“As water reflects your face, so does the heart of one man reflect the other.”1

During a lecture I attended, I learned a profound idea: divine punishment and reward for your actions is the action itself. How is that?

If you are an angry person, you live in an angry world. It’s stressful to the body and mind to be angry, and not only must you suffer your own anger, but you will also find others responding to you in anger. It’s a painful and self-perpetuating process.

The It’s a painful and self-perpetuating processopposite is true too. If you are a kind person, your reward is that you live in a world of kindness, where you experience the joy of helping others and of finding others ready and willing to help you in return. Even temporary bursts of positive feelings and emotions will have beneficial effects on your life.

This idea can be applied to your relationships as well. You may think that the way people perceive you shapes the way you feel towards them, and that your outlook on life is a response to the way you are treated. But the reality is the exact opposite. People treat you the way they subconsciously perceive you expect to be treated.* If you like people and expect them to like you too, they probably will. If you are judgmental of others and expect them to be judgmental in return, you will probably be right. Your world will reflect your expectations of it and your feelings towards it.

So, how can you use this knowledge to improve your relationships?

1. Expect to be treated as you would like to be treated. We often start a conversation expecting a certain outcome, and lo and behold, that is the outcome we receive. Perhaps you forgot to do a favor you promised a friend, and now expect that person to be angry at you. Without necessarily realizing it, you approach your friend defensively, believing you will have to fend off that person’s reproaches. In response, your friend actually does get angry at you.

Try to instead approach people believing they will treat you well. While acknowledging that you messed up, approach your friend with the belief that he or she will forgive you. While it’s not foolproof, as people may have their own blocks, you will be far more likely to succeed if you expect a good outcome. Also, even if you don’t currently get the outcome you want, know that your positive feelings are felt subconsciously by the other person, and will definitely have an effect on moving that person towards more positive feelings and behavior.

2. Be a positive influence and the stronger influence. You may have thought while reading this that if people reflect you, then you reflect them too. So what happens if you like people and expect them to like you, but you meet someone who has the opposite views? Who will affect whom?

Whoever’s view is stronger will win over the situation. Even if your own feelings are just slightly stronger than his, you will influence him positively.

So the best Work on strengthening positive feelings within yourselfway to improve your relationships is to feel positively towards others, and to work on strengthening those positive feelings within yourself. This is not to say that you are the only one responsible for the relationship—maybe you are always positive and the other person always negative. Sometimes these relationships can be altogether poisonous to you, and the best move is to simply distance yourself from them. But if you think the relationship is worth working on, you must realize that your side of the relationship is the only one you have the power to change. If you develop positive traits and emotions, you will see your friend, partner, spouse, child or associate also become more positive towards you in return.

* This applies to generally healthy and normal individuals. People with extreme and unhealthy personalities are not reflections of yourself, and you should never assume that these people are mistreating or abusing you because of a fault within you.