How to Instantly Enhance Any Relationship

Steven Gaffney

The Law of Reflection is the key to instantly changing and enhancing any relationship. This law states that what we give out is what we tend to get back. We have all heard versions of this: the golden rule, "do unto others as youw ould have them do unto you," "what goes around, comes around," and "we reap what we sow." In fact, it is amazing how prevalent this basic lesson is in various religions and philosophies.

Let's see if this law really holds true: When people are upset with us, we tend to get upset with them; when people blame us, we tend to blame them; when people accuse us, we tend to accuse them right back. It also tends to hold true in the positive direction. When people take responsibility for their actions, we tend to take responsibility for ours; when people apologize, we tend to apologize back.

Of course, this isn't always true. For instance, sometimes we apologize to someone and the person says, "Well, I am glad you finally admitted it." However, even in those situations, aggression toward us usually diminishes.

We can even see the Law of Reflection in a group's response to a leader. A sports team's style and ability to win often changes when a new coach is brought in. A business group's productivity often soars or falls when a new executive or manager is hired.

When I work with groups, I can usually predict the attitude of the leader by interviewing the people who report directly to that leader. When the group blames, I usually find that the boss is a blamer as well. When the employees have an attitude of taking full responsibility, I usually find that the boss possesses this same attitude. The law of reflection is often the reason an organization makes a change in leadership.

The law also holds true within groups. If a new hire is placed on your team and that individual is particularly negative, the entire morale and productivity of the team may diminish. Or, when someone particularly enthusiastic is hired as part of the team, the team may become more energetic and motivated.

That's pretty exciting because it reminds us of the power of the inidividual. One person can make a difference if they focus on what they can do. The problem is that often people think, what difference can I make? I am only one person. At that moment they are forgetting about the Law of Reflection and the positive impact they can make by concentrating on their individual actions.

Two of my favorite examples of the power of Law of Reflection are Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. Although neither held political office, they quite literally changed the world by what they said and how they behaved. When faced with insurmountable odds, they chose to focus on what they could do and took action accordingly. If people can change the world using this principle, we can change our own world if we really want to.

Unfortunately, when we have a problem with someone, we tend to focus on that person - whom we have no control over - rather than focuson on ourselves - the only person we can control. Even if you didn't start the problem, you can be the one to fix it. What counts most is what you are willing to do about it.

One of my seminar participants shared a breakthrough he had in his marriage. His first two years of marriage, he said, were awful for one primary reason: He had gone into the marriage believing that it was a 50/50 proposition - he gives 50 percent, she gives 50 percent, and together they would compromise. After some professional counseling, he discovered that the key to marriage (as well as most relationships) is to give 100 percent on his own - regardless of what his spouse was giving. So he began to give 100 percent, and the Law of Reflection took hold. His wife started to give 100 percent as well.

Consider this: Even if only one person gives 100 percent and the other doesn't change, the situation is still improved. If things don't turn around as planned, at least we can say, "I gave it my all. At least I gave it 100 percent," instead of being plagued with doubts.

Applying the Law of Reflection is also the key to compelling people to be mroe honest with us. A seminar participant once complained to me that her elderly father, with whom she tried to develop a close relationship, wouldn't ever truly open up to her no matter how much she shared with him. I asked her to consider that she may be sharing a lot but not really being honest. Suddenly, her face changed to sadness and she said, "I know what it is. I am not sharing with him that I wonder if he approves of the way I am living my life, and his approval is important to me. Instead, I have shared my accomplishments, hoping that he would voice his approval." She left the seminar that day with a plan to tell her father the truth and begin a new relationship with him.

If we want to change the dynamics of a relationship, it is important for us to take the first step. Concentrating on the one person we can control - ourselves - and responding honestly often starts us down a new path to the relationships we desire.

Steven Gaffney, President of Steven Gaffney Company
Copyright 2009. All Rights Reserved.


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