Psychology studies show that, in the long term, the most important thing in your life is your personal relationships. More important than your circumstances, hardships or successes, stuff you own or places you go, good quality relationships increase your resilience, your happiness and protect you from depression and other related “afflictions”.
This can only be said about mature, fulfilling relationships, which we define based on one principle: “win-win”. In “win-win” relationships (be it friendships or romantic ones), all parties bring their best and leave out the worst. They focus on increasing the value of the partnership, the time spent together, the amount of sharing and avoid, conscientiously, pointing fingers and turning each interaction into a competition.
They say that you don’t get to choose your parents and siblings; however, you get to choose your friends and lovers. Here are 10 steps towards improving the quality of your relationships which can help you find what you need to lead a fulfilled life.
1. Assess your self-esteem level and decide which kind of relationships you want.
Those based on sharing, learning, fun, empathy or listening? Or those meant to increase your value in the eyes of your community? Generally speaking, the most fulfilling relationships are those which are not meant to regulate your self-esteem level.
2. Decide what you value most in life as a person.
Finding out what you like and value, what is important for your growth and happiness will help you look for the same things in the people you bond with.
3.Evaluate every relationship in your life at this moment.
Give points to each of them in the “value department”, based on what you decided that matters for you. It may benefit you to give points to those relationships that help you stay true to yourself and don’t force you to pretend you’re someone else, are emotionally balanced and above average when it comes to the learning potential.
4. Based on your assessment, try and get rid (delicately!) of everything that consumes you emotionally
or influences your self-esteem by lowering it. Without being blunt, avoid relationships that favor conflict and nurture those that do you good.
5. Increase the frequency of interactions
with people that make you feel good. At home or work, look for individuals that raise your energy levels, give you reasons to smile and be optimistic.
6. “Water” your relationships.
Once you streamlined them, it’s time to work on them. They are, joke or not, like flowers, so focus on their development and take steps towards nurturing them. Focus on their quality in particular.
7. Give first, and expect very little, if nothing, in return.
In relationships, many people tend to ask themselves the same question: “what do I get from it?”. Giving first may be interpreted as consuming – in terms of time and emotional investment, but the benefits are unexpected. Behavior breeds behavior.
8. Don’t argue, but learn to compromise smartly.
Smart compromise involves shared responsibility for the future of the relationship and assertiveness. When everybody understands the part they play in their relationships’ evolution, the focus shifts from arguments to finding a common ground.
9. Share your best.
Knowledge, experience, emotions. Be it books, music, places you went or things you did that others might find interesting, many relationships are based on shared experiences, rather than anything else.
10. Keep an open mind
and embrace the good and different you see in others. Chance is the others see the same in you.
These ten steps are just a hint of what you could do towards improving your relationships. Follow them or not, but try to find out what suits you in particular. Remember that human interactions are, in a way, like wine: they get better in time. However, this only happens if you work on them.