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How to Maintain Strong Interpersonal Relationships

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 February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

Reference

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