Some of us just aren’t that good at building or maintaining relationships, and I would certainly place myself in that category.
While very comfortable in the company of others, I’m rarely the one to start a conversation with even my closest friends when I see them online. Perplexing, I know. It’s confused me for ages too.
This tendency to sit quietly below the surface of the social world is something I’ve carried over from the non-virtual world, where I might go for months without contacting a friend, but would easily join them in doing pretty much anything, if only asked. Understanding friends will usually manage just fine to pick up where we left off, and have a great time, until we again might separate, for another few months at a time.
Some people really don’t like this pattern at all. They might think that something is wrong. Perhaps, they think, I am not interested in maintaining a relationship, or worse, I don’t like them or take their friendship for granted. It’s usually not true, there often isn’t anything wrong.
The fact is, I’m often submerged in the depths of my inner world, and reaching out is something that just doesn’t come naturally to me. I know this can be frustrating to others. I’ve heard complaints about it for as long as I remember and have seen many relationships wither away because of it.
Sometimes, in Second Life, I’ll go online and open my friends list a few minutes after logging in, more often I won’t open it at all. When I do, I might see anywhere from a dozen to two dozen bolded names of people who I could easily just drop a “hello” to. But I don’t.
Some of them I consider really good friends, most of them are only acquaintances. Still, even when I think of it, I feel a frequent hesitancy in sending an IM to anyone at all, unless there is a need to do so that goes beyond just wanting to say “hi”. I wonder, are they busy? Probably. They have to be either socialising, exploring, working, having thumb wars with themselves, who knows??? I mean, who would just be sitting there looking at their friends list, with nothing much going on at the moment, not making contact?
… Oh, I would.
Recently, I’ve realised that this is possibly a natural result of how I am made up, as opposed to a personality flaw that I need to necessarily work against or correct. I’ve recently been participating in an RL work program where we assess our strengths into 34 themes, grouped into 4 domains. One of those domains is relationship building. Strengths that fall into this domain are relating, individualisation, including, adaptability, connectedness, positivity, empathy, developing, and harmonising.
It turns out, that most of my strengths that are in the top half of the 34, have very little to do with relationship building. Those strengths are in the bottom half of my inventory. Instead, I’m more naturally talented at influencing and strategic thinking.
The idea behind this approach is to focus on your strengths, where you can excel at, and to stop wasting time investing valuable resources worrying or aiming to constantly correct your weaknesses. It’s easier said that done, but it really can help you from going crazy at trying to consistently become better at everything.
There are two well-known ways of managing your weaknesses that I use extensively, and that is by either surrounding myself with those who either compensate for or understand them, or to make use of technology to leap the gap.
People who might not be good at influencing others might team up with those who are, or perhaps need to prepare lots of visual aids to help them make their case. People who aren’t very good at strategic thinking might need to fill out long-term planners, or work in a team where someone else might be more future and task oriented.
People who might not be good at getting stuff done make extensive use of project management systems, calendars, day planners and to-do lists. They might even get life coaches to hold them accountable to what they say they want to do. /me smiles knowingly… This too is one of my areas of weakness, which is why I rely so much on organising tools, even for Second Life.
People who aren’t so good at building relationships might initiate and maintain other systems to surround themselves with people on a long-term basis. They might create things like social clubs where membership is required, or put on collaborative enterprises that need the ongoing commitment from a group of people. They might try to develop their talents in ways that will connect them with others, to make up with effort and creativity what they might lack in relationship building skills.
Anyway, food for thought I hope. Some of us are great at relationship building, while others of us frankly suck at it.
I am in debt to Serendipity Haven who wrote a post today that inspired me to write this post.
In case you’re interested in the Strengthfinder test, here it is.