As a child who’s just beginning to wake up to the fact that she is, in fact, 26 years old, I’m often appalled by how complicated relationships in the adult world can get. I’m literally no expert at managing relationships, but I do have a few ideas about them that I think help me keep my life peaceful and I hope will help you too, so here goes:
1. The obvious golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If we are truly able to follow this, it is generally sufficient to make sure we have good relationships
2. If you think you are good to a person, but the said person is not good to you:
a) There’s a chance you are not as good to the person as you think you are, at least from their perspective.
b) That’s who they are and that’s how they want to be with you and that is not your decision to make.
(Not saying it’s not possible that there are just little misunderstandings / incorrect expectation setting which can be made right, but this is assuming that stuff has been tried and has failed.)
3. Do unto others only as much as you can do without expecting anything in return. Relationships are not business deals and nobody has signed a document confirming that they will pay you back for everything you do for them.
Do only as much as you can do out of love, not out of the expectation of a return. If they are grateful, you will see it, and if they aren’t — it’s not something you can ever force out of a person by saying “I did so much for you” so don’t play that card. In the history of all the gratitude that mankind has ever felt, exactly 0% has been as a result of that statement.
4. Before doing “so much” for someone, check with them to be sure that you’re doing something that they want you to do in the first place! Not all of us value the same things in the same measure.
For instance, I might put in a lot of effort to always keep my husband’s cupboard organized, but if he likes keeping his stuff himself in his own way, this effort is not something he’ll be thankful for, and it might even irritate him! Or if he presently would like to focus on work, but I keep planning date nights with him, no matter how much effort I put in it, he won’t value it half as much as I would want him to. And he’s not being ungrateful! I’m simply not helping him with anything that is actually important to him at this point of time.
Sometimes letting people just be (which does not require “effort”) is what people can be very grateful for. This is probably a hard truth to accept but it is the truth and all of our relations would be better off if we understood this and lived by it.
5. Once a person establishes how they behave with you in a certain context, it is up to you how you react in future. With the above example, I can go on cleaning it but accept that this is not something I do for him but for myself, because I want to, hence stop expecting gratitude for it OR I can understand that this is not something he values and stop doing it. What most people tend to do is to go on cleaning, and go on complaining about the ingratitude. It is pointless!
6. Recognize that we judge ourselves by our intentions (that, in our own perspective, are always good) and others by their actions (that we may perceive as we please, regardless of their intentions.) Even if we do something knowingly hurtful, in our own head we always have a justification for why that person deserves this.
Always cut people some slack before you judge them! We have to be open to the possibility that they had good intentions or that in their heads they also have justifications just like we do.
7. This one isn’t easy and isn’t a necessity for the average person, but if you want to try to be an above average person — share the credit when you’re right and share the blame when someone else is wrong.
In college, I once got pulled up by my professor for giving myself too much credit on a group project — for work I had actually done! And while in that moment I felt she was horrible, because my group and I were just being honest about who did what, in retrospect, I definitely took away a life lesson about how groups (peers/colleagues/friends/family) should work. I have also realized over time how irritating I find people who want to hog credit for every little thing and I definitely wouldn’t want to be seen as one of those in anybody’s view.
So, I have actually been trying to share credit and take blame (with or without the beneficiary in question knowing about it), and I don’t know yet if it affects my relationships or if people even notice it, but I know that I feel good about it whenever I manage to do this!
8. We tend to credit our good traits to our intrinsic goodness and the good actions of others on external influences. For example, if I am good at playing the guitar, I will recognize my patience, commitment, and other such key values that helped me become good at it, but if someone else is good at it, I might say they were lucky their parents made them start classes young, or they had a great teacher, or worse — they are just born with it!
Similarly, if something bad happens to us, we want to say it’s bad luck, but if something bad happens to others, we tend to place the blame on their actions. Don’t do this! Recognize the goodness in others as you would like them to recognize it in you! Cut them as much slack as you would have them cut you!
9. Accept that you are not perfect! I fail spectacularly from time to time — and not just at doing specific things — even at just being a good person. Maybe I woke up cranky and got mad at my husband for no real fault of his. Maybe had a rough day at work and the misplaced anger came out at my helper at home. And sometimes I can’t even explain why I wasn’t nice to somebody!
I try to minimize it but we’re all human, so I guess shit happens. But we need to remain observant of ourselves and be okay with accepting that we don’t always react in the best ways or do the best things at all times. This helps us prevent the feeling of being superior to others who also fail in similar ways from time to time and accept them and love them. Otherwise you can spend the rest of your life thinking “I am so good, I always do the best things, people are so bad and they do bad things” and never know a truly loving relationship, because here’s the thing about ALL people — we’re flawed.
10. CHILL. I know my climactic point to an article about human emotions and relationships should probably not be to “chill,” but here we are. I genuinely think we need to take it easy. Accept that every person is different and nobody other than you is obliged to live by your standards of right and wrong.
For instance, my amazing grandfather (who I love and respect) has a habit of saying “if you eat out, you will fall sick” all the time! In my last chat with him where he said this, I told him I’d have to excuse myself from the conversation if he kept saying this just because it’s awfully negative. (He stopped saying it and we are on good terms.) And although this is a very tiny example, all I’m saying is — it’s fine to excuse yourself from negativity.
If you like talking to someone and it lifts you up or is fun, talk to them more, if you don’t like talking to someone and it brings you down or is boring, talk to them less.
Life is long, but not long enough for unnecessary drama so don’t be a part of it. I know this is all very complex and easier said than done, but we can work towards simplifying it. The point is to not get so affected by people especially once we have identified that we differ from them in certain ways. Breathe, and let go.
And as much as I wanted to keep this practical, I tend to get “karma” in the picture in all philosophical discussions, so you need to trust that what any other person does — good, bad, right, wrong — is their karma and their business to deal with, and what you do is yours. Focus on yours.