Yet, it is totally worth it.
I just woke up, yet I have ten more minutes in bed before the morning madness begins. Let’s scroll through our Instagram feed, shall we?
“First swim”… “a weekend getaway to the mountains”… “a new art exhibition”… “casual Monday night drinks”…-oh; “happy birthday, Sandy!”- and… wait, what? “Transformation mantras”?
I dig through the carousel, curious to discover the “Best mental health advice regarding relationships”. Right, it’s May; Mental Health awareness month. But why relationships? Does the quality and strength of our relationships affect our mental and physical wellbeing?
Indeed it does. And you know what our capacity to build and retain healthy relationships (or let unhealthy ones go) depends on? Soft skills. Numerous of them, to be precise- but let’s begin with the “labeled” one: Relationship management.
What is relationship management?
Relationship management is, as we can suspect from the name, managing relations in our everyday life. Traditionally, relationship management means maintaining healthy relationships between an organization and its clients. But it doesn’t stop there — relationship management also refers to managing and maintaining positive relationships with every person in your life, such as your family members, your friends and spouse, your neighbour, your work colleagues, and employees.
Sounds definitely like a lot- and it is…
You are a human being, and because of that… you are inherently imperfect. And you are co-existing with other human beings- a.k.a., other imperfect individuals, each and every one of them with a unique, original storyline leading to the moment you encounter(ed) each other.
Imagine all of us like storylines, forming crossroads. Storylines possibly holding painful emotions, or traumas, or toxic behaviours. Even if that’s not the case though, it is natural to struggle trying to navigate when finding yourself in a crossroad. But remember; crossroads are a very powerful thing, the keyword being: possibilities. Encountering other human beings, truly meeting and relating to them takes a lot. But it gives back more. All you have to do is manage.
OK. What are the benefits of relationship management, then?
To begin with, you can really benefit from deciding whom you choose to build (any kind of) a relationship with. Have you ever heard the quote “ we become who we spend time with”?
We all know that the environment we inhabit is made of the people we choose. Moreover, it seems that our self-image is often a reflection of that environment. Within close relationships, self-efficacy (beliefs about one’s own capabilities) exists in dynamic interaction with other-efficacy– the beliefs that people hold about the efficacy of their relationship partners and about how their partners view them.
Self- efficacy; another soft skill. I bet you spotted some familiar words there; and for good reason. Can you guess which other soft skills can help us manage our relationships better?
Active Listening. Empathy. Communication. Curiosity. Resilience. Emotional Intelligence. Initiative. Self awareness and self regulation. Teamwork. Positive attitude. The list could go on and on…
In an ideal world, everyone would be effectively equipped with the soft skills necessary to manage their relationships.
But we aren’t there yet.
The importance of community appears to be declining in modern society, with only 42.5% of people aged 16 to 25 rating associations with others in their community as important, compared to 73.1% of over 75s.
You know what else appears to be declining in modern society? Soft skills.
When we lack self-confidence, we are poor communicators and we prefer to stay in our comfort zone, rather than fully engaging in an interaction we can’t control or predict. Lack of flexibility and compromises, supportiveness and acceptance can also ruin our relationships a great deal.
But we need each other- and that cannot change.
“Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.”
You do not need to be a Greek philosopher to realize we need each other. To put it boldly, we don’t simply need relationships to be happy, we actually depend on them to survive. Literally; analyses of multiple dimensions of social relationships within multiple samples across the life course produced consistent and robust associations with health. A higher degree of social integration was associated with lower risk of physiological dysregulation in both early and later life. Conversely, lack of social connections was associated with vastly elevated risk in specific life stages.
“But relationships are a risk” you may answer. And you
are right. But some risks are worth taking. Because, after all, each new crossroad you find yourself in will reveal a new path to your authentic self. Each new encounter will teach you the same truth: You can be different from other people and still connect to them. You are worthy of relationships where you don’t have to keep trading in your authenticity for acceptance.
Happy Mental Health Awareness month, everyone.