Ingredients For Fulfilling Relationships

Whether you are in a romantic relationship or not, it would be quasi impossible to ignore the virtual or in-store display of hearts and what love ought to be during St. Valentine’s celebrations (even during a pandemic!). Irrespective of the type of relationships we might have or aspire to – at home, work or within our spheres of influence, there are a few ingredients in common, which are critical to a successful relationship:

  • Connection: Connection is the ability to associate with someone in a way that enables a positive interaction. Team building activities are meant to foster connection within a team and across teams. Connection is a catalyst for further interactions and creating a feeling of belonging and togetherness – be it at home or at work. For instance, Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist and author of several books on peaceful parenting notes how parenting is in fact 80% connection and 20% discipline. In other words, once connection becomes a primary approach to interact with a child, disciplining becomes a residual need. That small talk you might be dreading at the beginning of a new work call or joining your child in making funny faces could be a portal to strengthened or closer relationships.

  • Compassion: Compassion is needed both vis-à-vis others and ourselves. Compassion is recognizing we are humans and seeing our own failures or those of others from a position of empathy, acceptance and inclusion. As someone whose life and work have been dedicated to love, Mother Theresa once said: “Love begins at home…unless and until we begin to love at home, we begin to love in our communities.” Similarly, until and unless we are compassionate with ourselves and those around us, we cannot thrive in a relationship…Leadership without compassion cannot endure crises or misshapes while the ability to go through and learn from such events -oftentimes by being humble and human enough to recognize errors – are the cornerstone for successful leadership. Likewise, love without compassion is conditional love, gauged on perfection and performance versus unconditional and forgiving love.

  • Respect: By one dictionary definition, “respect is a way of treating or thinking about something or someone“. Treating people well is about maintaining their dignity regardless of the circumstances, or how upset, angry or disappointed we might be. When we stick to and challenge facts and behaviors, we credit respect and we are also more likely to be respected. “People leave bosses not companies” when they don’t feel respected as per an often-quoted Gallup study. Staying respectful even under strenuous or challenging situations is an indicator for the ability to work effectively with others irrespective of differences, functional areas or challenges, which makes such individuals more likely to be promoted. Respect is also about setting healthy boundaries for those around you and for yourself. As Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady of the United States once said, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

  • Trust: Trust is like oxygen for our relationships. Without it, communication and results are faltering or get stuck in a yo-yo pattern, because misinterpretations or biases might feed mistrust. Though trust can be regained, it always takes more time, efforts and intentional communication to maintain a productive dialogue. An authority on the importance of trust in organizations, Steven M. R. Covey noted how “the ability to establish, grow, extend, and restore trust with all stakeholders—customers, suppliers, and employees—is the critical leadership competency in the global economy.” Lack of trust in a personal relationship could lead to insecurity while at work, building and maintaining trust are essential to being valued and promoted. If you find yourself in a relationship where trust has been broken on one side or the other, a starting point to mending trust is to prioritize bi-directional feedback and communications on expectations and milestones required to restore trust.

  • Appreciation: Appreciation is the ability to value something or someone. Value is in the eye of the beholder, however highly dependent on the beholder’s interests, needs and experiences. At times, appreciation comes down to the ability to objectively evaluate pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses, good and bad – and decide to not let the “minuses” negate the “pluses”. Appreciation can also be a springboard to enforcing relationships and building trust. In the personal or professional sphere, challenge yourself to evaluate how a perceived minus could be in fact a strength. If one of your employees is an overthinker, a process improvement initiative could be a perfect assignment for him or her. While if you have an intense child, that might well be a reflection of his/her intelligence and creativity that will serve him/her well later in life.

  • Responsibility: Responsibility is taking ownership of our realities and relationships. It is taking action and making a plan to close a gap or meet a goal. It is doing your best first and foremost, before expecting someone else or something else to get better or perfect. In “The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be“, Jack Canfield talks about how our how our outcome or success -however we might define it – is primarily determined by how we respond to events that happen to us. James Hollis in Living An Examined Life has a superb way to capture how we are the main character in our existence: “Our life begins twice: the day we are born and the day we accept the radical existential fact that our life, for all its delimiting factors, is essentially ours to choose. And the moment when we open to that invitation and step into that accountability, we take on the power of choice.”

Relationships are our soil for growth. Take inventory of your top relationships and gauge what ingredients might be missing or required in larger quantity. Salt to taste to allow the aromas and power of relationships to come through. Why? Because we are made to thrive when connected and in fulfilling relationships.

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