Most people are not on-track to have great relationships. Building a great relationship is hard, and most people don’t know how to do the work or simply aren’t willing.
But when you do the work to build great relationships, they will fill your life with meaning and purpose. Great relationships will make you a stronger, more self-assured version of yourself. You’ll become more truly alive, truly yourself, if you have others to help you—even if you’re afraid and nervous. Anyone who can tell someone how they truly feel is a powerful person.
Most people are scared of the consequences, of being rejected. Frankly, this fear is justified! The world has made it very hard to build great relationships. It’s far easier to keep your thoughts to yourself and stick with the safe path, even if it’s filled with loneliness and emptiness.
But it’s better to speak your mind and be rejected than live in an ocean of lies. As Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius once said, “The truth might hurt, but what hurts more is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.”
Building great relationships forces you to grow. It’s risky and nerve-wracking. You might have to do things you’ve never done before. The truth is, once you go on this journey, you cannot remain an immature, childish, selfish person. You’ll be forced to look at every belief you have and consider whether it’s right or not. You have to see what’s helping you and what’s holding you back.
Of course, you could live your whole life never addressing these problems—many people do. But it’ll take a terribly exhausting toll on you. Being alone for too long always does.
But if you want better relationships than you’ve ever had, you’re going to have to do things you’ve never done.
Avoiding Conflict Will Lead You To Not Having Any Meaningful Relationships At All
“Avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering. The avoidance of struggle is a struggle. The avoidance of failure is a failure.” -Mark Manson
If you try to avoid all conflict in your relationships, you’ll never have fulfilling relationships.
I hate conflict. I usually keep my thoughts to myself. But when it came to my most important relationships, I knew I had to speak my mind. If I didn’t, I knew I’d just sit in quiet resentment and annoyance, which eventually kills any relationship. So I had to learn how to gently but firmly state my conflict.
Every relationship has conflict. Humans are immensely complicated. It takes bravery to be with someone and tell them how you really feel and hope they don’t reject or invalidate you.
But avoiding conflict altogether will lead you to not having any meaningful relationships at all.
This is why speaking your mind is so important. If you don’t speak your mind, you’ll never truly connect with anyone. This isolation and loneliness are terrible feelings to endure. Years of this could destroy you.
When you speak the truth, you’re creating something “real.” You’re speaking your feelings into existence. You are saying, I am a real person, with real thoughts. You might not like them, but here they are. You’re standing up for yourself and what you believe in, which will make you a stronger, more articulate person.
On the other hand, keeping your thoughts to yourself will always lead you to mediocre, empty relationships. When people recognize you’re afraid to stand up for yourself, they won’t want to be with you. Either that, or they’ll use you and manipulate your silence for their own gain.
Relationships are made stronger and fuller through enduring pain. Truly lifelong friendships are built on overcoming adversity and conflict.
Meaningful relationships are built on trust and “knowing and being known.” If you never get to truly know someone or let them truly know you, all your relationships will sputter and die from lack of fuel.
Why Most People Will Not Have Great Relationships
Relationships are perhaps the most important foundation for your life.
If you have great relationships, there’s virtually nothing that can defeat you, or even discourage you. As prolific author Frank Crane once wrote, having a close friend “doubles every joy and halves every defeat.”
But if most of your relationships are shallow and superficial, it doesn’t matter if you have the most “successful” life imaginable—everything still rings hollow if there’s no one to celebrate with.
As part of a recent study, The National Science Foundation asked 1,500 people how many friends they had that they could talk with about their personal troubles or triumphs.
One in four said they had no one to talk with. That number doubled when they took out family members.
Why do most people have mediocre relationships—or none at all?
Why are most people on track to never have great relationships?
Because they can’t be bothered to learn how.
When my wife Kimi and I were in premarital counseling, we read a book called The 5 Love Languages. That little book has made us 1000x closer to each other.
Maybe you’ve read the book before. In a nutshell, the book says every person loves, and wants to be loved, in five ways (with one or two main preferences):
Words of affirmation
Acts of service
Everyone loves and wants to be loved in these 5 ways. But the reason most people continue to have mediocre relationships is because they just can’t be bothered to learn how the other person wants to be loved.
