"Healthy relationships, whether they are through marriage, friendships or work, are critical to our lives. We may only have a few really healthy relationships but they help to nourish and support our growth and happiness and greatly enrich our life."
As we develop through childhood into our teenage years and then adulthood we meet and develop lots of relationships at school, college, socially and at work. We begin to realize not everyone is the same, that we all have our own personality and that it is impossible to get on with everyone.
Even when we do like one another and get along well most of the time, all relationships will still have their ups and downs. Dealing with the good times in relationships is easier than dealing with the bad times and at such times we can feel frustrated, confused, let down, upset and lonely. The same person that has praised you can, on another occasion, criticise you.
So whilst there are literally thousands of books written about relationships there are perhaps some simple principles to remain rooted to if you wish to develop meaningful relationships and at the same time manage potentially difficult ones. To help keep it simple we have a short acronym PACT
P = PATIENCE A = ASSERTIVENESS C = CARING T = TRUST
The phrase the "patience of a saint" is often used and probably a little too glibly. Real patience is a difficult quality to practice but one that is hugely beneficial to the quality of your relationships and your health. The more patient you are the more respect you will generate, the more help people will seek from you and the less angry or upset you will be. Your stress levels will be lower with all the consequent mental and physical health benefits that this brings. You will worry less and respond to difficult people and situations with a calm that defuses tense emotions and allows for intelligent solutions.
How do we develop patience? With high self awareness and an understanding that most people are subconsciously trying to prove they are right; a realization that our perception is not the only one; an ability to an ability to forgive people for saying and doing stupid things when they are in highly emotional states; a willingness to see the best in people and their potential and a sincere desire to understand and help others when they wished to be helped.
Not asking too much then! And that is why we say "the patience of a saint". However, it is worth cultivating – the world look very different through patient eyes.
It may seem strange to talk about patience and assertiveness as helpful qualities to developing successful relationships but consider carefully this definition:
Assertiveness is the ability to express your opinions, thoughts, emotions and needs without being aggressive and offending the same thoughts, emotions and needs of others. People who are not assertive may find themselves attempting to please others who are seeking to impose themselves or who use manipulation to satisfy their needs or goals. Instead they, in effect, suppress their true feelings in order to make others feel happy or to avoid being rejected.
Clearly being aggressive, domineering or manipulative in the application of your thoughts and opinions will not build successful and meaningful relationships. Instead they will be relationships based at worst on fear and at best on convenience. Equally if you lack assertiveness (always saying yes when asked to do something and/or attempting to please others at the cost of your own happiness) then the relationship can also be damaging. Feelings of low self esteem and confidence are most likely to develop and you could become frustrated and then angry.
To be assertive requires understanding and practicing that:
It is your right to have your own values, beliefs, attitudes, opinions, and emotions.
It is ok for you to stand up for these values and beliefs and express them without aggression
It is ok to make mistakes and to ask for forgiveness and understanding
You have the right to be treated with respect and to explain this to others
It is perfectly acceptable to say "No" when someone asks a favour of you
It is perfectly acceptable to say "No" when others seems to be too demanding
It is OK to say you "don't understand" or that you "do not know"
It requires patience (!) to learn how to be assertive – it is not a skill that we are born with. It is probably easier being assertive when you are patient!
Instinctively we all know what caring means or what caring behaviour is. We can care for our nearest and dearest, our colleagues and friends and our pets. We can also care for people we hear about on the media. It is an expression of our compassion for others which many would say comes from the human ability to love. Even people that appear to be hard-nosed can be caught off guard expressing caring thoughts and behaviours!
It is helpful to remember that to care is a verb – it is a doing word. So let's consider what we have to do to care in a relationship:
To demonstrate, patience, kindness and generosity.
To help when it is required and not to force help when it is not wanted
To avoid manipulative or hurtful behaviour even if you are upset
To be sensitive (not soft but attentive and understanding) of other peoples' feelings.
Remember that we are all different and sometimes people say or do hurtful things. We all have moods and off days - it's normal and nothing to do with you personally. We can all be expert at taking offence when actually it is just another person's bad day so really try not to take things to heart.
We all know what trust is, what it feels like to have it and what it feels like to lose it. Much has been written about trust and a few thoughts of others are captured below to help offer a few perspectives on the subject. If you are able to demonstrate patience, assertiveness and caring in your relationships then your trust is likely to be well deserved. Many people will have made mistakes along the journey of their life but that doesn't mean they cannot learn from those mistakes and become people that are to be trusted.
"Trust and communication are the corner stone of any relationship. Whether it be a friendship, working relationship, or a commitment made by two people to spend their lives together."
"Trust is a very fragile thing, and once it has been broken, there's a chance it may never be fully repaired."
"To have someone trust you, is a gift, an honour. That another person has placed their trust in you, is something that you should always respect, and you should repay the trust given to you with honesty to the giver."
"Trust must first come from within; it is an internal virtue that emanates outward."
Developing trust in relationships is underestimated in the work place. It is paid lip service but it is worth remembering the saying
"people don't leave an organisation they leave their manager". It can save an organisation many thousands of pounds to invest into the development of healthy relationships based upon trust, patience, caring and assertiveness.
What have we not said here is also important. What about love and communication? Many people would say they too are essential to a healthy relationship and they would often be right. Communication is covered elsewhere in our material and of course love needs no explanation. Remember, however, that love is also a verb: and as we know from school a verb is a "doing" word – to love someone means to be doing something. So in our relationships outside of work it is not a passive state and requires many of the qualities we have listed here. Perhaps in the workplace, if we apply PACT, it is possible to have healthy relationships without necessarily loving each other – that may be asking too much!
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