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College of Human Ecology

Use Cues to Improve Relationships

Monday, February 7, 2005

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Borrowing an idea from a stage or television crew may help improve relationships.

Listening for cues and picking up on the clues they offer can help couples - or anyone else, for that matter - nurture their relationships, said Charlotte Shoup Olsen, Kansas State University Research and Extension family systems specialist.

"Missing such cues can result in missed opportunities that can distance spouses, friends or co-workers," said Olsen, who offered this example:

Cue: A spouse casually mentions that he or she looks forward to attending a home show to look for ideas about remodeling the kitchen. The remark is a surprise to his or her spouse, who hadn't thought of the remodeling project.

Picking up on the cue, the spouse calmly responds: "Oh, really, I hadn't realized that you were thinking about remodeling the kitchen. What would you like to do?"

"Such a cue, part of a natural day-to-day dialog about weekend plans, offers an opportunity to discuss what is on the spouse's mind even if the other does not totally agree," she said.

"Taking a cue can be pleasing to a spouse and also helps establish priorities in a relationship," said Olsen, who shared another example:

Cue: A spouse mentions a news story about a celebrity and new movie. Picking up on the cue, his or her spouse suggests checking movie schedules and arranging childcare so the couple can attend. The thoughtful gesture will likely get the couple's date off to a pleasant start, Olsen said.

"Using cues to enhance your relationships is a learned skill," said Olsen, who offered these how-to's:

* Be attentive.

* Take time to listen.

* Watch for facial expressions and body language - they can be clues, too.

* Speak calmly - don't raise your voice or yell. Either can damage communication.

* Be respectful to your spouse, family and others.

* Make thoughtful gestures, such as "please" and "thank-you" an everyday habit.

* Can't remain calm after a cue that you don't like? Step back and ask for time to think about what you are hearing. Do set a time to talk about the topic, though, rather than letting it simmer to the boiling point.

For more information on building communication skills to enhance relationships, contact the local K-State Research and Extension office or check Extension's Web site: www.oznet.ksu.edu and click on "Home, Family and Youth." Two of Olsen's Extension programs, "CoupleTalk" and "PeopleTalk," offer self-help opportunities for polishing up communication skills important in building successful relationships.

This article was posted on Monday, February 7, 2005, and is filed under College News, Family Studies & Human Services.