Developing healthy relationships can be challenging. What if you had a technique to follow that would help you create a healthy relationship with anyone who is capable of and interested in having a healthy relationship with you?
There is a principle in sales that people won’t buy from you unless they know you, like you, and trust you. While I agree that this is true, it’s also true that people aren’t likely to feel that they know you, like you, or trust you until you create an environment to engender that kind of relationship.
To foster than environment, do what you can to help them feel known and liked by you. They will be far more open to getting to know you and far more likely to find things that they like about you. Don’t think of this as a manipulation. Think of it as an acknowledgement of how most human beings like to be treated.
This principle is certainly not limited to developing a relationship to make a sale. It applies to building any healthy relationship. It’s impossible to have a healthy relationship when mutual trust does not exist.
A healthy relationship is like a healthy body. If you have a healthy body, you can fight off disease, have sufficient energy and stamina, and are free of toxins and addictions. A healthy relationship includes many of the following elements. The relationship…
- has room for disagreements and misunderstandings,
- generates positive energy,
- inspires commitment,
- embraces differences,
- generates safety,
- encourages authenticity,
- considers the well-being of both parties equally,
- is honest and fair,
- values each individual,
- welcomes alternative perspectives,
- is mutually respectful, and
- is built on trust.
If you are in a relationship that lacks any or all of these qualities, don’t despair. It may take some time, but these qualities can be developed with positive intention and a commitment to learning new communication skills.
Healthy relationships are built on trust. If you have damaged trust in a relationship, you will need to restore it proactively. Contrary to popular belief, time does not heal all wounds. Over time, the wounds from the past hurt less because we think about the injury less often. If trust is to be restored, the injury must be acknowledged, and any damages repaired. Otherwise, the forgotten injury will get jabbed from time to time and the pain will be reactivated.
Even in healthy relationships, it’s almost impossible to have untarnished trust. Feelings get hurt. Disagreements trigger angry and hurtful words. Beliefs clash. Expectations go unmet. Assumptions are made. Tensions build, using up our capacity for love and tolerance. Life unfolds and activates unhealed wounds that predate the relationship.
Having a healthy relationship doesn’t mean doing everything perfectly. It does, however, require that both parties have grace and patience for mistakes.
To restore or maintain trust in any relationship, it is critical to establish open and honest communication.
And the most important part of communication in a healthy relationship is listening. The following is a step by step process that can be employed to develop healthy communication.
You don’t have to wait for there to be tension or conflict in the relationship to use this method. I suggest that you use this technique to reduce the frequency of tension and conflict and to maintain peace and connection in the relationship.
Set an intention to listen and learn about your partner in the relationship. Your partner may be your spouse, significant other, child, coworker, friend, employer, business partner, or any of the relationships you have in your life. Commit to providing a safe and trusting environment for the relationship to develop and grow. Bring as much curiosity and authenticity as you can to the conversation.
Here is a step by step guide to healthy communication.
Step 1. Be willing to listen first. Don’t be concerned about being heard until your partner feels seen, heard, understood, and appreciated for what they have shared with you. Do you see them? What do you see? (body language, eye contact, physical distance, tone of voice, etc.) Check out your interpretations of what you see with statements and questions like…
- “I’m noticing __________ and I’m making up that__________. Is that what is happening.?”
- “I’m imagining that you are/ feel / intend to ________________. Am I reading you right?”
Step 2. Do you hear what they intend to communicate? As you listen to their words, notice where your own mind travels. Stop them whenever you notice your mind drifting to what you think about what they are saying. Notice when you can no longer listen because you are thinking about what they said 30 seconds ago, or when you got triggered by something they said. Report your experience honestly, then check out your interpretation with statements and questions like…
- “I think I heard ________. Is that accurate?”
- “Can I check something out with you? When you said ___________, I made it mean that _____________. Is that what you meant?”
- “I want to hear all that you are saying but I missed part of it. Can you rewind back to when you said, ________? I started thinking about what you said at that point and missed the rest.”
Step 3. Do you understand them? It is easy to assume you understand what they are saying and what they mean by what they are saying. But don’t just assume that you do. From time to time, check it out with statements and questions like…
- “This is what I understand, is that accurate?”
- “So, you’re telling me that ________________. Did I get that right?”
- “Would you be willing to clarify what you mean by __________? I don’t think I’m understanding what you are trying to tell me.”
Step 4. Do you appreciate them? What do you appreciate about them? Tell them. If you can’t find something that you appreciate about them, check in with yourself and report what you are experiencing from first person. For example,
- “I just really appreciate how honest you are being with me right now.”
- “I didn’t realize you felt that way. Thank you for telling me.”
- “Thanks for trusting me to tell me all of this.”
If you find that you feel defensive and want to argue, report that. Don’t pretend that you are appreciative if you are struggling. That might sound like,
- “I’m having a hard time with a couple of the things you said, and I notice that I want to defend myself. But I also want to understand how you see things. Can I check out a couple of things?”
Then use statements and questions like those in steps 1, 2, and 3. You may still want to defend yourself but DON’T. Stay committed to listening and find something you appreciate about your partner as it relates to this conversation.
Step 5. Make sure that they feel seen, heard, understood, and appreciated. Ask them.
“Do you feel like I see you? Hear you? Understand you? Appreciate you?”
If the answer is no, you may have to listen more. It may be a good idea to take a break if you feel fatigued or emotionally triggered. Take a short break and come back together from a refreshed state so you can really get your partner.
Step 6. If you wish to be heard, ask you partner if they will listen. They may answer no. Accept that. If they are willintg to listen, honestly and respectfully tell them what is on your mind.
This technique is certainly not a fix-all. For example, if the relationship is already burdened with unhealed wounds from the past, those will have to be repaired. And using this approach may help to accomplish that if both parties are willing to clean up the past and invest in an honest and healthy relationship.
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