Handling One-Sided Relationships

“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

Hanlon Razor

Not everyone is out to get us. The majority of stress that comes from relationships in work and life is a combination of unawareness, naivety, and selfishness.

Sure, there are people out there in the world who we will encounter that try to take advantage of others. They will con, manipulate, incentives and do whatever than can to get us to do what they want us to do. Sometimes this can be obvious, like email spammers named Solomon sending us business proposals. But the majority of time, people are just doing the best they can do, being naturally self-centered (like we all are in some way or another) and completely unaware they are driving us insane.

Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being self-centered. We all individually live the world through our own eyes with our own perspectives, dreams and ideas. You are you. And I am me. You bring your unique perspective and ideas to the table and so do I.

I think 98.999%* of relationship issues come from various types of miscommunications. (*Give or take… I’m making this statistic up.)

The problems usually begin to arise at the intersection of relationships where one person (or everyone) is unwilling or unaware to put themselves in the shoes of the other and discover each others own goals and values.

If you are working for me (or with me) and I’m doing something that is unnecessarily stressful to you, them I’m partially to blame and I don’t even know it. This comes down to miscommunication or misunderstanding of what we each want out of the relationship.

“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.”

Lucius Annaeus Seneca

At a baseline, a relationship — be it a business, friendship, or romantic relationship — should be a value in / value out that is equal on both sides. Or ideally, our relationships should improve each other, where 1 + 1 = 3. By communicating and investing in each other in the ways we need, we are providing extraordinary value to one antlers and making each other better because of it. At least that’s the kind of relationships I want to cultivate. I want to go deep and invest in people and help friends as much as I possible can, while still saving room for my own dreams and pursuits. I help you, you help me and we both enable each other to go further than we could alone.

This starts with knowing and having a consistent pulse on what the people who you are surrounded with want in life. Otherwise, a relationship where each party doesn’t know the other person’s goals, values and struggles they are working on is a relationship that is open to friction and harm.

Communication is key here. If you are not willing to open up to others, it’s going to be almost impossible to build trust with them. But you don’t have to open the floodgates and list out all your problems and goals in a twenty-point bulleted list. Just have one conversation. Open up a dialogue. Make it normal to talk about these things.

“A true friend freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.”

William Penn

What do you do if you are in a relationship, work or otherwise, where someone is causing friction or even being hurtful? How do you know if they are doing it unintentionally or intentionally making the relationship one-sided?

This is super-tricky to navigate. Especially since miscommunication and expectations can easily lead us to assume things that turn out to be incorrect. (The easiest person to fool is ourselves.)

But there are a few things we can do.

Look at how they treat other people around them. Are they exaggerating and bending the truth to get what they want out of others? What does everyone (not just one person, but everyone) say about them when they are not in the room?

Open up a constructive dialogue with them. Don’t be afraid to communicate about what’s bothering you. Miscommunications start small, but often unspoken can lead to big harry problems down the road. If they are unwilling to listen to what you have to say or unwilling to change, then you are likely in a one-sided relationship. They likely don’t care about your goals and problems, and would probably saw off your legs if it meant making their own priorities and dreams happen. These are the people to avoid and drop. There are plenty of great people in the world that will enable you, challenge you and want you to succeed. Anyone one-sided relationship that’s holding you back and suppressing who you are isn’t a priority on your time and energy.

The best relationships are two-way streets where each person is giving and getting value out of it.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #664

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