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How to Maintain Strong Interpersonal Relationships

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How to Maintain Strong Interpersonal Relationships

One of the biggest keys to happiness is having strong interpersonal relationships. I believe that relationships are key to leading a fulfilling and contented life. Like anything worth having in life, they take some work to develop and perpetuate.

In this article, I will discuss how to maintain a strong interpersonal relationship.

Developing Interpersonal Relationships

In the spirit of clarity, it’s a good idea to take a quick look at the definition of interpersonal relationships. In short, an interpersonal relationship is a strong or close association or acquaintance between two or more people that can last from a brief time period to an ongoing one. This can extend from family to friends, to work associates, to neighbors, or clubs and on and on. It can be a relationship in any context or situation.

For instance, I’ve had strong short lived relationships with people I’ve worked with on a project as well as one for 50 years with my brother. My two best friends and I live in different cities but, we get together several times a year and have a great time. I have a mentor I worked with over a decade ago I still stay in touch with because we get along so well. All of these are examples of strong interpersonal relationships.

We will briefly touch on developing interpersonal relationships. Best way to approach it is to be a friend or a good partner as the situation warrants. For instance, if you are on a new team at work, ensure you are a good person to work with. Do your part and help others as needed. Be a contributor who is also willing to help out when needed. As a friend, you simply follow the age old piece of advice “to have a friend, you must first be a friend”.

If you are on a board or association, it should be something you are interested in helping out with. That want-to-help attitude will put you with like minded individuals who you’ll probably hit it off with. The main thing to remember is great interpersonal relationships can get formed any place or situation where you interact with other people. Put a little effort into getting along with others and you’d be amazed at how that pays off.

How to Maintain Powerful Interpersonal Relationships

Now, let’s get into the part of how to maintain strong interpersonal relationships. Once you’ve gotten a solid relationship started here’s some ways you can maintain it.

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1. Be Open

Any strong relationship needs to have the willingness to be open. This means the ability and desire to share what you’re thinking and your feelings about different subjects.

It really makes a lot of sense if you think about it. When you are open and willing to share, it shows the other person that you care about the relationship; that you are wanting to create a close connection by being truthful and receptive to the other person’s thoughts and feelings.

Think about some of the conversations you’ve had over the years. When you are speaking to someone who always seems to hold things close to the vest and shares very little information, it’s difficult to know what they are truly thinking or feeling. This creates a sense of distance from that person. On the other hand, when you interact with someone who is open with how they feel and interactive with you, it feels much closer. It feels like they care enough and are willing to share thoughts, ideas, and their feelings with you. This creates a much stronger bond.

2. Show Empathy

Here’s a saying you may have heard before:

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. People will never forget how you made them feel.”

Pretty powerful stuff. One of the deepest human desires is to feel understood. When you show empathy towards someone else, you are showing that you care enough to understand how they feel. And that goes a really long way in maintaining strong relationships.

Remember to show empathy whenever the opportunity presents itself in your relationships. This helps all of us feel more supported, understood, and most importantly, connected.

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3. Be Respectful

It goes without saying that in order to help build and maintain strong relationships, you will need to be respectful — respectful of the other person’s time, opinion, feelings, and so on. This is vitally important in one on one relationships such as a marriage or close friendship.

The same really holds true in close relationships that involve a group type dynamic. If you are on a team at work, things will go so much better and the friendships will develop stronger if you are respectful to the others in the group. One of the biggest reasons, besides being the right thing to do, is you want others to be respectful to your time and opinions as well. It helps develop the sense of bonding and trust.

Work towards being respectful of others in general and certainly in tighter relationships.

4. Be Available

Giving your time is like giving a gift. Time is the one thing we all have the same amount of — same 24 hours in a day, same amount of days in a week, etc. How you choose to spend that time says a lot about you. And being available to someone shows that you value them enough to spend your time with them. That is absolutely huge.

