Relationships can be challenging at times. Fortunately, there are practical remedies that can strengthen our relationships. Below you’ll find tips on how to take five harmful habits and replace them with five relationship-enriching remedies.
1. Replace defensiveness with openness.
We become defensive when we take things personally or perceive that feedback is intended in a negative way. Learning to relax our defenses is helpful in truly hearing feedback and avoiding criticism, wanting to win, demanding change, and listening with an agenda.
Being open involves receptivity to feedback, difference, and resolving miscommunication in relationships without deflecting blame back onto the other. Openness means being able to receive and understand other’s feedback or needs, even if their perspective doesn’t match yours.
2. Replace criticism with compassionate concern.
Expressing concerns or complaints through criticism is sure to send anyone into defensiveness. Avoid making broad criticisms like “you never do …..! You’re so mean and inconsiderate!” Exploring your underlying needs/desires will help you communicate what the issue really is (it’s usually not what you think).
When you want to express your concern to someone, approach them with compassion and love. Ditch the generalizations and name-calling. Instead, be specific about one time the behavior happened, what you felt and thought it meant, and ask for their help in coming up with a strategy that will work for both of you in the future. Often, the concern has less to do with the complaint and more to do with what we think it means about us and the relationships.
3. Replace wanting to win with valuing the relationship (even over being right).
Trying to approach any relationship with an attitude of “winning” arguments or being “right” leads us into the trap of keeping score in relationship – who did what, when, and what actions matter most. When we’re constantly trying to make sure we have the most points we create discontent and resentment rather than satisfaction and support in relationship.
Let go of needing to be right. Focus on approaching challenges fairly, rather than competing against each other. The mark of an effective relationship is cooperation not competition.
4. Replace demanding change with active acceptance.
A surefire way to get anyone to dig in their heels and become defensive is to demand that they change what they are doing or else. Ultimatums and threats can decrease trust and connection in any relationship; it pushes them away from us. We can still speak up when we see a need for change; just shift how we communicate our hope for change.
Coming from a place of acceptance sends a message of unconditional love and worth. Focusing on acceptance also helps us get in touch with what really matters. If we still feel a specific change is desirable, requests (not demands) opens space for change to happen as a collaborative and organic process. Still, our request may not be fulfilled, reminding us to focus on acceptance of the other or making a change in ourselves.
5. Stop listening with an agenda and start listening with curiosity and heart.
Often, when we claim to be listening to someone, we’re not really understanding them. We typically hear one or two key words that we latch onto that are different from our perspective, and go to town formulating a response. It’s easy to get wrapped up in figuring out how to “win” or getting someone to see our “side” without taking the time to hear out their perspective.
We can show our curiosity by listening to understand instead of listening to respond. Listening to understand involves being engaged and curious about their perspective rather than making judgments or assumptions. Curiosity and listening to understand sends a message of caring and valuing the relationship.
These five things aren’t easy to do, but they have the power to completely transform a relationship and your relationship with yourself! Good luck! If you master these five skills you will be leadership material and will have successful relationships.
(Taken in part from: Mind Body Green)
God bless you and your relationships,