PostsRelationships

5 Ways to Improve the Quality of Your Relationships

Having healthy relationships can reduce stress, prolong life and enhance the quality of experiences.

Many of our problems come down to one singular issue — relationships. There are misunderstandings, miscommunication, and just generally taking others for granted. Even with the best of intentions, we sometimes fail to give our loved ones, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances the respect, affection, and understanding that they deserve.

Think about it — have you ever been shocked when a friend, family member or partner shared that they felt unappreciated, unloved or even mistreated? We’ve all probably experienced this to some degree, and we’re left puzzled and ashamed that this person that we valued wasn’t exactly feeling valued.

Strong relationships are essential to health and happiness. It plays out in our day-to-day life through our jobs, community, hobbies, and at home. Having healthy relationships can reduce stress, prolong life and enhance the quality of experiences. We learn from others, and they, in turn, learn from us. Optimizing our relationships, therefore, is in the best interest of all.

How do we do this? Here are five strategies that improve communication, enhance trust and deepen intimacy.

1. Give your undivided attention

This one may sound like a no-brainer, but it is getting increasingly hard to shut off our multitasking brains and focus on a person, even if that person is our child, spouse or dear friend. After all, this means putting away your cell phone (yes, it is possible to do), keeping those roaming eyes in check, and not tapping your fingers in frustration as you are forced to tame your ever-racing thoughts. But if you want a relationship to grow, the first thing you need to do is block out all the distractions, focus and just be with another person. Without your attention, you may be there but not really there. And most of us are smart enough to notice this, and it doesn’t lend well to enhancing the connection between anyone.

Next time you’re with someone, try giving your undivided attention to them. Listen closely to their words, observe their body language and look for the emotion behind what they’re saying. Be there not only with them but for them as well.


2. Check your personal agenda at the door

Too many of us listen only enough to relate another’s situation to ours. For example, a friend says that they’re having trouble keeping it together and you may pop in to agree, “I know, me too!.” That’s when their story stops, and yours begins. While shared experiences and commiseration are part of the value of social interaction, it can also serve as an interruption or — worse- as a one-ups-manship. As in “hey, you think you’ve got it bad. I’ve got it WAY WORSE!” Their story, in a sense, becomes hijacked by yours. You’ll never know where theirs would have gone if you had just stood back and checked your personal agenda at the door.

Hard as it may be, attempt this little experiment. When a partner, family member, friend or acquaintance starts talking, resist the urge to chime in with your parallel experience. Let their story play out. You’ll likely discover something about them that you’d never have learned otherwise.

3. Give space and allow for silence

Silence is often considered a dreaded circumstance in social circles. Some have even timed it out as occurring every 7 minutes or so in a group setting. When the gap in conversation happens, we sometimes rush to fill the space, stuttering out words that don’t even make sense because we just DON’T. WANT. SILENCE.

But a funny thing happens when you allow for silence — that conversation that you were just having goes deeper. The person who left off talking often picks up again with more details, emotion, and exploration, Sometimes people need a pause to gather their thoughts, to take a breath and get over whatever may be blocking them from going further. By staying with them in silence, you are showing that you care and assuring them that you are there to help work through that moment when they could either stop at the superficial level or go deeper. 


4. Open up your language and your body

Relationships only grow as much as the people involved are willing to open up to each other. One way to foster this is to use open-ended up questions (think those that start with “how” or “what” rather than “when ” “is” and “why”), which invite the other person to discuss a topic more so than they would have otherwise. Close-ended questions are just that — closed. They ask for a “yes”, “no”, or few word answer, which is not conducive to a rich discussion. And questions that begin with “why” can spark a defensive reaction, by implying judgment or dissent. Consider the last time you heard someone ask you “Why did you do that?” — I bet it wasn’t very inviting was it?

