Monday, July 20, 2009

#1 Way to Improve Relationships

I've read quite a few relationship self-help books over the past ten years. As an author, coach, and speaker on the subject of improving relationships, I find it useful to check out other people's thoughts on the subject.

However, this next tip is something that I wish I'd learned thirty years ago. It is a tip I learned through my own interpersonal relationships. It is wisdom to improve any relationship. In fact, I feel strongly enough about this tip to claim it is the #1 way to improve your dating relationship, marriage, friendship, or even work relationships.

The #1 Way to Improve Relationships:


They say it makes an "ass" out of "u" and "me" to assume. That is when you assume the worst from your friend, lover, partner, or co-worker. Assuming the worst is a bad thing, right? So, what's a good thing? In this case, assuming the BEST is a good thing. If you assume the BEST in others, sure, you may be a little gullible, and you might occasionally be taken advantage of... BUT you will also set ground rules for interacting that many other people do not follow: you're seeking the best in them and giving them the benefit of the doubt that the best is what they are offering to you.

Why would we treat relationships any other way?

I encourage you to give your friend the benefit of the doubt! You'll get along with people so much better when you allow people to be their best by simply looking for the best in them and the best in their actions.

When I look back upon my past relationships, I can say that the reason communication broke down, or the friendship went sideways, was almost always because they stopped assuming the best in me, and thought I said something to hurt them or did something to be selfish - or worse - mean to them. Or, perhaps I was the one who started seeing what they did as selfish, hurtful, or non-caring. Whichever, when either party readjusts their point-of-view lenses to see the best and look at the other as trying to give their best, the hurt feelings fade away much easier and resolution is found without strife.

Just this past Friday, an ex-girlfriend saw me and commented to a friend that she was surprised I'd walk right by her and not say anything. She then followed that up by saying "I'm so over Scott, anyway." She probably said it because she felt hurt and figured my friend would tell me, which would in turn hurt me. But the reality is when I walked by her I didn't even SEE her. I did not even know she was there. Had she said "hello" to me, my nature would naturally be to say "Hi" back. She assumed the worst, and in turn, probably felt hurt by it. By assuming the best she could have reached out and changed the situation and at least walked away feeling that she didn't have an enemy or whatever. I still think of her fondly, so that's where I'd leave it.

That's just one interaction. Eight years ago I was head-over-heels in love with someone who I'd gone to high school with. I can remember the day I wrote a letter trying to improve upon the things that I felt could be better in our relationship. My girlfriend, instead of seeing the letter as what I'd intended, felt criticized, and felt that I was putting her down. That was completely not my intention, but due to previous relationships where everyone assumed the worst in each other, she immediately went to that place. From that day forward, we never got the ship righted in the water again. It was too bad, because today we're not even friends anymore.

On the contrary, I recently let someone down by not delivering what I'd promised to them, in terms of a work project. Rather than get down on me, the assumed the best in me, and knew I'd deliver as soon as I was able, which I did. As a result, that work relationship remains vital, alive, and filled with mutual respect. See the difference?

Assume the best in others and YOU become happier with your relationships!

I share from this topic from personal experience.

People going through divorce or other separation could benefit from this advice. Be nice, assume the best, and ask for what's best for them. Hold to the things you need to hold to, and give on the things you don't, and even in those most difficult of situations you can process easier than through fighting or assuming ill of each other.

Recently, my guitar player and lead singer in my band quit the band to form his own band. Now, while he may have needed to do that anyway, he didn't need to trash our friendship. After all, we'd talked on the phone almost every single day for a year, and played music together going on six years! But he took an email I wrote the wrong way, and rather than assume the best, assumed the worst. I hoped he would talk about it, but he chose not to talk and to simply leave it and stop returning calls and emails. As a result, he trashed the band, trashed our friendship, and now does not communicate with me in any form. It hurt me for this to happen, as I was only seeking what was best for the band. If he had received my email differently, and assumed that I only wanted the best, he would have at least communicated better and kept the friendship as he exited the band. What's weird is had he talked with me about wanting to leave the band, I'd have supported him in that endeavor completely. I support him in his music and preferred to keep the friendship, but it is what it is.

