If you have a Spanish speaking parent or caregiver, they probably once gave you this word of advice: “dime con quién andas, y te diré quién eres” (tell me who you’re with, and I’ll tell you who you are). As you look to the end of the year, you may be taking stock of the people you surround yourself with. Before you hit delete on any relationships in your life, let’s take stock of what it means to be in an authentic relationship. The Values We Receive. As a teenager and young adult, dime con quien andas was often about setting and testing boundaries based on the values we are given. Those early years teach us about the type of relationships we want to be in based on the values we accept and reject from our family. Those values can cover any number of issues from determining your religion, dating inside or outside your race or culture, and the type of profession you choose. For many of you they may have been bright line decisions and for others it may have been an opportunity to explore and set your own values based on new information or more access to education than your parents had.
But learning to be in an authentic relationship is about more than accumulating new information and life interests.
Being in an authentic relationship is a lifelong test of who we are. We are constantly changing an evolving in every way possible. If you remember your biology class, you will recall that our cells are constantly moving and communicating with each other to get the body to speak, make repairs, walk, etc… We are indeed a ball of energy.
Our relationships with others resemble our biological makeup. Our friends reflect both our positive qualities and areas where we need improvement. Seeing how others reflect similar values can strengthen and expand how we engage with the people around us. Similarly when we have a weakness and we can spot it quickly in others, it’s often because they are also challenges or fears that we are facing or have faced in some form. Together, we evolve our relationships and the values we hold dear.
Engaging in authentic conversations with others can be an opportunity to grow and enhance our values. When we share the need to grow in some areas of our life, we communicate our greatest needs and how we are evolving. The mere act of communicating this need can strengthen our relationship with the people around us and teach us to make important life choices. We can find ourselves surrounded by people who support our journey to evolve and may even want to join us in the change.
But what happens when you evolve and the people around you are not ready? When a cell dies or stops communicating, the other cells begin working to repair, create new cells or eliminate cells no longer needed. When a friend or colleague can’t evolve with us, we also make changes. We decide to make new friends, repair or rekindle friendships and even end relationships all together. From our perspective, a big part of this has to do with the other person’s willingness to change. When we make a defining shift in our lives, we often find the need to release friendships that no longer serve us. This is always tough because we are facing a loss, whether temporary or permanent, that has helped us grow.
But remember, being in an authentic relationship is also a two way street. Building authentic relationships with others requires us to be mindful of our own behavior. Our personal growth can cause pain to others. When we make decisions about leaving relationships we should consider the quality of our presence in the relationship. In the end, if you still decide to end the relationship, you can still look for ways to be transparent, authentic and mindful to minimize the pain others can feel.
As you decide to cultivate, build, repair and end relationships, consider the following questions as a method to enhancing authentic relationships in your life, now and in the future:
- What am I getting from the relationships I am cultivating?
- What is the quality of my listening at work? at home?
- Do I allow others to show up for me? How do I show up for others?
- Am I able to give and receive feedback?
- Do I trust others by allowing them to hold difficult situations?
- If I were to take 100% responsibility for the relationships in my life, what would it look like?
- Can I evolve and keep my friends? If so, what would the relationship look like now and how can I communicate that to them?
Your turn: How will you build authentic relationships in the New Year?
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