There are very few things in life that you do alone. Therefore it is prudent, and necessary, to learn to improve communication and to improve relationships with people.
Two of the most influential books on relationships in my life have been “Leadership and Self-Deception” and “The Anatomy of Peace” by the Arbinger Institute. They’re the same premise, The Anatomy of Peace is a much deeper delve into their solution and their method of addressing people and relationships. I don’t want to spoil the books for you, so I’m going to start with the simplest and the most powerful portion (in my mind) and let you further explore their methods on your own.
Helping Things go Right
That’s it. The thing that they admonish you to focus your time on in improving relationships, in self-care, in work, is to focus on and work at the things that are going right. It sounds like an unbelievably simple concept, and in thought it is, in practice it is much more difficult.
Human nature tends to lead us towards seeing the things that are going wrong, so that we can complain and commiserate with others. The saying “misery loves company” is never quite so clear as when you see one person start complaining and see someone who was happy, and having a good day immediately start trending down that same point of view.
This is where the challenge comes in, you have to a) be cognizant of the fact that there are good things going on, and b) choose to focus on those and lead others to that point instead of focusing on: their stubbed toe, family problems, car problems, poor coworkers, etc. and that can be a truly herculean task. One of the things that helps me most, is when I start spiraling down that path of negativity, I find just one thing in my life that I’m grateful for and use that as a focus.
Ultimately, this means that when you’re communicating with people in your day to day life, you’re going to have to stop focusing on what they’ve done wrong and start focusing on what is going right and often you’re going to have to back up from the situation to find it. My favorite tool is finding a moment, or a trait, that you’re grateful for with that person at any point and work to see them again through that lens.
Another really helpful tool to me, is to actually just express sincere gratitude for the person. If you’re annoyed, find a reason to thank them, you’d be amazed at how fast the state you’re in will change when you try to see the good in someone instead of focusing on how on your nerves they are.
Communication is Key
I’m a big proponent of finding thought leaders that you gel with and listening to them frequently. One of mine is Tony Robbins, I love his stuff, I love the fact that he publishes hope and leads people to better themselves.
One of the best quotes on communication I’ve ever hear came from Tony and it is this, “the meaning of communication is the response you get. Intention means nothing. Results mean everything.”
“Results mean everything.”
Let me tell you about an example of this from my life. I used to have an issue with the statement “I love you.” To the extent that if you told me you loved me, I would immediately lose trust in you and expect that you were about to tell me what you had done to wrong me and why I needed to forgive you.
It wasn’t until I met my some of my good friends, a former boss and his family, and a few other key people in my life that I got over that issue. My friends are really perceptive, and I think they noticed that when they said they love me, my mood and countenance would darken. I doubt they did it knowingly, but they started to change how they conveyed that sentiment. It became, “we’re grateful for you,” or in the words of one relationship “I adore you.” Instead of being upset, or angry, it built a bridge and our relationship deepened.
There are many ways to say the same thing, but we’re never in control of what the person we’re speaking to feels. People that said I love you to me generally meant well, the result wasn’t what they expected though. The result is what colored our relationship, not the intent.
Putting it to Practice
Another thing that is called for in both “The Anatomy of Peace” and by Tony in almost every video I’ve ever heard him speak in, is action. So I want you to put it to practice, today, on one relationship.
Find someone, whether it’s someone you have a problem with or just someone you want to connect with more and build a relationship with. and focus on helping things go right with them. If they do something that bothers you, don’t focus on correcting their behavior, focus on any of the things that are going right and focus on that. If the way you convey it isn’t helpful to them, find a new way to convey their worth and the value of the relationship in your eyes.