Optimal Connections

Tonight’s thoughts have been about our day-to-day connections; specifically, what it takes to create optimal relationships.  These thoughts were spurred by a small act of kindness that I received this morning:

I had 3 minutes to go until my first period class started, and the copier was acting like a spoiled brat.  Since I have a slight flair for the dramatic, I was making quite the comic scene of frustration and horror as my coworkers passed by.  After some (well-deserved) eye-rolling and snickering, one of my colleagues said “Here, give it to me, I’ve got kids that can help during this period” and proceeded to troubleshoot the copier, make me two different sets of copies, and deliver it them before first period finished.  I was relieved and amazed by my stroke of luck.

And then I started thinking.  Is it really just luck that caused me to stumble into having awesome alliances at work?  Maybe…but I feel like the answer really lies in the value I place on all my relationships and the steps I take to maintain them.

If you want to receive, first you have to give.  This is true for everything in life, but especially for relationships.  In today’s world, there is so much emphasis on what others can do for you.  What can YOU contribute to MY life?  People rarely ask themselves how they are contributing back.  Based on my personal experiences, I feel that there are at least five things that you need to do in order to create valuable connections with quality people in your life.

  1. Be Positive.  Nobody likes to be around someone who is constantly sighing and moaning about this or that problem or this or that person.  Constant negativity can shut down a budding relationship or sever an established bond.  While I definitely have my moments, the majority of the time I am happy and giving off positive vibes by smiling, waving, and goofing around.  Being upbeat makes quality people want to be around you, giving you an opportunity to establish firm connections.
  2. Be Earnest.  Sincerity has become a luxury today, and people tend to gravitate towards someone who is being honest, whether they completely agree with their statements or not.  I am able to create great relationships with my students, even during times when I am grumpy, simply by being honest and open with them on a daily basis.  I rarely put up a “teacher front” and I make sure I verbalize both the positive and negative things that I see in the classroom.  This has created an atmosphere of trust and accessibility, and even if my students don’t always like what I say, they never respond in a disrespectful way because they know that I am genuine.  If you trust quality people with your true, honest feelings, they will reciprocate in kind.
  3. Inconvenience Yourself.  Being selfish has its place in making sure that you are taken care of and healthy.  However, there are times when the duties that come with relationships are inopportune and annoying.  Do those things anyway.  Recently I had a friend’s housewarming party scheduled for the same day as I had planned on going down to San Diego.  The kicker?  The party was an hour in the opposite direction.  I had already committed to both, so, I did both.  Later, she sent me a text thanking me for being a such a good friend and coming to her party even though it wasn’t convenient for me.  Quality people will notice the sacrifices you make, and will make sacrifices in return.  I am not advocating that you completely neglect what you need in order to please everyone around you, but if the relationship matters to you, little inconveniences are a small price to pay.
  4. Communicate.  There are few things more frustrating for both parties than finding out you mistakenly took something someone said, did, or texted completely the wrong way.  Always try to convey your message clearly, and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you are tempted to get offended by something.  Quality people will not be afraid to work through any issues that may arise.   As I have gotten older, I have become more straightforward with asking people what they mean with this comment or that text, and it has saved me a lot of hurt feelings and wasted time sulking.
  5. Make an Effort.  If a puppy is not fed, it dies.  If a flower is not watered, it withers away.  If a house is not maintained, it falls into disrepair.  This is analogous to our relationships.  Many times we get so engrossed in our own lives that we can go for months without speaking to a friend or a colleague.  Take the time to keep your relationships alive.  My best friend lives in South Carolina and we see each other once a year.  But we always make time for phone calls, texts, and the occasional Skype session.  Every time I pass a coworker in the hall, I purposefully say at LEAST ‘hi’, if not have a slight exchange in passing.  Making an effort does not always have to mean dedicating hours and hours-it can be as simple as shooting off a text or picking up someone’s favorite food while you’re at the grocery store.  Any effort you give is a gift that quality people will appreciate and return.

None of the five things that I have listed are easy.  But as I’m discovering more and more, nothing worth having in life is easyOptimal relationships with quality people are 100% worth the extra time and effort they take to establish and maintain because those people make you become a better person.

Take the time to observe the people you choose to surround yourself with.  Are they people of high caliber?  Would they inconvenience themselves for you?  Do they raise you up with positive energy?  If the answer to these questions is no, turn your focus towards yourself.  If you are not attracting quality people, chances are you lack the traits that make you attractive to people of such character.

Everyone is capable of creating relationships that are optimal.  Hardly anyone is willing to do what it takes.  Trust me when I say this, however, the effort is worth it.


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