Could COVID-19 Help Us Get Back to More Successful Relationships?

When it comes to maintaining relationships, technology has been a mixed blessing. It has allowed many of us to stay in touch with family and friends who are too far away to see on a regular basis. But it has also given us a lazy pass to avoid the face-to-face time with those closest to us.

With the arrival of COVID-19 and our requirement to maintain social distancing, it’s forcing us to review our use of technology in relationships.

Have we been sacrificing our relationships this whole time?

Think about your living situation. Most of us are now required to be with our families or roommates all day, every day. In the past, we could escape if a situation became too much or was uncomfortable (think about how many people NEED to go the movies during a holiday week, just to get out of the house and away from their families).

In our COVID-19 world, we have no quick escape. We have to stay put and work it out.

It might seem tough, but let me suggest a new way to see this: an opportunity to improve your existing relationships. I see this time as learning through immersion.

The best way to see this is with languages. When you really want to develop great language proficiency, you spend time in that country. You are surrounded by it in every aspect of your days. You can feel overwhelmed by it or you can see it for the opportunity to develop skills quickly.  Your attitude about it will determine your success with it.

We are in a similar situation now. We have been immersed in our relationships. By changing your attitude about it, along with these ideas, we can use this unique moment to build better, more sustainable and more effective relationships.

  1. Acknowledge your situation. Have a family or apartment meeting to identify the elephant in the room. Pretending that all communication and interactions will be easy when you are forced to spend time with each other won’t serve you well. Instead, see that this moment will require more from each of you and a goal could be a collective focus on getting along better and building better relationships.
  2. Create new rules. We know that sometimes in relationships, we can trigger each other by what we say, how we say it or, sometimes, what we don’t say. Gather ideas for rules that will encourage open, caring, professional and managed communications throughout the day. Holding each other accountable to create, support and comply with the rules can get everyone on the same page. Use the rules to focus on building and sustaining quality relationships, not to spark competition, fights or holding a grudge.
  3. Share more of yourself and learn more about others. Make time to get to better know the people in your environment. Most of the time, we only know a little about each other, or we share only a little about ourselves. This is true even for families. Use this quarantine time to ask deeper questions, listen more generously, understand each other more significantly and connect more personally. Think of the people who get stranded in a bus station or airport because of a storm. As the time progresses, they realize that the quality of their experience will be in how they connect and support each other. They frequently leave the situation as friends or even just more appreciative of each other.

Take Action
Four weeks in, are you frustrated with the quarantine? Or are you finding your relationships with family members, friends / roommates are getting better?

We can react and be frustrated or disappointed that we are in this situation, but this is an ineffective use of energy and emotion. Instead, create and act on the intention to use this moment to build stronger relationships. Use this moment to be more present, gather and share more information and come away more informed and connected.

The world will send what it will send – COVID-19 or something else. At first glance, we can be discouraged by it. But, if you reframe your thinking to see the opportunity in whatever comes your way, you will always be impressed, instead of disappointed, by life.

Check out our upcoming FREE 30-minute webinar on How to Have Your Relationships Survive Quarantine on April 15, 2020 at 8:30 p.m. ET. Register to reserve your spot.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Don’t Be An Ostrich

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Give the Gift of Time

Shopping for a gift for the important people in your life can sometimes seem difficult. There are so many choices from so many locations at so many price points. It’s hard to know for sure what’s just right.

True, it may be difficult to find the right tangible gift. But why is it we think that we must give someone something purchased to show them we care? Much of this comes the constant input from advertisers and marketers whose goal it is to sell what they make.

Think you’re immune to their marketing efforts? Ask yourself how many times you’ve said, “I need to get something for _________ because I am sure they are getting me something.” Or, “I have to get them something nice, I know they are getting me something nice.”

Quite frankly, that’s madness. How did we get here?

I think it’s important to go back to our roots, to remember Christmas and the holiday season as a time to be aware – aware of what is really important. And in the process of doing this, consider what we could give to or do for others that doesn’t require making a purchase. After all, the great gifts are often those that come directly from the heart.

So this year, consider giving those you care about something more from yourself. Consider giving someone the gift of time, uninterrupted and intentionally focused time. Consider what giving the gift of time could look like: meeting for coffee, going for a walk, reminiscing about past experiences, a surprise phone call or visit, or working on a project together (uninterrupted by technology).

Making time for someone, to share their space with them, is a great way to stay connected by acknowledging them and helping them feel cared for, valued and loved. To me, this seems like the best of gifts.

Take Action
We are social animals who join others not just for physiological needs but for the company and camaraderie. We need and want people in our lives. Virtually every holiday show is about reconnecting relationships and how life got better when others changed even just a small moment of their day to spend time with another.

What would it take for you to buck the gift-giving tradition this year in favor of time giving – the giving of your time, concern, interest and love? How will you remember that at the center of every holiday is not the bows, the trees, the lights or the gifts, but instead is about time with the people you care about?

Remember that what truly makes the holiday special is making time, caring deeply, being present and connecting as people. Memories come from the way you feel, not the stuff you own and eventually throw out.

