Excellent cooks and professional chefs know great food doesn’t just “happen.” It takes thoughtful planning, an intricate knowledge of flavors, the finest tools and ingredients, and practiced cooking techniques. This is true also for relationships. Those who are blessed with strong connections with others consistently and purposefully include specific “ingredients” to achieve this outcome.
If you’re eager to learn how to develop more successful relationships in your life, here are five components I am convinced are essential for building healthy, strong, lasting relationships with others:
- Give People the Benefit of the Doubt – I have made many wrong judgments about others’ motives and intentions in my life. There have also been times when I thought I understood the details of what someone was doing, then later realized I did not. After having to clean up numerous messes with others, I decided to give others the benefit of the doubt before concluding I know the specifics of what is happening. I’m not suggesting putting ourselves in dangerous situations with people, but I am advocating that we resist making conclusions about people based on incomplete information. “The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him,” (Proverbs 1817).
- Don’t Gossip or Negatively “Vent” About People – One of the problems with gossip is that most of us believe we don’t do it. When we hear others talking poorly about people, we unconsciously start believing they will probably talk this way about us. People will think this about us if we are prone to voice our negative attitudes about others. Trust is broken when this happens and it impossible to have great relationships without trust. It is the wise person who errs on the side of being too positive about people in conversations and writings. “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers,” (Ephesians 4:29).
- Under-Promise and Over-Deliver – People are naturally drawn to those who exceed expectations, but we tend to distance ourselves from those who do not follow through on what they say they’ll do. Being a person of our word cannot be overemphasized for building strong relationships. And when we apologize and make amends for times we are unable (or choose not) to follow through, we also make quality investments in heart connections with others. “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one,” (Matthew 5:37).
- Understand Who People Are to You and Who They Are Not – I tell my intern team each year, “If you can figure out who I am to you, and also who I am not to you, then you will most likely have a very successful relationship with me.” Often people cannot benefit from the the strengths of a person because they cannot overcome the disappointment of experiencing that person’s faults, or expecting them to fulfill a certain relational need they cannot fulfill. “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function,” (I Corinthians 12:4).
- Understand the Season Your Relationships Are In – Relationships never fully stay the same. Families illustrate this. My relationship with my grown children is totally different than when they were young. If I expect things to stay the same and I cannot adjust to new seasons of differing levels of connection with people, then I cannot be successful relationally. “He must increase, but I must decrease,” (John 3:30).
For more on this topic, listen to this week’s podcast episode. My book The Culture of Empowerment also goes deeper into keys for relating well with others. I bless you to prosper in all your relationships!
ABOUT STEVE BACKLUND
Steve Backlund was a senior pastor for seventeen years before joining the team at Bethel Church in Redding, CA in 2008. Steve is a leader developer, joy activist, a revivalist teacher, and as Senior Associate Director, is a key part of the Global Legacy (a ministry of Bethel Church) leadership team. He travels extensively throughout the world encouraging churches and leaders and has authored a number of books.