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July 18, 2016

How are your relationships affecting your health?

Strengthen your connections using these key skills

Mindful Mondays Relationships
Christie_Brandon1 Courtesy of Christie Mandia/for PhillyVoice

Christie and Brandon Mandia.

There is no doubt that the underlying stress caused by negative relationships takes a toll on our health. It is very easy to get stuck in patterns of unhealthy or unproductive interactions. The first step in getting out of this bad cycle is realizing that we cannot change what other people do; however, we can change the way that we react and hope that others follow suit.

Whether you would like to improve your relationships at work or at home, being cognizant of how you are communicating with the people around you is paramount in the process. Mindfulness can help you greatly here as to be mindful is not only to be aware of yourself and what you want, but it is to be aware of what others are thinking and feeling as well. Below are a few techniques developed by Duke Integrative Medicine that you can use to encourage better communication and enhance both personal and professional relationships.

Being present

When someone is speaking to you about something, put other things like cellphones, computers and to-do lists aside. Give people the space to say what they are trying to say without having to rush or feel ignored.

Other-focused listening

Being an attentive listener is one of the best skills that we can develop both personally and professionally. When you are listening to someone, listen intently with kindness and curiosity. Try to expel any preconceived notions that you may have and concentrate on what the other is saying. Don’t rush to give your opinions. Let the speaker talk freely. Many times, they will work through the issues aloud and may even come up with a solution on their own.

Non-verbal behavior

Use non-verbal behavioral cues like eye contact and nodding to signal that you are receiving and processing the information. This makes people feel that their voice is being heard and lets them know that you are focused on what they have to say.

Reflections & clarifying questions

A simple way to let someone know that you heard what he or she has said is to provide a reflection by paraphrasing what you have heard. This shows that you have both paid attention and understood. Ask clarifying questions here if you are having difficulty understanding something.

Inquiry & open-ended questions

“True inquiry involves asking open-ended questions.” Go beyond general questions that yield "yes" or "no" answers to open the lines of communication. Consciously pose questions that will provide more insight beginning with words like "how" and "what." For example, instead of “Did you have a good day at work/school?” try asking, “What was the best part of your day at work/school?”

Use of I-statements

Being aware of your language when making statements is just as important as it is when asking questions. Simply using the word, "I" instead of "you" can be very disarming and shows that you are not labeling and speaking only for yourself. ‘You’ statements can be hurtful and push people away. For example, instead of, “You don’t listen!” try, “I’m not sure I am making myself clear,” or instead of, “You are so messy, clean up your room!” try, “I see that you have some things scattered around and I’d like you to clean them up.”

Checking in

Circling back with people after an initial conversation shows them that you care and that you want to follow through. Simply asking, “How are you feeling?” can let someone know that you are there and are checking back on the progress of the issue. I’ll frequently call it out and let someone know, “I am just checking in with you, what is happening with…?” This often provides resolution or at the very least demonstrates that you haven’t forgotten.

Courtesy of Christie Mandia/for PhillyVoice

The happy newlyweds.

Being more mindful of other's needs will strengthen relationships and allow for healthy, open communication because without good communication, we cannot have good relationships. Set out to improve your interactions with people by practicing even one of these techniques. With time, the skills will become second nature. Your relationships will reap the benefits and ultimately, your quality of life and overall health will be vastly improved.

Each week, on Mindful Mondays, Christie shares her tips and tricks toward a healthier lifestyle. Give these tips a try to improve your health, wellness and quality of life!

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