While on Indiecation over the past several days, I've enjoyed embracing dear friends and family members I don't have the opportunity to see much. Each time I see people I care for, both personally and professionally, after being separated by miles for many months, I am reminded of how important it is to care for and sustain these precious relationships.
I am also reminded of how much more I can do to preserve them. This post shares my personal mindset when it comes to nurturing life's most meaningful business and personal relationships.
Work on me first. It's so easy to find fault in others. We all fall short, and the imperfections of those closest to us are easy to point out. How many times have you found yourself being critical of a family member or close friend, under the guise of “just wanting to be helpful?” The minute I feel the urge to point out someone else's deficiencies, I quickly look at own.
Since I am so flawed, I can easily sympathize with the shortcomings of others. Many times, I completely forget about what others are doing “wrong” as I turn my attention to how I can be a better person. This attitude keeps my focus on things I can control. It also maintains positivity in my relationships, and ensures their longevity as free as possible from hurtful interactions that could last a lifetime.
Be a blessing. One of the best ways to be a blessing is to ask myself what would help me if I were in the other person's situation. A hug, an intimate chat over coffee, a surprise spa gift in the mail, a hand written note … Little touches like this add depth and to relationships. They are the types of things that are remembered far into the future when people assess the kind of currency they have accumulated in life.
I want to be a blessing to others, with intention and specificity. I want to uplift and encourage the people closest to me. It takes a little extra time to be a blessing to others, but the rewards are rich and satisfying relationships that make life more meaningful and fun.
Pray for others. I have found that prayer enriches the bonds of friendship in miraculous ways. It's hard to describe, but sending up petitions of well-being, strength and endurance for the people who matter most somehow draws us closer to them. I pray for my friends and family members often. When we see each other, it's like no time has passed, and we are closer to one another than we were before.
I think special grace is bestowed upon relationships when heartfelt prayers are not just an afterthought or something done in times of difficulty or crisis, but things we do as a matter of course.
Speak the truth in love. Sometimes, it becomes important to have difficult conversations with the people we love. Sometimes, the things I feel must be said will cause some amount of anxiety, sadness or even pain. However, when I first make sure my own heart is pure, and when I confirm that my motivation is to help and not hurt, I can speak the truth from a place of integrity and mutual trust. People can clearly sense whether they are being approached from a place of love or a place of condemnation. In my experience, sincerity and heartfelt devotion come through clearly, even in the most difficult times.
If conveying this is difficult for you (as it sometimes is for me), think of a person in your life who does it well, and emulate that behavior. For me, it's my mother. While she always speaks her mind, she does it in a way that shows that she has the best and most sincere intentions. I often find myself mocking her facial expressions and movements when I feel constrained to make a difficult observation in the life of someone I care deeply about.
Life is about relationships, both personal and professional. It's also about people, and where there are people, there are problems. But following these basic steps when it comes to interacting with others has helped me create lasting relationships that have enriched my life greatly, and hopefully also, the lives of the people I care about.
Question: How do you nurture and maintain life's most important relationships?