The relationships in your life are essential: nurturing and maintaining them is crucial. This article will share tips on improving your relationships with friends, family members, partners, and colleagues.
You can do a few general things to improve your relationships with people.
- Listen more – We have all become used to multitasking and trying to save time that we have lost the skill of listening and paying attention. How often have you been talking to your friend, partner or colleague and realised you drifted off and haven't paid attention to anything they were saying? Or how many times have you been thinking about what you want to say next or waiting for a gap so you can share your story? People can tell when you are not listening and engaging. They feel unvalued when you interrupt their story or point before finishing. So listen more, people love feeling heard and seen, and you will deepen your relationships by giving them a chance to talk.
- Compliment people – Who doesn't love someone who makes them feel good about themselves? Giving compliments on occasion can raise someone's opinion of you. Don't hold compliments in if you are feeling them. Some compliments will always go down better than others. For example, complimenting the work someone did on a project, their work ethic, intelligence, or composure are always amazing compliments. Complimenting someone on their appearance can always be a little risky. It is generally best to stick to compliments about unique clothing or hairstyle rather than body parts and weight. For example, "cute shoes" or "your hair looks great like that!"
- Don't force things – It is a complex concept to come to grips with, but there will always be some people we might like that will not like us or not like us as much as we like them. The perfect example is that colleague you make small talk with who keeps trying to invite you to hang out on the weekends. Relationships take a little while to develop, and it is rare for people to become friends instantly. Try not to force things and focus on developing the relationship more. Inviting them to more things will result in them pulling away further.
- Listen to boundaries – This is true for all relationships. People have limitations and need different things from others. Your idea of love and friendship may be to appear at someone's house last minute because you are thinking of them and want to socialise. That may be your friend or sibling's worst nightmare, and they would prefer you to text and ask if you can pop around. Listen to the boundaries people are setting and respect them. This includes them telling you a preferred name or asking you to stop hugging them. By ignoring their boundaries and ploughing on with what you want, you are telling them their comfort doesn't matter.
How to Be a Better Friend
- Understand the nature of your relationship - One of the fundamental things you need to know to become a better friend is your relationship with the other person. Some friends know all the details of our romantic life and will listen while we complain about our partner, work, or parents and our obsession with curly fries. There are some friends where the relationship has not crossed that boundary yet, and to launch into a 30-minute rant on how your partner never takes the rubbish out will have them thinking they're crazy, I only just met them, and I know more about them than I do my sister. So the first step to being a better friend is to evaluate where you are and react accordingly. This friendship will become closer over time if you are compatible and if you dip your toe into new topics rather than jumping in headfirst.
- Practice positivity – If most of the things that come out of your mouth are negative, people will unfortunately not want to spend much time with you. Good friends will make the exception for a short rant, or if you are going through a tough time, you should consider the energy you are bringing to the friendship. Friendships are all about giving and taking, so you need to provide as much listening to rants and support as your friend gives you. You need to add some positivity to the relationship too.
- Make an effort – If your friend is always the one making plans and inviting you to things and you never reach out, your friend will notice. They will notice that they are always the one who initiates conversation and makes an effort to speak to and see you. While this will not be an issue in the short-term, sometimes we get busy, or other things are higher in our priorities list; if this is a long-term issue, it can cause issues. Making an effort to speak to people or see them makes them feel unique and valued. If they feel like they are the driving force behind your friendship, they may think it is not worth the effort anymore. You do not need to message them weekly; send occasional messages to let them know you are thinking of them and catch up.
How to Be a Better Family Member
Family relationships can be complicated. While you grew up around these people or watched them grow up, people often hold a lot back in family relationships. Family members are people whom we are linked to but may not necessarily choose to be around. This could be because of opposing views, behaviour, or past trauma. These are our tips for forming better relationships with your family:
- Family does not excuse poor behaviour – Some family members will excuse poor or abusive behaviour by saying, "but they're family." This is the wrong stance to take. Family relationships are not a carte blanche to act rudely and make someone miserable just because you believe they will forgive you. Keeping the peace by trying to minimise poor behaviour or sweep it under the rug can be incredibly harmful and make the victim feel unsupported and unsafe. Let the victim be reluctant to forgive, and allow them to turn down invitations to family events to avoid a family member.
