How to Make People Feel Special

“Hi, Grandma. I have a surprise for you!”I made a quick call to my 99-year-old grandmother to tell her we were on our way to visit. It was my mom’s turn to drive as we finished the last hour of our twelve-hour trip. My grandmother has short-term memory loss. But she’s one who’s taught me how to make people feel special. I wanted to do that for her. And here are at least three ways to make people feel special. These three ways can help us connect with the humanity of the other person. When we do, we feel special, ourselves.

Make People Feel Special By Your Smiles

My grandmother has a natural smile that makes others feel comfortable. My step-dad, Bob also had a natural smile that matched his dimples. They both showed friendliness on their faces. Both could smile at strangers, acquaintances, and even their least favorite family members. Their smiles were always genuine.

But some people are born with solemn looks. It takes an effort to have a pleasant smile. It may be their facial muscles or lack of practice. But they’re unaware of how others experience them.

Whether you’re a natural smiler or not, the power of a smile makes a difference. In the presence of a small group or one-on-one interaction, a warm and pleasant smile helps us connect. And it makes others feel special.

Even in the most stressful situations, a smile can transform; both you and other people. #beyondmessyrelationships Click To Tweet

If you struggle (as many do) with social anxiety, your face may be showing up as unapproachable to others. Practice your smile in front of the mirror. When you learn to do it, you’ll invite confidence in yourself and connection with others.

Make People Feel Special by Saying Their Name

It took a while before I could feel comfortable with this one. I’ve been known to immediately forget someone’s name when first introduced. But now, I say it back to the person who introduces themselves. As you continue the conversation, repeat their name a few times. It helps make the association in your brain so you don’t forget.

If you’re sitting in a meeting, jot a quick diagram with boxes. You can make a seating chart in the same way school teachers do. Then write their names in the boxes as people introduce themselves.

Here’s another idea. When the cashier is checking out your groceries, notice their name tag. Use their name as you say, “thank you.” Normally, they look up when you say their name. And sometimes they smile.

Make People Feel Special by Listening

One of the most valuable gifts you can give another person is the gift of listening. Dr. David G. Benner, my Spiritual Director showed me the value of dialogue.

Dialogue is making the space between two people emotionally safe. It’s being curious rather than judgmental.

Most of us think we’re listening. But instead, we’re formatting a response in our head. Listening to build your argument, is not true listening. But listening to hear and understand is the only kind that makes people feel special.

Smile, Name, Listen

We arrived at my grandmother’s assisted living, and knocked on her door. She expected us because of my call from the previous hour. “Judy, I’m so glad to see you!” She said it with a big smile on her face, and a warm embrace to my mom and me. She listened. All three of us felt special and connected.

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How to Get Positive Results In Your Relationship

We all have different stories in our heads about how secure or satisfying our relationships are. It’s common for one person to be satisfied while the other isn’t. That’s why it’s important to know how to get positive results in your relationship.

Some of us take pride in managing our money and then later found out a check bounced. Or we’ve balanced the checkbook and then discovered we spent more on the eating out category than budgeted.

Using another example, have you believed you were eating well, then were surprised the scales registered 10 pounds more than expected? Have you written down everything you ate? Then saw you were taking in many more calories than you were actually burning?

Uncertainty in Your Relationship

Many couples enter counseling with a lot of uncertainty. One is usually dragged in by the other.

One person says, “We need help.”

The other says, “We’re doing fine. . . We can work this out on our own. . .We’re not as bad off as you think.”

It makes sense that couples who detect problems in their relationship, on average, wait an additional six years before they get help.

Tiger/Turtle Syndrome in Your Relationship

It’s very common for one spouse to minimize and the other maximize. I call it the “Turtle/Tiger” syndrome.

Unsplash Photo

Turtles typically hide in their shells and avoid conflict or accuse their partners of blowing things out of proportion.

Turtles tend to see things “not as bad” as they really are. Tigers, on the other hand, roar and persist until they are heard. Many times they DO see things worse than they are.

