What’s your New Year’s Resolution? Losing 5 pounds? Getting more organized? I interviewed recently with Shape Magazine to talk about a resolution that you may not have considered…improving your emotional connections.
Here are a few of my tips on how to strengthen your face-to-face relationships with loved ones…
Of course, you can’t “do lunch” with every person you’ve ever known or everyone you run into. “It’s important to prioritize your relationships,” says licensed therapist Julie de Azevedo Hanks, director of Wasatch Family Therapy and author of The Burnout Cure: An Emotional Survival Guide for Overwhelmed Women. Think of your connections as concentric circles, with you in the middle, then your intimate relationships, family members, friends, close colleagues, and so on. Spend the most time and energy starting at the center, and attenuate it outward. So when you see someone in an outer circle, don’t promise to get together. “This is where social media and electronic communication come in handy,” Hanks says. Tell them it’s nice to see them, and use Facebook or Twitter to keep in touch.
If you’ve felt tense with your cousin who made an uncouth remark at the Thanksgiving table or a close friend who talked behind your back, reach out and say you’ve missed them and would love to talk about it. Meeting face-to-face is best so you can access nonverbal cues, Hanks says, but if that’s not possible, try a phone call or Skype, then email, then text.
Approach a touchy subject like a tennis match, Hanks advises: “Keep the ball on your side of the court. Say, ‘I felt hurt that when you didn’t reach out when my mother died last year. I know you had a lot going on in your own life, but I’m still sad I didn’t hear from you.'” While you can’t always prevent another person from feeling like you’re attacking them, broaching difficult topics is often better if you first share your vulnerable feelings—hurt, sad, scared, lonely, Hanks explains. If they don’t want to talk, leave the door open by saying you’ll be there if they ever feel ready to reconnect, or ask if you can check back in with them in a few months.
“Keep in mind that no matter how others may behave, you can decide to be the kind of daughter, sister, friend, or employee that you want to be,” Hanks says. So if your boss never wishes you a happy birthday, still drop a card on his desk. If you don’t hear from your Aunt Sally very often, plan a surprise visit. Or just send a simple text to your far-flung friends and associates to say, “Thinking of you. Hope you’re having a good week!”
Social media can be a great tool to stay connected to all those people you’ve met over the years or don’t see very often—and it takes minimal time and effort. “I love technology because it gives you the ability to send an email or comment on a photo instantly, just to let someone know you’re thinking of them,” Hanks says. Tell a friend she looks great in her new Instagram post, send a funny ecard, or email a link to an article that reminded you of a former intern.
What are your ideas for strengthening the bond with your loved ones in 2014? Feel free to share your ideas below
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