Guides to Good Human Relations                                                     To Home Page


Speak to people. There is nothing as nice as a cheerful greeting.

Call people by name - not names, the sweetest music is to hear one's name called.

Have humility. There is something to be learned from every living thing.

Be friendly. If you want to have a friend, be one.

Be cordial. Speak and act as if everything you do is a pleasure.

Be interested in others. You can like almost everybody if you try.

Be generous with praise, cautious with criticism.

Give your word; then keep it.

Be considerate of the feelings of others.

Be alert to give service. What counts most in life is what we do for others.

Researcher and psychotherapist Leonard Horowitz categorizes two classes of behavior that underlie all interpersonal relations: those designed to bring one person closer to another -- C type actions; and those designed to distance one person from another -- D type actions. Type C occurs when there is an intention to cooperate, collaborate, be close, agree, share, and, ultimately, love. Type D occurs when there is distance, disagreement, distrust, disapproval, criticism, and hostility.

At times the type D behaviors are barriers others must be willing to overcome before any type C warmth will be shown. At other times, the shy person sends double messages simultaneously: "Go away, I need you." This may be unintentional, as in, "you always hurt the one you love." Or it may be a protective tactic.

From: L. M. Horowitz, Two Classes of Concomitant Change in a Psychotherapy, in N. Freedman and S. Grand, eds., Communicative Structures and Psychic Structures (N. Y., Plenum)



The Power of Positive Thinking


1. Learn to remember names. Inefficiency at this point may indicate that your interest is not sufficiently outgoing. A person's name is very important to him/her.

2. Be a comfortable person so there is no strain in being with you--be an old-shoe, old-hat kind of individual. Be homey.

3. Acquire the quality of relaxed easy-goingness so that things do not ruffle you.

4. Don't be egotistical. Guard against giving the impression that you know it all. Be natural and normally humble.

5. Cultivate the quality of being interesting so that people will want to be with you and get something of stimulating value from their association with you.

6. Study to get the "scratchy" elements out of your personality, even those of which you may be unconscious.

7. Sincerely attempt to heal, on an honest Spiritual basis, every misunderstanding you have had or now have. Drain off your grievances.

8. Practice liking people until you learn to do so genuinely. Remember what Will Rogers said, "I never met a man I didn't like." Try to be that way.

9. Never miss an opportunity to say a word of congratulation upon anyone's achievement, or express sympathy in sorrow or disappointment.

10. Get a deep spiritual experience so that you have something to give people that will help them to be stronger and meet life more effectively. Give strength to people and they will give affection to you.



Good Relationships


Begin by taking inventory of your personality traits. Identify as many as you can, good and bad. Ask yourself: Do people generally like me? Why or why not?

Decide what you and others don't like about yourself and how you plan to change these traits. Replace negative characteristics with positive ones.

Listen in on your own conversations. Are you giving others the opportunity to speak, or are you monopolizing the discussion?

Be considerate of others. Be genuinely interested in them as people. Use your natural curiosity about others to learn what makes them tick. You will probably find that once you get to know them, you will like them. Best of all, they will like you, too.

Remember, if you want to make a favorable impression, be attentive. Make the person you're talking to feel that he or she is the most important person in the world.

Look directly at the person you are speaking to. If you have trouble looking someone in the eye, look at their forehead. They won't know the difference, and you will give the appearance of rapt attention.

Nod occasionally even if you don't agree. This encourages the speaker to be more expressive; you can register your views when he or she is finished.

Don't interrupt. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Listen to the speaker's view before you offer your own.

Be respectful of the other person's dignity. Don't try to make yourself look good at someone else's expense.

Don't minimize others' accomplishments and abilities. Give credit where credit is due.

Don't boast of your own achievements. Deeds always speak louder than words.

Give others a chance to stand in the spotlight. We all get our turn; be modest when your turn comes.

Be magnanimous in victory and gracious in defeat.

Don't use flattery to ingratiate yourself with others.

Respect others as individuals and expect respect in return.

Don't try to impress others with your intelligence. Use words to communicate, not to establish your superiority.

Be discreet about the subjects you choose to discuss. Don't discuss controversial topics such as religion, politics, or sex at inappropriate times or places.

Don't gossip yourself or agree with someone who does. If you don't feel like defending the person who is being maligned, change the subject or walk away. Always assume there are two sides to every story; you are only hearing one of them.

