“If you want to travel fast, go alone. If you want to travel far, go together.”
We often hear people say; ““no man is an island,”” which means that humans, by their very nature, could only survive with the help of other people. Moreover, since living and existing are two completely different things, it’s impossible to thrive in separation from other people.
Relationships and belonging to a community have a significant impact on our mental health and happiness. Having good people around you helps relieve stress, prevent loneliness and isolation, as well as provide comfort and joy. When a person lacks genuine connection, the effect can be as dangerous as smoking, too much drinking, and a sedentary lifestyle – seriously affecting one’s health. Strong bonds are tied to the quality and longevity of life.
However, close relationships don’t just happen. They take time to build. Many people struggle to meet people and develop meaningful connections – be it friendships or romantic relationships. Energy attracts energy. So we mostly meet people who have similar energy in them to ours. Thus, as with everything else in life, creating meaningful connections should start from nurturing a positive and loving environment within ourselves.
Establishing the connection is just the beginning. But developing and nourishing it takes time. One of its key aspects is making sure the giving and receiving energy is circulating and well balanced. This helps to maintain the health of the bond and a mutually satisfactory level of connection.
For that to thrive, however, another element is crucial: trust. Let’s take a moment to talk about it now.
Accepting Who You Are, Before Expecting Others to Do So
Trust and relationships generally go together. It is not possible to be in a healthy relationship with someone when there is no trust. Although people can be in a shared context with each other – the workplace, family, social setting – without trust, they are not in a relationship as we think of it here. The kind of relationship that we want to talk about in this article is supportive and can maintain itself through interpersonal challenges that will inevitably show up on its unfolding.
As we mentioned before, building strong and good relationships start with you. A lot depends on your approach to other people. With awareness, you can choose your starting point for building relationships. You can begin from a stance of openness and curiosity toward another person and begin a journey together that builds on this. Or you can start from the standpoint of suspicion, judgment, or mistrust, in which case you come into the relationship reluctantly or not at all. Although your approach will depend largely on your previous experience with relationships, it’s within your responsibility to work through and heal the parts of yourself that can cause distrust or suspicion toward people who you just met.
While ““relationship”” is a noun, the action of building a relationship is a verb, as in being relational. Being relational is a practice. An ongoing approach to how we interact with people. It’s a continual action that has several components. Being relational invites us into the work of listening as well as speaking. Listening should be heartfelt participation in a relational process. We listen as a participatory process and for participatory knowing. We listen deeply, openly, and compassionately without judgment, letting go of fixed views and being fully present to the other person or people. It requires awareness and staying in touch with yourself to keep on hold of your projections or judgments that might be triggered unconsciously by the other person (you can exercise this through regular meditation practice).
In being relational, we keep ourselves open to experiencing the full richness of the people around us. We are open to multiple forms of relationship with others by being in dialogue with them rather than having a monologic approach. Enabling the energy of interaction to flow in reciprocity as opposed to a unilateral vector.
This relational perspective has been described as deeply ecological. It is a participatory way of relating that gives us the opportunity and the power to speak from the multiple voices we hold or represent. Be it one of a parent, grandparent, host, employee, employer, teacher, preacher, Buddhist, or any other voice we may have – and many more that represent the richness of who we are.
Tips to Improve Your Self-Awareness
Getting to know yourself truly (and then staying in touch with the subtle signals coming from within you) can be a daunting process. However, if you invest the right effort, it can be an enriching experience. Once connected with yourself, you can then learn to embrace your true nature (acceptance is always the first step in any long-lasting change) and consequently find ways to grow and expand in the future.
Okay, sounds all cool, and you probably wouldn’t be here if you didn’t want it. We will then assume you’re like us (how convenient, right? But this is actually true and based on the very human nature) and continue our explanation.
So, how do you go about this whole getting-to-know-myself thing?
- Journaling can be a good exercise. Oops, yes, we said that. We know you probably have heard it a million times. But bare with us. We swear by it. There are multiple ways in which you can approach journaling.
This can be writing down things you think you are good at and things you need to improve upon. The main idea of this exercise is to understand what makes you unique and not to compare yourself with others.
