Monday, April 1, 2019

Why Most People will have Mediocre Friendships Throughout Their Lives

Friendships that, while good enough and which infuse us with bursts of happiness, still leave us wanting.  Yearning for more.  Wishing for a deeper connection, a sense of feeling more understood.  A more resonating click felt between the two of you.

There are several reasons as to why this will be true for many people, unfortunately.  Why a vast majority will experience friendships that, while good and frequently even great, will leave them wanting.  And as to why this will likely continue being the case throughout their life.

1. Most of us do not truly listen.  We think we do.  We attempt to.  We believe that because we are hearing most of the words someone says, we listened.  A vast majority of us though, contrary to what we think, are merely satisfactory and often, even poor listeners 

Deep, attentive, and focused listening means:

-not thinking about how you will respond, of your own thoughts, or what you want to say once they stop speaking and you can jump in.  None of this is even remotely listening, and yet, many of us do these things all the time when someone is speaking with us.

-not just hearing the words someone is saying, but further that this, authentic listening is actually trying to consider, grasp, and intuit the feelings/experience this person is attempting to get across and share with you.  It means taking in, not from your point of view what they are saying, but trying to feel what they are actually conveying from their perspective.

-real listening means suspending your own thoughts, opinions, and your response while someone is speaking.  And instead, just listening as they speak.

You can consider and formulate your response once they finish talking.  This might mean a quiet pause in the conversation.  That is totally ok.  Not every silence needs to be filled.

When you are formulating thoughts and responses as they are speaking, you are not listeningInstead, you are focused on you, and are actually likely missing things they are saying, as well as significant parts of their message.

Most of us think we are great listeners.  Yet, the majority of people are not.

Listening takes intent, effort, and focus.  It isn't easy.  And while no one can be an awesome, entirely attentive listener all of the time (as this takes a lot of energy and is challenging), we could do far better than we tend towards, if we decided to make this a priority.

And, our relationships would be significantly better for it.

Being a great listener is one of the primary bedrocks and puzzle pieces to having top notch, emotionally close, deep, joyous and truly connected relationships.

Next time you are with a friend, notice, listen carefully.  Are you doing most of the talking?  As they speak, are you thinking about what you want to say, while they are speaking?  Is your mind wandering as they share something with you?  Are you more interested in when you get the chance to speak then when they do?  Most of us can answer yes to at least one, if not a few of these questions.  In which case, working much harder on ones listening is then something to put on the docket.

Most of us care for our friends, romantic partner, and loved ones, but are ultimately far more concerned with and focused on ourselves.  To an extent, this is a natural human tendency.  We are all fully immersed in and living first hand, our own life experience.  So it makes sense that within that first-person realm and via that lens, we are quite preoccupied with what is happening in our own life and immediate experience.

However, this is also something we can decide to shift.  We can make the decision to put our focus and interest elsewhere, far more often.  To pull our interest and focus outside ourselves and instead, hon in more intently on and have more sustained genuine interest in the people we love.

We can choose to become just as preoccupied with and engaged in their lives as we are in our own.  This is an active choice, and does take intent, as well as effort, but it can be done.

So.  Decide on, choose to, and pursue with action the mindset of being just as concerned with your loved ones as you are yourself.  Display and make obvious such in your actions, and in the way you approach, interact with, and speak with them. 

Your relationships will improve, by leaps and bounds, when you do this.  Your connections will deepen, and feel more close knit and satisfying.

Most people do not take the time or put in the effort to make, as well as maintain, great friendships and other relationships in their lives.  We become and are lazy about it.  "Too busy."  Disengaged and distracted, by whatever it might be, whether work, Pinterest, cleaning the house, family obligations, etc.

People who have rich friendships, joyous and emotionally deep, satisfying and wonderful connections in their lives, they are the ones who put a high priority on their connections with others.  Not in word, but in action.

To piggyback onto the point above, most people are not willing to go out of their way, much, if at all.  Sure, doing this all the time would potentially result in our being a doormat.  However, real friendship does sometimes mean going out of your way, even when you would rather not, in order to prize the relationship, to show that you care and are there, and in order to maintain the connection.

Most people have only mild interest (occasionally moderate) in who their friend deeply is, in their friends life experiences (both past and present), their passions and dreams, their goals, their challenges and sadnesses.

Having mild or sometimes moderate interest though, it isn't enough to have truly deep, emotionally close relationships with others.  Instead, one needs to have a sustained, intentional, enthusiastic interest in these aspects of the friends for whom they want a great relationship with.

In the words of Stephen Convoy, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," in order to have truly deep relationships, the ones that fill our souls, we need to show nearly the level of enthusiasm and interest for the things our loved one loves, as we do for the actual person.

Thus, we should be deeply, wholly interested in the things our nearest and dearest are engaged and interested in.  This is an act of love, as well as commitment to the person and relationship.  When you love someone, you should concern yourself with what they are concerned about.  This is both a way of engaging with them, as well as showing love for them.

Lastly, many of us, whole boatloads of us, mis-prioritize our lives.  Tending to focus on the wrong things, in imagining them to be the "right ones," the ones which will bring us what we desire, when in fact, we are often looking at the wrong door or window altogether.  Frequently racing in the direction which, though we think it will fulfill us, does not truly over the long term and in the big picture.

Whether by pouring our waking hours into our job (too much so, to a degree of workaholism that could be called excessive or even a sickness), to focusing too much on our outer appearance or the curated image we present to others, to spending all our energy on an ill-fitting, deflating, or unhealthy romantic relationship, you name it.  This happens all the time.  Mis-prioritizing our lives.  And it takes away from, in significant ways, our ability to have deeply meaningful friendships.

What much of this, the points made above, boils down to is that a significant number of people will merely have mediocre connections with others because they simply cannot be bothered. 

They cannot be bothered to listen, as they are too wrapped up in themselves, and because listening takes energy, focus, and an active choice.  They are more interested in their own life and own issues than the lives of their loves ones.  They arent especially willing to go out of their way, nor put in the effort or time.  They do not have a sustained and enthusiastic interest in the person who their friend is, in nuance and detail.  And, the frequent mis-prioritizing of our lives, causing our missing out on more meaningful relationships because of it.

In conclusion: if you want to have emotionally deep, close knit, incredibly satisfying relationships with others, you will need to do more of what you likely are not doing now. 

This will include: working much harder on your listening.  Taking yourself away from the usual focus on you and your life experiences, your feelings, opinions and interests, and instead, training this far more intently on your loved ones.

It will mean deciding you are just as interested in your loves ones lives and experiences, as you are in your own life.  And acting in ways that reflect that interest.  It will mean going out of your way for the relationship, even if sometimes it isn't convenient of preferable.

It will mean ratcheting up your level of interest in the people you love, several notches.  It will mean reading about what it means to be a great listener, and working hard on practicing such.  And regularly engaging in activities and meaningful experiences with your loved ones, close friends, and romantic partner.

These are the ways one can decide to have, instead of mediocre connections with others, extraordinary, incredibly satisfying, far more deeply connected relationships instead.

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