Thursday, July 22, 2010

Respect: Key Ingredient for Great Relationships

One of my missions in my counseling practice is to guide people to create relationships that include mutual respect. Couples that practice respect for the differences between them, rather than trying to criticize each other, are so much happier. Parents who treat their children and teens with respect find it much easier to require it back from them. Learning self-respect and how to teach other people how you wish to be treated is an important part of maturing. Treating strangers with respect and kindness makes you a class act.

You can feel when you are being treated with respect. It feels wonderful. The person makes eye contact with you. They ask your opinion. You don't get interrupted. You can relax and be yourself, because you aren't teased, belittled, or the object of sarcasm. You feel just as important as the other person.

I have seen family relationships transform when parents stop lecturing and ask teens for their help or their ideas. Family meetings are more fun at every age and stage when you let the children give input, on everything from how to save more money, to planning family activities, or dividing up chores.

We are not all equals in the family, as the parents are the executives. Families work much better as democracies, where everyone gets their say, even if they don't get their way. Parents sometimes need to make the final decision, but the family is a great place to practice the respectful exchange of ideas. I am often amazed at how much more fun family life is when we get everybody interacting respectfully and identifying solutions and new possibilties.

Couples can be closer and enjoy each other more when they celebrate the unique perspective, experiences, and thoughts that each partner brings. Using a respectful tone and appreciating your partners' thoughts and feelings draws them closer to you. They feel they can relax and be at ease. I want couples to feel they can talk about anything---money, work, interests, family, sexuality, politics, faith, hopes, and dreams. You can only open up at this intimate level if your partner provides you with the comfort of respect.

When you respect someone, there are rules for how you interact with them. You watch your tone. You don't yell or name call. You apologize if you catch yourself being disrepectful. You aren't too proud to ask for forgiveness when you have hurt the other person. You allow the other person to have their own opinion. You avoid criticism and sarcasm. You don't use the words 'always' or 'never', which box your partner in. You appreciate their differences, and understand that there is often more than one way to do things.

It all has to start with self-respect, and knowing that each of us deserves, as our birthright, to be treated in this loving way. You have to exercise your own self-worth and require respectful treatment in your most important relationships. As you practice repecting yourself and others, it will become your natural order and you will witness magic in your relationships.

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