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英语六级阅读:新年改善人际关系计划

Made any New Year's resolutions yet? Here's an idea: Focus on the state of your relationships instead of the state of your abs.

Increasingly, experts have been telling us how important social bonds are to well-being, affecting everything from how our brains process information to how our bodies respond to stress. People with strong connections to others may live longer. The quality of our relationships is the single biggest predictor of our happiness.

With personal bonds this important, it would seem prudent to put a little work into improving them, especially if they are struggling or even just a little lackluster. And it might not hurt to forge some new ones, too.

I talked with couples and individuals who felt they'd been neglecting their relationships and who vowed last year to pay more attention. Many of them undertook the effort after going through some type of hardship. All learned lessons they were eager to share.


Open Up. Jim Hayden had a tough 2010. Last Christmas, the 56-year-old executive at a Seattle mobile applications company lost a good friend to ovarian cancer; several months later both his father and father-in-law died. His income fell sharply, his retirement account plummeted 60% and he lost $500,000 selling an investment property in a short sale.

The events were a wake-up call. 'We don't appreciate someone or something until it is lost,' he says. He decided to focus more on his family members -- and to communicate better.



In the past, he says, he behaved 'like a control freak,' someone who had to be right. He refused to talk about anything in his life that wasn't going well. He was critical of those who didn't live up to his standards.

As a result, he often argued with his wife and two daughters, ages 21 and 25, he says. Sometimes, he would get so angry that he'd throw his cellphone on the ground.

This year, Mr. Hayden worked hard to change. He spent more time with his wife and daughters and listened to their points of view. More importantly, he says, he tried showing them his vulnerable side, talking about things in his life whether good or bad, sharing emotional pain. At times, he has cried in front of them.

'They really embraced me because I am more of a real person,' Mr. Hayden says. They share more with him, as well. His wife of 29 years, Signy Hayden, 52, says, 'I feel he really cares about what I have to say now, and he won't blow up if it's bad news.'

Set a Time -- and a Limit. Earlier this year, Sally Palaian, 52, a psychologist in Royal Oaks, Mich., began feeling disconnected from her partner of seven years, Gary Haelewyn. She was getting home from work at 8 or 9 p.m., just when Mr. Haelewyn, 62, a computer programmer, was winding down for the night. The difference in their conversational styles complicated matters. 'I am looking for contact and connection,' Dr. Palaian says. 'He would say, 'We already talked on the phone during the day. Didn't we cover that?' '

After attending a conference on personal communication, Dr. Palaian hit on a solution: an oven timer. Now she and Mr. Haelewyn sit down at night to chat -- for five minutes each. They relate the highlights of the day; if one person raises a potential conflict, they agree to talk about it later. And if they want to speak longer, they do, but mostly they stick to the time limit.

Ms. Palaian says the timer has helped by forcing her to condense and to avoid tangents that can bore or frustrate her partner. 'You can't believe how much you can get out in five minutes,' she says. 'You think everything has to be talked to death and it doesn't.' Mr. Haelewyn likes the timer, too, because it forces him to share more details of his life to fill his allotted time. 'I can talk a little more and know that it's just five minutes,' he says. 'I won't have to talk all night.'

Take It Outside. Two years ago, Rebecca Cohen became concerned that her family wasn't spending enough time together. Her young sons often were absorbed with TV or electronic toys and she was busy checking email or doing housework. She made a rule: Every day, everyone has to spend some time together outside.

'I noticed when I was with my family outside how much more we got along,' says Ms. Cohen, 38, a gardening consultant in Gainesville, Va.

And if they are outside, they can't scatter to their separate devices, whether TV, computer screen or iPhone. Now, she walks her sons, 6 and 8, to school and back each day. She and her husband take a walk with the boys and the dog after dinner most nights. They go biking or hiking on weekends.

Time outdoors helps alleviate stress and encourages everyone to talk, Ms. Cohen says. She has learned more about her children's interests and how they think, and she and her husband find it easier to say things more openly outside. 'There is probably something about not physically facing each other,' she says. 'The outdoors gives everyone space to be themselves.'

Six-year-old Warner Cohen has seen a benefit, too. 'I notice when my mom goes outside, her feelings get really calm,' he says.

Discuss Finances. When Gary Zaremba, 53, and his wife, Laura Jackson-Zaremba, 52, got married almost three years ago, they decided to keep separate bank accounts. Before long, though, money became a bit of a problem. Mr. Zaremba, a Manhattan real-estate developer, makes 70% more than his wife, a publicist. He says splitting bills and restaurant meals became awkward. Then he purchased a Lexus SUV without telling his wife, and this upset her.

