In short, this article is all about the effort we put into relationships. To truly create meaningful relationships we have to be willing to invest the time that it takes to know someone, connect with them, and intertwine our lives.
1. Be Present
These days I feel like I always have a thousand things competing for my attention at any given moment and a lot of times I can let those things get in the way of my relationships. Being present with your friends and family means being engaged and focused on those people when you are interacting with them.
Not being engaged and focused on them and also checking your Instagram, or texts, etc. I know I fall into this trap all the time thinking I can do both. Listen to the people I’m with, but also respond to an email or check my Linkedin, I always tell myself it’s gonna be super fast .
We don’t like that we do this and we don’t like when other people do this when they’re with us, but the only way to break the cycle is to be intentional about putting aside distractions. Lately, I’ve tried to get into the habit of putting the distraction (usually my phone!) completely away from me. Whether it’s leaving my phone in the car when I meet with a friend for lunch or putting it in my purse and putting the purse away, I have to do this because I’m so susceptible to the temptation to just check really quick.
2. Engage in Outbound Actions
I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard a friend telling a story about how a simple note or gift or gesture from another friend made them feel so special and loved, which makes me think, “why don’t I do this more often for the people I care about?!”
I think it makes such a memorable impression on someone because it goes against the grain of our normal routines. Taking the time to write an encouraging note probably isn’t a part of our everyday routine because it’s a sacrifice. It’s sacrificing your desire to look up all the new arrivals from your favorite brand and instead spending that ten minutes focused on someone else.
But, when you think about it, which one of these has more value? To cultivate meaningful relationships we have to take the time to do the actual cultivating.
3. Stop and Listen
Let’s face it, we love to talk about ourselves and share our opinions. This isn’t inherently bad, but we can let it get out of control. There have definitely been times when I’m talking with someone, but I’m really not listening to what they’re saying, instead I’m just thinking about the next thing I want to say.
When I don’t listen to what a friend is saying, I rob myself of the opportunity to know them better and grow in community. Part of investing in relationships is to sacrifice talking about myself in an effort to listen and ask meaningful questions. Questions that help me to get a more nuanced perspective of of my friend and his/her heart.
4. Pursue People
I love sitting back and waiting for people to come to me...it’s way easier. I don’t have to put myself out there or risk being disappointed from things not working out. So often, I believe the lie that my value or how “interesting” I am to friends is directly proportional to how many people invite me to things, or text me, or reach out in some way.
This is just not true, yet a lot of us feel this way. Think about some of the friends or people in your life who are great to be around/interesting/fun/whatever makes you want to hangout with them, and now think about how often you actually reach out to them to spend time together. For me, it really isn’t often enough to actually have a meaningful relationship.
I am a person, especially susceptible, to the trap of thinking that if I was worth hanging out with then someone would reach out to me. Now, what if my friend felt the same way. Both of us would have missed the opportunity to spend time together because we didn’t think we worth the other person’s time.
In order to build meaningful relationships, we have to reach out and continue to reach out to friends in our life even if some say “no” or even when we don’t feel like it or even when it would be easier not to.
5. Choose Them When Others Don’t
At some point one of your friends or family members will be going through something really hard and they will need you. Investing in these relationships means being with them in these times even though it won’t be fun, happy, easy, etc. It will be hard and you may not know what to say and you may want to leave. I urge you to stay, though.
Choosing these people, in the midst of their pain and hardship, is a part of knowing them. How well could I really know someone if I only saw them in their happy times? People are complex and multifaceted, so only knowing them in one small part of them is to reject so much of who they are.
6. Know When to Walk Away
Investing in meaningful relationships will take time and sacrifice on our parts. We’re bound to run into a one sided relationship here and there. By this, I mean someone who does not want to invest back into you. It’s really tricky to know when to walk away from a friendship and there isn’t a definitive answer, but it’s something that needs to be considered. If you’re having trouble deciding, talk through the choice with someone you trust.
If you’re continually trying to invest in someone, but there’s just no response (and I mean someone who just keeps blowing you off), you may need to move on and invest in other people who want to build a relationship with you. A one-sided relationship isn’t meaningful. It’s a really tough decision because many of us really want all of our relationships to be successful and meaningful.
Please, know that you will not be able to do these six things every time with every person. That is ok. No one is perfect. There will be days when you don’t do any of these things. That’s ok too. These six ways to invest in meaningful relationships are tools to equip you to continue the journey of life with your friends and family.
This list isn’t meant to make you feel guilty if you’re not doing these things, rather it’s a gentle reminder (to me especially) that we absolutely have to put in work to have meaningful relationships. It won’t be easy, but it will be so worth it.This list isn’t all inclusive. We would love to hear more ways you invest in meaningful relationships in the comment section below!