Why is success with self so important to success with others? It’s because the most important ingredient in any relationship is what you are. As the essayist and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.” If you’re struggling in your relationships, you probably don’t have to look any further than yourself for the answer.
So how can you build a rich relationship or repair a broken one? It’s simple. One deposit at a time. It’s the same way you’d eat an elephant if you had to. One bite at a time. There is no quick fix. If my relationship with you is $5,000 in the hole, I’ll need to make $5,001 worth of deposits to get it back in the positive.
Here are the six ways to build a rich relationship:
1. KEEPING PROMISES
Keeping small commitments and promises is vital to building trust. You must do what you say you’re going to do. If you tell your mom you’re going to be home at 11:00 or that you will do the dishes tonight, then do it and make a deposit. Give out promises sparingly, and then do everything you can to keep them. If you find you can’t keep a commitment for some reason (it happens), then let the other person know why. “Little sister, I’m really sorry I can’t come to your play tonight. I didn’t realize I had a debate meet. But I’ll be there tomorrow.” If you’re genuine and try to keep your promises, people will understand when something interferes.
2. DO SMALL ACTS OF KINDNESS
Have you ever had a day where everything is going wrong and you feel totally depressed … and then suddenly, out of nowhere, someone says something nice to you and it turns your whole day around? Sometimes the smallest things—a hello, a kind note, a smile, a compliment, a hug—can make such a big difference. If you want to build friendships, try doing the little things, because in relationships the little things are the big things. As Mark Twain put it, “I can live three months on a good compliment.”
If, as the Japanese saying goes, “one kind word can warm three winter months,” think how many winter months were warmed by this single act of kindness. You don’t have to look far to find opportunities for small acts of kindness.
Follow the golden rule and treat others as you would want them to treat you. Think about what a deposit means to someone else, not what you would want as a deposit. A nice gift may be a deposit for you, but a listening ear may be a deposit for another person.
If you ever have something nice to say, don’t let that thought just rot, say it. As Ken Blanchard wrote in his book The One Minute Manager, “Unexpressed good thoughts aren’t worth squat!” Don’t wait until people are dead to give them flowers.
3. BE LOYAL
Gossiping is a huge problem among teens, especially girls. Guys usually prefer other ways of attacking people (we call them fists), but girls like words. Why is gossiping so popular? For one thing, you hold someone’s reputation in the palms of your hands and that’s a powerful feeling. For another, we gossip because we’re insecure, afraid, or threatened. That’s why gossipers usually like to pick on people who look different, think different, are self-confident, or stand out in some way. But isn’t it kind of silly to think that tearing someone else down builds you up?
Cutting against the grain of a gossip pile-on takes courage. But after the initial embarrassment it may cause you, people will admire you because they know you’re loyal to the core. I’d make an extra effort to be loyal to your family members, since these relationships will last a lifetime.
Listening to someone can be one of the single greatest deposits you can make into another’s RBA (Relationship Bank Account). Why? Because most people don’t listen and, furthermore, listening can heal wounds.
People need to be listened to almost as much as they need food. And if you’ll take time to feed them, you’ll create some fabulous friendships. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. It’s just up ahead.
5. SAY YOU’RE SORRY
Saying you’re sorry when you yell, overreact, or make a stupid mistake can quickly restore an overdrawn bank account. But it takes guts to go to a friend and say, “I was wrong,” “I apologize,” or “I’m sorry.” It’s especially hard to admit that you made a mistake to your parents, because, of course, you know so much more than they do.
Don’t let your pride or a lack of courage stand in the way of saying you’re sorry to people you may have offended, because it’s never as scary as it seems, and it will make you feel so good afterward. In addition, apologies disarm people. When people get offended their tendency is to take up a sword, so to speak, to protect themselves in the future. But when you apologize, you take away their desire to fight you and they will drop their swords. Clank!
Seeing that you and I will continue to make mistakes the rest of our lives, saying you’re sorry ain’t too bad a habit to get hooked on.
6. SET CLEAR EXPECTATIONS
“I think that we should be dating other people,” your partner might tell you.
“But I thought we were going together,” you might reply. “Well, not really”
“What about everything you told me about how you feel about me?”
“I didn’t really mean it that way.”
How often have you seen someone get hurt because another person led them on? Our tendency is to want to flatter and please others, and, as a result, we often set unclear or unrealistic expectations.
To please your dad at the moment, you might say, “Sure, Dad, I can help you fix up the car this weekend.” But, realistically, you’re booked the entire weekend and don’t have a second. In the end, you disappoint your dad. You would have been better off being realistic up front.
To develop trust we need to avoid sending vague messages or implying something that is not true or not likely to happen.
Whenever you get into a new job, relationship, or setting, you’re better off taking the time to lay all expectations out on the table so that everyone is on the same page. So many withdrawals are made because one party assumes one thing and another party assumes something else. Build trust through telling it like it is and laying out clear expectations right up front.