by Shaunti Feldhahn
You know that colleague or family member who drives you nuts? The one who second-guesses everything you do, is super-sensitive, and doesn’t return urgent emails for help?
No, wait, that would be my colleague! You probably have a different relationship that drives you nuts. Your grumpy step-father or passive-aggressive sister. A daughter with an Olympic level skill in eye-rolling. Or perhaps it is your spouse, as your marriage has slid from happy to hurting.
Or maybe it isn’t a bad relationship, but a good one … and you want it to be great.
Well, I’ve got great news. I’m a social researcher; and after years of study on what we call the 30-Day Kindness Challenge, we found three actions anyone can do to transform any relationship. Because targeted kindness is a superpower that will soften any heart.
Including our own!
Here’s what you do. Pick the person with whom you want a better relationship. For 30 days, you will:
- Say nothing negative about your person—either to them or about them to someone else. If you must provide negative feedback (for example, to discipline a child or correct a subordinate’s mistake), be constructive and encouraging without a negative tone.
- Every day, find one thing you can sincerely praise or affirm about your person and tell them, and tell someone else.
- Every day, do one small act of kindness or generosity for them.
That’s it! So simple. And yet in our research for The Kindness Challenge, 89% of relationships improved!
What does this look like in practice? Well, suppose you and your husband have been irritated with one another for months. Now every parenting decision is a battle, and your feelings are regularly hurt.
During the 30-Day Kindness Challenge, you resist the urge to ask “Why did you let the kids stay up so late!?” And you completely stop yourself from venting about it with your girlfriends at work. (This is just for thirty days, remember!) Instead, you’re looking for things to praise. So you notice it was really nice of him to come home early to get the boys to football practice. You thank him for it – and then you tell your girlfriends at work about that nice thing he did.
You’re also looking for that little act of generosity to do each day. So when he’s super tired after work, instead of getting annoyed that he’s not helping with dinner preparation you sincerely say, “I’ve got this. You go watch the game for a few minutes.”
Trust me: Starting this process will show us a whole lot about what needs to change. Not just in the other person: but in us. You will see just how negative you have been, in ways you never realized before. (In The Kindness Challenge, I outline the seven distinct types of negativity we found in the research, ranging from exasperation to overt criticism to suspicion. I strongly recommend you find out your negativity patterns, so you can watch for them!)
One Small Win: But as you go, you will also see something amazing: you will see your feelings changing. You’ll start appreciating the other person more. You’ll see their defenses lowering. And you may see enjoyment and positivity in the relationship you haven’t seen in years. An effort toward kindness won’t solve every problem – especially the big ones like addiction – but it will make them easier to solve.
I hope you will sign up for the 30-Day Kindness Challenge! Get a group of friends to do it together. Be a part of a movement of kindness in our culture – and in yourself!
Shaunti Feldhahn is a social researcher, speaker and best-selling author of books such as For Women Only. She thinks Kathi Lipp – and anyone who loves Kathi – rocks the world. She hopes all of you will go rock the world with kindness.
Homework often feels like swimming in quicksand; it takes a lot of effort to make a small, microscopic bit of progress. I think my son often feels the same. His face, his voice, his delay of the inevitable all lead to a night of overwhelm, and there isn’t one of us who welcomes the arrival of it. Instead, we have had to reframe homework time in order to do more than simply survive the wade through quicksand.
Changing the homework atmosphere
In a moment of desperation, when overwhelm was about to suck every bit of joy from the house, I opted to change the atmosphere. It was time to think outside the box.
Who knew that lavender essential oil was just as important as a No. 2 pencil? It was news to me but now I keep it on hand. Diffuse it or wear it on your wrists to erase overwhelm – yours and your child’s! I bet fresh baked cookies, freshly cut rosemary or flowers would work to invigorate and motivate as well.
A clear space to work makes a big difference. It drives us all nuts to have to clear a spot or work around the syrup on the counter. Have a clear spot ready to go. Also, there’s something about a flickering candle that ushers in peace and shows overwhelm the door. The candlelight serves as a reminder of what home is – a place of peace, it serves to remind me not set a place at the table for overwhelm.
Music is powerful and completely customizable! What type of music focuses and calms your child? Instrumental music, soft rock, a movie soundtrack, or white noise? One night I put on John Coltrane just as I was about to pull my hair out and the strains of the talented saxophonist melted the frustration so that we could all stay focused on what is important – our relationships with each other!
Sometimes everyone needs a break. “Finish that worksheet and we can go shoot some hoops.” “Let’s practice your math facts and then we can have a snack.” “Go ahead and finish that sentence and we can go dance it out.” Homework will feel less like a prison sentence when there are opportunities to blow off some steam.
Atmosphere matters in homework. I can’t do my son’s homework for him (I already passed 4th grade), but I can set the tone in our home. Homework is not always going to be fun but there can be more smiles in the midst of math, more patience in the writing of the report. It is possible to end the night tired yet satisfied, that together, we navigated homework well.
One Small Win: With a simple step outside of the box, homework becomes more than just school work – it becomes a lesson in being patient and kind while mitigating overwhelm.
You can read more from Bethany Howard at bethanyhoward.com. She writes about finding fuel for joy and growth in the details of the daily. Her greatest leadership exercise has been her roles as wife and mom to three. She is a graduate of Leverage: The Speaker Conference.
by Julie Landreth
I had to stop the insanity.
Incessantly checking my phone, posting status updates, and mindlessly scrolling through news feeds. Facebook had taken up every free, quiet moment I had.
