When it comes to relationships, there is a tremendous amount of information and a lot of is conflicted. What one person says often contradicts what another person says, or there are so many exceptions that you might wonder who the relationship advice was meant for.
However, there are some basics for all relationships in your life, from friends and family to your significant other, coworkers, and boss. While they might seem obvious, putting them into practice is completely different.
Say please and thank you. This is a biggie that you are probably thinking doesn’t even need to be said. Really? How often do you actually say please and thank you for things? How does it feel to have someone demand things from you and then never say thank you? Don’t be that person. When it comes down to it, no one owes you anything. No one. Say say please and thank you and be a decent person. If you already do, up your game by getting paper thank you cards and giving them to people. It’s really nice to get mail that isn’t a bill and your thoughtfulness will definitely stand out. Also, think about all the times it would be nice if someone thanked you, but it never happens. By being the person that does that, people will start to know you as the person who acknowledges and appreciates them, instead of the demanding or ungrateful person.
Say happy birthday. This is just nice- while some people get birthday wishes from dozens of people, there are a lot of people who don’t get them from anyone. Find out the birthdays for friends, family, and people from work. Don’t worry about remembering- keep track of them in whatever online scheduling system you use. Then when it’s their birthday, send them an e-card, a nice text, get them an actual card, or give them a brief call. If you know them well enough and have the budget and the time, get them a small gift. If it is someone really close to you, get them something or do something to celebrate. Much like saying please and thank you, people will appreciate you for thinking of them when you don’t have to.
Respond to people within a day to a week. If you are busy, send a brief reply acknowledging that you received the communication, letting the person know you are busy, and that you will follow up with them as soon as you are able to. If you are at work, try to respond a little faster- within 24 hours if possible and 48 to 72 hours if it is your day off or you are really busy. For friends, family, and significant others, it can be easy to think that you have to respond to something immediately, but you don’t. You are not a slave to your phone or email and everyone gets busy. Likewise, don’t get upset if people don’t immediately reply to you. It doesn’t mean that they hate you or are ignoring you or wherever else your mind goes. They just have other things going on at the moment.
Follow up with someone if you haven’t heard back from them within a week. The big exception to this is if you are working with someone who has a high ranking position who gets a lot of correspondence. My lab director is one of those people and it is pretty common to send her an email and for her not to reply. She tells her students not to send her reminders if they haven’t heard from her. However, when you do talk with her, it is clear she has read all of your emails, is very informed, attentive, and you know you are the focus of her attention while you are talking. So she definitely makes up for it and is very upfront about her demanding schedule and overwhelming volume of emails. That said, unless you know for sure that someone is that busy, they should reply to you within a week and if you haven’t heard from them, send them a brief message checking in with them, that gives them the benefit of the doubt. If someone is ignoring you, accusing them of it is not likely to get you a response.
Don’t talk on your phone or text and drive. It is just not safe- you aren’t a 911 operator and nothing you have to talk about while driving is important enough to endanger yourself and those around you. If you really have to talk to someone while you are in the car, pull over. The only exception to this is if you are stuck in gridlock and traffic is going less than 5 miles an hour. However, as soon as traffic picks back up, get off your phone.
Pick up after your pets and your children. Don’t be the person that leaves a trail of destruction and trash wherever you go. If you have a dog, pick up their poo and keep them on a leash. If you have children out in public, do your best to not let them run wild and terrorize everyone around you. Sometimes it is unavoidable, but make an effort. No one is going to think your children are as cute as you are. It’s a little different with dogs, but not that much. I have dogs, and understand that the world is full of people who don’t like pets or cat people who think dogs are dumb and ridiculous. Forcing my dogs on those people is only going to make them hate me, it is not going to change their opinion. It’s the same with children.
