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Have you ever thought about how meaningful relationships form? They generally do not happen overnight but typically develop and strengthen over time. In pondering the meaningful relationships that I have experienced, I realized there are four core concepts that they all have in common. These 4 C’s are relevant and practical for all relationships, including personal and professional.  


To begin a relationship, we must first connect. This connection might be through work, child’s school sporting event, intro by mutual friends, etc. When we connect, we likely have something in common. Opportunities to connect are all around, but we must be ready and open to the other person. Connecting is the most natural step because there is nothing invested and, therefore, nothing to lose.  


Here, the relationship begins to go a little deeper. In collaboration, the most significant component for meaningful relationships begins to form – trust. We begin to add value. It is often during this phase when we assess the long-term potential for the relationship. If the collaboration effort breaks down or the other party is unresponsive to attempts to collaborate, we know to move on. Life is too short to invest in takers. The trust established during this phase of the relationship becomes the foundation for the future.


When we have the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way to another person, it can be truly magical. It is almost a selfish act because contributing to others feels so dang good! It is through contribution that our relationships begin to thrive. When the relationship is truly in the contribution phase, both parties are focused on the success of the other. We see this happen with teams, marriages, friendships, and businesses all the time. In contribution, there is harmony and shared values.


When we get the first three C’s correct, the natural result is a committed relationship. The descriptors that come to mind during this phase of the relationship are loyalty, faithfulness, and trust. One of the most significant challenges we all face in relationships is maintaining the commitment of that relationship. I am not speaking specifically about infidelity (which is undoubtedly a violation of the relationship) but specifically about any act that violates the trust or breaches integrity in the relationship. 

The highest level of a relationship, personal or business, is a mutual commitment.

We trust that the other party is going to act within the boundaries of the relationship. When they don’t, the relationship begins to breakdown. This breakdown can be gradual, or it can be immediate. It takes much work to restore a relationship to its previous state after a commitment violation has occurred.

The key to maintaining any relationship is effort. Committed relationships do not take the other party for granted. Committed relationships focus on growth, and committed partners look to enhance their contribution to the relationship. Think of a time when you violated this commitment in a relationship that was important to you. I did this to a dear friend many years ago. She was just learning to cook and invited us along with some other friends over to her house for dinner. Dinner was not ready at 9:30 PM, and we were tired of waiting. The host left to get pizza because dinner was taking so long, and when she had not returned by 10:00 PM, we left. 

We violated our commitment to that relationship so that we could go to bed. Our relationship was never the same. This breakdown was entirely our fault, and to this day, we regret our selfish decision to leave. Never again will I leave to serve my needs at the expense of the relationship.

Honor your commitments – you can catch up on your sleep later!

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