We’re used to hearing that in a relationship, the important three little words are “I love you.” But after years of counseling couples and individuals, I find the three most important words you can say to the people in your life are: “Tell me more."

Even if a person close to you is saying something you don’t like, "Tell me more" will give you a chance to gather the whole story. It’s not the same as agreeing to what the person said, it’s giving him or her a chance to fully explain, and giving yourself time to get past your initial reaction and make a thoughtful response.

We often don’t listen enough to the people we love. Whether it’s your spaced-out and wired-up teenager, your cranky elderly relative, or a friend who calls when you’re busy, "tell me more" is a gift you can give from your heart.

If you’re searching for love, "tell me more" will keep a conversation going, and send a message that you’re interested in getting to know the other person. This is not only very attractive and flattering, it also will send a subtle message that you’re interested in relating, and not just a one-night-stand. It also creates an opportunity to learn about the character of the person you don’t know well. People reveal their inner motivations and aspirations in their stories.

Even when you’re talking to a mechanic, plumber or other fix-it person, "tell me more" invites them to fully explain what the problem is, and what they’re going to do about it. A repairman who can’t explain the problem or the solution in such a way that you can understand it may not be a good choice.

Whether you realize it or not, the relationship you have with yourself sets the pattern for how you deal with food. By developing a nurturing way to relate to yourself, you can reduce stress and get more in charge of your eating. When you create a constructive inner dialog and develop an inner support system you’ll become more confident in your evaluation of your thoughts, feelings, and options. 

A big advantage of knowing who you are is knowing how to pamper and comfort yourself when you’re stressed or tired. Use what you learn about yourself to develop a style for recharging and relaxing. What makes you most comfortable? What soothes you? What helps you recharge? It can be anything from a bubble bath, a yoga session, or your favorite music to a long walk in the country, a phone conversation with your best friend, or a nap. Make a list of your favorite  “personal rechargers.” Make sure the list includes simple things you can do cheaply (such as relax with a cup of tea and read a favorite book) to things that are very special (such as spend a day at a bed and breakfast or have a massage and a facial). Keep the list where you can refer to it whenever you feel in need of a recharge, and make use of it often.

If you find there’s never enough time for stress relief, it may be a sign that you always come last in your own life. Learn to schedule time for yourself to relax and to play. If you write personal time on your schedule the same way you do appointments with others, you’ll be more likely to actually do it. Join a class or group that meets regularly for a relaxing activity such as yoga, dancing or tai chi, or schedule a regular massage, manicure or facial, so you’ll have a guaranteed place to relax.

Author Bio: Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 35 years’ experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, The Commuter Marriage, and her newest, The Ten Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make After Forty and  Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.

Online, she’s known as “Dr. Romance” Dr. Tessina appears frequently on radio, and such TV shows as “Oprah”, “Larry King Live” and ABC News.

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