Connection, intimacy, love, partnership, spouses, best friends, kindred spirits, teammates - relationship is where it’s at when it comes to a fulfilling life.
Even though the new year ritual is all about resolutions for ourselves and lots of “new year, new me,” I’m focusing this month’s Life Lab Series on the secret sauce for realizing what you want in 2020 – improving your connections with others through:
2. Asking for Help
3. Talking more
Hence, New Year, New We.
As a coach, counselor and expert on personal development, I’ve spent the better part of the last 15 years talking with clients about relationships. Listening to what you want and hearing what you definitely do not. Empathizing with your heartbreak and loss and celebrating the joy of new loves, deepening intimacy and repairs of longstanding hurts.
Of course, I’ve spent close to twice that facing my own relationship grief, sorrows and heartaches and learning the deep comfort of being cared for, fully supported and truly known.
I’m not just talking about personal relationships, either. Far from it. I’ve spent countless hours working with clients on building connections at work – from finding a professional tribe to facing interpersonal conflict with the boss to building better teams and even navigating toxic office politics.
What I’ve learned through my work and through more than four decades of my own journey is this…
We get wounded in relationship and we become whole in relationship.
Put another way, if you want a fulfilling, joyous, meaningful, and healthy life, you need connection. To prioritize connection, that is. You need to put your need for other people front and center. To make it foundational; make it core. You need loving, mutually supportive, dependable, and honest relationships as nothing less than your lifeblood.
That’s why a key – and I mean KEY – aspect of my Life Lab Coaching model for realizing the life you want is an emphasis on building better relationships. Wholehearted, embodied, mindful, and soulful connections.
Without it, your personal growth only goes so far. You may achieve at a high level in business, make a ton of cash or write that novel – and all of which will feel thrilling (hopefully!) – but it won’t be enough. The thrill will be short-lived and then you’ll want more. It’ll only last so long and only be so fulfilling. So-so fulfilling more like it.
But you know this already. I’m not blowing your mind here. You’re well aware of just how important relationships, intimacy, connection, and love of all kinds are to you.
You know you need people, that it’s not healthy to isolate, and that you’ve got unresolved mom and dad shit from childhood that needs some attention. You know you need some better communication skills, more empathy, less fear of rejection, and overall less frustration with the people in your life.
You know this but you still struggle. Any of this sound familiar?
- I don’t know how to meet people
- I have trust issues
- I’m afraid people won’t like me once they get to know me
- I have a hard time talking about feelings
- I always end up taking care of people or rescuing them
- Relationships are more trouble than they’re worth
- I avoid conflict like the plague
- I don’t like the “V” word - Vulnerable
If you’re like many of my clients, at least some of this is hitting close to home. All of these are rooted in relationship wounds and protective strategies to keep from getting hurt. They can be from as far back as childhood or as recent as the argument you had this morning.
The good news is you’re totally normal – yay! Or maybe not yay, depending on your view of normal. Point is you’re a human, a social being and let’s face it, relationships can be kinda scary.
But not to fear because I’ve got you. I’ve got some tried and true, time tested strategies to make it easier (well not always easier) for you to lean into relationship building in 2020.
Let the connecting begin!
4 Musts for Better Relating
1. Be honest
Most of us got f-ed when it came to learning how to be honest. We certainly didn’t learn that honesty is an act of generosity and of love. We didn’t learn that being honest with someone sends the message “I care enough about you and our relationship to say something” or “you’ve had an impact on me so I have some feelings I’d like to share if that’s okay.”
We learned that honesty hurts feelings, is rude and that people don’t want to know the truth. Not true. We want to know. If I don’t know how you feel, I can’t do anything about it. And if you don’t know what’s on my heart, you can’t help me. Hello stalemate. Stuck. No intimacy. Job left. Friendship over. Marriage dead.
Ok, this might sting a bit - If you don’t want to hear or say the truth, you’re hurting your relationship.
So, yeah, honesty hurts sometimes. But who said caring about or being cared for isn’t going to sting sometimes? That’s the deal. Truth-telling in safe relationships almost always leads to repair, to healing, to bonding, and to moving forward. Even when moving forward means walking away.
2. Ask for help
Let’s face it, asking for help sucks. It conjures up all sorts of negative stuff like being weak, needy…helpless. It implies we don’t know something. It suggests we’re not good at something. At the extreme, it makes us feel stupid.
No wonder help can feel like a four-letter word. Again, this all starts with early programming and gets reinforced by messages coming at us from every angle. What sucks so much about this is how much of a connection-killer it is to not ask.
Think about the last time somebody asked you for help. How’d that feel? How’d they feel? Pretty good usually. We all want to feel needed so it’s a win-win.
My best advice on this one? Rip the Band-Aid off. Harsh, I know but what’s the alternative? Asking for help tells the other person “hey, I don’t know everything and I’m humble and secure enough to come to you and let you know that.” That’ll skyrocket intimacy! I’m not joking.
3. Talk more
I know it sounds odd since most of us aren’t that great at listening but hear me out. When I say ‘talk more,’ I mean tell me your story, tell me about yourself, about what you’ve seen and experienced. Tell me about your life. I want to know you. That’s why I’m in a relationship with you.
I know firsthand this is a toughie. Not only am I a professionally trained listener, I’m a natural one as well. My default is to listen and ask about YOU. I like doing that. But I also want to be known, seen and heard too. The length of this post speaks to how much I have to say!
I’ve learned through loving feedback that when I talk about myself, people connect with me. My fear is the opposite – they won’t like me, will be bored by me, blah, blah, blah. Of course, some people will feel that way but not the ones who are my people.
So I talk more now. It’s a challenge. It’s a practice. And it’s rewarding because it strengthens my relationships and helps me receive more from them.
Let yourself be seen more, speak up. People want to know you and get closer to you. Give ‘em a chance.
4. Set boundaries
In my experience, this is the toughest ‘must’ to learn but it’s the life preserver. Leading intimacy expert, Pia Mellody once said “codependency will kill you faster than any drug.” Dramatic, yes, but inaccurate? Sadly, no.
This is a complex topic that needs much more time and space to give it justice, but the point is that learning where you end and where others begin – mentally, emotionally, physically – is the heart of functional, healthy and fulfilling relationships. Learning to depend on others and let them depend on you in a healthy way will 10x the quality of your relationships.
Healthy boundaries will set you (and them) free.
Now, a caveat with these “musts.” While they’re essential for getting and giving what you want in your connections with others, they’re tough work. Relationships are complex, fragile and have a lot of moving parts.
Start small, be gentle and go easy on yourself. Maybe choose one area to focus on and break it down into very bite-size pieces. Then, get the support you need to call deep on your courage.
And know I’m always here if you run into a snag or some bumps in the relationship road. Call me - ASK FOR HELP! =)
Reflection questions - How are you learning (or longing) to connect more deeply, as your authentic self with other real people, in 2020? What kinds of connections do you want this year and which 4 musts could you use some help?