Four Quantum Leap Thinking Strategies For Exceptional Relationships
“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
— RUDYARD KIPLING
Isolation, loneliness and Covid have impacted many relationships negatively. My intention is to help heal your relationships through positive communication and awareness.
How often have you blamed someone for the way you were treated? How often have you felt that people were taking you for granted, ignoring your needs, steamrolling over your desires, or showing you, as Rodney Dangerfield complained, “No respect”?
If your answer to either of these questions is “Very often,” there is a reason for it. And the reason is that people treat you the way they do because you teach them to treat you that way.
You teach them by tolerating inappropriate, rude, crude, and cruel behavior. You teach them by asking for what you want and need or not asking for it. You teach them through your assumptions. You teach them by micromanaging or empowering them. You teach them through your fear or love. You teach them by your silence. You teach them through your attitude. You teach them through your actions and your words. In other words, you teach them through your communication.
LIFE THOUGHT: PEOPLE WILL TREAT YOU THE WAY THEY PERCEIVE YOU
I absolutely guarantee you that these four strategies will enhance and build exceptional relationships.
Exceptional Relationship Strategy Number One: Set Standards For What You Want From Your Relationships
If you don’t know how you want to be treated, you will be unable to ask people to treat you that way. And unless you provide people with your rules, they will treat you by their rules. Why shouldn’t they? So, it is essential that you get clear about what you want and need so you can communicate it.
The following series of questions will assist you in quickly identifying what you are receiving or not receiving in a relationship. Choose one of your most important relationships (friend, acquaintance, boss, spouse, or lover) and write down the answers to the questions as honestly as you can.
Answering them truthfully will give you the opportunity to look at what you believe you deserve through the mirror of that relationship.
- What do I expect from this relationship?
- What do I feel I deserve from this relationship?
- What am I getting from this relationship?
- What do I want that I am not receiving from this relationship (intimacy, time, communication, respect, support, etc.)?
- What am I giving to this relationship?
- What am I withholding from this relationship?
Were you surprised by any of your answers? Did something become apparent to you that you have been avoiding or denying? Is there some action you can take or something you can communicate today that would enhance the quality of your personal and/or business relationships?
Exceptional Relationship Strategy Number Two: Determine Your “Rules For Relationships” and Communicate Them
Although we may not think of them as such, we all have rules for relationships. These are the conscious or unconscious expectations we have about how we will treat those around us and how they will treat us. Of course, the rules are not the same for every relationship we have. You certainly wouldn’t have the same expectations of your spouse as you would of your boss. (Although I suppose that might depend on your boss—and your spouse!)
You should never, however, assume that people know your rules, even those closest to you. This is certainly true of people with whom you are just beginning a relationship, but it is even true of those you know well. After all, we change and grow, as do our relationships, and if your expectations change, you can’t expect others to know what they are unless you tell them.
This is important because if you don’t clearly communicate your rules (your desires and needs), your closest relationships may suffer. Of course, this presupposes that you are not a tyrant, your rules are not destructive, and you don’t communicate like a dictatorial, militaristic general who demands to be obeyed at every moment!
Here’s a personal example. With my best friends it is perfectly acceptable to communicate every two to four weeks. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes less. My rule does not require a daily or even a weekly conversation.
Therefore, my feelings will not be hurt if I don’t hear from a friend every day or even for a few weeks. This is one of my rules for friendship, and I act in accordance with it unless some new information alters my thinking. With my wife, not surprisingly, I have a different rule. When I’m on the road we speak several times daily, and we are seldom apart for more than a week.
When I am home, though, the rules change. During our working day we leave each other alone to write or do whatever needs to be done. If I interrupt her writing, she lets me know—in a loving way—that it is not what she wants or needs, and I do the same if she interrupts me. Fortunately, our rules are the same, which is obviously a good thing in a marriage. Of course, unless you know what your rules are, it is impossible to communicate them. The following exercise is designed to help you put into words some of the things you expect from others in a relationship.
