Six Steps to Developing Healthy Relationships

January 29, 2007 1:55 pm Published by

This past week I was asked to write a little piece of developing healthy relationships, for a local magazine. And I agreed to do so. After writing it (and then reading what I had written), it struck me as close to “pop psychology” as anything I have written in quite a while. Even so, the principles are true and can be beneficial, so I thought I would share a version of the article with you.

Everyone wants to have healthy, positive relationships. And yet much attention in our society seems to be focused on couples that break up or on “dysfunctional” individuals.

So it can be important and helpful to remind ourselves of those basic guiding principles that lead to healthy relationships. None of these habits are “rocket science” (in that they are not difficult concepts to understand), but they can be a challenge to live out consistently in our daily lives.

The first step is to be yourself. Being comfortable with who you are and letting other people get to know the “real” you is critical. If you try to present a certain image (which can eventually become a facade) and you keep your true self private, there is no way a significant relationship with others can develop because they aren’t getting to know you and how special you are!

Secondly, focus on your behavior, not the other person’s. Unhealthy relationships develop when people primarily are focused on the other person’s behavior – what they need to change and how they should act. This perspective almost always leads to problems. Conversely, individuals who have quality relationships with others focus on their part in the relationship and are not locked into trying to change the other person. (Remember, you really can’t change other people.) So, focus on yourself and what you can do to improve the relationship.

The third important habit is to communicate honestly and directly with those around you. One of the biggest “killers” in relationships is indirect communication — talking “through” someone else or not saying what you really mean. Dropping hints at what you want, versus asking directly what you want makes it very difficult for the other person. No one can read another person’s mind, no matter how long they have been together. Additionally, remember that honesty does not always mean being brutally honest. There are ways to deal with difficult topics in a kind and helpful way, rather than unloading all of your pent up frustration. Honesty with discretion and kindness is a great combination.

A fourth key component is to “own” your own feelings. In actuality, no one can make you feel anything. You can choose to not be offended when someone is rude to you. Our feelings are the reactions we have as a result of our expectations being met (we may feel pleased or appreciative) or not met (which can result in feelings of hurt, disappointment or anger). It is true that others’ actions impact us but ultimately how you respond to a situation is up to you. Have you ever been around a person who is cheerful even when their life’s circumstances are bad? They are choosing to respond positively. An easy way to put this into practice is to say: “I feel _____, when you ….” rather than, “You make me so _____!”

Related to this, the fifth foundational practice is the expression of appreciation to others. All of us love to hear the word, “thanks”. And communicating gratitude in ways that are meaningful to the other person is key. Try different actions: write a note; thank them verbally, spend time with them, buy a small gift, or do something for them. Whenever possible, share your love in the language that means the most to the other person.

The final skill is the ability to resolve conflicts in a non-damaging way. Conflict is a natural part of any meaningful relationship. Healthy conflict is based on the belief that both of you want the best for the relationship. Not attacking the other’s .person’s character is also critical. And learning when to take a “time out” from an argument also helps keep the interaction from getting out of control.
Try these six habits – and you’ll see your relationships flourish!!


Published by
January 29, 2007 1:55 pm

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