The Wrap-Up: Your Relationship Cheat Sheet
Whew, we made it!
Ten days, but a lot to think about. While we’ve covered significant ground and you are hopefully already seeing positive results, it goes without saying that it takes longer than ten days to make a deep, lasting impact.
To wrap things up (and make it easier to quickly review and practice the principles we’ve discussed), we’re ending the course with a one-page summary of the most important takeaways:
Take responsibility for your own happiness. You (and only you) are responsible for your own happiness. Healthy relationships are made up of two individuals taking responsibility for their own happiness. This doesn’t mean they don’t want close relationships, it simply means they don’t need those relationships to feel whole.
Give others your full attention. In today’s world, we are surrounded by distraction. When we’re not fully present, people notice (and it damages your relationship). Let people know when you’re distracted, and set up another time to chat. When talking with someone, close your laptop, put the phone away, and turn off the TV.
Hone your validation skills. Humans have a deep-seated need to feel heard and understood. We don’t just want someone to listen, we want them to validate. Effective validation 1) identifies a specific emotion and 2) offers justification for feeling that emotion.
Develop greater empathy. Empathy is different from sympathy. When we sympathize, we feel for someone because of their pain. When we empathize, we feel the pain with them. Ask questions to better understand what they’re going through. Imagine the other person as a child—a younger, more vulnerable version of themselves—to help feelings of empathy flow a little more freely.
Embrace vulnerability. We can have no true, meaningful connection without vulnerability. Vulnerability requires emotional safety (i.e., someone who will respect you and what you share). Embracing vulnerability doesn’t mean sharing everything with everyone. You can—and ought to—be selective in what you share and with whom.
Become aware of your expectations. There is nothing wrong with expectations—even high expectations. It’s when we aren’t aware of those expectations and/or don’t communicate them to people they involve that we run into issues. To recognize hidden expectations, look for resentment or emotional turmoil in your life. Once you recognize an expectation, resolve to either 1) communicate it with the person it involves or 2) be okay if it isn’t met.
Make communication a priority. Regular and candid communication is vital to any relationship—romantic or otherwise—and is worthy of constant practice and improvement. If you’re expecting something, say so. If you’re worried about something, bring it up. If you’re curious about something, ask. If you’re upset, talk it out.
Watch your language. Words have power, so use them wisely: Use “I” instead of “you,” watch out for “buts,” avoid absolutes, etc.
Appreciation is powerful. Life is difficult; we’re all doing our best. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Show appreciation for specific things people do.
And finally, this:
Enjoy the journey. Life is all about relationships. With family, friends, coworkers, and lovers, human connection is what brings vitality and meaning to life. Relationships should bring joy. In this realm, practice makes better but never perfect. Always strive to lift, love, and serve, and enjoy each step along the way.
Relationships take work, focus, time, and energy. Like everything in life, you reap what you sow. But I’m not aware of anything in life that can yield more joy and happiness than strong, meaningful relationships. Make them a priority and you will do well in life.
It is my sincere hope that you’ve found these principles and practices valuable and that you’ll continue to apply them in your day-to-day life.
All the best,
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