We are designed to live in relationship with others. Why don’t we act that way?
It may partly be a “man thing.” We have acquaintances, maybe even a few friends for golf or fishing. Too often, however, we don’t really share life with people. We keep our conversations, therefore our relationships, at a relatively superficial level.
Many women tend to have more and deeper relationships. Even they, however, are often not transparent with each other. They may keep their real lives–issues, problems, and dreams–to themselves. They yearn for closeness but hesitate to take the risk that entails. [Author’s Note: I “fact checked” that last paragraph with my wife.]
Deciding to Change
I’m trying to be intentional about investing in relationships now, but it wasn’t always that way.
Early on, hidden insecurities led me to act cool, or even aloof, rather than be real with people. Alcohol made me pretty friendly for a while, but substance-driven behavior is more fake than real.
We moved a good bit during my career, which hampered relationship-building. Sometimes, selfishness got in the way, and I didn’t spare the energy needed for investing in relationships.
Now, I want to be around good people who are doing good things. Some I am naturally compatible with, others who are different from me. I want to share life with people in good and tough times.
I also want to have relationships with people God brings into my life. People I can learn from, and add value to in return. And remain aware that God often brings people together for a reason.
Investing in Relationships
How do we go about investing in relationships? Here are ten steps we can take:
- Be intentional – Reach out to people, e.g. by calling and asking them to coffee or lunch.
- Commit the time – Make relationship-building a priority and put events on the calendar.
- Be ourselves but be attractive – Be pleasant, optimistic, and upbeat rather than negative.
- Have real conversations – Talk about things that matter more than just work and hobbies.
- Don’t talk too much – Listen more than we talk and don’t always jump to “telling our stories.”
- Practice empathy – Focus on other people and try to see things from their point of view.
- Be transparent – Let people see the real us and share what is really going on in our lives.
- Be willing to sacrifice – Don’t insist on our way and be helpful even when inconvenient.
- Don’t force things – Don’t try to control the relationship but let it seek its natural level.
- Stick with it – Don’t expect too much or be too sensitive and hang in for the long-term.
As with finances, investing in relationships costs something up front but can deliver a great return.
Life is richer and more enjoyable, with greater purpose and significance, when spent in company with other people. So, are you open for lunch next week?
Question: Do you get the most out of your relationships now?
Action: Think of one relationship you are willing to invest in.