Developing and maintaining meaningful relationships is important in our lives. Researchers have found that cross-culturally, people who enjoy meaningful relationships in their lives tend to be more optimistic and more satisfied with life than those who are not connected to others. Research has also confirmed that positive relationships impact on our bodies as well, improving our immune system and helping prolong lives.
But as so many of us know through experience, good relationships can be difficult to acquire and maintain. Relationships are never static – they require a constant investment of time and energy.
Life is busy, challenging and demanding. All too often we are faced with a large number of pressures, resulting in our becoming overly focused on our own needs. Relationships are at risk of floundering at these times, as we are more vulnerable to being self absorbed and not recognizing the needs of others. We know that if we fail to provide water on a regular basis to a plant in the hot summer sun, it will wilt, and eventually die of neglect. The nurturing and care we must provide to a plant to keep it alive is similar to that which we must provide to any meaningful relationship. The act needn’t be of a spectacular magnitude, but, could be as simple as sending a text message wishing a co-worker well before a presentation, reaching out to hold a spouse’s hand, or telling a child you really want to hear about her day in school.
Positive personal relationships can result in greater success and production at the office, greater laughter and happiness with a spouse, and greater trust with one’s children. Those who are able to consider the needs of others, and help them out, are viewed as trustworthy and reliable. A relationship that is grounded in trust will provide the very foundation of a long lasting and meaningful relationship.
When faced with a conflict in a relationship, engage in a few minutes of self assessment. Try to determine exactly what you do not like in that other person. Often times, we project onto others that which we do not like in ourselves. Likewise, the more accepting we are of our own beliefs, thoughts and feelings, the more accepting we are of the beliefs, thoughts and feelings of others. Accepting and liking oneself is a key factor in being able to maintain positive relationships.
We all have the power to improve relationships with family, friends and co-workers in our lives. The emotional support we receive from these relationships creates some of the greatest joys we experience in our lives. When relationships go array, rather than feeling victimized by the behavior of others, we can choose to respond in a more positive manner. By increasing our self awareness of how we interact with others, and owning responsibility for behaviors that may have wronged the other party, our relationships have the potential to not only survive conflicts that naturally occur, but to mature and grow.
Talking about problems as they arise, rather than stuffing them away and allowing them to fester, is what keeps these relationship connections strong. Whether it’s the relationship one of a married couple or of two co-workers, each has to have the ability to talk openly with the other about important issues, and to listen in a non-judgment or defensive manner.
Not interrupting the other person, but respectfully listening to what the other has to say before forming your own response, will prevent misunderstandings. Listening for the feeling behind the words that were spoken to you, and looking for any meaning behind what was said to you, is vital. Repeating back what you believe has been said – taking into consideration the speaker’s words, feelings and meaning – will ensure that the message was understood.
When two people learn that sharing their inner-most feelings won’t be betrayed with ridicule, shaming or anger, their confidence and the bonds of the trust grows.