Relationships give significance to our lives. In a perfect world, you should spend as much time as possible with friends and loved ones. Unfortunately, most people treat their relationships with casual negligence because they’re often the first thing to be cast aside when “life gets hectic.”

The truth is, relationships require nurturing.

If you work at them daily, you’ll form a lasting bond with friends, family, and other important people. That’s why I recommend incorporating some (or all) of the small actions mentioned in this section.

#91. Do an Activity That Makes You Happy

Type: Keystone habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Multiple times daily

Benefit: It’s hard to be happy with your relationships unless you’re first happy with yourself. Before you can worry about being the pleasant, likeable, and fun person that others love, you may need time to work on your mindset.

While taking a few minutes of “me” time is always important, this can be critical whenever you feel surrounded by negativity. A few minutes of relaxing time can change your perspective and make you more pleasant for others to be around.

Description: This is one of the few habits I recommend including in multiple stacks. In the morning, you can clear your mind to get ready for the workday. In the afternoon, do something during your lunch break to recharge your batteries. And in the evening, add an energizing habit that gets you out of “work mode” and helps you relax.

There are a lot of habits you can do in five minutes or less. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

•      Write in a journal
•      Have a cup of tea/coffee and think about nothing at all
•      Sit outside and feel the sunshine on your face
•      Cuddle/play with a pet
•      Read a few jokes and laugh a little
•      Listen to a favorite song
•      Dedicate five minutes to meditation
•      Stop and smell the flowers—literally
•      Eat a bite of chocolate
•      Take a short walk, even if it’s just around the hallways
•      Get a quick massage
•      Dance around the room like no one is watching
•      Enjoy a piece of fresh fruit
•      Read a few pages of fiction

Sure, some of these ideas might seem silly, but that’s the point. When you take the time to unwind and not focus on your to-do list, you’ll discover it’s easy to add happiness to your life and relieve a little bit of stress.

#92. Introduce Yourself to Someone New

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: Have you ever headed out the door to run a few errands, take a walk, or just grab some groceries and silently wished, “I hope I don’t see someone I know,” because you don’t want to end up in a lengthy discussion?

We all do this because having conversations all the time can be tough. You have to push through awkward silences, discover topics of mutual interest, and find something to say when you ask a question and the only response is a yes or no. Sometimes having a conversation with a casual acquaintance can be emotionally and even physically exhausting.

So why do I advocate introducing yourself to a complete stranger every day?

There are a few reasons:

•      You will improve your conversation skills because you’ll learn the art of small talk.
•      You build your confidence as you discover initiating conversations isn’t hard.
•      You will learn about new experiences that can be found by meeting someone who has a different view of the world.
•      You can build a network of acquaintances.
•      And you might even meet a potential love interest.

Now, I’ll admit that not every conversation will be great. Sometimes it will be awkward, and occasionally you’ll deal with people who want to avoid talking and would rather spend time on their phones. But even if 99% of the attempts go nowhere, the remaining 1% means you’ll meet almost four great people per year who will have a significant impact on your life. That’s a big deal if you ask me.

Description: It’s not hard to find new people to meet. Get started by thinking about your daily routine and when you’re surrounded by new faces. This could include visiting a coffee shop, the bookstore, your neighborhood park, the gym, or even when you’re standing in line. These are all perfect opportunities to strike up a conversation and introduce yourself.

There are also a few basic “rules” to consider when striking up a conversation:

First, the talk should never last more than five minutes. Anything longer than that means you’ll probably wear out your welcome. Just interact for a little bit, and then end it. In other words, don’t be the person who won’t shut up while the other person is looking for a way to escape.

Next, the simplest way to start the conversation is to be natural. The discussion should be a mix of what’s going on in your immediate environment or an interesting item that you noticed about the person. In other words, don’t stress over what to say. Just use any environmental cue to start talking.

From there, look at the person’s body language for cues to keep going. If he or she gives a one-word response and is staring intently at the phone, then that’s a sign that this person is not interested in talking. And if the person shows a lack of interest in talking, then it’s okay to stop talking. Just remember: we all have those moments when we’re not interested in having a conversation.

