We’re all in relationships whether we want to be or not. And I’m not just talking about a relationship in the way that you think of a (married) couple or parent/child, because I believe that we are all in relationships with everyone around us. The dictionary defines relationship as “a connection, association, or involvement.” So technically every interaction you have with someone is creating a relationship and either builds on that relationship or works on tearing it down. The interactions and relationships you have also create people’s opinions of you. So your interaction with someone else may not only build or destroy the relationship you’re in with them, but it may build or damage the relationship with someone else who sees that interaction. For example consider the child crying at the food store and their parent yelling at them. That’s not helping build the relationship between parent and child, and it most likely isn’t building your opinion of that parent (and maybe not of the child either) or your willingness to enter into a close relationship with that parent or child.
One of the biggest things that helps or hurts a relationship is our ability to communicate. Some people use their words to intentionally hurt others or damage relationships. Some people aren’t aware that they’re a bad communicator, refuse to hear when others ask for clarification or do better at communicating than saying just “I hate you” or “you hate me.” So part one of communication includes the words you use, how you talk to people, and even if you truly talk to people. The second part of communication is communicating in such a way to help others to understand how we see things, our confusion, our desires, what we’re looking for, or our plans. Often we’re so set in seeing things in our own way that we can forget that others don’t see things in the way that we do, or speak the same language (sometimes even literally) as we do. A typical example is the couple who has been fighting so long over who is “right” that they haven’t talked about the actual issues, or tried to help each other understand how they’re feeling, what they’re missing and what they’re struggling with, or even what the issue is in the first place. I don’t believe that being “right” should be the goal, the goal should be to build a stronger relationship, and that can only happen if you communicate and understand where the other person is coming from.