Two of the most important concepts we’ll be working with in the Mindful Relationships Challenge are 1) mindfulness as a tool to improve relationships, and 2) focusing on the other person.
Let’s take a look at each of these ideas briefly.
Mindfulness in Relationships
How does mindfulness help? Well, when I first started making changes, one of the biggest realizations I had was that I wasn’t aware of what was going on in the back of my head â€” and what was going on was truly important. The negative thoughts, the urges to quit, the ideals I had … those were all stopping me from making positive changes.
These things have a huge impact on relationships.
Some of the things I’ve seen when I use mindfulness to help my relationships (with my wife, kids, relatives, friends, and in my business):
- I can see when I start to get frustrated, irritated, & angry, and then examine the cause
- I can see the expectations I have of others (which is the cause of those feelings mentioned above)
- I can breathe, and calm myself down
- I listen better when I’m practicing mindful listening
- I can become more compassionate and kind
- I enjoy the interactions with people more when I’m mindful
- I find myself more patient, more loving
- I appreciate people more
- I’m happier with myself
There are other things you’ll notice, but those are big changes! All from the simple act of paying attention.
For now, just practice the act of paying attention to what’s going on when you’re interacting with someone. Try to mindfully listen and see the person as they are. Try to accept them for who they are, and let go of your expectations of them. Try to notice when feelings of frustration or anger come up in you, and examine the expectations that cause those feelings. Try to pay attention to the moment, and appreciate how great it is.
That’s a tall order, but with practice, you’ll get better at it. And you’ll see a world of difference, I promise.
Focus on the Other Person
Why is this such an important idea in relationships? Because our natural tendency is to think of ourselves first. I don’t know why that is â€” perhaps it’s a self-preservation instinct. But most people, if not everyone, does it: we put ourselves at the center of the story, think of our interests, try to share our thoughts and feelings and story, and put less importance on the other person.
Of course, the person you’re talking to is doing that too. They’re listening but also thinking about what they’re going to say next, and when they do hear you, they’re relating what you say to themselves.
And that’s the problem: to the extent that we’re putting ourselves at the center, we’re not thinking of the other person. And vice versa: the other person isn’t thinking of us, to the extent that they’re thinking of themselves.
If we can put the other person at the center, with us, then we are in the same space. We have equal weight. We can make a true connection, and truly appreciate each other.
So the practice this week is focusing on the other person:
- Try to mindfully listen to the other person without thinking about what you’re going to say next
- As you listen, try to imagine what they’re going through, in this moment and in the one they’re sharing with you if they’re telling a story
- If they’re frustrated or angry, try to see what they’re going through, see their suffering, and remember what that’s like for yourself â€” you’re the same in this way!
- Try to notice when you are putting yourself at the center again, and say, “There’s my ego again!”
- Notice when you’re feeling frustrated or angry, and say, “I’m suffering again!”, and try to see the expectations of the other person that are at the center of that suffering
- Try to see things to appreciate about the other person â€” why are you glad to have them in your life?
There’s more to mindfully focusing on the other person, but this is a great start! (Note: We’ll talk more about these Other Focused topics this week.)
Of course, you can’t do all of these things at once, but try to focus on one thing at a time.