Unsplash Photo

Consider Charting Patterns In Your Relationship

A couple years ago, I created The Partnership Pattern chart which helps you keep track of both positive and negative behaviors in your relationship.

For those who like to check things off, it can be a great way to balance the check book of your relationship. All you have to do is observe, experience, and rate measurable items that are going on now in your relationship.

But after I created the chart, I hesitated to share it. Why? I’m glad you asked.

  1. The tendency is to focus our attention on what our partner is doing wrong rather than what we are doing wrong. What we choose to focus on, we’ll find. Yet, it’s vital we don’t ignore clear behaviors that minimize our dignity. Generally, if you look for the positive behaviors, you’re likely to find them. And, of course those negative behaviors scream for your attention.
  2. Normally, we don’t realize how our own responses and reactions invite negativity from our partner. We’re paving the way to get the things we don’t want. Most relationships follow the law of reciprocity. But we need to be aware when the character of the relationship isn’t reciprocal.
  3. Filling out the chart objectively may reveal serious relationship issues such as emotional, mental, or physical abuse. Don’t hesitate to get immediate help if you’re living in fear or danger.

Here’s why I’m offering The Partnership Pattern chart anyway.

Get Clarity in Your Relationship

It’s vital we don’t ignore clear behaviors and attitudes that minimize our dignity.

If you could be honest with yourself, it can be revealing about how to get positive results in your relationship. And get the help that you may be minimizing.

Ideally, it’s great for both Tigers AND Turtles to participate. But if the Turtle in your life is still hiding, you Tigers will have a great outlet for grounding in reality.

The idea is to check off what you experienced most in the relationship that day. Do it every day for one month and get a clear picture of what you need, whether it’s a marriage enrichment weekend or crisis intervention with your local counselor. Know where your relationship stands.

Sign up for your free Partnership Pattern chart.

Or, Sign up for your free 20 minute consultation.

Relationship

3 Requirements of Real Relationships

I’ve been blessed to hear multitudes of stories counseling couples over the years. As a result, I’ve come to believe there’s three requirements of real relationships. The reason I say “real” is because some relationships don’t operate from the same reality. The story of defining real relationships begins with my learning to dance.

Relationship Patterns Are Like Dance Movements

I grew up in a faith tradition that doesn’t believe in playing cards, smoking, and drinking. Most of all, it was an unpardonable sin to engage in pre-marital dancing! As a result, it was like I denied a “real” part of myself. And it wasn’t the smoking and drinking I was drawn to.

Rather, I began to integrate freedom, movement, creativity, and music. I discovered an emotionally safe partnership through taking ballroom dance lessons. I quickly discovered dancing was like sparks of light into deeper places of my soul.

The light-hearted atmosphere of learning to dance helped me take myself less seriously. And it was a contrast from the crisis counseling work I was doing at the time. The positive energy provided joy and the lighter side of life.

After a few group and private lessons, I became more aware and skilled. During group lessons, certain dance moves felt different when we switched partners. Each dancer had their own style, frame, and posture. Each one carried a unique energy, rhythm and frame.

In a sense, we relate to our spouses through relationship patterns similar to dancing. From our family of origins, we all learned behaviors and styles. Of course, those automatic “dances show up in our adult relationships.

If we want our relationships to be real, we need to be aware of the automatic dances. Then, be willing to change them and grow. The three requirements are reciprocity, change, and fun.

Requirement # 1 – Your Relationship Requires Reciprocity 

During romance, we feel the connection and familiarity. Both partners energetically want to be together and have fun.

When the chemistry wears off, our default patterns take over. The ease of the relationship dance works for a while until normal life stressors enter. They include child-rearing differences, financial habits, career transitions, moves, and in-laws difficulties. What began as exciting and bigger than life becomes boring and irritating.

This is the time to change relationship dances. New seasons and stressful transitions are the times to change those steps and styles. And it certainly takes two to make that happen.

Remember, your relationship requires reciprocity. Here’s requirement number two.

Requirement # 2 – Your Relationship Requires Change

Every stage of life is an invitation to discovering your authentic self. As a result, you begin to discover parts of your relationship that were previously hidden. For example, the transition from couplehood to parenthood opens up new and different roles.

