Importance of Building Meaningful Relationships as an Adult
There’s a quote that says, “You are the average of the 5 people you hang around with the most." My first reaction is “HA, imagine hanging out with 5 people regularly in the middle of this pandemic.” Pandemic logistics aside, there’s actually a lot of truth in this statement. Your friendships are a reflection of who you are and who you choose to be. They can make you happier or drag you down. That’s why building meaningful relationships are so important as you navigate your adult years.
Want to check if you're doing it correctly? This article will cover how to make the best of your relationships with yourself, friends, coworkers, and maybe even romantic partners.
Rule 1: You have to value yourself first
Before you can go on building meaningful relationships, you first need to address the relationship you have with yourself. This is one of the simplest concepts, but so many people, especially if they’re younger, have trouble understanding this. You can still be a great friend when you don’t value yourself. I’ve been there.
But you aren’t necessarily going to be happy. You can give, give, give everything away. But you might not even get 70% of what you’re giving away back from others.
Now, I’m in no position to know whether that friendship is right for you or not. But here’s the deal: true satisfaction in life comes from knowing you are enough. We see all these unrealistic expectations perpetuated by social media, or we might just have a really tough situation going on in the background. Or there’s always that doubt: “well, this person has it way worse than me, so my situation can’t be that bad.”
Guess what, unlike the rom-coms, having a significant other won’t solve all these feelings. I can guarantee you that. What if that significant other turns out to be a piece of sh*t? Knowing your own self-worth will give you the strength to fight back in unfair situations, to know that you deserve better.
We need to normalize that having self-compassion isn’t selfish. Wanting to talk to a counselor because you’re stressed out isn’t dramatic. Setting and explaining your boundaries isn’t mean. Telling someone, “Hey, that joke wasn’t funny. It was actually quite disrespectful,” isn’t inappropriate.
For my conflict-avoidant people out there, I understand that doing this can seem like it’s more effort than it is worth. But if you never set your boundaries, these “tiny” things will build up and eat away at you. I promise you, having a real love for yourself will make your life and all of your other relationships much more fulfilling.
Rule 2: Be curious about other people’s lives
Now that I’ve given you the rundown on self-love (and believe me, I’ll do it again if I must to convince you), let’s talk about Rule 2. First of all, being curious is not the same as being nosy. Being nosy indicates a lack of respect for the other person’s boundaries. To me, being curious means showing repeated and genuine interest in the well-being of others.
I think it’s easy to lose curiosity for someone you’ve known for a long time, whether it be your SO or best friend. And this can be a little dangerous because it can show that you don’t appreciate the other person as much as you used to.
Here are 3 fantastic ways to stay curious:
1. Get rid of distractions when talking to the other person
Active listening skills are crucial for building meaningful relationships. One of my biggest pet peeves is someone checking their phone when I was talking to them.
2. Ask them questions
I’m not talking about ice-breakers. The best answers come from the best questions. Maybe your conversation partner isn’t the most verbose. Maybe you don’t have any more questions because you just know the other person so well. In that case, a great way to get someone talking is to ask for stories and updates about their favorite hobbies or activities.
3. The next time you see that person, follow up on one of the topics they’ve told you about
Did they talk briefly mention their latest project at work last week? Ask them about it this week. I think following up is one of the best ways to show you care and that you listen.
Rule 3: Learn their communication style
People are so quick to identity communication as the number one in building meaningful relationships. But what exactly does that mean? Communication styles are highly influenced by our life experiences. Here are the four main ones, as told by Soul Salt (1):
- You give in easily, can’t say no, and feel uneasy about conflict
- Controlling, critical, talks over other people, “I’m right, you’re wrong”
- Passive on the surface but they may be resentful over the situation
- Difficulty addressing emotions and likes to use sarcasm
- The healthiest communication style
- Balanced, communicates desires and needs easily, listens to others
- Uses “I” statements: “I feel such and such when this happens”
We all should strive to reach an assertive communication style. If someone isn’t willing to grow, maybe it’s better to leave that relationship. However, know that it does take time to change our habits.
Like for any problem, both parties need to reach a compromise for the way in which they communicate and resolve conflicts with one another. You see, communication isn’t always about the other person listening to you. It’s also about communicating in a way that the other person can understand.
Rule 4: Recognize their love languages
When it comes to accepting and giving love, there’s no one-size-fits-all. That’s why it’s so important to learn other people’s love languages when you’re building meaningful relationships. Yes, even for platonic friendships. It’s not just about love, it’s about feeling valued and appreciated.
There are 5 love languages:
1. Physical touch
First, consent is key in any interaction. Secondly, people with this love language respond well to physical affection, whether that be hugs, cuddling, or something romantic.
2. Words of affirmation
Those with this love language respond well to verbal affections, such as you vocalizing appreciation, love, and compliments. Written notes of this content work as well.
Contrary to popular belief, gifts aren’t about the money spent. It’s about the thought that went into it. Gifts can be seen as symbolic with regard to the relationship.
4. Quality time
It’s all about being present with your partner. People with this love language love to spend time without distractions, having a deep conversation, or doing fun activities together.
5. Acts of Service
To others, actions speak louder than words. Examples include taking care of others when they’re sick or doing nice things when the other person has had a stressful day.
Relationships are not perfect. People do come and go. Maybe that friend turned out to be toxic. Maybe you fell out of touch. But building meaningful relationships will enrich your life. Make sure you take the time to care for yourself and for those beside you.
Written by Jessica Lu