Active versus Passive Relationships: Which Type Do You Have?

How do you relate to others? Is it through talking, games, work, or is it something else?

One of my worst habits in life is being shy. I’m wasn’t naturally attracted to meet with others. It wasn’t because I didn’t like people. It was because of my fear of how people would react. However, around the time I turned 16, I discovered that I had a strong desire to be with people. However, I was deathly shy.

I had no idea how to effectively relate to others. I just passively walked by, and wasn’t relating to others as I should I have. And I hated it. But why was this? Why wasn’t I able to relate to others, even though I desperately wanted?

It was simply because I was too passive.

Your Relationships are your choice

When we choose to relate with others, there are two ways we can do it; Actively or Passively.

I always allowed my parents to lead instead of attempting to build relationships. Another person was always leading my relationship

Passive relationships are ones that exist, but aren’t important to you. These are the relationships that we have with a local cashier, a mechanic you just met, or even friends you see every week at church. You might see each other often, but neither of you extend your relationship beyond your expected roles of co-workers or customer/seller.

An Active relationship is a relationship that you actively are trying to grow and expand on. These include parents, friends, family, and some co-workers. In these relationships, you are actively engaging the other, in order to enjoy and understand the other more.

Both of these relationship styles are a big part of our life. We need all of these relationships. However, Active relationships are the most essential relationship, because they fulfill our natural need for others.

It is the Active relationship that is the most scary. It is where we are more vulnerable and open. It’s where we are more likely to grow.

But too many of us are having only passive relationships because we are afraid of what comes with a true Active relationship: potential pain and broken hearts.

That doesn’t remove the importance of those relationships. However, we can improve and grow how many of these relationships we have.

Learning to Actively engage others

What’s the first step a person can take in building an Active relationship? All you have to do is invest in them.

When we engage with another person, we are choosing to actively invest our time into them. Self-development expert Stephen Covey on described this relational technique as “investing in their emotional bank”. Whenever we relate to others, we are either investing in their emotional bank account, or withdrawing from it. Obviously, when we want people to be interested in us, we need to remove as much personal cost from the others.

What’s the best way to do this? Simply ask questions about them. What person doesn’t love to talk about themselves? However, not every person wants to get to know you. So, asking good questions will help you figure out if these people are even interested in an Active relationship.

You must lead the way

This simple step will help you to build more Active relationships. We are naturally built with a need to Actively relate to people. That’s why we need to take time and meet others. But if you do this, you’ll not only work to find people who care, but you’ll find more fulfillment in all of your relationships.

Christopher Hutton is a Rivendell Sanctuary student and blogger at Liter8 Ideas. Liter8 Ideas is a “curiousity blog”, dedicated to the subject of “useful ideas that make you think”. You’ll find all sorts of ideas that will help you improve your life and your learning.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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