Don't bore others with tales of your misfortunes, problems, or personal interests.

Don't let others make you angry. When you lose control because someone else has gotten to you, you have put them in control of your reaction. Don't let that happen.

Always, always follow the Golden Rule. If you treat others as you would like to be treated, you will never have to worry about whether or not people like you. Your biggest problem will be finding as much time as your friends would like you to spend with them.

(From: Believe an Achieve by Samuel A. Cypert)


Exercise I: Three Powerful Forces in Intimacy

Partners get closer when they create opportunities for intimacy, without forcing it. Many couples use their creativity to arrange "romantic" experiences. But, when they are out of the habit of being close, they sometimes inadvertently set themselves up for disappointment. The fantasy rarely unfolds perfectly.

In the beginning of a relationship, intimate moments appear like mysterious accidents. You stumble blindly together into relaxed, tender, passionate moments, which whet your appetite for more. Over time, partners can teach each other how to create lasting closeness.

Try this experiment with your partner....

Harnessing the Forces that Increase Closeness

Face your partner and take turns completing each of the following sentences. Whenever you draw a blank trying to remember an actual experience together, substitute a wish for the future. When you finish the last sentence, begin again with the first until you have completed four rounds.

We are comfortable together, when ...

I enjoy your company, when ...

You are considerate, when ...

I am considerate, when ...

We spend enough time together, without overdoing it, when ...

You can rely on me completely, when ...

I can count on you, when ...

We play well together, when ...

I feel very strong feelings when ...

Mark the items that have the greatest effect on your feeling of closeness right now.

On a separate sheet, write a short list of specific ways your partner could help you feel closer now.

Three factors influence how close you feel to each other: hope and fear, the balance between quality time together and time apart, and how much you can count on each other. A realistic hope that you'll be appreciated and have fun helps you look forward to being with your partner. Conversely, if you expect to be criticized and to be bored, you'll dread being with your partner. Try talking to each other about what makes for good and bad times, and use what you learn to plan good times together.

A good balance of quality time together and time apart builds both intimacy and individuality. Spending too little time together eventually turns you into strangers. Too much time, or low quality time, eventually spoils your appetite for being together. Work together to arrive at a good balance of time together vs. time apart.

To create lasting closeness, it is necessary to rely on each other and to help each other to fulfill dreams. Invest time discussing your hopes and dreams. Describe how you'd like to be able to rely on each other under different circumstances (consider ordinary times, but also difficult times such as job loss, after the birth of a baby, illness).

True intimacy is one of the best experiences in life. How to create and nurture it, though, is a real challenge. It takes teamwork and openness.

Exercise II: Communicating the Positives

By watching how two partners act with each other, we can predict how happy a couple will be. Psychologists have measured the importance of communicating positives in your marriage. A series of studies at the University of Washington found that, for the strongest relationships, partners, over time, communicate five or more positives to each other for every negative that passes between them. Kind words, considerate acts, and expressions of respect all communicate positive feelings. For example, talking about nice times you've had together, or times together that have touched you or moved you in some special way keeps warm feelings alive between you. And, commenting on the special qualities you see in your partner signals your enduring feelings of admiration. But, marriage is not always a bed of roses. It's normal, of course, even for the best relationships to have dark times. That's when a clear awareness of the positives can be particularly useful. It helps you shorten the painful times and remain allies as you struggle through them.

Separately, take a moment to respond to three of the following items. When both of you have identified your examples, describe them in detail to each other, emphasizing what was meaningful to you. Be sure to focus also on how your partner has added or could add value to this type of experience for you.


Nice times I've had with you


Moments of accomplishment or pride


Times together that have touched or moved me in some special way.


Parts of our relationship that are just right


Special qualities I see in you


Places I have especially enjoyed being with you


Activities I enjoy sharing with you


My hopes for future experiences with you


Times when I have felt close to you


Times when I have felt loved and cared for by you


Times I feel drawn to you


Things I have done for you


Things you have done for me

Discuss your examples with each other

Fifteen Ways to Say, "I'm Sorry."

Do you need to apologize? Here are 15 ways to say "I'm sorry" to someone you love.

