You probably have a person(s) in your life with whom you would like to connect better with or have a better relationship with. Below are some skills that will help you improve that relationship or any relationship in your life.
1. Extend Grace
Just as we are extended grace by God for our shortcomings, we also must extend grace to others.
When you extend grace to someone, you are being “for” them in the way that God is for them.
You are letting them know you are on their side. It means accepting their flaws and weaknesses.
It can also involve forgiving them of a grievance you may have against them. That doesn’t mean you condone or forget a wrong done to you, but it does mean you choose to forgive and not seek retaliation for the hurt they caused you. Prepare/Enrich says,
Forgiveness is the decision or choice to give up the right for vengeance, retribution, and negative thoughts.
That is often a part of extending grace.
2. Practice Acceptance
Acceptance is what happens when you receive all of someone in a relationship according to Dr. John Townsend. In his book, Loving People, he says:
When you accept someone, you connect with all parts of them, good and bad, strong and weak, healthy and broken. You may not agree with everything about them, but you accept the reality of all of them.
Again, this is how God treats us and we in turn need to do the same with others.
3. Actively Listen
Active listening is the ability to let a person know you understand them by restating their message.
In a sense you are becoming a mirror to them. Harville Hendrix, the co-founder of Imago couples therapy, explains that you mirror or reflect back as clearly and simply as you can what the other person is saying.
Hendrix suggests you mirror as “flatly” as possible. What that means is as much as possible, mirror back what is being said WITHOUT DISTORTION. Resist the tendency to explain, justify, defend, attack or solve problems. You are just mirroring back what the other person has said in your own words.
The active listening process lets the sender know whether or not the message they sent was clearly understood by having the listener restate what they heard.
You can begin by saying, “I heard you say….”, then you can end with, “Did I get that right?”.
Watch this married couple show you an example of how it is done.
4. Validate Feelings
We all need our feelings to be validated.
Dr. John Townsend says:
To validate is to attribute reality and seriousness to something or someone. Validation comes from the term valid, meaning “grounded and meaningful.” So when someone validates your experiences, they are saying, in effect, “What you are saying and feeling is real, and I’m taking it seriously, because I take you seriously.” They are, in effect, placing a “validation stamp” on your feelings, in the same way that a judge validates a contract between two parties. As the agreement is now a binding reality, so your experience is a reality that makes a difference to the other person.
When you validate someone you are letting that person know their feelings are real and important. It doesn’t mean you are agreeing with what the feelings are saying but you are acknowledging how the feel is real.
Dr. Townsend goes on to say:
Nothing can disconnect and shut us down quicker than to take a risk and tell a person something from our heart, only to be told, “That’s not how you really feel” or “That’s not right.” Our feelings are our feelings. We need to know those emotions matter and are serious business to someone.
Here are some validating statements you can use according to Harville Hendrix.
- Given what you have gone through, what you are saying makes sense…
- From your viewpoint, I can see that there is some logic in what you are saying…
- Now that I have heard more of your feelings, I’m starting to understand this…
Dr. John Townsend says:
Empathy is one of our most basic needs. It is an emotional aspect of relationship. It has to do with allowing another person to feel with us, to feel what we are feeling. If you are sad, the person feels sad along with you. If you are happy, the person feels happy with you also. They are not actually feeling your feelings; your feelings are yours and theirs are theirs. But they are experiencing their version of the emotions you feel. Empathy is a way of identifying with the experience of someone else, not on an intellectual level but an emotional one.
Harville Hendrix shares these examples of empathetic statements:
- It looks like you are feeling. . .
- What is it like for you to feel so . . .
- How do you experience that feeling?
- That must be difficult to feel so. . . how does it affect your life?
- Listening to you this closely, I’m feeling some of your pain
- My heart aches as I listen to what you are feeling. . .
He also add these cautions:
- Stay away from agreeing or disagreeing.
- Don’t solve the problem. . .problem solving NEGATIVELY impacts this
- Work on not talking about yourself.
- If you counterattack this process will shut down.
I find myself continuing to work on these 5 skills with my job, my marriage, my kids, and all other relationships in my life.
Check out my book on Amazon: Out of Control: Finding Hope in a Broken World.