07 Aug Two Tickets To Paradise: 5 Keys To Unlock The Power of Saying ‘Yes’ In Your Relationship
Relationships can be one of the greatest sources of joy. The place where we feel the most loved, safe and happy to be alive. They can also be hard. Most of us who have been in a long-term relationship might agree that there are times when managing our life together can get pretty dark. So what makes a great relationship great? After two decades of helping couples improve and transform their lives together, the number one request I receive is: “We need help with communication.” Here are four steps to make not only our communication but our relationships more loving successful and strong. You may have heard of the first three: listen, seek to understand, validate. The fourth is to say “yes” more.
Let’s be honest. We like to talk and we like to be heard. Being listened to helps us feel that we matter and that our thoughts and feelings count. Real listening is a way of connecting. Many of us listen simply by not talking. We nod our heads while we think about what we are going to say next. Real listening comes from a quiet mind, genuine curiosity and openness. We can gain incredible insight and clarity, simply from listening and being heard. Let’s agree to practice listening better and more often to our partner.
Seek to Understand
In Steven Covey’s best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, habit #5 is “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This guidance also appears in the Prayer of Saint Francis. Seeking to understand is the direction for what do with our minds while we are listening to our partner. We open our hearts and minds to understand where the other person is coming from, why they feel the way they do and what it really means to them.
It takes some skill and maturity to listen with an intention to understand because it means being willing to temporarily put down our point of view that we undoubtedly think we are right about. We press the pause button on our own agenda and stay open while we take in and listen to the other person’s perspective. We do this knowing that the kindness we extend to our partner will be returned to us as we too will have an opportunity to share deeply and honestly. If we practice it, this one can be a life-changer.
When our partner has finished talking, we then have an opportunity to say something. Before we jump into explaining our side of things, first try sharing with them what you think you heard them say, using their words if possible. This allows our partner to feel validated and gives them an opportunity to let us know if we heard them correctly.
The next step is to let your loved one know you understand their perspective. For example, “I can see why you would feel that way because…” Once our partner feels heard, accepted and validated, she/he is in a much better position to listen and be open to our point of view. From here, real caring, connection, and compassion can begin.
Many of us have been raised in a culture where saying “no” and being skeptical gives us the upper hand. We don’t want to come across as naive or dumb. While having discernment is a good thing, too often we block goodness and wonderful new experiences from our life simply from the habit of saying “no.” Have you ever seen an improv show? The actors are making things up right there on the spot. It’s vulnerable, exciting and incredibly fun. Life is the same way. We’re all making it up on the spot, so let’s learn how to make it more fun. In improv, the main rule of play is called: “Yes, and.” It means whatever idea you bring to the table, I am going to accept it, appreciate it and add something supportive to it. For example, if you say, “There is a kangaroo in the parking lot.” I might say, “Yes, and it just stole our car!” Versus: “There is a kangaroo in the parking lot.” Followed by, “No, there’s not, that’s ridiculous.”
In the first example, after only two sentences, we can see that the possibilities are endless. We are in agreement about what happened and that scene will likely go on to be a fun adventure. In the second example, the scene is over as quickly as it began. We disagree with what the person said and made them feel wrong. Game over. Even though these examples are silly, we do the same thing in our relationships. We look for how the other person is wrong and we stop the train.
One of the secrets to having a happy, long-lasting relationship is the pursuit of shared projects and goals, both large and small. Saying ‘yes’ to each other not only helps us accomplish our dreams and goals, it actually leads to ideas and solutions that we could never come up with on our own. In communication with our lover, partner or spouse, it’s important to feel that we are on the same side. When we say, “Yes, and,” we support each other and become a team.
Practice saying “yes”
- Yes to Your Partner: Yes, I will rub your shoulders for ten minutes, AND I will tell you how much I appreciate you. Yes, I will go see that action/superhero/sci-fi movie with you, AND I will get us some of our favorite candy while we watch.
- Yes to Yourself: Yes, I will pamper myself more often, AND I will start by getting myself that massage. Yes, I will wear that outfit to the party, AND I will practice dressing in a way that truly expresses who I am!
- Yes to Life: Yes, I will meet with that business coach, AND start making plans and taking action on my real dream. Yes, I will go on that vacation we keep talking about, AND I will start looking at dates and making plans today!
*Warning: Saying “yes” often may result in a significant increase in energy, passion, closeness, and enjoyment in your relationship and in your life!