Relationships… good ones, easy ones, complex ones and, yes, even hard and challenging ones… fill our lives. Wouldn’t you agree relationships motivate most of our life and work choices? They are our “why.” Most of us work in order to provide a certain lifestyle for our families; we want to create a better life for them, have the financial freedom to enjoy experiences, as well as give to others in need. Think about your day — all the moment-by-moment details. How much of it is related to relationships? Schedules, commutes, emails, business meetings, lunches, sales calls, after-school activities, evening commitments, volunteering, recreational pursuits, even entrepreneurial dreams pursued after hours — are all related to the people in our lives.
Relationships are the stuff of life; they are what drive us, sustain us, comfort us, and yes, challenge us. Life without meaningful relationships would be… well, meaningless… dull and empty. Without relationships, I think we would all drift away without passion, purpose or hope. Relationships tether us to our lives, add richness and value; they anchor us in our story. I believe learning to create and nurture significant relationships is essential to meaningful, enjoyable, and productive lives.
While relationships are the most important things in our lives, they are usually the hardest. They bring us joy, delight, and purpose, but also pain, sorrow, confusion, grief, frustration, and loneliness. We want great relationships; we would even settle for good. But the work and effort to create and sustain them seems daunting, so we punt. We pretend we aren’t lonely and settle for fair to middling relationships, wondering, “Is this all there is?”
Remember when you met your spouse? While you were falling in love, the relationship was wonderful and communication seemed so easy. He loved everything you said, agreed with you, thought you hung the moon! But these days, not so much!
You wonder, “What happened? How did we get here? I didn’t sign up for this!” After the honeymoon phase, we wake up to reality… living 24/7 with this person is hard. They get on our nerves; they don’t agree with us all the time; they criticize and try to change us.
Most relationships make a shift:
- The sweet baby and tenderhearted toddler disappear into a truculent teen.
- The great boss, who was excited about our new ideas, starts shooting them down and, instead, promotes sticking to the status quo.
- Our supportive spouse wavers in their excitement and commitment to the time and financial cost of pursuing our entrepreneurial dreams.
- Tension floods our friendships with other moms as school politics or sports team selections impact your kids and their friendships.
- Clients become competitors.
- Sibling rivalry, disagreements, and jealousy replace childhood games and tree house dreams.
Suddenly, building strong relationships and deep connections just got exponentially harder and more complicated. We are tempted to give up. Alternatively, we may try to convince ourselves it isn’t “so bad, maybe it will get better,” so we sweep our feelings under the rug and power through. But like many other issues or problems we try to ignore, it just gets bigger and soon we are tripping over the huge mound under the carpet.
If relationships are the stuff of life, why are we rarely, if ever, taught how to create quality ones? Growing up we are taught to be polite, not make waves, apologize, use our words instead of our fists, but we really never learn the necessary skills for building strong and lasting relationships.
We don’t take classes on how to communicate. Sure we learn to talk; we even learn big words and how to give public speeches, but we are not taught the essential skill of how to communicate effectively or create thriving relationships. When an unexpected crisis hits, our relationships deteriorate or become difficult at best.
Suddenly, we realize our communication and relationship skills need work. Usually we don’t seek help or actively learn how to develop healthy and enjoyable relationships until a problem arises. Reactively, we seek out seminars, coaches, and workshops, but by this time we are already in crisis and behind the eight ball.
Doesn’t it make more sense to do a little skill development and learning on the front end? Especially if it equips us to avoid the emotional upheaval that often accompanies our forging ahead blindly or with hubris! Listen, Learn, Love can not only help us create better relationships, but also equip us to handle crisis and struggle when they arise. And they will.
This is an excerpt from my #1 Amazon bestseller: Listen, Learn, Love: How to Dramatically Improve Your Relationships in 30 Days or Less!