My relationship with social media
I developed a persistent tic, a relationship with social media which was getting in the way of real life. Whether I was at a stop light or in a waiting room, I filled my time scrolling. Riding shotgun was my cue to tune out and start scrolling. If I was playing Legos with my son, I would eventually find my phone in hand, thumb scrolling. One day he even said, “Mom, I am more important than your phone.” Ouch!
I noticed something was off in my relationships. Social media, Facebook, in particular, was fueling comparison.
I struggled with friendships
I struggled to connect in friendships at a deeper level. However, when I went out and ran into other women they commented about my posts which made me feel like they knew about my life, but they didn’t want to know me.
I felt bad, maybe it was just their way to strike up a conversation, but it left me feeling judged, compared and lonely.
In time, I realized I wouldn’t make meaningful connections unless I changed my approach to Facebook. I needed to be more intentional with what I shared and how I used social media. Removing the app from my phone was a step in the right direction.
I set boundaries for myself by only posting to Facebook through Instagram. As a photographer, I love taking pictures, so I follow accounts which are visually interesting and inspiring to me. Most of which I don’t know personally so there is not much to compare.
If I post a photo it’s for one of four reasons. I either found it super cool and beautiful, it’s a memory I want to be a part of my photo album, it’s something I found funny, or something which could be an encouragement to others.
I’m more engaged
As a result, I found myself more engaged and present with my husband and son. I can just be with them without feeling the need to fill time in the car by scrolling.
Now, I only check Facebook from my laptop, which means I often forget. I am keenly aware of friends and family who gravitate towards their phone. It reminds me that I don’t want to have my face buried in my phone. I want to be present and engaged.
Now when I run into people, they tell me my posts are uplifting and encouraging.
Facebook may not be a problem for you, but ask yourself, “What is competing for my attention?”
Perhaps make one of your resolutions to investigate your own social media patterns. Do you have any thought patterns that don’t serve you well? Do your scrolling habits keep you from fully engaging with those around you?
One Small Win: Set some boundaries for 2017 and feel the freedom of truly experiencing relationships with those around you.
Julie Landreth has a passion for healthy and thriving relationships – especially in marriage and friendship. She is a speaker and a “wife coach” who loves sharing with women her passion for prayer and ways to actively cultivate a thriving marriage. She leads a growing number of women in San Jose, CA, through her curriculum: Consistency and Persistency: The Art of Praying for your Husband.
Having been married 12 years, she and her husband have cultivated a marriage filled with intentional love, effective communication, sustainable fun, and a date night every Friday night for the last nine years. She also finds deliberate ways to spend quality time with her nine-year-old son who shares many of her artistic talents. Follow her on Instagram: @julielandreth.
Have you endured the Christmas Party where someone just pushes your buttons and you want to scream? Or the family dinner where Aunt Myrtle points out all the things wrong? We all have challenging people in our lives. Sometimes we can be the challenge. This is when a people plan can help.
Pre-deciding how we will behave when we are in those challenging situations helps us be the best person we can be.
Kathi and Overwhelmed co-author, Cheri Gregory, discuss various situations where a “people plan” can turn challenging events into less overwhelming situations.
People Plan Options
In this podcast, they talk about three options that can help you when it comes to pre-deciding how you will behave:
- Personal Manifesto – Creating a “personal manifesto” sets up a code of ethics that helps you pre-decide what you need and want and how to ask for it. (Kathi and Cheri’s manifesto can be viewed here)
- Acknowledgment – Acknowledge a pattern and discuss it. Perhaps the person is willing to change or you can change your reaction to their actions.
- Leave – Don’t subject yourself to disrespectful behavior.
Kathi and Cheri run through multiple scenarios to help you pre-plan your responses and help you deal with the overwhelm.
When there has been betrayal in your marriage, restoration doesn’t seem possible and rebuilding a marriage seems daunting. Many of us just wouldn’t go down that road, but other times, when God’s plan includes rebuilding your marriage, He uses it to move mountains. So how do you go from a completely broken place, to a marriage that is better than new, fully restored and more connected than you ever realized it could be?
Kathi talks to Cindy Beall, a woman that has gone from shattered to restored, betrayed but now, with a lot of honesty and hard work, in a marriage that is beautiful. She is the author of Rebuilding a Marriage Better than New, and Healing Your Marriage When Trust is Broken. Kathi and Cindy discuss what that honesty and work look like and how life can look on the other side of broken.
Your first challenge is simple. All I want you to do is say something nice to your husband. That’s it. Really. Let’s just love him with words.
Because the truth is: often we wives have the power to change the way our husbands walk through the world by choosing the words we speak to them.
How you do it is up to you.
Here are a few ideas for ways to love him with words:
- Say it to him
- Text it to him
- Put it on a Post-it Note in his truck
- Call him
- Whisper it to him
- Put it in a card in his computer case
- Write it in lipstick on the bathroom mirror
Have you got your great idea of how you’re going to say it? Great. Now what to say … maybe a simple “I love you” or “I appreciate how you _______ .” Maybe you want to tell him he is sexy or handsome.
But don’t worry if you’re having a hard time coming up with something. I have you covered! Here are some additional ideas for how to love him with words. Something to get the creative juices flowing. These are from The Husband Project: 21 Post-it Note Sized Encouragements.
And remember, tell me in the comments what you did (or are planning to do) to love him with words. (And post a picture to my Facebook Page so I can share your love with the world!)
Answer the Question of the Day on Kathi’s Facebook page for your chance to win a copy of 101 Ways to Tell Your Husband You Love Him!
Today’s question: What words most encourage your husband? Scripture, I love you’s, or I appreciate you’s?