It’s that time again – the old year rolling’ out and the new year rollin’ in, and for many it’s a time to reflect on what didn’t work so well for us the previous year and commit to making healthier decisions in the year ahead. Very often these commitments or ‘resolutions’ are centered around our physical health – we make a resolution to eat healthy, lose weight, exercise more regularly, quit smoking, etc. This year, I’m focusing on relationship resolutions.
What’s a relationship resolution? It’s a resolution focused on behavioral changes that I can make that will contribute to stronger and healthier emotional connections with the people I care about – whether it be a romantic relationship, family relationships, co-worker relationships, or friendships.
So I’ve come up with a list of relationship resolutions for myself that I want to share with you, and I’d love to get your feedback on them. If you have some relationship resolutions of your own, I invite you to share them in the comments section!
Relationship Resolution #1: Ask for more information. I don’t know about you, but when someone complains that I did something to hurt their feelings, I immediately jump in to say how sorry I am and then explain what my true intentions were so they understand that I did not try to hurt them on purpose. Although I do this innocently enough, by immediately explaining myself, I’m not really giving the other person space to express their pain or feel ‘heard’. Instead, my explanation comes across as a ‘excuse’.
I resolve to be more calm and quiet when someone expresses a criticism, allowing them to get everything they are thinking and feeling off their chest before I respond. All I should be saying is “tell me more” until I have a really clear idea of what hurt them and why. After that, I can apologize and sincerely commit to being more aware of my behavior in the future – no excuses or explanations – only empathy and understanding.
Relationship Resolution #2: Remember that everyone is a teacher. Sometimes I make the mistake of thinking that my years of living have given me ‘wisdom’ which justifies me doling out advice. Well, when it comes to relationships, I am a matchmaker so maybe I have a few wise things to say, but in general, just because I’ve done something for years doesn’t mean it’s the only way to do something.
My resolution is to remember that everyone has wisdom and experience and we are all here to learn from each other. Just because I’ve done something ‘this way’ for years doesn’t mean there is another equally effective way of doing it. I don’t want to push my way onto others, I want to learn how they do it and maybe start doing it that way too! Everyone is a teacher; everyone is a student. No one is above another.
Relationship Resolution #3: Don’t dismiss someone else’s reality. No one is experiencing this reality in the same way that I am because I bring all my past experiences and biases and judgments into every experience I have. So when someone else shares his/her perspective of reality and it differs from mine, I resolve to listen and to affirm their experience even if I don’t relate to it. I often find myself dismissing or invalidating their experience – not intentionally, but as a consequence of standing firm in my own truth and not bringing my conscious awareness or curiosity to their version of reality. Actually, I find it fascinating that all of us are experiencing this existence in a way that is completely unique to ourself, so why wouldn’t I want to learn more about someone else’s reality?
Relationship Resolution #4: Remember that everyone has good reasons for what they do. Boy, can I be judgmental. It’s a characteristic that I don’t like in myself and it’s often a struggle for me to be aware when I’m in that place of judging and to move myself out of it. And what’s judgment all about? To put it bluntly, it’s when we think that we know what someone else should or shouldn’t be doing with his/her life.
When I find myself making statements like, “Why would someone do that?” or “I can’t believe that she/he said that!” or “What were they thinking?”, I’m coming from a place of judgment. A place that assumes because I wouldn’t have done or said what that other person did or said, the other person is wrong, misguided, ignorant, or worse – none of which are accurate!
I resolve to remind myself that everyone has perfectly good reasons for what they do. Everyone makes decisions from the sum of their life experience and if I had lived the life that person has lived, I would make the same decision. I’ve had different experiences so I make different decisions – doesn’t make one of us right and the other wrong.
Relationship Resolution #5: Take every opportunity to be kind. One of my favorite quotes is by Henry James, “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” For me, this is a pure truth, and I resolve to bring kindness to every interaction. Just be kind. No need to argue a point, no need to criticize another, no need to justify or rationalize or explain – just be kind. And no matter what is going on at any given moment, if I come with kindness, I’m already on my way to a more tranquil and mutually fulfilling human interaction.
A happy and healthy 2018, my friends – L’chaim!