The Shortcut to Building Successful Relationships


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I used to be really into The Sims, a computer game in which you control a simulated person or family and live their lives, which includes managing their relationships. If you didn't talk to your friends every few days, your friendship score would quickly decrease. In my mind, building relationships in the game was too much work and quite frankly, unrealistic. 😪 I was a kid back then, so I was comparing that gameplay mechanism with what I thought were strong, deep middle-school friendships. Now I realize many of them were surface friendships. Eventually I learned that building and maintaining relationships takes a lot of work in real life, too[efn_note]Canevello, A et al. 2010 Jun. "Creating Good Relationships: Responsiveness, Relationship Quality, and Interpersonal Goals." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Retrieved from[/efn_note].

In fact, women tend to build deeper relationships through talking, while men tend to build deeper relationships through spending time together[efn_note]Roberts, SBG et al. 2015 Oct 21. "Managing Relationship Decay: Network, Gender, and Contextual Effects." Human Nature. Retrieved from[/efn_note]. Whether you're male, female, or somewhere in the middle, it looks like building good relationships is going to take a lot of time — something very few of us have to spare.

But what if I told you there's a shortcut to building successful relationships?

And that not-so-secret shortcut (based on anecdotal evidence) is this: letting go of judgement.

You see, when we judge people, we are doing so without having all of the information. Think of how multi-faceted you are as a person. Think of all your vast life experiences and memories. Now, think about all the mistakes you've made or dumb things you said. I'm sure there were times when you said something that accidentally offended someone, moments you wish you could rewrite or erase.

Other people have those moments, too. When you judge someone, you are using a very small portion of data to make generalizations to that individual's entire character. How many times have you felt misunderstood because people didn't know what you were going through? Maybe you felt they didn't understand your life experiences well enough. The same goes when you judge another person. If you know a large majority of a person's life story, maybe then you have enough information to judge that person. If not, then what evidence do you have to support your conclusion besides one or two flimsy data points? How often do we consider that our judgements might be wrong?

In 2018, I committed to letting go of judgement in my relationships in order to find and facilitate connection. Since then, all of my relationships have improved (and I mean all of them), and I am much happier and have less social anxiety. This is just anecdotal evidence, so interpret it how you wish. I believe that when we give people the benefit of the doubt, trust that they are well-meaning, and lead by example, great things happen. Again, this is anecdotal evidence here and my sample size is one, so I'm really excited to hear about whether it works for you too!

okay, but what if i really just don't like someone?

That's fine, of course. 🤣 You don't have to like people to be kind to them and not judge them. Some people just won't be your cup of tea. For me, that used to mean that I would talk about them behind their back or be rude to them; bad habits that I'm not proud of. 😞 But these days, it just means that I don't pursue deeper relationships with those people; I set my boundaries. If I see them at work, I see them at work. I prioritize my own happiness and sometimes that means only spending time with people I want to spend time with. But I still greet people with kindness and occasionally engage in conversation; there's no harm or inconvenience in that for me. If there is for you, then don't do it (that's totally okay!).

I do have one exception to this rule: if someone is hurting or harming another person in some way. I think when you do something like that, you forfeit any claim to non-judgment! So this non-judgment rule wouldn't apply to someone who is being racist, for example. You can totally judge them for that, as you should.

um, how exactly do i stop judging someone?

I know I'm the one who asked but I just wanted to say that this isn't a dumb question at all. It's not easy to choose not to judge someone because our brains make snap judgments and decisions tens of thousands of times a day. It's a natural and automatic process that can't be controlled.

What do you think? Do you think your relationships could be improved by actively trying not to judge others?

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