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Whether or not we realize it, our relationships dictate the amount of happiness and satisfaction we achieve in life.  Now, we‘re not just talking about romantic relationships, but, rather, all of the relationships we have in our lives.  Everyone we interact with plays a vital role in how we perceive ourselves and the world around us, so you can see how important it is to nurture healthy and supportive relationships. Maybe, you‘re happy in your current situation, or perhaps you‘re struggling. In any case, we know that the best of relationships can always get better. Read on to discover 10 essential steps to improve every relationship in your life.

One: Know What You Value

Before you can start improving anything about your relationships, you need to know what is deeply important to you. Figuring this out requires you to go deep inside and discover what you most truly value in a relationship. Keep in mind that values aren’t the same thing as strategies. Strategies involve very specific details (I value finding a partner in the next six months); while values are much broader in scope (I value caring and consideration.) Once you discover what it is that you value, you’ll then have the clarity to be able to get those things from your relationships.

Two: Know What You Do Want

Often, people tend to focus on the things that they don’t want in a relationship. This kind of thinking produces thoughts such as, “I don’t want my spouse to spend so much time at work” or “I don’t want my mother criticizing everything I do.” While not wanting these things is understandable, it’s very hard to get results when you‘re dealing with all the things that you don’t want. Instead, think about what it is that you DO want. Maybe what you really want is to spend more time with your spouse and to receive more appreciation from your mother.  Knowing what you want is the only way to start getting the things that you want in a relationship.

Three: Create Alignment

Another essential step in improving your relationships is the ability to create alignment with others about what you want in your relationships. Instead of working separately toward your own agenda, try finding common goals that you share with your partner. When you have alignment about what you want, and you start sharing the same vision for the relationship, making agreements and accomplishing results happens much more easily. This opens the way for greater success and mutual satisfaction.

Four: Stop Taking Things Personally

This step is difficult for many people because, as humans, we seem to have taught ourselves to react emotionally to situations where we feel hurt, or vulnerable. In order to learn how to stop taking things to heart, it's important that we understand that people’s words and actions are prompted by a desire to meet their own needs, or to support something that they value. In other words, while it may seem to you that they‘re launching a personal attack, what’s really happening is that something they need or value is missing from the situation.  Once we understand that their actions are all about them—not us—it’s easier to move forward and solve the problem instead of reacting to it.

Five: Explore What They Want

Beyond just creating alignment to fulfill your own values and desires, it’s just as important that you identify very clearly what the other person would ideally like to have in your relationship – what they value most and want to experience. Once you and your partner have an understanding about what you both want from your relationship, you can move forward to achieve mutual satisfaction and contentment.

Six – Give 100% Presence

Step six is all about putting your own judgments and opinions aside and really listening to what your partner has to say. So much of our communication is clouded with our own feelings, desires, and agendas; it’s easy to miss important clues about what the other partner really needs to make the relationship work. Giving the gift of your presence to someone else shows that you truly care about making a deep and lasting connection.

Seven: Have an Alignment Conversation

Once you’ve identified what you want and value, and you’ve given your presence to your partner and come to an understanding about what they want and value, it’s time to have a very clear, conscious conversation about what you each want to create in your relationship. Do you want to spend more time together?  Do you want to be more appreciative of each other? The alignment conversation is your time to formulate a blueprint for the actions you and your partner agree to take to insure that both of you get what you need.

Eight: Be Gentle With Yourself

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the steps you need to take to be there for your partner.  Throughout the process, it’s also important to take care of yourself.  It’s common for alignment conversations to stir up past resentments as you focus on how to change the situation that created them in the first place. When you start to feel uncomfortable, or angry about the emotions the conversation brings up – STOP.  Give yourself a breather and take the time to examine the reasons beneath the feelings you are having.  As we mentioned before, everything that everyone says or does is motivated by a value that isn’t being supported, and this includes the voice inside your head.  Figure out what may be triggering your emotions before moving on with the conversation.

Nine: Create Agreements through Negotiation

Once you’ve created an alignment with your partner, you’ll need to make some concrete agreements about how to reach your goals for the relationship.  For example, if you both decide that you would like to create more trust, perhaps you’ll create an agreement about checking in with each when you need more information. The best way to reach these agreements is through negotiation with your partner. Negotiation is a lot like dancing:  you step forward, your partner steps back, you turn around and then meet in the middle. Perfecting this dance takes some practice, but once you start actively doing the dance, it will get easier and easier.

Ten: Trust the Process

Last, but not least, in order for these steps to work, it’s imperative that you trust the process. Things may not go exactly as you imagine, but that doesn’t mean that your efforts aren’t making a difference. Trusting the process means putting the brakes on your skepticism, refusing to give in to unproductive thoughts that may arise, and believing that it’s really and truly possible for everyone to be satisfied with the outcome. The best way to fully trust the process is to become an Explorer.
An Explorer believes that there is something to discover, they have a commitment to discover it, and they are in action creating strategies to fulfill their commitment.

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