Relationships are complex – we take two or more people with different personalities, belief systems, communication styles, ways of thinking, senses of humor and more and we stick them together and expect them to form connections and relate to one another. Surprisingly, most of us manage to do this quite well.
Inevitably, there are times when we end up in hot water. Maybe we offend someone or hurt someone’s feelings. Or maybe it’s us who is on the receiving end. It’s bound to happen…it’s part of life. So, we learn the advanced skills of working through our differences, problem-solving, negotiating, self-reflection and empathizing.
To further complicate things, there is usually more happening than appears on the surface. If we look beneath the surface, we all deeply desire to belong, feel important, and to be loved. And through relationships, we hope to feel this way. So, a great deal of energy between human beings is devoted to trying to figure out whether we belong, whether we are important, and whether we are loved. What this means is that behind each conversation, each person is trying to get their own needs met as well as listen and talk. It’s no wonder why so many people are left disappointed when they try to connect via conversation.
Fortunately, there are some core things we can do in our relationships to keep them more simple and, hopefully, more pleasurable. This article is not about avoiding conflict. It’s more about keeping relationships – family, work, friendships, romantic – a little more clean and simple.
13 Relationship Simplification Tips:
1. Prioritize relationships. Consider cutting out negative or toxic relationships. Be wise about who you spend time with. Prioritize which relationships are most important to you and then focus primarily on them.
2. Face to face is simpler. With all of our gadgets and many ways of communicating, we sometimes forget to connect in person. When we are in person, we have the opportunity to watch facial and body cues, see the other person’s expressions, and sense what they are feeling. This information you get while face to face makes communication easier and reduces the chances of misunderstandings and hurt feelings. This is especially true when you are in conflict. We all know what it’s like to misinterpret what was written in an email or a text.
On the other hand, Get creative. If connecting in person is not an option, write letters, send emails, text, call, or skype. Tell your friends and family how you prefer to stay in touch. Pick up the phone if you need to talk about something important or difficult.
3. Be kind. Treat everyone with respect, not just your friends. Treat people fairly, favoritism complicates things.
4. Don’t gossip. Try this – before you say something to or about someone else, ask yourself: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? If it is not, don’t say it. If you must talk about someone or a situation, consider not identifying the other person involved. You will still get the support you may need, but you don’t have to talk ill of another person. Gossip always adds drama and never simplifies.
5. Tell the truth. Telling a lie immediately makes things complicated. Who can keep track of what was said when it’s not the truth? Deep down people usually know when you are not telling the truth. Don’t assume you know what people can and can’t handle. You might be surprised by their strength. On the other hand, projecting your baggage onto someone else is not honesty.
“If you find yourself saying ‘But I’m just being honest’, chances are you’ve just been unkind. Honesty doesn’t heal. Empathy does.” Dan Waldschmidt
6. Don’t make assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and express what you really want. If you can do this, you can avoid a great deal of misunderstanding, sadness, and drama. If you must make an assumption, choose one that is respectful of others, not painful to you, and assumes the other person had good intentions. It’s much easier that way.
7. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Ask for what you want – don’t make people guess. Stay true to your word and don’t make promises you can’t keep. Learn to say no. Speak from your heart about how you feel and own your experience rather than blaming others and making them responsible for your feelings and reactions.
“Think before you speak – nearly all the faults or mistakes in conversation are caused by not thinking.” ~ Grandmother of etiquette, Emily Post
8. Follow the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
9. Be slow to judge and quick to forgive. Cut people slack and forgive them. Don’t take things personally – it almost never is. When you judge others harshly, your brain learns to judge yourself harshly. Be gentle to yourself and others. Likewise, apologize quickly and authentically.
“Be Nice To Everyone You Meet. They’re Fighting A Battle You Have Absolutely No Idea About.”
10. Practice gratitude. Take time to be thankful for all of the people in your life. Remind yourself how they are a blessing to you. Accept people for who they are without expecting them to change.
11. Ask for help. People love to help those they love. It’s a gift for both of you.
12. Be present and listen attentively. Be here now with whoever is in front of you and meet them with unconditional positive regard. When you notice yourself distracted, bring yourself back to the conversation. I once was told that if you feel bored, you are being boring – ask a question, get re-engaged.
“Learning is a result of listening, which in turn leads to even better listening and attentiveness to the other person. In other words, to learn from the child, we must have empathy, and empathy grows as we learn.” ~ Alice Miller
13. Slow down…spend some time in nature..have lots of fun…laugh and love.
Most of these tips are concepts we are teaching our children. And yet if we are honest with ourselves, we know that it’s hard to consistently implement them in our own lives. Maybe we can have some compassion for them as they strive, and sometimes struggle, to put these into practice in their social lives.
Hmmm….maybe we can all learn together. Post below about your tips for how you keep your relationships simple and still connected.