Make a commitment to give the gift of a great relationship to five people this holiday. I bet once you start, you will develop a new and more amazing holiday tradition.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Stop and Notice Works Everywhere

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How to Not Let Your Family Make You Crazy During the Holidays

The holidays are supposed to be a happy time, a time when friends and family come together to celebrate. Celebrate each other. Celebrate life. Celebrate love. It’s a time to create new memories and celebrate old ones. 

But everyone knows family events can quickly lead to challenges. It’s so commonplace that it has been the focal point of a variety of movies, TV shows and even SNL skits. The well-intentioned aunt who keeps asking why you’re single. The uncle who indulges a little too much and brings up hot button issues as conversation over dinner. The religious or political zealot who uses the holiday to grandstand or overshare their beliefs. The relative who drops their kids in another room and departs hastily with some excuse as to why the kids are now someone else’s problem. 

It can be easy to let this behavior get the best of you, to feel angry or feel like a victim. But remember: you have the ability to choose your response, to intentionally decide how your next moment will be.

To do this in a way that is productive to you and those around you, answer these questions:

  1. How do I want this event to be? Consider the quote “Begin with the end in mind.” After leaving your family function, how do you want to feel? What memories do you want to create? Though you can’t control the entire event (or everyone’s moods), you have complete control over your own moods, emotions and actions. Consider how you want the event to be to you and make it your intention to make that outcome happen. You can feel this even if others don’t.
  2. What are my triggers? You know yourself and you know your family. Ask yourself if there is anything – behaviors, topics, etc. – that would make you angry, upset or frustrated. Know what those triggers are and prepare yourself to create a productive response to those triggers. Avoid reacting. Be self-managed. If you know your uncle aggravates you, what topics do you have prepared to redirect a conversation, or how will you make more time in the kitchen or some other area where you can stay away from the overly critical aunt? Plan ahead.
  3. Where is my line? At some point, even the greatest preparation might not be enough. And that’s ok! Everyone is unique; it’s part of what makes this world so great. But it can also introduce challenges and may result in some people butting heads. Ask yourself at what point can you no longer ignore, tolerate or try to diffuse a situation. At what point does the situation become toxic for you and any relationships in play? Identify your line and know how you will respond when that line is approached or crossed. Sometimes, it’s as easy as leaving. Sometimes, it requires a little more grace. Prepare yourself for what that could look like and have a plan when it arrives. This way you can stay calm and carry out your plan to keep yourself sane and mentally well.

Take Action
Spend some time getting to know yourself – your strengths, triggers and blind spots. Being aware of them creates the opportunity to better manage them (you can’t manage what you don’t see or know). This will help you more calmly and successfully navigate family functions. The calmer, saner and happier you are will allow you to enjoy the holidays and maybe even inspire others to do the same.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Don’t Panic (Until it’s Time to Panic)

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Go beyond what is expected; don't be average.

Don’t Do Average. Make It an Experience.

You have to eat dinner. You could eat something pre-made; just heat it in the microwave and eat it in front of the television. But by adding a table cloth, candles, your favorite food and a little music, what was once a requirement for survival becomes an experience. Experiences remain. Consider the quote, “People may not always remember what you said or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”

Don't do what is expected or average. Take it to the next level. Stand out from the crowd.

Our lives are marked by experiences – both favorable and unfavorable. That tells us two important things:

  1. Make experiences a priority.
  2. Make good experiences.

In a program I teach on customer service, I introduce something I call Impressure Points. Impressure Points is a term that brings together the concept of a Pressure Point (a place where the customer and the business intersect) and Impression (the impression made on the customer). So, business Impressure Points are the places where a business connects with a customer and has the ability to make an impression. Basically, it is an opportunity for a business to create an experience.

There are three types of Impressure points, all of which create a specific experience:

  • Breaking points – the customer did not get or experience what was expected. This could be product that is not delivered on time or is damaged, a call that is not returned, a cranky or unprofessional employee or a bad link on your website. There are so many places you interact with a customer; notice any potential breaking point areas.
  • Success points – the customer got exactly what they wanted, nothing more. Think of the restaurant that gets your order exactly right, but doesn’t make any additional effort in your dining experience. So even though a success point is not a breaking point, it is still not enough of an experience to earn customer loyalty. More is needed. It is a great experience that keeps a customer.
  • Extra Points – the customer got what they wanted AND something more was done. Author and leadership expert Ken Blanchard calls it the +1 in his book Raving Fans. Customers who have an exceptional experience will remember it. Consider the meal that was prepared exactly right and was delivered by a personable, friendly, upbeat and good-with-details waitstaff. This creates the response that gets shared and referred. Customers come back and bring their friends.

Though I shared Impressure Points and the power of experience from a customer’s perspective, realize these can be used anywhere in life, as well. Where are your breaking, success and extra points with your employees? Where are your breaking, success and extra points in your relationship with your spouse or partner, kids, family or friends? Know them to sustain or improve them.

