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relationships that work - the key to a happy life

How do you get on with others? Are all people your brothers and sisters or do you despair of the whole human race? Whichever attitude is most like yours, you may agree that the way we get on with each other is one of the key factors in determining what kind of life we have.

the different types of intelligence
Howard Gardner is a Harvard professor of psychology who has developed the theory of multiple intelligences - the idea that people can be smart in at least eight separate areas, rather than just in the traditional IQ-test way. Among the different types are physical intelligence, linguistic intelligence, musical intelligence and interpersonal intelligence - being the ability to get along with a wide range of people. This last type has been explored recently under the name 'Emotional Intelligence'. Another kind is called intrapersonal intelligence - the ability to get along with yourself.

So many problems between people arise when one or both of them have a confused relationship with themselves that affects the way they see the world.

the perfect hostess
Think of someone you know who is a wonderful host or hostess: a person who gives great parties where everyone feels comfortable and at ease, someone who can break the ice, no matter how frosty it feels. Is it coincidence, or is it the way they go about planning and running their social events?

John D Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil, is on record as saying 'I will pay more for the ability to deal with people than for any other skill'. He knew that business is built on relationships and he hired people who were great at developing them.

feeling connected - the key to a happy life
What if you don't run a corporation or give lavish parties? Are you excused the need to know how to get on with people? In my experience, a key to a happy life is making good relationships with others. There may be a few people who genuinely would rather be alone, but most of us feel much happier when we feel connected to people and can share things with them.

This may seem pretty familiar to you. You may even think what I've written is obvious, so let me ask you - how much thought do you give to those everyday, familiar relationships in your life? Have you just accepted that you'll never get on with someone you see frequently? Are you resigned to a so-so marriage or a lapsed friendship? Do you hate your boss? Do you avoid seeing relatives because it gets too complicated?

If you feel that things might possibly be better than they've been so far, take heart. You can learn how to improve matters. I know this because for fourteen years I have been helping people to understand themselves and others better and to find new ways of approaching people so things go well. Whether it is learning the ability to save your marriage or to turn around a hostile relationship with your boss or get on better with your family, these changes can be made - you need not feel stuck.

so, what's your story?
It all depends on the story you tell yourself - about who you are, about other people, about what's right and wrong and what matters. The story you tell defines all your reactions to events in your life. Your story determines the attitudes you take, the expressions on your face and the way others behave towards you.

You know what it's like when you're in a bad mood - it's as if everyone you see is scowling back at you. The world can seem a hostile place - until you learn to use your natural ability to see things differently - to tell yourself a better story.

making sense of things
From birth, we build up an explanation and description of the world in an attempt to make sense of things and to learn from experience. The trouble is we do it unconsciously. This means we're not aware of what we're doing, especially when we're children. By the time we grow up we tend to assume that the way we are 'Just happened', because that's how it feels.

here are some examples:

1) John had an angry, sarcastic maths teacher who told him he was useless. He would give up when faced with numbers and failed his exams. As an adult he had assumed that maths was not one of his strengths and left it at that.

With help John changed his story from 'I can't do it' to I'm overcoming bad teaching' - now he is calm with numbers and deals with them perfectly well.

2) Ann's family moved often, so she was always the new girl at school. She was shy, some girls picked on her, and she avoided new relationships. She got used to being alone as an adult.

With help Ann changed her story from 'No-one likes me' to 'I can get to know decent people who behave well' - now she has several growing friendships.

my story
When I was a kid I would only get involved in the stuff I enjoyed. If I found something dull or too difficult I would ignore it. My father decided to help me overcome my resistance by being so scary it seemed easier to do what he said.

It's a commonplace story, and the reason why, years later, I found myself trying to undo this terrible habit I had of immobilising myself with fear whenever I faced a challenging situation.

do something different
By the time we grow up we tend to confuse what we're used to with what is possible - yet we have the potential to change our lives in many ways. All I had done in my story was to copy Dad's method. The problem was it made things worse.

You see, in our unconscious minds we're always doing the best we currently know how to do according to the story we tell ourselves. Unfortunately, when it doesn't work we do the same thing, only harder.

You may have heard insanity defined as 'Doing the same things and expecting different results'. It's pretty clear that the way to improve results must be to do something different. Like they say, it's easy when you know how.

So what's your story - and more to the point - what would you like it to be?

Article written by Graham Smith