Don’t complain all the time. I get it- things are rough. But everyone has a hard time, at some point in their life. It’s common to go through a rough period that might last a while and that’s not a big deal. If you are having problems, it’s ok to talk about them. It becomes an issue when you constantly complain. What is the goal of your constant complaining? Are you trying to crush the joy and happiness of everyone around you? Does it make you feel better to try to make everyone you know suffer too? If any of those things are the case, then you need professional help. Therapy can be great for learning better, more effective ways to deal with your problems, so you can deal with your problems and move on. Therapy is also a great place to work through any issues you might have that make you want to complain all the time. Lots of people have unresolved trauma, which can cause a heavy psychological toll. Working through your issues can make like much better without making everyone you know hate talking to you.
Don’t gossip or slander people. Gossip is poison that destroys relationships and ruins your reputation. Don’t try to trick people into gossiping about other people- this is a terrible thing to do. When you gossip, you come across as petty and insecure. By slandering people, you are actively trying to destroy them somehow, and if this is what you do, you really need to step back and ask yourself why you do this, if it is really getting you what you want out of life, and look at the quality of the relationships you have.
Don’t spend time with people who gossip. This is pretty clear. People who gossip are usually the people who claim to hate drama and then spend all their time creating it. There is little good to be gained by spending any more time than you have to with people who do this. However, people who gossip a lot often come across as friendly because they are making you comfortable with them so they can pump you for information to use against you later. People that gossip are everywhere- friends, family, coworkers. Maintain distance, be polite, and keep good boundaries.
Cut toxic people out of your life. Everyone has people like this in their life, be they family, friends, coworkers, or all of the above. If you can’t cut the person out of your life, spend as little time with them as you can, and when you do have to interact with them, be polite and maintain boundaries. Easy ways to tell if someone is toxic is how you feel when you are with them, or after you have spent time with them. Are you exhausted, drained, paranoid, depressed, or just feel bad? Does spending a lot of time with them cause your behavior to become worse? Peer pressure doesn’t end when you get out of high school and negative people can have an undue influence on our behavior, whether or not we want to admit it. Some toxic relationships can be harder to leave or distance yourself from than others. If you are in abusive relationship, it will take time, support, and strategy to get free. In work settings, sometimes you have to get a new job, which also takes time, support, and strategy.
Check your insecurity. No one is confident all the time, that’s just not how life works. No matter who you are or what you do, there is always going to be someone better than you somehow. It is part of life. However, insecurity can become a cancer that, like gossip, destroys relationships, ruins lives, and exposes you as a bitter, petty person. Are you frequently threatened by other people? Are you worried that you are going to be forgotten about, brushed aside, or replaced? Do you respond by lashing out at people or trying to destroy their relationships with other people? Do you let everyone around you know how horrible that person really is? If so, you are the problem. That part of you that wants to destroy all the people that threaten you is never satisfied. No matter how much you feed it, it will only get stronger. You will never feel better or more confident. Instead of dealing with your insecurity directly and working on becoming more confident in yourself, you limit yourself by surrounding yourself with people who are not threatening to you and condemn yourself to a life of boring mediocrity, all of your making.
Treat your profiles like they are public. Some platforms lend themselves to public profiles, like Twitter or Instagram. Facebook profiles are often private, which can give people the false impression that they actually are private. Here’s the thing- nothing on the internet is actually private. People take screenshots all the time and can share them widely on other social media. On Twitter, I have seen a ton of screenshots of conversations and posts from private profiles. Stop believing that your private profile is actually private. It isn’t.
Pick one or two social media and ignore or delete your other profiles. A few years ago, I wondered why I wasn’t getting more done so I installed one of those time trackers on my computer. It monitored what I did on my computer and how long I spent on different things. I was shocked and appalled at how much time I actually spent on Facebook. No wonder I was getting so little done. In the summer of 2014, I deleted my Facebook profile and haven’t regretted it once since. It didn’t end my procrastination (really, that will never end :), but I became much more aware of how I was spending my free time. Much to my surprise, I got happier after deleting my profile. I didn’t realize how much of a negative impact Facebook had on me until it was out of my life. You don’t necessarily have to delete your profiles, but get selective.
Thanks for reading- I appreciate you.
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