- Shandi-lee Cox / flickr
Relationships are never easy. By definition they entail connections between people, and people, as we all know, are eternally complicated creatures.
Relationships also come in all sizes and colors – there are romantic relationships, work relationships, and friendships, just to name a few.
Regardless of what kind of relationship you want to strengthen, each is fundamentally similar to the next in a number of ways.
In all healthy relationships, we are able to listen well, empathize, connect, resolve conflict, and respect others.
The following TED Talks are a great refresher course in doing all that.
Andrew Solomon’s ‘Love, no matter what’
Through interviewing parents of exceptional children for several years, the author of “Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity” says he has come to understand that everyone is different in some fundamental way, and this core human condition of being different is, ironically, what unites us all.
Solomon explains that all people who love each other struggle to accept each other and grapple with the question, “What’s the line between unconditional love and unconditional acceptance?”
Using a number of poignant anecdotes, he helps unpack this question.
Yann Dall’Aglio’s ‘Love — you’re doing it wrong’
Dall’Aglio, a French philosopher and author of “A Rolex at 50: Do you have the right to miss your life?” and “I love you: Is love a has been?,” says love is the desire of being desired. But in a world that often favors the self over others, how can people find the tenderness and connection they crave?
It may be easier than you think: “For a couple who is no longer sustained, supported by the constraints of tradition, I believe that self-mockery is one of the best means for the relationship to endure,” he says.
In this surprisingly convincing talk, Dall’Aglio explains how acknowledging our uselessness could be the key to sustaining healthy relationships.
Jenna McCarthy’s ‘What you don’t know about marriage’
Fiction and non-fiction author McCarthy writes about relationships, marriage, and parenting in books including “If It Was Easy, They’d Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon,” and in her TED Talk, shares some surprising research on how marriages really work.
One study might even entice husbands to do more housework.
Kathryn Schulz’s ‘On being wrong’
“We all wind up traveling through life, trapped in this little bubble of feeling very right about everything,” says the author of “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error.”
How much conflict in both our personal and professional lives could be avoided if we simply admitted our mistakes?
In this TED talk, Schulz explains why we find this so hard to do, the cost of not admitting when we’re wrong, and how we might overcome our refusal to face facts.
Esther Perel’s ‘Rethinking infidelity … a talk for anyone who has ever loved’
Perel, a licensed marriage and family therapist, traveled the world for 10 years examining hundreds of couples affected by cheating to find out why people cheat, even when they’re happy, and what “infidelity” actually means?
She questions whether infidelity needs to be the ultimate betrayal it’s perceived to be.
“When a couple comes to me in the aftermath of an affair that has been revealed, I will often tell them this: Today in the West, most of us are going to have two or three relationships or marriages, and some of us are going to do it with the same person,” Perel says. “Your first marriage is over. Would you like to create a second one together?”
Helen Fisher’s ‘Why we love, why we cheat’
Fisher, an anthropologist who studies gender differences and the evolution of human emotions, also knows a lot about love. In her talk, she explains that sex drive, romantic love, and attachment to a long-term partner are deeply embedded in the human brain, but they’re not always connected.
“So I don’t think, honestly, we’re an animal that was built to be happy; we are an animal that was built to reproduce,” she says. “I think the happiness we find, we make. And I think, however, we can make good relationships with each other.”
Julian Treasure’s ‘How to speak so that people want to listen’
Treasure, a business sound expert who studies sound and advises businesses on how best to use it, also has some advice for the average person as well. He explains the seven deadly sins of speaking, and his how-to’s include vocal exercises and tips on how to speak more powerfully and empathetically.
Brené Brown’s ‘The power of vulnerability’
Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, studies how humans empathize, belong, and love, and her approach to embracing vulnerability and loving whole-heartedly could fundamentally change the way you live, love, work, and parent.
“When we work from a place, I believe, that says, ‘I’m enough,’ then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves,” she says.
Joan Halifax’s ‘Compassion and the true meaning of empathy’
You come to understand a thing or two about compassion and empathy when you work with those who are about to die.
Based on her experience, this Zen priest believes that compassion is an inherent human quality, but only particular conditions can activate it in each of us.
In her TED talk, Halifax shares more of her lessons about compassion, and leaves us with some takeaways about how we may bring more of it into our lives.
Margaret Heffernan’s ‘Dare to disagree’
Good relationships aren’t built on constantly agreeing with each other, as Heffernan, serial entrepreneur and author of “Beyond Measure” explains.
Great research teams, relationships, and businesses allow people to deeply disagree, she says, but “the truth won’t set us free until we develop the skills and the habit and the talent and the moral courage to use it. Openness isn’t the end. It’s the beginning.”
Esther Perel’s ‘The secret to desire in a long-term relationship’
Perel also conducts research around the world on how couples can cultivate long-term sexual relationships. She says in her TED Talk that sustaining desire in a committed relationship comes down to reconciling our need for security and our need for adventure into one relationship.
How do we do this? You have to watch to find out.