Mastering the Art of Human Relationships

“Before I learned the art, a punch was just a punch, and a kick, just a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick, no longer a kick. Now that I understand the art, a punch is just a punch and a kick is just a kick.” – Bruce Lee

If martial arts is about fighting then what. does the quote above from the greatest martial artist of the last century – some might say all time – have to do with relationships?

Bruce Lee’s observation had to do with more than punching and kicking. It had to do with mastering whatever you set out to do. If you observe children they’re free in almost everything they do. They don’t think, they just do. Now, they may punch or kick poorly, or play the piano poorly, or swing a golf club the wrong way, but they’re uninhibited when they do so.

Then they begin to learn the right way, the proper techniques, and all of a sudden there’s more to a powerful punch or kick than they realized. As they concentrate, trying hard to perform correctly, what was so free and easy actually becomes quite difficult. However, with time, patience and enough practice it gets easier and easier. Eventually they perform very well without even thinking. The punch and kick have once again become just a punch and kick.

If you’ve taken up golf, played an instrument or tried anything else that required skill then I’m sure you can relate to this. It’s hard to do something when you’re thinking about all the steps you need to go through to perform the task. The mechanics of a golf swing are a great example. The pros make it look easy but a good golf swing is an intricate process.

Relationships can be quite similar. A while ago Abigail and I spent a day together and she talked about someone she liked, someone she’d known for many years. When they were just friends she said it was easy to talk but as the relationship began to change it wasn’t so easy. Going from friend to something more requires better communication skills and the transition can be hard.

Jane and I have been married for 25 years and right now things are really good and pretty easy. We went through our phases where that wasn’t the case. The honeymoon was easy. Life got tougher as the novelty wore off and we began to “do life.” We started to really get to know each other and some of the things that were cute at first became irritating. Eventually we turned a corner and began to realize those sometimes cute, sometimes irritating things are part of what makes each of us unique. All of a sudden we went from cute to irritating to appreciation.

You could say we’ve learned the art of navigating our relationship. No longer do we look for hidden meaning behind the words and wrestle with things like we used to. We pretty much accept each other for who we are, how we appear and what we say. If we think there’s more to the communication we just ask each other what’s meant by the statement. It’s amazing how often that stymies negative thoughts and stops a bad period before it even starts.

No one takes up martial arts and expects to perform like a black belt right away any more than a new golfer expects to play like a PGA pro. And the same is true of relationships. You can’t just jump into a relationship and expect to land where it takes others decades to reach.

But here’s the good news – you can make strides much faster if you dedicate yourself to the process and have people who can coach you. In the taekwondo studio, Abigail and I learned from the more senior black belts and the studio owner Grandmaster Black. When Jane golfs she dedicates time to practice regularly and works with a pro. For each of us practice, patience and coaching paid off.

When it comes to mastering the art of human relationships, having good friends who can speak into your life with brutal honesty is like a coach offering correction to an athlete. If your friends are wise and you’re coachable you can enjoy more fulfilling relationships much, much sooner. After all, learning from other’s mistakes and successes can help you avoid the mistakes and enjoy success much, much sooner.

So let me end with a couple of questions.

  • Do you have a business coach or mentor you turn to consistently? If not, you should seriously consider seeking out someone because it could make a big difference in your performance.
  • Do you have a life coach or accountability partner, someone you check in with regularly who can speak freely into your life? Again, something you should give thought to.

There’s no better time to implement a great change than moving into the New Year.


Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.


9 replies
  1. Dan Black
    Dan Black says:

    So you have read the book I gave you so long ago! Good job Grasshopper and you can perceive its deeper meanings! I have been studying acupuncture for some time now and find that if you understand one thing well, an art for example, through that you can understand the universe.
    Grandmaster Black

  2. Ping-fa
    Ping-fa says:

    The "art of organizational relationships" is a book called Ping-fa, produced in pre-China 2300 years ago and known in the West as "Sun Tzu." The book provides all the instruction needed for strategic planning and realizing your objectives – without conflict. Here's my report on Ping-fa:

  3. Roger Chagnon
    Roger Chagnon says:

    Give me a break!! The true art of a relationship is making sure that the other person speaks their mind before you do. If everyone did this all would be fine. Agree more than disagree even if they are wrong.

  4. Roger Chagnon
    Roger Chagnon says:

    Seriously!! What in the world do the ancient Chinese know about the stresses and trials of modern life. Great idea. Does not work. Been there and done that.

    • Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
      Brian Ahearn, CMCT® says:

      Perhaps they don’t understand today’s world just like we don’t understand the world 100 or 1000 years from now. But, humans have not evolved nearly as fast as society changes and technology so much of their ancient wisdom can still do us much good.

  5. Roger Chagnon
    Roger Chagnon says:

    Having been in sales I know something: You don’t sell people anything, they buy what they want. Just make them want it.

  6. sugandha
    sugandha says:

    A very good article indeed. Although i really liked with the simplicity you explained the power of submission to each other. the way we submit ourselves to our sports mentor the same way if any relation we can submit ourselves it will definitely work wonders for us.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.