Relationships are hard. And sometimes we make them even harder without realizing it. Think about it. There’s a lot of risk in allowing someone to get close to our hearts. Where there’s risk, there is survival and the mechanisms that kick in to protect us from pain and suffering. It is, however, entirely possible to step outside of survival mode, get present to the people in our lives and thrive in our relationships. Here are five easy steps to finding power and joy with the people in your life.
1. Let go of expectations. We all cling to certain standards of how we want people to think about us and act toward us. We want to feel valued and cared for. The problem with that is that there’s no universality in what that looks like from one person to another. We cannot reasonably expect another person to be exactly what we want them to be. Imposing our expectations onto others is not only unfair, it’s disempowering to both people involved. It sets us up for perpetual disappointment and frustration, and creates a constant scenario in which we view the other person as falling short or being wrong. Having a healthy relationship demands that we accept and embrace people for who they are, without resignation or resentment.
2. Communicate with purpose. Everyone wants to be heard, to be validated and, most of the time, to be right. Often times, communication becomes accusatory and counterproductive. The key to healthy communication is to have intentionality; that is an intention for the conversation. And here’s a hint….the intention should be to resolve the issue at hand, not to drag it out and make someone feel bad. When you express your concerns to someone, be mindful of how your words, tone and body language may be received by them. Be kind, patient and clear about what you need from the conversation. Take time to hear their perspective rather than interrupting or simply waiting for your turn to speak again. Remember, the goal is to complete the conflict and not to make things worse.
3. Be willing to let go of being right. Being right, as I stated above, is important to all of us. It’s justification for our not-so-elegant behavior, for our negative feelings and for our opportunity to hold a grudge. Taking a stance to be right, however, holds no real power. If we are right, inherently we are making someone else wrong, and that creates a space for all sorts of negativity in the relationship. Whenever conflict arises, it’s best to take the approach that no one is right or wrong, and that there is simply something that needs to be worked through. After all, any relationship between two people is a partnership, with common goals. Work together, not against each other.
4. Be willing to walk away. This is a tough one, particularly for us ladies. Walking away means giving in, surrendering, being weak, letting someone else win. Only it doesn’t mean any of things, not actually. There are times, in the midst of conflict, where you reach a stalemate. Whether you’re both tired, frustrated with the conversation or preoccupied with outside stresses, there is a point when you need to get that nothing productive is going to come from continuing the conversation at that moment in time. If it’s an important issue, you can come back to it when emotions have settled and you’ve both cleared your heads. If it’s something small and meaningless, it’s better to just let it go altogether. But walking away can be a healthy, empowering thing for a relationship when the communication truly has gotten beyond any effectiveness. Just do it with kindness, intention and clarity. Tip for the guys, this is not an excuse to get out of conversations on a regular basis!
5. Accept apologies, even when they aren’t verbal. You’re hurt. You’re angry. You’re frustrated. You feel betrayed, disappointed, overwhelmed. I get it. We all have those moments, and we have a tendency to want to linger in them. Remember, we get to justify our unsavory thoughts and actions when we remain in a place of victimhood. And the price we pay for that is happiness, empowerment and freedom. Let. It. Go. If someone apologizes for their fault, accept it and move on. No ifs, ands or buts. If someone doesn’t offer you a verbal apology, let it go anyway. Some people have a hard time with saying they’re sorry. But they will express their remorse in other ways, if you pay attention. Things like compliments, small favors, extra attention or an unusually happy disposition can be indicative of guilt. So accept their attempt at rectification and let them off the hook. It’s simple, everyone wins.
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