New Year’s resolutions are common this time of year. We gain renewed motivation for a lot of things, but commonly this falls into the realm of appearance/health: We want to lose weight, exercise more, eat healthier, eat less, cook more, take the stairs, up our step goal, etc. While it is certainly not a negative thing to focus on ways to improve our own overall health and well-being, the fact remains that these are all (generally) self-centered resolutions. Think about it: How many resolutions have you come up with that are other-focused rather than self-focused? What would happen if you flipped things around and became more mindful of what came out of your mouth rather than what is going into your mouth? Here are some practical ways to make that transition:
Listen before speaking.
Most of us would look at this tip and think it is just common sense. That is true, but if you’re really honest with yourself, how often do you actually apply this skill? More often than not in conversations with others, we spend much more of our time thinking about what we’re going to say in response to someone without actually hearing and processing what the other person is saying. This usually means that as soon as the other person is done talking, we jump right in with what we want to say. Instead of doing that, practice taking a breath and counting to 5 EVERY time BEFORE you respond. This self-imposed pause will help you take the time to hear the other person, not just resort to defending yourself or proving a point.
Think before speaking.
This sounds really similar to the tip described above, but the difference here is the added element of being very purposeful and mindful of what you say and when you say it. Here too, you will need to slow down your reaction time and take a pause before responding, but during that pause ask yourself these things: Is what you want to say…. 1. Going to build this person up, or tear them down? 2. Necessary to progress this conversation in a positive direction? 3. A fact or an opinion? 4. Driven by logic or by emotion? 5. Proactive or reactive?
Ditch the sarcasm.
I know, we all do it! And while dry humor and snarky remarks have their place in conversation at times, we usually overdo it. Sarcasm by definition is indirect and insincere, and for those who are more literal thinkers or who are more emotionally sensitive, a sarcastic comment can often elicit offense, confusion, or embarrassment. It’s also a response typically borne out of irritation or annoyance at someone, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that perpetuating those emotional reactions into a conversation doesn’t add anything productive. Instead of being sarcastic, work toward saying what you actually mean. If you have genuine annoyed or irritable feelings toward someone, talk to them directly and honestly about it rather than distorting it with a sarcastic comment. Say what you mean, and mean what you say!
So this New Year’s, amidst the self-focus, take the time to turn your attention outward and really contemplate how you impact others. If we all made just one resolution to do something for the benefit of others this year instead of for ourselves, imagine the difference that would make in our relationships with one another. Happy New Year!
Author: Christina Stai
Dr. Christina Stai is a licensed clinical psychologist in both California and Iowa. She specializes in young children and received her doctorate in Psychology (Psy.D.) from Azusa Pacific University, an APA accredited school near Los Angeles. She completed an APA accredited internship and APPIC accredited postdoctoral fellowship at a residential emergency shelter with abused and neglected foster youth. We are proud that she has joined Hope Springs.
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