7 Must Know Habits Of Truly Happy People

The best way to ditch the seven deadly is to replace them with what psychiatrist Dr. William Glasser calls the seven caring habits: supporting, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting, respecting, and negotiating differences.They sound simple, right? All you have to do is accept people for who they are, listen to them, respect them, trust them, encourage and support them, and negotiate any differences you may have. But, like most of what’s worthwhile in life, the caring habits are a little harder to put into place than you might think, especially if they represent an about-face for you.
Run a reality check. How did you talk with the people you live with this morning? Did you listen to what they were saying? Or did you let their words run in one ear and out the other? Did you encourage them to move ahead with what they’ve planned for the day? Did you support them in their choices? Or did you put them down or just nod your head as you drank your coffee?Really listen. “Treat people like they’re your best friends,” says Suzy Hallock-Bannigan, a trainer with the Glasser Institute who is based in South Pomfret, VT. Hang on their every word. Find time to sit down with them and really pay attention, without being distracted by cell phones, passing traffic, or the demands of other people. Then give them time to get out what they have to say. “I also try to check in with people all the time to make sure I’ve correctly heard what they’re saying,” she says.Envision the new you. Draw a mental picture of yourself as a person who practices the seven caring habits. Keep it in the back of your mind, then pull it forward when you’re talking with those close to you to see if you’re acting like a caring person. “Sam” does this all the time. When he and his fiancee, “Maggie,” were considering a move, for example, Sam was not happy. The two had had an understanding that they would live in the Northeast for the rest of their days. Then Maggie got a great job offer in Florida, and she wanted to go.”My immediate reaction was, ‘How could she do this to me?'” says Sam. “It seemed so unfair. I felt resentful, I felt frightened. I felt angry. I felt betrayed. And, at that moment, I realized that I could choose to react from those feelings or not.

“I took a deep breath, then thought, ‘How do I want to be in the world?’ The answer is, I want to be gentle and loving and strong. Okay, so if I were a gentle and loving and strong person, how would I act? What would I be saying to myself right now? And to Maggie?”

By framing the issue in terms of who he wanted to be rather than what he wanted the outcome of their discussion to be, Sam was able to maintain a loving and supportive relationship with Maggie and work out a compromise. Since Maggie’s a teacher, they decided to rent a home in Florida for the school year and return to Vermont every summer. (To show that she understood his passion for the Vermont mountains, Maggie even encouraged Sam to buy 10 acres and a cabin for them.)

Ask the right question. In that split second after which the urge to blame, complain, criticize, nag, threaten, punish, or bribe arises, but before the words actually leave your mouth, stop, and ask yourself, “Is this really important?” Hallock-Bannigan doesn’t like unmade beds. When her husband, who knows this, left the bed unmade one morning, she felt the heat of generations of righteous bed makers rise up within her. “If he really loved me,” she caught herself thinking, “he would have made the bed.” When her husband came into the room, she was about to complain but instead asked herself, “Just how important is an unmade bed?” The answer was obvious even to a bed maker such as Hallock-Bannigan.

Accept reality. “You have to understand that the only person you can change is yourself,” says Hallock-Bannigan. If your husband is a tightwad who hates it when you spend a dime, you can’t do a thing about his attitude. But you can control yours. Instead of slugging it out with him over whether or not a $15 pair of Liz Claiborne socks is “necessary,” hold your irritation in check and apply as many of the seven caring habits as you can. Look for a compromise, such as holding the line at one pair of socks, or promising to check store knockoffs that are as pretty but cheaper.”When you have a difference with someone who’s important to you, you negotiate,” says Dr. Glasser. But what happens if your partner digs in his heels? To deal with that, Dr. Glasser developed something called the “solving circle”–a piece of string that forms a circle outline on the floor. You and your partner face each other and, as each of you feels ready, you step into the circle and say, “The most important thing in my life is our relationship. We have a problem with ______ (name the problem). We know that arguing and blaming will do no good. And in order to avoid wounding our relationship, I am willing to _______ (say what you’re willing to do that will help).” It may take a few days to get this accomplished, and some people may find that a third party—a therapist or marriage counselor—may be a necessary ingredient.

Pick a model. When Hallock-Bannigan was training Sisters in Ireland to use the caring habits, one good Sister was having trouble figuring out how to respond to someone who was criticizing her. So Hallock-Bannigan asked her, “Who’s the woman you most look up to?” The answer was Mary Robinson, president of Ireland and a champion of human rights. “Well, what do you think she would be thinking and feeling in this situation?” asked Hallock-Bannigan. “What would you see her doing?” Ten seconds later, the Sister was off to do what Mary would’ve done.

Write about it. Keep a daily journal to help think your way through the transition and keep track of your progress, says Hallock-Bannigan. Sam does, and looking back over nearly a decade, he can honestly say, “I’m a very different person than I was 10 years ago. It doesn’t mean I’m perfect,” he adds with an endearing grin. “But I try.”