Now, if a person positively responds back, then you should follow up with a few questions like: What do they do for a living? Why are they at the place you are at? What is their favorite hobby? This shouldn’t be an inquisition. Instead, you’re trying to get to know the person better.

Just remember the important aspects of body language that’ll make you more likeable:

•      Smile
•      Make eye contact
•      Keep a relaxed body posture
•      Hang your arms by your sides (instead of crossing your arms)
•      Offer a handshake (at the end of the conversation)
•      Be slow and deliberate with your responses

Meeting new people and having conversations doesn’t need to be hard. Like any skill, if you work at it daily, it will become increasingly easier with time.

Just remember: if you want make new friends or find that special someone, then the best way to do this is to step out of your comfort zone and open yourself up to new potential friendships.

For more on this skill, I highly recommend Patrick King’s “Conversation Tactics” series, which covers the different scenarios you’ll encounter when meeting and talking to people.

#93. Contact One Person on a Dating Site

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: Dating sites can overwhelm us with options. It can be difficult to keep focused when you see so many viable candidates for dating. By keeping yourself disciplined and contacting only one person a day, you’ll be able to lessen the feeling of frustration associated with asking out a huge number of people in a short burst.

Description: I’ll admit the following advice might sound old-fashioned—especially in the age of instant-gratification websites like Tinder, where the standard dating strategy is to swipe-left/swipe-right until you find a match.

But look at it this way: since you’re competing against dozens or even hundreds of people in your area, it makes sense to take an extra step to stand out from the masses.

That’s why I recommend this five-step strategy to get the best results from contacting one person daily.

1.      Make a list of traits you don’t want from a partner, such as smoking or excessive drinking. Rule out any profiles you come across with those undesirable qualities. Remember, you’re looking for the perfect match for you, so be ruthless with your criteria. It doesn’t make sense to date someone who doesn’t fit your core values.
2.      Match their values. If someone talks about the importance of their Catholic faith, and you’re an atheist, then you shouldn’t bother messaging this person. This is the inverse of the previous item. Never expect someone else to change what’s important to them in order to date you.
3.      Make sure you aren’t messaging someone purely based on looks. While physical attraction is important in a relationship, you also need to have personal compatibility. Look at what they write in their profile to see how it would match your lifestyle.
4.      Keep your initial message short, funny, and interesting. Something like “How’s it going?” is likely to be passed over. Look for something notable on their profile and ask about it. Or write something pithy but witty. In other words, don’t give the person a tome to read as a first message. Usually, a paragraph or two is more than sufficient.
5.      Make a note of people you want to contact later. If there are a bunch of people to message, that’s great. Make sure to limit it to one person a day, but remind yourself of those who you can contact the next day, and so on.

You’ll be surprised at the effectiveness of this daily habit. Whereas most people (usually guys) take the lazy route and contact dozens of people with the same message, you can stand out by sending a personalized, compelling introduction.

I won’t lie to you and say this works all the time, but if you do it often enough, then your messages will stand out from the dreck that’s usually found with online dating.

#94. Give a Compliment

Type: Keystone habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: Giving genuine compliments is a great way to make others feel good while improving your self-esteem. Compliments have many other benefits like:

•      Encouraging those who are struggling
•      Strengthening existing relationships
•      Serving as an icebreaker when meeting someone new
•      Helping you see the good in others

Overall, complimenting people daily is a keystone habit because it forces you to constantly look for positive attributes in everyone you encounter. And if you’re naturally shy or withdrawn, giving compliments forces you to interact with others, which increases your confidence.

Description: Keep an eye out for something you genuinely like or enjoy, such as someone’s outfit, something they said, or a recent accomplishment. Then compliment the other person about it, doing it in front of other people (if possible).

