Welcome to Week 18 of N.J.W Blog! We hope you are having a great week and are ready for this week’s journey.
This week, we begin our new topic—Relationships, which is obviously one of the most vital, yet complex, areas of human life.
The amazing thing is that most of the changes, skills, habits, thoughts, beliefs, etc., that we’re being encouraged and reminded of during our one-year journey fall under the “free” and “easy” category that we have always taught and we have touched on the past several weeks.
How free and easy is it to:
Smile at others?
Speaking of not judging, strategic coach Jim Sharp says to stay as neutral as possible when it comes to relating to others, especially when communicating. He says to never make it personal or take it personally, which is solid advice for achieving good, clear communication. Like Jim says, “Attack the problem, not the person.” Obviously, as with everything, there are exceptions. But by following this rule, you can eliminate much of the negativity that can be created or experienced in relationships, which often starts over seemingly trivial comments or events.
For many of you, the “free” and “easy” list above might come easily, or you may have already mastered it. But for others of us, we will continue to try and make this area of our lives a much-needed priority and place to improve.
There’s a powerful month lined up for you that will cover the four parts of relationships.
Basics of Healthy Relationships
Family and Spousal Relationships
Let’s embrace the process of change and improvement in our relationships. The results are immediate in many instances, and the long-term fruit is inevitable.
Enjoy the journey!
Relationships, Part One—Basics of Healthy Relationships
I’ve come to the realization that everything we do is based on relationships. Relationships make the world go ‘round. We buy out of relationships, wars are fought over broken relationships, we have children because of relationships—every single thing that takes place on this planet is an extension of and is driven by relationships. In relationships, we can experience the peaks of ecstasy and the valleys of agony. They have the greatest potential to give us joy, cause us to grow and become more, if we choose.
This month, we will explore the secrets of successful relationships and seek to understand what the ingredients to healthy relationships are. Ultimately, one person caring about another represents life’s greatest value.
We will look at four main areas:
Basics of Healthy Relationships. There are certain fundamentals that, if mastered, will take you down the road of healthy relationships. The key to understanding relationships is that relationships involve people. And while every person is different, there are general principles that make most people tick. If we understand these basics or fundamentals and operate accordingly, we can make our bad relationships good and our good relationships great. We will cover these basics in this edition.
Family and Spousal Relationships. The primary relationships most people have are with their family. Yes, that wonderful enigma we call family, those deep and meaningful relationships that can bring the highlights—and the lowlights—of life. That group of people, many of whom we didn’t even get to choose, who will walk through this life with us. Your family relationships must be cultivated like a garden. Time, effort and imagination must be summoned constantly to keep any relationship growing and flourishing. We will discuss how to have great family and spousal relationships in next week’s edition.
Friendships. Second to family, friends are the most important relationships we have. Friendships are unique because they are the relationships we have that are almost entirely voluntary. You don’t get to choose your parents or your siblings, but you do get to choose your friends. So many times, we find these relationships provide matchless dynamics not found in our other relationships. These can, in their own special way, enhance our other relationships, making these friendships especially unique. We will take a deeper look into successful friendships in two weeks.
Business Relationships. Many people don’t understand how powerful relationships are in business. You’ve heard me say it before, but you cannot succeed by yourself. It is hard to find a rich hermit. So many times, we underestimate this unique dynamic and the potential it has to take us to new levels in our businesses. We may understand that family and friends are about relationships, but mistakenly think “business is business.” The fact is, even in business, relationships rule. Think for a moment about two salespeople: one is a friend and one you’ve never met. When it comes right down to it, you are most likely to buy from the one you know. That is the foundation of relationships. In three weeks, we will look at how to have great business relationships.
The Basics of Healthy Relationships
Nothing can bring more joy to life than beautifully fulfilling relationships. The depth of meaning, understanding and appreciation these kinds of relationships bring is almost unfathomable. And, of course, as many people find out, nothing can bring so much pain as a broken relationship with someone dear to you.
Yes, relationships make the world go ‘round, for better or for worse. But the exciting thing is that we can do much to increase our chances of having terrific relationships, relationships that are fulfilling and exciting, rich with meaning, joy and love.
There are basics that govern most human relationships, and these basics are what I want to cover below. So, here is my list of the eight essentials that I believe make up the basics of healthy relationships.