Research indicates a 70% drop in marital satisfaction within a baby’s first year of life. The husband/wife roles change to dad and mom. One parent may become jealous of time and attention a young child requires. It’s normal to experience anxieties during life transitions. Of course, the responsibilities of developing another human being can be overwhelming at times.

Every stage of life is an invitation to discovering your authentic self. Click To Tweet

Additional financial pressure, household chores, and caring for a baby requires a shift in perspectives. Expectant parents should consider couples’ counseling. It’s better to be pro-active when anticipating major changes.

Not only in the child-bearing years, but the dance of a marriage changes with each season of life. What may have worked early on in your relationship may not be relevant now.

Remember, your relationship requires change. Here’s requirement number three.

Requirement # 3 – Your Relationship Requires Fun

We all need fun-loving energy in our partnerships. Unfortunately, negative thinking and limited beliefs take their toll on a marriage. Dr. John Gottman’s longitudinal studies of couples give us insight. The problem is not a matter of having less conflict than the average couple. Rather it’s the couples who don’t recover quickly from conflicts who are more likely to divorce. Happily married couples still experience 67% of unresolved conflict. But they’ve learned to shake it off quicker than troubled couples.

We all need fun-loving energy in our partnerships. Click To Tweet

The energy we carry in our relationships affects the neurons in our brains. Plus, our body and mind holds memories of experiences and tensions. We need to be intentional about light-hearted laughter and fun activities. Especially with those closest to us.

Remember, your relationship requires reciprocity, change, and fun. But let’s examine your next move.

What’s Your Next Move?

You might have guessed that my husband and I met through ballroom dancing. And we had a great couples dance teacher. In order for any of us to learn a new rhythm in our relationships, we need help. It takes a trained relationship therapist or coach.

Remember, the three requirements of real relationships.

1. Your relationship requires reciprocity.
2. Your relationship requires change.
3. Your relationhip requires fun.

Find out what your relationship needs now. Take the relationship stress quiz.

Or you can sign up to schedule your free consultation. 

Anxiety

Anxiety: How Journal Writing Helps

Anxiety: How Journal Writing Helps.

My first diary may have been pink or blue with flowers or peace signs, I’m not sure. But I know the mounted metal lock and flimsy key made me think it was secure. As a fourth grader who liked a boy in my class, it was a treasure box for my secret desires. It later became a way to process anxiety.

Anxiety Journal

Handwriting in a journal is one of the most intricate and complex things our brains can do. Without an outlet, those neurons can take you on trails of negativity, worry, and harsh self-talk. Even when you write down a list or phrases in a journal, you release those unwanted thoughts and focus on more important things, like the project or task that needs your full attention.

Then you can close the journal and use your mental energy toward living in the moment. The toxic thoughts transfer from your head to the journal.

Learn to live in the moment. Transfer uninvited thoughts from your head to your journal. Click To Tweet

Anxiety Appointment

For those who struggle with anxiety, I encourage them to find a 30 minute time frame at the same time every day to write in a special journal just for those anxious moments. You begin to train your anxious thoughts to associate a physical journal as a place to land.

When anxiety rears it’s ugly head at uninvited times, you can tell it, “I’m busy now. You’ll need to wait for your appointment later today.”

Journal Writing – Growth Beyond Anxiety

When your anxious thoughts are written down and closed up in a physical book, you can put it on the shelf or hide it under the mattress. It’s there when you need it again. Or it’s there when the anxiety is no longer haunting. Or it’s there when you’re far enough removed from it that you can look back and celebrate how far you’ve grown out of them. Like looking at a picture of your immature self that doesn’t even look like you any more.

Handwriting in a journal is one of the most intricate and complex things our brains can do for well-being. Click To Tweet

From Anxiety to Gratitude 

The authors of The Five Minute Journal consider daily journal-writing as good for your mental health as brushing and flossing your teeth is for your dental hygiene. You build up plaque in your brain if you go days without writing what you’re thankful for.

