Relationships are easy…it’s our egos that make them difficult. @jengroover (Click to Tweet!)
Hmm, have you ever thought of that before? Or is your ego screaming now saying, “Is this woman crazy?! Relationships are so difficult!!”
Well, I am here to share a different thought process with you to entertain. It’s not the relationships that are difficult, it’s things like the inability to express what we want effectively, seeking out others to fill our voids, lack of sense of worth, self-sabotaging behaviors, and lack of effective communication skills, (aka our egos raging) that make many of our relationships difficult.
So how do we change that you ask? It all begins with our own sense of emotional intelligence (heightened self-awareness) along with our ability to recognize emotional intelligence levels in others, in order to effectively communicate with them on their level.
1) CHOOSE THE DESIRE TO UNDERSTAND OTHERS OVER THE NEED TO BE RIGHT: The first step in this process begins with surrendering to not having to be “right” and instead choosing to understand where other people are coming from first. There is a famous Buddhist saying, “Would you rather be right, or happy?” Think about it. Most people think by being “right” they will be happy, but that is not true, especially if being “right” costs you a relationship with someone you deeply loved. Needing to be right can make us lose our ability to see other people’s perspectives and have empathy for how they may feel based on their perception, even if we don’t agree with it.
In every relationship there are two people, each with different perspectives, based on their life experiences. The quickest way to resuscitate any issue in a relationship is to choose to understand the other person’s perspective and feelings to try and get to the root of where their feelings are coming from. What most people are mad at on the surface isn’t actually what they are mad at, but instead a projection of feelings/emotions of something that happened before that was hurtful and now they are giving what is happening in that moment a “meaning” based on a previous experience. Nothing has meaning until we give it meaning. So how do people give things meaning? Based on their life experiences; which may be VERY different than yours, which is why so often breakdowns in relationships happen. One person struggles to see and respect where the other person is coming from, or even worse, they can’t imagine any other perspective is “right” but theirs.
The number one thing that causes pain in any relationship is the expectation that we have of other people and who we think they should be, versus who they really are. Once you realize no one can be just like you, or think just like you, or act just like you, then you begin to alleviate a lot of the self-afflicted pain in your life. When we begin to appreciate others more for who they are, fulfilling relationships increase in our lives. When you come across people that act in ways that you don’t agree with, just understand they have a different path than you. You don’t need to be friends with them or date them, but don’t hate or hold onto anger because the only person that is damaging to is you. It’s wasted energy. And if you don’t let it go, you will bring that energy into your other relationships, consciously or sub-consciously. Learn more about EXPECTATIONS in relationships from a previous article I wrote.
2) CREATE CALM, SAFE, NON-JUDGEMENTAL ENVIRONMENTS: This takes calm, non-judgmental communication. This also requires creating a “safe” environment for the conversation. An open understanding to express how YOU are feeling and why you might be feeling that way. It might be challenging during these time periods to not take offense to what the other person is saying but it’s critical to create the openness for increased intimacy. Intimacy in every type of relationship can grow during conflict, if each person can express their feelings and the other respects them, while explaining their point of view. This then allows the opportunity to work toward a solution instead of blame.
3) NEVER POINT A FINGER: Never use the word YOU to the other person because that will typically make the other person defensive instead of open to listening to what you have to say. In order to become an effective communicator that gains trust in conflict, you must learn to take responsibility for your feelings, because as I said earlier, nothing has meaning until YOU give it meaning, which isn’t necessarily the meaning anyone else will give it. Begin all conversations with, “I feel…” or “My perception is…”, and you will create an opportunity for empathy and compassion from the other person to understand where you are coming from, especially if it is someone that is already emotionally intelligent.
I highly recommend evaluating where your feelings may be coming from too. Often there is a deeper meaning or connection to how you feel today based on something in your past. These are called your “triggers.” Once you can clearly identify your triggers, you will be able to handle your emotions more effectively. You’ll no longer blame other people for how you feel but instead understand “why” you feel a certain way. Understanding the “why” will give you power over a situation instead of being a victim to it.
At the end of each of these communication sessions, it is helpful to ask what can be done better by both parties to avoid a similar situation in the future. Remember, this isn’t about being right, this is about understanding someone you love or someone you choose to have a relationship with, so it’s always good to know what you can do better to add more harmony and trust to the relationship, mutually.
