Relationships make the world go around

We are in a relationship with everyone we meet because we are always swapping energy.  Even the guy reading the paper in the adjacent seat on the train might leave an impression as you form an opinion about or sense his energy.  Although not much of a connection, it’s important to know we can actually impact everyone we meet at some level.

So we can make an impact with a complete stranger.  The impact is much greater on our nearest and dearest, our work colleagues, teams or customers.  Human relationships whether they are romantic, work-based, friendship or family-based are successful or not because of a number of common factors.

Forging successful relationships is essential for a successful life.  Whether at home or at work,  creating successful connections is being able to identify what needs to be in place, and being able to understand ways your relationships work by heightening your understanding of the relationship. Professional relationships and personal relationships can have some commonalities, but there will be differences too.   The following attempts to break down the factors which determine the strength and depth of our connections.  These factors illustrate some of the myriad ways we forge links with others.


You are friends with Ted because you like going to the pub every Friday. He is in there every time you go for a pint. You form a relationship centred around that routine.   If Ted stops going to the pub on Fridays, it’s unlikely you will continue with your relationship. If you went and knocked on Ted’s door, he would likely be gobsmacked.   Not all relationships need to be strong or deep.  When one person in the relationship goes beyond the purpose of the relationship, it’s not always reciprocated.  Understanding and being honest about the purpose of any relationship can prevent many misunderstandings and conflicts.


A relationship can only be successful if both people want to be in it. If you’ve ever been friends with someone and you’re making all the calls. You are the one trying to make arrangements to meet. It follows you are probably more invested in the relationship than the other person.  If a customer simply isn’t interested in your product. If your employee is looking for another job, you don’t have a reciprocal relationship.


Sometimes we have the best connections with people who have contrasting energy. Someone who is reserved and quiet may enjoy being in a relationship with another who is exuberant and loud.  Alternatively, such a relationship might be a complete recipe for disaster.  I remember being on an interview panel with a candidate who was enthusiastic and proactive.  While I admired her energy, the other panel member felt drained by it.  If matching energy is experienced, then people may feel extremely comfortable or very bored.


Shared values usually create relationship success.  If you are struggling in a relationship, examining each other’s values is a good place to start.  If for example you value expensive things and a luxurious lifestyle and someone else values basic and simplistic living, then you will either come to terms with the differences or the relationship will not exist for any length of time.  Likewise, a caring, sharing colleague might form a close working relationship with a tough hard-headed business type, but the depth of shared values may well determine the depth of the connection.


Expectations can be centred on your own and/or others’ needs and wants.  If you expect your employees to contribute a decent day’s work for a fair wage and that doesn’t happen, then the chances are you have relationship problems.  Likewise, with personal connections, problems may well occur if you feel let down or expect something different than that which is on offer


How we communicate can determine the success or not of a relationship.  Communication differences can ruin a relationship if there is a lack of understanding about different communication styles.  For example, conflicts can arise between people who communicate kinaesthetically and those who are auditory. I remember a long drawn-out conflict between a manager and one of his team because the language he used was logical and factual and didn’t fit with her needs which were words of caring, feeling and empathy.


Your beliefs, thoughts and conclusions can determine your attitude about people in your personal and work life.  If you work for an employer and you believe you don’t count, then your belief is going to colour the relationship with your manager or team. Your attitude will seep out whenever you speak to others about work. Likewise, if someone has let you down badly in your personal life if you are unable to forgive them, then your relationship will be affected forever by your attitude to them.


Creating a relationship requires commitment, even if it’s to give someone your full attention for just a day.  If you decide to work for someone and only plan to stay for a few months and they expect you to stay for the long haul, then your commitment to each other is mismatched and will affect your relationship.  Most of us enter into marriage as a lifelong commitment.  However, when that commitment wanes, the relationship could be in big trouble without a re-examination and re-connection of why you committed in the first place.


Boundaries exist physically, emotionally and mentally.  Part of building good friendships and connections is about identifying and respecting your own and other people’s boundaries.  Building healthy boundaries is key to all relationships.   We will build up walls when there is a lack of trust and so it’s really key to know how to establish or rebuild trust in a relationship.   Boundaries signify how much you are able to or want to allow someone into your life, or how much of yourself you want to give.  Pre-nuptial agreements set clear boundaries.  I want to spend my life with you, but if anything goes wrong,  I’m not prepared to give you my money.  At work, contracts of employment set out the boundaries of the relationship.  Trouble can occur when you’ve signed up for 40 hours a week, and a company with a long-hours culture actually expects a lot more.


Relationships happen at the right time.  If the timing is wrong, then it’s unlikely the relationship will satisfy any or some of the factors listed above.  If you meet the man or woman of your dreams and you need to go to college halfway around the world, then the timing may be wrong to get together at that point.  Likewise, if your customer doesn’t want to buy quite at that point, or your employees don’t buy into your vision, it may well be that the time is just not quite right.  Unless of course there is a permanent mismatch of any of the above and there will never be a right time.

So those are some of the factors which determine the strength and depth of different types of relationships.  It’s always useful to think about the type of relationship you feel you have and put yourself into other’s shoes to determine how they view the relationship too.  You can find out more about tools which can help you think more deeply about relationships, The Relationship Quality Model, and the Social penetration model.

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