Over the years, I've cultivated the following heuristic to evaluate relationships - professional, social, romantic, familial, and so on.
No, I don't walk around with a clipboard surveying people in my life. This is more of an informal introspection. As I've laid out below, it's theoretically but not practically hierarchical and discrete -- the sequence by and degree to which I discover each characteristic seems naturally serendipitous, each one compounding the others as they're realized and explored ever more deeply.
While I agree with everyone that truth, honesty, authenticity, transparency and all other synonyms for "being as 'real' as humanly possibly" with others is a noteworthy concept, it alone has little practical merit. For example, how many times has "honesty" manifest in a terribly counter-productive and uncomfortable way in a past relationship? I'll use the classic taboo of not telling a woman she looks fat to illustrate my point.
Girls, when's the last time your loved one said "you look kind of fat in the dress"? I bet you'd like it more if he said "It's not my favorite, but I think you're beautiful anyway" or "how about that other dress? I love when you wear that." From my experience, it's usually not the sentiment that's undesired, but it's the rationale, delivery, alternative solution and, ultimately, that person's acceptance of your choice to look fat in the dress you picked out or, in his eyes, less fat in another one. All of the latter comments show a deeper level of thought, are more considerately voiced opinion, and provided a possible better solution. If your friends, colleagues, or loved ones can't take that kind of feedback, you're probably selling yourself short on relationships. And if all you hear is "your fat" (or any substitute for "you're wrong" or "you're not good enough"), you're probably in the wrong one.
This is not to say you shouldn't be honest, authentic, and so on. Quite the contrary. Those are fundamental to being someone, to having an identity, and to having a real connection with others. But people's perceptions of themselves and of others is constantly shifting, sometimes on a daily basis. And concepts like "authenticity" are "truth" are too vague, in my opinion.
Having dismissed many of the existing answers, it's apparently my duty to provide a more practical way of thinking about relationships. Hope it helps.Summary:1) capabilities2) mindfulness3) communication4) positivity5) attractiveness1) Capabilities.
I first ask myself "Is this person capable? More importantly, is this person capable of things I care about and value?"
In doing so, I consider both the inherent and cultivated abilities of an individual, obviously biased by my own lense to some degree. This may manifest itself in many ways such as formal education, work performance, intellectual debates, social interactions, etc. whether logical or emotional. I tend to rely more on my present observations than past accomplishments. Just because someone was once capable of something doesn't mean they are any more or that it even matters -- that may just make me respect them a little more, but not necessarily want to connect with them. In an attempt to better understand the concept of intelligence, I cross-referenced the types of intelligence (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The...
) with the hierarchy of knowledge (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DIKW
Types of capabilities (intelligence) summarized below:
Knowledge hierarchy summarized below:
2) Mindfulness, "Are they directing their intelligence in a focused and meaningful manner?"
- Data = Symbols
- Information = Data that are processed to be useful; provides answers to "who", "what", "where", and "when" questions
- Knowledge = Application of data and information; answers "how" questions
- Understanding = Appreciation of "Why"
- Wisdom = Evaluated understanding
This practice was popularized by Buddhism but has been more broadly interpreted and adopted in Western society of late. In practice, I've found that paying attention to how others are using their senses and whether they're consistent in exercising their senses to better understand how mindful they are being. This is obviously most effective in person when you're looking at someone, but can also be done online if you already have an established history and good communication with someone. As a caveat, of course, you must first be a mindful practitioner yourself. There is a great quote below from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Min...
3) Communication, "Does this person effectively convey their intelligence and mindfulness in a way that allows me to believe both are real at this moment and will continue to be so in the future?"
- When practicing mindfulness, for instance by watching the breath, one must remember to maintain attention on the chosen object of awareness, "faithfully returning back to refocus on that object whenever the mind wanders away from it." Thus, mindfulness means not only, "moment to moment awareness of present events," but also, "remembering to be aware of something or to do something at a designated time in the future"
- A great piece on attention as well http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/06/....
When I was younger, I downplayed the importance of communication, particularly vocabulary, because I was more naturally gifted in visual/spatial and quantitative respects, but have since focused on improving my repertoire daily and communication tactics regularly. Razor-sharp articulation of one's thoughts is becoming increasingly important as the breadth and depth of content available to people continues to grow, much of which are variants of original content. This is a great reference (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Com...
4) Positivity, "Now that I believe in and connect with you, are you going to be a constructive and reliable influence on my life?"
- A variety of verbal and non-verbal means of communicating exists such as body language, eye contact, sign language, paralanguage, haptic communication, chronemics, and media such as pictures, graphics, sound, and writing.
In other words, are you helping me build upon myself and can I build upon you as we continue to co-exist in a deeper capacity over time? In practice, I start every day by referencing myself as an independent, self-sufficient person with no expectations of others, and a positive outlook on my future. Starting from a very simple base everyday -- myself -- allows me to both recognize and appreciate solicited or unsolicited support, guidance, and general bliss provided by others in addition to the lack thereof.5) Attraction.
Beyond all other explanation, do you "Feel inspired, intrigued, or generally moved by the person in an inexplicable way?"
In customer and user experiences, this is often referred to as "delight." The same is a powerful force in everyday human interactions. Read up on interpersonal attraction here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Int...
This is just the broad framework I use when I'm actually thinking about relationships. Otherwise, I've noticed I naturally tend to surround myself who fit these broad criteria because it's a reflection of what I attempt to be myself.
Supplementally, I think @Esther Perel is onto something -- Esther Perel: The secret to desire in a long-term relationship | Video on TED.com
Tangentially, I relate well to passion and dedication.See question on Quora