Everybody in the world wants to have better relationships. You are likely no different — you want a better relationship with your family, your partner, your business colleagues, and everyone else. Strong, healthy relationships are the key to everything we want to accomplish. But how do we get better at nurturing our relationships?
I believe there are four golden rules of relationships. Adopt these strategies, and watch your relationships deepen and grow!
1. Love who you are first
The first golden rule of relationships is to love yourself. It is impossible to be the best version of yourself, and to connect meaningfully with others, if you don’t love who you are. You must first become comfortable with who you are. That often means we have to take a close look at ourselves and then do away with some bad habits and adopt some healthy habits.
We often hear psychologists say that it’s difficult to maintain a healthy relationship with a significant other if we don’t love ourselves first. I believe this is true. If you don’t love yourself, you cannot be the partner you should be. Why? Because nothing the other person ever does will be enough for you. You will always be unsatisfied, regardless of what the other person does for you, because you are unhappy in general.
But when you love who you are, your confidence attracts other people. That confidence also makes it easier to navigate the ups and downs of a close relationship.
It’s the same with any business relationship. If you don’t have confidence in who you are and what you bring to the table, you will inevitably think someone across from the table is either better than you or inferior to you. That will prevent you from building a successful, mutually beneficial business relationship.
- To what extent do you love yourself and have confidence in yourself? If you want to improve in this area, what steps will you take to boost your self-image and confidence?
- Take a close look at the people around you. Whom do you need to separate yourself from? What do you need to do more of? Less of?
- With your renewed confidence, you won’t become mortally wounded when someone makes a suggestion to you. You will welcome feedback and new ideas. And, as a result, you will grow, both personally and professionally.
2. Give more, take less
A lot of people struggle in relationships because they are focused on what they are going to get out of it. They surround themselves with people who can give them what they want and need, without ever considering what those other people might want or need. It’s all about them. If you know people like this, you probably aren’t inclined to spend much time around them.
I strongly believe that the more you give, the more you get. If you go into relationships with a giving mentality, that mindset of abundance will end up benefiting not just others, but also you. When you help people, most of them will want to help you in return. (Those who do not feel compelled to return your kindness with kindness are those people who are focused on taking. Simply avoid those people!)
This is true in personal as well as professional relationships. When you give the best of yourself, your personal value will increase, and you will attract more goodness into your life.
In his book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, Gary Chapman advises that if you are not getting what you want out of a marriage or other relationship, take a look at yourself and find out are you giving the other person what he or she needs. Most of the time, we are not focused on giving to others the way we could. We tend to get so wrapped up in getting what we want and need that we forget to give.
Chapman further advises that we discover the way the people who are important to us like to receive from us. He identifies five important love languages as gifts, words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service and quality time.
- Focus on giving more and taking less, and I believe you will experience exponential results.
- What would this look like for you with your significant other? With your family? With your colleagues?
- What is your significant other’s love language? Your children’s? Your colleagues’? And what is your love language? Discuss this concept with the people who are important in your life. Once you all understand one another’s love languages, imagine how much more meaningful your interactions can be.
3. Be authentic
So many people feel compelled to, in both business and personal relationships, present a fake version of themselves — the version they think others want them to be. They’ll go into a business situation or into a potential new relationship pretending to be someone they’re not. That is a strategy destined for disappointment!
Be authentic! Be true to your own values, interests and personality, and you will attract people into your life who will complement your uniqueness. It’s impossible to lay down the foundation of a solid relationship while pretending to be someone else. People can see through fakeness — if not right away, then eventually.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to a networking event, and someone will shake my hand and look me in the eye, yet they have no interest in what I’m going to say or what’s going to come up next. Their handshake and eye contact come across to me as fake and inauthentic — an attempt to get my attention so they can try to obtain what they want and need from me.
And I have no interest in getting to know people like that. They’re the same people who walk up and ask, “So, what do you do?” They want to know how they can benefit from being associated with me. They are not attempting to connect with me or tell me about themselves or ask me about myself.
When you present your genuine self to others, you will attract people who are meant to be in your life.
- Have you ever felt the need to present a version of yourself to others that is not authentically you? Why? What are you afraid you will lose by presenting your authentic self to others?
- On the other hand, what can you gain by presenting an authentic version of yourself? Consciously focus on this the next time you meet someone new.
4. Be vulnerable
When we are authentic, it forces us to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable is uncomfortable. But it’s only when we get out of our comfort zone that we can perform optimally!
We are all human. We all say the wrong thing sometimes or overstep a boundary, and yes, it’s embarrassing. But when we are vulnerable and human is when others can relate to us the most because, guess what? They’ve done the same things! When you are vulnerable with people, they often become your true friends, your real allies in life.
I am so blessed that my wife has allowed me to fail so many times in our lives. I’m so blessed that I’ve been able to be vulnerable with her and be the true version of myself.
In business, too, we all make mistakes. It’s upsetting when people try to hide their mistakes or blame them on someone else, isn’t it? I always admire the rare leaders who own up to their mistakes, accept responsibility and vow to make things right. That’s leadership. That’s the path to high performance.
Recently I had a conversation along these lines with a longtime friend and client. I said, “Hey, we dropped the ball on that one thing years ago, and I just want to make sure we talk about that.” I apologized to him. He said, “It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.” But I know he appreciated my bringing it up. Looking back now, I wish I had addressed it as soon as it happened.
Being vulnerable extends the value and the foundational structure of true friendships and true love, and it gives us the opportunity to deepen our relationships.
Everybody talks about wanting a deep relationship. But most people just go wide; they don’t go deep. They don’t really know the humans behind the connections. If you want to have deep relationships, if you want to feel more, more fulfilled, you have to give all of yourself — 100 percent of who you are, how you are and what you want to be all the time.
- To what extent are you okay with being vulnerable? If it is uncomfortable for you, try letting your guard down. Be willing to be imperfectly human. Doing so will help you grow, and it will enable you to deepen your relationships.
- If you have been vulnerable with someone and did not get the support and compassion you expected, that can be a sign that the person you were interacting with was not a genuine friend or ally. Be vulnerable to identify who your true allies are.
When we love ourselves, give instead of taking and allow ourselves to be authentic and vulnerable with others, we are going to grow. We are going to learn. In fact, the more mistakes we make, the more we learn. We learn more from our mistakes than from our successes. Failures are the pillars of success!
When you are vulnerable with someone and you fail at something, your relationship will grow and deepen. The strongest relationships come from growing together. Failure increases trust, and relationships built on trust last the longest.
Try abiding by these four golden rules of relationships. I believe they will help you become a better friend, partner and parent — and a better and happier person in general.