Tag Archives: relationship growth

Grow Amazing Friendships with a Filter Change

girls-umbrella

Do you want to have better quality friendships like you did in the good ol’ days?

Remember when your biggest decision was who to play with after school. Eventually these friendships grow or change into who you are going to share your secrets with or cry on when you are broken hearted. Friendships become as important to you as your family.

“Many people will walk in and out of you life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.” ~ Unknown

Our friendships peak and adulthood hits. People go away for school, get married, move for their job, and have kids. Friendships come and go and it becomes hard to keep up with your old friends. Yet you long for the friendships that last a lifetime.

While busyness and location may get in the way of growing great friendships as an adult, there is another culprit – having a negative focused mental filter. Often we have our mental filter set high to keep hurt out, yet we miss out on the opportunities for new and growing friendships. You can change your filter, letting the good in instead of keeping it all out.

Recognize Negative Filter

Recently I watch my daughter try to navigate through new friendship territory with a filter that needs an adjustment. She assumes that others don’t like her, leaves herself out of the activity, and then complains about being left out. As I coach her through the tears, I realize these friendship problems don’t end with adulthood.

Many adults walk around their world surrounded by people yet feeling lonely. Their negative thoughts leave them out. If you have your mental filter set so high that all you see are negatives, you are probably missing out on friendships and resources.

Take a moment to listen to the messages you are focusing on. Do you focus more on the negatives than the positives? If yes, you may recognize some of these negative assumptions:

  • What if they don’t like me or I don’t fit in
  • They want too much from me and I can’t say no
  • I feel left out when I know I’m not their best friend
  • We have too many differences that I can’t relate
  • I can’t handle feeling hurt or rejected again

I imagine these negative thoughts didn’t evaporate after middle school, and that some of you still battle with these negative assumptions now. We all want to be known and connected, but what does it take to make it happen?

Change Your Mental Filter

Imagine that your body is surrounded by a screen. The holes on the screen can be enlarged or shrunk. You can change the size of holes depending on how much you want to let in.

Focus less on the negatives, and you will increase the holes in your screen. Instead of filtering it all out, you will be able to let more in. You will also begin seeing things in a new way instead of assuming the worst.

My daughter is able to see that the girls she wants to play with have a different idea on what to play – it isn’t that they don’t want to play with her. When she focuses less on her negative thoughts, she is able to move toward the girls even if her way is different. The result is making memories instead of tears.

When you look through your screen with new eyes, you can see positives looking back at you. People that are interested in you, what you have to say and spending time with you. If you don’t see these people trying to look through your screen, it’s time to change your screen and stop filtering so much out.

Friendships as Exchange of Resources

I think of friendships as an exchange of resources, one in which both people have a say in what they exchange. The resources may be tangible such as swapping babysitting or tools. Or the exchange may be intangible such as sharing stories and reassurances. Having someone to confide in, to reassure you, and to celebrate life’s milestones is an amazing resource.

While friendships may change as we grow, they are still important. Discover what you do or say to yourself that keeps people out. Then decide to not let your screen be set to negative. Instead be determined to view the exchange in a new way. In this way, you are letting more into your life than you are turning away.

“The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart. ” ~ Elisabeth Foley

How have your friendships changed over time?

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Photo Credit: Happy Girls Under Rainbow by Sharon Pruitt

Are You Making These Relationship Mistakes?

Love-is-tree

Remember the bliss of a budding relationship. It’s like a breath of fresh air. The feelings of attraction and excitement bring a smile to your face and butterflies to your stomach. So where do all these blissful feelings go?

The longer you invest in a relationship, the more you don’t want to lose them. You would do almost anything to avoid feelings of loss and rejection, even if that means avoiding conflict to keep the peace.

Two Most Common Relationship Mistakes:

As each of you puts more energy into maintaining the good feelings and sustaining the relationship, troublesome ways of interacting typically creep in. No matter how long you have been together, it is highly likely that you have made at least one of the following mistakes:

1. Trying to fix your partner

2. Letting your partner fix you

Which one sounds like something you are doing? I claim #1 as my biggest mistake. While my attempts to fix my spouse may be well-intentioned, they typically get stirred up by my own worry and tension. Luckily for my husband, he doesn’t like it when I try to shape him up and he lets me know.

“Some conflictual marriages can be characterized as each person wanting to lean on the other more than the other will permit. Other conflictual marriages are better characterized as each feeling the other wants to control the situation.” ~Michael Kerr, M.D.

While no one is perfect, you can learn to turn all this energy onto yourself instead of deferring or turning it on your partner. In doing so, you make more room in your relationship for growth, togetherness, and comfort – maybe even occasional bliss.

A Different Way to Think About Relationship Growth

This is a very different way to think about relationships. It’s not about working directly on the relationship, it’s about working on your part in the problem, so you are part of the solution. Instead it is about becoming more self-directed without losing relationship connections.

How do we become more self-directed without becoming self-centered and selfish? The goal isn’t to be more isolated and disconnected, it is to do our part in creating more intimate, positive, and cooperative connections. Once you recognize your part in the problem, whether it’s distance or conflict (avoidance or pressure), you open up new choices:

1. The choice between being regulated by your partner or being self-regulated

2. The choice between acting on your emotions or your thinking

I can continue to try to shape up my hard working husband, or I can find another way to manage my worry. I can look for the choices that I have in front of me instead of trying to answer the choices he has in front of him. I imagine I’m more fun to be around when I calm myself down and put less pressure on him to do it for me.

We all react emotionally to differences in our relationship. Learning how to have a choice in how we react to these differences helps us be more approachable and less negative in our relationships. We become someone that others want to be around instead of avoiding conflict to keep the peace.

What helps you see your part in relationship problems?

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Photo Credit: “Love is…” by Nattu

Top 6 Relationship Growing Tips for a New Year

Heart-Red

The countdown to 2012 is approaching. What are your goals for next year?

Pick energizing goals that reflect your values. One thing I value most are my relationships with others. So, each year I identify how I want to grow in relating to my loved ones.

Being in the business of coaching others, I find there is always something I can work on. Some of my previous relating goals have been: 1) being more present, 2) being less critical, and 3) being more grateful. There is always room for grow.

Connect through Growing Yourself:

Do your relationships have room to grow? If yes, choose to work on yourself and how you interact with your loved ones. Connect with others by knowing and growing yourself. In doing so, you reduce the stress of loneliness and isolation.

Once you identify what you want to work on, don’t rely on good intentions alone. Define how you’ll reach your goal by breaking it down into small steps. What resources will you need to turn your growth goal into action?

“Vision without action is merely a dream.” ~ Joel A. Barker

My Top 6 Relationship Growth Tips:

To encourage you on your relational journey , I’ve included 6 posts I’ve written on Liberating Relationships. I picked these 5 tips based on what has been most useful to me:

Each of you is the expert on yourself. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what makes your relationships more enjoyable and sustaining. Let this be a place to exchange ideas on what works for you.

2012 Post Planning: What questions do you have about relationship and personal growth?

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Photo Credit: “Heart” by seyed mostafa zamani