This was first published on KSL.com
Most couples say the words "I love you" on a regular basis, but often they don't really mean it.
They might just say "I love you" out of habit or because they want to look like a loving spouse even if aren't acting like it. In the latter case, they are quick to find fault, be annoyed, or criticize the other. There is fighting and defensiveness on a regular basis, and the crux of the problem is usually that they don't feel safe and aren't sure that their partner truly loves them.
I challenge you to commit to loving your partner more fully by understanding what it really means when you say "I love you." Those three words are not a state that you are magically either "in" or "not in." They don't represent a feeling you have for someone; they represent a choice and a commitment. Loving another person is a choice you make over and over, every day.
It might be more powerful and keep us more accountable if instead of saying "I love you," we said: "I choose to actively love you." Then, we would be reminded that loving someone involves behavior way beyond having fond feelings for them. Love is something you do, not just something you feel. Feeling love toward someone is easy, actually loving them is hard work.
If you read this article or send it to your spouse, please do not make it about pointing out the areas where you think your partner is weak or lacking. Focus instead on where you can improve your own behavior and show up with real love for your partner.
Also, I am not suggesting that you must do all these things perfectly. That is not possible for any of us. However, this is a good standard to work toward, and any effort in this direction will improve your relationship.
When you say 'I love you,' it means …
I actively see you
As your partner, I see the parts of you few people get to see — both the good and the bad. No one else will know you at the level I do. You have flaws and faults, because we all do, but I choose to see the good, valuable, worthy and even amazing parts as who you are. I choose to see your intrinsic value and that it cannot change. I see the divine, true, loving parts of you and show you every day that I see you.
I choose to admire you
You don't have to be perfect to have my admiration. I choose, every day, to admire your efforts, your values, your work, your good qualities, and the way you show up and keep trying even when you're struggling. I choose to focus on the best qualities you have, not your faults, because that is what real love does.
I choose to accept you as you are
I choose to love who you really are, with your strengths, talents and habits that I admire, as well as your weaknesses, faults, mistakes and habits that drive me crazy. I accept that you don't think like me or behave like I do. You don't see the world the way I see it. You are wired differently than I am and value different things, but I accept you this way. I do not think you need to change to earn my love. You just need to be who you are.
I choose to be here for you
I choose to support you, cheer for you, listen to you and do whatever I can to make your life better and happier. I don't carry responsibility for your happiness (that is your job) but I will show up and be there to help wherever I can. I do things for you and am your biggest fan.
I choose to respect you
I respect and honor your right to be where you are in your classroom journey. I respect your right to think and feel the way you do, to experience and live the way you do. When you are upset (even if I don't get it) I honor and respect your right to have the feelings you have. I never purposefully talk down, insult or degrade you in any way. I speak kindly and never make you feel small, broken or messed up. If I get bothered with you, I talk to you in a respectful way (like I would to a peer or friend). I may not do this perfectly, but I am committed to the effort.
I choose to trust you
This means I give you the benefit of the doubt, let most of your mistakes go, and always assume the best of you. When you disregard me, I assume it was not intentional. I choose to trust that you love me. This is critical to making our relationship work. If I see unloving behavior in you, I assume it comes your fears about yourself. I talk to you about this from a place of love and compassion. I know that I only have two choices when trust is broken. I can choose distrust, which will doom the relationship and drive a wedge between us, or I can choose to trust you, which will give us a chance. I choose to trust you.
I choose to trust that if you don't love me anymore you will speak up and tell me that. I won't expect you to stay in this relationship if you no longer choose to love me. Until you say those words, I will trust that you do love me and mean what the words say.
I choose to listen to you
I may not always do this perfectly because I get caught up in my own agenda sometimes, but I choose to work at being a good listener and trying to truly understand you. I strive to give you my attention and care about what you think and feel. I know this is a critical part of a good relationship and I choose to be a partner that can set their ideas and opinions aside and listen. If you ever feel I am not listening, kindly ask me if I would be willing to listen and I will remember my commitment.
I am honest and authentic with you
I tell you the truth, even when it is hard. I am true to myself and allow you to really know the real me. If I make a mistake, I own it and get help if I need it. I do not hide things from you or lie about what I am doing. I am an open book and allow you to know the real me on every level.
I choose to forgive you
We both make mistakes and will, on occasion, hurt each other. I choose to forgive you and allow you to be an imperfect, struggling, scared, human in process, just like me. When you mistreat me, forget to think about me, or miss things, because you were focused on yourself, I choose to forgive you. I choose this in advance. We will mistreat and disregard each other; it's going to happen. When it does, I will talk about my feelings and then forgive you. I commit to letting the past go and always giving you the chance to do better.
