Creating deep relationships is an inside job. Trying too hard to find the best things to say and how to say them, only gets in the way.
Relationships, the ability to relate and connect, are like a watermark behind everything we encounter in life – from the very second we are born to the second we die, we are relating to others at some level.
I used to believe that open, honest communication was almost unsurpassable as a key for creating a great relationship. I thought if you could at least talk things through together in an adult and open manner, you would be okay. I thought that because people are all different, with individual values and beliefs, we needed to devise more effective ways to communicate and deal with people who saw the world differently. What is wrong with that? Well, it is missing a fundamental understanding about the nature of how people connect. Which is why its effectiveness can be a bit hit and miss.
I see it very differently now.
Relating and connecting to another human being is innate. At a universal level we are already in a relationship with everything. So you don’t need to ‘work on’ a relationship, you just need to get out of the way of yourself. Communication is there for when we need to mop up the low quality of mind moments where we are coming from a place of ego, attachment and insecurity. We shouldn’t rely on communication to mend stuff when we are feeling ‘bad’ (i.e. ‘okay honey let’s make sure we talk it through’). All that will happen is you will communicate your low quality of mind feelings, and compound the ‘problem’.
How we feel when we communicate is much more important than what we communicate.
Now using my old approach, I used to focus far more on the content, the tone, and the ‘how’ of the messaging – not the ‘how’ of the feeling state I was coming from. Communication is just a channel for how we feel in any moment. If you are at some level (usually invisibly) maintaining insecure thoughts, those feelings will just flow down the communication pipe to the other person. So a better rule of thumb is, if you don’t feel clear and quiet inside, don’t communicate (or least be aware of not taking your feelings too seriously).
To paraphrase George and Linda Pransky in their fantastic book The Relationship Handbook, any degree of perceived incompatibility in a relationship is purely subject to how you think and feel in the moment. It is not about how different you are. Incompatibility is an illusion maintained by a low quality of mind and conditioned thinking. Surely not! Don’t we all have values and belief systems that will make us more or less compatible with another person?
Well it is true, we need to feel compatible, but we don’t need to be compatible in an objective sense. Otherwise you wouldn’t come across happy couples in the world who are so different on the outside, or clone couples who argue like cats and dogs.
It is as simple as this – we, as a default, have an inbuilt ability to connect and build relationships, and that system is bigger and smarter than our personal thinking, intellect and ego. And just as we come with a biological physical immune system that keeps our health in check (and we don’t try to intellectualise getting rid of the flu, by the way), we are also blessed with a psychological system designed to keep your moods and hence connection in check. The trick, though, is to not obstruct this system with outside agents (analysis, self-help methods and mental techniques) that prevent nature – our innate functioning – from doing its job.
The nature of thought
Strategies and theories devised to ‘fix’ relationships just empower and perpetuate thought. And thoughts, on their own, are neither good nor bad. They are formless, transient and not actually true. It is only when we unconsciously assign meaning to them or give them weight that they feel real to us. For example, are you 100 per cent consistent in your thoughts about the same circumstances, in every moment, of every day? You might feel warm and loving towards your partner one moment, and the next feel they are annoying and incompatible to you. Which opinion is true? Neither. They are just thoughts in the moment. And it works like this for everyone.So we don’t need to fix the content of our thinking or understand why we have judgmental thinking or contrive reasons to reframe our behaviour. We need to see the nature of thought.