By David Joel Miller.
Is politeness in short supply?
You don’t have to look far to notice a decline in politeness. Rude behavior seems to be the order of the day. We might be able to blame this decline in politeness on the media. Reality TV, politicians, and talk shows set an extremely poor example. It would be easier to forgive these public displays of incivility if the rude behaviors were spilling over into our close relationships.
Family counselors, particularly those who do couples counseling see a severe lack of politeness within the family. Research tells us that most people are far more polite to strangers than they are to those described as their “loved ones.”
Distressed families, couples headed for a breakup, are the ones who have run out of positive feelings for each other. One way to keep your close relationships positive is to practice your politeness closer to home. Here are some tips for improving politeness with your family and friends.
Give genuine compliments, not backhanded ones.
Say you did a great job, not “well you finally did something right.” Make it a point to notice when those close to you do something praiseworthy. Commenting on the accomplishments of your loved ones should be a time to build them up not an opportunity to try to make yourself feel better by putting them down.
Say what you can or will do.
Avoid focusing on what you can’t or won’t do. Constant negative expressions poison relationships. Rather than always being on the defensive, look for ways to express things positively. If someone asks you to help them today, avoid the temptation to assert yourself by setting boundaries in a negative manner. Rather than complaining that they are always expecting you to do things, consider a polite reply. Instead of saying “no, I can’t do everything for you,” say “I can help you with that this weekend.”
Avoid self-centeredness. Before responding think first about their needs and their feelings. Avoid defensiveness and try to see things from others point of view. Look for ways to create positive interactions.
Focus on the new.
Let go of the resentments of the past. Continuing to rehash the resentments of the past damages relationships in the present. The way to get over past hurts is to create pleasant experiences in the present. Look for ways to strengthen relationships rather than ways to get even. Think of your relationship as being part of the team. The team doesn’t win by fighting each other. It’s a hollow victory if you win by hurting your partner in destroying your relationship.
Notice the positive in people and situations.
Be careful to avoid putting those close to you down. Whatever you pay attention to, you will get more of. Always picking on the faults of those close to you, turns the relationship negative. When people conclude there’s no way to please you, that everything they do is wrong, they learn to be helpless and give up trying. Focusing on the positive creates a happier relationship.
Show appreciation whenever possible.
Do not complain, nag or berate others. Avoid the attitude of expecting everyone to always do what you want. Show them some appreciation. Make it a point to notice all the helpful things others do for you every day. When you show appreciation, you make it easier for others to appreciate you.
Let them finish talking.
Do not interrupt. Especially when you think you’ve heard this before, practice patience. When you hear people out, you may be surprised at the things they say you were not expecting. Being willing to hear someone out is a sign of respect. If you want to be respected, you need to respect others.
Listen to them. Do not monopolize the conversation.
It is more important to understand other’s points of view than to sell yours. Do not monopolize the conversation. It’s not a conversation if one person does all the talking. Listening involves more than hearing the words. Pay attention to the feelings behind the words they are saying.
Evaluate ideas, not people.
Do not put yourself or others down. Lots of ideas look good on paper. It’s natural for people to think their ideas have merit. When you disagree, stay focused on the idea. Avoid calling people stupid or ignorant. Trying to win arguments by attacking others damages relationships.
David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.) Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
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Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.
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