I have written many articles on forgiving your spouse because it is so critical to the relationship. Click here to read some of them.
It's important to note here that you should never allow any kind of abuse. If abusive behavior is happening, that person doesn't love you. You don't emotionally or physically hurt someone you love. Seek some help and support immediately.
I am loyal to you
I don't need romantic attention from other people. You are my person. I think about how I can make you feel admired, respected, appreciated and wanted every single day. Showing you my loyalty is a priority in my life and I don't do things that would hurt or harm you.
I take responsibility for myself, for you
I won't make you responsible for my self-esteem or happiness. I don't blame you if I am unhappy with myself or life. Those are my responsibilities. I own the responsibility for my thoughts and actions. If I have issues or choose behaviors that hurt you, I will be responsible and seek help to fix them. I will not look for faults in you to justify my bad behavior.
You won't ever love your partner perfectly. You will both make mistakes and mistreat each other, but if you keep coming back to showing up in these ways and love each other at this level, you will create a pretty wonderful relationship.
You may want to read this article on a regular basis to keep your commitment to love fresh in your mind.
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
I often hear from readers who have to deal with someone in the workplace who is highly defensive and combative in their communication. This person might be a co-worker, employee, manager or even a client.
Everyone will have to communicate, at some point, with someone who is upset, offended and on the offensive, so I'd like to give you some tips on how to best handle these difficult conversations.
When a person comes across as combative or defensive in their communication, I believe one or both of the following things is happening.
If this person is a co-worker, client, family member or boss, you will need to find a way to work and communicate with them without things becoming ugly. Fortunately, there are some things you can do that could make them feel safer and give you a better chance of having a productive conversation:
Work to be emotionally calm and balanced
If you go into a conversation scared about having it, the other person will get defensive before you say a word. Make sure you know your intrinsic value cannot change no matter what happens in this conversation. Remember, in the end, this will be an experience that will serve you, teach you or grow you. You are safe here. Throughout the conversation, keep reminding yourself there is nothing to fear. This is just a conversation and you are just going to try to show up for this human being and be kind.
Care about the person first and the topic second
Your only goal upfront in the conversation is to show this person they are important, cared about and worth listening to. If you have another agenda you need to accomplish, it must come after you take the time to show this person you care about them. If you take the time to validate their worth by asking questions, and then honoring and respecting their thoughts and feelings first, they will be less defensive when it's time to address the issue.
Have an exit strategy and a time limit
Set up this conversation when you have a very natural time limit (like with another appointment). Have an assistant or someone come get you at the end time to assure the conversation stays within these boundaries you've set.
Set some rules of engagement and pick your battles
Let this person know that because you are short on time, you only want to discuss one thing and clarify any issues that you don't want to talk about today. Know ahead of time what the most important issue is and be sure it's important enough to be worth the effort. Know exactly what you hope to achieve at the end. It helps to write these things on paper and get clear of your intention ahead of time. Make sure that making this person feel cared about and heard are your first and foremost goals.
Establish the enemy is an issue, not a person
Sit on the same side instead of across from each other. This makes it feel like the two of you are against an issue or problem, not against each other. Clarify that you want to find a way to create a win for all involved.
Calm their fears with validation and reassurance
Make sure you have validated them and talked about all the things they do right first. They need reassurance before you tell them anything negative. This should help quiet the fears that usually drive bad communication behavior.
Ask a lot of questions and listen
The most important part of a difficult conversation is the beginning, when you make it all about them by asking what they think and feel about the issue. Spend as much time as possible here. The deepest way to show you value, honor, and respect another person is by listening to their views, fears and concerns, and really respecting their right to feel the way they do. If possible, see if you can ask enough questions that you can get them to tell you everything you had wanted to say. It's always better if they figure it out without you telling them.
If you are personally attacked, don't defend yourself
Instead of fighting back against a verbal attack, ask more questions like, "Tell me more about that?" or "What makes you feel that way?" Dive into the attack instead of fighting against it. Just because they think this about you doesn't make it true. Listening to their views doesn't diminish you. Let them get it all out and share all their thoughts and feelings about you. They may be shocked to find you open instead of fighting back. Show them you can handle an attack and are still not scared. None of this affects your intrinsic, unchangeable value.
Put yourself in their shoes
Try to see things from their perspective and look for common ground you can agree on. Don't try to convince them of anything. Focus your attention on trying to understand them. Even if you cannot possibly understand their views, the fact that you are trying will come through.
