By Denise Schipani
You may not immediately believe that the same advice that helps you navigate your workplace, deal with your boss or advance your career would dovetail with smart ways to improve your romantic relationship, but think about it for a second. At work, you get along and get ahead by being courteous and solicitous, honest and upfront. Doesn't the same hold true of the strongest marriages? We sure thought so. Here, eight commonsense workplace tips that you can easily apply to your love life.
1. Think before you speak. Before you launch into a complaint or a potentially difficult discussion, always ask yourself, "Will what I say make me more or less likable to the person I'm approaching?" says Jennifer Hirsch, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in private practice in New York City and Washington, DC. At work, you don't want to charge into your boss's office slinging obscenities and being overly aggressive-and the same holds true when you're at home. "Take a moment, erase the contentious words from what you plan to say and throw a 'sweetie' or two in there," says Dr. Hirsch (the "sweetie" part is for spouses only, not bosses!).
2. Be succinct! Often, when we're fired up about an issue (being unfairly asked to clean up a mess at work; feeling like the housework split at home is unfair), we tend to ramble-and let other issues trickle in and muddle our message. But take a sec to focus on what the issue is, suggests Dr. Hirsch. "The best way to get your message across, at work or at home, is to first check that you're not adding in other issues, then get right to the point." Instead of a long preamble about how overwhelmed you feel doing all the laundry and the food-shopping, make a simple, clear request: "Oh, hon, on your way home, can you pick up a gallon of milk and some apples for the kids' lunches tomorrow? Thanks."
3. Use the feel-felt-found technique. One great piece of business advice that helps change the minds of stubborn colleagues is the feel-felt-found technique, says Jess McCann, dating coach and author of You Lost Him at Hello. "You first relate to the other person by saying, 'I know how you feel about XYZ,'" she says. Follow that with, "I felt that way, too. And then, I found that ABC was a better approach." Let's say your spouse doesn't want to see the movie you'd enjoy watching. Try saying: "I see how you feel-that last Kate Hudson movie was pretty bad. I felt that way about this one at first. But then I found that all the reviews have been great." He may not end up agreeing to see the movie with you, but at least it's not an argument!
4. Throw yourself under the bus. "People let pride and ego get in the way at work, and in their relationships," says McCann. But sometimes the best way to smooth over an argument is to admit your fault (there's always enough to go around, right?) and move on. At work, it goes like this: "You know, I should have gotten that presentation emailed to the client last night, and I dropped the ball"-even if it was really your whole team that missed an important detail. At home, try a simple but effective, "Honey, you're right. I'm sorry." For example, instead of having your thousandth spat about who didn't pay the electric bill, take ownership and say, "I should have realized it was due and signed up for online bill pay. I'll do that right now." Says McCann, "Taking responsibility gets you more respect-especially in the long term-than pointing fingers ever will."
5. Watch your tone. That old adage "It's not what you say, it's how you say it" holds true in the office as much as it does at home. In a heated meeting, if you're the only person speaking in an even tone, you're the one who'll eventually be listened to. At home, says Dr. Hirsch, "work on removing all the energy from your voice when you have something important to say." Try pretending you're talking to your boss-at whom, presumably, you'd never whine or screech-and speaking low enough that you wouldn't wake a napping toddler. When you're angry about something and it comes across in your voice, all your partner hears is the anger part-not the substance of what you're saying.
6. Be classy. Do you believe that being demure and reserved at work means you'll never reach the corner office? Well, it's not true. The better career advice is to take the high road, show class and respect, and display conviction without being a pushover. Let's say you suspect your boss stole your idea-or that your husband didn't mail the insurance papers as you asked. "Give both of them the benefit of the doubt, and come at the issue by saying, 'I wonder if you realize that such-and-such happened,'" says Dr. Hirsch. Taking the high road gets you more, not less, respect.
7. Underpromise and overdeliver. In business situations, it's commonplace to hear this advice when it comes to dealing with clients. Instead of making grand promises, keep them manageable and then exceed expectations. For example, promise the client he'll have the goods by Monday close of business instead of first thing; that way if you can get them there at 9 a.m., you're the hero. Same thing goes in relationships, says McCann: "If you make grand promises to your spouse, you're in danger of disappointing when you can't deliver." A small-but-nice promise (I'll get you a birthday cake) is easy to meet-and you'll get a bonus when you exceed it (with a fabulously decorated homemade cake).
8. Try build-break-build. Tackle difficult conversations with the build-break-build approach, says McCann. "It's a great workplace technique that can help couples keep an ordinary conversation from dissolving into a fight." First, you build the other person up: "I'm so happy that you've been taking care of the dinner dishes at night; that's been a huge help while I take care of the kids." Then you break it down a little: "It would be great if, while you're doing the cleaning up, you could wash the pots instead of just putting them in the sink." Then you build up again: "But I just wanted you to know that I appreciate how much you've been pitching in!"Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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