Let’s take a more detailed look at “how” we should compliment people to get the most out of our compliments (both for them and for us):

1.      Never compliment someone “just because.” Fake flattery just makes you a suck-up, and it’s easy to notice someone who gives out false praise because they think it will win them friends.
2.      Compliments should always be derived from taking notice of something genuinely praiseworthy. One important aspect of this habit is you should give people 100% of your attention, instead of being distracted by your phone or something else you’re doing.
3.      What you say should be specific. While “you look great today” may sound good, it’s better to point out a change, like a new haircut or a piece of clothing.
4.      Never use a backhanded compliment. I have heard “you are a good runner for an old guy” more than once. Compliments like this sting more than they encourage.
5.      Share your compliment with others, not just the person you are complimenting. Follow the age-old adage “praise in public; criticize in private.”
6.      Say what you mean and mean what you say. As long as your thoughts are not dirty or hurtful of others, share your compliments with others. People often fail to compliment because they assume someone already knows the compliment for a fact. Or they think that they must be constantly complimented. Even if this is true and someone has heard a compliment 500 times before, it still feels good to hear it for the 501st time.

Never underestimate the power of compliments when it comes to your friends, family, and romantic partners. As I mentioned in the introduction, it’s the little things in life that solidify and enrich our relationships. If you make it a point to point out something complimentary to the people you interact with daily, it will do wonders for how you’re viewed by others.

#95. Hug One Person

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: There is something magical about a hug, isn’t there? By embracing someone or something, you can make yourself feel so much better. It isn’t in our imaginations, either. A variety of studies have shown the benefits of hugging, from reducing stress to helping lower blood pressure to plain making us feel good.

Description: Hugging requires the consent of two people, so you don’t want to ambush people with hugs if they aren’t expecting it. However, there are plenty of acceptable ways to hug one person a day.

•      Hug a loved one every day. If you live with a spouse or significant other, then hug them on a regular basis. It could be in the morning, or when you both come home. By hugging them regularly, you are reminding them how much they mean to you.
•      Be social. Going out regularly is great for hugging, as you are likely to come across people you know, and they’ll appreciate a warm embrace. If you are introduced to somebody new, don’t be afraid to give them a hug as well.
•      Surprise people. If you have an elderly relative in a nursing home, they will be thrilled by you dropping by to visit them. This is a great opportunity for you to give them a hug that they will cherish.
•      Practice hugging. There might be days where there’s no one around to hug. If this happens, find something like a pillow or stuffed animal and embrace it with all your might. The best part about hugging inanimate objects is that you don’t have to worry about hugging it too hard.

Hugging is a simple way to express your positive feelings for another person. If you make a habit of doing it with the important people in your life, then you’ll create those positive emotions that make the day seem a little brighter.

#96. Text an Encouraging Message

Type: Elephant habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: Sending an encouraging daily text is about more than encouraging the people in your life. It’s an action that also makes you feel better about yourself.

You don’t need to text anything earth shattering or important. A text message is not the place for the important things that need to be said. Instead, it should be a few kind words that will make the other person feel good.

Description: Set aside two minutes every day to send a heartfelt text message. Focus on someone who could use a bit of encouragement, like a spouse, child, sibling, parent, friend, or coworker.

The person you text could be facing an upcoming challenge, which could be an important project, a big athletic event, a test, or a tough personal challenge. Simply write a short message wishing them luck and let them know that you’re thinking of them.

You could also send a message to someone who you have not connected with in a while. Text this person a quick message saying that you have been thinking about them lately and hope they are doing well.

Making this a part of your daily routine helps you create a quick, easy, and convenient way to get a positive message to those in your circle of relationships. This may make them feel a little bit better and will certainly give your mood a positive boost.

#97. Leave a Caring Note

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Morning

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: As I discussed in the introduction, leaving a note for a friend, family member, or loved one is a little action that goes a long way. It can brighten someone’s day and show the other person that you went out of your way to make him or her smile. It’s easily the best small action that does a great deal to strengthen relationships.

Description: The process is simple. Write a quick, uplifting message on a Post-it note or piece of paper. It’s similar to the habit of texting an uplifting message to someone. The goal is to say a brief message, like “Have a great day,” “I love you,” or “Good luck with the project/test/presentation.” Really, the only important element is to show the other person that you’re thinking about them.

