Deep Relationships with Others Are the Most Satisfying
Let me ask you some questions. Please answer them truthfully. Remember, you are answering these for yourself. No one is going to know your answers. So be honest and sincere with your answers.
How Many Close Friends Would You Say You Have?
How Well Do You Know Each One?
- Do you know what challenges they’re having right now?
- What about their fears? Have they told you about them?
- What are their dreams? Do you know what they are?
Let’s turn the table. If I asked your friends these questions about you, . . .
. . . What Would Their Answers Be?
Most of us don’t know other people, including our closest friends, well. The same is true for those we know. They don’t know us well.
The only ones who know much about us are our spouses and, maybe, our children. Sometimes even they don’t know us well.
That is sad.
The Majority of Our Relationships With Others Are Surface Relationships
We may know where our friends work, where they go to church, the names of their spouses and children. Rarely do we know much more than that.
Why is That?
Many times, we feel we will be intruding by trying to find out more about others. We also don’t take the time to get to know them at a deeper level. Sometimes we fear if we did that, it might take too much time. We also might find out something we don’t want to know.
Picture an Iceberg; 20% of That Iceberg is Above the Surface. The Other 80% is Underwater.
When it comes to our friends, most of us only know the 20% of them that is above the surface. We never get to know the 80% that’s hidden.
Here’s an Example:
George and Linda are in their 60’s. They have been meeting with six other couples almost every week for several years.
Linda is disabled and gets Social Security benefits. George has had low-paying jobs for the last 20 years.
For much of that time, they were receiving food stamps because of their low income.
George will soon be old enough to retire. There is only one problem. He doesn’t have a pension plan. They also have minimal savings. They will not be able to live on their combined Social Security benefits.
George won’t be able to stop working. He might have to work until he dies. If he dies before Linda, Linda can’t survive on her monthly Social Security benefit. She will have to sell their house and may end up on welfare.
George and Linda and the six other couples with whom they meet consider themselves almost a family. However, the six other couples never found out much about any of their situations. They never knew George and Linda had been receiving food stamps. They never knew George cannot afford to retire.
If they did, the men in their group might have been able to come alongside George, help him explore where he might get a better paying job and encourage him to pursue one.
Fortunately, another friend of theirs outside this group got to know them at a deeper level and learned of their financial situation. This friend helped George to see he was being underpaid at the jobs he had. He told him he could do better and encouraged him to look.
George got a job paying more right at the start than he was making at his last job. Since then, he has gotten substantial pay increases. He readily encourages those he meets who are in the same situation he was in to apply for jobs with his current employer.
Shallow Relationships Are Not Uncommon
In fact, most of the relationships we have are shallow. We don’t know how to develop deep relationships with others. We never take the time to get to know them well.
Most of our relationships are just surface relationships. They never get deep. We never really connect with the people we know.
Sadly, men are worse at developing deep relationships than women. Men feel they have to live up to that “Macho Image.”
They can’t tell others where they are weak.
They can’t let others know their feelings.
They can’t tell others the problems they have.
They can’t let others know when they are sick.
If you want a fuller life – if you want to have more satisfying relationships with others, you need to take the time to make that happen. You also can’t be afraid of embarrassing yourself.
How do you build close, deep relationships?
It actually is fairly easy. You have to get good at asking questions and listening.
The Art of Asking Questions
In any conversation you have with another person, you can ask closed end or open ended questions.
Closed ended questions typically require only a Yes or No response.
- Are you having a great day?
- Did you get your new driver’s license?
- Have you eaten already?
When you ask closed-ended questions, you don’t learn anything about the other person at all. It’s best to avoid these as much as possible.
Open-ended questions require a more detailed response. Here are some general open ended questions you can start with in a conversation with a new person or with someone you want to get to know better.
- What have you liked most about your life since you retired?
- What was that movie you watched last night? What did you like about it?
- Tell me all about your trip to Atlanta.
- When we met last week, you mentioned your son was struggling? Is he still struggling? Is he doing anything to change it?
- What’s your favorite type of food? Why do you like it?
- If you could go back and change your life, what changes would you make?
- What did you do in the last six months that you really enjoyed?
When you ask questions like this, the person you are talking to will feel comfortable answering them. You will then have the opportunity to ask deeper questions which will help you learn more about them.
To Summarize . . .
. . . When you ask closed-ended questions, you never learn much about the other person. You never build trust and loyalty with them.
When you ask open-ended questions, you have the opportunity to go deeper with them, You find out how they think and feel. You also learn why they think and feel the way they do.
With every answer to an open-ended question, the other person tells you a little more about themselves. When something about what they said is unclear, you have the chance to follow up with another question to clarify what they said or meant.
In the process, you build trust with them. They see you care for them. Your friendship with them deepens.
The Art of Listening
We Americans are notoriously bad listeners. Any time you’re in a restaurant, look at the people on cell phones. They’re missing the opportunity to connect with those they’re with.
- In every conversation you have with another, focus on them. Give them all of your attention.
- Listen closely to what they are saying. Make sure you understand them fully.
- Ask them to clarify anything you don’t hear or understand.
- Turn towards them when they’re speaking.
- Don’t interrupt them when they’re speaking. Let them finish before you respond.
- Don’t be preparing for how you are going to respond or what you will say.
- When they say something you agree with, nod your head and say yes.
- Don’t look at your cell phone.
- Don’t check any text messages you get. Don’t send any text messages.
In every conversation you have, make sure to share information about yourself. Realize that the other person will only share information about themselves up to the point that you share information about yourself. If you want them to tell you more, you need to share deeper information about yourself.
Let Me Give You Another Example
You meet your friend, Mark or Alice. When you ask them how things are going, they tell you they’re fine. You can tell by the way they said “fine” or the expression on their face, something’s wrong.
Ideally, you would want them to open up and tell you what’s happening. The easiest way to do that is to let them know that by the tone of their voice or their expression on their face when they spoke, you noticed something may be wrong. If there is and they feel comfortable telling you about it, you would be grateful to hear what it is.
You are giving them permission to tell you. At that point, they may open up and go very deep into what is bothering them. Give them your full attention. Focus on them. If your cell phone rings, don’t answer it. If you get a text message, don’t look at it.
When you give another person this type of attention, they will appreciate it. They also will become comfortable sharing far more information with you than you may have thought they would.
The deepest relationships we can have in life, those where we are comfortable opening up about ourselves and where others are comfortable opening up about themselves are the most satisfying.
If You Have Never Had Conversations Where You Asked Others Questions and Listened Carefully to Them, Practice Doing It
Start with people you don’t know and then move to your friends as you get better at it.
You will make mistakes. You will become aware almost immediately when you do. That’s when you have the opportunity to correct what you did.
You will find your life more fulfilling when you have deep relationships with others.
If you have any comments on what you have read in this post, I would love to know them. Please email them to me. Also – if you have any ideas about subjects you would like to see discussed in future posts, please send me an email and let me know. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org