There are probably few things in our lives that concern us more than starting, building and maintaining relationships, especially those with people who will be close to us, whether at home, at work, or socially. Very often, though, the methods we learn for relating to others lead to unhappy or sterile relationships rather than those we would like to enjoy. Here are some key guidelines to fruitful, rewarding relationships.
1. Relate To People Through Their Strengths Rather Than Their Failings. We not only see them differently but we respond differently. It is a common understanding in relationship counseling that those who seek it can readily cite their partner’s failings but struggle to recall their strengths and skills.
It’s easy to perceive failings – we all have them. However, when we relate to others through their strengths and skills, we instill confidence, bypass conflict and demonstrate a productive way of relating to people. As well, those who experience first hand what that feels like are able learn from our example. It also builds trust. By displaying an awareness of their capabilities, we help others shift attention towards the things they really want and to feel at peace with who they are; in particular, aspects of themselves they may not especially like. They are then more able to let go of those unwanted aspects as they pay more attention to their expanding strengths.
2. Make Peace With The Present. Being angry or resentful about present (and past) conditions keeps us anchored there. By learning to view the present from a different perspective we are able to see new paths that previously were obscured. It is like climbing a hill or a tree and being able to see further. Make peace with the present so that you are comfortable even with seemingly intolerable conditions. When you feel good about where you are, new paths will present themselves. Try it, you’ll see.
3. Honest Feedback Is Greatly Overrated. Yes, that statement may shock graduates of numerous communications workshops, so it’s worth repeating and clarifying: when bringing attention to the failings of another, offering honest feedback is greatly overrated. It is very often presumptuous, manipulative and harmful. Attempts to influence the thoughts and behavior of another – control how they think and act – though well-intended, are often misplaced and usually futile. Moreover, they cause the person we are trying to help to focus more on what they don’t want – their failings.
This is not to deny the merit of letting others know how something they have done affects us. Much of the value of this communication lies in taking responsibility for our own responses, not in diminishing others by claiming they are the cause of the way we feel. We can ask them to cooperate in making it easier for us. When we show respect, we encourage others to respect us.
Habitually see people – and relate to them – through their strengths and skills. If we continue to draw attention to perceived failings, they remain conscious of these – and so do you. This leads us to respond negatively to those things we dislike. When you’re feeling anger, pause and consider how you can approach the situation through the strengths and skills of those who’ve provoked you. For those situations that are especially annoying, learn to feel OK with where you are right now as this makes it easier to let go of present conditions. Then you can move on to a situation that is happier and more fulfilling. For a beautiful future, make peace with the present.