This article explains four concepts that are useful in building better relationships and developing more self-awareness in interpersonal interactions. While there are many more ways to build inter-personal skills these are the concepts that I have found are the most expansive and inclusive.
Practicing Mindfulness for Better Relationships
Mindfulness is simply noticing and naming what is happening as it is happening. Mindfulness helps us be present with the other person and not in some other mental space. Mindfulness is not just being aware of what is going on for the other person, but also noticing what is happening within ourselves as we listen to the other.
When we are listening to another person, there is often a need to relate to the other as they speak and we may feel inclined to respond with a “me too.” Become aware of this tendency and just name it. Continue listening to the other person and focus on what they are trying to express, rather than jumping in with your thing before they have finished talking. Listening to another person with full presence takes a lot of practice, but it is one of the best ways to build better relationships with more trust and connection.
Practice Loving Kindness in Your Relationships
Holding a space of loving kindness for another allows them to feel safe and open. We may not like someone in the moment, or at all, but by remaining present and open we can shift how we feel about them, and they will pick up on it. The practice of loving kindness is simple; we find something we like about the other person, and in this way, can put aside the qualities we see in them that may trigger us to close down and be less present for them.
It is best to find a universal quality in the other that we can appreciate; perhaps their courage or sincerity. But, sometimes it is not always easy to find something we like about a particular person. In this case, even something superficial will do, maybe we like their hair or their voice Appreciating the smallest thing about another creates and opening, and as we open, the other person opens. The process continues as we open more into a feedback loop of loving kindness.
I find that practicing this in my daily interactions is very helpful. When I get triggered by someone but can go into loving kindness, I find myself more able to stay with them in an open way. I find that even though there may be qualities in the other that I do not personally like, once I see something I can appreciate, that is where my focus stays. Usually, I then discover more and more qualities about that person that I enjoy.
This has allowed me to have better relationships because it prevents me from distancing myself or shutting out particular people. I have even created nourishing relationships with people I never thought I could.
Keep Observations Phenomenological
Phenomenology is the study of how the world appears to us based on our experiences before we conceptualize anything. From a phenomenological standpoint we see through our conscious awareness, rather than through our “knowledge” or presupposed ideas. Phenomenology describes without labeling, judging, or interpreting. It acknowledges that our world is subjective, as it is viewed through our emotions and conditioning (past experiences, language, communication, social customs, cultural factors).
Remembering phenomenology prevents me from jumping to conclusions about a situation which is key in creating better relationships. Knowing that my own understanding of a situation is incomplete, I am more likely to want to understand the experience of the other person and clarify what is actually happening for them, instead of automatically believing my interpretations of the situation. I have noticed better relationships as a result of looking at thing from a phenomenological perspective because it helps me increase my awareness about myself, have empathy, and learn about others.
Be Aware of Object relations
Object relations theory states that how we relate to others and situations in our life is due to how our experience with others (usually the primary caregivers) was formed in early childhood. We react unconsciously to events in our lives due to this early conditioning. When another reminds us of someone else, even when it is unconscious the interaction is not in the phenomenological sense; we cannot fully meet the other person since we think they are like someone else in our lives. If we want better relationships we can’t project onto others or assume things about them.
Having the awareness of this particular dynamic, helps me take certain interactions with people less personally. I also become more curious about the other persons intentions instead of assuming that they are acting from the same place as someone else may have earlier in my life.