Relationships are one of the most complex situations we will face but they provide one of our top human needs – love and connection. Conflicts in relationships can quickly cost us our happiness and peace. We are responsible for the understanding or mis-understanding of our verbal and non-verbal communication with others to cultivate healthy relationships.
One of the main reasons that relationships suffer is that many people focus on their own wants, needs and preferences and don’t value the same for others. When two people that put their own needs first and are in a relationship with each other, they will find themselves in a power struggle and both will feel their way is the only way – to ‘be right’ all the time. These relationships will often be filled with conflict and misunderstanding.
“Attachment to being right creates suffering. When you have a choice, or to be kind, choose kind and watch your suffering disappear” – Wayne Dyer.
If both people in a relationship don’t commit to investing 100% into their relationship, what will happen is that one person ends up giving more and the other gets comfortable with receiving more which causes an imbalance. This imbalance over time, wears on the relationship, bitterness, resentment and mistrust can occur. There are simple practices that can greatly improve our relationships and they all start with working on ourselves first.
1. Communication such as active listening sends a direct message to the other person that we appreciate and value what they have to say. Some of us struggle with paying full attention because we are more focused on how we’re going to respond or on how the conversation is making us feel. We need to focus on the other person, not so much on ourselves. Having direct eye contact while someone is speaking shows we’re fully engaged. Listening to someone builds trust in the relationship and increases the other person’s self-esteem because they feel valued. Think of active listening like tuning into a radio station. If you don’t find the exact signal, you miss half or all of the message and hear white noise. We need to concentrate on what is said to hear the whole message.
2. Mindful speech is another area of communication that can be fine-tuned to improve our relationships. It is helpful to resist the urge to react mindlessly and immediately to things that others say and do. We are all guilty of saying or doing something wrong at times, and the same goes for others too. None of us are perfect. Instead, pause and reflect on what was said. Then choose your words carefully. Be sure to say what you mean and mean what you say. In some instances, it is better to say nothing than when you are emotionally charged and responding badly. Avoid doing the following:
Example, “you look frustrated”,
“no I’m not”,
“yes you are, it’s obvious”,
“what the hell are you talking about”,
“why are you raising your voice at me?”
“I’m not frustrated”
“stop shouting at me”
Whether you are working on a relationship with your partner, or simply looking to have better personal relationships with the people in your life, active listening, mindful speech and awareness are at the core of great relationships. If people want things always their way, it’s not going to work out, it is always about give and take, and always finding a balance.
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