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What is a relationship?
First, it is important to address what the word relationship means. A relationship is a connection or correlation between things or people.
As humans, we need connection to thrive in this world. I see so many remarks on social media that men and women prefer to be alone because ‘there’s less drama’.
Focus on fostering relationships with positive qualities: honesty, positivity, encouragement and accountability.
These kinds of relationships are important to maintain our health and wellbeing.
Besides wellbeing, why do we need relationships?
The answer is quite simple.
Every person on this planet, has a set of innate needs that drives their actions. Abraham Maslow (psychologist) formulated a hierarchy of needs that drives actions. One of them is the need to belong and to feel loved. Although some people prefer to be alone, the vast majority have a need to connect with others.
Using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, if one or both people’s needs are ignored, therein lies the problem. Needs can be broken down into sub-categories and change throughout one’s lifetime.
What hinders a relationship?
1. Not being open to new experiences or ideas.
Although routine can be productive and comfortable, the atmosphere may seem dull.
If we stay in the same spot all our lives, would we ever get anywhere? Would there be advancements in architecture or social movements by staying the same? That would be a no.
2. Reacting with anger to feedback.
Even if we’ve been in a relationship for years, there is always room for improvement.
Please note that there is a difference between constructive criticism and being judgemental.
3. Being deceptive and secretive.
When we build relationships with others, we foster a sense of trust and camaraderie.
Deception and secrecy are two sure ways to break trust.
A relationship is like a contract. When we agree to be with someone, we have expectations and fine-print to go with it. If someone does not honour our trust in them, it can be painful and disappointing.
How can we foster strong relationships?
Communication plays a big role in keeping relationships alive. Being able to listen, negotiate and empathise are a huge aspect of good communication.
If you know how to listen well, speak with honesty and fairness, there is less room for resentment.
2. Find the balance between understanding and assertiveness.
In the past, I found myself in relationships that did not encourage autonomy. My parents were the typical Asian and overbearing type. My exes had a similar stance; they tried to tell me who to see and what not to do.
Over time, I learned to stand up for myself. I also learned that there are many world-views. Mine was not the only one. Oh, how the teenage brain matures!
Not everyone will agree with you. Not everyone will like you. Not everyone is out to get you.
Understand where another is coming from but don’t compromise your own core values!
3. Try something new.
I don’t mean quit-your-job-and-leave-your-city. I mean try hiking, wake-boarding or drawing.
Volunteer at a charity or shelter.
Watch a movie with subtitles or an animation you’ve never seen.
Even trying new types of food can help with opening your mind. There are so many beautiful cultures in the world!
This is a great way for conversation starters. You may meet new people who are on the same self-development journey.
It’s a Work in Progress
Understand that human motivation helps us fulfil our needs. Everyone’s needs differ.
Communicate well, stand up for yourself and be open to trying new things. Relationships don’t magically get better or miraculously heal brokenness. It is always a work in progress.
Remember to ask curious questions. Make an effort to get to know the people around you. We are social creatures for a reason!
What do you do to foster strong relationships?