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Three Key Ways to Improve Your Close Relationships


In these frantic, unpredictable and financially volatile times, the need for close, supportive bonds with family, friends and loved ones becomes more important than ever.    It provides us with a much needed emotional anchor.

Ironically, the very causes that create the need for closeness, also provoke us to engage in the types of behavior that push people away—specifically, fear and anger generated controlling actions like pressuring, advising, insisting, manipulating and the like.

For example, telling our friends what we think is best for them, even if well intended, is very off putting.   Voicing our opinions too strongly or too often with our children repels them.    Constantly complaining to our partners about their annoying habits invites anger and resentment–after all, who likes being told how to be and act in matters of the heart?

In short, when we try to change or control others, particularly those closest to us, it creates dissension and resentment, which destroy the very things that are needed for intimacy–trust, openness, and acceptance.

I explore these complex issues in depth in Losing Control, Finding Serenity: How the Need to Control Hurts Us and How to Let It Go, but for now consider these three highly effective non-controlling ways that will significantly improve your close relationships.

1. Focus on peoples’ positive qualities. Instead of complaining about or trying to change another’s annoying habits and traits, focus on what you like and appreciate about them.   Thus, if a good friend sometimes does certain things that drive you “nuts,” remember why she is a good friend and what you like about her.   Is he someone who you can look to in times of need?   Is she trustworthy?   Do you have good times together?

2. Listen Attentively. Many of us don’t fully  “hear” what our friends and loved ones wish to share with us.  We too often interrupt them, interject our advice and tell them what we think is good for them.

Many times people just need to vent and get things off their chest.  They usually are not looking for advice, or will let you know if they want it.

Attentive listening—meaning focused listening without speaking, advising or opining—is a powerful healing tool; one that brings people closer together and enhances relationships.

In particular, I have found that listening to my children in this manner allows them to open up and gain the confidence and self-reliance that comes from working through their own issues.

3.  Don’t Expect Too Much of Others. When we expect too much from our friends and loved ones it leads to the type of controlling behavior that invariably results in disappointment and resentment on both sides.  It unfairly puts too much pressure and responsibility on the other person to “perform.”

Hence, don’t look to your mate to fulfill your needs; only you can truly do that.   Make sure that your expectations of your children are realistic and reasonable.   It is important that your concerns be about them and not you (i.e., your ego, social standing and the like).

In trying to moderate your expectations, it’s helpful to ask yourself, “how important is it really?” or “what’s truly at stake?” Most of the time, not much.

I encourage you to try these fundamental decontrol tools.  I am confident they will improve your relations with friends, family and loved ones.

In the meantime, remember to,

Let It Go–and Accept “What Is!”


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1 Comment

  • Galen Pearl
    Posted August 30, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Expecting too much has often been my Achilles’ heel in friendships. Great advice here on a topic I’ve been giving a lot of thought to lately!

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