Building good relationships takes time, and repairing broken relationships takes even more time. But, there are things we can do right now to start improving the way we relate to others, whether the relationship is with a romantic partner, an old friend, or just a casual acquaintance.
Everyone we meet is important and worthy of mindful attention and basic respect. Also, every person we encounter, even if we only meet them for a moment at the grocery checkout or passing them by on the street, is there for our growth, serving as a mirror that reflects something back to us about ourselves.
The more we learn to cultivate love and respect for everyone, the more we grow. Most relationships, however, are burdened by negative assumptions and habits.
Here’s how you can turn that around today:
1. Look for assets, not flaws.
Relationships start to crumble when people focus on weaknesses they see in other people rather than on strengths. This way of thinking can make us blind to the many good traits others possess. The person’s negative habit then becomes his or her total identity (i.e., “He is a liar,” “She is overly emotional”), which is never completely true. So, even if you notice some glaring character flaws, be sure to look for the good ones, too.
2. Acknowledge the perfection of each of us.
Never forget that every human on this planet is on a journey of growth during this lifetime. Our essential nature is pure and flawless, regardless of what masks we may wear. When people wrong or annoy you, never forget their pure nature inside, even if hidden from view.
3. Distinguish interpretation from fact.
Be careful not to project negative intent onto people where it may not exist. Language is imperfect, so when we hear something that offends us, it’s better to remember that it may not be intended the way we assume. The same goes for people’s actions. If we don’t take either personally, we leave room to discover their real intentions and to let their better nature come out.
4. Watch your own defensiveness.
Sometimes, it’s tempting to return others’ words or deeds if we’ve been hurt. If they say something mean, for example, we naturally want to retort with an even more biting insult. This is the ego defending itself, trying to win a never-ending game of one-upmanship. This can lead to an endless cycle of people hurting and hating one another. If we want to live by our true, essential selves rather than by our ego, we can watch ourselves closely and break egoic habits of this sort.
5. Express gratitude.
Gratitude is a foundation of loving relationships with ourselves and others, and we can extend it to anyone in our lives. Instead of taking people for granted, we can remind them of their value by expressing our appreciation regularly.
6. Give without expectation.
Generosity is a gift to yourself since it lifts your spirit and gives your life a sense of purpose. After all, our lives have little meaning if we only live for ourselves. Avoid the tendency to expect something more from what you give, such as recognition or pay-back from others. When you help someone else, it is nice if they reciprocate, but it is best to give without expecting anything in return.
7. Drop your need to compare.
We cannot relate to each other well if we are eternally caught up in a better-than/less-than dynamic. Unfortunately, our societies are often obsessed with this form of duality, constantly creating ways to rank people according to their comparative status. The ways we rank and compare are practically limitless, ranging from financial status to fashion choices to political persuasion. Not only does this lead us to downgrade others, we downgrade ourselves, as well, since it’s impossible to always end up on top of the heap. Instead, we can realize that every situation has value. Whether we are rich or poor or fat or thin, everything is there for our growth.
8. Seek happiness through yourself, not through others.
Sometimes, people think that being in the right in-crowd or meeting the perfect partner is the key to happiness. While others can bring richness and enjoyment to our lives, ultimately only we can make our own happiness. If we expect a mate or a friend to do something to make us happy, we are bound to struggle in our relationships since true happiness can only be found within ourselves.
9. Communicate mindfully.
Caring about others means caring about how our words affect them. It also means being as honest and straightforward as possible while choosing our words carefully. If there is misunderstanding, we can find another way to communicate more completely and clearly to clear it up. It helps to be fully present with someone when you communicate with them to understand to most loving and clear way to interact with them.
10. Forgive quickly.
Building walls against other people will never right any wrong that has been done. If we’re hurt by someone’s words or deeds, we can express our feelings in a mindful way, which will help us not to linger in resentment about it, even if they do not acknowledge the wrong. We can walk away if the injury continues, but do our best to avoid striking back since that only perpetuates the harm being done.
Relationships are a means for growth ever-available in our daily lives. Meditation, yoga, prayer, contemplation, and workshops do little if we don’t apply what we awaken to. Through our daily, one-on-one interactions, individual consciousness can be lifted a little bit, and from there, communities, nations, and even the world can be lifted up, too.
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