Where you post this message depends on the relationship. You could leave a note on a pillow, in your child’s lunch, on a desk, or in a backpack or briefcase.

Finally, you shouldn’t overthink these notes. Keep them simple, speak from the heart, and say something encouraging to those you care about.

#98. Return Calls and Text Messages within 24 Hours

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: Communication is a two-way street that leads to a healthy relationship. When someone has reached out to you, it’s important to reciprocate and continue the conversation by replying as soon as possible. Returning calls and text messages in a timely manner builds trust in any relationship.

This habit seems simple. You might say, “Returning a phone call or message—there’s nothing to it.” However, this isn’t easy for the people who live busy, overbooked lives. In fact, as a bit of an introvert, I often dread making calls to people I don’t know well. It is incredibly easy to procrastinate on this task and plan to call back “later.” Sometimes “later” ends up being seven days after receiving the message.

So, if you’re someone who constantly forgets to follow up with people, then you should consider building the habit of returning all phone calls within twenty-four hours.

Description: Check for missed calls first. Return calls in the order they were received. Apologize for missing the call and inquire about what you can do for the other person. Then respond to any text messages that have gone unanswered—again in the order received. Finally, check any emails that are sitting unopened in your inbox and respond accordingly.

One tactic that I use is to schedule a daily block of thirty to sixty minutes of “flex time” into my day. This gives me time to return lengthy phone calls or text messages that require an immediate response. And when I don’t have any calls or texts to return on a particular day, I use this flex time to reward myself with a treat (see habit #11).

#99. Check Your Social Schedule

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Weekly

Benefit: One of the tackiest things you can do is to cancel your plans with other people at the last minute. Or even worse, not show up at all. Sure, there are those occasional emergencies that are out of your control, but if you always cancel at the last minute, then I guarantee that your friends and family don’t appreciate your inconsiderate behavior.

A quick fix to this is to review your schedule on a weekly basis to catch any potential conflicts. This includes looking for double-booked appointments, too much time scheduled for a specific event, too little time scheduled for an event, or any appointment that risk running longer than expected.

When making social plans, it’s important to allot the right amount of time for each event. This makes it easy to have a healthy social life that’s balanced with all of your other obligations.

Description: First, all of your activities should go into the same calendar. This means sitting down and looking at all the sources where you may have written down information on any social events.

These can include personal notebooks, email, Post-it notes, wall calendars, and your mobile device calendars.

It makes no sense to have your schedule in a few different places. Instead, it should be consolidated into a single system that can be accessed at all times, which is why I recommend using Google Calendar or a similar app.

Next, add regular social events like dinner dates, lunches, events with friends (like a ballgame), meeting for coffee, and a “date night” with your spouse or significant other. These should be scheduled into your life because they help maintain relationships, while also providing balance to your day-to-day routine.

Third, be sure to block out time for routine activities like doctor’s visits, gym time, grocery shopping, haircuts, and various activities for your children. These should go into your calendar to avoid mix-ups or any potential double bookings.

Finally, if you find that you have two events or appointments booked at the same time, reach out and ask if there is another day or time you can meet. Don’t forget to apologize for your scheduling mistake.

There is little you can do when your boss unexpectedly makes you work four extra hours. But keeping your events organized means the fault will never rest on your shoulders and gives you the best chance to have a bit of a social life, even with a busy schedule.

#100. Share Something Inspiring

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: Sharing quotes, stories, and articles online can bring a small bit of joy to your friends and family. If you’re like me, your social media timeline is filled with constant negativity. Instead of being someone who shares the doom and gloom of the world, you can add positivity to the world by sharing fun stuff on social media.

Description: Now, I don’t believe it’s “essential” to post updates on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter numerous times throughout the day. Let’s face it: we have more important things to deal with than updating our social accounts. In my opinion, it’s better to live a real life, not a virtual one, right? That said, if you make it a habit to share something positive every day, then you can help others a little by making them laugh or smile.

