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How to Develop Mutual Respect in a Relationship

How to Develop Mutual Respect in a Relationship

Relationships are, well, complicated to say the least. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am by no means saying they are not worth their challenges merely that there are so very many challenges that often times love feels, quite simply, overwhelming.

However, creating and fostering a relationship built on mutual respect and trust seriously helps to make love the fun adventure that it should be.

Before we even dive into the how to develop respect in a relationship, I want to make sure that we get very clear on the definition.

Respect is one of those crazy English language words that can be used as both a noun and a verb. Because English is just plain confusing. However, both definitions essentially focus on having admiration and showing regard for the abilities, thoughts, feelings, qualities, traditions and rights of others.[1] With respect to relationships, respect means honoring your partner for who they are and also receiving the same from them.

I know that sounds all hunky dory on paper and at this point, you may be thinking, “yeah definitely not that simple.” But I promise, it doesn’t have to be as challenging as it may seem at times.

Below are some easy ways to reframe how you think about respect and help it to grow within your relationship.

1. Define What Love Means to You

One of my closest friends told me a story recently of the first time she told her now husband she loved him. She was the first one to drop the L word and when she did, instead of saying it back, he asked her the BEST QUESTION EVER. He said ‘what exactly does love meant to you?’

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I know that is not the most romantic fairytale moment but in reality, if we all responded that way the first time our partner said I love you, we would be in much healthier relationships. You cannot expect to grow a relationship based on mutual respect if you don’t understand the way your partner views love and relationships in general.

I always encourage every single one of my clients to sit down with their partners and define what love means to both of them. It provides you not only with a deeper understanding of what your partner needs and desires, but also gives you both clear and defined things to work on and for in the relationship.

However, it is not just enough to define what love means to the both of you, you both must also act on what you discuss in order to continue to foster a deeper and more meaningful connection. This means asking any questions that come up and continuing to check in on your definitions of love on a regular basis as they very well may change and grow as you do.

2. Communicate About Your Actual Feelings

One of the biggest factors in a relationship created and based out of mutual respect is communication. Specifically, communicating your thoughts and feelings in a way that is both effective for your mental well being AND of your partner’s well being as well.

I am by absolutely no means saying to stuff your feelings down if you think what you are experiencing may hurt your partners feelings but, there is a way to communicate your needs and thoughts without making your partner feel alienated if they don’t necessarily agree.

When you first start truly communicating with your partner about your genuine feelings, it is important that you are not triggered when beginning the conversation. You cannot expect to have a productive conversation where both people are respected if you go in guns blazing. Instead, talk about your feelings in a way that doesn’t involve the story of how they came about.

For example, let’s say your husband keeps interrupting you in front of other people. Instead of talking to him about it by saying:

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‘Yesterday at dinner when I was talking about the day I had at work you totally talked over me and completely didn’t care what I was saying;’

Say:

‘Lately there have been a few times when you have spoken over me and it makes me feel like you don’t value what I have to say. It is important to me to feel valued.’

Do you see the difference? As opposed to getting involved with the story which will only cause your partner to want to jump to their own defense, as defending yourself is the natural human response. If you communicate with the focus on your feelings and needs, it creates a conversation based on deeper understanding not on surface level occurrences. It also provides your partner with sincere information on how to help you going forward.

3. Don’t Let Fear Dictate How You Treat Your Partner

I had to learn this one the hard way. Like many people, I had the unfortunate experience of an abusive relationship which caused an imprint of relationship trauma on me. Because of this, when I got into a healthy relationship, after doing some healing on my own for a few years, I found that all the fears my abusive ex had instilled in me came rushing back like an avalanche.

Through a lot of work, I was able to overcome them and have the healthy relationship I dreamed of. But in order to do this, I had to work through a lot of my fears around love.[2] And most importantly, I had to ensure that my fears did not determine the way I treated my new partner.

Even if you have not been in an abusive relationship, we all have past relationship trauma. Whether it is from being cheated on, a bad divorce, or even abandonment issues from childhood, we all come to love with our own set of fears about what love may entail. And, because most of us are not taught how to handle our emotions from an early age, we often let those fears come out all over our partners.

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A relationship based on mutual trust cannot be built if both partners don’t acknowledge their fears and separate them from the current situation. Not only that, but if you notice yourself wanting to react to your partner from a place of fear, it is important that you share that with them. This will help you not only keep your fear from poisoning your love, but also help to grow your understanding of each other and deepen your connection.

In order to continue to grow the respect between you and your partner, it is important that you both work on not only acknowledgement of your fears but conquering them. Whether this be done through your own methods, therapy, or a coach, don’t be afraid to learn how to not be afraid.

