The Key to All Relationship Success
If there was one thing you could change that would transform your relationships, what would that be?
What is the key to relationship success?
I have found that the most fundamental ability to enable our relationship success and personal growth, is our ability to delay our automatic responses and learned habits, observe them, and choose to change what doesn’t work.
When you are able to substitute anger, criticism, complaints and impulsive behavior with connecting to another person with compassion, you have won!
True, this ability is a matter of life-long practice, but once we start focusing on it, it can transform our lives little by little.
Whenever something triggers us, makes us angry or judgmental, we have an opportunity to overcome our instinctive response and choose differently.
These opportunities come up in ALL our relationships, always challenging us and helping us grow.
Here are some examples from different areas of our lives.
The Parent Child Relationship
As much as I try to be mindful of my behavior as a parent, I sometimes find myself repeating things I had heard when I was a child, or copying behaviors that I learned from my parents. It takes a real process to correct these brain wirings step by step.
I notice this when my kids deliberately disobey me, refuse to pick up their toys or clean up after they had made a mess, I feel this automatic response coming up. Just as I was told when I was a child- I want to tell them, “if you don’t pick that up, then we’ll take your toys away”, or some other consequence. Or, “since you didn’t listen to me, now you can’t have that”…
However, I do everything I can to override that response.
Because I know it’s not how I want to parent. I know there’s a better way.
I remind myself that my daughter is just a two year old with desires she wants to act on, and if I can’t overcome my own impulses all the time, who am I to demand her to do it?
Instead, I do everything I can to overcome my automatic response and react with compassion- either giving an alternative, or teaching softly without reprimand.
I believe that if I overcome my own impulses, it will be the greatest example for her to follow too.
Parents have to make a constant choice between using our strength (because we are bigger), or threatening our kids, with the “if you don’t..then…” TO leading by our example, telling them what we are doing (instead of what they shouldn’t do) and turning things into a game they will be excited to join.
Here’s a great Ted Talk about why threatening is not the best way to motivate action.
This is also true with our spouses or romantic partners.
Our intimate relationships provide us with infinite opportunities for positive change. In fact, our partner is holding a constant mirror for us to look into!
And it is especially the judgments that arise in us, the negative emotions, the anger and hurt that we feel- that point to our own opportunities for growth.
For example, my husband and I are very different from each other, especially when it comes to emotional matters. I am very sensitive to perceived wrongs or social discord, and my husband is very cool about it all.
At first I used to expect him to feel the same as I did about all sorts of experiences we had together. When he shared that he doesn’t feel what I feel, I continued to expect that he would at least understand me, and be empathetic towards me.
Time and time after discovering that my high expectations were shattered, by my husband not understanding, and sometimes even criticizing my feelings or responses, (which was often the cause of arguments and fighting) I came to the conclusion that I needed to change my attitude.
Making the Shift Towards Relationship Success
How did my attitude change?
Where I expected him to be just like me, I realized I need to accept that he isn’t.
Next I realized that where I expected him to understand me, I needed to accept that he can’t, not now anyway.
And finally, where I expected him to be empathetic, I needed to learn to have empathy for him, for being who he is, without demanding of him to be different. I also needed to develop empathy for myself, for going through this process of shedding my expectations, which is often not easy.
This of course does not mean that we should not work on mutual understanding and empathy in our relationships. We do need to do our best to know our partners inside out and love them as best as we can (mutually!)…
But it does mean that we take our anger, frustration and disappointment and turn it around, so that we ourselves give the example of patience, acceptance and love above our differences, that we so want to receive.
It’s not going to be easy, but it’s the best way to get what we want! We can never get what we want by criticizing or being angry, that only clams the other person up.
We can get what we want by working on the relationship when we are not angry or upset, using specific tools and exercises, like the one’s I talk about in my free guide:
The Key to Relationship Success
I know, I know…overcoming our impulses is hard. Whether it’s with our children, or when we are triggered by something our partner just said or did.
We want to punish the offender for hurting our pride, our feelings or defying our expectations.
But here’s what’s so crucial to understand. Rising above our automatic response is almost always the best thing to do.
Why? because we don’t necessarily see reality as it is.
We don’t really know what the other person is going through. We don’t know what it is about their current situation, age, stage of development or past history that is making them behave the way that they do.
If we did, we most probably would not get angry!
Stopping ourselves from lashing out, criticizing, or behaving forcefully and instead reacting with compassion, or teaching by example, can prove to be the most valuable social skill we can acquire!
It can make the difference between living through constant hurt and conflict, to creating smoother, compassionate connection with everyone around us.
How about you? do you struggle with changing your habits or overcoming impulses in relationships? Share a change you decided to make in how you respond in your relationships down in the comments!