This is a simple habit. Spend up to five minutes daily on Google, Twitter, and Facebook to look for good quotes, articles, or blog posts. If something puts a smile on your face, then be sure to share it with others.

Finally, if you can’t find anything positive during your normal social media time, then it’s okay to just stop for the day.

#101. Learn a New Joke

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: Humor is the ultimate icebreaker. If you’re meeting people for the first time or you need to break the tension in a conversation, then a good joke can be helpful. Here are a few reasons why learning a new joke can be beneficial.

Humor:

•      Can make someone laugh and ease tension when meeting them for the first time
•      Is a great conversation starter
•      Builds trust and likeability
•      Breaks tension and relieves anxiety in social settings
•      Helps you think creatively
•      Is linked to living a healthier lifestyle

Injecting a bit of humor into your routine is a great way to improve your life, so let’s talk about how to build the habit of learning new jokes.

Description: First, a word of warning. While humor can be a useful conversation tactic, you need to know your audience. In other words, certain types of humor are only right for certain situations. The dirty jokes that get you a ton of laughs while hanging out with your buddies watching football probably won’t work in a corporate or social environment. Therefore, I focus on learning clean (or mostly clean) jokes.

The process of learning a joke a day is simple. Use Google search to find a joke that makes you laugh. If the joke makes you laugh, it will likely tickle the funny bone of a few others. Read it over a few times to help you memorize it, and/or write it down to review later.

Don’t try to force your jokes into a conversation. Wait for down times or the right minute to tell your joke. You may not even use the joke every day. But the time you spend memorizing a single joke every day will give you a nice repertoire of humor to draw from when the moment is right to inject a bit of humor.

Being able to make someone else laugh is a great conversation starter. Having a joke to share is always a great thing because getting someone to laugh is usually the first step to growing or strengthening a relationship.

#102. Research a Fun Activity

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Weekly

Benefit: We’ve already talked about how planning a fun activity can be a great way to save money, but it’s also a habit you can do to enrich your relationships. The problem that some people have is they tend to do the same thing again and again, until they get into a rut. Subsequently, your relationships will stagnate because your activities become boring and predictable. The solution is to set aside time each week to come up with a few interesting events you can share with people in your life.

Description: I recommend using a mix of nine resources to find fun events in your area.

1. Eventful.com—Eventful is a great website for anyone who lives in or near a big city. It does a wonderful job of aggregating sports, festivals, concert tour dates, performing arts, nightlife, conferences, wine tastings, family events, and comedy shows.

2. Local Newspapers, Magazines, and Websites—Narrow down your search to your local area, which can be found in region- or town-specific newspapers, magazines, and websites.

Also, any mid-sized or larger town will have a local “alternative” paper, which often has an events & activities section. Here, you’ll find listings that feature everything from concerts and bar band appearances to local bake sales and community dance classes.

3. Google—You may have an idea of something cool to try and just not know how to get started. This is where a little Googling can be a powerful strategy. Simply go to Google.com and type in the name of your city or town, plus one of the following terms:

•      Event listings
•      Festivals
•      Cooking lessons
•      Softball leagues
•      Running clubs
•      Volunteer opportunities
•      Concert venues
•      Mini-golf

You can try to input any search parameters for these. The larger the town, the more opportunities there will be to find unique and interesting events. But even smaller towns have fun activities that are only known to residents.

4. Map out a Walking Tour—Many people live in an area but never visit the cool places 100 miles around where they live that are places tourists want to visit. You could take your “research fun activity” time and try to set up a nice walking tour of some semi-local areas, as if you were a tourist rather than a local.

5. Only In Your State—The website Only In Your State has a massive collection of articles that feature interesting, state-specific attractions. It’s similar to BuzzFeed, where each list has a specific clickbait-style headline. But I love this site because it has a lot of great ideas for interesting activities to check out in your local area.