- Listen to all sides of the story – As humans, we tend to believe the first story we are told and may not even pause to listen to other versions of events. When it comes to family, it is crucial to listen to all sides of the story before jumping to conclusions. Your family member will remember that you were so quick to think the worst of them if you did not even give them a chance to defend themselves.
- Stay out of things that are none of your business – Rivalries and disagreements can happen between family members, especially if the family is close or meet regularly. It is okay not to take sides or discuss differences in opinion that do not concern you. For example, if two cousins started a business together and are having a disagreement over something work-related, that is not your place to get involved. That is a professional dispute, and the family relationship must be kept separate from the professional one. The cousins do not need people weighing in because those opinions will look at the dispute from a family perspective instead of an experienced view.
- Do not gossip – Gossip can damage a relationship if someone feels like anything they share is offered up on a silver platter for others to speak about freely. While the family may want to discuss the fact that one of the family members is unemployed or discuss someone's new romantic partner, it can hurt relationships.
- Do not compare or pit people against each other – Rivalries can affect many relationships in the family. Being pitted against a sibling, cousin, or family member of a similar age or gender can be tiring. People have different priorities and do not want to hear how far ahead or behind they are someone else.
How to Be a Better Partner
- Communicate – Your partner is someone you have told many personal stories about and who should know you better than most people. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that they should know your feelings about things or why you reacted to something. No matter how loving and close your relationship is, your partner is not a mind reader. Communication is the only way to ensure they understand where you stand on something and what is important to you. So many relationship issues would be solved or avoided entirely with more communication.
- Letting your partner be themselves – Sometimes, our partners do things that make us cringe or that we find boring. They may have an unnatural obsession with romcoms or have to sing what they are doing. But just because you find it boring or dislike it does not mean you need to pop their bubble. You do not always have to join them if you don't want to, and if it brings them joy, you should find a way to work around it. If they sing loudly and off-key while cleaning, put headphones on and let them be joyful. Where can they do it if they cannot sing in their own home?
- Spend quality time together – Time spent under the same roof as someone does not equal quality time. It would be best if you had time to decompress, chat with your partner, and do things you enjoy. It is easy to take someone for granted when you live together because you see them daily. But you need time to spend together where you don't just talk about the kids or chores, and you have uninterrupted time as two romantic partners. Schedule that time at least once weekly, so it is available in your calendar. Take turns picking what you want to do for date night and try new things together. Appreciate each other and spark up that romance again. Just because you are with someone does not mean you must stop flirting with them.
- It would help if you made their life easier rather than more difficult – When two partners move in together, it is because cohabitating will make their lives easier. People do not move in together to increase their workload. The split of housework and cooking should be an essential conversation where all parties consider their preferences and how to split things fairly. You should have a frank discussion about preferences and standards of cleanliness and how to balance and compromise on any differences. If one partner takes ownership of a particular chore, then the other partner should not make their job more complicated than it needs to be. For example, if one partner takes on the dishes, then the other partner should not leave dirty dishes throughout the house for their partner to track down. If one partner does the laundry, the other partner should ensure all their laundry is in the designated basket and that they have emptied pockets or separated it into whites and others as required.
How to Be a Better Colleague
- Do not force a friendship – While it might be nice to be friends with some co-workers, understand that you will not be friends with everyone. Some people may be there to do their job and go home. That is okay. Be polite and friendly with everyone, but understand that sometimes friendship is not on the cards.
- Keep things professional and workplace appropriate – There is always someone in the office that takes things too far or says something that is a big no go in the office. Even if you have friends in the office, understand that people around you can hear your conversations and some topics are not workplace appropriate. The people around you do not want to hear about your latest conquest or long rants about how your MIL is trying to hijack your wedding. Save those topics for the lunch break or the pub after work.
- Do your assigned job, and do not make life harder for others – Do not be that person who consistently delivers work late and slows down the rest of the team or makes other people pick up the slack. Finish the job on time or set expectations if you are falling behind. Helpful colleagues, who pull their weight, are always appreciated.
- Do not escalate things unnecessarily – Many issues can be solved by having a quick conversation with the person. People always make mistakes, and giving them a little understanding and quietly bringing the issue to them will be appreciated. Sometimes, there is no option, and you may need to discuss poor behaviour patterns with team leaders or the necessary party.