1. I'm feeling defensive. When I feel defensive, sometimes I say things I don't mean. 
2. I'm not talking to you like you are someone I love. Let me start over because I do love you.
3. I know I'm sounding angry, but I'm feeling extremely threatened. Let me take a deep breath and try again.
4. I know you're feeling harassed. Please bear with me, I will do better for you.
5. I'm afraid if I say I'm sorry, you'll make everything my fault.
6. I'm sorry. I think I was using a tone of voice I did not mean.
7. I think I'm overreacting.
8. I guess I haven't been listening very well. Please give me another chance.
9. Please forgive me?
10. I know I've hurt you. What can I do that would help us get happy again?
11. I've said some mean things. Can I take them back?
12. I'm making it sound like it was all your fault. I know that's not true.
13. I know I sound mad now. I'm sorry and I haven't stopped loving you.
14. I love you, I hate fighting, and I'm sorry for my part of this one!
15. I feel lousy about what just happened. Can we just make up?

Don't forget the best two words of all, "I'm sorry."

Don't forget the best three words of all, "I love you."

Don't forget the best four words of all, "Please forgive my ______."

Know Your communications' Style : Communications' Quiz.

We've all had times with our spouse or even very good friends where conversation dragged. We went away feeling drained or frustrated.

Fortunately, we have also had time with our close friends or spouse when conversation was very satisfying. The time flew by as we talked.

We have met people that we could not converse with at all, while meeting others where conversation "clicked. They were easy to talk to.


Was it a bad time of day for them? For you? Was one of you talking too quickly for the other?

Have you ever wondered why a person was so hard to get to know?

Have you ever wondered if people think you are hard to get to know?

This quiz may answer some of your questions. These questions can give you insight into your own patterns of conversation and communication as well as at least provide a clue about other people's communication preferences.

Read these statements and rate each one with the number that best describes you. There are no right or wrong answers, only you.

0 Never
1 Seldom
2 Sometimes
3 Often

1. I absorb information quickly.
2. I am talkative early in the morning.
3. I am talkative late at night.
4. I pay attention to visual details.
5. I give short, concise answers to most questions.
6. I keep most of my thoughts to myself.
7. Much of the time I am absorbed in my own ideas.
8. It is easy for me to identify my feelings.
9. I believe most of my thoughts are of interest to others.
10. I believe most of my thoughts are not of interest to others.
11. I believe most of my thoughts are none of anyone else's concern.
12. I have difficulty expressing my thoughts.
13. I have difficulty expressing my feelings.
14. I base my decisions more on logic than emotions.
15. I like to talk about intimate and/or emotional matters.
16. I have a hard time knowing what I'm feeling.
17. I feel overwhelmed or confused when people jump from one idea to another.
18. I am a fast talker.
19. I quickly tire of a subject.
20. I speak slowly, often pausing to think.
21. I feel bored or anxious if my partner talks too slowly.
22. I feel bored or anxious if my partner talks too quickly.
23. I like to be the center of attention.
24. I vigorously defend my thoughts and opinions.
25. I like to talk about what I am feeling.
26. I like to have good conversations when I eat.
27. I don't like to talk when I eat.
28. I like to talk to someone when I drive.
29. I don't like to talk when I drive.
30. I do not like to talk about money or financial matters.

Now answer the following questions in a few words or a few paragraphs, whatever your "style."

As a general rule, the times of day and general situations when I feel most available to talk are _____________________________. 

I listen most attentively when people (examples: talk slowly, talk quickly, don't dwell on one subject too long, speak with enthusiasm, speak in a calm voice, share their emotions, etc.) _____________________________. 

It is difficult for me to pay attention when people (talk at length about work, jump from topic to topic, talk only about problems, etc.) _____________________________. 

It is difficult for me to talk when (people ask too many questions, I am tired, I first wake up, etc.) ___________________________________.

Look for a pattern in your answers. The pattern expresses your individual styles of conversation and communication. This personal insight will help converse with many different types of people.

Portions of above were excerpted and edited from Hot Monogamy by Dr. Patricia Love and Jo Robinson.


The number one predictor of divorce is the habitual avoidance of conflict.

And what's sad is the reason we avoid conflict is because we believe it will cause divorce.  It's like the cartoon where the couple explains to the marriage counselor,  "We never talk anymore. We figured out that's when we have all our fights."

