Top 15 Dumb Mistakes People Make in Relationships
One of my friends recently asked his girlfriend, “What’s one dumb thing I do in the relationship?” She looked at him in shock, “Where do I begin? If it has to be one, I’d just say you can be a real ****.” “What!” he replied, “How dare you. Now it’s my turn.” A dam wall broke. An hour later the couple finished talking.
After studying communication for almost a decade, I notice we make many dumb relationship mistakes and communication errors that I’m about to share with you. I use the term “dumb” not to put you down, but to label the mistakes lots of people repeat. Put an end to these 15 relationship mistakes in no particular order:
1. Withhold Feeling
Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.Benjamin Franklin
Men are more guilty than women in withholding feelings from their partner. We tend to hide our irritation instead of revealing what annoyed us. Women are indirectly guilty of this relationship mistake. While women are more emotional than men, they withhold feelings in the sense that they blame or criticize others to indirectly express emotion. Saying, “I hate you for…!” is not a good way to express feelings. An expression of emotion is, “I feel sad about…” “I’m feeling happy you…” “I am angry!”
2. Reject Emotion
You choose a path; a direction, not an immediate outcome. You don’t choose how to feel or what pops into your head. You can choose a path that leads towards what you value or you can choose avoidance and fusion. Your choice.Steven Hayes
We may withhold feelings from someone because we reject emotion. It is uncomfortable for most people to feel guilt, shame, anger, sadness, and even love so they reject these emotions by thinking positively or generally suppressing them. Your relationships deteriorate if you suppress anger, for example, because you resent and behave bitterly with people. You feel whatever you do for a reason – accept it. The next time you feel something intense, notice if you want run from it or embrace it.
Whatever one of us blames in another, each one will find in his own heart.Seneca
The failure to healthily express emotion can show itself through blame, a common relationship mistake. Look at an argumentative couple to see each person blaming the other for relationship problems. Neither acknowledges imperfection, preferring to be right. Each person thinks people ought to change instead of taking the responsibility for self-change. Victimization is a relationship mistake unhealthy for either person.
Live that you wouldn’t be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.Will Rogers
People gossip about their relationships mainly for self-pity. They seek validation the other is to blame for relationship problems. If you have a relationship problem, talk with the person you share the problem with and stop complaining about it to your friends or coworkers. The other person is not the cause of your suffering; you are because of your ignorance to the problem through gossip. If a gossiper puts the mirror on himself, he would realize the rumors hurt his relationships. A gossiper is no better than the originator of the problem. Neither roles create resolution – both compound it.
5. Negatively Interpret Behaviors
Analyses of others are actually expressions of our own needs and values.Marshall Rosenberg
Give people a margin-for-error because you do not know every detail.
A gossiper is one example of someone who interprets behavior in a negative light. Each little behavior signals a conspiracy against the cynic. If you think your husband is having an affair, anything he does will be filtered through that perspective. If you think a friend is turning against you, you will think him declining an invitation reflects such hatred.
Give people a margin-for-error because you do not know every detail. Each of us hold a piece of truth discoverable through communication. The best way to resolve your worries is to ask the person by showing interest in their life.
6. Show A Lack of Interest
There are two levers for moving men: interest and fear.Napoleon Bonaparte
Do you know what happened to your partner today? When was the last time you watched a friend play their weekly sport? When did you last ask what someone did at work? Get curious about people’s lives by asking a lot of questions and displaying attentive body language. Communication often lacks in relationships because neither person takes the initiative to learn about the other person. Interest in people’s lives makes them feel important, builds the relationship, and teaches you a lot of great stuff in the process. Think of something a person important to you enjoys then go do it with them. You may even want to take up a new hobby together like dancing or yoga.
7. Exert Excessive Control
When you say or do anything to please, get, keep, influence, or control anyone or anything, fear is the cause and pain is the result.Byron Katie
We hate being controlled and told what to do. The worst managers micro-manage to dictate employee behavior. Many angry employees echo similar remarks.
The greatest leaders give team members freedom. The same is true in families and other interpersonal relationships. If you order your teenage daughter to not smoke, research shows she is more likely to smoke. One study looked at how values transmit through families and found that children with authoritarian parents have differing values. When parents are more supportive rather than restrictive, children agree and accept similar values.
