Friday, June 05, 2009

Creating Lasting Relationships with Others


In our busy, get-to-the-goal world, it can be easy to forget how important it is to nurture friendships. Yet, friendships become the foundations of good business relationships, lasting partnerships, marriages and loving bonds that endure for a lifetime. In my past, there were times I attempted to establish significant relationships with others, by-passing the formative steps of friendship. They typically did not last.

As a business consultant, I watched many others attempt to do the same thing, as people tried to keep business relationships separate from their friendships. While objectivity is often a necessity in making wise business decisions for the good of everyone, without friendship there is little trust and little motivation to be invested in the success of others as well as your own.

The same is true in romance. The initial attraction between a couple can be powerful and it can be easy to lose sight of the importance of friendship. But as the first rush of lust wears off, it is through loving friendship that you find the desire to work through the emotional challenges and differences of opinion.

Many of us slip into patterns in our relationships, relying on the institutional nature of relationships such as marriage, parent-child relations, and employer-employee relations. Yet these roles become severely taxed without the underpinnings of respect and appreciation naturally found in friendship.

Even spiritually oriented relationships benefit from the strength of friendship. I have experienced deep spiritual connections with people that just didn’t quite translate when it came to day-to-day living. We could enter into beautiful states of spiritual awareness, but couldn’t quite pull it together when it came to emotional stability. The more solid the friendship, I discovered, the more adeptly we addressed emotional and physical challenges, in addition to enjoying mutually stimulated spiritual awakenings.

Some years ago I co-taught a seminar entitled Love, Lust and Friendship. As we created the content for the workshop, we had many long discussions about the value of love, lust and friendship in romantically-based partnerships. As we looked at the qualities of each of these energies, we concluded that regardless of which energy is most prevalent at the beginning of a relationship—absolute lustful attraction, deep romantic love, or caring, loving friendship—it is the quality of love found in friendship that is needed for enduring bonds. Friendship is the least emotionally volatile and the most emotionally stable of these energies, providing an appropriate basis for long-term appreciation of each other.

When friendships are well-tended, it is easier to make role transitions with greater ease—from friends to business partners—from lovers to friends—from friends to couples—from parent to friend—and so on. In friendship, it is easier to want the absolute best for the person you care about, whether or not what is best includes or involves you, or even enlists your perspectives.

When I began my consulting career, I had the privilege of being mentored by a very wise and successful business consultant. He encouraged me to engage in social activities with my clients, beyond business commitments. In the process, I discovered what he already knew. And what I learned in business applies equally well to all kinds of relationships. People who enjoy and value each other’s company tend to stick around with each other for a long time.

Universal Prayer for Friends — For the Friend You Are