For example, while writing this section, I did a quick search for New Jersey and found a bunch of fun-sounding events, attractions, and towns to check out, including:

•      12 Reason Why the Jersey Shore Isn’t Just a Summer Destination
•      The Hidden Park That Will Make You Feel Like You’ve Discovered New Jersey’s Best Kept Secret
•      The 14 Towns You Need To Visit In New Jersey In 2017
•      8 Unforgettable Road Trips to Take in New Jersey Before You Die
•      The Easy 1-Mile Winter Hike in New Jersey That’s Positively Bewitching

I’ll be the first to admit these headlines sound hokey, but if you check out this website, I guarantee you’ll find an abundance of fun activities to share with the people in your life.

6. Try Geocaching—In The Shawshank Redemption (one of my favorite movies), the protagonist, Andy Dufresne, tells his friend Red to go on a scavenger hunt for a hidden item when he gets out of prison. He gives him the basic coordinates and then says, “In the base of that wall, you’ll find a rock that has no earthly business in a Maine hayfield.”

This movie quote encapsulates the spirit of Geocaching. You are given GPS coordinates, then it’s your job to find the hidden clue that will reveal a hidden stash. With this strategy, you can turn a simple walk into a fun experience that you share with friends and family.

7. Bulletin Board Flyers—Some events may be too small to even get much notice in the local paper. But if you keep an eye out for bulletin board flyers, you’ll discover a number of smaller local events that are worth checking out.

8. Craigslist—The website Craigslist is a useful resource to find listings for fun activities, interest-specific groups, volunteering opportunities, local events, and classes. How useful these listings are varies greatly on your local Craigslist site, but it’s worth checking out once or twice a month.

9. Meetup.com—The website Meetup.com is a great place to find groups based off your personal interests and make new friends as you enjoy one of your favorite activities. Simply do a search within two to fifty miles of your home, and you will find lots of groups you can join. But like Craigslist, the quality (and size) of the groups depend on how many people in your community use the site. If you live in a small, isolated area, then you might have to drive far to connect with a group that matches your personal interests.

These nine tools for finding fun activities are just a sampling of ways you can find activities in your area and connect with new people. There are literally thousands of apps, websites, and newspapers designed to help you find fun activities. But this plethora of options can make you feel overwhelmed, so my advice is to pick a few resources from this list and then spend five to ten minutes each week finding interesting activities to explore.

#103. Know What Your Significant Other Likes

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Daily or weekly

Benefit: Understanding the wants, desires, and goals of your spouse or significant other is an essential part of maintaining a healthy relationship. As I’ve mentioned numerous times, relationships are often built on small things. If you focus on becoming a person who constantly thinks of your partner, then you’ll be on the road to building a relationship that stands the test of time.

Description: Get into the habit of taking notes on what your significant other enjoys. As an example, you may be out shopping and notice that your husband expresses interest in a specific Dewalt Miter Saw. Or maybe your wife is talking about a specific scarf she likes. Take note of this, and then buy this item as a gift for the holidays or their birthday, or simply as a surprise present.

This habit shouldn’t be limited to “big purchase” tickets. It can also be used effectively for small things. For instance, if you remember that your wife said that she would love to see a certain movie, then you can schedule a surprise date night to go see it with her.

The notes on your significant other can be kept anywhere, but I feel the best tool for this is Evernote. You should create a Notebook for your significant other (and for the other important people in your life, like your parents, children, siblings, and close friends). Then you’ll build a habit of regularly adding interesting ideas and events like:

•      Movies they want to see
•      Favorite TV shows
•      Restaurants they casually mention they’d like to try
•      Events or activities they might enjoy
•      Items they express an interest in purchasing
•      Dates, like their birthday, your anniversary, and upcoming important events

The key to this habit is to jot down this information as soon as possible so you don’t forget about it. As soon as you think of something, pull out Evernote and then pop it into the app.

Surprising that special someone in your life with an unexpected gift will do wonders to strengthen your relationship, but more importantly, it lets them know that you listen and remember the small things they often talk about.

#104. Pause Before Discussing Sensitive Topics

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: There is a great quote about conflicts and arguments: “10% of conflicts are due to difference of opinion and 90% are due to wrong tone of voice.”

