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Whether a tribe, village, family or partnership, it’s fair to say that since Neanderthal days, our connection with other people has been one of the most important aspects of human existence. Yet somehow, even after 65 million years of experience, relationships today remain some of the most confusing and challenging hurdles we face. Nevertheless, they’re without doubt the most rewarding, fulfilling and crucial parts of life, and since there really isn’t much that can be created outside of a connection with another, becoming a guru at mastering relationships is something well worth working towards. Here are some helpful tips.

Communication

Whether liaising with your boss, colleagues, partner or children, one of the most important tools used (and misused) is communication. It may sound obvious, but developing effective communication skills can create drastically different outcomes when dealing with others. That means practising “active listening”, which means being fully present and soaking in what the other person is sharing, without thinking about what you want to say next. Eye contact, open body language and common courtesy go a long way to establishing better bonds.

Understanding personality types

Another common challenge that interferes with relationships is our own personal differences. Due to variations in upbringing, genetics, culture, personal values and more, two separate people can be running on very different operating systems. Where appropriate, try to find out more about the other person and also develop a keen understanding of yourself at the same time.

There are numerous personality tests that help us understand ourselves and others. There are also different theories in psychology, such as the reference to attachment styles, which explains how some people are more likely to withdraw if they are “avoidant”, while others may appear clingy and needy if their attachment style is “anxious”.

The 5 Love Languages, a best-selling book by Gary Chapman, is another insightful tool that describes how we all have various interpretations of how we receive and communicate love. While some people need to hear positive accolades and words of affirmation, others respond more to physical touch and different people again may put more value on gifts, acts of service or quality time.

Knowing things like core beliefs, personal values, thought processes and personality types (yours and theirs) will give you invaluable insight and a head start on how best to develop a kind and understanding relationship.

Conflict management

In times of conflict, our people skills have a huge impact on our relationships – either creating distance and disconnect, or creating harmony and trust. In these situations, try to stay away from blame by using neutral fact-based statements and starting your sentences with “I” instead of “you”. Try to reach a place of understanding, speaking calmly and slowly (not forgetting to listen). Remember, everyone is doing the best they can in the moment. When emotions are high, see if you can reschedule the conversation to a time when interaction may be more productive for you both. Think of this mantra: if you can’t show up the way you want to, wait until you can.

Take responsibility for you

Last but certainly not least is the importance of taking responsibility for you. It’s essential that you’re capable of “filling your own cup”. Ensuring you spend time alone, doing things you enjoy and prioritising self-care will greatly improve your interactions with others.

Additional to practising self-love, having self-awareness about your emotions, your triggers, past “baggage” and habits will assist you greatly in how you show up to others. Awareness proceeds choice, and choosing which words and actions are most productive in any given moment comes first from being the observer of your own thoughts and feelings. Learn to respond rather than react and make it a priority to create a positive, compassionate, in-depth relationship with yourself.

Truthfully, the relationship you have with yourself will set the tone for every other relationship you have, so your own connection to you is in fact the most important and the most valuable relationship of all. 

Looking for more? Read four ways to reduce stress during your day.

Louise Poulson is a Certified Life Coach, author and speaker. Photography by Pablo Merchan Montes on Unsplash.