Your life is filled with relationships: family, friends, teammates, coaches, faith, professors, romantic partners, athletic trainers, team physicians, fans, athletic directors...the list goes on and on. These are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.
I'm sure you've heard over and over the importance of being in a good romantic relationship. Sure that's important, but you need to make sure ALL of your important relationships are good for you.
So how do you know if a relationship is "good" for you? Good relationships come down to one very important element: Respect. Respect means you do 3 things: accept each other's differences, engage in accountability, and don't make things personal.
1. Embracing differences
One of the greatest parts of being on a team or in a relationship is that every person brings something different to the table. You all have different strengths and weaknesses, and done right you'll compliment each other. Done wrong, however, and you'll battle each other.
One of the most powerful moments in my life is when I realized that during a disagreement with someone, the goal was not to make them see that I'm right; it was to feel heard and hear the other person's point of view, too. Once you truly wrap your mind around the fact that each perspective is a simply different piece of the puzzle and not necessarily "right" or "wrong," your relationships will grow.
It's easy to connect with others on similarities, and it's more difficult (but also more powerful) to connect with others on differences. A good relationship is about appreciating the similarities and respecting the differences, even when we don't agree with someone else. That respect needs to be mutual.
In good relationships there will be accountability. Accountability doesn't mean angrily calling someone out on what you perceive to be misbehavior. It means respectfully giving feedback to others with the intention of HELPING them.
My husband told me a story from many years ago when he was VERY into noon-ball (playing basketball over the noon hour). One of the other players got upset with him while they were playing and told him that he was an asshole when he played. Now, if you know my husband, this is quite funny; he's INCREDIBLY nice, and we joke about how he couldn't be an asshole even if he tried.
So, my husband got off the court and was complaining to his buddies about what this guy said. His buddies looked at each other awkwardly, and one sheepishly said, "Well, you are a bit of an asshole when you play."
My husband stopped dead in his tracks. He'd never heard this before and did NOT want others to feel that way around him. He had to make a decision in that moment: keep doing things that others experienced as asshole behavior OR take a look at what he was doing and change his behavior. He chose to change his behavior and never heard that feedback again. Without his buddies speaking up, he never would have known others experienced him that way and would have continued (unknowingly) being an asshole.
One other important feature of accountability is not gossiping. A good rule to use is if you won't say something to their face, don't say it behind their back. Chances are your frustration with that person could be cleared up through a conversation or agreeing to disagree. There's no need to start drama about it though. One of my mentors told me that if someone has egg on their face, and we don't tell them, we're responsible for that egg, too. So give good, respectful feedback to others!
3. It's not personal
Someone's response to you tends to say a lot more about what he or she is going through than you. Yet, so many people take bad moods, difficult statements, etc. personally and believe it's about them. Granted, some times someone will throw some salt your way, and I truly believe it's a good idea to check it out. Maybe they are pissed at you, and you can use it as an opportunity to figure that out. Yet, more often they're having a bad day for reasons unbeknownst to you.
Just the other day, I asked one of my coworkers a question and cut her off before she could finish. I noticed a weird look on her face that didn't entirely register until I left the office. Then I completely realized I was a bit of a jerk to her. So I texted her, owned my behavior, apologized, and let her know she did nothing to warrant my sass. The reality is I was tired and sore from a long run the day before, "hangry," and crabby. We laughed (and are still laughing) about it and moved on.
Part of what helps others not take things personally is you owning your own behavior. I'm generally not snarky with others, but I was that day. Had I not owned up to what I did, it would have been very easy for her to take it personally. How could she not? I was responding with sass to her question! By owning your behavior, it helps others realize that when you have an off day, it's nothing more than an off day. But if you walk around being all sassy to others, eventually those around you are going to feel like they're doing something wrong. And that's not good for relationships.
This also means you can't make your own disagreements and feedback personal. Remember that you're all doing the very best you can at any given moment. Come from a place of compassion and understanding rather than being insulting and hurtful.
Good, respectful relationships not only push us to grow, they allow us to grow. Notice I didn't say they were EASY. It takes a bit of work to have good relationships, just like it takes work to be a good athlete. If you come from a place of respect and truly trying to understand each other, you'll be surprised just how amazing things can be. And remember, even if your relationships are missing one or more of these components, you can always work on them!
My email tips next Wednesday will be good communication techniques and some relationship resources. Until then, be awesome!
Dr. Erin Haugen is a licensed clinical psychologist and sport/performance psychologist located in Grand Forks, ND. She specializes in helping college student-athletes excel in sports and in life. She is a former basketball player, current triathlete, and LOVES dogs.
Disclaimer: You should consult an appropriate professional for specific advice tailored to your situation. If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, you should call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.