The Four Habits of Highly Effective Relationships

Being highly effective in a relationship requires certain qualities in a person.

Scripture instructs, as in 1 Peter 4:8 to “love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins”. The Bible is replete with descriptions and lessons of love but, why do people continue to fail?

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale once said that relationships fail because of “selfishness” and “immaturity”, explaining why so many marriages end in divorce.

Couples tend to marry young, and before they have a chance to know themselves and to learn many of life’s lessons about self-esteem, love and relationships.

Over a twenty-seven year period of therapeutic work with individuals and couples, watching some fail and others succeed, a factor analysis was calculated, attempting to understand what were the characteristics and behaviors, or “habits” of people who were highly effective in their relationships.

These habits are learned patterns of behaviors from parents, or primary care givers, as children grow up. Most individuals perform an unconscious “re-enactment” of what is observed from others to replicate them as adults in their current relationships.

There are four basic habits a person must demonstrate to be successful in relationships.

The first habit is Generosity.

Generous individuals learn and demonstrate kindness, consideration, thoughtfulness, and courtesy for others. They also know love as an attitude, thinking about the welfare of others as Christ taught us in Matthews 19:19 “to love your neighbor as yourself”. Love is also a behavior; it is what we do.

Generous people understand that love requires making sacrifices for others. The greatest example of this is indicated in John 3:16, when God sacrificed His son, so that we may know eternal life.

Those who possess the habit of generosity also know how to forgive. They understand that to let go of hatred, resentment and anger is to be free from evil.

The second habit is Maturity.

As individuals develop over time, they acquire greater maturity when they learn to be self-aware. Lacking this characteristic prevents a person from knowing how they are affecting others.

Self-discipline is another component of maturity. An adult should be able to meet the demands of reality in order to function at his or her highest level, as well as to meet the expectations of those who depend on them.

In a healthy relationship, a mature person will also will take responsibility for their own actions. The initial response a person makes in any given situation is to ask themselves “what did I do to contribute to this problem?”.

Mature people are patient people. They understand that the ability to suffer delayed gratification is to know the true purpose of time, and that is, so that every thing does not have to happen all at once.

The third habit is Trust.

Having faith in others and being trustworthy is an essential element of a healthy relationship.

A person should not only trust themselves but be discerning in knowing how to trust others. Most importantly, having faith in God allows us to be comfortable living in this world. Psalms 28:7-8 suggests that trusting in the Lord brings peace to the heart.

Trust not only requires communicating, but it requires a specific type of communication. It should be regular in frequency, effective in its clarity and conciseness, as well as honest. Do not leave out information another person would want to know and do not bear false witness.

Additionally, trust necessitates reliability. People need to know they can depend on you. Be consistent. Do what you say you’re going to do and be where you say you’re going to be.

The fourth habit is Empathy.

There are two types of empathy. Cognitive empathy allows you to visualize what someone is saying or experiencing, and leads to a greater understanding of another person. Emotional empathy allows you to feel what someone is feeling.

What occurs in a relationship should be guided by understanding and feeling what others experience, helping you to connect in such a way that you would not hurt the other person.

The key to being highly effective in relationships is to develop healthy habits of being generous and mature in your approach to others as well as being trusting and trustworthy. Your connection with others will be stronger by being able to empathize with another person’s feelings and understanding their point of view.

When these habits are formed, and they consistently become a part of your character, you will, without a doubt, be highly effective in all your relationships whether at home, work, or in your church.

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