Our relationships, personally and professionally, play a vital role in our lives. They provide us with communication, social interaction, support, and the ability to be understood. Yet relationships can be complex due to cultural differences, misinterpretations, and lack of effective communication.
Time is also a huge barrier when it comes to relationships. We tend to feel rushed and we don’t take the time to call someone or to stop by and see them. While social media is exciting, it has taken away some of the personal touch with interactions. Sending messages through Twitter and through Facebook aren’t meant to be a replacement for keeping a relationship alive.
Calling someone on the phone has often been replaced with texting. Sending messages instead of face to face or over the phone communication may be convenient, but studies show that the overall value of our relationships suffer because of it.
Don’t wait until you have serious issues with your spouse, your family or friends, or even at work before you take steps to improve communication. Working on relationships can enrich your life on many levels. Doing so will attract people to you and it can help you to be more successful in leadership roles.
Most of us have terrible listening skills, and that makes communication hard. We are so busy thinking about our reply that we don’t really listen to everything that is being said to us. Spending less time talking and more time listening is a skill that will take time to develop. This is one area of self improvement that will really make a difference in your relationships.
Understand what you Hear
Misinterpretation of what is heard or making assumptions can create issues. This is especially true in relationships with those close to you. Always reiterate what you believe that person said to clarify that you did understand it correctly. This can save a great deal of emotions from playing out only to discover it all stemmed from a misunderstanding.
Ask Open Ended Questions
If you want someone to really communicate with you, ask open ended questions. Give them the freedom to tell you what they want to say, not what they believe you want to hear. You will learn so much about people when they feel like they can open up and tell you about anything.
Pay attention to your body language when you are talking with someone. If you are often distracted and looking around the room, they will know you aren’t focused on them. Eye contact, nodding, and smiling are all non verbal signals that tell them you are interested in what they have to say.
Avoid folding your arms across your chest as this can convey the message that you are pushing the other person away. If you aren’t aware of your own body language, try role playing in front of a mirror so you can break bad habits. You don’t want to be giving people the impression that you aren’t interested in them due to the wrong body language.
Being able to feel empathy for others is a great way to build relationships. This is especially true when someone is going through a difficult time such as a divorce or the loss of a loved one. Empathy means that you can relate to how they are feeling during that difficult time.
Even if you don’t really know what to say, let them know you are there for them and that you support them. Knowing that people care when you are in tough situation does make a huge difference. It offers the support to help get through it. Empathy allows us to have feelings for what other people experience and it helps us to open up lines of communication during those troubling times.
In order for a relationship to grow, you have to be willing to share information. If you keep yourself bottled up, no one really gets to know who you are. Don’t put on a front either, let people get to know the real you. It can be hard to open up and share information if you usually don’t, but it can be a part of self improvement that allows you to develop stronger bonds within certain relationships.
This doesn’t mean you have to share all the details of your life with everyone. However, as you develop a close friendship with someone or you are involved romantically with someone it is reasonable to assume you should be willing to share things about your past, your daily activities, and what you would like to see in your future with them.
If you aren’t genuine, people will pick up on it. Keep yourself credible and don’t look for relationships where you don’t really want them. You will find in the professional world that you do have to be cordial to people you don’t really care for. You can do that sincerely and you can limit the progression of the relationship beyond that point.
Don’t be petty and don’t talk about people behind their back. When you do so, you lose credibility. People that you do talk to fear that you may talk behind their back when they aren’t around. When you aren’t talking negatively about others, it shows you to be a sincere individual.
Your communications should be fair for all involved. This is especially true when it comes to your job or even to parenting. You can’t have one outcome for one individual and then another for someone else in the same situation. You need to let the structure be known and follow through with the consequences. Consistency is very important when it comes to your children or your employees. If you aren’t fair, others will pick up on it and it will affect relationships.
Nothing will prevent relationships from doing well like a negative attitude. People enjoy being around others who are positive. If you continually have negative thoughts, you need to work on self improvement to change them. Any time a negative thought comes to your mind, replace it with a positive one. This can be a challenge at first, but the more you do it, the easier it will become.