'It was creating some secrecy,' he says. 'We weren't talking about money, even as we were talking about other things.'

The couple decided to sit down and discuss their personal approaches to money, how much each would contribute to their common expenses and investments and who will handle the record-keeping. They pay their bills from a joint account, to which they each contribute -- Mr. Zaremba puts in 75%, Ms. Jackson-Zaremba 25%.

'The fact that we were talking about money more openly created a trust,' Mr. Zaremba says.

His wife agrees: 'Money doesn't feel like an issue anymore,' she says.

Reach Out. Mary Lou Quinlan and Valerie Sherman have lived across the hall from each other in a Manhattan apartment building for 16 years. But other than the occasional chat or glass of wine, the two women and their husbands didn't socialize much, until about a year ago.

Ms. Quinlan, 57, chief executive of a marketing company focused on women, was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. She shared this news with Ms. Sherman and told her she had taken up yoga to help cope with the radiation treatment. She invited Ms. Sherman to join her.

Now, on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, the two women meet in the hall at 7:05 and walk down the block to the yoga studio. At first, they chatted about neighborhood gossip or vacation plans. But over time, their conversations ranged to more personal matters. They have discussed illness, work, how to care for aging parents, the death of Ms. Quinlan's father. The two couples now often have dinner together.

'We have discovered how much we both have in common,' says Ms. Sherman, 54, a vice president at an international realty firm.

Says Ms. Quinlan: 'To know that behind the door across the hall is someone who knows what I love, what I worry about, what I hope to do next, makes home more like home to me.'

你订好新年计划了吗?不妨考虑一下这个:多关注你的人际关系状况,而不是腹肌状况。

我们越来越经常地听到专家说,社会关系对幸福生活是如何重要,它是如何影响从大脑处理资讯的方式到身体对压力的反应的每件事情。与他人联系紧密的人会活得更久。我们的人际关系品质是最重要的幸福感预测指标。

既然人际关系如此重要,那么稍微多用点心对其加以改善应该是明智之举,尤其是当人际关系出现困难甚至有点了无生气时。而营造一些新的人际关系也没有坏处。

我与一些感到自己忽视了人际关系,并在去年发誓要更关注人际关系的人聊了聊。他们中许多人都在经历过某种困境后做出了努力。所有人都从中学到了经验并急于分享这些经验。

敞开心扉。56岁的吉姆•海顿(Jim Hayden)是西雅图一家手机应用软体公司的经理,他的2010年很不顺。去年耶诞节,他的一个好朋友死于卵巢癌;几个月后,他的父亲和岳父相继去世。他的收入急剧下降,退休帐户骤跌60%,在一笔短线交易中,他卖出的一笔投资性房地产损失了50万美元。

这些事件给他敲响了警钟。他说,直到我们失去某个人或某样东西,我们才意识到他们的重要。他决心将更多重心放在家人身上——并更好地与他们交流。

他说,过去他表现得像个“控制狂”,一个必须行事正确的人。他拒绝谈论生活中任何不顺利的事。他还总是批评达不到他的标准的人。

因此,他说自己经常与妻子和他21岁和25岁的两个女儿争吵。有时,他会大发雷霆,将手机摔到地上。

今年,海顿努力做出改变。他花更多的时间与妻子和女儿在一起,聆听她们的观点。他说,更重要的是,他试着向她们展示自己脆弱的一面,谈论他生活中或好或坏的事情,并与她们分享情感上的痛苦。有时,他甚至会在她们面前落泪。

海顿说,她们紧紧拥抱着我,因为我成为了一个更真实的人。她们也更愿意与他分享了。与他结婚29年的妻子、今年52岁的西格尼•海顿(Signy Hayden)说,现在我感到他真的关心我要说的事了,如果是坏消息,他也不会发脾气。

定好时间——以及时限。52岁的萨莉•帕莱恩(Sally Palaian)是密歇根州皇家橡树市(Royal Oaks)的一位心理学家。今年早些时候,她开始感到与结识7年的伴侣、62岁的电脑程式师加里•黑勒温(Gary Haelewyn)有些疏远。她晚上8、9点钟才下班回家,而这正是黑勒温准备晚上继续开工的时候。他们之间谈话方式的差异使事情更加麻烦。帕莱恩说,我想要接触和交流。但他会说:我们白天已经在电话里聊过了。难道我们没有说到这件事吗?

