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How to Love Yourself and Improve Relationships

How to Love Yourself and Improve Relationships

Does loving yourself improve relationships?

It should come as no surprise that there is a strong link between self-esteem and the health of our relationships. If you have a low sense of self-worth, that affects a lot of your behaviors, which in turn affect your connections with others.

Specifically, having little love for ourselves tends to make us more negative in general. Think about how you react when someone around you is negative about almost everything. In contrast, you probably prefer to be around people who are comfortable in their own skin.

Below are a few steps you can take to start implementing self-love in your life, whether you have low self-esteem or even too much of it. If you want to improve relationships with those closest to you, then I highly suggest you start here.

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7. Affirm yourself.

A common symptom of low self-worth is constantly seeking affirmation and validation. You don’t believe that the things you do are good enough, so you obsess over seeking compliments from others. What you may not realize is that this really bothers people and can damage your relationships with friends, coworkers or a significant other.

Even if you are doing so with the best of intentions, people will typically view your behavior as “fishing for compliments” in order to suit your ego. That said, you need to take a look at everything you’ve accomplished and give yourself some credit. Otherwise, you can become susceptible (down the road) to social anxieties and even phobias that will make it nearly impossible for you to be assertive.

I know for me, I fear letting pride inhibit my ability to relate and connect genuinely with others. But it’s also important for us to recognize the good we’ve done and let it sink in. Once you start doing this regularly, you’ll find yourself being less reliant on the validation of others.

6. Serve others.

It may seem counterintuitive, but pouring yourself into other people is a form of sharing your love with them. Numerous studies have shown that acts of service and charity benefit the giver more than the receiver, at least in the sense of positive and emotional gains.

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Developing a personality built on service translates to all of our relationships as a result. Being a dependable and giving friend fosters a relationship that is built on goodwill and loyalty. Even gestures in a romantic relationship fit into this paradigm, as they cultivate emotional benefits contributing to a larger motive (such as commitment).

5. Keep your eyes up.

One of the best ways to improve relationships (and communication) is to practice good posture and eye contact. When you slouch and look down, you are subconsciously communicating to yourself (and others) that you are being submissive to them. This is how someone is able to determine instantly whether or not they can a walk all over someone else. The result is that you aren’t respecting yourself, and you’re letting others disrespect you.

Displaying poise and self-discipline will lead to self-respect and confidence. If you start to make a habit out of this attitude, then you will start to build relationships with others that are on equal terms.

4. Exercise and eat healthy.

Love yourself by showing love to your body. Being fit physically makes us fit emotionally, improving our moods alongside our health. Going to the gym and eating right gives us energy and relieves stress. As a result, we feel good about ourselves, and these positive feelings carry over to the people who are around us.

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3. Practice good hygiene.

In case you aren’t doing so already, start taking good care of your hygienic needs. Take showers every day, wash your clothes, iron them, wear deodorant and do all of the things your parents told you to do that you stopped doing when you moved out.

Seriously though, taking care of yourself is a form of natural survival and health, and it makes us more desirable to be around. If you’re unsure whether or not you’re practicing good hygiene, ask someone who will give you an honest and objective opinion. Like your parents!

2. Create something.

Whether you’re a painter, writer, movie director, trapeze artist, construction worker or professional singer, creating something that is wholly yours is self-love. You don’t have to literally create something out of thin air; it’s as easy as doing something you love to do better than everyone else. That sense of accomplishment and pride in your work plays a huge part in personal growth and maturity.

Producing things, whether they be for work or art, shapes into a person who has something valuable to offer to others. As you can imagine, this makes you a person that attracts people.

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It’s difficult to admit, but our relationships with others are conditional to a point. We favor those who enrich our lives. You can be that person if you start putting in the effort necessary to create something no one else has.

1. Be self-aware.

Start looking at yourself as a whole and identify your strengths, as well as your weaknesses. If you happen to have a lot of confidence, you may be inclined to gloss over the things you say and do that alienate others. But if you start to learn more about yourself, such as how you come off to others and what you instinctively say in certain situations, you’ll start to gain a self-awareness that will further your appreciation for yourself, as well as the people around you.

Recognize the things about you that are different and unique. Accept them and consider them a benefit because you are “you” due to these quirks. If you’re a little weird, don’t feel bad about it. Embrace the weirdness.

Self-awareness leads to other strong concepts that facilitate having a “whole” being, such as integrity. Being honest and consistent shows that you love yourself enough to be real with others, and this is easily the best way to avoid needless conflicts that would otherwise inhibit a strong relationship with someone close to you.

To sum up, loving yourself is about accepting who you are and what you can strive to be. You don’t have to be complacent about becoming a better person, but you also don’t have to set unrealistic goals for yourself that will never get done. Once you’re at a place where you love yourself, only then are you ready to start giving everyone else more reasons than ever to love you too.

More by this author

Jon Negroni

An author and blogger who shares about lifestyle advice

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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