Human Relations, Nurturing Contact.

by Claudia Madrazo

We are not alone. Throughout our lives we are in contact with other people who help us shape who we are and what we will become. We are affected and transformed by our relationships with parents, husbands, friends, teachers and bosses.

When you go on a trip, get to know the locals. There is no better way to understand and appreciate the richness of a culture than by making contact with its people.

Make one list of the relationships that make you grow and another of the negative ones. Identify the common characteristics on each list so you can cultivate the healthy relationships and avoid harmful ones.

Think about your favorite people. What do you like and dislike about them? Reflect on how these characteristics are linked to you. What do they say about your own personality and attitude?

The people closest to us are our frame of reference as we begin to discover reality and everything appears new and amazing. We learn our first words and gestures from our mother; Grandma gives us our first delicious taste of hot cocoa; big brother lets us touch his furry pet dog; teachers show us how to add and friends point out fascinating, multicolored insects. Because we explore the world in the company of others, we create a lifelong bond with them. Establishing relationships and sharing constantly enriches us with what others perceive, feel and think.

Enriching Diversity
Although we generally tend to surround ourselves with like-minded people in order to avoid confronting our true selves, contact with different types of people broadens our horizons, opens up a whole new world and prevents us from lowering our expectations and reducing our capacity for reflection. This is why travel and exposure to other realities through meeting people from different cultures, religions, ages and interests is a truly exhilarating experience that introduces us to new ways of looking at life.

Besides allowing us to grow, exploring the world’s diversity spawns tolerance and respect. However, the difference not only lies in learning about unfamiliar cultures and religions; opportunities for broadening perspectives can be found, for example, by listening to the brother we least identify with or chatting with a new neighbor.

A Path to Self-Discovery
The people around us help us learn about and shape ourselves. Relationships with others reflect our tastes, needs, flaws, qualities and aspirations, and help us confront our own opinions and feelings and then either reinforce or change them. Others also influence our self image. It is through our relationships and how we see ourselves in them that we conceptualize our self and our worth. Hence, the importance of establishing bonds that give us a sense of fulfillment and growth and avoiding those that limit and sadden us. Who makes you feel appreciated and worthy? Who belittles and hurts you?

Identifying those individuals and relationships that influenced us and discovering how they reflect on our daily lives is the first step to determining the quality of our social milieu. We can break with harmful relationships and build new ones. There is no better way to determine whether a relationship is healthy or harmful than to realize how it makes us feel: supported or alone; loved or judged; cherished or devalued.

On the Same Wavelength
Try to recall the last argument you had. What actually lay behind the words and gestures? Did you really know how the other person felt? Did you let him/her know what made you sad or angry? A harmonious relationship with those we love and live with depends on the quality of communication we can establish. We are on the same wavelength with someone when we manage to understand what (s)he feels and thinks and the other person can also relate to our feelings and thoughts. This only happens when we dare to express our pent-up emotions and ideas as honestly as possible. The ability to love and live with others harmoniously is proportional to our capacity to truthfully express our feelings and needs.

We are shaped by the relationships we establish throughout our lives, which can either make us happy and fulfilled or weigh us down like chains; it all depends on ourselves. What kind of relationship do you prefer?