Your children are driving your crazy.
Your parents are too needy.
Your boss is a jerk.
Your spouse doesn’t understand you.
Your best friend never calls.
How often during the week do you find yourself irritated, frustrated, or in outright conflict with someone in your life? Do relationship problems seem to plague you and undermine your calm and happiness?
It seems we can’t coexist with other people in our lives without the inevitable misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and disagreements. It’s a natural part of the human experience.
Most of the time when we have a relationship problem, our knee-jerk reaction is to blame the other person. We see others as responsible for our wounded feelings and reactions. It’s their bad behavior and thoughtlessness that pushes our buttons and creates drama.
But you have much more power — and responsibility — for the quality and health of your relationships than you might realize. You can take charge of a relationship, even without the other person’s awareness, and begin the process of healing it or making it stronger. And there’s good reason to do this.
In her book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware shares the most common deathbed regrets. Two of the five are about relationships. Dying people regret working too hard and not spending enough time with family, and they regret losing touch with friends.
Our relationships are one of the fundamental components in life contributing to long-term happiness. It is in our best interest to be proactive and creative about how we choose the people in our lives and how we choose to respond to and interact with them. Creating, maintaining, and nurturing good relationships is necessary for our well-being.
Rather than looking to others to make relationship changes, the best place to start is within yourself. Even if your family members, friends, and business associates need to improve their relationship skills, you can go a long way in improving all of your relationships by initiating changes in yourself.
A Relationship Self-Assessment
Below is a list of 25 relationship statements. Read through the statements, and make note of any that are NOT totally true for you. Write these down on a separate sheet of paper.
- I have told my spouse, children, and parents that I love them in the last few days or week.
- I get along well with my siblings.
- I get along well with my coworkers and/or clients.
- I get along well with my manager and/or staff.
- There is no one who I would dread or feel uncomfortable running across (in the street, at an airport, or at a party).
- I put people first and results second.
- I have let go of the relationships that drag me down or damage me (“Let go” means to end, walk away from, state a problem with, or no longer be attached to.)
- I have communicated or attempted to communicate with everyone who I have damaged, injured, or seriously disturbed, even if it wasn’t fully my fault.
- I do not gossip or talk about others.
- I have a circle of friends and/or family who love and appreciate me for who I am, more than just what I do for them.
- I tell people how they can satisfy me.
- I am fully caught up with letters, emails, and calls.
- I always tell the truth, no matter what.
- I receive enough love from people around me to feel good.
- I have fully forgiven those people who have hurt or damaged me, whether it was deliberate or not.
- I am a person of my word; people can count on me.
- I quickly clear miscommunications and misunderstandings when they occur.
- I live life on my terms, not by the rules or preferences of others.
- There is nothing unresolved with my past loves or spouses.
- I am in tune with my wants and needs and get them taken care of.
- I do not judge or criticize others.
- I do not take personally the things that people say to me.
- I have a best friend or soul mate.
- I state requirements rather than complaining.
- I spend time with people who don’t try to change me.
(List courtesy of Coach U’s Essential Coaching Tools, pages 286-287.)
Review the list of statements you wrote down that are not true for you. For each statement, write down the answers to the following 5 questions where they are applicable.
1. What are some specific examples that show how this statement is not true for you? For example, how have you not gotten along well with someone in the past few weeks?
2. What did you do to personally contribute to the situation or problem and how could you have handled it differently?
3. What are some specific actions you can take in the next few days to begin making this statement true for you?
4. How do you think your relationship(s) will change once you take these actions? How does that feel for you?
5. How do you think the other person(s) will feel when you implement the change?
As you begin to make shifts in yourself and your choices around your relationships, you will notice the relationships and your overall sense of happiness improving. Quite often, your shift will inspire a shift in the people around you. Your emotional maturity, authenticity, and equanimity will be enough to heal relationship problems or cut them off at the pass.
This isn’t to suggest that others in your life don’t have work to do as well. Part of your relationship responsibility is being able to calmly and kindly ask for what you want and need from others without criticism or anger. And you must be willing to step back or step away entirely if your needs aren’t honored.
Begin to address relationship problems by looking within, assessing where you can improve, and then making changes to facilitate stronger, healthier, and closer relationships with everyone in your life.
Where do you need to improve your relationship skills? What are you willing to work on within yourself to create stronger relationships in your life? Please share your thoughts in the comments.