When I sat back and thought about what to write in this blog post it crossed my mind that cyber-relationships are very similar to face to face ones in that we go through a 3 stage process of actively seeking potential connections, learning how to make ourselves attractive in their eyes so that they desire to connect with us and lastly putting in the work to maintain the relationship once we have connected with them. So far in this short series on building mutually beneficial online connections via Linkedin and other social networking platforms, we have looked at the first two stages how to find mutually beneficial connections and how to attract them, last but not least this post aims to focus on how we can build and maintain these relationships once we connect with potential others.
Just like in the ‘natural world’ virtual relationships require us to invest in making them work, extra energy is required to make them work so that both parties are gaining something of value from them. In Psychology there are different explanations on how and why some relationships work whilst others don’t, by developing some understanding of the dynamics of relationships we can discover how to enhance the quality of our online and natural relationships.
Explanations of relationship maintenance
Profit and loss
The Social Exchange theory focuses on two things: firstly, how much we are rewarded by the relationship minus how much the relationship costs us in relation to investments such as time, energy, commitment and resources. If the rewards of being in the relationship outweigh the costs then the relationship will work, if the costs outweigh the rewards then the relationship is more likely to end. Secondly, there is a judgement of how beneficial the relationship is in comparision to other similar ones that are or have been, the more favourable their relationship is with you in comparision to these the more the relationship will be valued.
The Equity theory argues that connections are more interested in fairness over rewards, if the ratio of investment is perceived to be unequal then this will cause dissatisfaction and frustration which will inevitably put strain on the relationship.
Pleasure and needs fulfillment
The Rewards-Needs Hypothesis explains that relationships will be maintained if the connection is associated with pleasant emotions (makes us feel happy and good about ourselves) and reinforcing these feelings by meeting their needs.
Looking at these three theories makes me realise exactly how much work goes into making relationships work, it seems that we have to:
- reward our connections for being in a relationship with us
- make sure that they see the relationship as valuable
- make sure that we’re not slacking on our own end
- make the experience pleasurable
- meet their needs
It all seems a bit one-sided doesn’t it? Yes and no.
I have noticed that most people prefer to receive rather than give, even amongst the Christian community you find people wanting something from you in some shape or form but doesn’t the Bible teach us that it is more blessed to give than to receive? All of this relationship stuff seems like hard work because it is hard work, but if our Saviour could come to serve mankind why can’t we? The truth is that building any type of relationship that works requires you serving another individual and aiming to meet their needs, if you don’t want to do this then you don’t want to build a relationship at all you want to control, manipulate and be served. Most people I see on LinkedIn and other networking sites are on them to have their needs met, they are not there to serve others what does this mean for those looking to build mutually beneficial relationships? We could ignore them, bring ourselves down to their level or we could do what we have been called to do which is simply love and serve one another. I know that this seems contradictory in light of the fact that this post is on mutually beneficial relationships but if you have completed the first two steps correctly then the chances are that you will also be able to receive something in return. How do we go about this?
Think about how you would want to be treated and treat them in that way, after a while you will find that they will begin to value their relationship with you and will automatically find ways of adding value to it. You may find that they begin to mirror your own behaviour because they see you as someone who they esteem, so not only are you treating them like you would wish to be treated but they are now returning the favour! Being kind and showing love also generates gratitude and loyalty which are two intense emotions to have directed towards you, people who are grateful often go to great lengths to repay you, whilst loyal connections will bless you by telling others about how much you bless them and this will hopefully generate further interest in and for you.
I can’t help looking at the life of Yeshua (Jesus), His heart to serve, love and give of Himself to the last drop of blood and how the Father glorified Him after all the work was done. Giving, loving and serving others although being a place of low estate in the eyes of man esteems us in God’s own eyes, He makes the first last and the last first. If even that wasn’t enough to persuade us in our thinking Yeshua also advised His disciples “freely you have received, freely give”. God has really given us so much, so when we weigh up what He has given us to what He asks us to give I feel that we should at least try to carry out His command.
- How to build mutually beneficial Linkedin connections (Part 2) (godinministry.wordpress.com)
- Relationships are key… (ryancarriesharpeblog.com)
- The Dos and Don’ts of Working a Room (aleasemichelle.typepad.com)
- Five ways to change your “relationship status” with influencers (bazaarvoice.com)
- 6 Sure Fire Ways to Build Your ‘Relationship Capital’ (bostinno.com)