I guess the first task is define what I see as a successful or unsuccessful friendship/relationship.
A successful friendship/relationship is where both parties are able to contribute as they see best & trust each other implicitly. This is rarely an instant thing, often involving disagreement, misunderstanding & even fallout along the way.
An unsuccessful friendship/relationship is where one or both parties cannot trust the other, leading to withdrawal for fear of offence or conflict & a breakdown in (or sub-optimal levels of) communication.
Many of my most successful friendships & relationships started off pretty badly 🙂 Rarely do we find someone with whom we agree on everything. These same relationships also still involve an element of disagreement, but not at expense of the relationship between us. Sometimes we simply have to agree to disagree.
Herein lies the secret.
I believe that successful friendships & relationships develop through a desire to see them succeed, despite cost along the way & through a willingness to be rather counter-cultural. In other words, a willingness to take the risk of putting ourselves second & the other person first. This is very different to being a human doormat! Boundaries need to be set, but these also have to be flexible enough to shift & change as friendship/relationship develops.
So with that as a springboard, I would like to suggest some ways in which we can improve our relationships & friendships; at home, at work & at play:
- Ask yourself the question, “How would I like to be treated in this situation?”
- Ask yourself the question, “How can I make the other person feel valued & important?”
- Ask yourself the question, “How can I demonstrate over a sustained period of time that I CAN be TRUSTED?”
- Ask yourself the question, “What can I give that will help?”
- Ask yourself the question, “How much time can I realistically give to the relationship?” Tell them
- Ask yourself the question, “Is there anything that I know I cannot help them with?” Tell them
- Stick to any arrangements you make, meetings you plan etc. If you cannot make an agreed meeting etc, let them know in good time wherever possible
- If you agree to do something, DO IT!
- Never promise something that you know you cannot deliver
- Be as flexible as you can, ready to change as things develop. The hardest part of a relationship can be adjusting as you go along without losing trust or compromising integrity
- Agree boundaries (limits) that you can realistically maintain & review these as necessary
- Be real
- Be yourself
- Make sure that integrity takes priority over being popular.
This NOT an exhaustive list but a starting point.
I used the term counter-cultural because so much of the teaching, training & subliminal message of advertising we receive is about “WIIFM: Whats In It For Me?”
That is why my first 6 points are questions that we should ask ourself. We may not be able to influence other people, but we can greatly influence our attitudes & reactions by asking the right questions of ourself & acting on them.
From personal experience & observations, the most successful, fruitful & mutually fulfilling relationships develop when BOTH parties are able to consider “WIIFY: What’s In It For You?”
There is ALWAYS an element of risk involved, but isn’t there in just about everything else we do? One secret for success is making a decision upfront to do our best to make it work & to be prepared to put in the effort to help that happen. This can transform rocky or unsuccessful relationships into successful ones.
The fear of loss, being ‘done over’ on a deal, being betrayed in trust or simply not mattering can undermine everything that a good, solid relationship is based on. Sadly, many of us have experienced being betrayed by others, at which point it takes a huge amount of time, effort & will to allow the relationship to even continue.
Not all friendships or relationships develop & last, but the benefits of good friendships & relationships, in all walks of life, far outweigh the risks & lead to a better quality of life & health (but not necessarily a quiet life 🙂 ).
Perhaps one of the hardest things we face in life is developing & maintaining our relationships & friendship. I believe that we are the ones who should be prepared to start the process.
Until next time …