You might think that the most important people in your life are the ones you spend the most time with – your family, your co-workers, colleagues, and extended friendships. While it is true that those closest to you in proximity are important, even vital, they may not be the most important people in your life.
Depending on who is demanding the most attention, you may be pouring into people because of urgency rather than importance. Let’s take a look at what that means.
My children are the most important people in my world. They are the reason that I get up in the morning. BUT, if you knew me a few years ago, you may have thought that I didn’t care much at all.
I was up and on a train before 6 am every morning to get to work by 6:30. I’d leave work in the afternoon by 5:30 but wasn’t getting home until after 7 pm.
I only got to spend 5 hours with my babies. 5 hours TOTAL from Monday – Friday. I was miserable. How could my children feel like the most important people in my life when I was giving ALL my time to others? They couldn’t and that was my biggest reason for changing things.
There is a philosophy that states that twenty percent of people take up eighty percent of your time. Sadly, the squeaky wheel does get the grease. This may mean that you are giving your time and attention to people who demand it, rather than to people who truly matter in the bigger scheme of things.
I needed to put myself in a place where my family could squeak as much as they wanted, and I would be there to hear them and to take care of them.
Some people are energy vampires who consistently suck the life out of you. They need constant attention and become disgruntled or angry when they don’t have your focus. They require so much that they seem important, but are they? In some work situations, a customer or a boss may have very high expectations that require your time and energy resulting in less time for your family or your passions.
Even though I loved my job, it demanded a lot of my time, leaving me with little time for my family. In each case, these people are taking a disproportionate amount of your time and ultimately, they aren’t the most important people in your life.
Fact: A key to nurturing important relationships is assessing who is important to you, which allows you to spend intentional time building and maintaining the closeness you want.
Here are three tips for determining who the main relationships are in your life and making the most of those bonds:
Family is the bedrock of our life. Building and maintaining positive and nurturing relationships is always a priority. Sometimes our other commitments drain us of our energy and time and family doesn’t get the attention they deserve.
Even families who feel disconnected can usually trace the root of the issue back to neglecting the bond. Make your family a priority and measure the expectations of others against whether or not they will detract from essential family time. I’m not saying that you should do what I did and change careers (okay maybe a little), but perhaps there are other ways you can re-prioritize your time to make your family more of a priority.
If you work full-time, is there a possibility of working from home a couple of days a week? Could you change your schedule so that you work longer hours some days and then have one day at home? (i.e., 10 hours Monday – Thursday and Fridays off).
As business owners, we have more control over our schedules, but being self-employed still takes a lot of time.
- Can you change your schedule to get up earlier/stay up later, so you can work around their schedules?
- Can you batch tasks so that you can be productive in your downtime (i.e., work on social media during carpool)
Watch out for drama
Dysfunction doesn’t always look crazy. Sometimes well-meaning people can be totally unaware of their impact. Guard yourself against personalities that drain you and bring drama into your life. Make space for the friendships and relationships that are healthiest and reciprocating. Disengage with people who demand too much attention in all the wrong ways and set clear boundaries when you are unable to eliminate someone who loves drama.
Reciprocation is key
The people who matter most will likely be trying to connect with you as much as you are with them. Friendships and close relationships should be reciprocating and feel like a two-way street. If you feel you are chasing someone to get their attention, they are likely not a primary relationship. In the same way, if someone is trying hard to be in relationship with you and you simply don’t feel the chemistry or desire to pour into the connection, it is likely not a priority.
Being clear on who matters most is the first step. Making the most important people a priority and pouring into the relationship is the second. Be intentional with the people who matter most. The bond can last a lifetime and mean the world to you as you build lasting relationships that stand the test of time.
Life gets busy fast. The number of commitments a family faces coupled with the natural flow of a calendar year can make your head spin. One minute you’re celebrating the New Year and the next you are prepping for holidays all over again. This busy-ness can cause challenges when maintaining and nurturing relationships.
Fairly quickly, relationships can be strained and feel off somehow. This is especially true for us during the school year. The kids have afterschool activities and sometimes it feels as though we are running from one thing to another, scrambling to get homework done, dinner eaten, baths taken and into bed at a reasonable hour. It’s hard to slow down and make those simple connections.
The highest functioning relationships have a couple of things in common – regular and honest communication.
Let’s take a look at what that means:
This may seem obvious and as though it only has to do with the number of times you speak in a given time frame, but it’s less about quantity and more about quality. Regular communication includes the frequency and the content. Being available and engaged when communicating is a cornerstone of regular communication.
Regular communication does happen with some predictability on both parts and an agreement between both parties as to what regular communication means. Sometimes this means chatting on the phone or sending texts. It’s less about how the communication happens and more about what is the most meaningful for this relationship. Being clear about how often and what preferred method for speaking can prevent animosities or breakdowns in a relationship. I have friends who I talk to almost exclusively on the phone. Then there are others who prefer phone chats.
Before the kids, it was easy to have phone conversations for hours at a time, but now I’m thankful to be able to send a quick text off to a friend to keep in touch as we are all busy moms now.
Regular communication is sometimes about formality and function and sometimes about building relationships. If you are engaged in planning an event or coordinating a project, regular communication is vital for forward movement and cohesiveness. In this instance, regular communication is necessary for being dependable and completing tasks on time.
Regular communication translates to value. When you make it a high value to consistently communicate, you are also sending the message that the other person matters and is worth investing energy in. This has conscious and subconscious benefits. People respond better when they know they are a priority.
Sometimes sticky situations come up. Those who can express themselves well with the goal to preserve the relationship have better outcomes. Being able to be honest under any circumstance is a hallmark of highly effective people. Stephen Covey’s book highlights this. He notes that the best conversations are those that are Win-Win, where the actual outcome is better than what either party could have offered by themselves. Those interactions are rare, but something I’m constantly striving for.
The sticky situations is something that I have always struggled with. I’m a people pleaser by nature and typically do my best to avoid confrontation wherever I can. I continue to work on ways that I can improve my tough conversations without hard feelings. Honesty is the best policy, but care must be taken to not railroad or alienate people in the process.
Being honest about your feelings, your ideas, and your experiences is a cornerstone to a mature relationship. Building the safe space to share thoughts and ideas will make collaborations easier and friendships stronger. Avoid being passive, heavy-handed with opinions, or dismissive when you engage. Learn to sandwich difficult information in between kindness and nurturing statements.
No one is better-served when honesty is withheld. Being unable or unwilling to be honest will cause deterioration between teammates and friends. Being able to give and receive honest information and feedback is a communication style to strive for.
Life gets busy, but maintaining relationships within the chaos is easier when both parties maintain regular and honest communication. Do your part to be engaged and consistent with your communication and give and receive honesty with grace and ease.