5 Ways to Build Better Relationships – Step 1

December 3, 2014

5 Ways to Build Better Relationships

Step 1—Building the Foundation

Today I’d like to look more closely at the first of the five tips for building better relationships that I shared with you in the last blog. But before I start, I want to emphasize one obvious but totally essential point. If you want to cook a delicious meal, you can’t just lie on the couch reading a cookbook; you need to get into the kitchen and follow the recipe’s instruction. If you want to earn more money, it’s not enough to read a book on managing your money. You need to follow through by implementing new strategies. And, if you want to create better relationships, you need to do more than read about how to do so, you have to act and put into practice what you’ve read. I know that sounds obvious, but it’s astounding how often we humans fail to do what is most obvious.

Step 1—Building the Foundation

Let’s assume you’re about to spend time with someone whom you find difficult to be around, for whatever reasons. It could be an annoying family member, a cutthroat co-worker, a demanding client, a self-absorbed friend, a noisy neighbor, or even someone you barely know who rubs you the wrong way. What’s important is that this person in some way is challenging for you, and—most importantly— you genuinely want to improve the quality of your relationship and are willing to take steps to do so.

Here’s the first step:

Acknowledge yourself and what you feel and think—with warmth and compassion. Now bring to mind the other person. Set a firm intention to listen openly to the person, even if you disagree with what he or she says.

You start with yourself. Close your eyes, take a couple of deep breaths, and think about your “difficult” person. Notice what comes up. What are your thoughts and feelings about that person? It’s not uncommon to experience negativity—dislike, anger, jealousy, or irritation. Or indifference. Or maybe even love. The feeling itself isn’t the issue. What is important is that you acknowledge and accept whatever you are feeling. See if you can bring a sense of warmth and care into your experience. When you are actually interacting with this person, you can do a shorter version of this exercise, simply by remembering to tune into your feelings and offering yourself some compassion.

Next bring to mind the other person. Set a firm intention to listen openly to what he or she has to say. Now that you’ve brought your own feelings into awareness, challenge yourself to see if you can put aside your feelings and judgments; then just listen—without evaluating—to what the other person has to say. This can be amazingly difficult, but just the intention to be present with someone can start to shift the tone of the relationship.

In the next blog, we’ll look at the second step for building better relationships. We’ll examine the way our motivations for connecting with people can have a powerful impact on the quality of our relationships.

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