Take Action
Life is about experiences. Notice what experiences you are creating at home and at work. Where are the areas that need more intention to amplify the experience and the outcome from it? What is one thing you can do today to raise a breaking point to a success point, and raise a success point to an extra point? Think of the type of experience you must create to activate engagement, drive results and inspire loyalty. 

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Reasons Why Your Best Employees Will Leave You in 2019 (and what to do about it)

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The Way to a Great Life? Tune in, Reflect, Then Respond

By Jay Forte

Most of us move through life in a hurried and habit way. We rush through our days, rarely taking the time to actually stop and notice ourselves, how we feel and what is going on around us. We eat lunch and dinner without really even noticing or tasting our food. We have conversations during our days that we can’t even remember we had later the same day. We don’t really know what we like or are good at. The reason? We haven’t learned how to tune in, reflect and respond.

Your world is filled with information that is shared with you in each moment. This information has the ability, when used and reflected on, to improve your next moment, decision or response. This is the process of awareness and mindfulness – of tuning in, reflecting and responding in an intentional way to improve your outcomes.

Let’s use this thinking and look at your relationships, work and life.

Tune in, reflect and respond in your relationships. What if you actually looked at someone when you spoke to them, instead of also trying to multitask? (Newsflash: Multitasking is not a success attribute. Your brain can only process one thing at a time, so the more you try to do multiple things once, it actually shortchanges the impact of each thing you are trying to accomplish.) When connecting with someone, pay attention to them – what they are saying, feeling, thinking and saying. Then reflect on what they said, felt, thought or felt. Only by doing this can you have a more meaningful and intentional response.

Tune in, reflect and respond in your work. How much of your work day are you in habit mode, doing the same things? What if you tuned in and reflected on what you do, and asked yourself “what could be better here?” Make time to reflect on what, why and how you do what you do to determine if you can improve your performance and connection with customers or clients. The impact could be profound for you and for your workplace.

Tune in, reflect and respond in your life. How much time, effort and energy do you give to living a meaningful life that fits you, your abilities and your interests? What effort do you put in to learn what makes you different, unique and amazing? How often do you make time to reflect on where in today’s world are the opportunities that need what you do and like best? The more intentionally you approach the world – to go out and live it on your terms, not on the terms of the loud voices around you that are generally more interested in your compliance to their beliefs than to help you discover, develop and live yours – the more remarkable it can be. As poet Mary Oliver asks in her poem, The Summer Day, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

It’s a profound question.

What’s your answer?

Tune in to notice who you are and what is going on in your world. Reflect on the opportunities to connect the real you to the places in work and life that need what you do and like best. Respond using your greater clarity to live and work as it fits you, making a most amazing life and a better world in the process.

Take Action

Practice tuning out to tune in. Give yourself 5 or 10 minutes of quiet two times a day. Practice becoming aware. With awareness comes mindfulness, the ability to make informed decisions based on information about you and your world to make your next moment better.

 

Consider reading Tune Out to Tune In

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3 Tips to Improve Any Relationship

By Jay Forte, Coach, Author, Educator

Whether in the workplace or at home, our lives are significantly affected by the quality of our relationships. We are in constant contact with people all the time, so why do we struggle most in our relationships?

Here are three things you can do to significantly improve your relationships, both personal and professional.

1. Let people be who they are. We already know that every one of us is unique. The more we insist people look, live and act like we do – or like we think they should – the more hostility and frustration we create in the relationship. Whether it’s in a marriage or in a manager/employee relationship, consider the impact of trying to change someone to become who you want them to be. Put yourself in their shoes. How do you feel when people in your life try to change who you are?

Ask yourself: how can you better understand who the other person is and allow them to be who they are?

2. Ask more than tell. The initial reaction is to get defensive when you tell others what to do. They raise their shield and tune you out. Asking, however, engages, involves and includes people, all critical components of any healthy relationship.

Note the difference in telling vs. asking in each of the following:

Statement: Call the customer back and tell them ….
Question: How do you think you should handle your next call with the customer?

Statement: Get your homework done.
Question: What is the consequence of not turning your homework in complete and on time?

Statement: You should stop talking about politics with your family.
Question: How do you feel after your conversations with your family about politics?

3. Commit to “care-isms.” A “care-ism” is something small that shows you appreciate and value each other. Relationships thrive on feeling valued and important, so consider incorporating care-isms like a quick email, phone call, card, favorite snack or even just making eye contact when they speak to you (i.e. put your phone down). Notice how it feels when others do this for you and build a habit to do more care-isms each day.

Important Questions from a Coach:

  1. What do others do that make you feel valuable?
  2. How much intention do you give to your relationships?
  3. What is one thing you can do today to improve your relationship with one key person at work or in your life?

The best way to improve your relationships is to allow people to be who they are. Ask more than tell. Do things that show them you care. These three simple things can have a profound impact on your personal and professional relationships.

Need help building stronger relationships at work or at home? Consider talking with a coach to help you develop better self-awareness and relationships skills.

 

Consider reading Try This Instead

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