Use 'I' statements, not 'you' statements
When you do need to share your views, make sure you use "I" statements and focus on your own perspective, observations, thoughts and feelings. Avoid attacks that start with "you" do this or that. Instead, say: "In my opinion," "I have observed," "I feel," "I believe." You are always entitled to your perspective and it's harder to argue with.
Be realistic about what to expect
Realize that people who are deep in a state of fear are only concerned with one thing: their own safety. They don't have the capacity to show up for you, but they might be able to do what you ask of them — if you ask in a respectful way and focus on only future behavior. Use statements like "Would you be willing to do this a little differently moving forward?" or "Next time that happens, would you be open to handling it this way?"
These tips will give you the best shot at a productive conversation, but there are some people you just won't be able to work well with. Don't take this personally. It is not about you.
If this is the case, you will have to avoid dealing with them as much as possible or take the problem up the chain of command. You can also use this opportunity to work on yourself and grow. Try working on staying calm, strong and confident in the face of attacks. It's great practice.
You can do this.
I have recently found several of your articles and have loved them! I think they provide great insight and point of view. I have been trying to find one if you have one regarding "saying no and not feeling guilty." For example, if I get invited to a friend gathering and I respond with "no," but then feel guilty/manipulated into going or being a bad friend afterward. Are there any tips you have regarding it?
The first thing you must do is understand why you feel guilty taking care of yourself and choosing what you want to do. You have every right to make choices that make you happy. Why would you feel guilty for doing that?
5 fear-based beliefs
Most people find they have one or more of the following fear-based, subconscious beliefs. Do these feel like something you might believe?
1. "If I say no, then I am selfish."
You might have a subconscious belief (possibly learned in childhood) that says if you take care of yourself at all, it makes you a selfish, bad person. You may believe good people should sacrifice themselves to make others happy, but this is not true.
The truth is, self-care is wise and healthy, and you must take care of yourself or you will soon have nothing left to give. It is wise to balance taking care of yourself and taking care of others. In order to maintain this balance, you must say no and choose your happiness half the time.
2. "If I disappoint other people, I will be rejected or judged."
You might have experienced this at some point in your life, so you believe this is a rule. The problem is it's not a rule; it's a belief — which means it's not a fact.
Most people can handle hearing "no" without punishing or rejecting you for it. If they do reject you for it, they probably aren't the kind of person you want as a friend. A real friend will support you in doing what's best for you.
It's important to note that you may have taught the people in your life to manipulate you because you always feel guilty when you say no. You may have created these rules of engagement. The good news is that you can change the rules any time you want. You can retrain people in your life to "get over it" when they get disappointed on occasion. You can also say no with love and respect, and most people can handle it and will still love you.
3. "I can't handle confrontation, so it's easier to give in."
This subconscious belief might have come from a bad experience in your past. You may have decided that in most situations, it's safer to sacrifice yourself than risk a fight. The truth is, you can usually enforce boundaries in a kind way that won't lead to conflict.
If you are respectful and kind, yet firm, you can handle these issues with strength and love. If they do turn ugly, you can excuse yourself and refuse to participate until the other person can speak to you with respect. If you have people in your life that cannot handle an occasional "no," that is their problem, not yours. You must maintain a healthy balance and not feel guilty for doing so.
4. "Other people's happiness is more important than mine."
You may have learned as a child that sacrificing yourself or putting your happiness last makes you righteous. This is not true. It actually makes you are acting like a doormat and it makes people lose respect for you. You are the same in importance as everyone else. You have to see yourself as equally important or others won't treat you like you are.
5. "Pleasing other people means they will like and value me."
This is, again, not necessarily true. Sometimes even when you sacrifice for people, it won't make them value or appreciate you. They may even lose respect for you because you don't take care of yourself. They could treat you worse and take your sacrifices for granted.
Occasionally, saying no — especially to the people in your house — means they are more likely to appreciate it when you do say yes.
Which of these fear-based beliefs might be driving your fear of saying no?
Create new beliefs
The incredible thing about finding the faulty beliefs behind your behavior is that you can now change those beliefs. They may be deeply ingrained in your subconscious programming and hard to change, but your conscious mind is stronger and you have the power to choose, in any moment, a different belief that will immediately change how you feel about the situation.
You can write some new beliefs (in your own words) and claim them as your truth moving forward. You might want to put them somewhere you can see them daily and work on consciously choosing them whenever you are tempted to people please.
Here are some new beliefs that might serve you more:
Create new boundaries
You cannot change any behavior until you change the beliefs that are driving it. You can also use your new beliefs to help you write some new boundary rules that apply to specific situations. Write these new boundary rules down on paper, don't just think them. Writing them down makes them more concrete.
Here is an example of great boundary rule:
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.