Our relationships, whatever kind affect us as individuals in many ways; the relationships in our lives can make us happy or sad, push us up or bring us down, whatever it is, relationships don’t leave us the same.
Relationships are good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, however, this article is not about the kinds of relationships you have in your life; in fact, I’m assuming you have good ones but my focus here is on how to cultivate them, make them better, keep them and improve their quality, there is no point in building what’s not right.
The key to successful relationships is striving to be a better person, not hoping that other people become better but you focusing on being a better person — better mate, friend, follower, leader, sibling, the list goes on.
Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get. — Matthew 7:12 (MSG)
Taking the initiative to be better is what the five lessons I share here are about, this is not an exhaustive list, but out of the few I have come to know and put to use and based on hindsight into my personal experiences, these five principles stand out.
- Have an excellent attitude of gratitude
It seems as though the better you are at receiving, the more you get. And the key to being a master receiver is having an excellent attitude of gratitude and it’s about appreciating the smallest acts of kindness towards you. This is not about being impressed, this is about being appreciative and that’s a choice. Look beyond gifts and acts to the thoughtfulness and intentionality behind them and be genuinely grateful. This attitude will encourage people in your circle to do more for you; it will also build them up as they will feel like their actions make a huge impact.
Don’t be so hard to impress, be easily ‘wowed’ and a lot, gifts and acts won’t always impress you but the thoughtfulness should and will if you don’t have an over-sized image of yourself. The relationships we have in our lives and the goodness they bring are a blessing from God, never forget that.
2. Celebrate other people’s success
The trap of achievement is being over-involved in self, don’t fall for it. Trust me you are not the only important thing happening in your world, so celebrate other people’s progress too. It won’t come naturally because it is not a predisposition of human nature, so you’ll need to put in the effort but it’s worth every ounce.
Be the kind of person others enjoy sharing their success stories with because they know you won’t play it down, you’ll celebrate with them and you will encourage them. Quit focusing only on yourself; on your road to success, look around and be an encourager to others. This way you will greatly improve the quality of your relationships and the quality of your life as well — life has a way of getting back to you an increased measure of what you give to others.
Life is about service and service is about people. Service is key in building successful relationships and it is most effective when it is a perspective and not just an act — how you live and see life and not just something you occasionally do. An individual with a service perspective/mentality is always on the lookout for ways to be of help all the time.
Serve people in your circle, with your abilities, skills, money, time, words — yes words and I talk more about this in my final lesson. Be the chief servant in your relationships. Give the advantage to others, look out for ways you can help not ways you can be helped. Meet needs selflessly, not always considering what’s in it for you. Again, life has a way of meeting the needs of those who meet the needs of others.
4. Be tolerant and forgiving
I once heard Jentezen Franklin make this statement ‘Love like you’ve never been hurt’ and I thought to myself, this is such a powerful truth for relationships. Think about it, people who are not close to you can hardly hurt you, it’s the people you love, care about, do life with that are best positioned to hurt you. If you decide to soak in every hurt, your life will be a miserable one I can tell. Love like you’ve never been hurt is a mantra you should strive to live by, you will really need it. Be tolerant of people’s excesses and be forgiving when they happen, in fact, forgive ahead! One of my pastors would say to me, ‘learn to make excuses for people’; I didn’t like to hear it then but I couldn’t agree more now, for one, it makes life easier to go through.
The more tolerant and forgiving you become, the better your chances of sustaining relationships in your life.
5. Affirm often
Affirm your partner, friends, siblings, co-workers, associates, leaders…often. Positive words are more precious than anything else in relationships. Positive words bring out the best in people because we are creations of words — we respond to words either positive or negative. So to improve the quality of your relationships, be an encourager with your words. People should think better of themselves just because they have you in their lives; because you build them up with warm and kind words.
Compliment the tiniest things, get comfortable with telling people you love them, and get comfortable in being told you are loved. Our words can either open doors to new levels of happiness or close them. My advice, use words smartly.
So that’s it, needless to say, these things are easier said than done. However being aware of these things is the start, so I’ll say you’ve started by reading this. Go on from here and practice and keep improving and for that, you have a lifetime. Making this decision will greatly improve your influence and the quality of your life.
I’ll end with this thought I believe the Holy Spirit inspired in my heart when I first taught some of these principles to a group of church leaders;
As you cultivate your relationships and learn to build healthy and sustained relationships, you increase the number of people God can use you for and can use for you.