3 Practices to Nourish Your Relationships
I often ask leaders I work with in organizations, university programs, and executive coaching sessions, “What is most important to you?”
Not surprisingly, “my family and relationships” always falls in the top two answers. (Health is the other one.)
Interpersonal relationships are clearly vital to our emotional well-being and overall happiness. When something is off in our most important relationships, it impacts everything else in our lives, including our concentration and performance at work.
I vividly recall an instance in a group workshop where I asked the participants to describe how their day-to-day actions reflected how important their relationships were to them. During the 10 minutes I gave the group to self-reflect, one person began to sob uncontrollably and quickly left the room. I quietly slipped out to find him sitting in a chair outside the room and gently asked him if he was okay.
He confided that he was currently going through an unexpected and difficult divorce, and that the question had prodded him to think about how little time he spend nurturing and feeding his most important relationship. The question had hit a nerve about the gap in what he said was most important and his own day-to-day actions.
Most of us intend to have positive, connected, and nourishing relationships. Yet our daily responsibilities, routines, and distractions often cause our day-to-day actions to neglect the feeding those relationships need to stay healthy and nourished.
A gap begins to grow between what we say is most important to us, and the actual actions we exhibit each day. There is a misalignment between our intentions and the actual impact of our daily choices. Interpersonal relationships are comprised of a series of interactions with another person. Positive interactions over time provide deposits in an emotional bank account. Negative interactions constitute withdrawals. If the bank account is full and constantly replenished, it is easier to whether difficult times in the relationship.
So if you espouse that relationships are most important to you—and you intend to have positive, nourishing relationships, how can you keep your daily actions aligned to match that intention? What daily deposits can you make to your relationship accounts? Taking the time to be even just a bit more conscious of your day-to day actions can go a long way in all your relationships—both at home and at work.
Here are three practices to adapt daily to the care and feeding of your relationships with others:
1. Acknowledge your appreciation and admiration–out loud
Familiarity is a double-edged sword in all relationships. When you know someone well and you rely on them, it is easy to assume that they already know what you think of them and how much you appreciate the things they do. Or how much you actually admire their talents, skills, or character. Assume that they don’t. Take the time to dial into and notice the little things the person does daily. When they do something you appreciate, tell them. When you notice something you like about them—tell them. Notice and appreciate. Every day. This practice, when sincere of course, is transformational.
2. Be interested and fully present
Be honest, how often are you distracted when someone is talking to you. Are you guilty of the “uh-huh” head nodding while the person is talking as you scroll through your phone or do whatever else you are doing? While you probably can listen to someone and do something else at the same time—the reality is that you are fooling no-one. Real, intense listening and interest requires your full presence and attention. Stop what you are doing and give your full focus and eye contact and attention to the other person.
3. Do what you say you will do
Relationships are built on trust. Trusting someone implies that you can rely on them. Keeping and following through on commitments and doing what you say you will do over time helps build that trust. Do you keep your commitments to others? Over time, the answer to that question will be a key indicator of whether people trust you or not—and if they don’t—your relationships will surely suffer.
We all seem to agree that relationships are of paramount importance to us.
It is up to us to make sure that our daily actions reflect that fact.