参加过一次关于人际沟通的会议后,帕莱恩找到了一个解决方法:烤箱计时器。现在,她和黑勒温晚上会坐下来聊聊——每人5分钟。他们会讲起当天的重要事情;如果某人提起可能引发冲突的话题,那么他们会同意稍后再谈。如果他们想多说一会儿,那么也会顺其自然,但多数情况下他们会遵守时间限制。

帕莱恩说,计时器迫使她长话短说,并避免可能让对方厌烦或沮丧的题外话。她说,你不会相信5分钟内你能表达多少意思。原来你觉得每件事都必须说个没完,办CET4证书,但事实并非如此。黑勒温也喜欢计时器,因为这迫使他分享更多生活细节,以填满分配到的时间。他说,我可以多说一点,因为我知道只是5分钟而已。我不必说一整晚。

外出散心。现年38岁的丽蓓嘉•科恩(Rebecca Cohen)是弗吉尼亚州基因斯维尔(Gainesville)的一位园艺顾问。两年前,她开始担心家人待在一起的时间不够。她年幼的儿子们总是沉迷于电视节目或电子玩具,而她自己要么是在忙着收电邮,要么是在忙着做家务。她订下了一条规矩:每天,大家都必须在室外共度一段时间。

科恩说,我注意到,当我和家人一起外出时,我们相处得要好得多。

如果他们在外面,就不会各自倒腾自己那些玩艺儿了,不管是电视、电脑还是iPhone。现在,她每天都会陪6岁和8岁的儿子走路上下学。晚饭后,她和丈夫多数情况下都会和孩子们一起散步遛狗。他们周末还会一起骑自行车或徒步旅行。

科恩说,室外的时间有助于舒缓压力并鼓励每个人交谈。她更加了解孩子们的兴趣和想法了,而她和丈夫也发现在外面更容易坦诚地谈事情。她说,这可能是因为不用面对面的缘故。户外给了每个人回归自我的空间。

6岁大的沃纳•科恩(Warner Cohen)也看到了一个优点。他说,我发现,妈妈出门的时候,她的情绪就会平静下来。

讨论财务问题。53岁的加里•扎伦巴(Gary Zaremba)和他52岁的妻子萝拉•杰克逊-扎伦巴(Laura Jackson-Zaremba)结婚快三年了,结婚时他们决定保持独立的银行帐户。但不久以后,财务便出了点小问题。扎伦巴先生是曼哈顿(Manhattan)的一位房地产开发商,他赚的钱比当公关人员的妻子多70%。他说,分开付账单和餐费变得很尴尬。后来,他没和妻子打招呼就买了一辆雷克萨斯(Lexus)越野车,这让她很不高兴。

他说,这让我们在钱的问题上变得讳莫如深。我们会谈其他事,但绝口不提钱。

这对夫妻决定坐下来讨论解决财务问题的方法,每人应该分摊多少共同开销和投资,由谁来负责记账。如今他们用一个联名帐户付账,两个人都会向这个帐户里存钱——扎伦巴先生存75%,扎伦巴夫人存25%。

扎伦巴先生说,实际上,更坦诚地谈论金钱会创造出信任感。

他妻子对此表示同意。她说,我们不再感到钱是个问题了。

主动结交。玛丽•洛乌•昆兰(Mary Lou Quinlan)和瓦莱丽•舍曼(Valerie Sherman)在曼哈顿的一幢公寓住了16年对门。57岁的昆兰是一家以女性为主要对象的市场行销公司的执行总裁,54岁的舍曼是一家国际物业公司的副总裁。除了偶尔聊聊天,喝杯酒以外,这两个女人以及她们的丈夫相互之间并不太来往,直到大约一年前。

昆兰被诊断出患有早期乳腺癌后,将这个消息告诉了舍曼,并告诉她自己开始练瑜伽以配合放疗。她邀请舍曼和她一起去做瑜伽。

现在,每周二和周四早上7:05,她们都会在走廊碰面,穿越街区走到瑜伽馆。起初,她们聊的是邻里八卦或假期计划。但逐渐地,她们的谈话扩展到更私人的问题上。她们谈论疾病、工作、如何照顾年迈的父母、昆兰父亲的过世。现在,这两对夫妇经常在一起吃晚餐。

舍曼说,我们发现我们有许多共同点。

昆兰说,知道对门后面的人了解我的喜好,我的担忧,我接下来希望做的事,这让家对我来说更像家了。

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