The moment we come into this world, we’re surrounded by relationships from our caretakers to our early friendships. Part of the journey of life is to find our social network in whatever form helps us. A close friend may become a romantic partner, family may move miles away and only be connected through social media, but through it all, understanding yourself and building your understanding of others can help maintain that strong bond.
1. Know your love language
Everybody loves and wants to be loved; the difference lies in how they want that to happen. In this free online quiz from 5 Love Languages, you can learn the primary way you want to receive love from the five love languages: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. Understanding that there is a possibility of translation error between how you express love and how others receive your love can lead to a better quality relationship not just with your partner, but also all your loved ones.
2. What are the fundamentals to a healthy relationship?
To have a healthy relationship, one must know what a healthy relationship looks like. Loveisrespect states “open, honest and safe communication” serves as the strong basis of any relationship. Along with quality communication, other fundamentals include being able to speak up for your own needs, respect for one another, compromise, providing and receiving support, and also giving space for privacy.
3. Productive conflict resolution conversations
In relationships — familial, platonic and romantic alike — conflicts are bound to arise. The difference between letting conflicts break the bond or build it is how both parties handle conflict resolution. The American Management Association details a five-step process on conflict resolution in this post, starting with identifying the source of conflict. After looking beyond just the incident (sometimes, perspective is more to blame than the actual event), and identifying possible solutions, the post suggests finding solutions that work for all parties and end on an agreement. This might seem like a simple process, but in the heat of anger, it’s easy to resort to shouting and finger-pointing.
This process works beyond close relationships but truly apply for any sort of interaction, be it work-related or anything involving teamwork. This article on HelpGuide provide even more depth and insight on the emotional aspect of conflict resolution and also touches on the role of nonverbal communication. Understanding how to navigate conflict can improve your life in all interactions and perhaps bring just a bit more peace and calm.
4. “I” language
It’s hard to imagine how something as simple as a one-letter world can make a world of difference in conversation, but recognizing the importance of speaking to our own experiences rather than inferring another person’s character can lead to more productive conversations as well as empower ourselves. I-language refers to primarily using “I” when speaking with others and avoid using “you.” So in conflict, this might turn, “You’re so disrespectful for making me wait 30 minutes,” into, “I feel disrespected when I’m left waiting 30 minutes.” The change in perspectives makes the statement less of an attack and a reflection on why you’re upset.
In this article on HuffPost, Maddisen K. Krown delves into more ways I-language can empower us and use this change to build stronger and more understanding relationships with those around us.
5. Understand what unhealthy relationships look like
Just as how it’s important to know what a healthy relationship looks like to have one, it’s just as important to identify signs of an unhealthy relationship. In this post on the One Love Foundation’s website, they list 10 signs of an unhealthy relationship, such as intensity, jealousy, deflecting responsibility and manipulation. Alice Boyes on Psychology Today goes even further with a list of 51 signs of an unhealthy relationship. While these are targeted toward romantic relationships, they very much still apply to friendships and family relationships. Be aware of the signs and remember you are deserving of communication, respect and safety.
Each relationship looks different from person to person, time to time, but they all require work and awareness. Barton Goldsmith gives us 10 more tips on Psychology Today on how to maintain that healthy relationship and improve it day by day. Our friends, families and loved ones are meant to build us up, but first we must make a commitment to build ourselves up.