I’m sure these percentages are not scientifically accurate, but there is a lot of truth to the underlying message—conflicts most often arise from how you say something rather than what you say.

That’s why it’s important to build a habit where you pause (for at least a few seconds) before engaging in a sensitive conversation. This will give you enough time to consider what you want to say and how you want to say it. Done correctly, this habit will minimize the arguments that often arise when there is a difference of opinion.

Description: The way you share your viewpoints sets the stage for how other people will react. By pausing and thinking of a diplomatic way to say the exact same thing you originally intended, you also set the stage for a peaceful conflict resolution.

Here’s how this works:

1.      Identify those “crucial conversations” that require careful, measured responses.
2.      If conversation has started, listen carefully to what the other person is saying.
3.      During these discussions, pause for a moment to give yourself time to think of what you’ll say next.
4.      Take a deep breath.
5.      If the other person has valid points, try to acknowledge these points in your response.
6.      Respond in a carefully measured tone, instead of rushing your response.
7.      Maintain this slow pace throughout the conversation, resisting the temptation to let your emotions get the best of you.

Following these seven steps will do wonders for decreasing the number of conversations that lead to conflict or even outright hostility. All of this can be possible if you build a habit of taking short pauses to control your emotions before responding to a potentially sensitive subject.

#105. Outline Your Thoughts before a Difficult Conversation

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Weekly

Benefit: In potentially high-stress situations, emotions can run rampant. This can include difficult conversations like:

•      Asking a boss for a promotion or pay raise
•      Firing an employee
•      Talking with a friend or family member after an argument
•      Confronting a spouse about a specific behavior or action
•      Admitting a mistake that you have made

These conversations can be intimidating or even terrifying, but if you outline your thoughts beforehand, then you’ll know what you want to say and how to best phrase it.

Description: By outlining your thoughts in advance, you give yourself time to fully develop your thoughts in a healthy manner, rather than jumping the gun and making decisions based on emotion.

Here’s a simple process to think about what you’ll say:

First, write down your thoughts and feelings. Start by observing what emotions you are feeling (e.g., fear, anger, anxiety), and then write down what thoughts or experiences are causing these feelings.

Next, ask yourself if you know these thoughts are true. For instance, if you’re worried about a meeting with your boss because you think you’ll be fired, ask yourself if you know for certain that this is a real possibility and what evidence you have that supports this thought. Most of the time the fears that we build up in our heads are nothing more than fears.

Third, think about a past intimidating situation you dealt with. What did you do right? What did you do wrong? What will you do this time? Understanding how you dealt with a similar conversation can be the key to figuring out the best approach with this upcoming discussion.

At this point, you’ll be ready for any conversation. By going through this exercise, you’ll get the fears out of your head and down on paper. This will also give you a chance to mentally rehearse what you’ll say based on the responses of the other person. The more you go over this conversation in your mind, the better equipped you’ll become to handle any difficult discussion.

#106. Pause to Control Your Anger

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Daily or weekly

Benefits: There are times when we’re not in control of our anger, but instead our anger controls us. Regaining control of our emotions on these occasions is essential because these are the moments that often lead to poor choices that can have a severe negative effect on your life.

When giving in to anger, you make bad decisions, communicate poorly, say hurtful things, lose track of logic, and blow things out of proportion. Even when you have a good reason to be angry, losing your temper means you’ll end up doing something you’ll regret later.

The simplest fix to this problem is to pause for a few seconds (even up to a minute) to gain control of your emotions, and then think carefully about how you’ll respond.

Description: Whenever you feel anger, the first thing to do is immediately remove yourself from the situation. This means walking away from the person (you can make an excuse that you have to use the restroom.)

If that’s not possible, then walk to another part of the room, direct your attention toward something else (like looking out a window), and give yourself a moment to gather your thoughts.

Next, use imagery to relax a little. Visualize a relaxing moment from your memory or imagination—something you would really enjoy, like sitting on a beach sipping a fruity drink.

