There are many different kinds of relationships. There will be people you have met and are ‘acquainted’ with. There are people you will know as friends, some as lovers. Hopefully you have more friends than lovers! At the end of it all the people I have ‘great’ relationships with that are not of the sexual variety (thank you very much) are far and few between. These people are hard to find. Before I move onto how I think we do this… let me highlight the different kind of relationships we can have.
Fire and Forget relationships… people you meet then never see again
I have met so many people. Hell, I even saw the guy from Green Day on the street once. Man was he ever short. That was a fire and forget experience. I also met some British footballers, Steve Irwin said G’day (yeah I know he was on a bike with his son too) to my wife at his last appearance at Australia Zoo and I even once shook hands with a guy who was worth 40 million dollars. This level of relationship I like to think of as a brief ‘six degrees of separation moment’. These are times in life when you meet somebody who shares a space with you for a moment… and that’s it.
Facebook friendships… people you know but don’t spend much time with
Facebook friendships are with people that you know for some reason but don’t really spend a lot of time with. You may think of these people as the step underneath acquaintances. Which brings me to my next point.
People you keep at arms length… acquaintances
These are people you know and have spent time with but are not really close to. They are beyond the Facebook friend because you have spent time with each other on more than a few occasions. People like this are usually around but not there all the time. You can call them and they wouldn’t mind (I hope) and maybe once in a while you might have dinner with them. But, these aren’t the kind of people you spend a great deal of time with. You are acquainted and may not even like each other.
Real relationships… people you know and love
I have about one or two people in my life I would consider to be deep friends. These are people I share common interests with that I know I am never going to have to give them something in return. The company is enough. My wife is one and the other is a person I know up the coast. Every time I see this guy I know he just wants to talk and chatter away with me. There is no hidden agenda, no mutual bootlicking, no butt kissing or anything like that. It’s all about mutual company not what we can get from each other. No ambition nothing just each other’s company. So how do you find friends like that?
The art of building meaningful relationships
The key to building meaningful relationships is to recognise the relationships you have for what they are. You may have heard that a relationship is a like a garden. You have to work on it! That may be true for some people but it’s the way I have come to understand it. Here are some keys to look for when searching for meaningful relationships.
Key #1 Do they want something in return
These are the kinds of people who want something. They ring and ask to have dinner once in a while but you just know it’s not to see you… it’s to get something. In a perfect world nobody would act this way but it’s the way it works I’m afraid.
Key #2: Is the relationship ‘needs’ based?
Are you providing what’s missing in someone else. This is a relationship of convenience. There are times when knowing the right person to help you out is a must but you would hardly call that a deep relationship. In the Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell identifies people called ‘connectors’ who are really good at placing people in relationships with other people. He notes that these people often have few meaningful relationships yet know lots of people. There are times when this is a useful thing to be.
Key #3: Is it a sick relationship?
Another way to find meaningful relationships is to ask if you are in a sick relationship. These kinds of relationships are when you are being used and abused and know it but won’t do anything about it. People of power are great at these. I experienced something a while back where a person was attempting to bully me into making a decision that in hindsight would have been a disaster. Lucky enough, I had the guts to change my mind. Don’t allow yourself to be controlled… by anyone.
Key #4: Looking for mutual satisfaction on a deeper level
The final key is knowing how to look for deeper meaning in your relationships. This is what makes building meaningful relationships an art form. This is where you and another person share a friendship with no expectations. There is no neediness from either of you, it’s not a sick relationship nor is it a relationship that requires you to do tricks in order to get approval. It is simply an understanding that you are mates and that is that. There is no need to be anything other than yourself and there is an unspoken treaty between you and the other person where you share each other’s lives but expect nothing more than friendship in return. If you find a relationship like this hold on it… it’s worth cherishing.
At the end of the day real relationships are formed when we allow people into our lives. I am a person who likes the background. I don’t enjoy being the centre of attention neither do I like social gatherings. My idea of a good time is playing my Wii. That said, I have a few people (maybe one or two) that I would consider to be meaningful friends. That doesn’t mean that the people I also know (if you are reading this!) are dogs. It just means I don’t share my life with them on that level. Maybe through time this might be so … but I doubt it. In my opinion the art of building relationships involves a level of intuition that’s missing from normal relationships. We shouldn’t embrace this as a horrible thing. Instead I think we should look towards the relationships we do have and build the meaning that’s desired by both parties. Sometimes, people will want more from you than you should give. If you don’t have that for them … it’s better not to give it. You are not responsible for other people. We are all responsible for ourselves. In short, finding a meaningful relationship might be better expressed this way: you don’t find real friends they find you.
This is part of the lifehack.org “share the love” contest.
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