So. what do you value in yourself?
Honesty, integrity... loyalty, Compassion, respect, open-mindedness, communication, candor.
I think all of these things are something to constantly work to improve in yourself, for the sake of your relationships. If you make it a point to understand others, and to be honest with them and yourself. You should never find a situation that cannot be resolved through communication.
Resentments are all too often the culprit in a squelched channel of communication. I am quite guilty of it. I reject calls, leave letters unanswered, skirt around issues, and otherwise do my best not to address the problems I have with people. This is, most often, because I feel like I don't have a strong enough relationship with the people to be open and honest with them, and I would rather not talk to them at all than communicate on bad terms, or a false understanding of mutual respect. But I also do this with people who are close to me, when I feel like I have been the victim of some brash, or even absent-minded behavior of theirs. It's easier to be closed off, hurt and offended than it is to be open about your vulnerabilities and needs. Often I would rather blame someone else for my misery, and feel like their behavior is out of my hands than be assertive about my needs and honest about my feelings.
So, what do you do with someone close to you, with whom you don't feel you can communicate openly and honestly? I guess the obvious answer is "work on the relationship". But where do you start? Do you butter them up for a week so you can cut them down? Do you lay into them and then take them out to nurse their wounds over an ice cream sundae? Do you gradually tighten your boundaries with them, letting the big things go and working on the small things? Or big things first and then the small?
I think the best way is to make sure you are ready for the talk. Don't sit them down after you have comprised a list of your needs. Don't show them your drawn up diagram of what they need to change about how they interact with you. consider these things, and then consider YOUR behaviors. Don't expect anyone to listen to a word you say until you have made it plainly apparent that you can accept feedback from them regarding your own behaviors. If you aren't open to receiving feedback, you aren't ready to give it. So, make sure you are ready for the talk, which is going to consist of as much, if not more, listening. Be ready to accept some hard stuff, and don't think that what you have to say is simple for them to see and understand.
I think it's high time I insert that quote, "seek first to understand, and then to be understood." I have only put it off till now because I don't know who said it.... standby for research....
Oh, hell. It was Stephan R. Covey. Habit 5. Dammit.
I now welcome you to go read the 7 habits book... since I seem to be plagiarizing here. If you would rather read my philosophy, which I can almost guarantee is not as thought out as that book, that's fine by me.
I think that the key to being understood is being open to adjusting your own perceptions. It may be hard to swallow, but you HAVE to accept that you have a flawed view of the world around you. That's pretty much a fact. In the movie "Lars and the Real Girl" Lars' brother is blown away by the idea that his brother has a "delusion" ("what the hell is he doing with a delusion?" I think, is the line.) Which is a comical way of showing that characters own delusions. He fails to realize that everyone's reality is comprised of their perceptions of the world around them, their internal concepts of how things would, should and do work. And that many many many of these perceptions are flawed. Much of the time our perceived paradigms are either completely unformed, incomplete or completely wrong. When you stop taking for granted that you know everything about yourself, you start to learn a lot about yourself.
Maybe you aren't the victim of someone else's actions at all. Evaluate whether or not you are simply a victim of your own dysfunctional way of seeing things.
I had a realization the other day... I was very frustrated with my roommates for eating my food. I was choosing to be the victim of their actions. On top of that I was refusing to own my part in the issue, the fact that I didn't label my food, which is the accepted protocol in this household. I chose instead to cite others infractions as the cause for the disarray in the refrigerator. People were crowding my assigned space with their food items, "forcing" me to put my food elsewhere in the fridge. People were drinking milk that they KNEW wasn't theirs, labeled or not. In the end, one of my roommates was able to talk some sense into me and help me find a solution. The solution doesn't involve anyone's reform but my own, it is totally in my power to solve the issue without begging others to change their behaviors. Meeting my need is not directly contingent upon an adjustment in their behavior, it is in changing my own.
Kinda Along the same lines, I hate to see spats between two people who are allegedly in love. It sucks to see that this rotten form of communication has worked its way into a relationship. Resentments chip away at relationships. This is kinda a weird analogy but I'll go with t anyway. My roommate has an aquarium which seems to have an infestation of River Snails in it. you would think that it would be simple enough to deal with, but its not. River snails are pernicious little pests that are nearly imperceptible as eggs, or young snails. But once you get them in your tank they are next to impossible to get out. If they are allowed to stick around, they will eventually take over the tank. The way that my roommate deals with them? He keeps a keen eye out for them, and when he sees them he ousts them immediately lest they reproduce and spread.
Such is the way we should maintain the channel of communication in our relationships. Ever wary of the fact that we've got some bugs to work out, keeping a vigilant eye out for signs of them. And when we see them, we squash them and remove them from the picture. It's really easy to forget about them, or simply ignore them, they are small enough that you wont notice them. That is, until they are permeating every nook and cranny of your relationship/aquarium.
little spats are like little, black-spotted, nasty river snails. They are simple enough to ignore or fail to acknowledge, they seem like a harmless little thing, but they may as well be a monster who lives in a thousand different pieces/shells. I see my friends and family get into these little spats with their spouses and it makes me want to play referee. penalize them. "uncordial conduct, cool down for two minutes in the penalty box."
I guess when I think about it, I'm not really great at taking a step back and extending the olive branch instead of responding defensively and emotionally. But I think being aware of it is a good place to start working on it.