Creating great relationships is simple but not easy. It requires taking the focus off of ourselves and putting it on the person opposite us.
Our last several posts have dealt with various types of relationships that include significant others; in-laws, siblings, children and grandchildren. Now its time for a few words about friends and neighbors.
Why all this attention to relationships?
More than just getting along with people, enjoying extraordinary relationships enriches life and retirement in the most wonderful way. Research shows that a positive social life with lots of friends make aging a happier phase.
Listed below are a few basic reminders that I know you are familiar with but bear repeating:
Really listen. Pay attention to what the other person is saying without formulating your own response. Don’t start talking about yourself until you have responded to the speaker’s interests. This is much easier to say than do.
Think before you speak.
Is what you say going to hurt someone? It’s better to return the soft word rather than the sharp jab. I can remember shopping with a friend when a clerk was downright rude. I started to make a sharp retort to her when my friend said, “It’s really busy in here. I’ll bet it’s hard to work today.” The clerk made an immediate about face, apologizing for her rudeness and what could have been an unpleasant, negative situation was completely turned around by the soft word.
Good manners are not out of style. Simple phrases like “please” and “thank-you” show people that we care enough about them to show respect. Treat everyone as if they are equally important – because they are!
Be life-affirming to those around you.
Pam’s mother used to come and visit in the summer when her children were young. She stayed a month, and by the time she left, Pam felt better about everything and saw her whole life in a more positive light – marriage, children, home – everything. Her mother was a person who made all those around her feel better about themselves. Decide to be that kind of person.
Build people up.
Offer encouragement and support, kindness and praise. You don’t need to be insincere or phony but there’s something about most everyone that is worth complimenting. It’s just as easy as criticism and much more effective.
Accept yourself & those around you as they are.
Be who you are and take responsibility for the choices that you make. I can reach out, or I can be selfish. I can be kind, or I can be mean. I can be accepting, or I can be critical. Those are choices I make, and I will have to live with the consequences of those choices. The only person I can really change is me.
Agree to disagree with those who have different opinions.
Our closest friends hold completely different political opinions than we do, and we’re both pretty passionate about them. That hasn’t been a problem for us because we know that disliking an opinion is not the same thing as disliking a person. I know that our friends love America and want only what is best for this country, just as we do. We just see different ways of getting there. Respect and compromise are essential to extraordinary relationships.
Stop comparing yourself to others.
We’re all different. Those differences contribute to our uniqueness. Jealousy and envy are corrosive elements that bring only damage. Would you really want to be one in a batch of clones?
Reach out to others.
Almost everyone has felt shy, nervous, and insecure at some point or another. Be alert to your surroundings, and if you see someone looking that way, rescue him or her with an open-ended question. You never know; you might develop a wonderful new relationship.
Disengage from toxic and negative relationships.
If you have done everything you can to create an extraordinary relationship, and it is still sucking the life out of you, give it up and reclaim your life. Interactions with people who bring only negative energy are harmful and should be avoided as much as possible. If you must see that person, do it as infrequently as possible.
Welcome others with a smile. It makes you more approachable. Focus on happy things that make you feel good. After all, that’s what retirement is all about!
Retirement is wonderful. It’s doing nothing without worrying about getting caught at it—Gene Perret