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6 Keys To A Good Relationship
“To know when to go away and when to come closer is the key to any lasting relationship.” – Domenico Cieri Estrada
Like the seasons, our relationships evolve through good times and bad.
In some cases, this is down to forces outside of our control, whilst in other cases, it’s down to some action or inaction on our part.
I’m intrigued by what it takes to build a good relationship.
In my personal relationships over the last 20 years, I’ve seen friends come, go or stay.
In 1998, I was friends with a 15-year-old Angolan Portuguese boy.
He was cool and had a thing with the girls. All the things I wasn’t. I probably tagged along with him to learn.
Today, although we acknowledge each other as friends from old, we aren’t close anymore.
In 2008, I was friends with a 24-year-old British Pakistani guy. He was geeky and understood my jokes.
Although we remain good friends and have shared great memories to date, we have unresolved differences and haven’t spoken for some time.
In 2018, I was friends with a 35-year-old British Chinese gal.
Although we were never too close a decade ago, we are much closer than ever today as we have similar entrepreneurial interests. We are also parents to boys.
How can one explain these changes over time?
On reflection, I realise that I could have been a better friend in many ways.
Although saying that, I have relationships in existence today that I’ve pursued relentlessly and nurtured for over 20 years.
What’s become clear to me is that there is a way to build good relationships that thrive and last over time.
Below are some thoughts you can apply today:
1. Make The Time
I recently experienced a major life event and struggled to articulate how I felt.
I'd often wake up at night with cold sweats partly tied to anxiety about the issue I was helping to resolve.
A number of friends took some time out to check up on me in the way of today via WhatsApp.
Whilst that was kind of them to have done that, my response to them was equally brief and didn't communicate much emotion.
One friend spoke to me on the phone, which was a step beyond sending an instant message.
Another friend took things further by not only sending me instant messages but actually asked to meet me in person.
He arrived early and proceeded to buy me a sandwich and a hot drink.
We talked and he committed his lunch hour towards reassuring me about the future.
I deeply appreciated this gesture and example of friendship.
It helped me look ahead positively and finally share how I felt about the situation.
The fact that we were able to have a simple conversation undisturbed by life was priceless.
Making time for our friends and other loved ones is extremely important.
Thing is, we all have the good intentions of doing these things, but the weight of other distractions steal the idea away from us.
The above experience has certainly challenged my approach to friendship in general.
2. Be Less Selfish
One of the many observations I’ve made in the 6 years I’ve been a parent is that we’ve been helping our boys become less selfish.
Our boys fight over toys and mark their own territories all the time.
Teaching them to share is an ongoing challenge.
This got me thinking about how much we prioritise others in our lives and relationships.
Most people wake up daily fighting fires and sorting their own issues out.
It is therefore difficult to actively disengage from thinking of just themselves and focusing on others.
One of the best ways I’m learning to be less selfish is to practice Stop → Look → Go!
The idea here is that you deliberately create spaces in your life where you:
Stop all self-focused activities and look outward.
Look to spot the lonely stranger in the corner or the friend who needs someone to talk to.
Go! by taking the step to reach out and ask – Everything ok? Want to talk?
Approaching life this way will not only help build new relationships but help you develop good relationships.
Related post: Live Richer By Creating Space For Others
3. Build Trust
Trust is a biggie!
Tied to trust is reliability. I tend to find that if I've decided to trust someone, it's also usually because I consider them reliable.
My measure of reliability is the extent to which I can call on someone when the worst happens in life.
Do you have friends that you truly trust? Or are you considered trustworthy by friends?
You’ll find that the reasons for why you trust others or why you’re considered trustworthy are likely the same.
Things such as:
- Ensuring that your actions really match your words,
- Being honest and upfront,
- Understanding who you are and your intentions,
- Being open to feedback, etc.
Trust takes time to build and is the result of many life tests and situations, and how we choose to respond.
With every situation you find yourself in with your relationships, see them as an opportunity to build genuine trust.
4. Seek Common Values
As values take less priority in society today, they are even more important in our relationships if they're to be long term.
As mentioned earlier, it's entirely possible to have friends you've known for a long time but not feel necessarily close to them.
Reasons such as different levels of career progression, different circles or even marital status could account for the lack of a close relationship.
However, one reason that recurs more times than not is the lack of common values.
I've certainly seen this in my friendships.
There are those who I've known for 3 years and close to compared to others I've known for longer.
Values flow from having a high degree of self-awareness and truly understanding who you are and what you consider important in life.
Although these will likely change over time, what’s important for building good relationships is living life according to your values.
5. Have Fun
A big takeaway from the book Designing Your Life is to make “play” deliberate.
Fun is necessary for reigniting relationships and keeping things fresh.
This applies to ordinary or romantic friendships.
It's even more important if you're married or have been married for some time.
Having done 7 years of marriage and 10 years with the same woman, I've had my fair share of experimenting to see what works.
Diarising fun is necessary not just for the strength of your relationship but also for your wellbeing.
Planned or impromptu experiences such as dinners, concerts, movies or sporting events etc tick the boxes every time.
6. Celebrate Together
Ever received a promotion, told friends and observed their reactions?
Or perhaps you've had a key life event – Got engaged, had a child or bought your first home?
How did your friends respond to your news?
You might not think much of it but the extent to which friends celebrate with you matters.
Your really good friends are the ones who consistently go beyond “Aww… Well done”.
They want to meet with you if possible, shake your hands or give you a hug.
Key life events should be celebrated and not just acknowledged.
If you think about it, it's those friends who celebrate with you that you're likely to celebrate with too.
Make the effort to reach out beyond a passive acknowledgment when your friend or spouse has a win.
Be unusual and make a big deal about it.
I can guarantee you, they'll never forget it because everyone else is usually too busy to take notice.
It's the unusual acts that get recorded as great memories and recalled time and time again in the future.
In conclusion, good relationships take effort from both sides.
However, it is more generous to be the first mover and set the standard for the quality of the relationships you want.
More times than not, it is inexpensive and mainly requires you to be present and available to do life how it should be done – With others.
- Why Money And Friendships Should Never Mix
- The Importance Of Strong And Positive Friendships
- Recommended Books On Life & Relationships
- The Secret Sauce To A Guaranteed Rich Life
What has been your secret to building a good relationship? Please comment below.
BEHIND THE SCENES
To encourage more people to take up blogging, I often share a piece from my blogging process to give you an insider's view.
I got this idea from watching David Attenborough's documentaries. He talks about their filming mistakes and process at the end.
Then after reading Austin Kleon's must-read book (on Creativity) called Show Your Work, I jumped at the idea.
Motivation for the post: In the last couple of weeks, I relied on my good friends like never before as we got through a rough patch.
Transformation sought: To help others pause, reflect and be present with their loved ones.
Music for the post: The choice of music for each post matters. I wanted something that drowned out the noise of the world, yet upbeat and repetitive. I chose Zack Hemsey’s “The Way”:
Do please share this post if you found it useful, and remember, in all things be thankful and Seek Joy.
Great and insightful post as usual.
‘Build trust’, for me this is really the key to any close friendship.
Ken Okoroafor says
Thanks! Couldn’t agree more.