Building Healthy Relationships Pt. 3: Critical Mistakes To Avoid
In previous hubs, I wrote about the importance of relationships. Relationships are the one constant in our lives. No matter what we do in life, we cannot escape people. We are writing our legacy everyday in the people around us, even if we don’t know it. Our accomplishments may be remembered, but the lasting impression we leave in this world is how we affect other people. People skills do not come naturally; they must be developed. It would be unwise to let relationships happen by default; rather we should be aware of our influence on people. I truly believe that we, as humans, care about how we treat others; but we get so inundated with everyday living that we forget how we affect others. Granted, there are certain types of personalities that are more prone to be goal-oriented and others that are more prone to be people-oriented. Regardless, we need to be aware and grow in our understanding of people. In this hub, I would like to share a couple of mistakes to avoid if we want to have healthy relationships.
One of the mistakes we make with people is termed ‘projection’. Projection is when we assume that our motives are other people’s motives. An example would be this: let’s say that you are on your job. The boss comes by and says hello and you give a courteous hello in return, but that is all. He then speaks to your co-worker. Your co-worker strikes up a general conversation with the boss, asking about his family or a hobby. The conversation may last for no more than a few minutes. As the boss walks out of the room, you think to yourself “Well, so and so is kissing up to the boss. Maybe they are trying to get a raise or a promotion.”
That is called a ‘judgment’. You have made a decision based on what you think the other person’s motive was. This usually is a reflection of your own motives, and you project that onto the other person. The truth is that you would only talk to the boss that way if you were trying to get a raise or a promotion, and so assume that everyone’s motive for doing the same. There are countless other examples of that principle; the danger is that you will begin to relate to others based on the judgment you make. You might not think you do; the other part of projection is that you begin to project your judgment towards people. People will pick up on it, that I promise you. They may not know what exactly is going on, but they will feel a weird, or negative, vibe from you. It will cause others to avoid you. I counsel with a lot of people who feel rejected, and it usually comes down to what the project. The best way to overcome this is to simply remain neutral. Do not feel the need to judge other people’s motives. Instead, when that feeling comes to you, stop and ask yourself if you are simply projecting your own motives onto others. Again, a healthy relationship is based on what you do; not what others do.
Probably the biggest mistake I see in relationships, and the one I probably make the most, is giving unsolicited advice. I tend to do this with my wife and kids. They will come to me to talk about something, and I feel as though I need to fix them, or correct them. Sometimes I don’t even feel that; I just assume they need my input. I can’t tell you how many times I have made my wife mad by giving advice when she simply wants to vent. In the South, we call it ‘speaking our minds’. What we have to understand, however, is that advice that is not asked for just makes the other person bitter. ‘Speaking our minds’ should be termed ‘speaking out of turn’.
It is simply a refusal to honor boundaries. It is rare that I say to correct people; in this instance, though, it is absolutely necessary. Even when people mean well, and they usually do, the crossing of certain boundaries is simply unacceptable. If someone gives me advice without me asking for it, I stop them and tell them I am not asking for advice. Although we can violate that boundary when people are venting, what I see most is people freely speaking on something in your life as though they have right to do so. I have a family member that does it this way: “Well, I was thinking the other day about this and here is what I think”. After years of just telling them it is none of their business, they now rarely speak out of turn. The relationship is much healthier than it was.
This tends to happen in families the most. I have seen some very tense family gatherings because someone is waiting for the boundary to be crossed. I don’t care what the relationship is, we do not have a right to speak into others’ lives unless invited to do so. Being a parent or grandparent does not give anyone free reign to intrude into the life of another person. So what do you do if you find yourself guilty of doing this? Simple; apologize to that person. Tell them you realize you crossed a boundary and you will work at not doing that again.
These are only a couple of critical mistakes we make in relationships. I hope to have a book published soon that covers relationships more in depth. In the meantime, I hope you have enjoyed the hubs here. I will be posting some more on different elements of relationships; both individual relationships and collective, or societal, relationships. I hope what you have read has helped you.