In today’s culture of busyness and overwhelm, it’s really easy to let our personal relationships fall to the bottom of our priority list. It’s never a conscious decision to do that, but as a million things compete for our attention, the squeakiest wheel always gets the grease.
This can happen in a multitude of ways. Smart phones and laptops enable work to take over our home lives, taking us away from our spouses and kids. Soccer games and PTA meetings and a million other school activities demand our nights and weekends, making it hard to keep in touch with our extended family and friends. Worries about getting it all done and being a great spouse and a great parent and getting promoted at work leave us barely able to take care of ourselves, much less our interpersonal relationships.
So when our lives have so little flexibility, how are we supposed to create the space to build better connections in our lives? When we can barely find the time and energy to take care of ourselves, how are we supposed to dedicate time to nurturing relationships with our loved ones?
As big as these questions are and as insurmountable as the challenges seem, building stronger connections with the most important people in our lives can actually be very simple. It all starts with talking.
It’s Time to Simplify
Today’s culture pressures us to be overachievers in every way. And the idea of having it all, though first developed to encourage women who wanted to build careers and families, actually just adds more pressure for women and men to do it all (and to do it all perfectly). This alone is stressful enough – but there’s a byproduct that makes it even worse:
Our need to be “a success” in everything we do causes us to overanalyze simple things like maintaining basic human connection.
We think about how we haven’t called our parent/sibling/aunt/uncle/friend in a long time, but then we think it’s been so long that it will be a big deal if we call them, then we think we better wait for another time because there’s no time right now to catch up on all the things there are to catch up on – besides what if they feel bad that we haven’t called in so long and give us a guilt trip?
We think about how we’d love to meet a certain friend for drinks or coffee but their schedule is always so busy and our schedule is always so busy that it could take an hour or ten emails just to nail down a time and place that will most likely be rescheduled anyway, so really what’s the point?
We think about how we’d like to spend more time with our kids or spouse but there’s so much pressure going on at work and then we get home and there’s dinner and homework to deal with and everyone’s stressing out about their day that you just want to say forget it and watch television until everyone passes out.
Have you ever been stuck in any of these thought processes before? They’re exhausting.
What’s happening here is that we overanalyze the simplest tasks to the point of no return. We don’t mean to do it, it just happens because of past difficulties and current stressors and the constant worry that we’re just not doing enough (that we’re just not enough).
But what if we simplify the whole thing? What if we remove all the stuff that bogs us down and all the desire to be successful at everything and, instead, just get it done? It could look something like this:
We think about how we haven’t called our parent/sibling/aunt/uncle/friend in a long time, so we call them. We say hi. We ask how they’re doing. A nice conversation (hopefully) ensues.
We think about how we’d love to meet a certain friend for drinks or coffee so we ask them if they’re free that day, or another day on which we know we’re free. They either say yes or no. We either go or don’t. No scheduling and rescheduling, just a casual reach out and see what happens.
We think about how we’d like to spend more time with our kids or spouse so we go home and sit down and ask how they’re doing. We don’t demand anything from them, we don’t ask them to help with anything, we just simply say, “How are you?” and let them talk about their day while we listen quietly.
It all sounds so simple, right? And maybe you look at this and think there’s no way it ever can be that simple because there are too many potential complications and conflicts. But really, it can be that simple.
If you really want to make stronger connections with the most important people in your life, just talk with them.
Build Stronger Connections through Conversations
We do a lot of thinking about talking and reading about communication and studying how to better connect – and that’s great! We should be students for life and always find ways to learn and improve. But, at the end of the day, if we want to talk and communicate and connect, we simply must talk and communicate and connect.
Which connections in your life need your attention right now? Find a way to start a conversation with those people (and then keep moving on down the list to strengthen your relationships across the board).
Pick up the phone, sit down for a meal together, invite them out for coffee. Then simply ask how they’re doing. We all love when someone shows interest in our lives. If you can just be the spouse or adult child or friend or parent that listens, the other person will appreciate you tremendously for it (and hopefully return the favor).
It’s as simple as making the time (a phone call can even be a five minute break to say hello), starting a conversation (in which you listen more than you talk), and lending an empathetic ear. No matter how far down the path of poor connection your relationship has gone, it’s never too late to course correct. And it all starts with a simple conversation.
A simple hello. A simple how are you. That’s all it takes to start down the path of strengthening the most important relationships in your life. For once, it really can be that easy.
Image Credit: Daryn Bartlett