Someone asked me recently what’s the best way to enhance relationships?
We all have issues and sometimes friction in our relationships, whether they be with our significant other, children, extended family, coworkers or friends.
First and foremost, we cannot change another person. That’s their job. What we can do and have complete control over, is changing our own perceptions. We can change how we view them and what they are doing, and what is going on in the relationship between us. We can choose the more empowering stance of responding, instead of automatically reacting.
The desire to blame, be critical and judgmental and “be right” is very strong. It takes conscious effort to let go, accept, take responsibility for our own thoughts, feelings and actions and to communicate that.
So are you tired of being frustrated and want to know how to communicate what is going on and how you are feeling without blaming, judging or criticizing?
Here are 3 ways to enhance your relationships and how to do it:
1. Easy…speak in the first person. Don’t use the word “you”. Start your sentences with “I feel”, “I wonder”, “I wonder if we”, “I am” and so on. Watch what happens…when you leave out the word “you” from what you are saying, it allows the other person to hear you…really hear you. It also allows them to possibly step up and take responsibility for their part. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t, but you have taken care of yourself emotionally and vocalized in the first person, what is going on with you.
Issue: Your partner/child/family member/coworker interrupts you when you talk, or corrects what you are saying before you’ve even finishing your sentence.
Solution: Stop yourself from saying something snotty and instead you might calmly say something like, “I appreciate being able to finish my thoughts and what I am saying without interruption”. And then stop and be quiet. They might realize what they are doing and then apologize (or not). What matters is that you said what was going on with you and by doing this you have avoided a possible argument.
If you say (in an agitated voice), “You always interrupt me, you don’t let me finish what I am saying and you correct me. I hate that!” All you will get in response is them defending themselves, they won’t hear you and more distance and friction will ensue.
Try speaking in the first person…it takes effort and being conscientious until you get the hang of it, but it is very effective.
2. Stop focusing on what is NOT working. Only acknowledge what IS working.
Issue: Your teenagers leave clothes all over the house and expect you to pick them up. You are tired of yelling at them about it, focusing on what they aren’t doing, you feel taken advantage of, irritated and that there is disrespect for you, the clothes and money you spent on them. But because you like a clean house you pick the clothes up (and even wash them), feeling resentful the entire time.
Solution: In a calm moment, give everyone the heads up on what will be going on. Say something like, “I really appreciate having a clean and orderly home. So if there are clothes lying around I will pick them up and dump them on the floor of the room of the person the clothes belong to. I will be doing a washer and dryer lesson Saturday at 1 PM (or whenever), so that person can do their own laundry.” Be light, smile, and come from a place of helpfulness. We have to help our kids learn how to take care of themselves and be responsible. You might put a time limit on how long you will be picking up the clothes…say two weeks, and then telling them up front that after that, you will pick up the clothes, donate them and not pay for any replacements.
And when you see one of your kids picking up their clothes or see the house being more orderly, acknowledge it, give them a hug and tell them you love them. Focus on what you want, NOT what you don’t want.
3. Let go. Stop trying to control or change.
Issue: Your friend wants to be a blond, wear hair extensions and go out drinking. The color of her hair is brassy, is the same color she dyed it in college and you think it ages her. You have mentioned this several times but she doesn’t hear you and argues with you that she “likes being a blond and just wants to look as young as she can and have fun (drinking) before she’s an old woman”.
Solution: Let it go. If she wants to be a brassy blond and drink, that is her choice. You don’t have to drink with her, you can meet her for lunch or coffee. She’s allowed to adorn herself any way she chooses…it’s her body. (If you find her an embarrassment maybe it’s time to move on and find other friends you have more in common with.)
But if you really love her, she has lots of great qualities and you value having her in your life, acknowledge when she looks pretty and wears something in a color that is flattering. You might also casually point out someone else’s hair color and say something like, “That color of that woman’s hair is so flattering and youthful”, etc. In short, let it go. You don’t have any control over her choices but you can support the positive choices she makes.
This is the same approach for your husband wearing those horrendous faded and torn baggy shorts, your 21 year old daughter dying her hair magenta, your son growing his hair long and straggly or your younger sister piercing her nose.
Speak in the first person, focus on what IS working and let go! Take that desire to control someone else and their choices, and use that intensity and energy to work on yourself!
Dr. Elena Michaels is a naturopathic doctor, holistic psychotherapist, family therapist and clinical hypnotherapist who has been helping people enhance their relationships and create happiness for over 30 years. Her passion is helping others regain their power physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, to become a master of their lives.