Family relationships demand an investment of time. You practice the daily routine to strengthen the core muscles of relationship. The exercises noted in “the strength workout” focus on more specific skills and muscles necessary to strengthen relationships–becoming a student of the other person’s non-verbal communications and love language as well as learning to collect moments of emotional connection. Still, trouble areas arise. Areas where you want to develop more definition and long-term character to your relationship physique. Here are a couple of exercises that can help tone those trouble spots and enhance overall relationship strength. You may resist these exercises at first; but, they can truly benefit your family relationships.
The first exercise involves turning criticisms into compliments. It involves three steps.
1) To begin, identify something a family member did today that you found irritating…something you wanted to criticize. Perhaps you wanted to sit down to talk and your wife just had to clean the room instead…or you were trying to get dinner together and your husband was in the way talking about his day. Maybe your child was excitedly talking about something that happened in school while you were having a conversation on the phone with a client. Whatever the case, recall the behavior you found irritating, the behavior you wanted to criticize.
2) Before you criticize that behavior, step back and look for any aspect of that behavior that you can appreciate. In the examples above, you may love that your wife keeps such a neat home or that your husband really does want to tell you about his day. You can rejoice that your child wants to share their excitement with you, a parent. Take time to personally appreciate that positive aspect of the situation. Enjoy what that means to you and your family.
3) Finally, use that appreciation to offer that person a compliment. Go to that family member and tell them about the part you appreciate. Praise them for what they did. Let them know how much it means to you that they exhibit that behavior you appreciate.
The second exercise sounds more simple, but can still prove challenging at times. It involves only one motion. That’s right, one single motion…smiling. Let your family see you smile. Smile when you greet family members. Let them see the twinkle of delight in your eyes when they walk into the room. Smiling when family members approach communicates acceptance, approval, and love. Sometimes you may not feel like smiling. You may feel irritated or tired. Practice smiling anyway. Let a smiling face full of delight and love be the first image that comes to mind when your family thinks of you.
The final exercise to build definition and address trouble areas involves lifting logs. This exercise also involves three steps.
1) When you find yourself in an argument with a family member, step back and lift the logs from your own eye instead of attempting to “win” the argument. Before you try to explain, justify, or defend your actions, take a private, honest look at your own motives, goals, and manner of expression. Consider your contribution to the argument. Think about any ways in which you instigate or perpetuate the conflict. Examine any underlying feelings such as fear or insecurity. (Intense anger within a family often hides a fear that the relationship is threatened or a strong desire for security and connection within the relationship.)
2) As you discover your underlying emotions, realize that your family members probably feel the same way. Consider how you can help meet that need in their life, even as you work to resolve a disagreement. (After all, you do love them.)
3) Then, return to the family member, logs removed, and calmly discuss the disagreement. As you can see, this exercise involves a great deal of practice, commitment, and discipline. However, the benefits in relationship development are tremendous.
These three exercises can help you tone those trouble spots, develop more definition, and produce more long-term character in your relationship physique.