How To Improve Relationships
As human beings, we grow from the relationships that we nourish and foster. No matter what stage we are in our lives and who we are surrounded by at each moment in time, by nature, we form relationships with the people who we come in to contact with. Some of these relationships are trivial and short-lived while others are worth more time and effort – these are the relationships that we wish to maintain and improve.
A healthy relationship depends on each person’s ability to communicate their thoughts, desires, needs, and issues. While every relationship has different dynamics, no relationship is perfect – although there is always room for improvement. Because we are on your side and we want your relationships to thrive, we have put together a list of tips and advice that will help you to improve your bond. By applying these pointers, you won’t only see a quality relationship with your partner (be it a spouse, family member, co-worker or friend), but you will also prove that you’re determined to put in the effort, which is important in itself.
1. Avoid Criticism
Sometimes we simply need to know when to hold our tongues. This doesn’t mean that we should not voice our opinions or feelings, it simply means that we need to know when it is worth saying something and when it is not. As humans, one of our flaws is that we tend to point out the things that people do wrong. While helpful criticism might come from a good place, it could still hurt the receiving party.
So, instead of directly criticizing the person/people in your relationship, use more guided words instead of direct and abrasive connotations. For example, instead of saying something like “you are terrible at filling in paperwork”, perhaps rephrase your wording so that it has more of a helpful tone. You could say the following for instance: “would you mind paying more attention to the paperwork I am giving you?” Now, instead of directly attacking the person by making them feel inferior you are subtly voicing your opinion without directly pinpointing a flaw.
2. Own Your Statements
Taking ownership and responsibility for your feelings and perspectives will empower you to create better solutions and will ensure that the message you are trying to communicate comes within – instead of it being just a general statement. If you own your messages with an “I” statement, (e.g., “I feel angry when you…”), then you are personally connecting your words to your “self” and your partner will be more likely to take what it is into consideration. Even if the other person doesn’t agree with you or understand your perspective, he or she cannot fault you for how you feel – we feel what we feel!
3. Be Open to Feedback
One of the most important components of any successful relationship is the ability to listen. Listen to what your people have to say and be open to their words, even if you do not like what you are hearing.
Communication is a two-way street and if you want your partner, friends, co-workers and family members to hear you out, then you need to make yourself vulnerable to their responses too. Remember, there are always three sides to a story or a situation: your perspective, the other person’s perspective, and the truth. To establish a foundation where everyone can be happy with the outcome, you have to be open to feedback and come to a mutual conclusion.
4. Be Present
We live in such a demanding world that it is very difficult to focus and think of only one thing at a time. When it comes to maintaining and building relationships, however, we need to learn how to be present and in the moment. Being present means that you need to be truly engaged with the conversation at hand, it can also mean that moments should be experienced together with each person’s full awareness.
It’s also very helpful to let your partners or others know that you are in the present and that they have your full attention. Simple gestures like nodding your head and maintaining eye contact are little acknowledgments that can go along way.
5. Take Time To Compose Yourself
When arguments and debates get a bit heated or when we are overwhelmed with emotion, we often do and say things that we do not mean. These “fly off the handle” actions can do great harm to a relationship. This is why it is very important that we learn how to compose ourselves.
When conversations get intense, it is OK to ask the other parties to give you time. You can ask them if you can get back to them with an answer or just let them know that you need some time to think. Just by taking a step back from certain situations, you can possibly see the discussion in question from a whole new light. This might change your perspective or it will simply give you the space you need to come up with the right words that you wish to say.
6. Avoid Interrupting Others
This point goes hand in hand with listening well. We all have things that we wish to get off our chests and it is so tempting to debate statements as people speak them. It is so important, however, that we give each person in our relationships enough time to communicate their messages without being constantly interrupted.
Don’t change the subject just because it makes you feel uncomfortable and at the same time, don’t be a know-it-all! Let others have their say (even if you are 100% sure they are incorrect) and only once they are done talking, then you can communicate your response and input. Sometimes as human beings, we have this bad habit of interrupting people before they have fully explained themselves, which then encourages us to interpret the message differently to its intention – this can be extremely damaging to all relationships.
7. Use The Correct Tone
Sometimes it is not what we say, but how we say it. By using domineering, hostile, or sarcastic tones, we try to defend ourselves and our actions. These tones are completely unnecessary, however, and tend to cause more trouble than they are worth. If you find yourself sounding a little harsh or condescending, revert to point 5 where you take some time to compose yourself and re-adjust your tone.
No matter how pleasant the message is that we are trying to communicate, if we do not learn how to use the correct tones and gestures, then we are going to confuse our partners and send mixed signals.
8. Remember That It Is OK To Ask
People aren’t mind readers, not even the closest person to you knows your thoughts and feelings without you verbally communicating them. And when it comes to those moments where you need something, just ask for it! You might not always get the answer you are looking for, but you will feel so much better that you put whatever it is out there.
By asking questions, you also make the other people in the relationship feel like it is OK for them to speak their minds to and ask for the things that they might desire. This opens up portals of communication and it’s no lie that with any relationship, communication is key.
9. Express Appreciation
To express your appreciation, you first have to pay attention to detail. We tend to make a scene or voice our opinions when things go wrong because negative experiences make us feel uncomfortable. But good things, however, well they have a way of slipping by without any notice at all. This means that you need to be more aware of the details in your relationships and learn to express your appreciation, preferably verbally, when someone does something good or excels at something.
Acknowledging the little things that often go unnoticed can go a long way in any type of relationship. It could be thanking your husband for fixing the leaking tap that has been annoying you or you could reward an employee with a bonus for working extra hard in your company.
10. Voice Your Feelings About The Relationship
All the above pieces of advice pretty much narrow down to one thing, which is to keep communication open. Bottling thoughts and feelings up will only lead to an eruption which will possibly to boil over, leaving the relationship tarnished and unfixable. When you love someone, say “love you”, when you are sad, tell your partner why. It’s OK to make a relationship an actual topic of conversation. This way, everyone involved will have a good idea of where they stand in the relationship – this adds to the security of it!
No one ever said that maintaining and improving relationships is easy, it’s darn hard work in fact! But it’s totally worth it! People need people, we need to feel like we belong and that there are others in this demanding world who “get us” or are just like us. So, while improving relationships takes concise effort, where would we be without them?