Let me tell you; I am NO EXPERT on relationships. I have failed in so many ways as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, co worker and friend that a lot of things I have learned is from all the mistakes I have made in my relationships. I can see where some things helped my relationships blossom and when some things have killed one (or two). Maybe some of my insights will push you to work on some of your relationships that are struggling, or maybe it will help you be able to let go of a toxic one (or two). If nothing else, maybe you will feel you aren't alone as you struggle with your human counterparts.
Communication is #1 - In any relationship, whether personal or professional, communication is key. Not only should you be able to tell someone what you think, need or want, you need to be able to hear what someone else says they think, need or want. You may have the gift of gab and can talk your way out of any (or all) situations, but that doesn't make you a great communicator. Communication is a two way street--or in easier terms to understand--a two way phone call. If you are on the phone with someone, if you both talk the whole time, no one will hear or understand what the other person is saying. If neither of you talk, you will only have dead air. If someone is talking to you and you are watching a TV show at the same time, you probably won't know what they are truly telling you. You may hear the words, but, something will be missed in the process. The inflection in someone's voice can let you know how they are feeling at that moment, and if you are in person, their body language and facial expressions will also communicate to you something that maybe their words aren't saying. You need to be present and aware when you are communicating, whether you are on the end of a phone or in person.
Empathy is #2 - Another critical thing that can make or break a relationship is the ability to "put yourself in someone else's shoes". When we empathize with someone, we don't just recognize what they are going through, we make ourselves understand by feeling it. This trait can come very naturally to some people, but, others may need to work at understanding how someone else may feel in a given situation. If someone said something to you (that you just said to someone else) would it hurt you or bring healing? If you had to live through a situation that a friend is going through, how would you feel about it? THAT is empathy. It's when we hurt when a loved one hurts or cry with a friend in a situation. It's understanding because either we have been there or can "feel" what it would be like to be there. Being empathetic to someone else takes us out of our own feelings for a moment and causes us to think about someone else's feelings. In any relationship, this trait can truly cover a multitude of mistakes.
Trust is EVERYTHING - In a relationship, you not only need to be able to trust the other person, but they need to be able to trust you. If someone seems to consistently break your trust in one way or another it can make all the other things in the relationship not matter. For instance, let's say you have someone doing some work at your home. Even if their work is okay, if they don't show up when they say they will come, if their work takes way longer than they ever say it will and if they always quote the wrong amount it will cost, chances are even if they are okay at what they do, you will look for someone else the next time. If you count on someone to pick up your kids from school and they always forget or are late, you lose your trust in them and find someone else who will do it. On the flip side, don't think you can mistrust everyone and build good relationships either. Be generous with your trust of others and be conservative when others break your trust. This will help you to not blame someone for someone else's mistakes and hopefully it will also help you move on from a bad relationship (or two).
Accept or Reject - The last thing I have learned about relationships is that people are who they are. Yes, people can have a spiritual change in their lives and can be "changed" to a certain extent, but, they are still who they are. You can't change someone else. You CAN change some things in yourself and how you approach them, but, generally speaking you are still YOU. You will still filter all of your experiences through the same filters of perception you have had from the beginning of your life. You may try to filter it differently, but, we are all products of our biology and bringing up. Hopefully we all learn and grow a bit, but, none of us generally stray too far from the old tree. So, in a relationship, how do we work that out if we can't change someone else and even changing ourselves completely is challenging? We need to learn to either accept or reject who we or the other person is. It's a decision. You decide if you are going to keep this relationship with all it's imperfections or not. Simple as that. What isn't simple, is making a conscience decision EVERY SINGLE DAY to accept or reject someone. I learned this especially when I remarried after my divorce. I have to choose every day if I accept my husband to make it work, because, guess what? We aren't perfect and neither is our relationship. We both have things we seem to fail at changing and either we accept those things in each other or we don't. If I want to have a good marriage, I learn to accept him for who he is--warts and all--or I choose to reject him and lose the relationship. But, I must be active in my choice on a daily basis.
Take the time to cultivate good relationships in your life. The more you do, the more you will learn about yourself and others and the richer your life will be. It's hard work, but oh so worth it, don't you think?
Until Next Time!
Jen Lush--Associate Broker and Mother of Managing Broker Photo Credit: Alex Iby