Finishing my ebook has me thinking about intentionality and why we’re prone to react instead of living intentionally. Building the foundation has required hours of conceptual thinking, but theories need to grow legs and walk at some point.
For the next week until the book launches, I’m writing a series of posts about specific applications for intentionality: money, relationships, health, and spiritual growth. (Read the money one here.)
Just like any area we’d like to grow and flourish, relationships require intentionality.
New to Charleston, with a husband working nights and weekends to finish a PhD and without a traditional job of my own, I craved companionship. Being alone – not necessarily lonely, but definitely alone – made me feel vulnerable and exposed. For our first year here, I accepted every invitation and sowed tirelessly into new friendships.
Now that we’ve been here for two and a half years, I find myself succumbing to the plight of the introvert often. I’m thankful for great friends, but I don’t want to take these friendships for granted. I want to be intentional so these relationships can flourish, not stagnate.
From this introvert’s vantage point, here are a few things we can do practically to build more intentional relationships:
1. Set aside time to spend with people who are important to us.
It may seem obvious, but without specifically planning time, other demands will consume our time and energy.
2. Listen when our people talk.
This may be another obvious one, but it’s easy to slip into bad habits. We have so many distractions at our fingertips and within our own minds. Despite the mounting research against multi tasking, many of us still feel like we can get away with it.
3. Put phones away when we talk to our people.
The smartphone is the adult security blanket, the place we turn when we’re bored or nervous or stuck in an uncomfortable situation. In a recent Real Simple article, psychologist Sherry Turkle referenced a recent study which found “…if you place a phone on a table, personal or heavy topics won’t even come up.”
4. Remember what matters to them: special dates, struggles, passions and interests.
This is one I’m trying to improve in my own relationships. If a friend tells me about a new project or job she’s pursuing, I want to follow up the next time I see her. I want to reach out on important dates: birthdays, anniversaries, at the loss of a loved one.
None of these ideas is new. So what it is it that stops us from treating our relationships intentionally all the time?
1. We have too many demands from other areas of life.
It can feel overwhelming to pour into your spouse or friend after a long, demanding week. When my tendency is to curl up with a movie, I never regret keeping plans with friends instead.
2. We take the people closest to us for granted.
Our time is limited, even with the people we see daily. It’s worth overcoming this unfortunate human tendency to remind ourselves how fortunate we are to have these people by our side.
3. We think we’re doing “okay.”
I fall into this one often. My marriage and relationships with my family and close friends are “good.” There are no crises or rifts; nothing is broken. But maintenance is easier than repair. While laziness, apathy and inertia inevitably creep in, they’re among the most insidious and dangerous threats to the long term success of our relationships.
4. We’re more focused on our own needs than others’.
This is a tough realization, but an honest one. My primary focus for the year is to think less about myself and more about others. It’s a continual process, but a rewarding one.
What do you do to stay intentional in your relationships?