Love. Now, this all depends on your definition of love. Most people think that love is a feeling, but I would strongly debate this point. Actually, the concept of “like” is really about feelings. When you say you like someone, you are talking about how you feel. But when you say you love someone, you are not necessarily talking about how you feel about them. Love is much deeper than a feeling. Love is a commitment we make to someone to always treat them right and honorably. Yes, for those we become especially close to, we will have feelings of love, but I believe it is time for us to reexamine what we mean by love. We must expand our definition of what love means by including the commitment aspect of love. For healthy relationships, we must love people. We may not like them based on how we feel about them, but we should love them based on our definition of love, which, in turn, determines how we act toward them. This is the basis of all healthy relationships.
Serving Heart. Zig Ziglar frequently says, “You can have everything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want out of life.” He is talking about the concept of having a heart and life focused on serving other people. The Bible says to consider others’ interests as more important than your own. This is also fundamental to healthy relationships.
Honest Communication. In any good relationship, you will find open and honest communication. Communication is so important because it is the vehicle that allows us to verbalize what is inside us and enables us to connect with another person. Isn’t communication amazing? One person is feeling one thing, and through communication, another person can understand and feel it, too—amazing. This is a vital goal in good relationships—to communicate, to tell each other what we are thinking and what we are feeling. It enables us to make a connection. Sometimes we are the one speaking; other times, we are listening. Either way, the central tenet is communication for the sake of building the relationship and making it stronger. If we just communicate, we can get by; if we communicate skillfully, we can work miracles!
Friendliness. Put simply, relationships just work better when we are friendly with others. Being friendly can cushion the bumpy ride we sometimes experience in our relationships. Cheerfulness goes a long way toward building lasting relationships. I mean, nobody wants to be around a grump, do they? The fact is the friendlier you are, the more you will have people who want to pursue longer-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with you. So, cheer up, put on a smile, have kind words to say to others, treat people with a great deal of friendliness, and you will see your relationships improve.
Patience. People being people, we have an awful lot of time for practice in the area of patience. People are not perfect and will constantly fail us. Conversely, we will fail other people. So while we try to have more patience for others, we need their patience as well. So often, I think relationships break down because people give up and lose patience. I am talking about all kinds of friendships, marriages, business relationships, etc. Recent research has shown those marriages that go through major turmoil and make it through are even stronger after the fact. Patience wins out. Those who give up on relationships too early or because the other person isn’t perfect often forget that their next friend, their next spouse or business partner will not be perfect, either! So, we would do well to cultivate this skill and learn to have more patience.
Loyalty. Loyalty is a commitment to another person. Sadly, loyalty is often a missing element in many relationships today. Society as a whole has forgotten what it means to be loyal. Our consumer mentality has affected this to some degree. People are no longer loyal to a product. And, unfortunately, many companies are not loyal to their clients or patrons. Regrettably, this has spilled over into our relationships. It is one thing to switch brands of dishwashing detergent, but it is another thing altogether to switch friends. Sometimes, we just need to commit to being loyal and let the relationship move forward. We need a higher level of stick-to-it-iveness! This kind of loyalty will take our relationships to a much deeper level. What a powerful and secure feeling it is knowing you have a relationship with someone who is loyal to you and you to them, that neither of you are going anywhere, even when things get tough. Wow—how powerful!
A Common Purpose. One of the basics of healthy relationships is to have a common purpose, and oftentimes this is a component initially overlooked. But for a long-term, long-lasting relationship, it is vital. Think about how many friends you have met through the years while working on a common purpose. Maybe it was someone you met while participating in sports, while working on a political campaign, attending church, at your office or anything that brought you together to work on a common purpose. You had that strong common bond of purpose that brought you together and held you together. Working together, building together, failing and succeeding together, all while pursuing a common purpose—that is what relationships are made of. Find people who share your purposes, sow the seeds of great relationships, and you will reap long-lasting benefits.
Fun. All good relationships have some element of fun. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean, loud, raucous fun, though that is appropriate for some relationships. But even in business relationships, there should be some fun. It should be fun doing business with those who you are going to have a long-term business relationship with. Fun brings enjoyment to the relationship, and that is important. I think, oftentimes, this key element can be easily forgotten or neglected in our family and spousal relationships. The fun things we did initially in a new relationship can be taken for granted, or simply fall by the wayside after a while, and we stop creating the fun and joy. So remember to consciously craft fun situations and moments, because these are the glue that hold our memories together and make our lives sweet.
There are so many key ingredients to making and maintaining great, long-lasting relationships. Each of the eight components we discussed brings unique dynamics and rewards to your relationships. Let’s begin to focus on improving our relationships in these areas and see what miracles occur!
Until next week, let’s do something remarkable!
