After writing about being intentional, I realized just how important a follow-up would be on the importance of being intentional in relationships.
Also, frankly… I love talking about love. I love love.
As I mentioned already, being intentional in love looks a lot like respect and trust because those values are what build relationships. You must offer your utmost respect to your partner, your family, your children, and your friends if you want to cultivate a true, meaningful connection with them. In order for them to want to share more of themselves with you, they first have to feel respected, safe, and loved. You must also learn to trust them and share yourself with them to cultivate this space, but of course… this will come from feeling respected by them. This connection must go both ways, you see?
So, how do you create this space?
Listen to what your partner is saying. Look at them while they are speaking to you. Make eye contact. Acknowledge them. Turn to face them, whether you’re standing or seated. Body language is everything; in fact, the majority of what people interpret during a conversation is body language and tone. When you’re turned away with eyes wandering while someone is speaking to you, no one is going to feel respected or appreciated when they are around you.
Give others your fullest attention.
They are the only thing that matters to you, in that moment. Even if there are bills to be paid, and work to be done, and TV shows to be binged, and messages to be sent. Just spend a few, quality moments in the now, fully engaged in what they are telling you. You want them to be there. They want you to be there. Two (or a few) humans, totally devoted to each other, sharing in a piece of their Earthly experience together. It’s so beautiful. You could have been with anyone… and you’re with them.
So turn off the phone and just… be there with them, totally present.
This is the most basic form of respect.
Listen (and speak) INTENTIONALLY
When they speak, really listen. Be attentive. Notice their tone and their body language. What are they saying beyond their words? Set aside any distractions (like that damn phone) and allow yourself to be fully open to what they are saying. If you like what you hear, or not, hold space for them and listen. Embrace them as they are. Accept the interaction as it is happening and seek to maintain and strengthen your connection.
Allow them to finish speaking before sharing your thoughts. Remember to ask them first if they need advice before offering any. Engage with them and ask questions to keep them talking. Show them that you are interested.
When it comes to sharing yourself and your thoughts with another (such as your loved ones), make sure you are clear about your intention before you begin speaking. When you come from a genuine, loving place and you and your energy will not be misinterpreted. Be mindful of your words, your tone, and your body language. It’s the awareness of your self that will enable you to build a better understanding with another.
Remember: not everyone will remember to maintain the same level of respect during a conversation, depending on the issue being discussed. It is so, so important to remember not to take these flare-ups or disagreements personally. This is ego in action. Even if someone looks away, or turns, or may interrupt you, continue to offer them a lesson in what they need most…. patience and presence.
If you are using the opportunity to share with someone something that has been troubling you, make sure you proceed with caution. For one, complaining is an ineffective solution to most problems. However, asking others for help in dealing with a problem can be a very effective solution! Allies can give you confidence to take on challenges. They offer you a new perspective on a problem that maybe you had yet to consider. But…. again… proceed with caution. It’s best not to overshare certain problems, so that they may become gossip later down the road (at work, at home, at school, with friends, no matter where). Simply be mindful of your approach to seeking advice; set your intentions.
If you are trying to have a conversation with someone about something between the two of you that you would like to change… again…. take caution. First, make sure to ask yourself what needs to change and why. Obvious this a matter of personal discretion. But… be mindful of “nit-picking” and wanting someone to change for the sake of having them live up to some sort of ideal in your own mind. The key to a true, honest, genuine, passionate love is this: love people are they are, not as you want them – or expect them to be. Everyone is flawed. Everyone is imperfect. Everyone has good days, bad days, and everything in between. It’s a matter of seeing beyond the obvious and inevitable to something that is pure, harmonious, and beautiful beyond belief. That is real love, friends.
Secondly, as if it needs repeating, set your intentions. Use your focus to help bring neutrality and a grounded, definitive energy to your words and actions. This will prevent you from being misunderstood. However, there is no telling how the ego of another will respond to any sort of perceived threat (but, we can worry about that later – you just worry about being genuine).
In general, when you are speaking to anyone, but especially anyone close to you about any tough subject…. use that inherent quality of empathy to be aware of the emotional undertone of the conversation. When you’re talking to someone, and they cry… do you tear up? When someone is speaking passionately and animatedly… do you feel the same excitement? Emotion connects us, but it will require presence and total openness to really experience a raw, empathetic connection to another.
Own Your Shit
Accountability is a huge part of any successful relationship. It really is as simple as realizing when you are wrong… and taking responsibility. Simple in theory, but in practice…. far from easy. It may not be a pleasant experience for you to admit that you wrong; I can guarantee that, at first, the ego may be resistant. The words will taste like ash in your mouth. You’ll put up a fight against yourself to do what is right. But over time, taking accountability for your actions will become your source of empowerment. It will become liberating to simply own your mistakes, learn from them, and move on.
Own your shit. Feed your garden. You see?
I think one of the biggest divides with most couples, families, and friends is that, inevitably, no one ever wants to feel wrong. No one wants to feel as though they are to blame. I mean… this is a given. Most people feel their actions, words, and behaviors are justified. However, once the ego is allowed to influence any sort of conflict, only chaos can arise. The ego doesn’t have time for reasonable, reflective responses, only immediate, often regrettable reactions that lead to more chaos.
Be responsible. I know it’s tough, and maybe even embarrassing at times. But those lessons of humility will allow you to truly connect with someone. It is okay to be vulnerable with the ones that you love (and love you). Allow your weaknesses to strengthen you and your bond with another. It’s a beautiful thing!
While there are many different experts and gurus who love discussing how to improve our relationships, I think one of the best ways is simply improving communication. Talk to them and have trust; listen to them and have respect. It all boils down to your intentions within each interaction.
Another really great resource for better understanding love and the people that you love is the 5 Love Languages. The test is completely free. I found it really helpful in getting to better understand myself and my ’emotional communication’ preference. It’s a really interesting tool to consider before… perhaps… jumping to any conclusions or assumptions you may have in any relationship. Does your partner value quality time over being showered with gifts? Does you prefer acts of service over physical touch? Does your child require more words of affirmation than gifts?
Try it out and be sure to encourage your loved ones to try it as well! It will only help to better understand their interpretation of love and how you can make them feel even a little more loved. Isn’t that what we all want?
The world needs more love, that much is obvious.
When you strengthen your own relationships, with the people who are directly within your immediately circle or community, you will be strengthening the collective, as a result.
One of my favourite quotes of all time is this:
“If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”
– Mother Theresa
Not every family is functional or healthy, so love whoever is in your immediate circle. Your friends, extended family, coworkers, etc. Apply the same principle. The result will be the same. Loving each other is the key to creating a brighter, better future. The answer is so obvious, right there in front of our faces… and it all begins with the intention to make improvements within our power.
We need love, presence, and intention now more than ever.
And it all starts right now, in your own home.