Relationships are hard work. Ask anyone who’s in one or trying to maintain one. They require everything we’ve got and at times, even what we don’t have. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not into “maintaining” but, instead, “growing” my relationships. I don’t just want to “get by”, I want my relationships to thrive.
But how do we do that? What can we do to nurture and build those we love and therefore strengthen our relationships instead of tear them down?
First, it must be assumed that those you are in relationship with are mutual. What that means is that they WANT to be in relationship with you and they, too, want to improve the relationship. If you are struggling to make all the improvements yourself, with no help from them or worst, they are working against you, it is almost impossible for that relationship to work.
However, this article is for those who are mutual and WANT their relationship to grow. I have found in all my relationships over my last 35 years of marriage, raising three children and with friends and family, that one of the most important things we can do is to extend UNDERSTANDING.
The term to understand means: (1) perceive the intended meaning of (words, a language, or speaker); (2) perceive the significance, explanation, or cause of (something); (3) be sympathetically or knowledgeably aware of the character or nature of.
Let’s zero in on the third definition above because this is the emotion and decision we want to foster in order to improve our relationships. To actually put ourselves in the shoes of the other person and be sympathetic to their plight. Even if it appears to go against something we personally believe or want for ourselves or the relationship.
Not consciously, of course, but when we run into problems, a lack of understanding and more so, unwillingness to understand, can show our deficit of maturity in wanting the best for the other person.
How, then, can we foster understanding in our relationships?
- Possess an attitude of goodwill towards others. Approach every encounter genuinely with the others person’s best interest in mind.
2. Enter into the other person’s suffering with them. Not to the point of losing your perspective but enough to support them in their distress. Show genuine concern. Draw them close, make eye contact, lift their spirit with genuine kindness.
3. Don’t try to fix the problem. Just listen. Even if the problem involves you. Especially if the problem involves you! This is very difficult, but the worse thing we can do is become defensive because this can discount the other person’s feelings. Which can cause them to withdrawal and lose trust in us. Just be as present as possible in their perspective and side of things. This usually allows you to see things from their point of view and possibly see yourself from their experience with you as well. Believe it or not, seeing yourself from their perspective, especially if you have hurt or wounded them, can bring tremendous healing in the relationship.
If we move toward these simple, though not easy, steps, we can significantly improve our relationships and the ability to resolve conflict more constructively. And without the damage that usually results from taking a lower road in conflict management, such as sulking, manipulation, yelling, defensiveness, blaming and all the other ways we interact that works against our relationships.
These relationship skills do not come overnight and without much prayer and dedication to the relationship, but they can be achieved. Once they are, we will experience deeper, lasting and more intimate relationships and peace in life.
UNDERSTANDING………a key that unlocks the heart!