Over the course of human history, storytellers and historians have regaled us with tales of famous human relationships.
When it comes to lovers, the most famous that come to mind include Romeo & Juliet, Lancelot & Guinevere, Samson & Delilah, Cesar & Cleopatra, and, of course, there’s Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal for his beloved Mumtaz Mahal.
When it comes to friends and family, maybe you've have heard about one of the bloodiest and most dysfunctional relationships of all time – the Hatfields & McCoys?
And let's not forget the stories of parent/child relationships. There's Beowulf, the early medieval tale that told of Grendel and his mother who sought to avenge his death. Then there's that other mother/son story of Oedipus, the Greek tragic hero who married his mother, not knowing who she was.
These stories have provided us with important insights and moral lessons, as well as great entertainment. They’ve made us realize just how vast a subject it can be to know how to nurture and develop enduring relationships. It’s certainly been the basis for countless self-help books and seminars. And it keeps the careers of many therapists going, too.
But after accumulating so much knowledge over time – after eons of observing human interactions – it is now possible to distill what we know into twelve succinct ways to nurture and develop enduring relationships. What follows are the secrets you need to know so you can have mutually-beneficial and loving relationships with friends, family and professional colleagues.
1. Create a vision of what you want your relationships to be. Make a list of the people who matter most to you and then write a few statements next to each name about how you ideally would like to interact with the person. If there is a particularly troublesome relationship that you’d like to mend or improve, you might want to spend a little more time working on that vision. Imagine what it will be like when your relationship is more harmonious with the person.
2. Be encouraging and supportive of others in your life. Ask yourself, “Who can I support and/or encourage today, and in what way?
3. Demonstrate affection. One of the core human needs is the need to be loved and accepted. Show the people in your life that they are loved and accepted by you. This need not be demonstrated solely by giving hugs and kisses. According to Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages, you can express love by giving words of affirmation, performing acts of service, giving gifts, spending quality time and, of course, providing physical touch.
4. Don’t take things personally. What people do is because of their own outlook on life. It is a “projection of their own perception of reality” according to Miguel Ruiz. This is one of the agreements from his book, The Four Agreements. He explains that “when you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” You will respond better in your communications with others, too. When you don’t take things personally, you diffuse negativity. You remove the contrast that might otherwise encourage a person to argue with you.
5. Don’t make assumptions. Another one from The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz. He says, “Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.”
6. Be constructive. How are you interacting with the people in your relationships? Is what you’re saying and doing constructive? Depending on your circumstances and what relationships you wish to improve or nurture, this applies to… being helpful; taking steps to build a stronger foundation with the person; for when giving criticism; and for when in disagreement.
7. Give sincere praise. This might be considered a form of affection, however it goes beyond that. If you have had to give constructive criticism to a colleague, life partner or your child, you must balance that with giving praise. Catch them doing something good, and let them know you have. This will strengthen the bonds between you. A great daily practice is to make the commitment to giving everyone you interact with a sincere compliment. Sincerity is important. People will sense if you are just faking it, and that will do more harm than good. However, give praise sincerely, and you will make their day.
8. Be understanding. “Seek first to understand; then seek to be understood” is one of the habits from Stephen Covey’s bestselling personal development book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In the context of relationships, this habit of being understanding can be helpful in many ways such as putting the other person first; learning about their interests and plans; and when in disagreement, finding out their side of things.
9. Be a good listener. Practice active listening skills such as being fully present and focused on what the other person is saying rather than thinking ahead about the response you will give when it’s your turn to speak; not interrupting; asking clarifying questions to avoid misunderstanding; paraphrasing to show understanding; and being aware of your body language and how it shows you’re listening.
10. Give first. Naturally, there’s the karmic value in giving first because what goes around comes around. But when you give first, the other person feels cared for and even cherished. Ask what you can give first to your friends, family and professional colleagues. How can you anticipate their needs/desires based on what you’ve learned about them through being understanding? When you meet new people, what can you give them?
11. Express gratitude. Tell others what you appreciate about them and/or about what they’ve done for you.
12. Accept & give no abuse. Are all of your relationships healthy? Where might you need to place boundaries? Where might you be using someone else in unhealthy ways, judging someone else too harshly, putting conditions on a relationship, etc? Where might another person be doing this to you? Miguel Ruiz says in his book, The Mastery of Love, “The limit of your self-abuse is the limit you will tolerate from other people. If someone abuses you more than you abuse yourself, you walk away, you run, you escape. But if someone abuses you a little less than you abuse yourself, perhaps you stay longer.” Take an honest look at your relationships in this light.
Angela Loëb is an author, speaker and self-development consultant who loves to study, teach and write about mind mastery and life purpose. More at http://about.me/angelarloeb