"Let your best be for your friend. In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed".
A husband and wife are fighting. She calls him an idiot; he calls her stupid. An observer might call this the marital war zone. What makes this metaphor appropriate in this situation is that the two parties fighting are acting like adversaries or enemies, each trying to defeat and crush the opponent. When the argument ends, neither one feels closer to the other. In fact, the argument is more likely to end with an act of defiance—like one of them leaving the house—an act that signals abandonment and rejection rather than respect and consideration. What makes two lovers and soulmates so toxic to each other?
We leave this scene and go inside another home where a father is trying to discipline his teenage daughter. His voice is raised, his eyes are fiery, and he is shaking a finger in her direction in a threatening manner. The daughter is sitting on the couch with a sullen, defiant look on her face. If you stopped the father and asked him what he feels towards his daughter, he would tell you he loves her and only wants the best for her. But a casual observer would not see love or care in his behaviour. They might notice instead that the father is trying to assert his authority over his daughter [and failing] and trying to put fear in her heart so she will not repeat whatever mistake she has just made. The atmosphere is tense, angry, and clearly unfriendly.
Rajiv and Ranjit are senior programmers at an IT company. Similar in build, hairstyle, and appearance, they are often mistaken for brothers at company meetings. But the vibe between them is far from friendly. They frequently argue fiercely for their ideas and try to gain the upper hand during team meetings. They share a team manager who has often tried to get them to sit down and smooth out their tension but all her efforts have been in vain. Their nickname in the office is The Two R’s, which some whisper behind their back, stands for the Rebel and the Rowdy. The team manager is desperate for a solution because both these young men are highly intelligent and are assets to her team. What could she do to turn this around?
The same dynamic is being played out in board rooms and living rooms, between co-workers or friends, between sisters and brothers, boss and employee, as we saw between the parent-child dyad or the spousal system, where conflict overtakes the goodwill in the relationship. During such tense arguments, the emotional hallmark of the conflict is the sense that one is fighting an enemy or opponent, and that trust, care, and respect have left the scene.
According to world-renowned relationship researcher and author, Dr. John Gottman, there is a secret ingredient that can turn things around—friendship. Dr. Gottman, in his best-selling book The Relationship Cure, explains the five components of friendship that can strengthen any relationship between lovers, family, friends, and co-workers. He found that any relationship that has the qualities of friendship strongly established will withstand conflict and strife more effectively. It will reduce stress and tension in the dyad as well as within each individual, and create the conditions for humour, play, respect, and closeness. In lovers and spouses, friendship will act as the fertiliser for the healthy growth of romance, passion, and intimacy. In fact, research shows that having close positive friendships may help us live happier and longer lives.
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