How do you build and strengthen relationships? I know how to easily kill relationships by broken promises, unresolved conflict, and complacency. But building relationships is harder.
I have discovered that my enduring relationships are built on thoughtfulness, time, and a foundation of trust. We will examine these relationship builders and learn how to strengthen the foundation of trust on which they stand.
Thoughtfulness is a relationship builder.
Thoughtfulness is about learning a person’s preferences and acting on that information.
How do we determine a person’s preferences? By observing their behavior and attentively listening to what they are saying.
How do we observe and attentively listen in a work environment? First, we can pay attention to our coworker’s preferences.
Perhaps you are a morning person, and your desk-mate doesn’t interact with anyone until noon. Avoid conflict by giving them space. You probably don’t want to interact with your fellow employees until after 2 p.m.
We can make sure that everyone is heard. That the person stating their opinion is treated with dignity, even if their idea seems crazy.
We can act in a way that shows that we value the other person. Every interaction tells others how much we do or do not value them.
We can invite others to our lunch table. We can be a welcoming presence to others.
How do we observe and attentively listen in a family unit? First, we can pay attention to preferences and choices.
If one relative is very social, we can throw a big party. But, on the other hand, if another relative is an introvert, perhaps a quiet activity with their best friend is in order.
As our families age, older relatives begin to repeat their stories. Be patient with them; your day will come when you are repeating stories. How would you want to be treated?
How do we observe and attentively listen in a romantic relationship?
We can pay attention to our significant other’s preferences.
We often think that romantic getaways with a high price tag, a one-time event are important.
Our significant others care if we pick up dirty clothes and do the laundry. Suppose we make them a priority and the focus of our attention. Then, paying attention to their preferences yield huge dividends.
Your significant other has a valid opinion. You valued their opinion when they determined that they would enter a relationship with you. A fool ignores the input of the person who knows them best.
Listening attentively to them begins by turning off the telephone or television and making eye contact. Then, asking an open-ended question that cannot be answered by a simple yes or no.
It only takes a few minutes a day. For example, my wife and I often play a game before bedtime. It allows us a few minutes to discuss the day and give our undivided attention to the other.
Thoughtfulness is a small deposit that quickly accrues compound interest.
Love deposits are important. Have enough stored up, and it is easier for the spouse to forgive you. They will know your behavior was the exception to, not the rule.
Observation and attentive listening require an investment of time.
Time spent together is a relationship builder.
Time is our most precious commodity. People are busy.
Spending time with someone can show them that you value them. But an investment of time is not about quantity but quality.
Spending time together may lead to a relationship, but it might not be a good one.
If the amount of time spent with someone were the best measure of how a relationship would grow, no marriages would end, and no one would ever have conflict at work.
Only time will tell if it is time well-spent. Jimmy Buffett
How do we know we are spending quality time with someone? Both parties, not just one, are refreshed or energized by the experience.
There is nothing more notable in Socrates than that he found time, when he was an older man, to learn music and dancing, and thought it time well-spent. – Michel de Montaigne
Over the years, my wife and I have invested time in movies with a romantic element but lots of explosions. That way, both of us were entertained.
Finding commonality only happens if we are good listeners and observers of the other person’s preferences.
Focusing on the activity without fully interacting with the other individual is not conducive to building a good relationship. What we are doing, the activity is less important than being fully present at the moment with the person we are with.
Here are some great tips for living in the moment.
Here are some additional examples of time well-spent at work, in a family unit, or in a romantic relationship.
At work, we can show appreciation for someone. We can take a few minutes to listen to someone at the break fully.
In our families, we can focus on making memories. Several years ago, I walked into a dirty kitchen at my mom’s. There were dirty pots and pans and her three grandchildren covered in flour. My mom was making cookies with the boys. Some would say she was making a mess. She would say that she was making memories. I still remember the smile on her and the grandchildren’s faces. Making memories can be messy, but it will be worth the effort.
In a romantic relationship, we can search for places to meet that are free of distractions. Any place that will remove does not increase stress. Therefore, we can focus on presence, not presents.
Often, it is not the large grand gesture but small actions that have a cumulative effect over time.
Over-the-top actions can make others uncomfortable. They will question your motive, wondering what you want in return.
Being thoughtful and spending quality time with others provides a solid foundation for a lasting relationship.
How can we strengthen the foundation on which an enduring relationship is built upon?
Trust is the foundation on which an enduring relationship is built.
Trust is the foundation on which an enduring relationship is built.
Trust is earned in small increments. It is built by thoughtfulness and quality time. There are no shortcuts.
Trust involves risk. We might be hurt. We might be disappointed. But trust can lead to great rewards.
Trust can be lost in a moment due to a poor decision. But it can be rebuilt over time.
Trust allows us to be vulnerable and admit we are wrong or do not all have the answers. It can lead to increased intimacy.
Trust allows us to tell and receive the truth in love.
Trust allows us to make and keep promises. We are reliable.
Trust allows us to weather the difficult seasons of life together.
Years ago, I made two important decisions about who I would trust.
The first was my wife. She knows my preferences and listens to me. She longs to spend quality time with me. In addition, she has proven that she is trustworthy.
The second was my God. I trust in a God who knows my preferences. A God who listens attentively and longs to spend quality time with me. I hope you will come to trust him as well.
Call to action
As long as we are breathing, we have the opportunity to be thoughtful and make choices in how well we spend our time. Will you take the time to be thoughtful and build relationships this week?
Next week we will conclude this series with the truth about improving and restoring relationships.