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Create Shared Meaning: Suggestions from Dr. Gottman

Dr. John Gottman offers practical ways to turn toward each other and create shared meaning in your relationship.

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Suggestions from Dr Gottman

When it comes to creating shared meaning, these ideas are ones that you can use in all your relationships, whether it be with your partner, children, siblings, extended relatives, and even friends. Try out a few of them and see how your relationships grow closer and start to feel more connected:

Things to do for (and with) your friends and family:

  • Ask “How are you?” in a way that shows that you really want to know
  • Listen to stories and jokes, even when you’ve heard them before
  • Return things you borrow
  • Say thank you for favors, trade big favors (painting houses, building decks, etc)
  • Ask for advice
  • Know when what you are asking for is too much
  • Remember birthdays, give personalized gifts, and don’t feel that you must overspend
  • Offer compliments
  • Accept apologies
  • Let them off the hook when they say “I can’t do it, I’m exhausted”
  • Let them be upset if they need to be
  • Ask for help
  • Let them help you
  • When they are stressed, try to help them (within your power)
  • Collaborate on projects
  • Talk on the phone
  • Celebrate each other’s successes
  • Show affection
  • Cry together
  • Laugh together

All of these activities are ways of Turning Towards those who are near and dear to you. The 7 levels of The Sound Relationship House are all connected:

  1. Building Love Maps
  2. Sharing Fondness and Admiration
  3. Turning Towards
  4. Keeping A Positive Perspective
  5. Managing Conflict
  6. Making Life Dreams Come True
  7. Creating Shared Meaning

You can’t maintain a successful, healthy relationship without keeping these levels of the house stable; instability on one level can make the whole house fall down. Don’t panic. This will add to the instability. Relax. As you learn to apply Dr. John Gottman’s research-based skills to your own relationships, the ways you interact with your loved ones will naturally become healthier and build stronger bonds that will last a lifetime.

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Ellie Lisitsa is a former staff writer at The Gottman Institute. She holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology.

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