Choose any one of your closest relationships, write down the person’s name, and then list at least three underlying rules you have set for this relationship. This exercise will require self-reflection to uncover exactly what your rules are. Some of the questions you might want to ask yourself are:
“How much time do I expect to spend in this person’s company?” “How frequently do I expect to communicate with this person?” “How honest do I expect this person and I to be with each other?” “How much can I and this person expect to rely on each other for support?”
Once you have determined and written down at least one to three rules, ask yourself, “Am I absolutely certain they are aware of them?” If the answer is “No” or “I’m not sure,” the next question you have to answer is, “What do I need to communicate that I have not communicated to this person?” And once you’ve determined what that is, you need to communicate it in a gentle, loving, caring way. Do it soon!
Exceptional Relationship Strategy Number Three: When Someone Ignores Your Standards And Pushes Over The Line, Communicate Your Concern Immediately Either Verbally Or In Writing
One of the many lessons my clients have taught me is that great damage can occur in a relationship when you let unexpressed anger and resentments accumulate without open and straightforward communication. Suppressed anger will always come out in the most unexpected and inappropriate ways,
such as a sudden blow-up, hurtful name-calling, sabotaging behavior, or even stress-related illness.
You do both yourself and others a great service when you choose to communicate your dissatisfaction, concerns, anger, and resentments in a responsible way. Be logical. If others don’t realize when they are bulldozing over you, how can you expect them to behave differently in the future? How can they learn if you are not willing to teach them? Let the other person know that he or she is loved and valued, and then express your upset as soon as possible without anger or blame.
Consider your closest personal relationships and recall a time when you did not express your hurt, anger, or resentment for the way you were treated, and then answer the following questions.
- What was your payoff for not speaking the truth?
- What did you think you were accomplishing by not communicating?
- Were you fearful? If so, why?
- Did your lack of communication work in the long term?
- Was the same negative behavior repeated because you didn’t communicate?
- What lesson did you learn that you could apply in the future?
- Could you now express your negative feelings, either in a letter or in person?
Now consider your business relationships. Think about the times when you did not express your concerns to your employees or your boss and answer these questions.
- What was your payoff for not speaking your mind?
- In retrospect, was it the right thing to do?
- If not, what would have been a more effective approach for communication?
- Specifically, what did you learn and how can you apply it in the future?
If you are unclear as to what is or is not acceptable in a relationship, it’s time for you to get clear now—right this minute. If you haven’t communicated your rules for a relationship, do it today!
Exceptional Relationship Strategy Number Four: If You Have Given Everything You Can To The Relationship And It Still Doesn’t Work, Be Willing To Let It Go
All successful relationships require continuous compromise. However, even with compromise, commitment, and clear and loving communication, sometimes a relationship just doesn’t work. When you have given it everything you’ve got, when another person is draining your energy and joy, you must summon the courage to make changes.
Loving someone does not require that you suffer. You can love and still let go. Remember that letting go doesn’t mean giving up, it means accepting that there are some things that simply cannot be. Change in a relationship is never easy, but the alternative is even less acceptable—for both parties. You have to know when it’s time to play and when it’s time to fold and have the courage to make the more empowering choice.
Write down any relationship that is draining the joy from your life and visualize your life without that relationship. Then ask yourself the following questions.
- How might my life improve by letting this relationship go?
- What is the payoff for holding on to a destructive or dead relationship?
- What is my fear about letting it go? How do I think I would feel if I did let go?
- What is the worst that can happen if I let go of this negative relationship?
Letting go of any relationship is a challenge. Fear of hurting another or fear of being alone is common when considering ending a relationship. But you can confront and break through any fear once you recognize that you can handle whatever life throws your way. If you reflect on the tough patches in life that you have survived and learned from, you will know that you will be able to face whatever you may have to deal with in the future.
James Mapes is a keynote speaker, best-selling author, coach and hypnotist. His most recent book IMAGINE THAT! Igniting Your Brain for Creativity and Peak Performance is the first web-supported book with access to 21 video-coaching clips.