Until recently, I was not somebody who made friends easily. Growing up in a non-Muslim country, I always longed to have Muslim friends. This desire only increased over the years and I remember that the du’a I repeated over and over again in the Ramadan of last year was for Allah to send Muslim friends my way.
Now, one year later, I am happy to say that not only has my du’a been heard, but it has been answered in the most unexpected way. Never in my life have I had so many friends, Muslim and non-Muslim, who genuinely care about me and never has it been that easy for me to connect with people. The secret is to build “productive relationships” as I would like to call them.
What are Productive Relationships?
Productive relationships are interpersonal relationships that boost your productivity and thus enable you to be successful in every aspect of your life. These types of relationships can be build within your family, work place, circle of friends and community. They make being in the company of others an enjoyable experience – no matter if you are an introvert or extrovert. Moreover, they are reciprocal relationships, meaning that they consist of giving and, in return, receiving. A Productive Muslim sees relationships as an opportunity to strengthen his social skills and get to the peak of his productivity.
What are the Benefits of Productive Relationships?
A strong productive relationship between yourself and your fellow human beings has multiple benefits in the Hereafter (akhirah) and in this life (dunya).
Having productive relationships, which includes having a positive attitude towards everyone you meet in this life, will be rewarded by Allah in the next life In sha Allah. This should be our main objective while trying to build productive relationships.
“And do good; indeed, Allah loves the doers of good” [Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 195]
At the same time, we are following the Sunnah of our Prophet who was the best of mankind and the epitome of productivity itself. We constantly read and hear about how wonderfully he treated his companions, wives, children and entire Muslim community. So why not establish productive relationships like he did?
The Prophet said: “The most perfect believer in respect of faith is he who is best of them in manners.” [Abu Dawud]
A lot of times, we face challenges that seem to come out of nowhere and hardships that make us feel hopeless – obstacles that can decrease our productivity tremendously. Productive relationships give us the encouragement and strength that we need to rise above these tribulations. Furthermore, you will always have somebody to give you a helping hand when you need it – no matter if it’s a friend, family member or co-worker, they will all be more than happy to help because of the way you treat them. Looking at it from a psychological perspective, productive relationships reduce anxiety and corollary stress. They also promote emotional security and happiness since you will be with the company of those who like you.
How Can I Build Productive Relationships?
The following points are principles that I myself started applying to build productive relationships. As you will notice, they all have their roots in the Sunnah of our Prophet .
“Don’t consider anything insignificant out of good things even if it is that you meet your brother with a cheerful countenance.” [Muslim]
We have heard it a million times, I know. But if so much emphasis is being put on the simple act of smiling, there must be some truth behind it. It is said that a smile fits the lock of everybody’s heart. People who smile at others are without a doubt more approachable and attractive than those who wear a permanent scowl on their face. A smile is such a small gesture, yet so powerful. It can make somebody’s day. And it is usually contagious. Just remember the last time you were in a sour mood and somebody passed by you with a smile and a generally good mood. Furthermore, it indicates to the person you meet that you are genuinely happy to see them and leaves a positive lasting impression.
“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should not hurt his neighbor and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should serve his guest generously and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should speak what is good or keep silent.” [Bukhari]
We all know that getting a compliment is one of the best feelings in the world. Somehow it makes us feel accomplished and appreciated. If your friend is wearing a nice outfit, your child received a good grade on his exam, your wife prepared a nice dinner or your students put a lot of effort into their essay – compliment them. It is one of the most encouraging and motivating things you can do for somebody. However, avoid handing out compliments too often and be sincere when you do.
3. Care About Others
“If anyone removes his brother’s anxiety of this world, Allah will remove for him one of the anxieties of the Day of resurrection; if anyone makes easy for an impoverished man, Allah will make easy for him in this world and on the day of resurrection; if anyone conceals a Muslim’s secrets, Allah will conceal his secrets in this world and on the Day of resurrection; Allah will remain in the aid of a servant so long as the servant remains in the aid of his brother.” [Abu Dawud]
When you remember details of a person’s life, it shows them that they are important to you. A simple act like addressing them by their name, inquiring about their studies at university, their work or asking about their parents or siblings can go a long way. Try to be as supportive as possible and help others deal with their struggles. If they need somebody to pick them up, be that person for them. If they are sick, visit them. If there is a death in their family, let them know that you are there to listen. Make sure they know that they can count on you at any time. Give without expecting in return – this is what true kindness is all about.
4. Be a Good Listener
Aisha said: And this is how Allah’s Messenger used to utter (so distinctly) that if one intended to count (the words uttered) he would be able to do so. [Muslim]
We have been given two ears and only one mouth for a reason. Whenever somebody wants to share a story or just wants to talk to you, turn to them and listen to them attentively, as if only the two of you were in the room. Needless to say, don’t interrupt them or get distracted during the conversation. Focus entirely on the person speaking, nod and smile from time to time, ask a couple of questions related to the topic or add your two cents once they have finished talking. When somebody talks to you, really make them feel that you are interested in what they are saying.
5. Be Humble
As narrated Iyad ibn Himar (al-Mujashi’i): The Prophet said: Allah has revealed to me that you must be humble, so that no one oppresses another and boasts over another. [Abu Dawud]
Each and everyone of us has a special talent, something we are incredibly good at. It could be public speaking, math, drawing, your leadership abilities – you name it. However, don’t let it get to your head or be selfish with it. Remind yourself that it is a gift from Allah so you can do good, benefit others and offer a helping hand whenever possible. For example, you can tutor a friend who is facing difficulties with his homework. Alternatively, if you are a professional, you can mentor youths who are interested in joining your industry.
6. Don’t Criticize
“Whoever conceals the (hidden) fault of his Muslim brother, Allah will conceal his faults on the Day of Resurrection. Whoever exposes the fault of his Muslim brother, Allah will expose his faults, until (so that) He shames him, due to it, in his (own) house.” [Ibn Majah]
We all know these people who are never pleased with anything and constantly feel the need to criticize. Nobody wants to spend excessive time with them because they tend to drag you down with them and put you in a bad mood as well. People dislike being criticized, so be gentle. I’m not saying to ignore mistakes or never advise anyone. But there is a big difference between criticizing and advising. Picking on somebody’s flaws won’t get you anywhere in most situations. Instead, make constructive suggestions and thus increase the probability that your advice will actually be accepted and put into practice, In sha Allah. Also, it is always better to talk to the person concerned in private instead of disclosing their shortcomings in public.
7. Appreciating Others
“When a man loves his brother, he should tell him that he loves him.” [Abu Dawud]
I’m sure we all have people in our lives who we really appreciate. They can be family members, friends or co-workers – those who make our lives a little more enjoyable. But when was the last time we actually showed how much they mean to us and not take them for granted? There are multiple, simple ways to show our appreciation for those who have impacted our lives in a positive way. These include writing a thank-you note to your friend, baking cookies for your teammates, inviting your co-worker out for a cup of coffee after work, going out on a date with your spouse, volunteering to cook dinner for the entire family, giving a hug, slipping a little love note into your spouse’s jacket or bag, sending an e-mail of appreciation to your employees, giving your child a gift without an occasion, buying your mom a bouquet of flowers – as you see, the possibilities are endless. Just be creative.
I sincerely hope that it will be easy for you to build productive relationships yourself or maintain them if you already have. If it seems overwhelming at first, start off by practicing just one of the seven principles and add the others as time goes by. More and more people will want to be in your company and it won’t take long for you to realize the positive affect it will have on your productivity, In sha Allah.
Share your experiences in the comments section below!