Educator offers tips on 'getting our hearts right'

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Anna Marie Lux
Monday, January 27, 2014

JANESVILLE--Kathy Hetzel wants to help us get our hearts right.

With Valentine's Day approaching, the focus is on love.

But Hetzel knows improving a relationship is a lot harder than buying a box of chocolates.

“Everyone wants better relationships,” she said. “We want them in our marriage, our families and at work.”

The family living educator with UW Extension in Rock County has some solid suggestions about how to improve life at home and at work.

She and Jeanette Beard of the Rock County Association for Home and Community Education invite people to learn how to better handle conflict and disagreements.

They are giving a free talk at the Rock County Courthouse in Janesville on Thursday, Feb. 6.

“Maybe already this morning you have been annoyed by someone,” Hetzel said. “Communication skills will help solve the problem, but they often disappear when we are faced with conflict.”

Inability to communicate well is only one stumbling block to better relationships. Focusing too much on ourselves and our own needs is another.

“We are so intent on giving our own viewpoints that we forget about the other person,” Hetzel said. “We need a willingness to acknowledge each others concerns if we are to see the other side.”

Egocentrism, which means people focus on themselves, often gets in the way. But, if we are aware of it, we can be more open to hearing another viewpoint, Hetzel said.

People also tend to excuse their mistakes and faults because of circumstances.

“If I cut into traffic, it is because I am under pressure and in a hurry,” Hetzel said. “But if you do it, you are inconsiderate and unsafe.

"If I have a messy desk, it's because I am busy. But if you have a messy desk, it is because you are disorganized.”

Sound familiar?

Then there's anger, which has the potential to kill.

“The probability of a serious heart attack increases when we are angry,” Hetzel said.

She cites the book “Anger Kills” by Duke physician and bestselling author Redford Williams. He writes that some people respond to anger with a surge in blood pressure. People with this particular genetic predisposition are at increased risk for heart attack.

Williams advises that practicing strategies for anger management can actually help people feel less angry less often.

“When we see others as the enemy, we are only hurting ourselves,” Hetzel said.

She offers a few ways to open our hearts.

“The first one is humility,” Hetzel said. “If someone attacks you verbally, you might respond by saying, 'Look who is talking. You're not so smart yourself.' Or, if you are humble, you might say: 'I can learn things from you.'”

Another way is compassion or being sensitive to what someone else is feeling.

“We can all be more compassionate,” she suggests. “People who are compassionate don't even know it because it is their lifestyle.”

Hetzel has been with UW-Extension in Rock County since September. Prior to that, she was family living educator in Dodge County for a decade.

She suggests that being positive also enhances any relationship.

“It is a practice to see the good in people,” Hetzel said. “You need to tell people they have done good things in a 5-to-1 ratio for everything negative you point out. We need to get our hearts in the right pattern to accept other people for what they are and not what we want them to be.”

Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email amarielux@gazettextra.com.

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