Not knowing how your loved ones want to be loved is extremely dangerous. This is where the deepest, most profound disconnects can happen. Things like:
The workaholic father who buys his children anything they want, except all they really wanted was a dad who came to sports games
The husband who never really wants to talk but is always in the mood for sex
The friend who is more attentive to their smartphone than whatever you’re talking about
Most people can’t be bothered to learn how to communicate with and love their friends/partner the way they want.
As long as you never learn how you want to receive love—and learn how those around you want to receive it—you’ll always have mediocre relationships.
Communication is hard. It takes empathy, focus, and conscious effort to give your friend the attention they need.
But isolation and loneliness are far harder.
The reason your relationships are mediocre is because you haven’t learned enough about communication.
“If you keep living like the way you are now, you will continue to produce the same life you already have.” -Jim Rohn
If You Want All The Benefits Of Great Relationships, You Have To Let Go Of The Outcome
Years ago, I was in therapy and told my therapist how damaged I had been by some loved ones abusing alcohol. I told him these people weren’t really themselves when they were drinking, and I didn’t want to be around their self-destructive drunken behavior.
He told me it was time to tell them that I wouldn’t be around them if they were drinking.
I vaguely remember thinking to myself, Okay, nod your head, make him think you agree. That’s it. Don’t let him know you’ll never, EVER do that.
I was terrified of telling them what I thought.
The prospect of telling loved ones that I would refuse to be around them if they were drinking, that they weren’t welcome in my home if they were bringing alcohol… Well, I just never told them.
It was too hard.
To this day, I haven’t told them.
I chose to take the easier way out, and just put up with the constant drinking, avoiding it when I could, but never saying anything. I don’t know what would’ve happened if I’d told them. But there’s certainly been doubt, uncertainty, and frustration on my part. That’s the price of trying to control the outcome.
If you want to get all the benefits of great relationships—and there are many—you have to let go of the outcome. You can’t control the outcome.
I’ve had my own struggles because of my lack of action. Pretending things are fine when they’re not feels terrible. Not standing up for myself and what I believe makes me resent myself. Hiding in the shadows when I should be speaking up takes a toll on you.
I have spoken up and told the truth many times since then. I’ve had to let go of the outcome and just do my part—clean my side of the street, as my therapist would tell me.
I know it’s hard. I do. It’s so hard, I still haven’t done it.
But we have to try. A better life, full of better relationships, is waiting for us.
Speaking Your Mind Will Always Make You More Articulate, Tactful, And Self-Confident
Speaking your mind is scary. Hell, I’m scared sometimes to say that I liked a movie everyone else didn’t, let alone something major like politics or social issues.
But speaking your mind will make you more articulate, tactful, and wise. Because the first time you do it, ignorant and uninformed as you are, you make a stand by saying you believe in something.
Perhaps you’re wrong. Perhaps what you’ve been believing this whole time has been wrong. You’d never know. But once you speak it, you open yourself up to feedback and even criticism. You place yourself in a position to learn something, to take a deeper look at your beliefs.
Do this enough—speak your mind, get rejected, reassess your beliefs—and you’ll eventually become a thick-skinned, self-assured person confident in your beliefs and values. You’ll be able to know that your beliefs are right, that you’ve examined and studied them and know for sure that this is what you believe.
Most people don’t do this, though. This leaves them perpetually scared of rejection by other people and resentful at themselves for being scared.
Tell the truth. Practice saying it. Say who you are, what you want, what you believe in. Don’t be afraid of criticism—seek it. Use it to become more mature, more resilient.
Speaking your mind is scary. There are consequences of voicing your thoughts.
But you don’t choose whether or not to struggle. You can only choose what your struggle is. There’s always a price to pay.
Most people are paying the price of not speaking up when they should’ve. That’s costly, and it takes an exhausting toll on your.
Speaking up may be scary, but if you never do it, you might as well be dead. The only way to get truly lifelong relationships is by being brave and saying what you need to say before it’s too late.
Speak your mind. It’s scary, I know. But everything is on the other side of fear.