In the beginning as newlyweds, we avoid conflict because we are so much in love and we believe that "being in love" is about agreeing.  We're afraid that if we disagree - or fight - we'll ruin our marriage.

Later, we avoid conflict because when we try to deal with our differences
things get so out of hand and our fights so destructive and upsetting that we simply shut down. After a bad blow-up we become even more determined to avoid conflict at any cost.

Successful couples are those who know how to discuss their differences
in ways that actually strengthen their relationship and improve intimacy.
Successful couples don't let their disagreements contaminate the rest of the relationship.  While it's true that we don't get married to handle conflict, if a couple doesn't know how - or learn how - to fight or disagree successfully, they won't be able to do all the other things they got married to do.
Or, put another way, it's hard to take her out to the ball game if you're not speaking.  Often couples are so determined to avoid disagreeing they quit speaking.

We also need to realize that every happy, successful couple has approximately ten areas of disagreement that they will never resolve.

The divorce courts have it all wrong.  "Irreconcilable differences"  -  like a bad knee or a chronic back - are part of every good marriage. Successful couples learn to dance in spite of their differences.  If we switch partners we'll just get ten new areas of disagreement, and sadly, some of the most destructive will be about the children from our previous relationships.

In addition to skills for handling disagreements, we also have to learn to welcome and embrace change.  When we marry we promise to stay together till death we do part -- we don't promise to stay the same!  We need skills to integrate and negotiate change along the way.

The good news is that the skills or behaviors - behaviors for handling disagreement and conflict, for integrating change, and for expressing love, intimacy and appreciation - can all be learned.  Couples can unlearn the behaviors that predict divorce - that destroy love - and replace them with behaviors that keep love alive.

There are many different courses for learning the skills - many from which to choose.  The courses are not about what kind of marriage to build - they give couples the tools to build and successfully maintain the marriage of their dreams.

              • There are courses for different stages of relationships and marriage.  Couples can learn the skills at any stage - dating, engaged,
as newlyweds, as new parents, or after many years of marriage.

               • The courses are also effective for couples facing serious distress or contemplating divorce. It turns out that when you learn to interact
in new ways, the feelings of love CAN be revived - can come flowing back.
You can learn to fall in love all over again.

               • There are courses designed to teach high school and middle school students the skills for building good relationships and lasting marriages - to teach them what to look for in a mate.

                • There are courses to help dating couples assess the strengths and weaknesses of their relationship and to learn how to improve the areas in which they have poor skills.

                 • There are courses designed specifically for the unique challenges of stepfamilies.

                • And there are courses for couples facing the adventures of parenting - from first baby, to adolescents, to empty nests - or for dealing with sexual dysfunction, substance abuse, domestic violence, adultery, unemployment, dual careers, and illness.

                • There are courses adapted for different denominations taught in
churches, synagogues and mosques.

                •There are secular courses that are connected to no church or denomination which are taught in community centers, on military bases, in childbirth classes, in private practices, or at the county court house.

                •The courses work equally well for any long-term committed relationship.  Courses help cohabiting couples - often can give them the confidence to marry.  There are also courses for committed life-partners, for gay and lesbian couples.

The courses are taught in classroom settings - think teacher, flip chart, "driver's ed for relationships."  This is not about therapy, or encounter groups.
Exposing private relationship issues and talking about problems and feelings in front of others is not part of the process.

Courses are short, inexpensive, user-friendly and empowering.

Couples enjoy themselves as they gain mastery and become "relationship smart."

Smart Marriage couples also model the skills for their children which will slow the divorce rate in future generations.  "Don't tell us how to have a good marriage, show us."

The courses offer couples a do-it-yourself solution.  "If you give a man a fish - he can eat for a day;  if you teach him to fish - he can feed his family forever."
The courses teach couples how to fish! - to solve their own problems over the life of their marriage and to meet the highs, lows, joys, challenges....the 'for better and for worse' issues - with confidence.

