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How Being Independent Can Keep You From Breaking Up

How Being Independent Can Keep You From Breaking Up

People in relationships tend to view themselves as part of something greater than themselves or the sum of its constituent parts. This tendency is reinforced by others outside the relationship who realize it would be impolitic to invite one without the other. However, it is important for both parties in a relationship to maintain some level of autonomy and independence. Not only is this crucial to maintaining a sense of self, but it also helps create more diverse experiences for both parties. Here are seven ways being independent improves your long-term relationship.

1. Not everything needs to be shared.

It is natural to want to share as much with your significant other as possible, especially in the beginning of a relationship. Call it hormones, desire, joy, or the first stirrings of love, but it’s normal and typical. However, if you share everything about yourself right at the beginning, what else is there to learn? Love should be an ongoing process of discovery, and it’s simply not possible to do that if your significant other knows everything there is to know about you by the end of your third date.

Part of being independent is to keep something of yourself for yourself. This is not the same as lying. If you feel you need to lie to your significant other about anything (of greater import than where you went when you bought his or her birthday present), it is time to take a long, hard look at your relationship and why you’re in it.  But you should feel free not to explain everything about yourself all at once, and your significant other should not feel this pressure either. Cataloging every last move each person makes and regurgitating it borders on stalkerish and certainly is not conducive to a sense of independence on either side.

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2. Get a hobby that requires at least a little time away from your significant other.

Hobbies are good for us. They give us a chance to get away from the quotidian cares of our regular lives, to indulge our creativity and to do something that’s just fun. Studies indicate that finding a hobby such as painting, writing or even hiking offers health and mental benefits such as reduced blood pressure, enhanced creative problem solving ability, and a greater sense of satisfaction and independence. To get the maximum benefit, find something you like that doesn’t particularly interest your significant other and is uniquely your own. This is a great way to affirm your independence while doing something your lover will be able to appreciate once it is done. Getting a hobby is not a one-way street. Both parties should feel free to find new ways to express themselves.

3. Take a relationship break.

This does not mean you should “see other people” or engage in any of the other signs that your relationship is effectively over. However, there is nothing wrong with wanting a little space from time to time. Take a mini-vacation by yourself. Go camping, fishing or just go to the beach and unwind. A couple of days apart can give you new perspective on your relationship, as well as making the other person’s company more attractive. As the old saying goes, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Learn to appreciate the other person’s company by getting away from it for a little while. Being independent means being willing to stand alone as well as with someone else and can increase your sense of self-worth, even when your other half isn’t there.

4. Have some separate friends and experiences.

This ties in with No. 3 to some extent, because a couple whose component parts cannot have separate experiences may be dangerously unbalanced. Depending upon one another is fine, but codependency is often the first sign of an incipient abusive relationship for both genders. Because of this, each person should have a unique identity with his or her own friends and experiences outside the relationship. Again, this has to be a two-way street. If either party says “It’s okay for me to have friends, go bowling or go hang out and play poker, but you have to stay home,” this is grossly unfair and a clear warning sign of a controlling, unhealthy relationship. When both parties are free to come and go as they please without suspicion or concern about when they’ll be home or what they are doing, this builds trust and allows both parties to celebrate being independent of each other while still choosing to be together.

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5. Learn to say and accept “no.”

“Can I come too?” There are times and situations where this is fine and others where it is simply not appropriate. One crucial key to being independent is the ability to say and accept “no” as an answer without inflicting or getting unduly hurt. This kind of dialogue may go something like:

“I’d love you to come tonight, but we’re going to be watching The Empire Strikes Back and then talking about the latest Jim Butcher book while we play D&D, and you don’t like any of that. You’d just be bored.”

“Oh, okay.” [pause] “Well, maybe I can see what the folks from the erotic book club are up to tonight and we can go out for cocktails.”

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“That sounds like a good idea. Call me if you’re going to be out too late so I don’t worry, okay?”

“I will.” [smiles] “Have fun tonight!”

This is a healthy means of dealing with this situation without hurt feelings. The rejection here has nothing to do with wanting the person there and everything to do with knowing the other person’s tastes well enough to understand they won’t enjoy themselves. Of course, it relies on both parties being completely truthful about their intentions. However, we can safely assume here that both sides are speaking from an honest place. The person who asked may not be entirely happy about the answer, but accepts the refusal and the implicit need to assert independence on his or her partner’s part. Because of this, this person thinks of a way in which the partner can do something as well. There is an underlying assumption that the evening will end with both of them home and in each others’ arms and neither feels chained to their partner’s side. Being independent sometimes means being able to reject the other person’s company gracefully and accepting that rejection with equal grace.

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6. Don’t lose sight of your dreams.

Dreams define us. They make us what we are and give us something to strive for. Just because you enter a relationship with someone does not mean you should sacrifice your dreams for them. In fact, the exact opposite is true. A truly good, loving relationship is based upon both parties having dreams and desires within and outside the relationship. Conversely, a good partner is someone who is willing to allow his or her partner their dreams without nay-saying or ridiculing them. Knowing mutual support is available if it is needed and the understanding that both partners need space to strive for their dreams is the hallmark of a strong relationship. Ultimately, your dreams are an integral part of who you are. If your partner insists that your dream should take a back-seat to what they want, it is time to reevaluate whether this person is really someone you want to be with.

7. Be who you are.

Being independent means being who and what you are, not someone else’s version of what you should be. If your partner insists you change your hairstyle, wardrobe or friends and interests to better suit their vision of who you are, something clearly is amiss. In the same way, love your partner for all they are and not in spite of it. No two people are the same, and trying to force someone into a narrow mold is unfair to both sides in the relationship. Be willing to stand up for yourself when necessary, and never be afraid to ask “Why?” You cannot be yourself and someone else’s version of yourself at the same time. As Shakespeare put it: “This above all: To thine own self be true; it then follows thou canst not be false to any man.”

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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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