Five Ways To Improve Your Relationships
The average person maintains 150 close relationships at any given time. Below are practical tips for enhancing those relationships and improving your life.
By Lynell Ross, Certified Health and Wellness Coach
It has been said that relationships are responsible for our greatest joys in life, and also for our biggest heartbreaks. Everyday we interact with family, friends, co-workers and strangers. What is it about some people that drive us crazy and others that help us feel better?
There are many reasons why we struggle in our relationships, but the answer to more peaceful interactions has nothing to do with the other person. The key to your relationship problems lies solely within you.
Whether you realize it or not, you are probably scanning the other person when you first greet them for all sorts of things. Subconsciously, they may remind you of someone from your past that you didn’t like, or someone that you really like. You may not like the way they talk, dress or their expressions. Add to this the problem that the person may be asking you for a favor, putting pressure on you, or asking you for something while you are short on time. Maybe your spouse refuses to help out around the house, or your teenager makes a mess in the kitchen and never cleans up after herself. The relationship scenarios are endless, so it is no wonder why we struggle with our relationships.
The bad news is that you are powerless to change the other person. The good news is that you have all the power you need; you have the power to change yourself. You may be thinking, “I’m not the one with the problem, they are.” The truth is that we can never change or “fix” another person. If we want to gain their cooperation, that is possible. But we must never try to manipulate others into behaving the way we want them to behave. The best way to have a cooperative and more meaningful relationship is for you to be honest with yourself and others.
Most of us were not taught how to have honest, mature relationships. We may have learned how to get what we want by learning some unhealthy behaviors. If you want to have better relationships with other people, the best place for you to focus your efforts is to build a better relationship with yourself.
We must be introspective – get to know who you really are, what upsets you, and why. Then you can learn to respond to others, not react. When you begin to see that other human beings have their own strengths and weaknesses, and their own ways of coping, it can help you to distance yourself from overreacting. Lastly, when you have a solid relationship with yourself, you can stay grounded and know that you can handle anything, no matter what. You won’t be looking for someone outside yourself to make you happy.
There is a balance between knowing what you want, being able to speak up for what you want and understanding what the other person wants or is capable of. The goal should be a win-win for both parties. The following are five simple ways to improve your relationships:
Don’t Take Things Personally
If someone criticizes you, don’t take offense. Whatever comment or judgement they make about you is really about them, their projections and their ideas. It doesn’t mean they are right. This is one of the hardest things to understand, but once you do, you are free from unnecessary anxiety and anger. The more reaction you feel, the more you need to take a look at what is going on underneath so you can decide if you need to make some adjustments. If what they are saying is completely ridiculous, then just step back calmly and decide how to proceed.
Get to Know Yourself
Taking time to understand yourself is one of the best investments you can make in your relationships. Becoming aware of your own thoughts, feelings and needs is referred to as “emotional intelligence.” Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize our own feelings and those of others for motivating ourselves and for managing our emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.
Daniel Goleman, author of the book “Emotional Intelligence” writes that emotional intelligence is the ability to deal with other people successfully. “By understanding one’s own feelings they can understand and evaluate others.” Goleman teaches that there are five main elements of emotional intelligence: Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, Motivation, Empathy and Social Skills.
Make Sure to Listen
How do you feel when you are trying to speak and the other person cuts you off, or just plain doesn’t answer you or address comment what you just said? Most of us are so busy thinking about what we are going to say next, that we forget to listen to what is being said. Here are some quick tips to become a better listener:
Avoid interrupting. Listening is not just waiting for the other person to get done talking so you can launch into your story. True listening is focusing on what the other person is saying, and noticing what isn’t being said.
Notice body language, tone, and concentrate on the meaning of what others say.
Practice Effective Communication
We are social creatures longing for connection. One you understand your own needs and wants, and practice heart-felt listening, then you can practice better communication. Effective communication consists of:
Making the person speaking feel heard and understood.
Create an environment where others feel safe to express ideas, opinions and feelings without fear of criticism.
Clarify information to avoid conflicts and misunderstandings, by reflecting back what the other person said, and asking questions.
Be Willing to Speak Your Truth by Using “I” Statements
It can feel very vulnerable to ask for what you want, or state how you feel without blaming the other person. Create a safe atmosphere and open with a positive comment about the other person to take them off the defensive and to find some common ground.
Use an “I” statement, such as, “I feel frustrated when I come home and find dirty dishes in the sink. Refrain from saying “You…..”, as criticizing and blaming the other person won’t work. The minute you use a “You” statement, the other person is put on the defensive. Take responsibility for your own feelings, and speak in a soft tone.
Next, ask calmly for what you need, and ask what seems appropriate to the other person. If reasonable, they won’t fault you for how you feel. Avoid being sarcastic, or making fun of the other person’s ideas.
When you are kind and truthful with them, they should reciprocate, unless you are dealing with a difficult person. Finish up by thanking them for listening to you.