Every relationship you have is always going to be a work in progress. You build them up slowly over time with the interactions you have with the other person. Each little thing you do that is kind, caring, decent, or fun with the other person – each thing that gives them a chance to feel good about themselves – makes the relationship a little stronger. The other person will feel safer and more trusting of you, they will want to spend more time around you, and will consider your relationship with them to be more important.
And every interaction you have where you take selfishly from that other person: when you argue, shout, call names, condescend, gossip, or act passive-aggressively harms the relationship. And the harm done by one hurtful act is five times as damaging as a kind interaction is building. (This is called “Gottman’s Magic Ratio”)
Your relationships will never be “done” or “settled”, you will always have the power to make them better by actively trying to be a good friend, lover, son, or father. And you will always have the power to tear them down by taking your loved one’s good will for granted.
If you treat every relationship like a living, growing thing that you can nurture, you will build powerful and fulfilling ones. You can do that by making sure that every time you are around someone you care about, you make it a point to show them you care, and there are hundreds of ways you can do that. Here are a few that can apply to every relationship:
- Greet the other person with a hug or a warm handshake.
- Ask how they’ve been, and really listen.
- Keep up with the comings and goings in their life through social media if you can.
- Take an interest in their hobbies and projects: ask to see what they’ve been up to.
- Give gifts based not on what is popular or valuable, but what reminds you of the other person.
- Share a joke, or laugh over a memory.
- Share a meal together.
- If you hear something that they might be interested in, share it.
- If your friend is hurting, ask how you can help,
- Catch up with them by IM, email, letter or card when you can.
- Play a game together.
- Recommend a book or article to them based on their interests.
- Make them tea or coffee.
I try to keep a journal of the things going on in my friends’ lives, so that I can ask them about things that have been going on so I can ask them about it when I see them.
And remember as well that no amount of time spent together online can compare to a second spent together face-to-face. As you grow, I hope that you will have lots of friends and learn to treat them well. Know that so long as you and they remain respectful of my home and its rules, you will always be welcome to invite friends over to spend time. I hope that my home is a place that fosters many friendships, and hears the laughter of many young boys and girls as you host them.
Build your relationships well, son, and they will reward you for life.