On the first break of the pandemic shutdown, right when they allowed large gatherings indoors, of course with masks on, I said, “I do” to a beautiful, brilliant, strong, and God-loving lady at our church altar. Beatrice is funny, full of energy, and immensely gifted in music. When she sings at our local church, her voice energizes the entire congregation. In addition to her melodious voice, what I consider to be her best gift is her kindness. I have never met a person so kind as Beatrice; she is friendly, generous, and considerate of everyone. Our dating and courtship journey was one that I will treasure for years to come. It brought the best out of us. I believe that our courtship laid the critical foundation that our marriage today and, in the future, will continue to thrive upon. Long before meeting Beatrice, I had the idea that one of the most precious gifts we (as humanity) can ever have been relationships. After meeting Beatrice and getting married to her, I believe to my core that relationships are truly precious.
Growing up, my mum always reminded me, I love everyone and anyone who I came across. I was a magnet; the older people – parents’ friends – and my childhood buddies liked me. Even to date, I am privileged to still enjoy many relationships, which have their roots in my childhood years. I still keep in contact with my grade school teachers. But not mentioning the positive influence my parents had on me in the area of relationships would be unfair. Both of my parents are exceptional in nurturing relationships. They exemplified the art of friendship to the many people in my hometown. Even today, as they age, I still admire how they connect and make new friends. My mum is a master listener; she enjoys meeting people and learning their stories. My dad, on the other hand, loves serving people. Due to their influence, I believe I treasure friendships; I find myself filled with a deep desire to nurture value-based relationships. In addition to their influence, I have discovered that it’s only through great relationships that we can have outstanding achievements. I believe the quality of our relationships determines the standard of the life we live. Borrowing from experts in relationships and a few of my personal experiences, I would like to share three thoughts that will help you build enjoyable, life-giving, and value-based relationships.
1. Always be true to yourself and others.
Being comfortable with who you are, both in private and in public, is the starting point of enjoying your relationships. People want you for who you are and not for who you’re not. Relationships are about giving who we are to others, and we can never give ourselves to others if we are not ourselves.
One of the best pieces of advice we constantly received while dating was from our friend David and his wife, Caroline. They advised us to be completely ourselves around each other. It might seem to be obvious advice given to two people who want to get married, but I tell you that being intentional about it was transformative in our relationship. We live in what I call a ‘filter generation.’ Our cameras are fitted with filters that change our true appearance. Before posting any picture profiles, we add filters. The pictures you see on social media pages are very distant from the real appearance of the people in them. We live in a society where we walk around with masks; of course, not for COVID protection, but to hide our true selves.
Being true to yourself and giving people your real self, births authenticity in our relationships. My favorite definition for what it means to be authentic is given by Brene Brown, in her book The Gifts of Imperfection. She writes, “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” When people see us for who we are, they appreciate and love us more. When we fail to be authentic, negative suspicion increases in our relationships, but we foster trust when we are ourselves around people. To be ourselves, we must take a risk.
2. Be okay with the risk of vulnerability.
“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.” Brené Brown.
Like many people, I grew up fearing vulnerability. I feared showing my weaknesses and shortcomings. But I discovered a truth that made me shed off this fear. I learned that my strengths were far more valuable and vaster than my weaknesses. I realized the fear was due to my overreaction and exaggeration of weaknesses. I had a poor perspective of my whole being as a person. I focused only on a fraction of Samson, forgetting that I was beyond my shortcomings. I was allowing my weaknesses to mask my strengths. When I learned this truth, I slowly started embracing who I was more and more. I began to open up more and more to people in my life. This led to another discovery; I could relate to others better when I was no longer ashamed of my weaknesses and shortcomings. I used my strengths better when I was not afraid of my weaknesses. Vulnerability stopped being a weakness but a strength.
When I read Brené Brown’s, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, I truly agreed with her conclusion. “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”
Your strength will serve you best when you take the risk of vulnerability. And until you become authentic and vulnerable, you can’t be able to add value to others effectively.
3. Be intentional about adding value to others.
Recently, as we were conversing with my wife, a potent thought came up. We realized that adding value to others and being very deliberate about it is the only way to assure a continuous healthy connection with the people in our lives. Adding value to others is one of my life’s goals. This is why I speak, teach, and write. I believe that the ultimate goal for the relationships in our lives is adding value to one another.
Adding value to others is doing something that makes them better. If we are to build relationships based on value, we must be people who are always looking and finding ways to bring value into the relationship.
I have developed a three-step process for adding value to others:
- I keep my eyes and ears open to quickly identify people’s needs, especially those in my circle of Influence. We see what we are prepared to see. So, if you desire to be a person of value to others, always prepare your eyes and eyes to see and hear people’s needs. Remember, the faster you come to the aid of others, the more valuable you become to them.
- I look and find ways to meet the needs of others. The reason people feel powerless to do something about what they care about is because they fail to engage their minds to find solutions. When you train yourself to get out of your comfort zone to find ways to meet another person’s need(s), you will discover that the answers are always within reach.
- I encourage others to help me meet the needs of others. When you rally others to come to the aid of one person, you begin to build a larger community of people who are knit together in value-based relationships. When this happens, you will have established a system of people who add value to one another. And this becomes very rewarding to everyone.
Try doing these simple steps and you will soon find your relationships are becoming increasingly more valuable. Be authentic, vulnerable, and valuable.
Two-minute challenge: You and not others are responsible for initiating value-based relationships. With the thoughts and tools, I shared with you in this post, identify a relationship that you would like to add value to, determine a two-minute value-adding activity that you can do to nurture the relationship. Tips: Two-minute activities could be a call, text, or note of encouragement, taking time to listen to someone or asking someone how you can help. The list is endless.
Next Blog: Two is Better than One: The Power of Collaboration.