Training Your Mind: Cultivate Patience – Building Relationships
Relationships and Cultivating Patience
Relationships! What does building relationships have to do with cultivating patience? Building meaningful, long lasting, loving relationships – with ourselves and others around us – require the most patience. The process of training our mind to build long lasting, loving relationships, is in essence the process of cultivating patience! The more patient we are, the more satisfying and enduring our relationships are and eventually our life is. We may think this is easy. I have so many friends and a huge family, so I am all set. Right?
According to several studies, loneliness has become a serious public health issue in the world. According to this 2018 Survey from The Economist and Kaiser Family Foundation, 22% US adults and 23% of UK adults say that they often feel lonely or isolated. Another 2018 Cigna Survey shows that approximately 54% of Americans feel that no one knows them well! Sound familiar? Loneliness can not only cause psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, but it is also considered to be a contributor in causing chronic inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation plays a major role in developing many diseases including heart diseases and cancer. Poor relationships are associated with a 29% increase in coronary heart disease according to research.
Relationships are vital to our emotional and physical wellbeing. Over the years we build a community we can belong to or thrive in. Most of us have our own community of family, friends, colleagues, religious community, and neighbors that we care about. We genuinely believe that we are doing everything to support these relationships, caring for the people that are important to us.
So, what explains this epidemic of loneliness? Why do we feel no one really knows us? Why are our relationships not satisfying? What is missing?
Other than “lack of time” there are two other key factors that make building meaningful and enduring relationships challenging; “Being Judgemental” and “Lack of Intentional Effort”.
A survey of 100,000 people conducted by world’s top executive coach and Thinker50 hall of fame mentor Marshall Goldsmith, uncovered that we spend on average 65% of our interpersonal communication time in either talking about how smart or stupid someone, including ourselves, is. As part of our journey of training our minds, we have seen first hand how judgmental we can be to ourselves and others. Relationships suffer the most because of the perceived slights we received from someone. Instead of trying to understand the others point of view, we become impatient and judgemental.
“I have done so much for him/her but I never get the reciprocating effort from them; he/she always behaves like he/she is smarter than me; I work so much harder than John but my boss plays favorites.”
Once we start on the path of negativity our mind has the power to turn inconsequential events into major negative events. You will see this every time you are stressed and take a mental step back to observe what is currently happening in your mind.
We forget to be kind to ourselves and others; we expect ourselves to be perfect and others to be the perfect version of our own expectations of them!
Lack of intentional Effort
Over time we lose focus on the relationships that truly matter to us. We start taking those relationships for granted, be impatient with people that are close to us and stop making an intentional effort to keep the relationships strong and thriving!
Hard to believe, right? Let’s honestly think about the relationships that matter most to us; relationships with our parents, significant other, kids; close friends; you will see a trend. In the early years of relationships, we put a lot of effort in nurturing them.
As kids we constantly try to please our parents; in the beginning of a relationship with our significant other, we spend hours talking to each other, we buy thoughtful gifts and plan romantic getaways; we spend countless hours taking care of our babies; growing up we spend a lot of time with friends, meeting them often, playing together often, talking or texting all the time.
As we move forward in life, our priorities keep changing and we become busier with other goals, which reflects in a lack of efforts to keep these relationships strong. The excuses are endless; busy with career, new friends, young kids, planning for the future. If there is not one thing then there is another to keep us busy, be in a hurry to move on to the next important goal. Our desire to make an effort to nurture our closest relationships keeps taking a back seat. Without realizing it, this results in slowly drifting apart from the people that understood us or matter to us.
And, relationship with self? It is the last thing on our mind because we have so many other expectations to take care of. These expectations make us the most judgemental and impatient with ourselves. We know what is expected of us by society and we are always running to fulfill those expectations, but we hardly ever know what would make us truly happy. Unfortunately, more often than not, we don’t realize that those are two different things!
Over the years, I have realized that there are two changes that I made in my life that had the most profound impact on my relationships.
1 – Listen
This is one of the most important changes you can immediately make in all of your relationships. When you are communicating with someone over the phone, face to face, or over text, listen to them. Don’t start thinking about your response or start solving their problem or start judging, just listen. Be aware that when someone is talking to you about something, it may not be of any interest or consequence to you, but it is important for them.
For example, at the dinner table, your middle schooler starts talking about how his/her history teacher is so bad. Instead of jumping to the preaching part of the conversation, which usually is some version of, “In life, you won’t always have good teachers, teacher doesn’t matter, you still have to work hard and get good grades”; take the time to understand what makes that teacher a bad teacher in your child’s mind. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with him/her, it just means trying to understand what his/her assessment is based on.
This not only makes your child feel heard, but it will help you learn how your child thinks, what matters to him/her. As this becomes a norm for all your dinner table conversations, over time it also teaches your child the value of understanding others’ viewpoints, and being more empathetic. You’re not only building a stronger relationship with your child, but also training their young minds to be positive, empathetic and be more connected to the world around them.
Another unexpected but far more important benefit of this change I discovered in my journey is, I learned about keeping my mind open and never jumping to conclusions based on my experience. My daughter is growing up in a world much different than what I grew up in. Some basic moral tenets are still the same but her challenges are different from my challenges at her age. Again, I am not judging my challenges to be easier than my daughter’s or vice versa, just different and as important. Because of this, my relationship with my daughter became a two way street where we both learn from each other.
We can apply the same principle in all of our conversations, personal or professional. Listening is an art that we can develop and use to nurture all of our relationships. When you are actually listening you are fully present in that moment with that person, fully focused on that person and their thoughts. Your mind is not running away to hundred other things that you still need to do. This being fully present in the moment is an essential part of training our minds and cultivating patience.
Sometimes it may seem too much, because you have a lot of other things to do. The exercise described in the Cultivate Patience – Slowing Down can help you prioritize and find the time you are always lacking.
2 – Acknowledge Often
Acknowledge to yourself and to others how important the relationship and the person is to you. Acknowledge not just by words but also by actions. As the old adage goes “Actions Speak Louder than Words!”
Acknowledge, by keeping your promises; by always looking for positives in the relationship; by finding and acknowledging things that you learned from that relationship that made you a better person; by letting go of small things that bother you about the relationship or person, no one is perfect; by being there whenever needed, physically or emotionally.
The acknowledgement doesn’t just make that person feel good, it will also make you feel better about yourself.
So, acknowledge the person and relationship! Acknowledge with words and actions! Do it often!
At the end, let’s also remember the long term journey we are on, the journey of Self-Acceptance. Self-Acceptance is the journey of building a loving relationship with our true self. It is the most important relationship and the most difficult one to build. A loving relationship with self, doesn’t mean narcissism or selfishness. A loving relationship with self, is finding and accepting your true self without judgement. This is one of the toughest and most important part of training our minds to cultivate patience.
Over the years through my journey of cultivating patience, I have realized that the more honest and kind I became with myself without being judgemental, the kinder and more patient I became with others. Accepting myself with all “my flaws – according to social norms”, without judgement makes me more open to viewing others in the same empathetic light. It also helps me distinguish how much of my dissatisfaction with others stem from my own expectations of them. The more we realize that, the easier it is to let go of those expectations and the stronger our relationships become.
So, continue your journey of Self-Acceptance with regular reflection practice, meditation or any other self-care routine that works for you. Continue to work on recognizing yourself without judgement as often as possible and you will see the change in all your relationships and the patience you have with yourself and everyone around you!
As Carl Jung said,
Who looks inside, awakens!
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