BUILDING TRUSTING RELATIONSHIPS (Part 2 of 4)
BUILDING HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS (Part 2 of 4)
Greetings and welcome to my blog post. My intention for this blog space is to address and talk about how we do relationships. How do you relate to people? What are your thoughts, feelings, attitudes, approach or even avoidance when it comes to how you relate to people? Whether the person in your life is a spouse, sibling, friend, child, parent, or co-worker, etc, it does not matter, to live life is to face the reality of dealing with people.
In my last four-part blog post series, I invited you to consider what ingredients you are not willing to put into building healthy relationships. (If you have not read this series, I would invite you to read this). In this new four part series, I want to invite you to consider some necessary healthy relationship ingredients that I know will greatly improve your relationships. Just like the song states: “Just A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down” is also true when it comes to participating in these four ‘healthy spoonfuls’ to help make your relationships work.
RELATIONSHIP TRAIT # 2: AVAILABILITY
A second healthy trait that I want you to consider when it comes to building trust and participating in a healthy relationship is availability. How would you define availability? Could you see yourself as someone who is available for others? How have you experienced someone also being available for you? The tendency that I have observed is that when people are not available for you, you will switch to things or devices that you recognize as being available. If people are not available for you, you will turn to other things that you think will be available and predictable for you.
For example, let’s say you are a sports fan. You want to catch up with the latest information about your team or other sporting events that are going on. You turn to ESPN, Fox Sports or Sports Illustrated either on your cable channel or on the internet. It is available to tap into to find the latest information regarding your sports interest. Or, consider Facebook. You know it is available to be used at any time as you can go to your particular page and read, catch up, or write back to others as a means of communication. Both of these examples demonstrate the freedom and confidence you have that these media sites are available for you to turn to, for what you want or need.
So now switch to your relationship life. Can you have that same confidence and freedom to know that the people in your life are available and can be reached when you are seeking them? If someone hurts you, how do you respond? The tendency is to conclude that this person will not be available for you so you turn to other sources with the confidence that they will be available for you. You conclude that ESPN, Facebook, or other things do not have the potential to hurt you and you know they are available to be there for you. How can ESPN hurt you?
Let’s say you are married and you want to inform and talk with your spouse about something that happened in your day and you want to share this with them. Can you say, with confidence and freedom that your spouse is available to listen and wants to engage with you? That your spouse does care about what happens to you and wants to know about events or experiences in your day?
Oftentimes, what happens between two spouses, is that unfortunate standard line…’That’s Nice Dear.’ The one spouse hears words or information but what they are really doing is hearing for the sake of satisfying the person who is talking to them versus listening to them as a demonstration that they really do want to listen and be available. And this is why this topic of availability is so important. Maybe you can relate to this description from a spouse: “I don’t have the confident assurance that my spouse is available for me and the kids when we need him. His work, hobbies, interests, or preferences consume him and become a higher focus that grabs his attention and results in me feeling that he is distracted. I am starting to doubt that me and the kids are important to him.”
Maybe you are not married but can think of other examples regarding important people in your life where you have felt that they were distracted and really did not want to focus on listening to you. To be available means not just your eyes and your ears are paying attention but your heart’s desire wants to demonstrate availability. To be available means that you give the most important people in your life your full attention and interest whenever you are with him or her.
That is why I think so many people have turned to other things because they have felt hurt from others and they feel these ‘things’ are much more accessible for them. To be available means to not be distracted and to focus. ESPN and Facebook are available but they don’t care if you are distracted. But if you go over to a friend’s house and you notice that they want to read the paper, or a book, or watch a favorite television show and not give you their attention, then you know that they do not want to prove to you that they are available.
To be available means that others can find you versus the other person sensing that you are hiding or detaching and communicate that you are not available. To be available means to carve out time by communicating that when you need me the most, I will be there, and I will show you that you can find me to be a source of security and trust.
To be available also means that you may have to lower your expectations, especially in this world of microwave fast knowledge and instant messaging. Oftentimes, I hear the complaint that someone was not there for them after they texted them a few hours ago and they become upset, disturbed, or fearful that this person had not responded in a timely manner. Today, people expect news and information to be fast and they expect their most important relationships to also be fast by responding quickly and instantly.
But to cultivate a true healthy relationship means that each person must really, really be patient and want to give the other person quality time to listen, care, and meet the other person’s needs. We all need to show a consistent pattern of being available, slowing down our schedule, so that we are pursuing and preserve the relationship, and not wanting to damage the relationship.
The challenge in today’s world is not to allow busyness, distractions, work, other interests, and life demands to take us away from being available for one another. Our world today is focusing more on being an individual, being alone, becoming self-sufficient, and emphasizing the importance of your electronic tablets, wireless phone, blackberry’s and personal listening devices, it is hard to connect and it is a challenge to overcome these patterns and focus on availability. The sad reality is that information has become a higher importance than people. Knowing has replaced loving.
To focus and be available is to learn how to say no to distractions and other media or electronic devices so you can demonstrate to the person in your life that you are available to be there for them. When you go out on a date or dinner or have a coffee with someone, put away these electronic devices, and look into the eyes of the person you are with and show and prove to them that you are focused and available to listen and care for them. By doing this, you are communicating to one another that you value one another and you want to be there for them. Move towards love, not information.
Phil Kiehl, LMFT, M.Div.
P.S. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what ingredients you would put into building a healthy relationship. Share your comments and share this article with others. Thanks.