Improving relationships- from ‘analysis’ to ‘acceptance’
“Relationships are like crystals. You don’t realize how much you value it until it breaks.”
One of the most intriguing phenomenons of this world has been the relationship dynamics. Parents struggle with their rebellious children; lovers find the warmth of their togetherness changing to heated and stressful exchanges, and leaders wish their followers accept them wholeheartedly and not whine and send negative vibes of discontentment.
Observing and hearing Radhanath Swami over the last decade has convinced me about the need to internalize few principles that will help build and preserve relationships.
Don’t try to prove your point
On every small and irrelevant altercation or differences, the ego screams to declare your rightness in all that you think, feel and do. Often we try to prove our point through persistent argument, and if that fails, we resort to whimsical behaviour, sarcasm or outright skirmishes. These small unaddressed bruises eventually suck the juice out of the relationships; the other person feels ‘unloved’ and begins to distance from you.
As a leader if relationships matter to you then let go the propensity of the mind to be ‘right’. Life has more to it than being ‘right’. Radhanath Swami often says that you may be right but if the result is ‘wrong’, then your ‘right’ is ‘wrong’. I once read an interesting passage on relationships, “Relationships-of all kinds-are like sand held in your hand. Held loosely, with an open hand, the sand remains where it is. The minute you close your hand and squeeze tightly to hold on, the sand trickles through your fingers. You may hold onto some of it, but most will be spilled. A relationship is like that. Held loosely, with respect and freedom for the other person, it is likely to remain intact. But hold too tightly, too possessively, and the relationship slips away and is lost.”
Shrug it off- overlook differences and idiosyncrasies
I was particularly irritated by one member of our ashram for his constant bombastic talks and ‘holier than thou’ attitude. I knew deep within that he was a nice person and meant well. However his external mannerisms clouded my intelligence and I couldn’t stand him, often avoiding him and harbouring negative feelings about him. It all changed when I got a feedback from another person about myself; I learnt that many in the ashram were piqued by what they perceived as my habit of ‘flattery’ and sycophancy of others. I was told my appreciation of others was hollow and put off many in the ashram. I was shocked because for so long I had been thinking I am a wonderful person who always likes to encourage and appreciate others. I was humbled and realized our idiosyncrasies may not have many takers.
Just as other people’s natures can be often irritating to us, we should know we too cause pain and agony to others. At such times to accept others on their intent and the inherent ‘goodness’ of their character helps us enjoy the relationship.
From ‘Analysis’ to ‘Acceptance’
There is only one person like you in this whole of creation, and that’s you! Each one of us is unique; also we are ‘existentially alone’ in this world. This means however hard you try there are always limitations to your ability to understand others completely, and others too can’t figure you out wholly. Your deepest, heartfelt emotions can’t be truly understood by the other. Desperate attempts to convince your friends, family or team members about how you deeply feel about something or somebody are ultimately futile. Instead of wanting others to agree with you for everything, you could instead ‘accept’ them for what they are. This would help us make bridges to the other person who’s an ‘island’ of his own.
However, if we cling to the idea ‘I need to completely figure you out’, we’d eventually land up getting frustrated. When we fail to truly understand and be understood by others, instead of building bridges we build stone walls and prevent positive, life enriching experiences with the other person. Instead if we learn to accept people for what they are, we’d be happy knowing that each one of us is unique and special; the self imposed burden of fitting others into our paradigms would be gone and instead we’d enjoy life and the uniqueness it offers as seen through the vision and experiences of others.
Leo Buscaglia, a tireless advocate of Love, also popularly known as ‘Dr. Love’ was a prolific motivational speaker, and he often said, “A loving relationship is one in which the loved one is free to be himself — to laugh with me, but never at me; to cry with me, but never because of me; to love life, to love himself, to love being loved. Such a relationship is based upon freedom and can never grow in a jealous heart.”