Have you ever heard of “relationship goodwill”? Don’t worry if it’s a new term for you. It’s one of those things we often don’t think about until we realise its importance. At the beginning of any relationship, goodwill flows naturally, but as life gets in the way, we tend to overlook it. However, it’s a vital ingredient in healthy relationships, whether we consciously acknowledge it or not. To illustrate this concept, let me share a story about a high school teacher and a girl named Amber.
The teacher & a girl named Amber
Amber was a student at a special school for kids dealing with emotional challenges. She spent four hours a day in her teacher’s classroom, but there was one peculiar thing about her – she never spoke at school. Not a word. From day one, the teacher received heaps of advice, all centered around pushing Amber to talk. But this teacher decided to take a different path.
So, what did he do differently? To start with, he chose to accept Amber as she was. This wasn’t some grand strategy; it was simply treating her kindly and respectfully, like any other student. Now, this approach didn’t work overnight, because trust is something that takes time to build, like Rome. It took a while for Amber to see that the teacher’s sincerity was genuine, that he wasn’t trying to force her into a conversation.
The teacher noticed that Amber had a knack for hand-eye coordination, excelling in games like badminton and volleyball. So, they started playing tennis together on the playground, without a net, without talking. They volleyed the ball back and forth, creating their unique communication system. When Amber wanted the teacher to hit the ball, she’d frown and tap her racket on the ground. When she’d had enough, she’d slam the ball so hard it flew into the neighbor’s yard.
And then came the unexpected. A student on Amber’s school bus brought a weapon to school one morning. Before first period, Amber walked up to the teacher and uttered 12 words that he’d remember forever: “Aaron has a gun. He showed it to me on the bus.” The teacher couldn’t believe his ears, but all he said was, “Thanks, Amber. I’ll take care of it,” as if hearing her voice was the most ordinary thing in the world.
As the year progressed, Amber began participating in a girls’ group and spoke up regularly. Yet, the teacher and Amber still went out to the playground to whack those tennis balls every day.
So, what’s the takeaway for your relationships?
When you invest time and effort in someone without expecting anything in return, you create opportunities to connect, make a positive impact, and generate those warm, fuzzy feelings we all love. This is what we call relationship goodwill. You might not always see immediate results, but trust that these efforts will be there when your relationship needs them most. If you’re keen to foster more goodwill in your relationships, start with our next 5-day email challenge.