Immediately Improve ANY Relationship
For adults, virtually every relationship is optional. You can quit your job if you dislike your boss. Expunge your sibling if you don’t see eye-to-eye. You can even move if you loathe your neighbor. Clearly, if your relationships are not working for you, you can take dramatic action to rid yourself of them – but there has to be a better way.
First, ask yourself, “Is there anything that I am doing to contribute to the annoyance of this situation?” The majority of people will reply (to themselves) a resounding “No!” However, it always takes the participation of both parties to have an egregious relationship. Relationships can be likened to the “assigned fault” that insurance companies charge to participants in an accident. Although in some accidents it may seem that one party was assigned an unreasonable percentage of fault, the premise is that it took two for the accident to occur as it did. This logic is even more appropriate in floundering relationships.
Let’s examine a relationship in which you feel blameless for its deleterious nature. Your boss is a pompous windbag who always takes credit for the positive achievements of the department. At coffee break, you and your coworkers engage in your favorite “can you top this” story exchange about the latest fury the boss caused. Although your actions are typical, have you fueled the distance between you and your boss?
Even if your boss never becomes aware of your conversations, you have contributed to the ornery association between you. Your gossip has cemented the negative voice in your head, reinforcing an already combative situation, and cementing his negative approach towards you. He senses the department’s opinion of him and it adds to his abhorrent treatment of the group. What would the relationship be like if you did not engage in gossip, but used that energy instead to ask his opinion about your work? What can you improve? What was he particularly pleased by? Don’t be phony or a kiss-up, just act as though the relationship is mutually rewarding and show a genuine interest in his perspective.
The same principle applies to all relationships. In my practice, clients often cannot recognize their participation in a flawed relationship. Over time it becomes evident that there is usually ways to help the relationship improve, and eventually to turn a worthwhile alliance into a reciprocally favorable one. The key is to know where to begin.
Start by imagining that each negative act, look, or conversation that you create is like laying a physical brick between the two of you. You can actually visualize painting your action onto the brick before it is mortared. For example, the bricks on the wall may read, “Called her stupid”, “Pretended not to hear when the baby was crying” “Came home late without calling.” “Left my dirty clothes on the floor.” You know what the bricks say. Each time you lay more bricks than you take down through positive actions, thoughts, and gestures, you build the wall higher. At first, you will have difficulty touching one another. Then seeing each other will become challenging. And eventually you will no longer be able to hear one another.
Is the relationship worth improving? Then be the one who takes the bricks down. If the wall is high and thick, then you will have to take dramatic action to smash it down. If the wall is short and shaky, then knock off a few bricks at a time. Amazingly, as you begin to tear the wall down, your former opponent will become your ally and unknowingly help you remove the bricks. Kindness, respect, and consideration are contagious.
Two caveats. One – count the “negative” relationships in your life. If you can easily count three or more, then it’s time to look in the mirror for fault and stop blaming others. You need to take action! Two – this article does not apply to any abusive relationship. If you are involved in such a situation, you need to seek professional help beyond the scope of this newsletter.
Please share your comments if you would like feedback or to have your voice heard in next month’s newsletter. In the meantime, go knock down some bricks. Your son or neighbor or mother-in-law will surely appreciate it and you will reap the rewards!