So often in life we struggle with having harmony in our relationships. More than once I have found myself arguing with people only to realize later how unnecessary the argument truly was. I found myself getting defensive, irritated, assuming the worst about other people's intentions towards me. I was creating an enemy out people who probably were only trying to help me solve a common problem, or do the best they could under the circumstances. Unfortunately, I let my fear get the best of me and I didn't take the time to see the bigger picture.
These situations happen in every kind of environment, at work, with friends, loved ones, and even strangers. So I began to ask myself how to avoid the stress of these types of relationship difficulties, because I found they were creating stress, tension, and unhappiness in my life. I came up with the following answers I would like to share with you. Also, as I am always looking for more ways to improve my relationships I would love to hear your ideas in the comments below.
1. Try to Understand Where the Other Person is Coming From
This is one of the best ways to ensure you have good communication with others. When we stop trying to be heard and really begin to listen we find our relationships radically shift. So many times when I find myself in an argument it is because I feel misunderstood. My emphasis is on getting the other person to understand me, instead of trying to understand where they are coming from. This leads to frustration, miscommunication, and eventually resentment. Our natural tendency is to focus on our own needs and make ourselves heard, which ironically, can lead to barriers in communication and defensive behaviors. When we seek first to understand, others feel listened to and are more willing to listen which allows communication to flow more naturally and ultimately, for you to feel understood. When two people take time to understand each other, frustration is replaced by compassion and they are able to enjoy a better and more loving relationship.
2. Stop Worrying About Being Right, Focus on Being Kind
This is something I struggle with quite a bit. I have a tendency to want to always be right, prove my point, fight to be acknowledged, and get the other person to see that they are wrong. What I have found is, whenever a conversation wanders into who is right and who is wrong an argument ensues and people fight much longer than necessary as they are determined to prove themselves right and not capitulate. So, as an experiment, I decided to let other people be right most of the time. Low and behold, my relationships began to drastically improve. My defensiveness dissipated and I actually felt relieved not to have to be right all the time. I actually realized that in many instances I was indeed wrong and I learned something new. I laughed more, connected deeper, and spent more time talking about things that mattered. I think what is more important than being right is being kind. So often the things we are determined to be right about aren't very important, but that little bit of kindness we give is monumental to both others and ourselves. When we stop correcting others and insisting they are wrong and instead lift them up, not only do they benefit from the positive energy, but so do we.
3. Stop Judging Others and Looking for Their Faults
How much time do we spend judging both ourselves and others. This may be one of the biggest reasons we experience conflict in our relationships and our lives. We often interpret other people's behavior through our own set of expectations, values, and notions of what is right and wrong. When we do this we tend to alienate those people we want to connect with and create barriers between us and others. This can also lead to finding fault with others. In his book "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff", Richard Carlson uses a wonderful metaphor about weatherproofing to explain this. When we weatherproof we look for the cracks and imperfections and focus all of our attention on what is wrong and what needs fixing. When we focus on the negative components of our relationships we wind up feeling that nothing is ever good enough and it leaves us with a strong sense of lack. On the other hand when we appreciate our relationships and our lives we wind up enjoying others and feeling a sense of fulfillment. So the trick is to avoid weatherproofing and instead look for what is good in your relationships.