We all want relationships to work. Certain things seem to improve them, and certain things seem to make them worse. Of course there are times when relationships can be broken for positive reasons. But, in general, we know when something feels good or bad, kind or unkind, peaceful or unpeaceful.
Perhaps you remember a board game called Snakes and Ladders. You move forwards at the roll of a dice. If you land on the head of a snake, then the rules say you have to slide down to a lower point. If you land at the foot of a ladder, the rules say you can climb it. The objective is to reach the top of the board.
In the relationship game, what are the ‘snakes’, and what are the ‘ladders’? What actions pull us downwards, and what actions help us upwards?
THREE RELATIONSHIP SNAKES
Demanding – demanding things without consideration is possibly one of the quickest ways to create a relationship snake. We are removing the other person’s consent, and pushing the agenda without offering any softness to smooth the way.
Suspecting – when we suspect, we believe the worst. It is easy to see the dark side of human nature, but people don’t respond well to being thought ill of. When we think the worst of others, we are categorising them as bad, imprisoning them in a bad reputation.
Dismissing – everyone likes to be included. One of the worst things we can do to others, is to exclude them from participating in a conversation, a decision, or an action. They will feel helpless and devalued.
Consulting – consulting others creates a ladder, because we are opening up the possibility of improvement. If we consult others about their feelings, perceptions, and wishes, then we create an optimistic atmosphere.
Believing the best – we can take the attitude that everyone is essentially good (although, admittedly, we all tend to suffer from delusional behaviour sometimes!). Others are much more likely to respond well, if we show them that we accept and welcome their essential goodness.
Accepting and including – people love to be accepted. Rejection is one of the most painful social experiences. One of the most powerful forms of acceptance, is to face others, smile, and give them your time and attention.
How do I relate to others?
Sometimes I am demanding, suspicious, dismissive. If I demand things, should I be surprised when others become negative? If I am suspicious, should I be surprised when others become defensive? If I am dismissive, should I be surprised when others sulk or disappear?
When I am at my best, I am consultative, positive, and accepting. If I check how others are and what they want, I can enjoy watching them blossom with attention. If I believe the best of others, I can watch them rise to the occasion, and grow a little taller. And if I can be welcoming towards others, and be happy to see them, then I can experience the warmth of social joy.