There are many facts about relationships that are sometimes obvious to people and sometimes not.
The most important fact about relationships is often not apparent to many people who suffer with relational problems: no matter how much emotional pain we may suffer in relationships, we also have a great impact on how others feel by how we talk and behave, positively or negatively. We can be so absorbed by our own pain and self pity that we are blind to our own power to impact others. When we open our eyes to our own relational power, answers to our relational problems come into focus for us.
Instead of obsessing about rejection, we can open our eyes to the fact that many people are shy to some degree. Behavioral tools exist to make the world a more comfortable place. For instance, we can learn to be the first person in a situation to convey a positive greeting, however short and simple. Maybe it is just eye contact. Maybe it is a slight smile. Maybe it is a short “Hello.” Simple gestures like this convey respect and interest in others (others who may also be shy), and trigger positive responses. Those positive responses will trigger our own good feelings. Shy people can discover a social power they never knew they had, one small step at a time. They need not strive to be a talk-show host or the life of the party.
Another important issue in relationships is that we need to try to trust in the idea that people really can’t see beneath our skin nor do they usually care to. Others cannot know what we deeply feel and think and we similarly cannot correctly guess most of another person’s deepest thoughts and feelings.
People who claim to know you inside and out just don’t. They are blowing smoke. Because there is much that others can never know, what they think about you is never as valid as what you know about yourself.
Other basic facts about relationships can add to our relational IQ:
It makes sense to consider that there is often a world of sensitivity, vulnerability, knowledge and potential good will in the other person, no matter what the other’s station in life.
We think well of people and they think well of us essentially to the extent that we each bring something positive into the lives of the other. People are almost always neutral to us if we do not affect them and hostile to us if we are seen as bringing something detrimental to them. The art of being likeable is therefore an art that is accessible to all of us.
In relationships, everything begets the same thing. Relationally we reap what we sow and almost instantly:
- Generosity begets generosity
- Attack begets attack
- Warmth begets warmth
- ‘Attitude’ begets ‘attitude’
- Trust begets trust
- Raised voice begets raised voice
Married and romantic relationships, like gardens, need to be tended to by each partner to keep alive the memory of the mutual goodwill that gave it birth. Marriage and in romance are built on a mutual hope of a better life with the other and remains so over the life of the relationship. Time always brings its load of problems, responsibilities and sometimes tragedy, but in taking time to remember the magic of the initial images of hope and giving, the partners can retain the sense that what gave rise to their union remains enduring.
I hope this is of help to you.
Jerrold Bonn, M.D.
Psychiatrist & Talk Therapist