Relationships are truly a polarizing issue. Some of us love talking about them while others choose to be more private about their personal relationships. No matter how we feel about the subject, we can all agree that relationships are complicated. And they don’t have to be spousal relationships (i.e. boyfriend/girlfriend, marital partner, etc.), relationships come in all forms.
Humans are social animals. This isn’t an opinion but rather an undeniable fact. Our lives are built upon and surrounded by relationships. Whether it’s at work, home, with friends or loved ones our lives are a complicated web of connectivity. This is why building and maintaining relationships is such an important social skill to have.
It is hard to measure a relationship’s success. If you want to talk about success in terms of marriage and divorce rates this article does a great job laying it all out for you. Yet what about people who aren’t married? How do we measure success for people who are boyfriends/girlfriends? How many of those relationships end through break up, and are they even recorded? And don’t even start with how to measure success with non-spousal type relationships like co-workers or friends.
How many of those relationships do we still have; do you still have all the same friends you did as a kid? Do you still talk and hang out with old co-workers? And what about the many factors that play into a relationship like your age, beliefs, gender, etc.
To simply put it, as complicated as relationships are it is more complicated to give out a concrete number that reflects the success of a relationship. This is because there are virtually millions of factors that are at play with a relationship between two people. Despite all of this subjectivity I believe there is one thing, though obvious, can definitely improve your personal relationships.
We all have heard this same phrase, which actually may be lending to the problem. Advising someone that: “communication is key to building/maintaining a healthy relationship” is like saying “drinking water is necessary for you to live.” Something so simple and obvious can easily become background noise in our daily lives. We ignore, not because we are choosing to, but because our brain is subconsciously tuning it out.
Now allow me to add to this noise, in all reality communication is key. Really, for any healthy relationship good and steady communication is essential. Take this simple example we all have probably endured at one point or another. You walk by your kitchen sink and see that the dishes are piling up. They are not your dirty dishes but rather your roommate’s. By all means you should not have to wash them, but you do need say a bowl or spoon that is in the pile. There are many options you can go about doing from this point. You can
A) Wash what you need then wash it again (thus not really solving the issue and leaving room for it to happen again).
B) Wash what you need but not wash it afterwards as a sort of petty retribution which does eventually lead to you just screwing yourself over (trust me).
C) Let this small event fester in the deepest part of your soul and eventually have it manifest itself in an unwarranted outburst latter in life, an aneurysm, or years and years of therapy.
D) You talk to them.
It’s obvious what the answer should be. I mean we all know it’s the best answer; but it’s human nature to avoid conflict or even situations where there is even a hint of conflict. But therein lies the problem. Communicating an issue you have within a relationship whether big or small does not have to be a “conflict” in the sense that two sides are going against each other and there needs to be one winner.
Effective communication is the cornerstone for conflict resolution. In this case maybe your roommate has a good excuse. Maybe they have been extremely busy recently. They didn’t mean to pile the dishes up as some sort of convoluted plan to drive you insane. They simply forgot or haven’t had the time. Chances are you both can reach an agreeable resolution where: you are more sympathetic to their situation and they wash the damn dishes.
But what if they don’t have a good excuse? Well, then I say do you really accomplish anything by berating them for it? There is a right way and a wrong way of talking to people. Most likely if you respond in the wrong way and try to make them feel bad for their mistake they are going to push back.
Thus, the right way is keeping your cool, laying out the what the issue is and how it affects you, and then politely asking for their help to remedy the situation. The right way may seem super passive but trust me, nothing ever gets accomplished doing it the former way. And if it does it doesn’t really leave any room for progress later. At least if both parties leave the situation on a positive note it will allow for stronger communication later on and easier resolution of further conflicts.
It is the little things that build up in relationships that lead to failure within the relationship. The proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. We can avoid these issues by both voicing our opinion about them and by listening to the other side’s as well.
But what if the issue you have with the other person goes against a core value or belief? What if it’s an issue that you or them will never change your mind on no matter what?
Well then, communication doesn’t necessarily mean you change someone’s mind or actions. Two different people can have conflicting ideas or opinions but still manage to have healthy relationships with each other. That is where the respect aspect of communication comes into play.
In order to maintain and grow a healthy relationship you have to respect these differing, unchangeable views. Respecting does not mean subscribing to those views. It means that you understand and appreciate their passion on the view even if it is different.
Now you may be thinking to yourself: “easier said than done,” and that is very true. No one is perfect and I find myself forgetting to do this many times. It does take a conscientious effort to remind yourself to not only voice your opinion about certain things often and early on in a relationship. But to also remember to listen to the other side’s point of view and opinions about said issue. And communication does not just mean listening but you also have to make an effort to be compassionate to that view or opinion as well.
Make no mind, all of this truly takes a substantial level of mental exertion. You shouldn’t beat yourself up if you feel like it shouldn’t be taking so much of your effort. It takes effort. But it’s worth the effort, trust me. To some this may seem like some “hippy” bull-mess but maybe the hippies had a point. The world (which is nothing more than an even more complex web of relationships) would be a better place if everyone made the effort to follow this advice.
It all starts with small improvements in our individual lives and branches out from there. Make an effort to communicate with those around you. Make an effort to maintain and grow your relationships. We are all connected to each other one way or another (have you heard of 6° of separation).
We should all take the time and effort to communicate and listen to each other; work together to improve our relationships with each other…. And just be nice to each other.