“Relationships – of all kinds – are like sand held in your hand. Held loosely, with an open hand, the sand remains where it is. The minute you close your hand and squeeze tightly to hold on, the sand trickles through your fingers. You may hold onto some of it, but most will be spilled. A relationship is like that. Held loosely, with respect and freedom for the other person, it is likely to remain intact. But hold too tightly, too possessively, and the relationship slips away and is lost.” -Kaleel Jamison
I have noticed a great surge of house-building in some of the villages in the area. Not long ago there were fields and open spaces. Now there are houses and people. I am making this observation, not because I am necessarily against this development, but because the speed at which it happens amazes me. Where sheep and horses were grazing a few months back, now there are families and singletons and retired people all living together in a new community. New contacts are being made every day and, hopefully, all the inhabitants of the new homes are beginning to forge relationships with their neighbours.
We humans are beautifully designed to be able to interact with other humans, as without each other we are unable to survive. In a talk I heard recently, we were told of a social experiment many years ago where children in an orphanage were denied any human contact and interaction. Although their basic needs were met, the building up of relationships with their carers and their peers never took place. Most of the children died prematurely. There is much evidence, scientific and anecdotal, which points to our need to build relationships with those people we come into contact with, in both our private and professional lives. If this does not happen we suffer.
Building and maintaining relationships is an ongoing process, but one we sometimes forget to address. All business is about people, as is life. What are you like at building good relationships with others? How can you focus your efforts on putting the building blocks in place to develop new relationships, as well as to add value to your existing ones?
Who do you want to build a relationship with? Where do you want the relationship to go? Do you and this person have common goals? Are you open to new ideas that might help you move forward? Successful people have the ability to develop relationships that last, usually because they are prepared to commit time and energy to them. Are you?
Do you have any bridges to mend? Relationships involve negotiation and compromise. You do not have to agree with everyone, but being able to acknowledge differences and then move forward in spite of that is a great quality to have. Have you been avoiding someone because of your differences? Can you see a way forward that will be mutually acceptable? Are you prepared to make the first move?
What is you relationship with yourself like? Do you treat yourself with the utmost respect and consideration? If you have difficulty doing this, then it may also be hard to treat others in that way. Do you have a good support network of friends? Friendships can help to extend your life. With friends your immune system is likely to be stronger. You are less likely to suffer from anxiety and other similar complaints and your stress levels will be reduced. How would you like to be treated? Treat others in the same way. Aim to leave a positive impression everywhere you go..
Relationships cannot thrive unless we continue to work at them. Are you willing to invest time and energy in building your relationships? Show interest in the people you spend time with. Practice ‘Active Listening’, where you are really making the effort to take in what they are saying to you by stilling the chatter that often goes on inside your own head. Get to know them by asking them about themselves and their lives. Show consideration and appreciation to those people who have helped you or who have done a good job by remembering to say ‘thank you’. Forge links where you can.
Are you currently putting time and effort into relationships which are draining you? Relationships are anything but static. They are constantly changing and evolving. Sometimes, however, a relationship will have run its course. Questions to ask yourself are: ‘Is this relationship mutually rewarding?’, ‘Are both parties benefiting from it?’, ‘Is there any enjoyment in the relationship?’, ‘Is it repairable?’, and if it is, ‘Will the benefits of putting in the effort outweigh that effort?’
Relationships have a lot to do with how we interact with each other. How do you communicate with everyone you come into contact with? Are you cheery? Grumpy? Non-committal? Enthusiastic? Try some new, positive approaches. How do you think about other people? If you are thinking negatively about someone they can usually sense it. Change your way of thinking and see how others react to you. Start a conversation with someone new. Introduce yourself at meetings, conferences and social events, even at the bus-stop! Ask them about themselves. Every person you meet is important.
Have you considered that other people don’t quite see and experience the world in the same way as you do? It is easy to assume that they do, but you are most likely wrong. Be creative in how you connect to others. How can you put yourself on the same wavelength as them? How do they communicate? As well as the words they use, notice the other signals – the eye movements and the body language. Imagine you are that other person. What do you need to do to be able to see things from their perspective?
Building successful relationships requires the building of trust through integrity and consistency, as well as open, honest and good communication. Never make a promise you are unable or unwilling to keep. Take responsibility for your own actions and feelings, and encourage others to do the same. Trust can’t be bought, but it certainly has to be earned.
What can you offer? What are you bringing to the relationship?