8 Ways to Dramatically Shift Your Relationships

04/02/2015 12:47 pm ET | Updated Jun 02, 2015


I recently led a seminar on strengthening relationships. The date, Valentine's Day, was deliberately chosen due to its association with love and relationships. The impact of the training was immediately apparent, and very dramatic, in all participants. Whether they were single or attending as a couple, everyone felt empowered after taking a closer look at themselves and how they approached the most important relationships in their lives.

Here, I share the 8 ways to dramatically shift any relationship -- starting with your self.

1. Go inside. Knowing who you are, and what you have to offer others, provides solid ground for any relationship. You've heard the expression that you can't love another unless you love yourself, right? Well, I bet if you get to know yourself, you will fall in love. Introspection through meditative arts like Tai Chi and chi gong will help you discover your true self. Once you uncover that authenticity, you will be confident in every life choice, including the choice of a partner.

2. Find your authentic compass. You've heard of a moral compass, but this inner gauge helps you hone in on what you really believe. These core beliefs will help guide your every decision. You'll also refine your relationship to yourself -- what you really feel, what you know you deserve, etc. -- and be able to let go and let your authentic compass help you navigate through your life's relationships.

3. Be forgiving. Let me first say that forgiving is not the same as forgetting. But, in order to keep moving forward with an open heart, we need to forgive others we feel may have done us wrong in some way (and keep in mind, sometimes that person we need to forgive is ourselves). It's not easy, but letting go of missteps and grudges allows us more space to grow, and gives us more space to invite others (especially those that share our beliefs) into our lives.

4. Be compassionate. Are we different or are we the same? The universal truth is that we are not different -- everyone wants to love and be loved. Acting from a place of compassion will connect you to others in an authentic and loving way, sparking a true connection.

5. Listen More. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason! We all need to listen more than we speak and be fully engaged when listening to another person. That means putting down your iPhone or turning off the television, and giving that person your undivided attention. Resist the urge to interrupt and simply let the person talk. It takes practice, but here's a simple trick to keep your focus on what someone is saying: repeat their words (paraphrase, you don't have to repeat word for word) and ask questions to prompt your partner to elaborate on the topic you two are discussing.

6. Play By Your Rules. Have you ever heard Jim Rohn's time-management mantra, "Either you run the day, or the day runs you?" The same thinking applies to all aspects of your life. What do you value? What do you expect from yourself? What do you expect from others? What happens when there is an upset and one of your rules is violated? If you have a playbook, you'll be more at ease discussing your needs and expectations without faltering or settling for less.

7. Communicate. Ask for what you want. Most people are surprised that their partner does not know what they want. Sound familiar? Ask yourself this: have you ever taken the time to really tell your partner what you want? Again, most people don't. They just take it for granted that their soul mate knows them down to their souls.

8. Bring it all together. Bruce Lee used to say, "knowing is not enough, we must apply." The above skills work synergistically to facilitate an authentic life -- and in turn, authentic relationships that nurture your soul. Continuing to cultivate these skills will only strengthen your relationships. Start with yourself, and watch the shift gradually ripple out to others.

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