Maintaining positive interpersonal relationships is likely the hardest thing you'll ever do in your life, but is it worth it?
Whether an intimate, spousal, family, business, or work relationship; maintaining a positive relationship can be challenging.
Shouldn't interacting with other humans be easy? We are highly evolved, thinking, discerning and creative beings... we should be able to get along.
Well, that's the problem. Because we are complex, we all have different perspectives, motives, insecurities and needs. This makes dealing with each of us challenging; especially when we don't clearly articulate our feelings and needs. But, this post is not about how to have effective relationships, but why you would want to invest and with whom.
One of the activities I recommend for myself and others, is to think about the time when your life ends (hopefully many decades into the future)... what do you want the people at your memorial service to be thinking and saying about you? Do you want them to be there out of obligation (to you, or others), or do you want them to be there out of respect and/or care/love for you and because they will miss you?
What do you want your legacy to be?
This activity is really useful in working out your personal values; what you stand for, and what success looks like for you. It can ensure that you don't spend time in your life serving others' expectations and values, neglecting what you truly want to be known for, and building your legacy.
However, it is also a useful activity to determine how important interpersonal relationships are to you and which ones you want to work on. When you imagine those people at your memorial; who are they? Not necessarily their names and faces, but who are they to you? For example, if you are 90 when you die, will those people at your memorial include people you worked with during your career? If so, why are they there?
On occasion, I think back to my wedding day, almost 26 years ago, and who was there. I think about the people in my life at the time that I thought were so important that I wanted them to share in our celebrations. Now, I have lost touch with many, but I still think about the value they added to my life while they were in it; and while some may no longer be part of my life, it was worth it to know most of them.
At some point in our lives, we usually realise that having certain people in our circle who doesn't serve us, and we pluck up the courage to walk away. Once we conduct a ROI (return on investment) assessment of our relationships, we may realise that some people aren't worth it. Those who do not accept us for who we are, who judge us, who blame us, who criticise, who burden us with their problems, and only take and rarely give, or give with strings attached. You may find that those people are not worth it.
The relationships that are worth it, will include the ones with those who:
we respect; their experience, opinions and values (even if they are different to ours).
are honest with us; deliver constructive criticism in a way that builds us up, not tears us down.
challenge us; our views, our perspective, and act as a catalyst to our personal growth.
care/love us unconditionally; it's not reliant on what we can do for them.
can see our potential and support us to meet it.
So, start with a blank page.
Write down the names of the people you would invite to your memorial (or a significant event, if you don't want
to be morbid). Set a maximum number of attendees, say 50, and consider/record the answers to the following:
Why are they on your list?
What value do they add to your life?
When was the last time you saw/interacted with them?
If you had to rate the relationship out of 10, for both quality and value, what would it be? (Note: you are not rating the person - they may be a 10, but your relationship is a 6, because it needs work).
What are you going to do about it? What is your action (or inaction).
What will it mean to you if they are in, our out of your life? Are they worth it?
This may sound very brutal and clinical, but it is a great exercise to work out your "relationship strategy" for 2021. Just the same as we invest in financial pursuits that will provide us an acceptable return on our investment; the time, emotions, cost and purpose of our investment into our relationships, should return us an acceptable level of value.
If I have learnt anything in 2020 (and I've learnt a lot), it is that the people in my life and the quality of those relationships are paramount to my overall satisfaction and fulfilment.
What will your "relationship strategy" for 2021 look like?