Today we’re going to look at the foundation upon which all healthy relationships are based.
Much of the quality of our lives is directly impacted by how healthy and positive our relationships are. However, it’s not uncommon for people to have little to no idea how to create or maintain one. And why should they?
Being good with interpersonal dynamics is a skill and one that’s almost never taught.
But here’s the cool part:
The root of sustainable, healthy relationships is universal.
And it all comes down to maintaining one thing:
Connection is THE bedrock that all relationships are built on. Without it, the timer has been started, counting down until that relationship deteriorates.
The result of healthy connection is a certain kind of safety:
Emotional safety is the feeling that exists when people are confident that connection is the prime objective of a relationship.
It means that a subtle series of give and take signals are being delivered by both people, which mean that a harmony has been established.
Signals that show the people are in rhythm. In sync. There’s a certainty to the feeling; an understanding that each person is genuinely aware of the other and seeking to maintain connection.
Contrast this to an icy meeting with a slick car salesman; there may be a veneer of politeness but both people know that the subterranean goals driving them are different. Profit on the one hand and a need guarded by suspicion on the other.
Neither party senses the others goal is safety i.e connection. As such, there’s nowhere for the relationship to develop unless someone changes.
Interestingly, one of the cornerstones in the cultures of the best teams in the world is how safe the group feels. Because when we feel secure, we can devote ourselves to maximizing our performance. This is because we’re no longer spending energy keeping a wary eye on everyone else.
So that begs the question: how do you send out the signals of emotional safety?
Well, when trying to improve something about the way you relate to people, you can be tempted to try to mimic the actions that someone competent spontaneously generates; natural eye contact, confident posture, different things to say or not say, different tones to use or not use.
The problem with trying to imitate these actions is that you’re approaching the end state in the wrong way. Instead of shifting your mindset and letting your actions flow forth naturally as a result, you’d merely try to copy the physical correlates without the beating heart behind them.
The result is a stiff and jumbled series of half-hearted posturing. You won’t buy it and no one else will either.
It’s as if you were trying to laugh by copying someone else. It wouldn’t sound authentic. Genuine laughter comes about as a by-product of something that actually makes you laugh.
What we need is to shift our thinking. Our mode.
This acts like someone grasping a coiled chain at one end and pulling it straight; all the links slide into place. It will feel easy and ‘right’ because it is.
So when it comes to creating emotional safety the best mindset to have is called Authentic/Attuned.
Put simply, you’re both truly yourself and fully paying attention to them.
It means you’re upfront, clear and heartfelt, you’re ‘real’ and like a ship’s captain to the seas currents, attuned to their needs. Often, people are focused on how they look, while simply waiting to give their opinion.
When you practice being Authentic/Attuned with others the response is almost always immediate and positive.
Eyes light up. People sit taller. Tension melts away. To the recipient, they’ll feel you’re real and that you think they are too.
I know of no faster or more reliable way to establish connection and build safety.
So there you have it!
Let’s do a quick review:
If you want to generate and sustain great relationships, then you must maintain a healthy connection which leads to emotional safety. This must be done by cultivating a mindset where you’re authentically yourself and attuned to them.
Once that’s done, the connection is made and the relationship is healthy.
Then to maintain a healthy relationship, the connection must be consistently cared for as the trust of both parties grows that the others commitment is true.
It’s a lifelong practice to be yourself and fully be present for another.
Remember, it’s not about being perfect. That’s impossible. It’s about striving to get better day in and day out.
And that’s more than good enough.