How Giving Can Improve Our Personal Relationships
It’s impossible to give abundantly and consistently without being impacted by the process. Anyone who’s dedicated time and resources to helping others will tell you, giving changes who you are and how you think. And if you change, it follows that the quality of your relationships would change too.
It’s also worth noting that being ‘in relationship’ with someone – be it a romantic partner, a friend, a family member or a colleague – is, in itself, an act of giving.
To sustain any kind of healthy bond, you have to give of yourself – your time, your energy, drops from your own emotional cup. If you’re practicing the skill of giving through regular donations or work for a service organisation, you’ll naturally bring that home and apply it more effectively to your connections with others.
Here are just a few of the mechanics through which giving on an altruistic level can help strengthen your personal relationships.
The Empathy Loop
Empathy – the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, is what drives many of us to give and help in the first place. But there’s a beautiful loop that happens here, because the act of giving also helps to further boost empathy. And as many studies have shown, a person’s empathic capacity is critical for relationship satisfaction – this has been proven with regards to romantic connections, business associations and even doctor-patient relationships.
When we give, we naturally take the focus off ourselves and put it on others.
And in so doing, we make a habit of viewing the world from someone else’s frame of reference. In essence, we cultivate empathy, which we then take home with us, and reap the rewards on personal fronts too.
Generosity of Interpretation
Distinguished philosopher and author Alain de Botton once said, “To love someone is to apply charity and generosity of interpretation…to have the willingness to interpret someone’s on-the-surface-not-very-appealing behaviour in order to find more benevolent reasons for why it may be unfolding”. In other words, maintaining healthy relationships often requires cutting our loved ones some slack and refusing to jump to conclusions about why they said or did the things they did. And this, of course, comes down to generosity – it means being generous with forgiveness, with kindness and with our ability to understand and withhold judgement.
So surely, then, we can improve relationships (of all kinds) by actively practicing generosity. And what better way to do so than in the philanthropic space?
The Patience of a Saint
It’s already well-established that volunteering – a particular type of giving – improves our mental health in a number of ways. Selfless acts are known to reduce stress, boost self-confidence and provide a sense of meaning and purpose. And all of these psychological benefits in turn impact the way we relate to others.
Think about it: if we’re less stressed, we tend to be less irritable and snappy. If we have a healthy self-esteem, we’re less likely to bring others down in an attempt to feel better about ourselves. And if we have meaning and purpose in our lives, we’re less prone to depression and withdrawal.
Giving regularly also helps to put everything in perspective. When we’re faced with the sort of challenges that the less fortunate have to deal with on a daily basis, our own issues become insignificant in comparison. Suddenly, it’s much easier to be patient with a spouse who just dropped your favourite bowl or a co-worker who forgot to pass on an important message.
Highlighting Value Gaps
As business psychologist and psychotherapist Douglas LaBier points out in his article for Huffington Post about how volunteering affects the volunteer, the experience of helping others can “initiate a re-examination of [our] lives”. This includes a review of our relationships and the sort of people we surround ourselves with.
When we work alongside like-minded people to support a common cause, and when we form meaningful connections with a community, it tends to put a spotlight on any relationships in our lives that don’t feel authentic or satisfying.
It opens our eyes to value gaps between ourselves and others.
As a result, we’re probably more likely to seek out relationships with people whose values align with our own and to say goodbye to unhealthy ties.
A New Lens
Unfortunately, the lens through which most of us currently see life tends to endorse me-you distinctions. We see ourselves as beings that are wholly separate from all others, and this comes with a sense of isolation and detachment.
But when we start to give and experience first-hand how our actions impact someone else’s wellbeing, we begin to see that we are, in fact, all intimately connected. We stop seeing ourselves as independent from others – as beings that rely only on ourselves – and we start to see through a lens of oneness.
It goes without saying that when we begin to understand that we’re all interconnected, we start to respond to and treat the people in our lives differently. Slowly, barriers are removed from all our interactions, including those with our nearest and dearest. And so our personal relationships improve.
Ready to start reaping the many benefits of giving, including healthier connections? Contact us and we’ll let you know about lots of opportunities to help in your area.
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