The Most Important Relationship Habit In The World

It has been said that for a behavior to become a habit, it must be done anywhere from 7 to 21 days in a row. While this theory sounds good, I think it complicates the central issue, especially when it comes to relationships.

What I mean is this. In my experience, a habit is formed immediately once a true commitment has been made; not after 7-21 days. It's in the precise moment that one decides to make a change, that change is made. Note, I didn't say when one states a hope or desire to change...but when an actual decision has been made.

Let's talk about this in terms of something really simple, and then let's extend this new concept to our relationships.

If we wanted to lose weight, we might think somewhat generally...I really need to eat healthier. Or I really should start working out more. I'm going to try to get up tomorrow and work out. Do you hear how these words have failure built into them?

Words like Want, Need, Should, and Try...are not decisions. They are doomed before you even start. Instead, you must make a simple decision that will lead to better health, such as "I will only drink water for the next 30 days." Or, "I will do 20 pushups each morning at 6:00am, for the next 30 days". It's not the 30 days that makes the habit. It's the decision to act that makes the habit. It's the decision carried out each day that creates the change you are looking for.

So, would you like to apply this concept to your relationship? Of course you would! Here's how. Make a decision to change in one area now that will improve your relationship over time.

Here's an example from my own life and family. Many parents and children fall into the bad habit of not giving undivided attention when we are "interrupted" by the other person. You're in the middle of watching a tv show, doing the laundry, reading the paper (do people still do that?), checking emails, etc. You say "I'm busy!" or half-listen while the other person talks...while you keep looking at something else. You know the message that sends to the other person? It says "I am not important, or AS important as the other thing." It slowly harms the relationship if not kept in check.

So, DECIDE, the next time you are interrupted to do two things.

  1. Allow yourself to be interrupted. Meaning STOP what you are doing.
  2. Give undivided attention to the other person.

Here is what that looks like in reality. My son walks in while I'm writing this blog post. It's really important that I get this post done and it has my total attention. But my son is standing there wanting to show me his new school binder that he thinks is pretty cool. I'm not kidding, this just happened. :-).

What's more important...this blog post or my son whom I'm in relationship with? It's my son. So, I hit the save button, put the laptop down, close the lid, and turn to him and say, "Sure!. Show it to me. OH! That's cool." And then stay engaged until he is done showing it to me.

So that really just happened. What did it communicate to my son, who is now off doing something else while I finish this blog post? It communicated that I value him enough to give him my undivided attention. HE is important to me. It didn't take 7-21 days to do either. All it took was deciding that IF I am interrupted by a friend, co-worker, or family member, I WILL stop what I'm doing and give them my attention, BECAUSE these people in my life are more important. That decisive action, performed over time will improve my relationships...guaranteed!

Ok, now back to you. What decision do YOU need to make to improve your relationship? How about creating the habit of giving your undivided attention to your family members? All you have to do is decide to do it...and it will happen!


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