Each week I look forward to reading Eric Barker’s latest blog post on Barking Up The Wrong Tree. Eric’s writings cover all types of personal development subjects, and he always highlights expert advice and research.
One of Eric’s, “5 Easy Ways To Improve Difficult Relationships, Backed By Research”, reminded me, in relationships I need to focus on my actions rather than those I am relating. In challenging relationships (we’ve all got them), it is especially easy to forget to take responsibility for your actions, and instead, focus on others and how they are making your relationship challenging. Eric says there are 5 steps you can take to help improve relationships, which include; screw up, ask questions that show you care, imitate the one you love, ask for advice and apologize the right way. In order to remind myself of the importance of this type of behavior, I want to share a few instances in which I have followed these steps and the outcome.
- Make Sure to Screw Up: This one is hard for me because I tend to be a perfectionist. People relate better to people who have flaws, rather than those who intimidate because they appear to have it all together. One time, upon giving a presentation to a group of colleagues, I became nervous as I felt they were not properly engaged. Those nerves lead me to jumble up a bunch of words and nonsense came out of my mouth instead of a proper sentence! This immediately got a few giggles, I made a joke of it and went on to have a great presentation and interaction with my peers. They saw me as less threatening and I was able to be myself, leading to success.
- Ask Questions That Show You Care: My relationship with my husband is not difficult, but marriage is work, and we are constantly discussing ways we can improve our relationship by improving ourselves. I first learned this technique from my husband. I have a tendency to yell for his help from one side of the house to the other. It makes him crazy and he feels I do not care what he may be doing and instead expect him to drop everything to find me and answer my calling. It probably took me upwards of 100 times to realize how I was making him feel in asking for his attention in this matter. I realize when I simply ask him, “Is this a good time to talk?”, I get his attention quickly and he is willing to assist with whatever I need. This simple question made him feel I find his time valuable (which I do).
- Imitate The One You Love: I learned this in sales training years ago. I can not say I loved all my clients, but one way I got them to love me or, at least, buy my product was by mirroring their behavior. On occasion, I would run into clients who would cross their arms and try to shut me out. I did not mirror them by crossing my arms (that is too obvious, let alone rude), but instead in moments of engagement (nodding, leaning in or smiling), I would do the same. I believe this made clients more comfortable with me as they saw and felt similarities between the two of us.
- Ask For Advice: Ever heard of the tactic “Make them think it was their idea”? I am pretty sure I have been doing this since childhood. Instead of laying out my perspective on an issue, I’ll ask for advice. Usually, the advice is similar to what I had wanted or close enough that I can add my ideas and turn it into a collaborative effort. I commonly used this tactic with a manager at an old job. I knew as a team we needed a better system in organizing leads. I asked my manager for advice on how I could be better at this for my own business. Once talking this over, he realized it was such a good idea he should implement it team wide. I got what I wanted, he felt as though he solved my problem and made things better for himself and the team. Easy!
- Apologize The Right Way: For me, this is the most powerful tool. At times, I can be an over-apologizer (something I try to be aware of), but I am almost always the first to apologize when its time to move on from something. Just the other night my husband and I got in a brief and unimportant tiff (so much so that at this moment I can not remember what it was about). Noticing he still seemed annoyed by the time we went to bed, I apologized for my part. This opened up for conversation where I learned it was not the actual disagreement we had that bothered him, it was something I said, and have said before that hurt his feelings. Because I apologized not only did we get to move past things quickly, but I learned something about myself and our relationship. I was able to reflect and promise to work on and change my behavior in the future. Creating an opportunity for our relationship to grow and be stronger than it was before the entire debacle.