“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when someone asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.”
— Henry David Thoreau
This is a wonderful quote by Thoreau that is applicable to any type of relationship. Whether it be coworkers, friends, family, neighbors or the guy at Home Depot, attentive listening scores big points and ends in success every time. If you want to improve your relationship with anyone, actively listen to them without thinking about other things while you do it. You'd be amazed how well your relationship progresses.
The fact is, we need relationships to thrive in this world. Very few human beings could survive without connecting with others in some way throughout their life. After working with people on relationship challenges for many years, here are my top five bad habits that can affect any relationship.
Number One: Shoulding
Any time you say this person should do this and that person should do that, you're in trouble. "Should" is based on judgment and is contrary to having an open perspective, flexibility, and acceptance. How many times have you noticed something positive came out of something perceived as negative? It happens all the time. Anyone who decided it should or shouldn't have happened that way is interfering with the natural flow of universal wisdom. So stop shoulding all over yourself and accept people's individuality and unique contribution to this world.
Number Two: Assumptions
When Oscar Wilde wrote "if you assume you will make an ass out of you and me" he wasn't joking. Assumptions are toxic and are the root cause of many misunderstandings, misperceptions, hurt feelings, and broken relationships. Our assumptions about others are based on our thoughts and ideas from past memories and experiences. There is no present moment reality to these comparisons. We filter all our sense perceptions through the screen of our past impressions. This is the breeding ground for assuming false ideas and judgments. The more you make assumptions the less fulfilling your relationships will be.
Number Three: Ideas vs Reality
This is a huge pet peeve for me! It is also a foundational teaching of Living Stress Free. We live in a world of our thoughts and feelings. Thoughts are created by past impressions from our life experiences. Thoughts lead to feelings. Ideas and beliefs are all based on thoughts. These beliefs create feelings based on what we think in our mind. It all seems very self-indulgent. Reality exists in the present moment, the here and now, the is-ness of life. If you relate to others from the perspective of the present moment, you will interact with them as they truly are, not what your untrustworthy mind has conjured up. The reality of the relationship is vastly more important than ideas about the relationship. See people as they are and get out of your head.
Number Four: Misplaced Anger
Feeling anger and rage is inevitable for most of us. The problem is many people direct their anger to the wrong source. How often do you get angry with the very person you feel closest to when they had nothing to do with it? It's human nature. It comes from feeling safe with that person to let your feelings out. However, misplaced anger can be hurtful and be damaging to the recipient. When you have a lot of anger and frustration, acknowledge the feeling and drop the reasons why. The more you dwell on the details feeding the anger the more frustrated you will become. If you don't feed the anger it will pass in twenty minutes. Remember this next time you accidentally explode on the wrong person.
Number Five: MYOB
Minding your own business is something we were taught since childhood but many people still haven't learned this simple directive. Interfering with how someone does something from an attitude of criticism, derision, gossip, or desire to control is not only impolite, it can be very abusive. Accentuating differences instead of celebrating similarities is detrimental to effective interpersonal relationships.
There you have it! If any of these ring a bell you may have just discovered why you have trouble with your colleagues, struggle with keeping friends, have conflict with your family members or feel disappointed with your spouse. It's a new year — time to do something about it!