Embrace Possibility 3 Easy Ways to Improve Any Relationship
/3 Easy Ways to Improve Any Relationship

3 Easy Ways to Improve Any Relationship

Life is about relationships.

Boyfriend and Girlfriend

Boss and Employee

Parent and Child

Husband and Wife

Friend and Friend

The list goes on...

To have a meaningful life, you'll need to have meaningful relationships.

Take a minute now and answer this question:

Is there a relationship in your life that you wish was better?

Now choose one relationship that if improved, would make the most positive impact in your life. Keep in mind that even great relationships can be made better so don't feel compelled to choose a bad relationship. Choose one that is most important to you.

Do you have one?

Ok, great!

Here are the 3 simple things I did to greatly enhanced my relationships at work and at home.

1. Ask

Just because you've known someone for a long time and they've never complained doesn't mean that your relationship is fine.

Most people have mediocre relationships because they mind read. They tend to guess at what they should do to make the relationship better. This is well-intentioned but incredibly ineffective.

The simple way to do this:

Conduct a weekly check up with the relationship you want to improve. I ask my wife every Sunday, "How did I do this week" and she gives me a score from 1 to 10 (10 being the highest score) along with specific reasons why I got that rating.

If I don't score a 10, I always ask for specific things I can do to score a 10 for the coming week. That becomes my focus for the week. This simple method has greatly improved every relationship where I use this method.

When using this method, NEVER be defensive or make excuses. Don't challenge the score or try to explain. If you do, the other person, will no longer want to answer your question or end up giving you fake scores. Just accept the specific feedback and focus on what you can do to improve your score. If you are having trouble, check out how to stay calm in the face of criticism.

2. Pay Attention

We all know the golden rule:

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Most people have trouble following this rule. It is more common to see people waiting to get first before they give. It's understandable but it's also why so many people have poor relationships.

For those of you who do follow the golden rule:

I'm sure you have some excellent relationships but ...

What if I told you that this isn't the best rule to follow?

What if there is a better rule to live by?

Here is the "platinum" rule:

"Do unto others as they would have done unto them."

Not everyone wants to be treated the way we like to be treated.

Please recognize this.

It'll transform your relationships for the better.

The Simple Way to Do This:

Ask people what they like and remember it. Show people in subtle ways that you pay attention to what they say. If someone tells me that they hate certain foods, I try not to order them. If someone mentions their child is applying for a certain university, I will try to connect them with someone in my network who is an alumni for that university and can write a letter of recommendation.

One of the key reasons for the success of both the golden and platinum rules is that you must take the first step.

Give first, help first, serve first.

3. Don't Keep Score

No one likes being taken advantage of.

That is why we keep score.

There is nothing wrong with being fair and upholding fairness but life isn't always about being fair.

The Simple Way to Do This:

Stop keeping score.

This was one of the most liberating things I've done and it has improved my relationships with everyone.

I no longer keep count of how many times I've paid for dinner, how many favors I've done for someone or who took the first step towards compromise. I've realized that none of that matters if my goal is to build better relationships.

Trust that the people you want to build relationships with are great people who would never take advantage of you and you'll never worry about keeping score.

If you suspect someone is taking advantage of you, why are you in a relationship with them anyway?

So let's get back to you and the most important relationship you want to improve. Here is what I recommend:

Immediately after you finish this article:

  1. Send an email asking that person to rate you on a scale from 1 to 10 on your relationship. Ask for specifics on how they came up with the rating. If the rating is below a 10, ask what you can do to make it a 10.
  2. Think about all your interactions with this person. What are their interests? Likes? Dislikes? Life Challenges? etc. Ask yourself, what is one thing you can do to help them this week?
  3. Stop keeping score.
That's it.

"People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges"

- Joseph Fort Newton

So stop trying to protect yourself and start trying to connect.

Who are you going to connect with this week? What other ways do you use to improve your relationships?

Photo by jvleis

Robert Chen

Robert Chen is the founder of Embrace Possibility and author of The Dreams to Reality Fieldbook. He helps people who feel stuck move forward by guiding them to see other possibilities for their lives. He specializes in working with high performers get to the next level. If you're going through a tough time right now, check out Robert's article on How to Feel Better Right Away and if you're having trouble getting what you want out of life, check out How to Always Achieve Your Goals.

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  1. Stefan Parmark July 14, 2012 at 10:43 am - Reply

    Very good article! I have noticed that some of my relationships gradually go from ok to bad, and there seems to be nothing I can do about it. I get no feedback, so I don’t know what is wrong. I think I have to have the courage to ask, and will test your method to ask for a rating.
    I have already learned to not keep score, and it works fine with most of my friends. I just tell them I don’t keep score, in the end it will probably end up even. But how do you deal with people who DO keep score? How do you stop them from keeping score? Do you know how to handle that?
    Thanks a lot & keep writing!

    • Robert Chen July 14, 2012 at 11:16 pm - Reply

      Hi Stefan,

      Thanks for your encouragement. I really appreciate it.

      Asking for feedback is one of the hardest things to do because indirectly you are asking for someone to tell you how you are not perfect right now. It always helps to create a safe environment for them to answer when you ask and to explain why you are asking (especially if it is out of the blue). Then you need to take their feedback seriously. When they see that you are changing based on what they say, they’ll give you even better feedback. For yourself, remember feedback is only a reflection on your behavior, not your behavior.

      As for people who keep score, there is no way to stop anyone from doing anything or changing anyone so don’t waste your energy. All you can do is live your life the way you want and don’t let their score keeping bother you. If it does bother you, then consider how important the relationship is to you. If it’s important, then think about what specifically is bothering you. Are you trying to impose your standard on your friends? Just because you don’t keep score doesn’t mean other people shouldn’t keep score. If the relationship is not important, then you always have the choice to discontinue the friendship.

      Always remember that you are the architect of your life and you can live it the way you want.

  2. Stefan Parmark July 16, 2012 at 12:26 pm - Reply

    Hi Robert,
    Thank you for taking the time to leave such a long reply. I am grateful.

    I was talking about a specific person, with whom I used to get along very well a few years ago. Then I started on the path of personal development, learned NLP, and voila, a better Stefan appeared. And I think that a part of me was set free, that he did not feel comfortable with. I can see now that his life seems to be built around rules, his rules, and everyone should know and obey them. I, on the other hand, try to see the rules, and why they are there. I often break rules, just because they are ridiculous. I do not think he is comfortable with that.

    While writing this I have realised I have to let go of him. That he is a close neighbour makes it a little more difficult, but isn’t life a lot of challenges, which you have to handle and learn from? I have seen friends disappear before, but also received new better friends.

    I have known for a long time that you can’t be friends with everyone. I keep forgetting that. Something deep inside me still experiences pain when I lose a friend.

    Thank you for your encouraging words!

    PS. Feel free to visit my personal development blog. Hopefully some of my articles can help you.

    • Robert Chen July 17, 2012 at 12:30 am - Reply

      Hi Stefan,

      It’s never easy letting go of friends and I think some of the sadness comes from disappointment. You expect your friend to give as much as you are giving and when they don’t, it may become easy to interpret that as them not caring about the relationship. Since you’ve taken NLP, you know that everyone has their own map of the world and your friend my just be expressing himself differently than you would express yourself but still have good intentions for your friendship. Although you always have the option to let people go, it’s sometimes more interesting to become curious and to learn more about the map that governs your friend’s perception of the world. This way at least you can communicate to him in his language.

      The pain you feel is something you should pay attention to. There is a message there.

      I’m on my way to your blog now. Thanks for your comments and for sharing.

      Let me know if there is anything else I can do to help.

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