Consider this your all purpose guide for relationships. This is not an article about dating, marriage, parenting, or friendship. This is about simply relating successfully with the many people in your life. Any relationship with no regard to its particular nature has a general set of very important needs and understandings to be met in order to grow healthily and successfully. Disregarding these needs leads to compounding problems, from disrespect and contempt to an inability to rehabilitate a maltreated relationship. In order to keep it balanced and mutual each person should feel a responsibility to the other in this way.
- Needs are Necessities. Though “needs” and “wants” are linked in the thesaurus don’t be fooled into thinking that they mean the same thing. Too often when we hear from someone in our lives that they need something from us we translate that “need” as “want” and don’t treat it with the significance that it carries for them. Discarding these needs as unimportant tips the scale to an unhealthy balance with a one-sided benefit and will eventually breed contempt in the relationship. An “I need ___” can range from a simple need for punctuality from us to a plea for us to take them more seriously, but don’t try to rank their importance to the other person concerned without discussing them openly first. Most importantly, if you commit to making a change stick to it! By taking their needs seriously you encourage a healthy balance where your needs are more likely to be equally met.
- Honesty is Respect. This is equally true when said the other way around. Lying, selective truths and lies of omission are all indications that you don’t respect the other party in your relationship and raise a huge warning flag. If this is the norm in your relationship then it is past time to reevaluate what you hope to gain by continuing. Show your mate, friend, or child that you respect them by being honest and trusting them to accept you and what you have to say without casting harsh judgments and you will earn their trust and respect in return.
- Listen, don’t react! Once you have earned their trust and have attained a completely open level of communication maintain it by not reacting badly to what they have to share with you. Even if it feels like a direct accusation of misbehavior on your part hear them out and find out why they feel as they do. Once you have an understanding then calmly discuss the situation without acting defensive whenever possible but still explain to them why their reaction or accusation offends or hurts you without making any accusations of your own. Understand that not every situation can always be resolved through discussion, but far too many never make the attempt and throw potentially good relationships away.
- Do the little things. Never take it for granted that people know that you respect and value the relationship you have. Colleagues, friends, and family members alike will appreciate you for taking a little effort to show you care. Stop to put gas in your mate’s car; offer to help a co-worker catch up on a project when you have room in your schedule; help a family member with chores they usually do to show them you appreciate it and don’t just expect it; send your friends a get well card when they have a cold. Try spending 5 minutes a day to show someone in your life that they mean something to you and they’ll be feeling the effects for days.