Being giving of your time shows the other person that you care enough about them and the relationship to share your most valuable commodity. Being available to someone will do wonders for maintaining strong personal relationships.

One of my best male relationships goes back to my high school days. We were good friends then and decent friends during college. It was post college and into career time when we became really good friends. And that lasted for quite a while until we had families. And we did pretty good for a while after that. He’s always been great at staying in touch and getting together periodically. Somewhere in there, I wasn’t a very good friend and did not make equal effort of being available of my time. And it very nearly cost me one of my best friendships. I righted the ship and have made equal time and trips to his city to see him and his family. It’s really important to be available and give your time to support these types of connections.

5. Establish Boundaries

Boundaries are critical for healthy relationships. A boundary is a belief, or way of life, or conviction that you have. It involves your beliefs, values, and limits. It’s important to be clear to other people in your life, especially the strong interpersonal relationships, about what your boundaries are. It helps to create self-esteem and respect in the relationship. It’s basically showing others what you stand for and what you will and won’t allow in your life. A couple of quick examples for context are probably helpful here:

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In a marriage, one spouse makes it clear to their partner that financial responsibility is very important to them. Maybe they had to start working at an early age and were responsible for all of their own costs once they turned 18. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that they make it clear to their partner that it’s important to them. And the other partner is into gambling, and gambling so much that leads to financial irresponsibility. At some point, there’s going to be a hard conversation about the direction of the marriage.

In a work group, one of the members makes it clear that watching their son’s soccer games on Wednesdays at 6 is very important. He is willing to work late any other day of the week except Wednesdays. He has established a boundary. His team members and manager hear him and understand him, and ask him to stay late from time to time but not Wednesday’s. There is a healthy, well established boundary.

6. Be a Good Listener

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again any chance I get. Something most people tend to forget is that listening is half of all communication. And when we get really good at listening, it becomes more than half of our communication. That’s because being a good listener will do wonders for your strong relationships.

Showing that you are actively listening will help boost the other persons self esteem because it shows that you truly care about what they are saying; that makes them feel important. It shows that you seek to understand and that it’s important to you to know how the other person is feeling about something.

It’s like the silent form of flattery to the person you are interacting with. It makes them feel supported and probably most importantly, valued.

You can learn how to be a better listener in this guide: How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)

7. Okay to Disagree

It is so beneficial to strong interpersonal relationships to know that it’s okay to disagree. We are all different and have different feelings and opinions. Strong relationships actually thrive on some disagreement and conflict. The alternative is not speaking up when you disagree with something and stuffing it inside.

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And you know what happens if you stuff your feelings and opinions and feelings inside for a long time? Resentment. And smoldering resentment will eventually explode in a way that’s not good for anyone.

I have a strong relationship with both of my daughters. We also tend to disagree or outright argue a fair amount. And that’s fine. I tell both of them all the time that I don’t always like them but, I always love them. And they can say the same about me and that’s great. Having the ability to disagree with the other person fosters a much more open relationship where everyone feels comfortable sharing how they think and feel.

8. Be Appreciative

This one makes a lot of sense. Showing you are appreciative of another person in a good relationship only makes the relationship stronger.

We all like to feel appreciated and understood. When someone thanks you for something you did or said, it makes you feel good. You feel good because it’s nice to know that your efforts not only make someone feel better or supported but also that they noticed it. And this will certainly help to maintain your strong interpersonal relationships.

Final Thoughts

Never forget how important having strong and close relationships are to leading a happy and fulfilling life. It’s far too easy to get caught up our day to day actions of life and put relationships on the back burner.

We’ve looked at 8 great ways that will help you to maintain your strong interpersonal relationships. Take a look at these and see which ones might be helpful to you in your various partnerships. Use as needed to maintain one of the most important aspects of our lives.

More About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: Ben Duchac via unsplash.com

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Mat Apodaca

On a mission to share about how communication in the workplace and personal relationships plays a large role in your happiness

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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