Healthy relationships are so vital to living your best life. As a Life Coach, they often naturally integrate themselves into whatever life changes my client is working on. If you are not happy with your relationships, it's not the other person you need to change -there's no place for blame in a healthy relationship-it's you. Once a client has accepted this, the real work can begin.
Taking a holistic approach, here are 7 tips for healthy relationships that I've found helpful for myself and my clients.
1. Be Generous With Your Appreciation. How often do you feel or give appreciation? How important is appreciation? Studies show that appreciation of others and of yourself is strongly correlated with happiness and health. I know of people who have quit their jobs for not feeling appreciated for their contributions in the workplace. I've also seen the opposite. When people are acknowledged for their efforts, they feel better about giving and often go beyond the call of duty. Experiment with this and experience the magic for yourself. Appreciation changes people. In families, appreciation can minimize or prevent problems. Start appreciating those you care about for all those things you take for granted, like "Thanks for being out there earning a living so we can pay our bills each month”, “ Thanks for the juggling you do every day to take care of our family”, “ Thank you for being a wonderful kid”, “ Thank you for cleaning up your room”, “ Thank you for bringing up this issue that we need to deal with”, “ Thanks for the great meals you make for us", you get the idea. Make it a habit. Get the whole family involved. It may feel awkward at first, but after awhile the energy in your home will change, and problems will begin to disappear. It works just as well in the workplace. “Good job when…”, “It made me smile when…”, “I know you've been working really hard lately and…”, then watch company moral skyrocket! If you want something from another, you must give it away first. If you want more appreciation in your life, start giving it out first and watch your wish come true!
2. State Your Intention or The Purpose Behind the Communication. According to Dr. Rick Brinkman, a lifestyle management guru and author of "Life By Design", whenever we communicate there is always a purpose behind that communication. A very effective way to communicate is to let people know your purpose or your (positive) intention first to avoid misunderstanding. Without the desired intention, defenses easily go up. People often need to know where we are coming from before they can really let go and listen. For example, you might say, "I love you and I really need to clear the air about what happened the other night". This states the intention first and has a loving, positive tone. Consider the difference if the person had said, "I feel frustrated about what happened the other night and I think we need to talk about it". The intention is unclear and immediately causes the other person to put up a protective wall! Always state your intention first.
3. Assume a Positive Intention in Others. Always assume the best intention in others. People will literally fall all over themselves to fulfill your positive expectations of them. There have been studies that prove when students work with teachers who believe in them to excel, they do. The expectations of the teachers get projected on to the students and in such cases, the students IQ is tested higher than normal for that student. This is the power of your projections! If we want to bring out the very best in your spouse, clients, employees and kids, you can start by just assuming the best and projecting positive expectations. Sometimes another’s intention is good, but their actions are not welcome. For example, your husband decides to surprise you and rearrange the furniture. His intentions were good, but you hated what he did. If you just said, "You shouldn't have done this, you need to move everything back the way it was"-do you think he would take the initiative to do something "nice" for you again? Probably not! But, if you said, "Thank you honey for caring about the way our home looks, it was really great of you make this effort for me. But, what you didn't know is I really don't like it this way, can we try something different?" With this response he will not be afraid to try to please you another time.
4. Seek First to Understand. An argument is two people wanting to be understood when neither one wants to understand. How to resolve an argument? Let the other person feel understood first. When they feel understood, they will then be able to give their full attention to you. Listening is the key to understanding. Let them know you are listening by giving specific feedback so the other person knows they are being heard and understood. The best way to do this is to simply take their words and give it back to them. This is a special technique used by counselors and coaches. Their words are special to them; it doesn't work as well to try to use your own language. You can also ask questions for clarity if you need to. Listening and caring provides the feeling the other person is looking for. The final step is to confirm the other person feels understood by saying something like, "Do I understand this correctly?" Then it's your turn to talk.
5. Enjoy Differences. Recognize it is wonderful to have differences, and then to respect them. Each individual processes feelings differently according to their own life experience. If you are sensitive to this you can discover the best way to support the other person and get both of your needs met. A really useful question to ask when someone close to you starts a statement with "You don't…", is "How would you know if I…?", For example, " How would you know if I supported you?", or "How would you know if I cared for you?" Their answers might surprise you and not be what you expected! Keep in mind; the people close to you often have their own criteria for getting their desires fulfilled based on their own model of the world! And it may not be the same as yours, so you need to ask. For example, one person's criteria for a romantic evening may be very different than their partners! The intent may be the same (wanting intimate time together), but how to fulfill that intent is often not. Again, asking questions helps a lot! Ask, "What does a romantic evening look like for you?", and then you may need to find a compromise.
6. Notice the Energy of Your Intention. According to the bestseller "A Return to Love" by Marianne Williamson, when we come from a place of love and acceptance, and truly accept people as they are, this has the miraculous effect of helping them be better people. When we are always telling people what's wrong with them, we don't help them, instead, we paralyze them with shame and guilt. When we accept others unconditionally, we help them to feel good about themselves, to relax, and to find their way. This doesn't mean we can't share constructive criticism, but again, and energy of positive intent is important. It is the energy, good or bad, that is carried in our communication. The miracle is the authentic intention to communicate with love not fear. According to the book, "The key to communication is not what we say, but rather the attitude that lies behind what we say".
7. Create a Relationship Agreement. The following relationship tool can help with maintaining healthy relationships. It is called a relationship agreement. Sit down with your spouse, your son/daughter, or your business partner and come up with some agreements about how to communicate with each other. Then when things start to go amuck, (and when our feelings turn into emotional reactions, they easily do!), you can get the agreement out and say "Remember how we agreed to communicate?" Examples of mutual relationship agreements might include: * To have weekly meetings. * To communicate without blame. * To communicate only from love-not fear. * To take turns with who gets to start when settling an argument * To create and have a plan for how to exit an argument so you can come back to it after you've gained some perspective. * To always state the positive intent first. Every two people who come together bring uniqueness to that relationship, so each particular relationship agreement will be unique as well.
Relationships are such a big part of your personal Body, Mind, Spirit landscape and affect every part of your being, so if you’ve been struggling, do your part and watch the transformations begin!
Debra Betterly, PhD is an Integrative Wellness & Life Coach and Metaphysician whose passion is to help women expand their health, joy and purpose in midlife and beyond.
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