Write down things you are proud of. And don’t be shy about the small stuff either. There are so many powerful gifts hidden in the details. Let yourself boast a bit. We all need it from time to time. Also, you can always come back to this list when you feel a bit down. It will be an instant help, promise.
Anything can be written in your journal. You can just approach a blank page and let your hand (or hands if you’re journaling through the keyboard) guide you, simply put there anything that your mind suggests. This kind of exercise is called a stream of consciousness or a stream of thoughts. It can especially help you when you’re feeling overwhelmed with thoughts, have to make a big decision, or can’t fall asleep because your mind gets too busy once the head hits the pillow.
When you record your thoughts on paper, your mind gets relieved of all new ideas and allows for new information to come through. Spend some time to write down your feelings, thoughts, failures, and successes of the day. This is to help you grow, track, and move forward in your achievements. Plus, regular cleaning up in your mind will serve your short memory, thought clarity, and often emotional clarity, too.
In your reflection, take some time to think about how you can help others and do more for the world, even to the slightest degree. Write down your values and what is most important to you at the moment. Write down your priorities, goals, and plans. Allowing the “bigger picture” goals to inform the next steps for your process. Planning how you will achieve your goals may help these ideas materialize. It is easier to hit a target if you actually aim at it. Break down your goals into smaller units, and tackle each head-on. Even those goals that seem far-fetched can be achieved with patience and determination. Trust your process and shake off self-doubt. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for what your heart desires.
These self-reflection moments will aid you in getting a good grasp on who you are and what you want out of life in the present moment and in the longer run. You can repeat this exercise every now and then to ensure you’re on the right track.
If you’d like some inspiration, familiarize yourself with Morning Pages, a method popularised by Julia Cameron. It’s based on the stream of consciousness writing and is meant to be done first thing in the morning.
- Practice mediation and other mindful habits. Meditation is one of the most effective ways of improving the awareness of the mind. You may refer to our first post, “The Expansive Journey of Meditation.”
- Take personality and psychometric tests. A great way to kick-start your journey into self-awareness is to take an online test. There are scores of platforms online that offer the service for free. Although the results you get might not be exactly right, they still can compel you to think about the traits you are closely identified with.
- Ask for feedback, can be friends or people at work. You cannot know what other people think of you if you do not ask, especially those you trust. Do you have a mentor? A trusted friend? Great! Getting feedback from a formal setting is also a good idea. This method is called 360-degree self-evaluation. Evaluation of both your personal and professional life. Opinions shine a light on your strengths and weaknesses. Write them down and pay special attention to any surprising strengths and weaknesses you were unaware of. Just remember that not everything you hear is always true and that people sometimes project. Listen, don’t get too personal about it, and reflect on these opinions, being in close touch with your feelings and intuition.
It takes time to develop self-awareness. However, putting in the necessary effort can positively improve every aspect of your life, especially your interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships.
We all know humans to be highly social creatures. Even if you are an introvert and shiver on the thought of multiple social interactions, you still deep down might recognize your need to surround yourself with loving people.
Some of us prefer tighter, close-knit groups while others prefer larger, more dynamic, and diverse settings, but one thing that binds us together as humans is this inner drive to seek out others. Being around the right people can seriously bring out the best in ourselves (or the worst, but we are talking about nice stuff here for now). How is it then that we can create the right groups of people and surround ourselves with people who want to uplift each other rather than the opposite?
While personality types can be an intuitive model for people, note that experiences, circumstances, and even their current mood can all affect their behavior.
This approach explores the transparency, tolerance, extroversion, unanimity, and neuroticism of people. If you see whether or not a person has these attributes, you can feel how eager someone would try something different, work with a community, or even start a dispute.
For more insight on different types of personality traits, you might want to look into the Big Five or OCEAN. We recommend THIS article.
- Try the Four Ps.
This method organizes people as playful, friendly, robust, or accurate. The Four Ps allow you to understand how people are approached, affected, and treated.
- Meet people’s needs.
If you understand the personality style of the person, you may have a better idea of how, when, and what to say. You can better understand how to interact and respond in ways that satisfy their emotional needs and goals.
