Today I want to talk about relationships. Unless you are a sage living in the mountains or in a cave, you have many relationships in your life. From the time you are born you either have relationships which you inherited and others which you acquired. It is said that you don’t choose your parents, siblings or relatives but you choose your friends. A friend of mine once said how he considered his relatives as “extra baggage”. Interesting thought I said to myself because many of us move around carrying this extra baggage with us in our relationships. We find it difficult to manage relationships with our parents, our spouse, children, bosses, friends and many others. When I look around I hear so many stories of strained relationships, broken connections and people generally struggling with maintain even basic connections with the people they love.
When I look back at my life I have a good feeling about all the relationships I have had in my life. I’m a bit lazy when it comes to staying in touch with people but each time I connect with anyone I instantly seem to develop a rapport and felt at ease. There are a few things which I believe are essential to any relationship
We have a tendency to be judgemental about things very often. I have frequent debates with my wife over this and she feels that I don’t have a strong opinion about people. My view is that we shouldn’t be passing a judgement about a person. We could have an opinion about the person’s behaviour, but that’s only a small portion of him. Our tendency is to immediately label someone and call him a liar, insensitive, stubborn or whatever. We need to understand that just because we do not like a person’s behaviour it does not represent the person himself. For example if you do not like someone who demonstrates a strong degree of confidence in their views, it does not mean that the person is arrogant. In short if you can’t resist judging, judge the behaviour not the person. The reason for this is that the moment you label a person, your mind starts building a perception of the individual and you start looking at the person through that lens. This obviously does not let you build healthy relationships.
In one of my previous articles I wrote about what my 6 year old taught me. Learn to let go. As the age old saying goes Forgive and Forget. If you find it difficult to Forgive, at least try and forget. Don’t hang on to the past. People or situations or events’ should not be allowed to live in your mental house. Our biggest struggles often are not caused by anxiety of the future but the memories of the past. If your relationship has gone bad with someone, try and fix it if you really want to. If not move on and throw the person out of your mind. A strange thing I have observed is that even after a relationship is broken, how people cling on to the other person and constantly think about them and bring them up in conversations. You may think you are venting out your anger or frustration but the fact is that someone who you think is no more important in your life is taking up precious time of your life. Think about it!
Don’t stuff your Closets
This one I think a lot of married women will relate to. How many times in a day/week/month have you had to tell your husband to keep their closets in order? No matter how many times you say this we men seem to never get it! Some of you probably have given up while some of you have decided to just take things into your own hands. I’m guilty myself of this and still find it challenging to keep my closet in order. Why am I talking about our closets now? The fact is that we tend to dump things into our closets when it comes to relationships. Many times there are things that people say or do which hurt us but we choose to ignore them rather than dealing with them. We all know how your stuffed closet can fall on your face one day. Just like the closet the feelings, emotions and pain which you put in the closet of your mind will blow up one day and it won’t be pretty! You may have already experienced this when you just lose your temper and say things to your loved ones, friends which have nothing to do with the issue which made you angry. So while the experience of discussing your feelings and emotions may seem difficult in the beginning, the benefits in the longer term far outweigh the temporary pain.
When I was in school I was often told that we had 2 ears and 1 mouth. I did not understand it then but I understand it now. My wife would argue that I still don’t! Nevertheless many of us still don’t understand what Listening means. First we confuse hearing from Listening. A lot of times we only hear what the other person said. Hearing is an unconscious activity. Listening is something which is consciously done. When you hear music it’s only a sound, when you listen to music it adds meaning. So the first thing we need to do is to give our full attention when talking to people and be “in the moment”.
Another problem is that we are all eager to express our opinion and give advice. I’m guilty of this too and I’m working to fix it. When a person comes to you with a problem they are usually looking for someone who will just listen to them without giving advice. Learn to empathize with their feelings and emotions without forming an opinion or being judgemental. This is not easy for us as humans as we are programmed to express ourselves all the time. Even when asked for advice, try and avoid telling them what to do. Provide alternatives with pros and cons and let them decide. The reason for this is that each person’s circumstances and life experiences are different and this impacts their ability and capability to deal with situations and circumstances. So while doing something may be easy for you, the other person may find it very challenging.
Take the Initiative
Many relationships suffer from the “Why Me” syndrome. Whenever there is a fight or a misunderstanding, most people ask the question Why should I be the one to always say sorry or Why should I compromise always or Why should I talk first and so on. So much time and energy is wasted in this that people will go to any lengths to massage their egos. We say we love our family and friends. If that is true why do we want to do something (not talk, create a distance, etc.) which we know will hurt them?
Life is too short to be massaging our egos. Our loved ones are far more precious than our egos. Take the first step and see the difference. Remember that it’s not about proving your point or establishing your authority. So take that step and call a friend who has distanced away, apologize to your friend even if it’s not your fault and you will feel lighter.
Lastly there is one more thing you need to do to enjoy a fulfilling and happy relationship. You need to a build a relationship which is above all other relationships that you have. That relationship is the one which you have with YOU. Do a bit of introspection on your relationship with yourself. Are you in harmony with your own feelings and emotions? Are you forgiving of yourself? Do you let go of your own hurt? Like they say charity begins at home. Similarly you need to learn to build a relationship with “YOU” before building a relationship with others.