Maslow tells us that belonging is a fundamental human need. Belonging is the gateway between our basic needs for food, oxygen, security and safety, and the higher order needs of fulfillment, accomplishment, self-esteem and actualization.
So it stands to reason that achieving a meaningful life and striving for a higher purpose than meeting our own individual needs requires us to have relationships that we invest in and benefit from.
There are, of course, a range of relationships that we will have over the course of our life. The way I would bracket this range is to define one end of the spectrum as those relationships with a person for whom we have unconditional love, a person we would take a bullet for. This is usually reserved for parents and children, but not always.
The other end of the spectrum is that person with whom you have a relationship but shouldn’t. You know who these people are, and now is a good time to come to terms with them. If you can eliminate these people from your life or mitigate the time you spend with them, now’s the time.
In between these two extremes there are several categories of relationships worth noting. Wikipedia lists close to 100 categories of relationships, but this is how I’d bucket them:
- Social media “friends”
- New friends
- Close friends
- Those that we love
Sure, there are many ways to think about, define and act upon the relationships in our life, but for me, these buckets work as I think about the people in my life. There is overlap, and there are many subcategories, but let’s go with these for now.
So, what’s the point of creating buckets of relationships – who cares? Here’s a start:
1. Many of us have relationships other than with people that consume our time, attention and ultimately influence the relationships we have with real people. Consider the relationships we have with food, TV shows and work, for example. A relationship is defined as the way two or more people, objects or concepts are connected and interact with one another. What percentage of our relationships are with people?
2. As we enter a new year, taking stock of our relationships will help us make decisions about how we invest our time, with whom and with what. We have approximately 112 waking hours each week and we need to make them count. We’ll dig deeper into this topic next week.
3. Clarity. It’s said that we are the average of the five people with whom we most associate. We become like those we interact with. Many of you reading this will take issue with this next point but I believe that social media is bad for us. It is efficient and does have a role, but it seems to me there isn’t much of a middle ground: you’re either in deep or not at all. The comparisons, vanity, self-indulgence and superficiality of social media “relationships” creates transactional connections, and, as I see it, these relationships take our eye off the ball.
I expect a few of you to strongly disagree, and let me say now, you’re right. Just accept that I am, too.
I’ve never bought into the line “it’s not personal, it’s just business.” We are social animals, and at some level for our species everything is about relationships. How we start, build, cultivate and end relationships is a choice. Few relationships are perfectly balanced: there is almost always a hierarchy, and sometimes we hold the power and sometimes we don’t.
Let’s exercise the compassion, thoughtfulness and grace we’d like to receive when we have the power in the relationship.
I’ll leave you with this quote that, for me, has proven to be true more often than not.
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
— Carl Jung