In many ways, social media has provided us with ways to connect to those across the world. Yet, many struggle to relate in healthy ways to those who are “up close.” Rather than feel connected, they report feeling more alone and isolated. How can this be?
Have we lost the ability to engage one-on-one? Are we attempting to employ the rules of on-line interactions to our face-to-face relationships? Are there certain “rules” when it comes to relating appropriately and authentically? Yes there are! No matter if the relationship is with a family member, an intimate partner, or a close friend; the following seven tips will help us maintain U.P.C.L.O.S.E. personal relationships.
Unpack the baggage from previous relationships.
Trauma, loss, or betrayal from old relationships can cause us to be leery of new connections. But we are created to desire companionship. To avoid repacking our emotional baggage with the new “stuff,” it is a good idea to take some time to heal.
Healing requires forgiveness of ourselves and others. Determine what was good in the relationship and what you want in the next one. Unpack the lies, fears, and doubts that prevented you from expecting and giving respect. Be willing to honestly look the behaviors, attitudes, or thoughts that interfere with having the relationship you want?
Pick your battles; and pay attention to the small stuff.
At first glance, this statement may seem contradictory. But let’s think about it. Have you ever had to deal with teenagers? It doesn’t take long to figure out we accomplish more by ignoring the hair dyed purple and focus on how well they obey the rules.
We may have a certain way we like the toilet paper to hang, but it wouldn’t benefit the relationship if we mention everything that doesn’t suit us. We keep the peace better when we notice that there is toilet paper on the roll when we need it.
Confront the behavior, don’t attack the person.
When in a heated discussion, it may be hard to distinguish the behavior from the person, but try your best. Them sucking their teeth could mean anything from being deep in thought and unaware of others being around, or they have something in their teeth… and unaware of others around. But does it mean they are ALWAYS unaware or insensitive? Absolutes (always, never…) are one way to tell we are attacking the person.
Another way to tell if we are attacking the character of a person is when we tend to use labels. Labels can sound something like: “You’re lazy” or “You are a bad listener.” It is also possible to give ourselves negative labels as well. Things like “I’m a goof-up” or “I’ll never have a good relationship,” often reflect a poor self-image and outlook on life. Remember, it is the behavior, not the person, we’re addressing.
Listen to learn, not to merely respond.
Roy T. Bennett says: “Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.” Listening to understand leads to communication that is open, honest, and direct.
Although more difficult, this is a good thing to do even when someone is angry. The other person may say hurtful things, yet it is helpful to listen for the emotions that are behind the words. Is there a history of hurt? If there have been former interactions that have not gone well; there may now be fear, mistrust, doubt, or worry. Staying engaged and “up close,” requires we do the work of open and authentic communication.
Openly communicate your boundaries.
“Setting clear personal boundaries is the key to ensuring relationships are mutually respectful, supportive and caring. Boundaries are a measure of self-esteem. They set the limits for acceptable behavior from those around you, determining whether they feel able to put you down, make fun, or take advantage of your good nature” (Jane Collingwood). In relationships, our boundaries are our “bottom line” items. They let others know what we will and will not accept.
Select carefully your advisors.
Here are three simple rules when seeking advice from others:
- Look for evidence that they are consistently living what and how you desire. Look for those who consistently handle difficult situations well. What is their demeanor, their outlook, and mood?
- Is the person trustworthy? Can you count on them?
- Remember the saying: “Misery loves company.” Does the advice put you in a similar “boat” as the advisor? Is he/she advising your through their bitterness and resentment? What are the motives/intentions for their advice?
Embrace the differences (in opinions, perspectives, and style).
No two people are exactly alike; yet, this “Like/Unlike,” “Follow/Unfollow” world we live in sometimes dictates how we relate to one another. When we see or hear something we don’t like, are we are ready to write off the relationship? Or, when there is a disagreement, many then become sure the whole relationship is doomed. Truth is, disagreement can lead to growth if handled correctly.
Embracing differences (expectation, communication style, and love language), can expand how we respond to others. Accepting and respecting each other may change how we communicate our expectations and eliminate habits that aren’t helpful. When we take time to listen to what’s behind the words and objectively assess our part in the disagreement, move forward with increased understanding.
And there you have it, U.P.C.L.O.S.E. – the seven rules of engagement. When in a relationship, we don’t get to pick and choose the parts of a person we relate to. At no time are we to be okay with inappropriate and disrespectful behavior, yet the package called “other” often includes annoying behaviors we’re not so crazy about. Viewing the relationship as an investment, helps us to stay engaged and… up close!
(Excerpted from the workshop, “7 Rules of Engagement.”)