3 Steps to Improving Your Relationships
"The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” I remember many years ago hearing this quote while watching an Oprah show. I have used that quote many times since, especially when talking to my teenagers about curfews, rules and limits. I have stopped using that quote since, because I actually belief that the best predictor of future behavior is current behavior. That changes things a little doesn’t it?
So many of us hold ourselves, our partners, children and friendships in a pattern of not trusting them based on past behaviors. We believe people to be worthy of our time, love and attention based on behavior they have exhibited in the past, rather than current behavior. As a result those that matter most to us rarely get the benefit of our appreciation and gratitude but instead get re-buffed based on behaviors they have exhibited in the past. Wouldn’t it be wiser for us to look at current behavior and reward it through words of affection, acknowledgement and praise instead. Why? Because we have to pay attention to what we want to see more of. If we take the “Once a liar, always a liar” approach, we will in fact always be looking at a liar because it will be what we're looking for. The universe will always bring us evidence of what we seek. Seek goodness and you will find goodness.
How can we create a better tomorrow and free ourselves from believing the future will bring much of the same as the past did? How can we be in relationships without holding on to past hurts and expecting the same hurts and disappointments in the future?
1.Let it go
How you say? How do I put aside what he did to me? How can I just get over it? When somebody hurts us, betrays us or lies to us, there is pain, disappointment and grief. I believe that one of the biggest factors that keeps us holding on to the pain and stories is our inability to trust ourselves. If somebody does something to you, decide if it is a non-negotiable. Meaning, it is something you know you are not willing or able to move past. Be honest with yourself on that. If you know you cannot or are not willing to do the work required to forgive, it's time to move on. If however, you are committed to staying in the relationship, to forgive and do the work to move forward, then leaving that hurt in the past is vital. In the end, the only person you need to be willing to trust is yourself. Trust, that should the person transgress again, you will take appropriate and healthy action on your behalf. If you can truly have faith in your own ability to handle your pain, everything else becomes secondary.
Forgiveness is never truly about the other person. If you are walking around unable to forgive someone for the pain they may have caused you, rarely is the person aware of you still holding on to that pain. Even if they are aware of it, I can guarantee that the pain is infinitely greater on you for the inability to forgive than on the person who caused you the pain in the first place. How do you truly forgive? How do you forgive somebody that is not even sorry? The truth is that the person causing the pain in the first place is really irrelevant in the act of forgiveness. True forgiveness is the deep understanding that the other person did the best they could within their level of consciousness. All of us do the best in any moment of time within our level of consciousness. We can only ever behave in a way that is in alignment with where we are in our level of self-development. If something is beyond that awareness, we have a complete blindspot to it and therefore cannot behave differently even if we tried.
I still remember my Spiritual Mentor once said to me, after talking about the hurt somebody caused, that it was unkind of me to expect her to be different or do different. It is unkind to ask somebody to be someone they are not. Therefore, if somebody causes you pain, recognizing that they did the best they could within their level of consciousness and really understanding the depth of that statement will lead to forgiveness. A good example of this may be a puppy that chews up your favorite pair of shoes. Why can we forgive that? Because we absolutely KNOW that a puppy cannot possibly understand those were our favorite shoes. A baby soiling a brand new white outfit does not understand the stains won’t come out. We know this, so therefore there is no reason to hold on to non-forgiveness. It's the same with adult beings. Our consciousness levels may differ, but we cannot hold on to non-forgiveness once we recognize that they did not have the consciousness or knowing to do things different.
3. Extend Generosity
When another causes us pain, through a misspoken word or deed, extending them the benefit of generosity is incredibly powerful. It means trusting that their hurtful words or deeds where not done with the intent to harm. In those moments, it is incredibly powerful if we can enter into a dialogue that allows them to clarify what their intention was. Starting this conversation with “When you said/did this thing you did, the story I wrote about that is…) This is a tactic I first heard Brené Brown speak about and I have used it many times since with family, friends and have taught my clients. When we start the conversation this way, it takes the blame off the other person and opens a path to honest conversation where everyone can be heard.
Every day, every hour or moment gives us an opportunity to do things differently. In order to change the status quo, we have to be willing to do things differently. There is tremendous power and freedom in understanding that the quality of the relationships we have are directly impacted by our willingness to see and do things differently.