Those who value relationships and those who value only what they can get out of them

If you’re like me, you spend a large chunk of each day navigating the numerous relationships in your life.  Sometimes the water is turbulent and other times it is smooth as glass.  Part of the challenge we face every day is surveying the landscape – determining whether we’ll need to wear our life jacket or if we will be able to relax and get some sun.  No matter what, we are never able to make it through a single day without relying on the relationships we’ve made in our lives.

For some people, that may mean a kind word at the market to their usual cashier while checking out.  Another person might be mentoring someone at the office as they groom them for the next step in their career.  Still another might be attempting to reach a group of children who have grown up under difficult circumstances and need someone to turn to.  The one thing that all of these people have in common is that they are treating that relationship like the most important thing in their life.  And at that moment, it should be.  People love to brag about how well they multi-task during the day.  They check their email on their smartphone in one hand with a hot dog in the other while waiting in line to buy theater tickets and carrying on a conversation about the big game the night before.  You can brag all you want, but only one of those activities deserves your full attention at that moment – because it’s all about building a relationship.  Sure – you can cultivate a relationship via email, and that’s fine – but not when someone else is standing right next to you.

People want to believe that they are important to those around them.  Treating someone as insignificant – as not worthy of your time – will go a long way toward pushing them away.  It doesn’t matter if they are a co-worker, a friend or a family member – treat them as insignificant and watch your relationship with them deteriorate right before your eyes.  Like magic.  You may be able to handle a co-worker or casual acquaintance who suddenly doesn’t care to spend time with you – but treat the most important people in your life disrespectfully and you may be setting yourself up for a fall.  And that is a tragedy that you might not be able to recover from.

We have to take time to nurture the relationships that we have with the important people in our lives.  At any given time, just about anyone could be that person – it’s up to us to recognize who they are.  It could be the policeman protecting your safety, the friend who was just diagnosed with a severe illness, the acquaintance in your field who needs wise counsel or your child looking up at you with fear in their eyes.  Be in the moment with any one of them and they will know that you value both them and your relationship with them.

There are many rewards for us when we place value in our relationships.  The most important one to me is that we can easily create lasting friendships or business partnerships by just taking the time to look people in the eye to let them know that they are important to us.  But we can just as easily destroy the image that others have of us by treating them as if they don’t matter.  I’ve made enough mistakes in this area through the years to know precisely what the consequences can be when you take people for granted.  Families can be torn apart.  Friendships can be lost along with the respect that you once commanded from people.  Gone.  In a flash.  Sometimes the effects of your actions can be quite subtle and sometimes things can blow up in your face in a very public way.  Make no mistake, however – much like the business cost of gaining a new customer far exceeds the cost of retaining an existing customer, the cost of repairing a relationship pales in the face of what it takes to simply maintain one.

There are people who don’t have any desire to treat people as though they value them.  These are people who only want to suck relationships dry.  They ask for favors without reciprocating, are not thoughtful or respectful of others’ time and draw attention to themselves in an effort to appear as though they deserve the attention that they so desperately crave.  In my experience, people who don’t want to get to know you are simply not genuine and tend to be selfish.  I typically don’t ask for much at all from other people – I am very independent and tend to handle situations on my own more often than not.  However, there have been several times in my life where I have confided in someone that I needed them.  These were not life and death situations – they were simply situations where I needed a good friend who cared about me.  In the cases where people empathized with me and offered help, it really meant the world to me.  However, in some cases I was ignored and even made by them to feel that helping me was beneath them.  In each of those cases, our relationship was damaged beyond the point of repair.  And they still are damaged – once someone breaches my trust or lets me down, I have very little desire to put in any hard work to bridge the chasm that has grown between us.  I think this is purely human nature at work.  Often times pride or memories that we hold onto from other similar situations cloud our judgement and force us to abandon all rational thought.

Ted Rubin is a terrific blogger who can be found on Twitter as @TedRubin with his blog being located at www.TedRubin.com.  He preaches a concept called Return on Relationship – a play on Return on Investment – which boils down to the fact that you must invest in relationships to realize a return on them.  Ted is right – it’s all about those relationships.  But I would argue that it’s just as important to spot people who are intent on minimizing their investment in a relationship with you.  This doesn’t run counter to his concept at all – it’s just another perspective to use in determining where you should invest your precious time in partnering with people.  We all have to come up with our own way of discerning whether or not a relationship is worth investing in and I would argue that not all of them are – not if you want to maximize your investment of time.

If time has taught me anything, it would be that I can’t make it through this life on my own – even if I think that I can sometimes.  The ebb and flow that we all feel as we go through life’s little trials each day can make us or break us – it all comes back to how strong we are and how well we surround ourselves with people that we can count on.  That’s how I define relationships – nothing arbitrary.  Nothing that can’t be measured.  One question – can I count on you?  Can I count on you to give as much as I attempt to give?  Can I count on you to care as much as I attempt to care?  Can I count on you to walk with me instead of trying to hold me back?  If I can count on you then everything else falls into place.

We can figure out the rest as we go.

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About Benny Morrison
Software Development Manager, Dad, husband, music lover, song writer and Chief Sarcasm Officer of Morrison, Inc.

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