C-A-T-E-R To Another Person’s Needs
This blog extends the discussion in my previous blog on meaning in life to address developing meaningful relationships.
Meaning in life refers to whether one’s actions are worthwhile and are accompanied by a sense of value in one’s accomplishments. Meaningful relationships can build self-esteem and make us happy as a result. They can also lead to satisfying higher-level needs such as growth and development.
There is an important difference between purpose and meaning. Knowing our purpose in life is important to happiness because it grounds our behavior. Our purpose is the central motivating factors that get us up in the morning – i.e., our reason for being. Meaning is the value we assign to that belief. Since it has a value orientation, meaning in life has an ethical component to it. This revolves around how we treat other people in our life.
Another important distinction is whether your relationships bring happiness and enable you to thrive. Meaningful relationships advance our physical and mental well-being. A happy life is one where we are satisfied with life’s circumstances and it can be strengthened by meaningfulness. A meaningful relationship is one that advances our well-being, such as dedicating ourselves to a worthwhile cause. Together, they enable us to thrive.
One key to building meaningful relationships is to care about the other party. If you don’t, why are you there? Another is to be an empathetic listener. Stephen Covey uses this term in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Empathetic listening means listening until the other person feels understood. Empathetic listeners listen for meaning. What are the other person’s ideas, their feelings, and how can I show that I care in a tangible way?
One relationship more than any other seems to prevent growth and development and makes it more difficult to achieve meaningfulness. This is when one party gives a lot but gets a lot less in return. You wonder whether your partner really cares about nourishing the relationship. You really don’t want to be involved in relationships that wear you down; exhaust your energy; and aren’t reciprocated.
So, what can you do to build meaningful relationships? Here are my five tips. There are more but time and space limits what I can say. Look for upcoming blogs to cover more ground.
- Show that you care about the other person. Understand their feelings.
- Be attentive to their needs. Put yourself in their place. How would you want them to react if you had expressed your feelings?
- Be transparent. Share your thoughts; motives in the relationship; expectations.
- Express regret when you have done something wrong and promise not to do it again.
- Reward yourself and your partner when things go well. Share in the delight of the good times.
Notice the first letter of the bold words spells C-A-T-E-R. In other words, you need to cater to each other’s needs to build strong relationships.
Healthy relationships are a two-way street and both of you need to be in the same place. Always ask yourself what can you do to make things better? You have an affirmative obligation to add meaning to your life and the life of your partner. Doing so can be a stepping stone to greater peace and contentment. But, like most things in life it takes time and effort to grow relationships and become the person we want to be.