30 Seconds to Better Relationships

These 2-second Q&As will help you deal with all the important people in your life.

At Work
1. E-mail or walk down the hall?

Answer: Walk down the hall.

You’ll get your blood circulating better, burn calories and, most likely, have a more productive, personal and satisfying conversation than you would have had via the computer.

2. Shout or walk away?

Answer: Walk away.

Shouting means the disagreement has become overly personal and emotional. Little good will come of it. Cut off the conversation firmly by saying this is an unacceptable way to resolve an issue and that you’ll reconvene the discussion when your colleagues have regained their composure, thoughtfulness and perspective.

3. Complain or keep quiet?

Answer: Complain.

Complain effectively, by being specific and positive, focusing on how correcting the problem will help the company and by providing at least one viable solution to the problem. Any sensible business wants to do things better. If your boss or company is so insecure or political that you can’t speak honestly about things that need to be fixed, it’s time to move on.

4. Short or long apology?

Answer: Short

The person you wronged doesn’t want to hear about the kind of day you had, the idiot who cut you off on the road, the ketchup someone squirted on your tie or any other reasons for your foul mood. He or she just wants to know that you realize that barking angrily at him or her the minute you walked in the door was wrong. So say simply that you’re sorry and that you know it was wrong. Then let the other person talk.

At Home
5. Gift or no gift?

Answer: Gift

If you’ve had a fight with your partner, particularly a bad fight, a peace offering goes a long way towards restoring, well, the peace – as long as it’s delivered with a sincere apology or message of reconciliation. But be careful never to try to win back favor with a gift alone – that’s called a bribe. It’s the apology that matters; the gift reinforces the message of love and commitment.

6. To tease or not to tease?

Answer: Tease.

But there are rules. One, do it with love, not hostility. Two, both teaser and teasee must be in on the fun. Third, you must be willing and able to reverse roles. Teasing is a way of highlighting the humor in our idiosyncrasies. Get used to being teased as a way of seeing the humor in yourself. But if someone’s feelings get hurt, it’s time to re-examine the ground rules.

7. Argue back, or walk away?

Answer: Argue back.

Choose battles with your children selectively – don’t ever start an argument that’s not worth having. But if you get into one that is worth it, stay in it to win it. And try to be right. That helps a lot, too!

8. Laugh or cry?

Answer: Cry.

When life is so challenging that you’re having anxiety attacks, it’s a serious business. While laughing off the situation may seem like a mature, “I’m in control” response, it may be masking or denying some very unhealthy issues. Crying is a more honest, anxiety-releasing response, with positive physiological effects. It also signals to you and your loved ones that all is not well and that change may be in order.

9. Your partner’s or your mother’s recipe?

Answer: Your partner’s.

Once you marry, your partner is the most important person in your world, your life partner and your number one love. No matter how much you love your parents – or how much better your mom’s recipe for a particular dish tastes – turn to your partner for the healing and nourishment you need.

10. Letter or phone call?

Answer: Letter.

When an apology is due, sit down and write a letter. Not only will it give you a better opportunity to think through your thoughts, but you always have the option of sending it or not sending it. Sometimes the simple act of writing is enough to give you peace of mind. If you do send it, the person to whom you’re sending it has a lifetime reminder of your apology.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest