I like black licorice. Cue the gag reflex in some people.
The way people respond to me when they notice I’m nibbling on black licorice is a good illustration of the kind of people you and I need or the kind of people we don’t need in our lives. More on licorice in a moment but let’s back up.
We all need relationships…good ones. The state of our relationships is one of the six factors that have a huge bearing on our well-being, i.e. our happiness, comfort and self-worth. This summer I am focusing the attention of my blog and newsletter on these six factors in an effort to help us better pay attention to our personal welfare.
Here are those six factors along with links to previous blog posts.
Your inner world (mind, heart & soul)
Your sense of order (vs. chaos and disarray)
Your purpose (including work and career)
I don’t have to convince you of the value of good relationships with family, friends or mentors. There is strong evidence that the lack of good relationships and the resultant loneliness breeds all kinds of bad outcomes, from lack of sleep to depression to dementia to heart disease. And yet, one out every two Americans claim they have no meaningful in-person social interactions.
Even if they have relationships, those connections are not meaningful, or worse, they are detrimental.
So, yeah, we need people, but not just warm bodies. We need a particular kind of people. Here’s a list of the types of friends, family members or mentors that will enhance our well-being:
We need people who remember the stuff of our lives.
Nothing says “I care” more than a friend going beyond “What’s up?” to “Tell me about your job interview” or “How’s the back pain been?” Even better when that acquaintance asks about your child or parent or loved one by name. In those moments of attention, the burden is lifted, albeit briefly, and you feel like you are not carrying it alone.
We need people who don’t constantly self-reference.
Back to black licorice. 98.6% of human beings despise it. That’s cool with me. What’s not cool is when people immediately say “Oh, I hate that stuff!” or “It makes me want to barf!” It suddenly diminishes the simple pleasure of the candy for me. But that’s only a tiny illustration of the constant self-referencing people tend to do.
I recently met with a guy who asked how I was doing. Good start. But after nearly every statement I made, he responded with “Well, I…” or “When I was…” or “Here’s how I…” Everything I said was an occasion for him to tell me about himself…at great length. I wearied of it and eventually stopped talking. We need people who don’t just make statements but ask follow-up questions like “Have you enjoyed black licorice all your life?”
We need people who don’t patronize.
Here are some giveaway lines that reveal patronization is coming your way. “What you need to know is…” “What you don’t understand is…” “How could you not get this…?” or the simple patronizing statement of the age, “Now look..!”
We do not need people who act as if their job in life is to smarten us up. We do not need people who loom over us with their intellect or experience. And we absolutely do not need people in our lives who shame us.
On the other hand…
We need people in our lives who won’t coddle us.
We need a good rebuke from time to time. OK, I do, maybe not you. Someone who will not put up with my crap but will act without condemnation or shame is pure gold! We need people with the courage and compassion to call us out, but then stand by us as we get our act together.
We need people who say what they see in us.
I wrote about this back in April and got a lot of positive response to it. I said “people who say ‘here’s what I see in you’ to their friend or loved one indicate they are actually paying attention to them. They are in tune with them. They are interested in them. They want the best for them. They know them. They care.”
When those believers-in-you speak words of affirmation and possibility into your life, it’s like an injection of soul adrenaline. Their words open up your future. We need people like that.
Our well-being is certainly something we can and should affect by our own choices, but our happiness and comfort also depends on other people who ask good questions and remember our names, don’t belittle us, and point out the good in us.
Now that you know this, look around you and identify those dear ones.
And thank them!