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Meaningful Relationships

We genuinely need people we can trust to tell us the truth, even when it is difficult to hear. Shallow acquaintances are easy to come by, but they usually fade fast, leaving us with little or no lasting worth. On the other hand, healthy, caring relationships with family, friends, colleagues and significant others can give our lives immeasurable joy and meaning. Like most things of value in life, these relationships must be sought and maintained deliberately. Meaningful relationships take hard work and conscious effort.

Qualities of Meaningful Relationships

There are many qualities that mark sound, durable relationships. Among them are:

  • honesty
  • strong two-way communication
  • caring reciprocity (a give and take)
  • empathy
  • commitment
  • ability to laugh at selves and the world
  • respectful confrontation of trouble spots
  • patience
  • thoughtfulness
  • mutual respect
  • willingness to compromise

Sounds good but how does one attract and maintain such friendships or loving relationships?

Step 1 - Develop Your Self-Esteem

The best place to start in trying to attract healthy people to you is to be as healthy as you can be yourself. This means becoming comfortable with who you are, what you are about and where you are headed. Think, read and write about what you value, what is worth pursuing in life. It is a slow and evolving process to become a genuine, authentic individual, but it is highly desirable. Besides that, to be an independent, strong individual is attractive to others. We generally like and respect people who:

  • Calmly articulate and stand by well-thought-out opinions and decisions
  • Express self acceptance in a healthy, not cocky, way
  • Take responsibility for their actions, decisions and own happiness
  • Have a sense of where they are headed and why
  • Know they are not perfect and target faulty thought patterns or behaviors for change

Step 2 - Learn to Communicate Well

Learn how to initiate conversations and then how to keep them going. Good conversationalists have opinions and thoughts to share; they read, keep up with world events and like to learn about many things. Equally as important is a person’s ability to be a good listener. Listening shows a genuine interest in and respect for the other person.

Body language, or non-verbal communication, is an important ingredient in communication. Crossed arms, a stern tone, poor eye contact and poor posture send the wrong messages. Be aware of how you communicate non-verbally and what messages you are sending with your gestures.

Step 3 - Choose Carefully Places to Go and Activities to Do

You have to go where you are likely to meet people with similar interests and values. Bars and alcoholic parties are not your best bet; try clubs, academic classes, hobby classes, fitness activities, places of religious worship, lectures, cultural events or self-growth groups. Don’t always wait for others to initiate things. Call people, drop them cards or e-mail, stay connected with them.

Step 4 - Have a Positive Attitude Towards Others

Cultivate an open and non-judgmental attitude towards others. You can learn something from everyone you meet; be tolerant and respectful of others and their differences. Don’t block someone out simply because they don’t share your views; you may be giving up an opportunity to learn something valuable.

Step 5 - Avoid Common Interpersonal Pitfalls

Be aware of the pitfalls to meaningful interaction; if you recognize one in yourself, do something to change it. The following qualities are almost certain to damage relationships:

  • Having unrealistic expectations of yourself, the other person or the relationship in general
  • Coming too close too soon, physically or psychologically
  • Being negative about self, the relationship or life
  • Being a rescuer, a martyr, a savior or a "perfect" person
  • Trying to change the other person to suit your needs
  • Being too self-centered, judgmental, or always "right"
  • Stockpiling strong feelings - anger, pain, sadness, neediness - and then pouring them all out at once
  • Expecting the other person to be a mind reader, a fixer or always a rock of stability for you
  • Crowding and smothering the other person, expecting him/her to meet all your needs and spend all his/her time with you

And finally, be yourself! Knowing who you are and what you believe in is important but being able to express that person is knowledge in action and will be rewarded in reciprocal, meaningful relationships.