The area of relationships can be one of the most challenging facets of life to master. It can also be one the most beautiful.
Relationships provide an opportunity for you to connect with another person and gain an insight in to their experience of the world. We all see the world differently which is why relationships can be challenging. It is in relationship with another, whether it be intimate or not, that you are able to learn the most about yourself. It is through your relationship with another that you get to experience yourself in a certain way.
We are all different in each relationship we enter. In some we are loving, in some we are cold, in some we are authoritative and in others we are extremely vulnerable. Relationships allow you experience different parts and aspects of your personality, and they are a beautiful space for you truly connect with another human being.
All day every day we a forming and experiencing different types of relationships with a variety of people. Some relationships are plutonic, some are intimate, some are professional and some are genetic. Either way, we come in contact with a huge amount of different people and experience many different depths of relationships with others.
We have a choice what part of ourselves we will bring to these relationships, although at times it may not feel that way. We may sometimes think that someone 'makes' us feel a certain way, or we cannot help but get angry/upset/distant when we are around a certain person. Sometimes people just push our buttons and we feel like we react uncontrollably. But this is not true. We always have a choice how we are going to act in every moment. It is up to us to choose to either react in a loving way or a hateful way.
This is the key to relationships. It is about choosing who you are going to be. And then being that way, regardless of what the other person does. It is about refraining from judgement, criticising, blame, arrogance, and selfishness. It is about learning to open yourself up, to be authentic, vulnerable, loving, accepting and forgiving. At the end of the day it has nothing to do with that other person, and it has everything to do with who you are choosing to define yourself as in this moment.
4 SECRETS TO CREATING HARMONIOUS RELATIONSHIPS
1. ASK YOURSELF HOW CAN I GIVE?
Sometimes I feel like we have really lost touch with what this holiday season is all about. As children, we are taught to believe that Christmas time is all about what we can get. What gifts will we get? What chocolates will we get? How much will we get? etc.. Then as we get older, this mentality of continuously trying to get as much stuff as we can, seems to pervade every area of our life. While, I completely believe in graciously receiving all the gifts (both tangible and intangible) that the world has to offer, I also feel that things have become a little unbalanced.
This holiday season, why not try shifting your focus from what you can get, to what you can give. Take the focus off yourself, and off all your needs and wants, and put your attention on others. How can you be of service? What gift can you give to someone that will truly warm their heart? How can you contribute in a way that will help and assist another person?
When you approach any relationship with the mentality of giving rather than getting, your experience of that relationship will completely transform. Try making this shift in focus in each of the various relationships you have. It may be with your partner, your parents, your friends or your work colleagues. Rather than thinking purely about what you want to get from these relationships (eg: love, affection, attention, gifts, generosity, praise) instead think about how you can offer these to someone else.
2. PRACTICE THE ART OF REALLY LISTENING
Around this time of year we tend to spend a lot of time with various different people. We might be at work functions, at family dinners, at lunches with friends or at our partners family do's. It is a time to get together, celebrate, connect, catch up and share experiences together. As part of this, it is likely that you are going to be involved in many conversations. You may have to make small talk with your boss at your work Christmas lunch, you may get stuck in a long conversation with a grandparent about everything that's happened in your lives in the past year, or you may have the chance to reconnect with a friend that you have not been able to see in months and have an awesome chat. No matter how it happens, the holiday season will involve a lot of connection and conversation.
When you're in these situations, how often do you really listen? I mean, really listen? Truly listening to someone means being 100% present for them. It means that all your attention is squarely on them and you are concentrating on what they are saying and totally taking it all in. How often do you really sit and place that much focus on another person? Instead what we normally do is politely nod along while meanwhile we are often thinking about a thousand other things. We may be preparing our next comment or point in our heads, thinking about ourselves and how we look or feel, or even completely daydreaming and thinking of something else.
I encourage you try to really listening to the people who are talking to you this holiday season. If you have ever experienced the feeling of having someone be 100% present and there for you while you are talking, you know it feels pretty special. This is another tool that completely transform your relationship with a person, and enable you to authentically connect in a whole new way.
3. LET GO OF PAST GRUDGES
Get really honest with yourself for a moment, and answer this question. Is there anything that has happened in the past that you are carrying around in the present and holding against another person? Answer honestly. Are there any past issues that you have with another person that are still bothering you? Do you feel resentment towards anyone? Are any of your current relationships being affected by a grudge you are holding against that person? Do you have anything bothering you that has not yet been resolved and instead you are carrying it around inside you like a dead weight?
When you spend time with friends, family members and other loved ones, you want to be able to be present with them and simply experience your relationship with them in this moment. But how often (especially in family situations) do we have old past hurts, problems, issues, resentments, judgements or grudges that we are letting get in the way of the relationship. Rather than being able to simply enjoy the presence of the people we love, we spend the whole time stuck in our heads letting old stories take us out of this special, present moment.
Do you realise that when you do this, the only person you are hurting is yourself? You are simply poisoning yourself with negative thoughts. You are draining your energy with disempowering thinking. You are putting a wedge between yourself and someone who you deeply care about. I know that you care about them, because if you did not, you would have let go of the resentment years ago. I love this quote from Buddha --"Holding on to anger is like holding on to a hot coal with the intention of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned."
So, why not this year, try letting the past be what it is; the past. It is gone. Been. Done. Over. Let go of petty problems. Let go of old issues. Drop the drama. Release the story. Forgive the person. If there are issues that need to be addressed then it is up to you to find the courage to have the tough conversations. I do not mean yelling and making that person wrong. I mean stepping up to have a real, heart driven, honest conversation about how you're feeling. Do whatever needs to be done to let go of past grudges to you can enjoy the special moments now.
I think this recommendation from Walter Anderson is beautiful -- "If you're angry at a loved one, hug that person. And mean it. You may not want to hug - which is all the more reason to do so. It's hard to stay angry when someone show you that they love you, and that's precisely what happens when we hug each other"
4. APPRECIATE THE POSITIVE ASPECTS
I believe that all of us have in us, the capacity to demonstrate a full rainbow of different personality traits and qualities. We all have the capacity to be sad or happy, mean or kind, outgoing or shy, generous or stingy, friendly or cold, angry or peaceful, weak or strong, confident or insecure, and the list goes on. I am sure each of us have had moments in our life where we have shown aspects of our personality that we were not overly proud of. Depending on the specific situations and environments we find ourselves in, the various parts of ourselves will be displayed.
Would you prefer that the people in your life remember you for all the great qualities and traits that you posses and express, or all the not so great ones? And isn't it the best feeling ever when someone notices a great quality about you and appreciates or acknowledges it? It makes you feel pretty damn spesh huh!
The same applies to the other people in our lives. Think of a person who you do not overly like, or who you do not really enjoy spending time with. If I asked you to describe them, I have no doubt your list of their negative personality traits than would outweigh the positive. But going back to what I said earlier, it does not mean that this person only possesses negative traits. What it does mean however is that seeing that is all you are focusing in about that person, then that is all you continue to experience of them.
This holiday season I encourage you to start to notice the positive aspects of all the people you come in contact with. I am sure there are people in your life (possibly members of your family) that you at times may have a love/hate relationship with. But keep in mind that the more you focus on all the things you do not like about that person, the more you will notice them. And vice versa. The more that you take the time to notice the positive aspects in someone's personality, or their strengths or the great things about them, the more you will notice and experience those qualities.