By using open-ended questions — particularly those are specific — this gives whoever you’re with the opportunity to explore their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Similarly, open body language (arms uncrossed, leaning forward) symbolizes to the other person that you are open to receiving whatever they give. So next time you encounter a family member, friend or acquaintance, try adjusting your body language and question style to be open and permissive.

5. Remind them that you care

With the ever-increasing number of social networks to manage, a Facebook friend list that often tops 1, 000, and family and friends scattered around the globe, maintaining contact is becoming more and more of a chore. Too often we extend our reach so far – to so many people – that, in the end, everyone is getting the short end of the stick. Years can go by with some loved ones and friends getting nothing more than a cursory like on Facebook. Such insignificant contact can leave many people feeling like their relationship is worth — oh — about nothing.

One of the simplest tactics to keep a relationship alive and kicking is to reach out regularly to remind someone that you care about and appreciate them. If it’s a friend or family member in a distant location, take a few minutes to send a personal message or even (gasp) pick up the phone and call them. Express curiosity about what is going on with them — this small action of reaching out and reminding someone that you care can brighten their day beyond you might expect. If it’s someone closer to you, regularly communicate that you appreciate having them in your life and are grateful for their gifts. We forget that our loved ones don’t have easy access to our thoughts. Caring for others is not enough. We have to show our love through our words, body, and actions.

Tags

Dr. Amanda Richardson

Amanda Richardson, PhD, MS, CHWC provides nutrition and lifestyle coaching as well as personalized yoga and aerial fitness instruction to support healthy living.

Related Articles

20
Leave a Reply

avatar
18 Comment threads
2 Thread replies
5 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
18 Comment authors
Susan J. GaylorPRABHAKAR RAJARAPUpatricia jacksonNisha KCRubina fazal Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Susan J. Gaylor
Guest
Susan J. Gaylor

I have been having problems with (1) and sometimes (2) of my Daughters. The lashing out @ me is often. I have a hard time accepting this? How can I deal with this in a less than adverse way?

PRABHAKAR RAJARAPU
Guest
PRABHAKAR RAJARAPU

AMEN

patricia jackson
Guest
patricia jackson

I become better at focusing on one person.my concentration has gotten better. this is a big part that my mental health has played. but I have less racing thoughts and can get the bulk of what there saying to me. I used to interrupt a lot my anxiety got to me sometimes about the conversation or I was thinking about my response and not really listening and they would forget what they where saying a lot of times so I would never actually hear their full story, so you are helping the other person by letting them get out their emotions thoughts and words and learn a lot more about them or what they are going through. yes, I agree a lot of people do feel awkward with silence. but for example if I am trying to really convey something and depending on the topic I might get worked up my anxiety rises and I just say oh I just don’t know. I pause and breathe well a lot of times I am told to just breathe so the silence with me is a lot less awkward lol! but in those minutes of silence I can get back on track and work through the situation better. I have also on the other end I have noticed I don’t jump in when there is a minute of silence. and they just start talking again just like this article says. in today’s world it can be busy and showing loved ones you care is very important. Today I am very grateful and blessed for my loved ones. I send messages or see them as often as I can, and make sure I tell them I love them and what they mean to me. I do this more regularly now because it only take a small bit of kindness to let them know you care, tomorrow is not promised, I cherish time together, and wish we could spend more time with all my family, but I am planning a trip again for my family far away. life goes by to fast, make as many memories you can. tell someone you Love them today. even without mental health diagnosis all of these issues can be difficult, but practice makes a lot better. and the body language it another thing I need to work on , yes how it is I agree lets a person feel they can be more open to you and I never liked the why did you do it questions? I am sure nobody has. when I say oh I understand or I know how you feel I have had very inspirational and both of us got to know each other a lot better. it is a win win situation when we try and do all this helpful advice. it does improve our relationships a great deal!!! thankyou so much these are grat reminders!!

Nisha KC
Guest
Nisha KC

Thank you for such a helpful article. I am not so good at keeping relationship as I think I am an introvert kind of person. The tips above will help me to keep the relationship that is really important and special for me.

