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9 skills to better relationships

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This past winter, I took a course offered by DePauw called “The Skills of Happiness with Professor Doug Smith.” Having heard about these types of classes being offered at Yale and Harvard, I was eager to sign myself up and see what the fuss was all about. To my amazement, this class has changed my life and helped develop some tools that will stay with me throughout life.

One set of tools I continue to reflect on today are the 9 Skills to Better Relationships. These tools can be used in any type of relationship; work, mentor, friendships, partnerships, etc. The only catch to these skills is that they must ALL be used. You can’t pick and choose which ones to use, you must challenge yourself to attempt each skill and work on the ones that challenge you. I can say that some challenge me and others come naturally, that is just part of the deal. Ignoring the difficult ones are what halts relationship growth, so I implore you to try your best!

1. Listen with 140 bits of information

Professor Smith stated, “Casual conversation requires about 40 bits of information a second. So, when someone else is speaking to us, we basically have 100 bits of information that is free to do other things.” During this ‘free time’ our mind can wonder to what we will have for dinner, tomorrow’s plans, and the movie you watched last night. All these thoughts take up your attention from the person. Push yourself to limit those passing thoughts and direct your attention completley to the person speaking. 

While the total bits of information vary between 120 and 140 bits a second in actuality, the message behind Smith’s statement stays the same.

2. Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Our Emotional Intelligence has been considered more important than our IQ. Through our emotional intelligence we are able to understand how to be conscious of our emotions and how to handle them. Through understand awareness and mangangment of our emotions and then helping others to understand their own, we are able to achieve relationship management.   

3. Risk Being Vulnerable

Being vulnerable with others helps to lead to the foundation of a trusted, deep relationship. While this is easier said than done, without vulnerability how will we be able to grow our relationships? We need a foundation of trust in every relationship we have in life or else our foundation will crumble.

How do you start this vulnerability with someone? You take a leap with something small. As time passes, take more leaps while also giving them time to leap also. Listen to each other with complete and devoted attention.

4. Increase Emotional Bank Account

When you become vulnerable with others, your ‘Emotional Bank Account’ puts an investment on those people, and same with you. Grow your Emotional Bank Account to contain as many investments as you are comfortable. Don’t be afraid one investment will fail because at least you put in the effort and tried. Don’t forget that you too are an investment to someone else, show them you earned that investment!

5. Active, Constructive Responding (ACR)

When someone shares good news with you, how do you respond? Do you eagerly ask them about it more, tell them something good that’s happened to you, or ask them about the negatives of the news? How you respond to good news is a key component in lasting relationships because no one wants a friend that they feel can’t listen to their good news. Professor Smith walked into class, said “I’m taking my family to Disney,” and drew this simple chart below. Then he went through each box and explained what a response of this statement would look like in each box.

Let Them Savor the News: In this box, our response is asking them more about their news in a positive way. Here, we are the listener, practicing the skill of ‘140 bits of information.’

            Example: “Wow! What parks were you are thinking of going to visit?”

Pop Their Balloon: In this box, our response came without much thought. We’ve completely ruined their good news and positive mood. This response is common and is easy to point out but difficult to practice.

            Example: “That’s expensive.”

Gently Deflate Them: This response is similar to ‘Pop Their Balloon’ but isn’t as rude or aggressive initially. Here the responses can start to seem kind but as the conversation continues the good news person starts to get warn down.

    Example: “Oh cool, when are you going to go? Spring break is a good idea, or no maybe not. It’s always busy that time of year. Fall would be good, but them you have traffic to deal with. Is it costing you a lot of money? If so, you won’t want to go during the summer…”

It’s All About Me: In this box, our response ultimately ends with us redirecting the conversation back to ourselves. Here we may have started in the first box, but then shifted through the others, bringing the conversation inward.

   Example: “I went to Disney last year! We visited Magic Kingdom and…”

6. Practice Companionship

When someone shares bad news, this is when we must practice companionship. With companionship we don’t lessen their news or redirect it back to ourselves, as we discussed earlier. We listen. We are there for them through practicing 140 bit of information and realizing their desire to increase their emotional bank on you. It takes courage and trust to tell someone bad news and trust that they will listen wholeheartedly. Do not try to solve their problem but simply be there for them.  

7. Let the Negative Stuff Go

This one is simple, do not linger on the negative aspects of life. Give those stories their time, but once the time is done, allow those emotions to go as best as you can.

 8. Ask Back

We all hate to be a part of dead-end conversation; a simple remedy is to ask back. If you just shared your lovely vacation you took, ask them if they’ve visited an interesting place recently. If you are asked a question, then always try to ask back.

9. Be Yourself

This one is probably the hardest of all. Figuring out who you are and presenting that to the world can be difficult, but each of these skills above will help you to build the you that you’ve always wanted to be. Good luck, and continue to invest in people. 

These are the books we read during my Happiness Class. If this article interested you, I implore you to read these beautiful texts to further your path to true happiness!

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Author: Sara Hammerle

Sara Hammerle is our summer intern! Sara did a previous internship with us during her senior year at Lebanon High School. She and Alyna Sell helped develop and run our Family Feud Fundraiser during the spring of 2019.

She is currently studying at DePauw University, working a Psychology Degree. Through DePauw, Sara is able to receive Extended Studies Credit for this internship.

At Boone County Mentoring Partnership, Sara is our Marketing and Communications Coordinator. 

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