If you are around lots of negative people, try to distance yourself from them. You may have picked up on such behaviors from them and it is harming your relationships on various levels. You can also try to get them to think about their behaviors. For example, the next time someone at work complains about no one making coffee, ask her if she has thought about creating a schedule so that it is always done.
Being positive is often solution drive so instead of complaining about something, it involves finding a way to make it better. This type of positive attitude will get noticed at work. Making a change in this regard could make you a prime candidate for a future promotion.
Don’t be afraid to initiate new relationships. Too many people get comfortable waiting for someone else to do the first step. Yet if they don’t, it can mean a missed opportunity. A great area for self improvement to explore is to feel comfortable talking to people that you don’t know.
A warm smile and a nice introductory statement is all it takes. You may want to meet someone that works within the company you are at. Take the time to tell them you are impressed with their work and ask them a couple of questions. If you want to meet more parents at the school, talk to them during open house or school programs. These are great opportunities to start creating new relationships.
With any type of relationship, you have to provide the time for trust to build. There is no set timeframe because every relationship is different. The background of the people, their past history, and the extent of their relationship all influence it. Open communication is a great way to build that trust. Make sure you are doing all you can to make the relationships work that matter to you the most.
Eliminate Toxic Relationships
We all have some toxic relationships that aren’t good for us. It can be tough to eliminate them from your life, but doing so is a huge step with self improvement. These are relationships that drain you, that cause you too much stress, or that are with people that only contact you when you want something. Sadly, these types of relationships can often be with family members.
You don’t have to straight out tell them that you aren’t going to interact with them anymore. You can start to distance yourself from them in small ways. If they are someone that only contacts you when they need something, tell them you are sorry you can’t help out this time.
If you have toxic relationships that are personal such as with a spouse, you really need to evaluate them. Make a list of the pros and cons of the relationship. It may be time to make a tough decision about staying or going. If you stay it should only be after both of you have agreed to measures to make the marriage better. If you decide to go, it should only be after you have really explored all options to make the marriage work.
Extend the Olive Branch
Do you have relationships that have been on the rocks for quite some time? Maybe with a friend that you had an argument with and both went your separate ways? Maybe it is with an ex and you aren’t happy with how things ended. Issues with family members can also cause ongoing tension within the family circle. A weight can be lifted with the act of extending the olive branch. This is reaching out to that person and apologizing.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you take the blame for what occurred within that relationship. It simply means that you let them know you are sorry that the issue happened and that you miss having them in your life. If it is then up to them to communicate with you or to decline to do so. Either way, if you do this, you have been the better person. You have taken a huge leap in the area of self improvement.
Take care of Others
Do what you can to help take care of others in their time of need. Through effective communication, you can find out when someone needs a friend to talk to, a person to take them to the doctor, etc. Be a reliable person that others can count on. You can’t always take care of your needs and those of others, so it is okay to draw a line.
You don’t want to be taken advantage of but you should be there to lend a hand when you can. Ask yourself if the person on the other end of it would do the same thing for you. Offering your time, energy, and sometimes money if necessary to help others can help you to grow personally and give you a sense of satisfaction nothing compares to.
There is no way to have more than 24 hours in a day. Part of self improvement regarding relationships is to make time. If you feel like you and your spouse don’t connect, try to have coffee in the morning or to relax on the couch before bed. Turn off the computer and the TV and focus on each other.
Take the time to send a personal letter now and then to those that are close to you. This is so much more personal than sending an email. They will cherish those letters from you and read them again and again. Call people on the phone to ask how they are doing or to catch up.
Try to schedule time to see people that are important to you. Have an open house for a day where people can come and go at their leisure to grab a bite to eat and to visit. Host a BBQ and invite people over to hang out. Call a friend and take them out to lunch so you can enjoy each other’s company.
No matter how busy your schedule is, always make time for the people that matter in your life. The day will come when they are no longer there, and you don’t want to have regrets about not spending enough time with them when you had the opportunity.
Spending more time with children is also important, no matter what age they are. They grow up quickly and you don’t want to feel like you missed out on all of it. Plan family time such as hiking, playing a sport, or going to a museum. The fact that you spend time with each other is more important than what you actually do.
