For the purpose of this post, focus solely on yourself. You might find it odd looking at yourself in a way that you never ever have before; it might even hurt a little. It’s also possible that it might be so calming and nurturing that you’ll transform into someone with a completely empowered lifestyle. My aim is to have you think about yourself and your life from a slightly new angle, one that feels empowered and full of love.
I often find that when we talk about empowerment, we think that means not caring about what others think of us. In an intimate relationship, this can spell disaster. Don’t get me wrong, I care about what people think of me – just not people that aren’t important to me. The people I love and trust are there for me to love and trust, so when they give me some feedback on how I might come across, I listen. Becoming empowered isn’t about adopting the attitude of “it’s my way or the highway.” It’s about being comfortable with who you are, and also loving and respecting yourself and your partner enough that you don’t have to adopt a care-about-nothing philosophy.
But we can get really confused about how to set boundaries and love ourselves enough that we don’t get taken for a ride. To empower yourself in any type of relationship – whether it’s with your partner, your parent, a friend, or yourself – rely on these three tips.
Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
In the famous book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey explains how we often listen with only the intent to reply. Can you imagine if we all sought first to understand, and then to be understood? What effect it would have on our relationships?
Let’s look at it another way. Would you want to be a detective trying to solve a murder with only half the facts and only going on your own instincts? I get that this is a slightly dramatic analogy, but you need all the facts and information before you can accurately respond. Some people feel things more than others, and based on peoples’ pasts (and how that past manifests itself in the present) you’ll find some people react to things completely differently than you do.
My husband and I were once having a discussion where both of us wanted to be heard, but neither of us wanted to listen. Or, we thought we were listening, but actually weren’t. You can imagine the frustration we both felt as we tussled to be heard. It went on for ages, way longer than it would have if we had both just stopped and listened. We found out that we were both saying that same thing, just in different ways. We felt pretty stupid afterwards.
So first, take up a thirty day listening challenge. Make it your priority to “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.”
Make yourself clear.
Say what you mean, and mean what you say. It sounds simple, but you want to express yourself with complete clarity – and to be clear, you have to be comfortable with who you are in the world and know what you truly want.
You don’t want to leave your wants and needs to chance. In any relationship, it is important to make sure you have truly allowed yourself to be honest. This can be scary, especially if you are not used to making firm choices and sticking to them. It’s important to get clear about the details of what you want – whether it’s as simple as a vacation, or an overhaul of your sex life – before you bring them to your partner.
Sometimes, we expect our partners to be mind readers. So for special occasions (like an anniversary or Valentine’s Day), I am explicitly clear about my expectations, which makes it easier for both of us. There are people out there that think ,”Well that’s obvious. They should just know.” But while partners may be great at little surprises, details can get overlooked – and your partner has really no idea what you want unless you tell them.
Now I could very easily let him “fail”, but I would end up disappointed and he would end up, predictably, feeling like he failed. I don’t want either of us to feel that way. So be clear and get your partner to be really clear too. Of course leave room for surprises, but being clear isn’t about one person or the other – it’s about taking care of each other.
Some of you might think this ruins romance, but when you get less wrapped up in your own needs and consider both of you, it makes your life so much easier and full of way less drama!
So for the next thirty days, take the challenge of being super clear about your wants and desires.
Taking ownership can be really tricky. For some, it can feel like saying sorry when you don’t feel that way. It can feel even worse to say sorry when we’re wrong. But it’s okay to be wrong and mess up, and especially important to own up to it.
Taking ownership is not just about saying sorry, but being truly responsible for all the interactions you find yourself in. It is about losing the defensive attitude and going back to “understanding first, then being understood.”
If you struggle with being wrong, practice taking full responsibility for all of your decisions. Whether it’s at your job or in your relationships, your decisions are 100% on you. If you’re someone who always lets others cross boundaries and get off the hook, this can also help you set limits and feel more sure of yourself.
It’s okay to be wrong and it’s okay to say no. When you allow someone into your life and they cross boundaries, it’s important to be firm and uphold them. Remember, when someone does something wrong to you, they are wrong. It is not your fault. You shouldn’t let everyone off the hook for their mistakes. But often in relationships, both partners contribute to the problem at hand. In addition to noticing what your partner has done wrong, look inward and see what you could do differently. Learn more about yourself and your habits, and ask yourself, how can I, in the most loving way possible, stop old habits from repeating themselves?
So, take a thirty day challenge to take full 100% responsibility for all of your interactions, and see where it takes you!
If you give it your all to take these three approaches to heart for just thirty days, I know it will impact your life. I’d love to hear all that you have learned, and how these three points move you forward!