Diane Sollee
Copyright, 1996 - 2001



Does Divorce Make People Happy?
Findings from a Study of Unhappy Marriages
By Linda J. Waite, Don Browning, William J. Doherty, Maggie Gallagher, Ye Luo, and Scott M. Stanley

                                    Press Release
                                    Embargoed Until July 11, 2002, 10:00 AM EST
                                    Contact: Mary Schwarz, T. (212) 246-3942

                                    Major New Study:

Call it the "divorce assumption." Most people assume that a person stuck in
a bad marriage has two choices: stay married and miserable or get a divorce and become happier.  But now come the findings from the first scholarly study ever to test that assumption, and these findings challenge
conventional wisdom. Conducted by a team of leading family scholars headed by University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite, the study found no
evidence that unhappily married adults who divorced were typically any
happier than unhappily married people who stayed married.

Even more dramatically, the researchers also found that two-thirds of
unhappily married spouses who stayed married reported that their marriages
were happy five years later. In addition, the most unhappy marriages
reported the most dramatic turnarounds: among those who rated their
marriages as very unhappy, almost eight out of 10 who avoided divorce were
happily married five years later.

The research team used data collected by the National Survey of Family and
Households, a nationally representative survey that extensively measures
personal and marital happiness. Out of 5,232 married adults interviewed in
the late Eighties, 645 reported being unhappily married.  Five years later,
these same adults were interviewed again. Some had divorced or separated and some had stayed married.

The study found that on average unhappily married adults who divorced were
no happier than unhappily married adults who stayed married when rated on
any of 12 separate measures of psychological well-being. Divorce did not
typically reduce symptoms of depression, raise self-esteem, or increase a
sense of mastery. This was true even after controlling for race, age,
gender, and income. Even unhappy spouses who had divorced and remarried were no happier on average than those who stayed married. "Staying married is not just for the childrens' sake. Some divorce is necessary, but results like these suggest the benefits of divorce have been oversold," says Linda J. Waite.

Why doesn't divorce typically make adults happier? The authors of the study
suggest that while eliminating some stresses and sources of potential harm,
divorce may create others as well. The decision to divorce sets in motion a
large number of processes and events over which an individual has little
control that are likely to deeply affect his or her emotional well-being.
These include the response of one's spouse to divorce; the reactions of
children; potential disappointments and aggravation in custody, child
support, and visitation orders; new financial or health stresses for one or
both parents; and new relationships or marriages.

The team of family experts that conducted the study included Linda J. Waite,
Lucy Flower Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago and coauthor of The Case for Marriage; Don Browning, Professor Emeritus of the University of Chicago Divinity School; William J. Doherty, Professor of Family Social Science and Director of the Marriage and Family Therapy program at the University of Minnesota; Maggie Gallagher, affiliate scholar at the
Institute for American Values and coauthor of The Case for Marriage; Ye Luo,
a research associate at the Sloan Center on Parents, Children and Work at
the University of Chicago; and Scott Stanley, Co-Director of the Center for
Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver.

Marital Turnarounds: How Do Unhappy Marriages Get Happier?

To follow up on the dramatic findings that two-thirds of unhappy marriages
had become happy five years later, the researchers also conducted focus
group interviews with 55 formerly unhappy husbands and wives who had turned their marriages around. They found that many currently happily married
spouses have had extended periods of marital unhappiness, often for quite
serious reasons, including alcoholism, infidelity, verbal abuse, emotional
neglect, depression, illness, and work reversals.

Why did these marriages survive where other marriages did not?  Spouses'
stories of how their marriages got happier fell into three broad headings:
the marital endurance ethic, the marital work ethic, and the personal
happiness ethic.

In the marital endurance ethic, the most common story couples reported to
researchers, marriages got happier not because partners resolved problems, but because they stubbornly outlasted them. With the passage of time, these spouses said, many sources of conflict and distress eased: financial problems, job reversals, depression, child problems, even infidelity. In the marital work ethic, spouses told stories of actively working to solve
problems, change behavior, or improve communication. When the problem was solved, the marriage got happier.  Strategies for improving marriages
mentioned by spouses ranged from arranging dates or other ways to more time together, enlisting the help and advice of relatives or in-laws, to
consulting clergy or secular counselors, to threatening divorce and
consulting divorce attorneys. Finally, in the personal happiness epic,
marriage problems did not seem to change that much. Instead married people in these accounts told stories of finding alternative ways to improve their own happiness and build a good and happy life despite a mediocre marriage.

