A man’s life is not the summary of his possessions but of the quality of his relationships. Life’s most important satisfaction can be found in relationships. They enrich the quality of our lives. Scientific research have shown that healthy relationships can promote our spiritual, mental and physical well-being. Success, wealth and achievement pales in comparison to the depth and beauty of good relationships and are often empty without them.
On the contrary, relationships are also the greatest source of pain. Most people carry around pains, hurts and regrets from people they wish they never met. A meeting with the wrong person changed the trajectory of their lives. They have become cynical, insecure and doubtful of their own potential because of some past experiences of hurt, betrayal and disappointment.
I will also be quick to point out that people can’t and won’t always meet our needs or display perfect behaviour. The imperfection that describes all of us is such that relationships, no matter how good, are bound to experience sore spots, even if occasionally. It can only be a problem when the sore spots become a regular part of a relationship. Then, it’s time to rethink the essence of such relationship.
What typical pattern of relationships can we describe as life-empowering? My reflection summarizes it in four characters. Your Ideal relationship will be a mix of the following characters in correct proportions – A Critic, An Advisor, A Coach and A Cheerleader. I will describe these four characters to you and what you should do about each:
1. A Critic
Criticism is not bad when put into perspective. Criticism can be constructive or destructive. There will surely be those moments in your life when you will face criticism. Maturity is the ability to handle criticism in such a way that it doesn’t negatively affect your self-esteem or opportunities for achievement.
A critic can offer you either constructive or destructive criticism. They are not there to pamper you or gloss over your weakness. They will courageously tell it to your face. You should be grateful for such people even when you don’t seem to enjoy the criticism. “Feedback is the breakfast of champions” said Ken Blanchard.
Before you think I’m encouraging you to keep critics around, please be careful of those whose sole business is to offer you destructive criticism. Over time, they will drain your spirit and take the springs away from your steps, leaving you limping and stewing in self-doubt. Please avoid them like a plague. They don’t bring out the best in you. Always remember, nobody can make you feel bad without your consent.
Be careful of people who seem to find it easier to identify your weaknesses and downplay your strengths. Mark Twain’s wisdom is validated here, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people do that, but the really great makes you feel that you, too, can become great.”
2. An Advisor
An advisor is the expert. They are skilled in the art of balanced judgment. They see your weakness and your strengths at the same time and do not dwell inordinately on both. They know when you are going wrong and will tell you so that you can avoid mishaps.
I appreciate advisors. A lot of them can be friends, teachers, parents, uncles, and bosses. They come in different shades and nuances. However, the lapse of the advisor is that advices are a dime a dozen. It is easy to tell people what they should be doing or how they should be running their lives.
Be careful about people who assume to have an expert opinion over your life. They even tend to get angry when you are not following their advice. Even though their advice may be right, the menu and manner in which they serve it is wrong. They are willing to shove their panoply of solutions down your throat. They are not interested in understanding your unique challenges or in walking with you to experience real and lasting change. They are just what they are – advisors.
While most of us can claim not to be critics, majority of us are advisors. We have a strong tendency towards this behavioural pattern. I try to stifle mine too. I’m learning to understand that people don’t need prescriptions when they haven’t been diagnosed. Let us take counsel from Blaise Pascal, “The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of… We know the truth not only by the reason, but by the heart.”
3. A Coach
Do you know what great coaches do? They see your weaknesses but they don’t trivialize it. They see your strength and seek how to polish it into mastery. Above all, they walk you through the process, either of mastering a strength or subduing a weakness. They have a sense of where you should be and are willing to commit themselves to help you get there.
This is why I have chosen to be a life and performance coach. I want to see people live a life of peak performance and contribution. I’m always happy when I see people willing to make changes to make their lives better. I’m interested in supporting them through the process. I’m always building myself, reading and equipping myself for such people. They are the reason I keep writing one more post.
I advise you today to find people to pour yourself into. It’s amazing how fast you grow as a person when you start thinking of how to empower others. It works for me. Zig Ziglar said, “You can get all you want in life if you will help enough other people get what they want.”
A coach is a dream-enabler. They are there when you are disillusioned and discouraged. They hold you down and then lift you up. When you are weak and tired, they won’t let you give up. They will also be there at the finish line waiting to celebrate your well-deserved victory.
4. A Cheer Leader
For those of us who are conversant with American football or basketball, Cheerleaders are those loyal, dedicated ladies that cheer an athletic team during games. They are on ground to remind the athletes about their dreams, their identity (whether school or club), the possibilities of victory even when they are faced with defeat. They remain loyal all through the game. They won’t go home with the winning team even when their team loses.
Do you know who the cheerleaders in your life are? Your cheerleaders are those who love you in spite of you. They celebrate you even when you are failing. Have you seen a typical sport club fan? They don’t jump ship when their clubs are defeated. Some won’t even eat and will wear long faces all day long. That is the strength of their loyalty.
Cheerleaders in your life enjoy you even when you are acting like a jerk, those times when your behaviour or attitude is anything but perfect. They seem to enjoy you just the way you are and are not getting themselves frustrated, trying to change you. Your weaknesses, to them are part of the package – your uniqueness. They give you the freedom to be human.
When you experience performance anxieties around someone. When you feel you need to be a better person before they can accept you, when you feel less of yourself and you are always trying to change yourself because of them, then you need to reduce your contact with such people. If at all they are unavoidable, make your contact with them as rare as possible.
There are moments in life when all we need around us are not critics or advisors but coaches and cheerleaders. Spend time around those who feed your spirit. Know when to give the gift of your absence to the rest.
In my opinion, I believe an ideal relationship especially in close friendships or romantic relationships, should have a balance of all four characters. All of the four characters have their place. Wisdom is knowing which of the characters to exhibit at a particular time and to what extent. Excess of any of the characters can create imbalance in a relationship.
Furthermore, I still refuse to make a case for the exclusive and destructive critic. I recommend you put them in a hole. That’s where they belong. Let them shout their criticisms from there, we will amplify their voice from beneath. If it is useful, we will consider it. If not, we will discard it but we don’t need regular and open access to them.
Above all, always remember the words of Mike Murdock about relationships, “You will only be remembered for two things: the problems you solve, or the ones you create.” Choose wisely.
To your wisdom