4) COMMIT TO GRATITUDE AND APPRECIATION: Everyone wants to feel appreciated! Everyone enjoys someone expressing gratitude for something they did, even if they don’t expect it, it’s always nice to hear. What is even more valuable is the positive emotions that are evoked from focusing on and expressing what you are grateful for—constantly. Being in a state of constant gratitude brings an instant feeling of connection with anyone you come in contact with. Expressing it makes people feel special and safe, therefore more capable of trusting that relationship.
I witness a lot of people who believe in order to get more out of people they feel the need to put them down, or not give praise, or demean. These are absolutely the WRONG ways to get someone to deeply connect with you and “give more.” They might in the moment, but trust me, this is not a long term strategy for a deeply connected, trusting relationship.
My boyfriend and I give each other highlights from days and experiences we have together. These aren’t just superficial highlights like, “You looked nice!” These are things that are more meaningful because they took a certain sense of being present and reflection to identify. This should happen in all relationships. I do this with my daughters all the time too and it makes them beam with pride.
If you get into a time of conflict or “breakdown” and are trying to re-connect and re-build, this is an incredible way to do it quickly. It gets both parties to shift the focus on to what is good about each other, instead of what’s wrong.
5) SPACE OFTEN BREEDS CLARITY: Sometimes the best thing to get a relationship to resuscitate is mutually agreed space. Often one party has trouble with this, when in actuality, it is the best thing for the relationship. When things seem to be falling apart, when people choose to fight in the “heat of the moment” or need to talk to feel like they are “fixing” things, it often does more damage then good. This was a very interesting lesson for me. When I first experienced a situation when someone asked for space to get clarity, I thought it was a way of avoidance, but after time I realized, sometimes giving people their space is the best way to come back “together” without encountering the damage that might ensue when the conversations are emotionally charged. Sometimes just calmly saying, “I think some space would be productive,” or just simply backing off, is a form of silent communication that is effective. NOTE, this is very different than giving someone the silent treatment. The energy around it is different and the parties involved can totally sense that. This is a time of reflection, inward focus, and productive YOU time, not about being angry and going out and doing damaging things to the relationship.
When this process is handled maturely, it usually only lasts a day or two, may be a few days but usually not much longer. When communication is re-engaged it will not be as emotionally fueled and hopefully both parties come back with a desire to understand, instead of being “right”.
6) LETTING GO: Quite honestly, some relationships just weren’t meant to be: may be not at that time, or in the context they are and that is okay too. When this is true, and you know you have given your best, in being the best version of yourself, and you have used your emotional intelligence to try to connect and communicate differently and the relationship is adversely affecting you, then just let go. There doesn’t need to be anger, finger pointing or resentment. Just honor that the relationship isn’t adding enough value to offset the stress that it is causing. Understand and respect that there are lessons for both parties to learn about themselves and respect the other person for being a teacher of those lessons. Yes, even if the other person cheated, lied or stole, there are lessons to be learned.
Bottom line, each person is a teacher holding up a mirror for things we need to see, even the not so pretty things.
Relationships will always have trying times, but they are the times to embrace as times of growth. As I mentioned earlier, there can be tremendous growth in conflict when both parties choose to become stronger from it. We all have pain from different parts of our life, and we can respect our pain as well as the pain of others and chose to hurt others or heal others because of it. I choose healing. It is powerful; probably the most powerful thing you can do for another. My mantra to lead me there, even when my ego wants to take over is, “I choose compassion and empathy to understand, over being right.”
Top media mogul and business expert Jen Groover has been tagged by Success Magazine as a “One-Woman Brand” and “Creativity and Innovation Guru” and as a leading “Serial Entrepreneur” by Entrepreneur Magazine. She has gone from guest hosting spots on QVC to linking deals with some of the industry’s biggest heavyweights. Jen is a top business and lifestyle contributor and content creator for major networks, such as ABC, CBS, CNBC, NBC, Fox News, Fox Business News, and The CW. You can also connect with Jen on Facebook and Twitter.
Image courtesy of Cristina Cabellos.