Thursday, March 9, 2017

5 Ways To Improve All of Your Relationships




I've never met anyone that has said, "I really wish I had worse relationships with people."  So at the risk of making a massive assumption, today I'm going to give you 5 ways to improve any and all of your relationships.  I'm talking about relationships with your Besties, your spouse, your siblings, parents, and even your kiddos.  

How can I make such a broad claim?  Because the ways to improve relationships (of any kind) are simple.  There's nothing earth shattering here.  However, just because they are simple doesn't mean they are easy.  Every suggestion I give you is going to require a desire and an effort on your part.  But trust me, Besties...your reward will be great when your loved ones are secure in the knowledge of how much you love and care for them.  

The first way to improve any relationship is to tell the truth.  Not sometimes, not most of the time, but all. the. time.  See what I mean about not easy?  Telling the truth isn't hard because we're all a bunch of liars; it's hard because sometimes truth itself is hard.  I mean, sometimes the truth really does hurt.  And often, we'd rather tell a "white lie" or a half-truth than share what we are really thinking or feeling.  In my experience, both personally and professionally, this has a 100% chance of backfiring.  Sparing someone else's feelings at the expense of your own is a good way to become real bitter and resentful, real fast.  And that improves 0% of relationships.

It is possible to speak the truth in a loving way.  If you have to speak a difficult truth, use "I statements," which lessens the chance the person you are speaking to will immediately become defensive. Practicing difficult conversations with a trusted friend or even in front of the mirror can help you adjust your tone and facial expressions if needed.  

Second, we improve relationships by being vulnerable.  Being our real, authentic selves is a gift to us as well as our loved ones.  Our gift is feeling free to live without the need for a mask or facade of any kind, free of judgment or criticism. Their gift is the real us, who we are, perfectly imperfect.  Our relationships improve when we all recognize that yes, sometimes we will say the wrong thing. Sometimes we will do the wrong thing.  And nobody is perfect.  So we give ourselves and those we love the space to be human, to be real, to be authentic.  And we give ourselves and those we love grace when we mess up because it happens to the best of us.  It happens to all of us.  

Number three:  set boundaries.  This may be the most difficult on the list.  Setting boundaries actually combines numbers one and two on the list.  Boundaries are about telling the truth and being vulnerable.  When do you need to set a boundary in a relationship?  A good rule of thumb is this:  if you find yourself exasperated over and over by the same person doing the same hurtful thing, it's time for a boundary.  With practice, you may come to a place where the first time someone hurts you or manipulates you, you feel comfortable setting a boundary. #goals.  

Here's a gentle truth for you, Besties:  if someone is repeatedly hurting your feelings, it is your job to put a stop to that by setting a clear boundary of what you will and will not accept in the future. Hopefully they will respect that and change their behavior.  If, for whatever reason they don't, it's time to let those natural consequences play out.  I know that can be so difficult, and so painful at times.  But we can't change others, we can only change ourselves and our responses to how others treat us.  Boundaries are where we begin.

Now for a fun one:  speak their love language.  Whoever you are trying to improve a relationship with, find out that person's love language and find ways to speak it often (if you're unfamiliar with the concept of love languages, you can find out more here).  My husband's love language is words of affirmation, so I try to leave him notes and text him during the day to check in and tell him I appreciate him.  My eldest son is a total quality time person, so I've been trying to do one special activity per month, just him and I.  My younger son loves physical touch, so I'm trying to have more time for snuggles, hugs, and high fives.  I could do a whole post (or five) on love languages, and maybe I will at some point.  But for now, see if you can speak your loved ones' love language more often.  If you aren't sure what it is for someone, ask them!  I'm certain they will be thrilled you care enough about them to ask.

Finally, be intentional with your time.  Another way to say that is: put your phone away.  I will be the first to admit there have been some busy days where my husband and I haven't seen much of each other and then as soon as the kids go to bed, I realize we are sitting inches away from each other on the couch, staring intently at our phones.  I'm cringing as I write this, but it's true.  We need to guard our time with those we love.  It is so precious.  Turn off push notifications on your phone, or schedule yourself a 15 minute block of time per day for social media, or go a whole day without your phone if you need to.  We were made for deep connection, and in order to achieve it, we need to be mindful of looking each other in the eyes when we are speaking and being fully present with family and friends.  

I hope we can all use these suggestions to foster closer relationships with those we love.  If you have anything to add, we're all ears! Leave your suggestions in the comments below!


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