If you have older children, plan a camping trip. Leave the electronics at home and enjoy being around each other. Such a bonding experience will create amazing memories for the entire family to always cherish.
Keep in mind that people don’t have to do all that they do for you. Don’t take anyone for granted, always show appreciation. It goes along way when you thank your spouse, children, friends, and co-workers for what they do. They will continue to do such behaviors too because they know that you appreciate them.
A sense of entitlement can set you up to become frustrated in relationships. Keep in mind that it is always a give and take system. Evaluate each of your relationships and see where you can make improvements. If you aren’t giving enough, come up with a plan to change that. If you are the only one giving, such relationships may be ones you need to end.
It isn’t always easy to make positive changes when it comes to relationships on your own. If you feel like you are struggling, consider counseling. This type of self improvement can assist you with learning better skills for communication and for you to end bad habits.
You also have the option of going to counseling with your partner. With an impartial 3rd party to facilitate, it may be easier for both of you to implement positive communication methods that improve your relationship. Family counseling is also an option if you feel that there are communication barriers in place that affect your entire household.
Don’t allow jealousy to get the best of you in any relationship. Don’t compare what is going on in your own life to that of someone around you. In reality, you don’t see all the struggles they may have encountered along the way. Be happy for the good things that happen to others.
If you feel that jealousy is getting the best of you in relationships, find out the underlying reason. It can be due to self doubt or feeling like you haven’t reached your own potential. Self improvement in this area can be tough as you will have to be very honest with yourself. Yet doing so can also release a very heavy burden from your shoulders.
When you spend time with others, be present. If your mind is on something else, they will notice. Don’t be looking at your smartphone to see how sent you a text either. Give the people you are with your undivided attention for the period of time you are with them. The quality of the time you spend with them is more important than the quantity.
It isn’t always easy to be honest in relationships, but people will respect you for it in the end. If you tell lies, it can become a tangled web and it can be tough to remember what you said. If you are honest, you don’t have to remember what you may have told someone.
Of course there are ways to be honest without being hurtful, so make sure you are compassionate with how you share information with someone. It doesn’t matter if you are talking to someone you work with or your partner. Do so with kindness so that the honestly doesn’t become brutality.
If you have to be in control all the time in your relationships, it is going to be a burden. It can prevent them from growing and it can prevent people from really opening up to you. Share the control and the decision making in your relationships. If you feel like you always make the decisions, put the ball into the other person’s court. For example, tell them that you are free on Friday to spend the afternoon with them and tell them to pick what you will spend the time doing.
Nothing helps communication within a relationship like the ability to share laughter with each other. As you develop a strong bond with someone, there will be plenty of inside jokes and more laughs than you can count. A good sense of humor can help to break the ice and to reduce the tension in a stressful situation.
Make sure when you use humor in your relationships that you do so respectfully. Don’t cross lines that can result in someone feeling offended by the context of such humor.
Explore Something New
While many relationships are founded on the fact that you share similar goals and interests, it doesn’t have to stop there. Part of self improvement can be to expand a new direction and to grow a relationship at the same time. Find something new for you and the other person or people involved to try for the first time. This will create excitement and give you a great experience to share.
Don’t Speak or Act in Anger
If you don’t want to go around apologizing all the time, keep your emotions under control. Don’t speak out of anger or take action until you have calmed down. It is fine to tell someone that you need time to think about an issue rather than discussing it in the heat of the moment. This is a huge step in self improvement for communication.
Many people resort to old habits though when they get angry. They may regress and yell or say things they don’t mean. If you have done that in the past, make a sincere effort to move forward and to react better in the future. Being in complete control of your emotions will serve you well in personal and professional relationships.
People you interact with will have differences of opinions when it comes to many things. This can include work habits, politics, child rearing, finances, religion, and so much more. Respect difference and remember that is what makes each of us unique. Find common ground where you can and agree to disagree on the rest.
Find some middle ground on complex issues so that you don’t have to be uncomfortable around someone. They will appreciate you giving them the chance to be themselves and that you are willing to listen to their take on the topic. This is a big step towards personal growth and self improvement with relationships.