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What brings us more comfort and meaning than human relationships? Also, what brings us more joy, stress, confusion? An overwhelming amount of research proves that social connections make people happier. Having satisfying relationships is associated with good health and longer life expectancy. But difficult relationships, as we know, can keep us up at night, dominate our thoughts and cause us lots of stress.
Here are three ideas on how to improve our relationships, especially with those we can’t get along with.
1. Chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo while reflecting on a relationship we want to improve
We all have that one person in our life. They get under our skin and soon all we can see is their shortcomings. At these times, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo can rescue us from feeling angry and helpless in the relationship.
When we chant, we recognize the inherent courage, wisdom and compassion in ourselves and other people. This helps us to have big hearts and become not as easily shaken when someone insults us or does something to make us feel insecure.
When we chant, we recognize the inherent courage, wisdom and compassion in ourselves and other people.
It’s also helpful to specifically focus on the relationship while chanting and make a determination that both we and the other person will become happy. Over time this helps us pinpoint what we can change to improve the relationship.
For example, are we just coming from a place of judgment or do we sincerely wish for everyone to grow? Do we need to have more confidence to speak up when they do something that’s hurtful or manipulative? Chanting with a wish for everyone to win helps us objectively see the area of our life we can challenge. Inevitably, we or the other person (or both!) transform for the better.
When someone upsets us the easiest thing to do is complain. However if we keep putting the blame on other people, we’ll never feel the need to grow and change ourselves for the better. Buddhist teacher Daisaku Ikeda writes:
Once we understand that everything that happens to us enables us to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime, all of our problems will be resolved. On the other hand, the more we tend to complain and put the blame on others, the longer we delay the transformation of our karma.
January 2020 Living Buddhism, pp. 17–18
Also, only seeing the other person’s weak points can drive us to demonize them. That’s why it’s good to also think of at least one thing you appreciate about them. This doesn’t mean they don’t have shortcomings! But it helps us to see their weaknesses while maintaining respect for them as human beings.
3. Say Hello
Small things matter, especially when it comes to social interaction. Data shows that smiling is contagious and little things like saying hello can make a big difference in our relationships. Even if the other person shrugs it off or is hostile at first, our sincere heart will shine through in the end. According to Buddhism, when we respect others and wish for their well-being, we’ll become people who are respected and trusted.
Difficult relationships help us become amazing people.
Often it’s the people who “push our buttons” that are actually our greatest friends. Why? Because they help us grow and become strong. They help us become the people we want to be and challenge our weaknesses. So let’s own our struggles and use them to become happy and wise.