Robina fazal
Member

Thanks.. Doc.Amanda 💖💐for an inspiring and nice article…yeah,it’s our patience..love,respect..care for others to be in more positive relationships with family ,friends co.workers…workers..e.t.c.to lead our lives with happiness….and vigour.. we do need good and positive responses..we have to be cooperstive,with persistence and tolerance at times..Their never happy going moments and times always..if we need good healthy support we also have to let others comfortable too…If we only think of our own benefits…and use others for our comfort and ease and ignore the discomforty we cause at times to others…we should not forget.. the one’s who give advantages to us..they will in response cause trouble and irritating situations and behaviours to us as much they get the chances….we Should have big soft hearts.. Let others be in ease and comfort..we should realise their problems..weaknesses…illnesses…hard times they may be facing..that’s why their behaviours at times..not tolerable and acceptable for us..we get depressed at times and get upset…and hurt them or let them realize they are not doing right…we mold them according to be good to us or let us comfortable.. but that’s temporary phase for them as who are meant to deal you will goodness.. but they have their own advantages and purposes to use you as a chase game…although they love care and respect you….but they want your sacrifise for their own good…and life..Will never be truly happy to see you in full strength achieve your goals and dreams…So you have to deal such people such relations with love care and good attitudes and behaviours one day sooner or later they will understand they can’t stop your flow to be yourself your true self..to gain your desired life..your patience and nice attitudes and love care…mold them as Angels of love and respect for you…and they starts walking with you….with zeal and zest to make your ways easy to be true and loving to you…to gain your powers more and to be a useful person in life….So,be a good example for others and don’t expect from others to let you relaxxx…love care and respect are the three motives of life that can make all nice and humble and loving and caring…contribute your good intentions ..hard works true motivation for peace and love…all turn into your good…as God Almighty helps those who help themselves..Miracles happen for those who don’t sit down and worry.. rather than that be brave ..pain resisting..be pain your help ..hard workers..believe in love..care and respect…nothing is impossible…God bless the Souls with love ,peace and ease…Amen

Suzan
Guest
Suzan

This is very realistic helpful article I enjoyed read it. I think these days the relationships become weak you could see one family sitting together but everyone of them is busy with his mobile surfing social media ,they don’t talk to each other or share their interests,stories , they don’t show their loves ,cares to each other and the same happens for acquaintances and friends.
To keep relationships stronger simple act of any kind( giving ) from time to time is important. life learned me that during a conversation with a family member or friend,…. ,i need to become more listiner than talker to discover or learn new things about the other and life because everyone has something we can learn from ,and also I try to avoid contrivoursoual points or disagreements points in any conversation if it is not necessary to talk about it to enjoy my time with them and to keep good relationships ,but if it’s necessary to talk about it i can use open – ended up questions in honest and polite way which are very helpful for both side to look for deep answers .

Vasudevan Bhattathir
Member

This article is very rich in keeping up human relations and how to develop the same. .unless we are ready to open up yourself it is not possible to establish a relation. some times silence is also a way of communication.that too in between conversations.as said the body language and words used are also very much counts
this is a very informative write up. thank you

Nana Kwame Ayisi
Guest
Nana Kwame Ayisi

…well it’s a good piece… Thanks…

Lalie Nieto
Guest
Lalie Nieto

Very informative article Dr. Richardson💕 I sometimes have to work on #1 Undivided Attention. I sometimes fail to focus my time on loved ones because I’m either on my phone or busy with some project(s). One time, I missed a very important call from my bff because I was on my page, considering that we talk only once in a blue moon. I have to work on #4 also the choice of words which sometimes causes friction and disharmony. Although no harm is intended, the manner of saying things affects the whole scenario of a relationship. Respect, tact, diplomacy, kindness is important in any kind of relationship. Then love will come💕

Thank you Bryant and Jenni 💕

Karina
Guest
Karina

Thanks for inspiring article.