If someone is being abusive, that's one thing - get out and get help! But if someone is just being who they need to be there is no reason to assume the worst in them, right?

If you want to improve your relationships, don't be afraid to take the chance to assume the best in someone else, even if it looks like they're not being nice, or like they might be putting you down, or whatever. In most cases, they are trying to improve or offer the best. They may be offering this to you from their perspective. And, they have a right to their perspective. So, consider this #1 way to improve relationships the next time you feel hurt, adjust your viewpoint to give your friend, partner, or lover the benefit of the doubt, and see if you don't roll through the challenge with ease instead of conflict.

I wish you the very best with your relationships. If you need professional counseling, I recommend you seek that therapy rather than relying on this article for help. I provide relationship advice for entertainment purposes only and do not expect you to hold me legally reliable for the choices you make with your life. Fair enough? All the love, success, and happiness to you today in living the life you want, finding the love you seek, and manifesting your dreams.

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LaRene said...

Relationships was be hurtful. We will beat ourselves up after it does goes bad. Reading your blog brought back memories. Today, I learned to mentally put my arms around myself and tell me. "I forgive you for bringing the pain into my life. It's okay. We will get through this together."

You will be so grateful to have someone close to you understand what it feels like. You feel better.

Seriously Fun Self-help! said...

Hi LaRene,

Relationships CAN be hurtful, but they don't HAVE to be that way, agreed? It is not unusual that we beat ourselves (or our previous partner) up when things go different ways, but it is not necessary.

We do not have to stay with a team, a company, a partner, a friend, a group, forever. If a union is no longer meeting our needs, and no longer fulfilling our life path, it is sometimes necessary to make the switch. The important thing is to remove resentment through forgiveness, move past fear with love.

With love,

Jay said...

I wish I had a dollar for every relationship that I have had that ended for this very reason. I'm a really good writer, but I don't always know the right thing to say or the right way to communicate verbally. So, I am often misunderstood. I wish I could give this article to all of my old girlfriends to read. Of course, the shoe has been on the other foot too, sometimes, so I wish I could go back in time and give it to myself, too :)

markshepardsongs said...

excellent point. In NLP we call it "doing a Mind Read". Essentially it's projecting your own reality into the interpretation of another.

If you are going to assume definitely assume the best! Your body will thank you.

Mark Shepard, NLPT

Seriously Fun Self-help! said...

Mark, Wayne Dyer would say "as you think, so shall you be" so why not think the best - what we WANT? :)

It works as long as the other person isn't nuts!

Jay, well, don't beat yourself up too bad. It is what it is. The important thing is what we do TODAY moving FORWARD! ~ Scott

Nick said...

This is great, but what if it's the other way around? For example, if your friend continuously just sees everything you do as wrong, how do you deal with that?

Michael Dan said...

Scott, it's very good that you simplified the rule....seeing good and the best in our spouse....that is cool buddy...thanks a lot for the post...

Seriously Fun Self-help! said...

Nick - if someone is constantly criticizing you, I have three questions for you:

First, are you being defensive?
Second, are you wrong a lot?
Third, are you critical yourself?

If your answer to #1 is yes, why are you defensive? If you've done nothing wrong, then the issue is your partner's issue, not yours.

If your answer to #2 is yes but you're in denial, well, then you're the issue. If the answer is no and you know for a fact you're right, then it could be an issue of tone you use, which could provoke attack. Otherwise, it's your partner's issue.

#3 - if you're critical yourself, you gotta expect a little heat will come back your way. It's only reasonable. If you're not very critical, and just supportive, but your partner is always ripping you a new one, then I'd simply ask you why you're with that person?

You'll need to point out their issues if it it truly on them. If it's on you - well, you have your own work to do. My guess is that some people just fight more than others. The one who thinks they are right usually isn't completely right. Perhaps if you suggest to your partner to read this article and apply what I've suggested, and she barks at it, well, then maybe she's the problem here... as always, I don't know the whole situation from just email, so get therapy/professional help if you feel it's a serious problem.


P.S. - Michael - you're welcome!

Jo-Ann said...

"When your Relationships are Good, your Life is Good." Very Smart Girls. I believe we have a significant amount of control over the quality of our personal and professional relationships. It starts with your attitude (as you mention) and your relationship intentions.

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