By Barbara J Peters
Want a loving relationship to last? With all the communication problems that exist between two people it is no wonder why loving relationships are hard to maintain. Communication falters on many occasions leaving the two people frustrated and disconnected. Being able to accurately read your significant other’s thoughts and feelings can make the difference between hearing wedding bells or a nasty break up.
According to a recent study from Harvard University, “being able to accurately read your partner’s emotions and believing that your partner is trying to understand your emotions is related to relationship satisfaction.” In other words: Empathy can be a secret for a happier relationship.
Developing empathy is a little like working out and building a muscle. It takes a choice, each and every day. Activating that “empathy muscle” takes some stretching. Some work. And sometimes it’s just plain uncomfortable. But choosing empathy is a skill and a habit that you can learn.
Want a loving relationship? Try these 3 secrets.
Develop empathy. Get into his or her shoes, even if they are not your size. I was sitting with a couple today and the female was complaining that he couldn’t see that her friendship with a male friend of long ago was harmless. I asked her how she would feel if he was the one with the “friend” relationship of the opposite sex? She replied, “that happened a few years ago.” So I said, “and how did it make you feel?” To this she replied, “hurt, unloved and confused.” This exercise helped her understand intellectually and from a feeling level exactly how her partner was currently feeling.
Practice reflective listening. Listen for emotional messages and avoid defensiveness. Emotional messages aren’t the same as verbal statements – they’re the feelings behind the words. Look beyond the words and find the meaning, even if the other person is having trouble articulating it. Then paraphrase the content back so that it can be validated for accuracy. Instead of assuming you understand how he or she feels, let the other person tell you when you’ve expressed their feeling clearly.
Be willing to apologize for mistakes without sounding trite. Letting someone know you messed up and want to do better is a gift from the heart. Nothing means more than an honest expression of a wrong doing, an open admission of responsibility and a willingness to do it a different way.
Whatever secret you choose, make sure it is consistent. Doing something for a day or a week is merely putting a band aid on the cut. Do it from the heart and do it with the intent to make it forever. Relationships are not made in heaven, but you can be in heaven if you put the effort in everyday to get there.
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