8. Try to Change People
When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudice, and motivated by pride and vanity.Dale Carnegie
Whenever we try to change people, whether it be through manipulation, criticism, orders, threats, or rewards, they take on strange behavior. Do a test over a non-important issue with someone you know well. Intentionally tell the person what they are doing is wrong. The person may not change, become suddenly quiet, resent you, look at you weird, or purposefully do what you said not to do. Changing people is not the issue – what you say and how you come across is the issue.
9. Remain Unchanged
Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.George Bernard Shaw
We expect people to change while we remain unchanged. Rigid perspectives on money, family, work, emotion, and the relationship creates severe friction that can destroy a relationship. “If my coworker stopped…then I’d be able to…” “If my son stopped…then I could…” “My partner should…then I’d feel…” I’ll give you an if-statement to remember: if you don’t change, you have no right to expect people to change.
10. Keep One’s Point of View
The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.Leonardo da Vinci
It is logically and mathematically irrational to conclude one can be right 95% of the time.
What is your honest estimate of the percentage you think you are right in an argument? 80? 90? 100%? I estimate most people say 95%. That means a fighting couple’s righteousness totals 190%, a formula for conflict. It is logically and mathematically irrational to conclude one can be right 95% of the time. We are not divine beings knowing of truth.
Each of us possess parts of truth that we must be flexible enough to explore. The cure to any couple’s problem is held by each person because their point of view is 50% of the relationship.
11. Deny Flaws
It takes a lot of courage to face up to things you can’t do because we feed ourselves so much denial.Zoe Saldana
Refusal to change and determination to stick to your original point of view is a pursuit of perfection. No one is perfect. We understand that in our head but emotionally do not live it out. We prefer to blame and hate others. A simple sit-down discussion where the two of you each admit three flaws about yourselves helps keep destructive perfection at bay while encouraging growth. You do not fear imperfection when mistakes are encouraged to surface.
12. Do Not Appreciate
I can live for two months on a good compliment.Mark Twain
Relationships are easy to take for granted. We devalue what we have while desiring what is out of our reach. Put effort into the relationship. You can show people you value the relationship with them through admiration. Give a compliment. Send a gift. Thank someone for a task they did. Phone one person now to thank them for something specific.
13. Judge Others
Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.Carl Jung
We love to judge people. As described in my Communication Secrets of Powerful People book, there are four judgments: criticism, labeling, diagnosing, and praising. We criticize (“You are no good at helping me”), label (“You are a jerk”), diagnose (“Stop being rude because you don’t get what you want”), and praise (“You are the sweetest person for doing that”). Each judgment has its own problems too deep to described in this article.
14. Send Solutions
To the wise, life is a problem; to the fool, a solution.Marcus Aurelius
It is counterintuitive that solutions kill relationships. After all, don’t solutions cure problems? More often than not in relationships, solutions create problems. We feel inferior being controlled. The problem-solver often overlooks the real issue. Solutions are usually manifestations of other dumb relationship mistakes like blame, gossip, trying to change people, and sticking to one’s point of view.
15. Avoid Other’s Concerns
The smallest pain in our little finger gives us more concern than the destruction of millions of our fellow beings.William Hazlitt
The most frequent dumb mistake people make in a relationship is avoiding their partner’s concerns. Look at any bad relationship and each person will tell you their needs are not being met. They are not being listened to, understood, cared for, loved, whatever. Good communication is the key to overcoming these problems and meeting each other’s needs.
There you have 15 mistakes people frequently make in their relationships. Follow this advice then hopefully the next time you ask someone your mistakes in the relationship, no walls break because no walls exist.
(If you are reading this and want to eliminate the communication mistakes that hurt your relationships, read my Communication Secrets of Powerful People book to discover the 12 barriers of communication. All the dumb relationship mistakes can be avoided when you understand the 12 barriers.)
Joshua Uebergang aka "Tower of Power"
Joshua Uebergang, aka "Tower of Power", teaches social skills to help shy persons build friends and influence people. Visit his blog and sign-up free to get communication techniques, relationship-boosting strategies, and life-building tips by email, along with blog updates, and more! Go now to http://www.towerofpower.com.au/free/