4. Establish and Enforce Boundaries

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. They are a hot topic of the relationship world and, in all honesty, they are incredibly important. If you are anything like me, you see all the pretty quotes about how important they are but can’t seem to nail down exactly how to establish them, let alone ensure that they are followed.

I could write, and probably will, another entire article on this topic but, here is a quick trick to finding where a boundary needs to be and enforcing it be followed.

It is important to note that having and enforcing boundaries starts with you. You cannot expect your partner to respect you and your boundaries if you don’t enforce them with yourself. So, before ever communicating your boundaries to your partner, look at yourself. Where are you letting yourself down? Where are you not honoring your feelings and needs? Where are you pushing your wants aside in order to please others?

Answering these questions is the first step in figuring out what your boundaries are and where they lay. After you figure out the answers, communicate the answers to your partner by asking them to help support you by honoring the boundaries you are holding for yourself.

As I mentioned before, communicating your needs and wants is based on you, NOT on accusing them. You cannot expect your partner to live up to expectations that you don’t hold yourself to.

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The next step is to actually enforce your boundaries with yourself and therefore, with your partner. Showing yourself that respect will help to show your partner how you need to be respected. And also, be sure you support and honor their boundaries as well.

And finally…

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

No one is perfect at relationshiping. Everyone makes mistakes and miscommunication is inevitable. So never be afraid to ask your partner what they need or how you can help support them through something. You should never be expected to automatically know how to respect and honor your partner, and vise versa; it is something that you learn together.

And remember the act of creating mutual respect is a bonding and growing experience. Ask questions to make sure that both of you are on the same page and, make sure that you communicate if for some reason that ever feels like not the case.

Final Thoughts

The beauty of relationships is that you are not doing them alone, so don’t be afraid to rely on each other to help the love move forward. And, if you need help laying the ground work of respect, don’t be afraid to reach out and get it.

Remember, you both are in a relationship because you genuinely care about the other person, honoring your love for each other is your first step in creating the respectful relationship of your dreams.

More About Healthy Relationships

Featured photo credit: Vince Fleming via unsplash.com

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Emily Davis

Bestselling Author and Relationship Anxiety Coach

How to Develop Mutual Respect in a Relationship

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Last Updated on December 4, 2020

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

We all crave constructive feedback. We want to know not just what we’re doing well but also what we could be doing better.

However, giving and getting constructive feedback isn’t just some feel-good exercise. In the workplace, it’s part and parcel of how companies grow.

Let’s take a closer look.

Why Constructive Feedback Is Critical

A culture of feedback benefits individuals on a team and the team itself. Constructive feedback has the following effects:

Builds Workers’ Skills

Think about the last time you made a mistake. Did you come away from it feeling attacked—a key marker of destructive feedback—or did you feel like you learned something new?

Every time a team member learns something, they become more valuable to the business. The range of tasks they can tackle increases. Over time, they make fewer mistakes, require less supervision, and become more willing to ask for help.

Boosts Employee Loyalty

Constructive feedback is a two-way street. Employees want to receive it, but they also want the feedback they give to be taken seriously.

If employees see their constructive feedback ignored, they may take it to mean they aren’t a valued part of the team. Nine in ten employees say they’d be more likely to stick with a company that takes and acts on their feedback.[1]

Strengthens Team Bonds

Without trust, teams cannot function. Constructive feedback builds trust because it shows that the giver of the feedback cares about the success of the recipient.

However, for constructive feedback to work its magic, both sides have to assume good intentions. Those giving the feedback must genuinely want to help, and those getting it has to assume that the goal is to build them up rather than to tear them down.

Promotes Mentorship

There’s nothing wrong with a single round of constructive feedback. But when it really makes a difference is when it’s repeated—continuous, constructive feedback is the bread and butter of mentorship.

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Be the change you want to see on your team. Give constructive feedback often and authentically, and others will naturally start to see you as a mentor.

Clearly, constructive feedback is something most teams could use more of. But how do you actually give it?

How to Give Constructive Feedback

Giving constructive feedback is tricky. Get it wrong, and your message might fall on deaf ears. Get it really wrong, and you could sow distrust or create tension across the entire team.

Here are ways to give constructive feedback properly:

1. Listen First

Often, what you perceive as a mistake is a decision someone made for a good reason. Listening is the key to effective communication.

Seek to understand: how did the other person arrive at her choice or action?

You could say:

  • “Help me understand your thought process.”
  • “What led you to take that step?”
  • “What’s your perspective?”

2. Lead With a Compliment

In school, you might have heard it called the “sandwich method”: Before (and ideally, after) giving difficult feedback, share a compliment. That signals to the recipient that you value their work.

You could say:

  • “Great design. Can we see it with a different font?”
  • “Good thinking. What if we tried this?”

