In my experience, the hard things are difficult, but not complicated. Regardless of whether a relationship is difficult because it is complicated, because you are going through a rough season, or you are over your head, there are some basic things that you can do to change how you see the relationship and in the process change yourself.
According to the Oxford dictionary, the English language currently has about 600,000 words. If you have an average vocabulary, you use around 12-20,000 words. Just for context, really smart people use around 25,000 words. This means that even the Smarties out there only use about 4 % of our available words!
We don’t need a lot of words to create decent relationships, a respectful workplace or a better society. By my count, it will only take about 20 words.
The 20 words that will improve your relationships in 2017:
Please and Thank You
I get it, this is basic. In fact, these four words are part of communication basic training… or rather they should be. I cannot tell you how hard it is to teach your kids just to say these four little words. Things like opening doors for strangers, helping someone you don’t know lift a heavy object like a TV at Costco, and saying please and thanks are the basics. In reality, Please and Thank You are like Salt and Pepper. They should be used everywhere.
Excuse Me – Interrupting others communicates that what you need is more important than what they need. Will it kill us to wait for a minute? If you really need help waiting for the other person to finish what they are saying, you could try one of the following suggestions:
- Meditate for 60 seconds
- Count sheep
- Practice an Inner Ninja routine (whatever that is, go for it).
Okay, the previous three are not recommended because they are simply alternative ways to ignore the person you are with. Want to do something radical? When you are talking to someone, just listen.
When we wait until the other person is focused and when we say excuse me, we show respect. A habit of talking over other people is like being a verbal bulldozer. It is just another way of saying that my needs or ideas are better than yours so I will bulldoze you.
The Well on friendship: The good, the bad and the toxic. Post continues after audio.
I’m Sorry and How Am I Doing Now?
It is easy to say I am sorry, but it takes balls to ask for feedback on how we are doing. Some of us will use Sorry like reverse permission. We say sorry after the fact, but it means nothing because we meant to do it and we’ll just do it again. But when we try to change and ask the other person how we are doing, we communicate that we are serious about it.