All of our relationships are important and deserve to be happy ones.
In our busy lives maintaining our relationships can easily fall behind, ranking at the bottom of our priorities. It is often the case that we take them for granted believing they are a constant no matter what but this is not always the case. Relationship breakdowns occur when one or both parties no longer feel valued; they require real effort to make them successful and strong. Make sure that you are connecting in the right way with the people that matter to you most by using these key skills, as you would use and learn new skills in your career to make improvements in performance, the same principle applies.
They are not solely for romantic relationships either; they are also extremely relevant to your children, siblings, parents, friends and colleagues too.
1. Empathy – understanding someone else’s experience or point of view. Putting yourself in their shoes and reacting to their anger, shame, happiness, sadness and guilt in a way that you would hope they would respond to you in the same situation. Validating their feelings and emotions in a way that may be against your first instincts to fight back, blame or chastise. Consider how the things you say will affect them and think twice before nagging, put downs and criticism. Be positive, kind and thoughtful especially in situations that could potentially be hurtful or volatile. By having someone ‘get it’ when we put forward our perspective can be very powerful and is conducive to effective communication and sharing.
2. How to feel loved and valued – the ability to maintain a strong connection can become difficult but once you understand the primary way you and your spouse/family member/friend feel loved then it can become a lot easier. There are five ways that we show love and need love, of which there is one that is our main preference:
- WORDS OF AFFIRMATION – hearing someone saying ‘you look nice’, ‘I love you’, ‘I’m proud of you’
- QUALITY TIME – spending time with those important to us; having a real conversation, going for a walk together, having someone’s undivided attention
- ACTS OF SERVICE – where actions speak louder than words; cooking a nice meal, mowing the lawn, taking charge of the finances or household
- PHYSICAL TOUCH – holding hands, snuggling on the sofa, a reassuring pat on the back says more than words
- RECEIVING GIFTS – hand-made cards, a treasured heir loom, a memento from a special time spent together and thoughtful presents
Once you recognise the one that means ‘I love you’ the most to others and yourself, the results can be amazing! For example, if your preference is words of affirmation and your loved one is upset you are likely to offer them the reassurance you would instinctively want: ‘don’t worry, it’s ok, I’m here for you’. However, if their primary way of being loved is physical touch then the way they will actually feel most comforted and loved by you is with a nice big hug!
3. Make time – in our busy schedules it can be hard to create a life balance that allows us to cultivate the fulfilling relationships we want. It is important to make that effort and put specific plans in your diary as you would a business meeting with the same priority level.
- Relatives that you rarely see or friends that you always promise to meet up soon – call them now and make plans, put a date in your diary of when you will see them and stick to it
- Make a date night with your spouse or partner this week and make it a reoccurring event (no tech time, put phones on silent, laptops/tablets away and have real conversations)
- If you can’t be there in person to see family or friends send them an email, Skype them or call them today and at the end of the call make specific arrangements to speak to them next time
- If you are single, make time to meet new people. Discover groups and clubs of interest near you, get a friend to come speed-dating with you or consider online dating – they aren’t going to knock on your door while you’re watching TV!
- Go do something fun with your children, spend quality time with them outdoors playing or involve them in your hobbies and do activities together. Even if it’s bath and story time after work this is valuable time you won’t get back so make time count now
Don’t take your relationships for granted. Invest in them wholly with the effort and enthusiasm they truly deserve.