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  • farahnazlittle

Doing it together

It`s harvest time for Portuguese farmers, and like many, my family and I are collecting the sweet Carob to sell in coming weeks. We, usually are bent over, under the trees picking the shiny, brown bean, in the early and late hours of the day, to avoid the hot temperatures.

In previous years, it was easy to get the children to join in the activity purely for the sake of being together, it was idyllic and wholesome. But this season, as they are full-grown, teenagers, exposed to values beyond our own, we took the easy route and used cash as bait. And, it was at this point that as parents we stood back and reflected upon how our evolving relationship with our teens, was in fact in serious danger of becoming transactional.

A transactional relationship is a relationship at its crudest – ´you give to me and I give to you´. Such a reciprocal bond will last only as long as both parties continue to meet the other´s needs. These kinds of relationships are indeed, necessary, and were reserved for business, it’s how we get food in our fridge and clothes on our backs, but now such relationships extend beyond this and have invaded our private lives.

If our relationships are transactional, they will have the following qualities:

1. Functional and economic – The focus is on the outcome and as soon as the outcome is achieved, the relationship ends.

2. Everything is based on exchange. Everything is tracked and measured.

3. The relationship is based upon expectations.

4. Self-serving and self-focused and…

5. A lack of connection and therefore a lack of trust leading to feeling unsafe in the relationship – no real, honest or meaningful conversation. When a person feels unsafe in a relationship, they are not honest, they don’t speak up, they don’t take risks.

6. There is often a competitive or one-upmanship edge to these relationships

7. People are frequently labelled or judged in these relationships and there is a lack of positive intent.

Researchers argue (1), that the fruits of capitalism – a set of values based in self- interest, interpersonal styles rooted in competition, a strong desire for financial success, high levels of consumption, and belief in the necessity of economic growth have led to a breakdown of meaningful relationships and an increase in such transactional relationships. This, in turn, has resulted in an increase in mental illness, poor attachments in families, divorce, and overall dissatisfaction with life.

Neuroscientists, psychologists, philosophers, poets, all agree, that our brains are wired for meaningful, social interaction.

´…it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others. ´ - Dalai Llama

Transformational relationships build trust, they are about giving the most we possibly can to help others. They are about working towards a win-win, because clearly, we can do far more together, than alone, and a transformational relationship changes us too. In a transformational relationship there is a willingness to collaborate, to hear, an urge to grow, a curiosity about the other´s internal world, a desire for the other to grow, and a view that the other has positive intent.

´Win-win is a belief in the Third Alternative. It’s not your way or my way; it’s a better way, a higher way. ´ - Stephen Cove

The pandemic has interestingly, like many other world crises in history, jolted people into reviewing their lives and outlook. Early in 2021, Reuters reported that people, worldwide, have focused more on their immediate networks and those close to them, wanting to contribute and are more interested in social improvement.

So, how can we continue to cultivate the win-win of transformational relationships and have less transactional relationships, in our lives? How can we ultimately build stronger relationships with our partners, within our families, with our friends and communities?

  1. Ask yourself what is the level of mutuality in your relationships? Do you give and receive gratefully, without expectation, and without presenting reminders, about what you contributed? Check your intentions.

  2. Review your relationships and check if you are committed to each other’s growth and positive change?

  3. Ask yourself, if your relationships reflect a commitment to core values, such as, the good, the honest, kindness, charitable, – values that give your life meaning and purpose?

  4. Is there an acceptance of people´s mistakes and failures? Or is there an emphasis on perfection and judgement?

  5. Ask if you can be your best and most true self in your relationships? And do you bring out the best in others?

  6. Do you seek out challenging and honest conversations, welcome them, and invite both constructive and appreciative feedback? Do you take risks and ask: ´How do I make you feel about you?’ or ‘What are your reservations about me? ´ ´Are there things about me that you find difficult? ´

  7. Can you be honest, be yourself, and get out of your comfort zone?

  8. How do you create protection in your relationships? Is it through a tacit agreement of no challenge? Or is it through a relationship built with honest, and meaningful conversations?

These are big questions and as I wrote them, I too, wondered about the evolving needs of my family and how as a parent it´s important to rise up to the challenge and not give in to the easy route. I also thought about, and reflected upon every relationship I have, and that each of these requires me to keep on growing. If we desire transformational relationships, we have to be willing to constantly evolve.

And, it is only then, that we operate with the most evolved part of our brains, and only then can we change, can we grow, can we become better, become more loving, become more our ideal selves, and then we transform each other, and then, we transform the world.

(1) Butler 2018

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