Why positive relationships matter, and how to start creating them

Writing on a wall that says, “believe in yourself.”
Writing on a wall that says, “believe in yourself.”
Photo by Katrina on Unsplash

In high school, my small business teacher was an enigma. Before I met him, I noticed him. I would see him in the halls and immediately had assumptions about him. The often severe look on his face, combined with his fast walk and unflinching stare, always made him look serious, intimidating, and a bit scary. Then one summer, out of the blue, he called me at home. That call changed everything.

His name is Billy, and I still call him a friend. He looked scary before I met him. But, after that phone call in the summer of 1998, and to this day, I see him as a teddy bear. His smile and laugh still echo in my mind all these years after being in his class. And, the things I learned from him changed the direction of my life.

Positive relationships matter

We have all spent time around negative people. They are cynical, down, and often mean. No one likes spending time with people like that, but somehow, they wiggle their way into our lives.

We have also all spent time with people that are positive and uplifting. Those people who make us want to be better and do better. The people in our lives see the bright side and can help us through the darkest times.

It is so simple it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. We need less negative relationships and more positive ones to become the best version of ourselves.

Positive relationships push us, getting us unstuck, and helping us to grow. Without positive relationships, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I had my teacher, Billy, to push me to think and lead in high school. I had my dad to support and drive me forward in college. I had my mom to encourage me into my entrepreneurial journey in my thirties. I had my wife to encourage me toward adoption. I had Jeff to help me be creative and grow a nonprofit. And, Sanjay and Shannon to get me into podcasting. The list is long.

All along the way, positive relationships have driven me forward to be and do things that I never thought possible.

How to start creating positive relationships

Positive relationships don’t just happen. They don’t fall out of the sky or bubble up from the ground. They require work and intentionality.

Focus on intentionality. The mistake most people make in relationships is assuming they can be sustained on cruise control. They can’t. Relationships need intentional care to grow, because, when left unattended, relationships weaken.

“Human relationships also have a tendency to weaken. To prevent this decay requires time-consuming maintenance behaviors, principally communication and joint activities.”

Sam B. G. Roberts and R. I. M. Dunbar

Maintain them carefully. Positive relationships require maintenance behaviors, like frequent calls, coffee, or lunches. And, because many of us lead hectic lives, with no plan for those maintenance behaviors, the relationships that matter to us weaken unintentionally.

Set reminders. I make appointments to remind myself to connect with friends who are important to me. I know I can’t trust myself to remember to call or schedule a meal; there are too many other things going on in my life.

Make a plan. The best thing anyone can do to create positive relationships that thrive is making a plan. Having a plan will make sure your relationship isn’t on cruise control. It will help you to be intentional and give you the prompts needed to make sure you put in the work.

Positive relationships require work, to make them work. Are you ready to do the work?

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Husband. Father of six. Wearer of fedoras. Startup co-founder (with exit). Nonprofit co-founder & CMO. I write about personal growth and nonprofit marketing.

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