Illustration: Jen Troyer
Rules of Engagement: Before you head into a tense situation, draw up a communication cheat sheet, listing your needs ("I wish Liz would call me more often") and how you'll convey them ("I'll say, 'Liz, I feel hurt when you don't make an equal effort to see me'"). When you see your opportunity to speak up, recall the cheat sheet. If the thought of direct confrontation makes you shudder, talk to the person while doing an activity, like walking or driving, that doesn't require eye contact. Side-by-side conversations foster more openness.
This exercise was created by Debbie Mandel, author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7-Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life (Jossey-Bass).
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