many of you know i spent the last few months working and travelling around california. it was an awesome time to connect with friends and clients alike and to begin building relationships with people beyond my santa barbara network. and it afforded me the freedom to take on some projects i would not have otherwise been able to and i found myself strengthening some of my long-time friendships along the way. and i learned a ton to boot.
one of the things that has been on the forefront of my heart and mind as of late has been the importance of connection. (you might remember a post a made a few weeks about actively seeking out a point of connection with the people around you). and well, i have a few more thoughts to share with you about maintaining those connections–those relationships–that we form.
so often i find myself caught up in all my busy-ness–in the everydayness of my life. you know, the phone calls and e-mails, chores and errands, naps and dinner dates, editing and shooting, blah, blah, blah. and i get so busy that tunnel vision sets in, and i find myself feeling alone and isolated. and then i feel guilty for being a crappy friend and for neglecting to be intentional in the lives of the people around me. i hate that, and i realize that there is a choice to be made here. intentionality and staying connected is a choice, and it takes work and commitment, effort and strategy. but most importantly, it takes time. in order to maintain healthy, enriching, relationships, we have to be willing to make room enough for them in our schedules. and this goes for any type of relationship. and of course, the time we commit to any give relationship is contingent on it’s importance and value to us or our businesses and of course, that the other party needs and expects from us. every healthy relationship should maintain reciprocity–balance and quality in the relationship. you call me, i call you. i visit you, you visit me. now, this is not something we have to tally on a sticky note but rather something we can activity choose to bring to our relationships from our end. do you have that photographer who always sends you encouraging e-mails about your work, yet you never write back? how about that friend who always calls you but you fail to call her back? or that relative you hardly visit?
beyond reciprocity…relationship requires presence. here’s what i mean by that. it requires that we be there. we need to be a actively engaged in what our friends, colleagues and clients are doing if we want to maintain connectivity. there is something so powerful about taking the time and energy to pay attention to what someone is doing and then asking them about it. and in today’s world of social media this is far easier and accessible than ever. i can’t tell you how much it means to me when someone takes the time to read my blog and leave a comment or when a friend calls to just say hi. yet so often i neglect to do that same. but if we want to maintain healthy connectivity we must engage.
further, we can learn from our own disappointments and make choices to improve upon the ways in which we feel neglected by others. one of my pet-peeves is when people simply don’t respond to me. i feel burned every time. and sometimes it legitimately hurts and other times it’s just frustrating and annoying. so i work hard at not doing the same to others and never want to get into the habit of ignoring or neglecting people. sure, when i’m busy, my response time is slower, but i always try to respond in some capacity in a timely manner. even if it’s just a “hey, i’m super busy, but i love you and will write or call soon”. especially with my nearest and dearest. if i’m committed to a maintaining a solid friendship, i have to make the time and put forth the effort to stay connected. and really, i think when people say “i’m bad at keeping in touch,” it’s just an excuse and that’s no bueno.
my friend and personal/professional coach, michele, invites us to be ruthless with our rationalizations: “being ruthless looks like refusing to excuse your tardiness one more time by saying you’ve been running late all your life. the same with other unattractive habits—sarcasm, white lies, forgetfulness. these are not genetic flaws, you were not brought up that way, and you don’t have to do it anymore.
are you terrible at returning phone calls? whether it’s because you never have time, you’re just busy, you never answer the phone when you are with another person, or you think that if people really need to talk to you then they’ll keep calling?
when you mentally give yourself a pass every time (“hey, that’s me. that’s how I roll”), then understand that you are practicing a form of “the lie of exceptionism”. the lie of exceptionism is when we take our own comfort too far. it’s when we believe that we are the exception to the rule of how people should behave, and that the rules which apply to others don’t apply to us because for us to change would be to contradict the deepest, truest and most essential part of our inmost being. When we think that to change would mean that we would cease to be our most genuine self and thus would betray everything we have been working so hard to discover and evolve into.
one person who who i think stays connected particularly well is wedding photographer jasmine star. she’s responded to every e-mail or facebook post i’ve sent her with a personal, authentic response. and i know i’m not alone, she responds to the hundreds of comments she gets on her facebook page. sure, it’s short and brief, but it’s sweet and heartfelt. and every time she writes back, i’m stoked and i feel like she cares about me. and i know she really does. and when you’re talking to jasmine in person, you feel like you’re the only one in the room. she is present and engaged and she’s intentional. sure she has an uncanny ability to remember people and details about them, but she works at it. she invests time and energy into connecting and staying connected and to building and maintaining healthy relationships with her friends, family, colleagues and clients alike and her brand, client experience, and life is exponentially bolstered by it. i’m quite sure of it.
so i invite you to be strategic and intentional about how you strengthen those new connections and maintain and deepen your existing relationships. it’s worth the time and energy and will prove to enrich your life and the lives of those around you in a surprising way. pick up the phone and call your friend. or stop by and visit your grandma. today. and tomorrow.