With the year under way, it’s a good time to improve your relationship skills. Remember that toolbox of coping skills I talked about before? We’re going to add a few more skills to it.
Let’s start with competition. Competition is a stress producing element in any relationship. It can be defined as the state in which two parties become adamant, determined or stubborn in defending their opposite points of view — holding on to a self-righteous, “better than you,” “I never make a mistake,” “I am never wrong,” point of view.
Competition in athleticss, for a job or in school can be a good thing, but in a relationship it’s not. A relationship should be based on trust, mutual respect and a sense of fairness. Competition gives the feeling that there has to be a winner and a loser. This can damage or even destroy a relationship.
Learn to handle conflict
This is important and necessary in so many areas of life.
Keeping quiet and ignoring when your rights are trampled on, not only isn’t healthy, but it can cause problems later on. When handled correctly, conflict can be an opportunity to defend our rights when they are being ignored. It’s a chance to reveal your own unique way of thinking, to deepen mutual trust, respect and acceptance. It also challenges you to grow as a person, to realize your way isn’t necessarily the only way of doing things.
Use power wisely
Next is handling the use of power and control. Power is maintaining influence over the behavior, attitudes and feelings of others. Control is maintaining a check on the feelings, attitudes and behaviors of one’s self. Power can be a very positive thing. Think of someone you look up to — a teacher, supervisor at work, coach, etc. He or she exerts a positive influence on the behavior, attitudes and feelings of others, but does so in a positive way. The influence of others is by one’s own self-control. There’s an old saying: ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Power needs to be used carefully and correctly. Remember your feelings are important, but so are everyone else’s.
Another important point is handling assertive behavior.
Assertive has a positive connotation, aggressive can have a negative one. If you are assertive, you feel secure in your thoughts and feelings and can express them in a non-threatening way. It’s important to get what you want, but it’s also important to do it in a way that shows respect for the thoughts and feelings of others.
By being aggressive, you show that your feelings are of utmost importance, and you don’t care who you hurt in order to get what you want. This can lead to resentment and a feeling that people would rather avoid you than have to deal with you.
Healthy relationships are something we all want to have. They won’t just fall into our laps, but an investment of time and improving coping skills can pay off in countless ways. It’s really worth the effort.