SALT LAKE CITY — I was asked recently what changes or tweaks a person could make that would most dramatically improve their relationships. This is a great question because your ability to create healthy relationships is the key to your happiness in life.
You can’t feel happy, fulfilled and good about life if your relationships are stressed, unsafe or confrontational. This is especially true with your significant other. If that special relationship is strained or in trouble, it can suck the joy from every other part of your life.
Below are my top five tips for having better relationships:
1. Allow people to be different from you
Humans have a subconscious tendency to think the way they navigate the world, handle problems and treat people is the right way and anyone who functions differently is wrong. If you will accept the idea that different isn’t necessarily better or worse, just different, this one change could be profound.
In coaching, I teach the idea that there are 12 types of people in the world and every type has both good behaviors and bad behaviors. None of them have only good and no bad. This means everyone has bad behaviors, even you. They are different bad behaviors than other people have, but they are just as bad.
The most powerful change you can make to improve your relationships is to learn to understand how the people close to you are wired, how they see the world, and what their triggers are. Then you can stop expecting them to act like you and accept them more fully for who they are.
2. Give the benefit of the doubt
Most of the people in your life are inherently good and have no desire to do you wrong or hurt you. When a person does offend you, it is usually unintentional and done because they are in a fear state and overly worried about themselves. It is a game-changer when you decide to assume the best of the people you love, instead of the worst.
Give the people you love room to be a work-in-progress. We are all students in the classroom of life and we are never going to be perfect. Give the people in your life allowance to make mistakes and go easy on them when they make one, because you want them to go easy on you when it's your turn.
3. Ask questions and listen more than you talk
The heart of every relationship lies in how you talk to each other. If you talk more than you listen, you won’t have authentic and safe relationships.
Set your own thoughts and feelings aside every once in a while and really listen to what the other person is thinking and feeling. Ask questions to gain an understanding of how the other person sees the world and why. You will be amazed at what you didn’t know, you didn't know.
Ask questions because you truly want to understand and show love to the other person. This validates their worth in your life. Listen to actually understand, not just to figure out what to say next.
4. Be a safe place without judgment
What everyone wants most from their important relationships is safety. We all want someone who has our back and knows our intentions are good. Be that person. Be the safest place in the world for the person you love. Make sure they can tell you anything and you will listen without judgment, understand, and not make it about you.
If you have trouble doing this, it could be because you don’t feel safe in the world yourself. If you don’t feel safe, you will be overly focused on getting a sense of security for yourself and will have nothing to give your loved one. Get some professional coaching or counseling to work on your fear issues. When you are on solid ground yourself, you can give more to others.
5. Forgive and let the past go
Forgiveness becomes easier when you understand that life is a classroom and you always attract the situations and people that will be your perfect teachers. I believe these important people are in our lives to trigger our pain, push our buttons, and bring our fears to the surface so we can work on them. This means any offenses are the perfect classroom experiences you need. Remembering this makes it much easier to forgive.
Real forgiveness is about healing your perception around other people and their behavior. When you change the way you see them and the offense, you will immediately change how you feel about it. Choose to see any offense as "a perfect lesson for you" and the pain will lessen. This offense didn’t happen to you, it happened for you. It isn’t a loss experience, if it was here to serve you.
Also, I believe there is nothing that exists that God did not make, and chance plays no part in his plans. This means you are safe in his hands all the time.
Nothing can diminish your intrinsic value nor bring you a journey that is anything less than perfect for you. In order to be offended, you have to believe that you are vulnerable in some way. If you trust God fully, you are never vulnerable and cannot be wronged. You can only be educated and taught.
You can do this.