First, a confession. I am not an expert in Feng Shui. Feng Sui? Fung Sui? Fung Shui I'm not even sure how to spell it. My expertise is in sustaining well-being and in turning toxic relationships to positive ones.
At the same time, healthy relationships, like a healthy home or office building, depend on positive energy flows. Feng Shui, from my limited understanding, offers ways to keep the positive energies flowing and to minimize the presence of negative energies. Positive energies come from expressing enthusiasm, interest in others, gratitude, appreciation, and affection bring happiness. Negative energies detract from happiness.
I'm delighted to report that the following three basic principles from About.com on how to Feng Shui your house or office can offer a useful strategy for clearing the negative energy from relationships.
These principles apply to all relationships. Clear the negative energy and augment the positive with all the people you interact with: your loved ones—lover, spouse, kids, elders—and also friends and work colleagues.
Spreading negative energy in relationships invites depression in those with whom you interact, triggers annoyance in you, and increases the odds that people will want to keep their distance from you. By contrast, stimulating the flow of positive energy in your interactions makes you safe and appealing to be with.
# 1. Clutter: "Clear Out Your Clutter. Get Rid of Everything You Do Not Love in Your House."
Clutter in a house is easy to see; clutter on your desk at work is too. But what constitutes clutter in a relationship? As I've written in an earlier posting, there's a handful of little words that make big messes. Here's a quick list of them. The less often you use them, the better.
- But, which deletes what came before, demoralizing the person who has just told you something.
- Not, which puts darkness where light belongs.
- You, when it points a critical or accusatory finger at the person with whom you are talking.
My blog post on "Clearing Emotional Clutter From Your Relationships" offers further details.
# 2. Sunshine: "Have Good Quality Air and Good Quality Light."
Good relationships need breathing space. With colleagues, clear division of labor gives boundaries and spaces between what you do and what others do. With your boss, room to make many decisions on your own gives you space. With lovers and spouses, allowing time for each of you to be on your own, and space to each have your own viewpoints and activities, is essential.
With kids, beware of hovering over-protectively or telling them too much about what they should do. Kids need space to be creative on their own, to hear their own inner drummer, to make mistakes and learn from them.
Good relationships also thrive with the light of positivity. Agreement, appreciation, shared laughter, attention to each other, praise, and shared affection are essential. My post on ways to convey positive energy offers more information on this topic.
# 3. Tone: "Always Be Mindful of the Feel of Your Home."
Do you focus sufficiently on the tone of your voice, or do you ignore negative irritability that's quite obvious to the receiver? Any tone of "I'm right; you're wrong" gives what Eric Berne once termed an "I'm ok; you're not ok" message. So does frustration, annoyance, sarcasm, contempt, or anger.
Anxiety is another emotional spoiler. While occasional anxiety can alert you to a problem that needs your attention, frequent or ongoing anxious energies may signal cognitive patterns you might want to change. I've written several posts (this one and this one) on how to minimize the extent to which anxiety clouds your relationships, plus another on how to decrease performance anxiety.
Criticism is a sure way to spread negative energy to others. Criticism, especially when it is spoken with an irritated tone of voice, conveys a "you're not ok" message. For details on how to skip the criticism and give feedback instead, click here.
Telling others what to do is right up there with tone of voice and criticism when it comes to spreading negative energy. All of us want to be the captain of our own ship, so beware of pressing the "Don't control me!" button.
Requests are fine, if they are genuinely questions. Demands are not, including subtle comments like "I need you to ..." or "I would like you to ..." Requests have a question in them: "How would you fell about ....?" or "Could you ... please?"
A work situation is somewhat different. There, employer and employee have agreed that one will tell the other what to do in exchange for salary or wages. In other relationships though, skip the dictating.
Telling kids what to do is usually unnecessary as well. Giving orders engenders negative resistance. So instead of, "Wipe the milk from your face!" you'll receive a more positive response with a cheery "Milk-mouth alert!"
For more on getting kids to do what you would like them to do without telling them what to do, see my post on using play instead of discipline.
In Sum, to Feng Shui Your Relationships:
1. Clear the clutter by being wary of the little words that make big messes.
2. Give each other air and light via plenty of space and the positive energy you emanate.
3. Be mindful of tone: Stop arguing by deleting negative energy in your tone of voice, avoiding criticism, and changing from telling others what to do to describing the problem and letting them figure out what to do about it.
Then, voila! Healthy relationships and a more joyful life!
Denver clinical psychologist Susan Heitler, Ph.D, a graduate of Harvard and NYU, is the author of Power of Two, a book, a workbook, and a website that teaches the communication skills that sustain positive relationships.