Monday, August 16, 2010

Relationship Drama Reduction

In this Sunday's New York Times, there was an interesting article called "Girls, Interrupted", about a summer camp program for middle school girls. The 2-week programs helps young women learn self-confidence, how to deal with mean girls and bullies, and avoid drama in relationships. The article got me thinking about the skills grown-ups also need to maneuver the world of relationships and conflict in a healthy way.

So here is my quick tool kit of skills all young adults need to develop, and mature adults need to perfect in order to have satisfying relationships and have good self-esteem. They are:

1. Know how to apologize. Be specific. Don't do it again.

2. Ask for what you want. This greatly increases your chances of getting it. Don't expect others to read your mind.

3. Be direct. If you have a problem with someone, tell that person directly. It only complicates things to tell a third person. (See my recent blog article on not triangulating)

4. Be honest.

5. Take out your own trash in your relationships. This means that each person in the relationship is responsible for managing their own stress level, not taking out your bad day or bad childhood or previous bad relationships on the other person.

6. Don't be a black hole or an emotional vampire. Have reasonable expectations about how much love, time, attention, etc. you expect in any relationship. You will frustrate the other person if you give the message that "it is never enough for me".

7.Don't whine. It is so unattractive if whining becomes your permanent residence. If you are stuck at the whining address and want to change it, see a good therapist who can help get you unstuck.

8.Take responsibility for your own actions and contributions to problems and relationship conflicts. As a psychotherapist for the past 20 years, I can tell you relationships start to get better when both people realize they are part of the problem and part of the solution.

9. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. We are all human and can learn from our mistakes if we choose to.

10. Follow through on your promises if humanly possible. Be a person of your word. Live with integrity.

11.Don't exagerate. In a Facebook world of hyperbole(omg) it is important to report facts accurately. Avoid 'always' and 'never'. Too much drama!

12.Move away from the bullies, the mean girls, and the people who 'just don't get you'. Life is too short.

13. Never text where the situation calls for a conversation. Texting in such situations is wimpy and/or heartless.

14.Be humble. It's so refreshing.

15.Be open to learning about yourself and others when conflict occurs. If you talk it through, you may learn some valuable things.

16. Admit your mistakes and imperfections. People will admire you for your openness and balanced perspective.

17.Try to focus on the repair in a conflict, rather than swinging for more damage.

18.Speak up if you feel tension between you and someone who matters to you. Otherwise, continental drift can occur.

19.Set boundaries to protect your important relationships. If you don't, then you aren't protecting that relationship, and you cheapen what should be special. You make it no big deal to be your partner.

20.Kindness matters. Watch your tone, volume, word choice, and non-verbal cues, so that the person you have a conflict with feels respected,rather than talked down to.

With these skills in your relationship tool kit, you are ready to create relationships with more fun, intimacy, and understanding. And less drama!

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