- Avoid assumptions.
Sometimes, when people are very nervous or just awkward, they find assumptions rude and unfriendly. Instead of assuming what a person thinks or plans to do, discuss reasons for their actions and try to give them the benefit of the doubt. You can also ask them directly about their intentions, although keep in mind that not everyone is willing to share their patterns, let alone be aware of them.
- Appreciate differences.
If you do not expect others to think and act like you, understanding people will be much easier. Even those with similar characteristics have different backgrounds and experiences that form their views and attitudes. Learning more about people can help you understand their differences, prevent stereotyping and judgment. Practice approaching people with openness and kindness. They will recognize this and will more likely open as their response to the comforting space you provide.
- Develop empathy.
This means putting yourself in the shoes of the other person. You can relate to what other people think or feel, even though you do not feel the same or have the same opinion. Of course, some people are empathic; some are not. But it is a skill that, with practice, can be built and strengthened.
- Examine your biases.
Stereotyping is when you believe that everyone in a group behaves the same. Before you really know much about it, prejudice gets between you and another individual. Stereotyping and discrimination prevent understanding. Which is precisely the opposite of what we want to achieve. So biases are a big no-no. By this point, you’ve got some great tools to dismantle the mystery of another human being. Treat each person with their own customs, likes, dislikes, and opinions. Let them show you who they are, rather than forming a picture of who you think they are and allowing it to overcast their awesomeness. If you justify the actions of others based on your assumptions or biases, stop. Pretty please.
- Acceptance, not understanding.
You might find yourself struggling to understand others no matter how much you listen or attempt to empathize. Often people do things that cannot easily be described or interpreted. Do not sweat it; only acknowledge that you cannot understand it and offer them loving acceptance. Sounds extreme, huh? Yass, that’s what we’re all about here. Extremely humane, baby.
Again, if you’d like to dig deeper into this topic, we highly recommend reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel.
Recognize your Friends and your role as one
A friend is someone you trust and with whom you share a deep level of communication and understanding. Pay attention to how a friendship feels, not what it looks like (especially not what it looks like in particular moments).
One of the most important qualities of friendship is how the relationship makes you feel (in general, and in detail - about yourself), and not how it appears on paper. That is, how it seems on the surface or what other people think. The crux of the matter is; if the friendship feels good, then it is good.
Let us define what a good friend is supposed to do because why not. Ofc every friendship is different, and ofc there’s no golden, one-fits-all rule-set, but well, oh well, people are people, and being a good friend comes down to basically being a good person. And what a good person is made of is something we can all agree about based on the societal conditioning we all grew up in. We mean, without too much analyzing, cause dear overthinkers, we all know where it can take us.
A good person-friends should (and will, if they care) do the following:
- Show genuine interest in things going on in your life (it doesn’t have to be everything, they have their lives too); what you have to say, how you feel and think, etc.
- Accept you as you are, not for the benefit they stand to gain from you, but for who you are (ofc they should call you out on your bullshit, and when you’re acting up – honesty is a big part of a good friendship).
- Listen to you without judgment. Avoid telling you how you should think or feel. They don’t assess your feelings. They provide space for your rants because you do the same for them (right? :) ).
- Feel free and comfortable to share information about themselves with you. But if they want to have secrets, it’s their right. Don’t expect them to go fully exposed. You can do that if you wish. But you can also keep bits to yourself if that’s how you feel.
- Someone you are very comfortable with and someone you share a special bond of trust and loyalty with.
All in all, a great relationship of any kind is based on rules that, paradoxically, allow it to live without any rules at all. It’s about mutual understanding and respect of values, a similar level of emotional intelligence, and personal growth (incl level of consciousness). With this base, day-to-day goes effortlessly, and any frictions, if arise, can be addressed healthily and constructively (one that builds and not destroys).
And just a little reminder at the end: great relationships with others begin (should, must, it’s good if) from a great relationship with yourself. If you work on being complete on your own and don’t expect others to complete you, then you can bond with them without anxious attachment or temptation to ignore your boundaries to keep them in your life :)