Updated: Apr 2, 2019
Every relationship we build has meaning and purpose. It's up to us to figure out what it is.
Nia Hamm | @nia_on_tv
Human beings are inherently social creatures. We express our social nature through the relationships we form staring at birth. Children depend on parents to survive and grow. The relationships a child experiences with their parents or in their home environment are among the most important relationships of their lives. These relationships influence the way children develop and whether or not and to what extent children become contributing members of society as they grow into adulthood. A child’s home environment also influences the network of relationships a child forms outside of the home and whether or not the child and later the adult that child becomes, can leverage those relationships so that they are beneficial for their personal growth. The basis of a functioning society is what the people of the society can give and get from it. This largely depends on relationships, which are the basis for virtually every major area of our lives: family, work, friendships, health, romance.
Relationships permeate our politics, finances, our government, business, commerce. A great deal of what we do and experience results from the dynamics of some sort of relationship. Social skills are among a number of important life skills we learn about informally in school but rarely are children given classroom training in having good social skills. We aren’t generally required to take courses on how to build healthy, fruitful relationships that lead to positive outcomes in our lives. When it comes
to advancing in society, having good social skills can be just as important as academic experience.
These type of skills are generally learned behaviors. We first start learning these behaviors as children. Some people are fortunate enough to be taught emotionally sound behaviors as children through models of healthy relationships. Others are not. The experiences we have as we continue to grow and develop are folded into our childhood experiences and shape our perception of ourselves, our environment and the people in it.
Often times, how successful we are in in our professional lives has a great deal to do with how well we cultivate relationships we’ve formed, both professionally and personally. Professional success is a little easier to measure. Did you get the job you wanted? Are you being paid fairly for your work? Are you fulfilled in the work you do? Does your livelihood provide the type of lifestyle you desire? Professional social skills are key for many people when it comes to achieving the professional success they desire. Professional social skills help fuel positive interpersonal interactions, including those that demand a need to be knowledgable about who you’re interacting with and how that person factors into your current goal or a future goal. The saying it’s all about who you know rings true in these instances.
Similarly, personal fulfillment in relationships can be harder to measure than successful professional relationships – largely because personal relationships tend to be a bit more fluid. If a relationship with someone we feel a connection with (such as a family member, a friend, or a romantic partner) becomes hurtful, it takes a certain level of emotional intelligence to see our way through the pain in a healthy manner. If we’re not equipped with those skills we can easily become consumed in anguish. And if this anguish isn’t properly addressed, it can lead to a rabbit hole of unhealthy behavioral habits that in the end feel like failure. Failure in any form is a tough pill to swallow. But when these feelings manifest themselves in the form of a broken heart, hurt feelings or a damaged relationship, it can be devastating. If we aren’t aware of these feelings and the root cause of them - they can easily spill over into other aspects of our lives (health, career, family) or even another relationship. Because we often factor the success of our personal relationships into our personal happiness, when these relationships take a hit, so does our happiness. Basing our happiness on these external factors is where many people – myself included – go wrong. This is not sustainable happiness.
Mental health experts insist that people should be prioritizing sustainable personal happiness and growth regardless of what how they measure professional success or relationships. Doing so can boost the quality of ones emotional state, which can in turn lead to better decisions and more favorable interpersonal interactions. This in turn helps us better navigate negative feelings such as heart break and the subsequent feelings of disappointment, loss, anger and sadness. This is another one of those life skills we don’t receive formal training for in school. The good news is just because some of us weren’t taught the emotional and social skills as children that lead to positive relationship building and favorable personal and professional as adults, it’s never too late to learn these skills. It will be difficult because you’re essentially reprograming years of habitual thinking and behaviors. We just have to be willing to do the hard work.