The mind is so intricately complicated and we can’t possibly be aware of every automatic thought that takes us on a trail of negative ruminations. But we can direct our thoughts that serve us well. The habit of writing down what we’re thankful for every morning primes our brains before starting our day. We learn to look for amazing things as we reflect and write them down right before going to sleep at night.

Write for Well-being

Our minds are now more complex and stressed with patterns of thinking than our ten year old selves. We’ve outgrown our fourth grade anxieties and diaries with peace signs and flimsy locks. Let’s continue to outgrow our current worries. Let’s appoint a time to write and give our ourselves the well-being to live fully in the present.

What to do next

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Father's Day

Father’s Day: Sharing Pleasant Moments

Father’s Day can be difficult for some. Recently I decided to take a risk in our 50’s plus social group from church. There were only twelve of us. Some I knew well while others were new to me. How do we prepare for Father’s Day and focus on sharing  pleasant moments?

I didn’t know if all the men in the room were dads. But we all had dads. I asked: What are your memorable dad moments? Oh no, I thought. Some may not have pleasant memories of their dads. Or, being a dad right now may be a painful thing. I wanted to honor them. Not remind them of difficulties.

Pleasant memories open up special places in our hearts. Click To Tweet

As each person shared, it seemed we all opened up special places in our hearts. Those who are dads answered from their experiences of fathering children. Those who weren’t dads answered from memories of their dad.

Pleasant Moments from Fathers

Here’s what the fathers in the group said:

With a twinkle in his eyes, Sid said, “It was the moment she was born.”

Dave said, “The memory that tugs at my heart was the day I sent each child off to their first day of kindergarten.”

William said, “It would have been easier to tell my four-year-old son not to touch the stereo equipment. Instead I showed him how to use it and press the right buttons. That was a challenge because it was before the technology of remote controls.”

Tony said, “I’ve always had a great relationship with my daughter. And I’ve not held back from giving her clear expectations and boundaries.” And he gave more details about what to do and not to do on her first date with a boy.

Mark said, “I’ve never been a father. But when I volunteered my time to read to elementary school children, it was like a father spirit opened up in me.” Mark shared more about his love of reading to children. He’s written a couple of children’s books. He loves being in the presence of young children.

Pleasant Memories of Fathers

Jean said with a little girl smile on her face, “I remember when my dad came home from work. I would run to him. He swept me up in his arms.”

“My dad had so much patience. He ran along side my bike while I learned how to ride.” Karen said.

“I followed my dad around the yard,” Jenny said. “One of his friends told him to enjoy it now because it wouldn’t last. He appreciated hanging out with me.”

“My dad drove the boat while I water skied,” said John. “He liked to joke around with me.”

Joe shared that his dad knelt down by his bedside each night to pray with him.

Finally, my friend Karen said, “What are your pleasant dad memories, Judy?”

“Well, my dad died when I was a small child,” I said. “And I do have memories of him teaching me how to ride my bike.” I have few memories about my dad. He died a young man of 28 years within six weeks of his diagnosis of cancer. I’ve learned more from family members about my dad. Here’s what they’ve said as we shared old family photos.

  • Yes, that’s how I remember Bill – always smiling, laughing, light-hearted.
  • Judy, now I know where you get your smile.
  • He was my favorite brother who took time to understand me.
Old family photos can help resurrect pleasant memories. Click To Tweet

Beyond our own Fathers

Beyond our own dads, I want to honor others. I think pleasant thoughts of my children’s dad, and the fathers of my grandchildren. I’m proud of my youngest son who faithfully reads to my youngest grand daughter each night.

I think of my dad substitutes over the years.

  • Grandfather whom I cried bucket-loads of tears when he passed away at 94.
  • Stepdad, Bob who has taken that dad role in my life as an adult.
  • Father-in-law who was Papa to my four children.
  • Uncle Ken who’s been the “icon” dad in my life, although I’ve not told him so. His words as the foreword of my e-book were a gift from God to me. 

I’m glad I asked the question, What are your memorable dad moments? I came away appreciating the fathers represented in our 50’s social group.

What pleasant father memories do you have?