By Dr. Gary Sweeten
Do you want to be the person your family and friends can confide in and feel supported and encouraged? Check your GREW skills to start. While the following traits seem simple, they are often what is missing in encouraging relationships.
Genuineness (being the real thing)
To be genuine is to be honest with yourself and others. It requires us to examine our own heart frankly to discern the shadows that lurk within. Genuineness requires work, but there are so many positive pay-offs that the cost is worth the effort. Honest reflections about personal struggles enable us to better understand the human condition of others and assist others in their journey toward wholeness. Honest examination about our need to change brings growth in authentic compassion.
Genuineness communicates acceptance without license, reality without self-pity, and openness without pride. Judging harshly, acting pridefully, and condemning shows that a person needs to grow personally so they can be more genuine.
Respect (respecting others with words & deeds)
Respect, like warmth and empathy, is necessary to build trust. Respectful interactions clearly show a belief in the other person, an acceptance of his or her personhood, and affirmation that he can be trustworthy and responsible for his own life. In marriage, respect is necessary for intimacy and essential for the healthy resolution of conflicts.
Respect is vital to build a great marriage relationship. However, research indicates that spouses often tend to show more respect to others than to their mates. Frances Klagsbrun, before writing Married People: Staying Together in the Age of Divorce, interviewed 87 couples who had been married for 15 years or more. She wanted to identify the main factors that enabled their marriage to survive. An overwhelming majority named respect as a key factor in building a long-lasting marriage.
Not only is disrespect threatening to a marriage, it undermines a spouse’s self-esteem and regard for their partner. In a healthy marriage, partners nurture and build up each other’s esteem. There’s an absence of contempt and criticism, which are weapons of disrespect. In essence, respect is an appreciation of the personhood of one’s partner, and a willingness to honor and live with what is unique and best in each other.
Empathy (imaginatively and accurately tuning in to the mind and heart of another person and respond to let them know they are understood)
Empathy is sometimes confused with sympathy, but they are quite different. Sympathy is feeling the same feelings of another person. When you feel joy, sorrow, or fear, I would actually have the same feelings. Empathy, on the other hand, is accurately understanding their feelings even if I don’t have the same inner experience. Taking on another’s feelings, could prevent us from being objective and really helpful. Emergency workers sent to a car crash or another crisis are trained to stay calm and watch carefully for ways to assist the injured. They are trained to understand their pain, but not feel it.
In marriage and family life, partners who know how to empathize will understand each other, solve problems easier, and encounter fewer toxic conficts. They can risk expressing ideas, concerns, and deep feelings in an open manner. Empathy helps us understand our family’s changing hopes, fears, dreams, and expectations
Warmth (being open, accepting, sensitive and encouraging through nonverbal communication)
Some 50% to 70%, of our messages are communicated by nonverbal expressions that surround our words. Body movements, facial expressions, and tone infections determine to a large extent whether a message builds others up or tears them down. How I appear to the speaker when I’m listening may be as important to him or her as the words I actually say. Conversely, how I look as I send a message can be as important as the words to the reception of the message.
If I talk unenthusiastically and use other ‘door closers’ my body is saying to my partner, “I’m not really interested in what you’re saying or feeling.” Few things build a caring relationship more than a warm smile, twinkling eyes, and reassuring touches. So the core condition of warmth, which is being open, accepting, sensitive, and encouraging, is expressed almost entirely through one’s non-verbals.