3. Address the Wider Team

Sometimes, constructive feedback is best given indirectly. If your comment could benefit others on the team, or if the person whom you’re really speaking to might take it the wrong way, try communicating your feedback in a group setting.

You could say:

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  • “Let’s think through this together.”
  • “I want everyone to see . . .”

4. Ask How You Can Help

When you’re on a team, you’re all in it together. When a mistake happens, you have to realize that everyone—not just the person who made it—has a role in fixing it. Give constructive feedback in a way that recognizes this dynamic.

You could say:

  • “What can I do to support you?”
  • “How can I make your life easier?
  • “Is there something I could do better?”

5. Give Examples

To be useful, constructive feedback needs to be concrete. Illustrate your advice by pointing to an ideal.

What should the end result look like? Who has the process down pat?

You could say:

  • “I wanted to show you . . .”
  • “This is what I’d like yours to look like.”
  • “This is a perfect example.”
  • “My ideal is . . .”

6. Be Empathetic

Even when there’s trust in a team, mistakes can be embarrassing. Lessons can be hard to swallow. Constructive feedback is more likely to be taken to heart when it’s accompanied by empathy.

You could say:

  • “I know it’s hard to hear.”
  • “I understand.”
  • “I’m sorry.”

7. Smile

Management consultancies like Credera teach that communication is a combination of the content, delivery, and presentation.[2] When giving constructive feedback, make sure your body language is as positive as your message. Your smile is one of your best tools for getting constructive feedback to connect.

8. Be Grateful

When you’re frustrated about a mistake, it can be tough to see the silver lining. But you don’t have to look that hard. Every constructive feedback session is a chance for the team to get better and grow closer.

You could say:

  • “I’m glad you brought this up.”
  • “We all learned an important lesson.”
  • “I love improving as a team.”

9. Avoid Accusations

Giving tough feedback without losing your cool is one of the toughest parts of working with others. Great leaders and project managers get upset at the mistake, not the person who made it.[3]

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You could say:

  • “We all make mistakes.”
  • “I know you did your best.”
  • “I don’t hold it against you.”

10. Take Responsibility

More often than not, mistakes are made because of miscommunications Recognize your own role in them.

Could you have been clearer in your directions? Did you set the other person up for success?

You could say:

  • “I should have . . .”
  • “Next time, I’ll . . .”

11. Time it Right

Constructive feedback shouldn’t catch people off guard. Don’t give it while everyone is packing up to leave work. Don’t interrupt a good lunch conversation.

If in doubt, ask the person to whom you’re giving feedback to schedule the session themselves. Encourage them to choose a time when they’ll be able to focus on the conversation rather than their next task.

12. Use Their Name

When you hear your name, your ears naturally perk up. Use that when giving constructive feedback. Just remember that constructive feedback should be personalized, not personal.

You could say:

  • “Bob, I wanted to chat through . . .”
  • “Does that make sense, Jesse?”

13. Suggest, Don’t Order

When you give constructive feedback, it’s important not to be adversarial. The very act of giving feedback recognizes that the person who made the mistake had a choice—and when the situation comes up again, they’ll be able to choose differently.

You could say:

  • “Next time, I suggest . . .”
  • “Try it this way.”
  • “Are you on board with that?”

14. Be Brief

Even when given empathetically, constructive feedback can be uncomfortable to receive. Get your message across, make sure there are no hard feelings, and move on.

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One exception? If the feedback isn’t understood, make clear that you have plenty of time for questions. Rushing through what’s clearly an open conversation is disrespectful and discouraging.

15. Follow Up

Not all lessons are learned immediately. After giving a member of your team constructive feedback, follow it up with an email. Make sure you’re just as respectful and helpful in your written feedback as you are on your verbal communication.

You could say:

  • “I wanted to recap . . .”
  • “Thanks for chatting with me about . . .”
  • “Did that make sense?”

16. Expect Improvement

Although you should always deliver constructive feedback in a supportive manner, you should also expect to see it implemented. If it’s a long-term issue, set milestones.

By what date would you like to see what sort of improvement? How will you measure that improvement?

You could say:

  • “I’d like to see you . . .”
  • “Let’s check back in after . . .”
  • “I’m expecting you to . . .”
  • “Let’s make a dent in that by . . .”

17. Give Second Chances

Giving feedback, no matter how constructive, is a waste of time if you don’t provide an opportunity to implement it. Don’t set up a “gotcha” moment, but do tap the recipient of your feedback next time a similar task comes up.

You could say:

  • “I know you’ll rock it next time.”
  • “I’d love to see you try again.”
  • “Let’s give it another go.”

Final Thoughts

Constructive feedback is not an easy nut to crack. If you don’t give it well, then maybe it’s time to get some. Never be afraid to ask.

More on Constructive Feedback

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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