To Strengthen Your Relationships, Strengthen Yourself

Increase your EQ to better understand others.

“You make me so mad!” “I can’t believe you haven’t done enough for me after all I have done for you!” “You are always on my last nerve!”

Have you ever said these things to anyone in your life? Maybe you haven’t said them but you have thought them towards others around you. It could be someone close to you, like a child, parent or spouse, or someone who is a friend or colleague. Other people often irritate us. They don’t do what we want or need, and they have their own approaches that don’t always mesh with what we might think is best.

The difficult thing in relationships, be they personal or work-related, is that people behave in ways that don’t always line up with what we think is appropriate. Each person comes to a life situation with their own filters — their past experiences, their views on what matters and how to do things, their background and expertise. The filters, for you and the other person, convey what steps to take and what’s right and wrong. Unfortunately, more often than not, we don’t acknowledge or give credence to the other person’s view. You might just need them to see it your way, and do it the way you believe it should be done. If only that person would cooperate, all would be well!

You might know, from trying this approach, that it doesn’t work. The person might hear what you are asking them to do, and might even want to make modifications to make you happier, but they just struggle with what you mean and how to do it. This applies to managers when coaching employees, too. They can’t do it the way you tell them, because they aren’t you and oftentimes they aren’t sure what you mean.

To strengthen your relationships all around, and to find more peace and collaboration with others, be it work or personal, you have to first work on yourself. It’s annoying, isn’t it? I’d rather just change you and be done with it, but even after you change, I’ll be looking for the next thing you should change. It’s a never-ending cycle with no good outcome.

The better approach is to increase your own EQ (Emotional Quotient or emotional intelligence) in order to get stronger and better at handling others. It’s so much easier to work on one’s self than to try and change everyone out there.

First, consider how self-aware you are. Do you know what triggers you? It’s worth considering that the individual who is irritating to you might be charming and engaging to your colleague or friend who also knows them. How is that possible — the same person with the same approach is perceived differently? It’s because your filter and lens are different than your associate’s. It’s important to understand, for you, what behaviors or approaches upset you and irritate you. What annoys you or sets you off? Once you become familiar with your triggers, you start to recognize them as the way you interpret something or respond or react to it, not the event itself.

Second, try and objectify what’s happening. Instead of reacting judgmentally and with emotion, look at what others do through a more objective lens. Instead of “He is always in my face and being a jerk!” consider “He is someone who seems to need constant attention and makes poor choices in how he tries to get it.” What would change for you if you shifted the way you talk to yourself about what someone is doing? How much stronger would you get if you could be more objective and fact-based in the way you looked at other people and their behavior? Stepping back and giving yourself objective input allows you to focus on the behavior, and not the intentions of the person.

Lastly, consider what you really want in your relationships. It can be exhausting to try and change people all of the time to do what you need them to do. Could you be better served to just let people be who they are without judging them or trying to control them? It’s hard, but sometimes letting people do what they do and refusing to let their behavior change your life, or impact you, is the most freeing thing you can do.