Be sure to breathe deeply, from your diaphragm. Shallow breathing from your chest won’t relax you, so picture your breath coming up from your “gut.” Take a long, slow breath—the inhalation should last a second. Hold your breath for another second and then take a third second for a long, slow exhale.

When you inhale, think of clean, pure thoughts and happiness filling your body. As you exhale, imagine all the anger, tension, and stress going out of your body. Slowly repeat a calming word or phrase, such as “relax” or “take it easy.” Keep repeating it to yourself while breathing deeply.

When you take these simple ten deep breaths, your problem will not disappear—but you should have changed your perspective enough that you can deal with the conversation in a logical and rational manner where you’re not overly swayed by emotion.

Finally, it’s perfectly normal to be angry occasionally. But if it seems like you’re constantly pissed off, then you might have an anger issue. This is the point where you should seek professional help and get feedback on how to control your emotions.

#107. Practice Active Listening

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: It is easy talk to people without giving them our full attention. Often, these discussions happen while we’re engaging in activities like working, playing a game, checking Facebook, or watching television at the same time. Not only is this disrespectful to the other person, but it also means you can’t fully comprehend what they have said.

If you want to improve your relationships, the simplest strategy is to fully engage in each conversation, without doing any of the distracting activities that I just mentioned. In other words, whenever you’re talking to someone, you’re not looking at your phone, TV screen, or other people. Instead, you’re talking back and forth, responding to every nuance of the discussion.

Not only does this habit show that you’re paying attention, but it’s simply the polite thing to do when a person is talking to you.

Description: There are five steps you can use to actively listen to others:

1.      Stop what you are doing. You cannot actively listen if there are other distractions. Give the person in this conversation 100% of your attention and focus.
2.      Make eye contact. This is the key part of body language communication because it shows the other person that you are interested and paying attention to their words.
3.      Just listen. Don’t interrupt, give your opinions, or attempt to fix their problems. Simply listen to what they are telling you.
4.      Wait for a natural pause to ask clarifying questions. Use this if you don’t understand what is being said. You can also use pauses to repeat back major points, such as, “I hear you saying _____.”
5.      Be empathetic. Try to feel what the speaker is feeling. If the story is sad, try to feel sad with them. If it is something they are angry about, share in their anger.

These are just a few steps you can use to become a better listener. The key point here is that whenever someone is talking to you, it’s only fair to give them your undivided attention. In our modern world, people live distracted lives where they’re always sort of paying attention. If you act differently than the masses, you will become known as that special someone who fully engages in all your conversations.

#108. Photograph Important People (and Events)

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: Pictures help connect us to both those who came before us and those who will come after. They help tell the story of family members and ancestors who took part in shaping how the world is now. According to educational psychology, self-identity plays a big role in self-confidence. This means that documenting your life and the people in it can help to boost your well-being. And the simplest way to do this is to build a habit where you photograph the people, places, and possessions that matter to you.

Description: While it’s easy to get distracted—especially during important events—and not get your camera to capture the moment, make a point of documenting your life on a regular basis. That way, you’ll have a timeline of each year showing its highlights and special moments.

To document your life, I recommend these tips:

•      Buy a high-quality camera: This may be an expensive camera where you can adjust the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO picture setting. Or you can use the camera on a high-quality smartphone.
•      Carry your camera with you: While it may just seem like a typical night out with friends, make sure you have your camera with you so you can capture these special moments. You never know—what seems like an everyday occurrence right now might become a prized memory in the future.
•      Don’t wait until everyone is camera ready: Sometimes the best moments are captured when people aren’t expecting a photo. Take candid pictures of people enjoying themselves so you can have an authentic memory of the people who are important to you following an event.
•      Back up your photos: Make sure to use a reputable backup service to store your pictures, such as Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive. Also, consider buying a portable hard drive that can give you an extra level of backup.

In the words of the immortal Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

There’s nothing you can do to prevent time from marching on, but if you continuously document your life with photographs, you’ll have a digital archive of all that you’ve experienced and the people you share it with.