Relationships enrich our lives greatly and thus, it’s important to invest time and effort in building healthy relationships. When we hear the word relationship, we often associate it with romance. However, it is equally important to build healthy family ties and platonic relationships.
Here are 5 habits you must practise to build healthy relationships:
1. Spend quality time together
There’s no substitute for spending quality time with your loved ones! Making time to meet (or Skype) and catch up with family and friends allows us to stay up-to-date with what’s going on in their lives and offer support if needed.
Making plans to have a quick dinner after work or participate in an activity together over the weekend can promote bonding and bring you closer together. You could spend time together on mutual interests; if you both enjoy café hopping, you could make plans to do this.
It’s also important to take the effort to engage in activities that the other person enjoys, even if it’s not necessarily your cup of tea. This shows that you care about them and you prioritise their happiness. Also, watching someone in their element, doing something they love and enjoy shows you a different side of them and allows you to get to know them better.
Of course, it’s only fair if this effort is reciprocated. If you feel like doing something you enjoy and you wish for the other person to join, communicate this to them.
2. Listen intently
People often say, what isn’t said, isn’t heard. However, it’s also important to keep in mind that what isn’t heard, isn’t understood.
Listening to loved ones when they speak to you about their day or their problems is key to building healthy relationships. Make it a point to look at them when they speak to you and ask questions to learn more.
If they share their problems with you, don’t be so quick to offer solutions. Listen to what they’ve got to say and empathise. If they ask your opinion on how to tackle the problem at hand, then proceed to offer your suggestions. At the end of a bad day, the last thing anyone wants is unsolicited advice.
However, when we’re busy, we may not be able to give our undivided attention to our loved ones. You may be working on urgent work matters when your loved ones approach you. In such a situation, avoid listening to them while you’re distracted.
Instead, turn to them and explain the situation. Perhaps something like this: “It sounds like you have something important to tell me. I want to listen and help you the best I can, but I’ve got to complete this urgent task right now. Can we chat once I wrap this up?”
Most importantly, follow up with them once you’re free! Approach them and have that chat.
3. Communicate clearly
While it’s important to be a good listener, it’s also important to communicate clearly with your loved ones. If frustrations at work have caused you to lash out unintentionally, it’s best to apologise and communicate what you’re going through to your loved ones. Only then will they be able to understand your situation and offer support.
If you feel upset with the other person, try not to sweep the matter under the rug. Have a chat with them and tell them why you’re upset. Consider using phrases such as “When you said…, it made me feel…”
The other person may have meant no harm, but unknowingly they may have hurt you through their actions or words. If you don’t communicate with them, then they’ll never know how you feel and the same issue may recur causing tension to build within the relationship.
Always communicate and resolve problems with your loved ones. Otherwise, unresolved problems accumulate and treasured relationships may implode.
4. Put your phone away
In this digital age, it’s easy to get distracted in the middle of conversations with loved ones. As we’re catching up with them over a meal, our phones may buzz and it feels tempting to check our notifications.
However, unless it’s an urgent call, it’s probably best to put your phone aside and avoid checking it while you’re spending quality time with loved ones. The innocent act of checking your phone multiple times can interrupt the flow of a conversation and reduces the likelihood of forging a deep connection with the other person.
A cheeky way to make a game out of this is for you and your friends to keep your phones at the centre of your dinner table and the first person to reach out for it, pays the tab! Of course, you don’t have to resort to such extreme measures. You could just keep your phone on silent or switch off social media notifications to avoid any distractions.
5. Show your appreciation for the other person
It’s often easy to take the people closest to us for granted. Make it a point to express appreciation to those dear to you.
Express gratitude to your partner for their constant support, your parents for always being there for you, and your friends for lending an ear when you’re going through a rough time.
Everyone wants to feel appreciated. Yes, a relationship implies that you’ll be there for one another and people often feel formalities such as saying thank you aren’t necessary when you’re close to someone. But when we don’t say thank you or express our gratitude in other ways, the other person may start to feel like they’re being taken for granted.
So, find your own special way of saying thank you to the people you love for the big things like being there for you when you’re struggling with something difficult, and for the small things like cooking a meal for you. You could say it through a conversation, a hand-written note, or a warm hug.
No one is perfect. None of us can do all of these things, all the time. Identify an area or two which you feel requires improvement, and take small incremental steps. If you often get distracted by your phone when you hang out with friends, start off by putting your phone away for 15 to 20 minutes and focusing on the conversation you’re having.
Then bump it up to 30…45…60 minutes and finally, for the entire evening. At times, you may get an important call that you need to attend to, but that’s okay. Don’t get discouraged. Your genuine effort always shows and it makes all the difference in building healthy relationships.