The 4 Elements of Human Relationships

What defines the closeness and depth of a human relationship? I have broken it down into these four elements as a framework for thinking about it:

1) Mind Sharing –  How open and vulnerable is your conversation? How many of your thoughts and feelings do you share?

2) Understanding – How well are you are able to understand each other’s thought patterns and predict their behaviour? Do you have a strong desire to reach consensus and understanding?

3) Shared Memories and Experiences – How many memories and experiences have you shared?

4) Selflessness and Caring –  How often do you think about each other? How willing are you to give for each other? How often? How much effort? How much energy are you prepared to put into each other just because you want to? How much joy do you feel from their joy? How much pain from their pain?

Now within each relationship these elements may not be balanced. One person may be more caring than the other. One might understand the other better than the other understands them. Sometimes the unbalance is manageable and sometimes it is just too much.

Each relationship will also have different amounts these elements. For example family members might have very large amounts of 3 and 4 especially. Where as close friends will have more 1 and 2 with a decent helping of 3 and 4 (although no friend is going to match the 4 of your mother!).

It can be really interesting to think about every relationship you have (or had) in this way. It can provide a deep understanding of why you value them (or don’t).


  1. Relationships between people, no matter what type are fascinating. Sometimes I think ‘digitalia’ may be robbing us of closeness. Social networks and other online stuff is great but having a coffee and talking is … well you know what I mean.

    I like your blog. Thanks for following mine.

  2. I have to say as a millennial I disagree with the idea that digital communication has decreased closeness. It is quite the opposite in my experience.

    I have made extremely close friends over the internet, some of which I have never met in person but we have shared all our life stories with no fear. I like that the internet actually allows more vulnerability.

    It also makes it much easier to seek out interesting people to engage in relationships with.

    Keeping in touch with friends you have made that have moved away is so much easier and makes it possible to at least maintain some level of connection when you would have otherwise just drifted apart. I have friends all over the world that I talk to all the time which simply wouldn’t have been possible before the internet.

    I cant say I have ever just stayed home and chatted with a friend that lives nearby instead of going and meeting them. So I think it enhances closeness really.

  3. I think human relationships are amazing (because they amaze me every day!) anywhere, by any means. Whether when you write to your friends on the Internet, whether when you share coffee with your friends at the bar around the corner. They may differ, but both experiences are as inspiring and as sensitive in its very distinct ways, it’s the appreciation you show toward one another what counts.

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