Here’s a good way to remember some of the basics of what Jim just talked about. There’s an acronym that can keep your mind on three important elements of relationships in your own life. It is the acronym ZIP. Here are some thoughts on how to put a little ZIP into your relationships!
Imagine there are three core elements of successful relationships. These are things that, when done over time, begin to create for you the kind of relationships you truly desire. They are the kind of relationships you have always dreamed of.
The key to remembering these three items is the ZIP acronym. ZIP stands for three things you can do—and begin to do immediately—to improve any and all of your relationships. They are:
Put some Zest into your relationships.
Cultivate more Intimacy in your relationships.
Develop a Purpose in your relationships.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these three:
Put some ZEST into your relationships.
By “zest,” we mean fun. Relationships were meant to be fun! We wouldn’t have this capacity to have fun if relationships weren’t supposed to have a little zest in them!
Think about it: Don’t you usually start out most healthy relationships with a lot of fun times? Whether it is going out to dinner or a ballgame, or spending time playing a game, or even just a lively talk, you usually have fun as a major part of the relationship. Fun is some of the glue that bonds the relationship.
However, as life goes on, specifically in a marriage, but potentially in most relationships, really, the fun starts to go by the wayside. More and more, the relationship becomes about getting the job done, whatever the job may be.
To restore the relationship, to put a little zip into it, we need to reintroduce the idea of “zest.”
What about you? Have you lost the zest? What can you do to get it back? Think of a specific relationship you have: What were the fun things you did at the beginning of the relationship that acted as the glue that bonded you together? Now, commit to doing those again, and see if your relationship doesn’t begin to soar again! If you can, develop new fun things to do together so that you can both start an adventure of fun together!
Cultivate more INTIMACY in your relationships.
First, a couple of clarifications: One, we don’t just mean intimacy in the common term of sexual intimacy. For all intents and purposes, we mean taking your relationship to a deeper level. Second, we don’t mean that you have to start doing group hugs with your workmates or having revelation sessions where the tissues flow freely.
Every mutually satisfying relationship has a level of depth to it that provides meaning. This is really what the search is for in our relationships: meaning.
Remember when you started your relationship, whether with your spouse or friend. All that time was spent opening up, telling who you are, where you were from, and talking about your likes and dislikes. There was a deep sense of satisfaction with the relationship; that is why it continued. You liked who they were and you enjoyed being known by them.
Then something happens. We get to a certain level, and the pursuit of depth ends. We stop sharing feelings, likes and dislikes. We stop sharing joys and dreams and fears. Instead, we settle into routines. The daily grind takes over, and we stop knowing one another and simply exist together. Now, don’t get us wrong, every time you get together doesn’t have to be deep. But there is a need for regular times of intimate connection where we go deeper with others.
Truly meaningful relationships come when we are loved and accepted for who we are at our core, not simply for acting in such a way to keep the other person in the relationship.
Think about the relationships you would like to see improve. Take some time in the coming weeks and months to spend time just talking and getting to a deeper level in your relationships. Specifically, let the other person deeper into your world. You can’t force the other person to be more intimate, and you certainly can’t say, “Let’s get together and have an intimate conversation,” because that would be too contrived. But you can make a decision for yourself to let others into your world. Perhaps this will be the catalyst for them doing the same.
You can either guard yourself from intimacy and not go much deeper and feel a longing in your heart for more, or you can begin the deepening process and see your relationships change for the better.
Develop a PURPOSE in your relationships.
The most meaningful relationships we have are those held together by a common purpose and vision for what the relationship can accomplish, not only for those involved, but also for a greater good.
Let’s face it: When people have a common purpose, they feel like they are part of a team and they feel bound together in that relationship. Even when people experience disappointment in the people they are in relationship with, if they have a purpose, such as raising children, they are much more likely to stick it out. Purpose creates bonds.
So what happens if we are proactively involved in seeking out a common purpose with those we want a relationship with or those with whom we already have a relationship, but would like to see it go to a deeper level? Well, it gets better and stronger.
Think about your strongest relationships. Aren’t they centered around at least one area of purpose or a common goal?
What about a relationship that has cooled? Think back and see if perhaps you used to have a common purpose that has gone by the wayside.
What of your desire to see a relationship grow? Take some time to begin cultivating a common purpose. Sit down with that person and tell them you would like to have some common goals, some purposes that you can pursue together. As you develop these, you will see your relationship strengthen in ways you never imagined!
Let’s recap: You want your relationships to show a little “zip”? Then put a little ZIP in them:
Put some Zest into your relationships.
Cultivate more Intimacy in your relationships.
Develop a Purpose in your relationships.