April got me thinking about friendships. I had the opportunity to connect with two old friends while I was away in Rotorua which was very special for me. We talked about friendships and how difficult it has been to maintain these over the past couple of years. I know that we have spent much more time away from others due to enforced lockdowns or isolation periods and I really think it’s been harder to connect with friends because of this.
Building on last month's topic self-compassion I wanted to share about building exceptional relationships. I know the benefits I get from spending time with people who build me up so I wanted to share with you this month about building exceptional relationships.
All relationships exist on a continuum. At one end you experience contact without real connection and at the other end, you feel known, supported, affirmed and fully accepted. In the middle of the continuum, you feel attached to people in your life but with many, you want closer connection. So how do you move along this continuum?
Exceptional relationships can be developed and have the following characteristics:
- You can be more fully yourself and so can the other person
- Both of you are willing to be vulnerable
- You trust that self-disclosures will not be used against you
So, the first three above centre around self-disclosure. There is a difference between a presented image of yourself (eg the one we show the world on our social media platforms) and really sharing who you are. Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself, everybody else is taken” To be truly you means to be wholly authentic and learning to share parts of you that are the real you.
Connection is something that we all crave. It is a part of human nature to want to be with others and I believe we all want exceptional relationships in our lives too. You may already have one or two of these in your life – or perhaps you have more. In these relationships, you feel seen, known and appreciated for who you really are, not an edited version of yourself your 100’s of Instagram friends might know.
- You can be honest with each other
- You deal with conflict productively
- Both of you are committed to each other’s growth and development
The second three (above) are about feedback and conflict. Challenging someone can be a powerful way of supporting them and yet few people feel confident they can do this well. Someone who you have an exceptional relationship calls you on behaviours that really bother them and when they do you know it’s a chance for learning, not something against which you have to put up your guard. Fights happen in the best of relationships but fear of conflict can lead you to bury irritants that if raised and successfully dealt with could actually deepen the relationship.
Meaningful relationships are critical to a fulfilling and healthy life. Having the ability to connect with ourselves, understand ourselves and be truly committed to being ourselves means we can more easily connect with others and build thriving relationships.