There are a couple of pieces of advice I have concerning relationships. This advice applies to all professional and personal relationships, including friends and significant partners. Most people talk about communication as the key. They say that being able to talk to others, to the ability to let people know what you are thinking, or the ability to speak your truth is the single most crucial piece to this concept. While I agree that you need to be open and honest with others is essential. I have found that it is secondary to building a relationship built on trust. The primary role in having the ability to have an open conversation is on the other side. It is the ability to listen to whomever you are “talking” to.
LISTENING TO UNDERSTAND
A concept highlighted by Steven Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, is opposed to what most of us do in a conversation. We tend to listen to reply. When the other person says something, we have to say something in reply, often in debate or opposition to their statement. We do this to defend ourselves—which is never a good idea. How often do you want to talk to someone who is defensive?
Listening to understand requires you to be curious. Paraphrasing what they say, then asking a more profound question on that idea to get to the heart of what they are saying. The paraphrasing allows the other to know you are listening and have understood what they are saying. Then the more profound question tells your partner that you care about what they say.
Sidenote: Care leads to love-In all cases!
When you care for something long enough or take care of something (or someone), you will end up loving that thing or person. By asking people the more profound question, it provides you additional insight into their state of mind, feelings, or what is important to them. In other words, it provides you with data. This helps you craft your message when it is your turn to talk. It provides clues on what language you will need to use to get your point across. Speaking in terms that the other person will register will aid in their understanding of you.
Often when I give this advice, people question it. They don’t want to allow the other person to dominate the discussion or feel as though they have convinced me of something. I don’t think this is the case. I keep in the back of my head this concept, “Just because I am listening does not mean I have to go along with everything you say or believe the same things.” What I am doing is trying to understand this other person.
Maybe they have points I have not considered, maybe I can gain some insight, or maybe I have just allowed them to recognize I care, which lessons the opposition when it is my turn to talk. I believe if I provide them with this level of grace and understanding, they will then provide it to me. It does not work 100% of the time, but when it doesn’t, I can recognize that these are not my people. They are not the type of people I want a relationship with anyway, which is also a good bit of data to possess.
VENT YOUR FRUSTRATIONS
The other piece of advice is to find someone to whom you can vent your frustrations. Caution-this is not everybody you meet. Some people can handle you venting, and some use the information to pile on their thoughts and feelings about who you are venting about. I don’t believe venting to someone who already has a negative impression of the person who has frustrated you is a good choice. We often do that to get someone to agree that we are victims. I don’t believe that is healthy. Pick a person who will listen, provide empathy (not advice), and someone who will NOT HOLD A GRUDGE against the person you are venting about. Remember, you are venting because you are frustrated about something they said or did, but you are venting about someone you also want to have a good relationship with. If the person you vent to holds a grudge, this is not fair to your friend or partner. Your frustrations are momentary. It is real and needs to be let go of, but most likely not something you will hold on to for long, so please don’t vent to someone who will hold on to it.
Following these two rules has allowed me several benefits. The first is that they have allowed me to develop deeper relationships with the people I want to be around. The other, which may be even more significant, is that they have helped me recognize those toxic relationships that I want to avoid and eliminate from my life.