First let’s review different types of relationships.
Some are permanent; examples can include our families, life partners, close friends, and professional colleagues. These are the lifelong bonds we have with some people. These venerable relationships endure not necessarily because of frequency of contact, but because of the nature of the relationship.
Some relationships are transient. Some friends, acquaintances, coworkers, and colleagues enter and leave our lives. Parting can be voluntary or involuntary. Such relationships can be highly valuable and rewarding, even if only for the short term.
Finally, many some relationships are virtual. By virtual relationships, we’re talking about the nature of the relationship itself. These are connections we have (note that they’re called “followers” or “friends” or, literally, “connections”) with electronic representations of people. Virtual friends may be transient or permanent—and, many permanent and transient relationships are enhanced by the use of social media. However, there is a difference between the use of social media as a communications tool for face-to-face relationships versus a source for developing new relationships.
With these distinctions in mind, let’s now focus on sustaining your journey through relationships, whether permanent or temporary or virtual, with these four goals in mind:
- We have to give to get. For relationships to be fulfilling we have to invest in them; we can’t simply be takers. What we offer needn’t be tangible (although it can be); it can be listening, support, feedback, or empathy. Relationships are two-way streets. You can’t hog the road.
- Relationships are based on trust. Trust is the belief that the other person has your best interests in mind and that you have his/her best interests in mind. Honest feedback and advice, even when painful, are part of caring for the other person.
- Relationships are not a zero-sum game. For me to win, you don’t have to lose. For you to win, I don’t have to lose. We can both win (or lose). I am not diminished by your victories. We rejoice in success and bemoan loss for either party.
- Relationships need to be appropriate. If you’re promoted, your former colleagues are now subordinates, and your former superiors are now peers. You can reach a level of familiarity and ease in a personal relationship that may not be right for a professional relationship. Similarly, social relationships have their own unspoken rules. You probably wouldn’t act the same way your college friends as you would with your prospective mother-in-law.