Relationships: priorities and interests

Taking an interest in others, even if we don’t share their priorities, is healthy. Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

A relationship between two people is bound to be a compromise. Two different human beings are going to have different ways of approaching life, different preferences, and different communication methods.


One of the most important skills in any relationship is the ability to show an interest in the other’s preferences, priorities and activities. We don’t have to be fake about it – we can be honest about the fact that we wouldn’t choose the same things to follow up. But, if we are interested in the other’s happiness, then we can adapt ourselves to take their ways into account.


There will always be tensions, though. In politics, even members of the same political party argue about the precise contents of a manifesto. In relationships, even the closest of allies can argue about what might be best.


Even if the other has different priorities, we can take an interest in those priorities. A mother, even if introverted, can take an interest in the many friendships of her extravert son. A father, even if non-technical, can take an interest in his daughter’s ventures into electronics. In fact, in parenting, it can be even better if there is a contrast between parent and child. It means that the child can form an identity distinct from the parent, but still feel supported and loved.


In one-to-one adult partnerships, too, we can take an interest, even if our partner has different priorities. It can expand our minds, to understand different ways of living. Values and tastes will always differ between people, however much they love each other. Yes, there is some harmonisation over time. But, equally, it is a credit to a household if it can accommodate several ways of living in the same space.


Just for today, I will take an interest in those I meet. I will ask after them, and listen carefully to their accounts of their lives. Hopefully they, too, will afford me the opportunity to share a little about my priorities and interests. And hopefully we can both grow from the experience.


Taking an interest in other people’s priorities does me a big favour. It opens my mind to other ways of thinking. It makes my perspective less selfish. It builds trust with those around me. And it sets an example, creating a cycle of mutual listening which can make the world a more welcoming place.