Three Tips to Improve Your Relationships Today – It’s Not Always All About You

Relationships are tough sometimes. Whether the relationship is in the form of friends, coworkers, or a romantic partner, they all take work and understanding. And no matter how strong the relationship is, at some point in time, someone is bound to get their feelings hurt.

We were having a conversation with our thirteen year old daughter over the weekend about some of her friends at school. She goes to a small school so the kids are pretty close to everyone. We were talking about one particular boy that she has had a very tumultuous friendship with over the past three years. He can be very caring and supportive of her one day and then just rude and mean to her the next. I mentioned that I didn’t quite understand the dynamics of their relationship and wondered why she continued to hang out with him. She said, “I know he can be mean sometimes but he has some tough stuff that he’s going through right now which is causing some anger issues for him. He’s working with a therapist to fix some of it but I know that these issues are driving most of the things that he says to me. Because I understand he’s struggling, I’m willing to hang in there for now.”

Because she understands where he’s coming from she has found enough compassion and empathy to stick around for support. I wonder how many of our relationships would be different if we spent enough time understanding where the other person is coming from and focusing on what they need instead of making it all about us?

The next time you feel hurt in a relationship, you can use these three tips to turn the dynamics around.

  1. Listen to gain perspective 

We’ve all heard the saying, don’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes – or something like that. If something is amiss in one of your relationships, seek to understand what is driving the issue. The best way to seek understanding is to listen and watch. What are their words and behavior demonstrating? Fear is often times a huge driver. Are they afraid of something – like not being heard or afraid of getting hurt? Rarely does an issue only have to do with us. Most of the time, the source is within the other person and it is being projected on to you.

There are six fundamental needs that all humans have in common. These needs are certainty, variety, significance, love, growth, and contribution. Our behavior is a result of our desire to fulfill these needs. For example, if you have a friend or coworker that is always trying to tear you down or compete with you, they are likely lacking in the significance area of their life. Understanding which fundamental needs are most important to each person in your life will give you insight to what drives their behavior. Finding ways to meet those needs that are most important to each person will dramatically improve your relationships.

2. Check your expectations

A lot of times feelings are hurt because our expectations are out of alignment. I was working with a woman a couple of weeks ago who is experiencing feelings of hurt because she’s trying to grown her own business but doesn’t have time to focus on it because she’s also supporting her husband’s business and chasing three boys around. She is hurt because everyone else takes priority before her. I asked some questions and discovered that she has never had a conversation with her husband to talk about how much of her time she would like to devote to growing her business, she just expected him to know she wanted to spend more time on it.

While I would love to believe that people are very perceptive, it’s not fair to expect people to know what we want if we don’t communicate with them. Sure it would be nice if people figured it out on their own but everyone is so busy trying to survive that sometimes our needs are not obvious – well, they are obvious to us, but maybe not so obvious to them. If we are not communicating our expectations, then we cannot be surprised when our feelings get hurt because someone has not met our expectations.

3. Give first and readily accept reciprocity

Being kind and giving to others is a great way to strengthen your relationships.

Once you understand the fundamental needs of those who are important to you, find a way to meet those needs. If significance ranks high for them, then find ways to make them feel important. If variety ranks high for them, then finds ways to make their life more exciting by changing things up every once in a while. If they seem to get their feelings hurt a lot or are easily disappointed, seek to understand what their expectations are and then exceed them. Giving to them or meeting their needs first amplifies their feelings of being heard and then they start to reciprocate. In the case of the entrepreneur mentioned earlier, having a weekly meeting to discuss the upcoming week’s schedule to ensure she is providing enough time to support her husband’s company easily transitions into a conversation about what her company needs as well.

Here’s a tip: make sure that when they begin to reciprocate, you readily and graciously accept the reciprocity through acknowledgement and gratitude so they know it is appreciated.

Making your relationships about others through active listening, properly communicating expectations, and giving to them first will build strong, healthy, mutually beneficial relationships and fix those important ones that are currently less than ideal.

If you aren’t sure how to interpret the words and behaviors you are seeing in your relationships, find a trusted advisor who can help. Good relationships are important and hard to come by. Having someone who can help you decipher what is going on can be valuable to preserving those relationships that really count.

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