Have you noticed how much we learn about ourselves from our relationships with other people?   The people we surround ourselves with are, in essence, a mirror image of ourselves.  This may make you smile in some cases and perplex you in others but` one thing is for certain, the phrase “Birds of a feather flock together” didn’t come out of nowhere!

One of the key tenets of any relationship is good communication. Without it, a relationship will falter.  Whether verbal or non-verbal, it’s communication that connects us to other people.  When our interactions are positive and uplifting, relationships are harmonious.  When they’re hurtful or nonexistent, relationships can fall apart. Very often we project the things we dislike in ourselves onto others.  You will find your interactions with others flowing more easily, when you treat them (and yourself!) with love and compassion.  To communicate effectively and in a loving way, it’s important to remember a few rules of thumb.

In any relationship between a man and a woman, the universal and undeniable fact is that men and women really do speak different languages.  Have you ever noticed that as a woman, you can say certain things to your girlfriends and they’ll just get it?  If you said the same thing to a man, however, he would either not understand or may even get annoyed.  It’s not that he doesn’t get the bigger picture; it’s that men and women deliver and receive communication in different ways.  A man might be able to say something to another man that would anger, hurt or confuse a woman.  Again, it’s not that women can’t handle the truth or are fragile creatures, they just have different filters.  If you want to improve your relationships with the opposite sex, romantic or platonic, you may want to become a student of how men and women differ in communication.  There are many great books out there, and often times, a dating and relationship expert or coach can help you understand and improve your communication, which will help you improve your relationships.

I’ve notices that all relationships respond favorably to appreciation rather than criticism.  Before you criticize, first identify your motivation for it.  Is it to make you feel more righteous, or is it to better someone else?  How much does the criticism involve you (otherwise known as an ego extension)?  Do you know why the person you are about to criticize is doing what they’re doing?  Ego is big and present in all of us.  After all, it’s the ego’s job to protect us!  If you’re secretly feeling small, nothing will help your ego like the realization that someone else has serious flaws!  Asking yourself those questions may help you reconsider the next time you’re tempted to give someone “feedback.”  If you still want to criticize, determine whether or not this person has given you permission to voice your opinion.  They may not want it or care about it!  Even if they do give you permission, you need to be 100% okay with the fact that they may not take your advice.  The St. Francis of Assisi quote, “Seek not to be understood but to understand” is a good thing to commit to memory in these situations!

Finally, relationships are best when you commit to always being authentically you.  Strive to be in your heart space, and communicate from a place of compassion and love.  Are you in your head trying to justify what you’re feeling?  You’ll find your interactions are always more authentic and when you speak from the heart, you’re more prone to speak in a way that is loving rather than a way that attacks the other person. It takes great courage to speak from the heart but that’s where true communication, and love, begin to happen.  When that occurs, you’ll find much more joy in the dialogs that create and foster growth in all great relationships.

© 2012 MarBeth Dunn. All rights reserved