The Powerful Effects of Commitment

Spouses interviewed in the focus groups whose marriages had turned around generally had a low opinion of the benefits of divorce, as well as friends and family members who supported the importance of staying married. Because of their intense commitment to their marriages, these couples invested great effort in enduring or overcoming problems in their relationships, they minimized the importance of difficulties they couldn't resolve, and they actively worked to belittle the attractiveness of alternatives.

The study's findings are consistent with other research demonstrating the
powerful effects of marital commitment on marital happiness. A strong
commitment to marriage as an institution, and a powerful reluctance to
divorce, do not merely keep unhappily married people locked in misery
together. They also help couples form happier bonds. To avoid divorce, many
assume, marriages must become happier. But it is at least equally true that
in order to get happier, unhappy couples or spouses must first avoid
divorce. "In most cases, a strong commitment to staying married not only
helps couples avoid divorce, it helps more couples achieve a happier
marriage," notes research team member Scott Stanley.

Would most unhappy spouses who divorced have ended up happily married if they had stuck with their marriages?

The researchers who conduced the study cannot say for sure whether unhappy spouses who divorced would have become happy had they stayed with their marriages. In most respects, unhappy spouses who divorced and unhappy spouses who stayed married looked more similar than different (before the divorce) in terms of their psychological adjustment and family background.  While unhappy spouses who divorced were on average younger, had lower household incomes, were more likely to be employed or to have children in the home, these differences were typically not large.

Were the marriages that ended in divorce much worse than those that did not?
There is some evidence for this point of view. Unhappy spouses who divorced reported more conflict and were about twice as likely to report violence in their marriage than unhappy spouses who stayed married. However, marital violence occurred in only a minority of unhappy marriages: 21 percent of unhappy spouses who divorced reported husband-to-wife violence, compared to nine percent of unhappy spouses who stayed married.

On the other hand, if only the worst marriages ended up in divorce, one
would expect divorce to be associated with important psychological benefits.
Instead, researchers found that unhappily married adults who divorced were
no more likely to report emotional and psychological improvements than those who stayed married. In addition, the most unhappy marriages reported the most dramatic turnarounds: among those who rated their marriages as very unhappy, almost eight out of 10 who avoided divorce were happily married five years later.

More research is needed to establish under what circumstances divorce
improves or lessens adult well-being, as well as what kinds of unhappy
marriages are most or least likely to improve if divorce is avoided.

Other Findings

Other findings of the study based on the National Survey Data are:

The vast majority of divorces (74 percent) took place to adults who had been
happily married when first studied five years earlier.  In this group,
divorce was associated with dramatic declines in happiness and psychological well-being compared to those who stayed married. Unhappy marriages are less common than unhappy spouses; three out of four unhappily married adults are married to someone who is happy with the marriage. Staying married did not typically trap unhappy spouses in violent relationships.  Eighty-six percent of unhappily married adults reported no violence in their relationship (including 77 percent of unhappy spouses who later divorced or separated).  Ninety-three percent of unhappy spouses who avoided divorce reported no violence in their marriage five years later.


1. Examples of the "divorce assumption:" In a review of Cutting Loose: Why
Women Who End Their Marriages Do So Well by Ashton Applewhite in Kirkus
Reviews, the reviewer writes that "if Applewhite's figures are correct,
three-fourths of today's divorces are initiated by women, and if her
analysis of the situation is correct, they are better off, at least
psychologically, for having taken the big step."  The book's publisher
describes the book this way: "Cutting Loose introduces 50 women . . . who
have thrived after initiating their own divorces. . . .  [Their lives
improved immeasurably, and their self-esteem soared." In the New York Times, Katha Pollit asks, "The real question . . . [is] which is
better, a miserable two-parent home, with lots of fighting and shouting and
frozen silences and tears, or a one-parent home (or a pair of one-parent
homes) without those things" (June 27, 1997).  In a review of The Good
Divorce by Constance R. Ahrons in Booklist, we are told that Ms. Ahrons
"offers advice and explanations to troubled couples for whom 'staying
together for the sake of the children' is not a healthy or viable option."

2. Spouses were asked to rate their overall marital happiness on a 7-point
scale, with 1 being the least happy and 7 the most happy.  Those who rated
their marriage as a 1 or 2 were considered to be very unhappy in their
marriages.  Almost 8 out of 10 adults who rated their marriage as a 1 or 2
gave that same marriage a 5 or more when asked to rate their marriage five
years later.