One of the worst things you can do in any relationship is to think you know everything about the other person. When you do, a little bit of the magic goes, you stop being curious about them and enchanted with them.
You stop wanting to find out what makes that person tick and start assuming that you know everything there is to know about them. I can pretty much guarantee that no matter how long you’ve known someone, you’ll never know every inner thought, wish or desire.
We know that everyone wants to be loved, respected, valued and accepted. Every time you listen to someone, you’re confirming that they’re worthy of being heard. They’re worth your time and attention. It lets them know that you are interested in them and want to know more about them.
People love being given a chance to express themselves. Remember that other people, just like you, have a whole range of opinions, thoughts, desires, fears and all kinds of other things going on in their world. There’s a whole different planet of experiences happening for someone else that you don’t know about, just like they don’t know what it’s like to be in your shoes.
There’s an old Native American saying that you only know another person when you have walked a mile in their moccasins. How do you do that? By cultivating the “we just met” attitude, even with people you’ve known for 20 years or more. You may be pleasantly surprised as you continue to learn more and more about the people in your life and how it helps to deepen the relationship.
What’s it Like When You Meet Someone for the First Time?
Think back to the first time you met the people in your life whom you now have close relationships with. What were those early conversations like?
Chances are, you were both curious about one another and gave each other your full attention. You asked questions and you volunteered information. You listened carefully and showed that you had really heard the other person. You had no assumptions about them at all, as you’d just met and you knew nothing about them.
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There was probably excitement in the air from meeting someone new for the first time. You’re probably both smiling, animated.
That’s the attitude you should try to cultivate throughout your daily life. Try to go on a “first date” again with your partner. Get curious about your long time best friends, as if you had no idea what they thought and were meeting them for the first time.
Get Good at Listening
Listening doesn’t just mean sitting and not talking while someone else is talking. Make sure you’re fully engaged, in the moment.
Don’t try to plan for what you’re going to say after they’re done talking.
Especially, don’t think about all the reasons why you think they are wrong in what they’re sharing with you! Don’t space out and think about work. Actually be in the present.
Be willing to let go all your pre-conceived ideas about the other person, even if you feel like you already know what their opinions are or who they are. You need to be open to the idea that there is always something new to learn about them.
Show the other person that they have been heard by summarizing what they have said and checking your understanding.
Remember: They are a completely different person with a completely different experience of the world, sharing their experience with you. What is that like for them? Why are their beliefs different than yours?
Making it a Game
One great way to get to know your friends or romantic partners better is to play the “we just met” game.
The premise is simple: Pretend that you just met. It might seem like a silly game at first, but once you get into it, the game can be incredibly fun and invigorating. Try it – You’ll learn a lot about the people in your life that you didn’t already know. That air of excitement you feel when meeting someone for the first time will be in the air again.
Can you remember the last time someone was really actually curious about you? It feels good, doesn’t it? Makes you feel special and you warm to the other person. It makes people want to open up.
The “we just met” attitude will help maintain the magic in a relationship. It lets the other person know that you are interested in them, that you value who they are and you’ll usually find that they reciprocate.
Don’t know where to start? Ask someone to share a treasured memory from childhood, a favourite holiday, the greatest challenge that they overcame, what’s on their “bucket list”. Be prepared to be delighted with what you hear and to experience greater closeness and magic in your relationships.