist and often because it is a hard decision, many enter the search to find a therapist under duress and will often see the first person they can get into. When you are at the crossroads of looking for a therapist, it is important to know that finding the right therapist is essential in order to get the outcome that you are looking for. Here are five tips to finding the right therapist for you.

https://practicallyspeakingwithbrita.com/2019/02/01/how-to-find-a-good-therapist-five-tips-to-finding-the-right-therapist-for-you/

Tuesday Tip: The Vital Skill of Listening {Including 6 Tips to Improve Your Listening Skills}

What is the most powerful antidote to grief and pain, the key to healing and the key to progress that doesn’t cost a thing? Listening.

Listening is a vital skill that can always be improved and listening is the number one way to improve your relationships. The truth is that people start to heal the minute they feel heard. Here are 6 ways you can improve your listening skills.

Be Present.  Listening is a gift that doesn’t require any money but it does require that you be present. Devote the time and energy necessary to have a conversation. We all have been part of a conversation where it quickly becomes obvious that the person really isn’t listening to us but is changing the channel on the tv at the same time or looking at their phone. It is obvious and you can tell. If time constraints or other aspects of life do not permit you do devote the time necessary to listen, simply express that to the person and set up another time when you can listen. Example: “I need to take your sister to school right now, can we talk when I get back?”

Be Focused. Listening can be hard work and we are easily distracted. Focusing is required to be able to block out the world of distractions including the urge to check your phone or be preoccupied with what you are going to cook for dinner. While it is normal to have your mind wander and be distracted– it is a skill that you can develop to focus and listen to what someone else is saying.

Be Curious. One way to keep you focused and engaged on the conversation at hand is to remain curious. If you go into conversations with curiosity and genuine interest in what they are trying to communicate, the person you are communicating with can feel it and respond.

Be Aware. According to a study done by Ray Birdwhistell back in 1970, he determined that 35% of communication is verbal or the words we use and 65% of communication is nonverbal or the facial expressions and body language. Basically what that means is you communicate more with your posture and body language and how you say things than what you actually say. So, you need to make sure you are aware of not only those nonverbal expressions of the person you are listening to but what you are portraying as well. Are you maintaining eye contact? Do you have a tone of voice that exhibits that you care? Are you facial expressions demonstrating that you are invested in the conversation? Good listening requires that you are aware of how you and the speaker are communicating.

Be Open-Minded. It has been said that we can only do one thing effectively at a time: listen, judge, or respond. If you are already calculating a judgement about what you are are hearing, you are no longer listening. It is imperative that you listen to the entire message. Be ready to hear and consider all sides of an issue. This does not mean that you have to agree with what is being said, but after you listen to the message, then you can weigh your thoughts against what has been said, and finally respond. A lot of times when you are listening you can put a lot of pressure on yourself to have a response but it is important to know that it also okay not to have an immediate response and to say, “I’m going to need to think about that.”

The truth is that listening does not mean agreement. Listening does not force us to silence our own opinions, it just asks us to show respect to the opinions of others. It actually communicates a willingness to communicate and to keep an open-mind.

Be Reflective. The idea is to give the speaker some proof that you are listening. You can show that you understand where the speaker is coming from by reflecting the speaker’s feelings. “You must be so excited! That sounds awful! I can understand why you would be confused.” Reflection can also be done through just a nod or an appropriate facial expression or an occasional “hmmm” or “uh huh”. Paraphrasing what you are hearing also helps to show that you are listening: “So, you thought you would be able to get a second interview but then they never called you back? That is disappointing.” Reflect what you are hearing or the feelings you are perceiving so that you can make sure the message you are receiving is what the speaker is intending to send. When listening to someone talk about a problem, refrain from suggesting solutions or offering advice unless they ask you for it. Listening doesn’t require you to provide solutions but if somewhere during the conversation, you do have a brilliant solutions, simply ask the speaker’s permission: “Would you like to hear my ideas?” Listening simply requires you to be reflective of their thoughts and feelings rather than inserting your own ideas.

So, today’s Tuesday Tip: Make a goal to improve your listening skills. It is the number one way to improve your relationships and although listening doesn’t cost any money, learning to listen is the best investment you can make.