Humans are social creatures, and we thrive in small and medium-sized groups. Even the loners out there have a few family members and some friends in their close social circle. This means that we have to work hard on developing good relationships with those around us—our family, friends, lovers, coworkers and bosses. Here are a few nifty little secrets that will help you become a better people person and improve any relationship in your life.
1. Acknowledge the opinions, feelings and needs of others
It’s very easy to get caught up in our own little world. Sometimes we feel so eager to express our feelings and point of view that we neglect the opinions and feelings of others. If you want to build strong, long-lasting relationships you need to start letting people express themselves. And always respect their right to an opinion, even if you don’t think they are right.
2. Be more open to suggestions and compromises
Making the right decision and choosing a course of action that benefits everyone requires input from everyone involved. Try to be democratic when deciding on things like where to go for dinner or dividing tasks amongst colleagues. Understand that you will often have to compromise, and that this sometimes means giving up a lot of ground in someone else’s favor.
3. Give 100% of your attention to the job
Doing your job as best you can not only improves the relationship between you and your colleagues, it also means less stress and more peace of mind during your free hours. This will make you less irritable and more energetic when you hang out with your friends, family, and lover.
4. Spend more of your free time out with people instead of locked up at home
Getting to spend some quality time with your friends, partner, and even colleagues is an essential part of getting to know them on a deeper level. It also allows you to relax and share all kinds of information. Spending more time outside with other people is also a good way to improve your mental health by talking about the problems you might have with your partner or friends—problems that would otherwise eat away at you and put a strain on those relationships.
5. Get a grip on your emotions through regular practice
In order to keep a discussion from escalating into an argument and to deal with the emotional outbursts of others, you need to be able to keep a level head. This means controlling your emotions. With exercises like bikram yoga you can get physical health benefits while learning to stay calm and breathe properly. Sometimes a good run can help clear your head and release bottled up frustrations.
6. Work on overcoming your insecurities
If you go into a discussion with someone and you have tons of insecurities weighing you down, you will always be nervous and looking for the right thing to say. In fact, it may be difficult for you to open up or meet new people. Spend some time each day working on coming to terms with your appearance and lifestyle choices and start making some small positive changes. It will greatly improve the way you interact with others.
7. Learn people’s emotional triggers and avoid setting them off
Just like you have fears and insecurities, so does everyone else. There are topics and even specific words that will trigger a strong negative emotional response. As you get to know someone, try to pick up on these touchy subjects and avoid hitting these triggers when you interact with that person. They will greatly appreciate this and you will fight less often.
8. Goodhearted banter is fine, but keep things positive
Although joking and teasing may not set off any big triggers, if you are always critical and mocking, people will start thinking less of you over time. You want people close to you to actually enjoy your company, so be sure to have a healthy balance of banter and positive comments and don’t dish out more than they can take.
9. Start saying sorry more often
Let’s face it, we all mess up sometimes and end up upsetting a friend, family member or partner. It is important to accept the blame and say that you are sorry. A simple “I’m sorry” can go a long way towards maintaining good relationships and mending ones that have taken a bad turn.
10. Learn to forgive
This one goes hand and hand with apologies. You can’t just keep asking for forgiveness from others, while holding grudges and pouting. Sure, you will need some time to cool off, but you need to allow people to apologize so you can move on. If someone extends a hand in a gesture of peace, don’t slap it away.
11. Free yourself from emotional baggage
This point builds on the previous one. Sometimes people won’t approach you for truce negotiations or even say they are sorry for something bad they have done. You don’t need to bend over backwards to rekindle shattered friendships and relationships, but try to let go of all that emotional baggage, let your wounds heal and keep going forward without being resentful and blaming others for all your problems.
12. Encourage healthy discussions instead of fights
Important issues will often come up and you will have to address them with your significant other or your friends and acquaintances. This is normal, but a screaming match where everyone is red in the face will only drain your energy. Instead, try staying calm. This is where all that meditation and yoga breathing comes into play, and discuss your issues without raising your voice or interrupting each other.
13. Stop sweating the small things
Small issues should never even get to the discussion and problem-solving stage. If it is a benign issue, then just drop it and never look back. It may irk you for a while, but you’ll soon forget it and it will save you minutes or hours of arguing.
14. Stop taking things personally
Not everything someone says is a veiled insult or clever insinuation directed at you. People don’t always have some deep and hidden meanings in mind, nor are they constantly plotting to achieve a sinister goal. Shut your negative inner voice up and take things at face value without making huge logical leaps based on scant information. This will make you seem more relaxed and attentive, and help you avoid embarrassing misunderstandings and big fights over nothing.
15. Don’t jump to conclusions
Being cautious and suspicious are deeply rooted in human nature, but sometimes people go way overboard with insane theories and play out scenarios in their heads that only serve to enrage them and become resentful of another person who may not have even done anything wrong. Don’t let jealousy, anger or your insecurities cloud your judgment and focus on more effective communication that fosters trust.
16. Ask more questions and pay attention when someone speaks to you
By simply sitting a person down, saying what’s on your mind and asking them what you want to know will help you avoid a lot of problems. Also, when someone wants to talk to you, take the time to close your mouth and listen to what they have to say. Take mental notes and ask questions afterwards. This is the key for effective communication and building a strong bond between two people.
17. Make criticism constructive
When you want to point out some flaws in a person’s performance, strive to give them feedback instead of just criticizing, i.e., tell them what they can do to improve. You should also throw in small compliments to numb the effects of criticism. When it comes to partners, telling them you like something that they do will often motivate them to practice, improve and do it even better.
18. Spend some time with your family in fairly regular intervals
In order to keep your relationship strong you need to actually spend time with people. Family often takes a back seat to other obligations, but you should definitely make the time to see your parents, visit relatives or spend quality time with your partner and kids. Make sure you devote several quality hours to the people you love at least once a week for your nuclear and once a month for your extended family. You can always just call and have a chat.
19. If you’re a man, “She is always right” is the golden relationship rule
Women usually tend to take firm stances on some things, and on a societal level it is acceptable for them to be more emotional and take charge when it comes to running the home. Men are expected to be calmer and can save themselves a lot of trouble by just admitting to the woman that she is right. Of course you will need to speak up on important issues and draw some lines, but don’t try to use logic to prove that you are right – you stand to gain absolutely nothing from it.
20. If you’re a woman, “He really doesn’t get some things, cut him some slack” is the golden relationship rule
Ladies have a very different way of thinking then men, and are generally more emotionally driven, intuitive and more receptive to body language ques. You don’t need to be looking for a complex reason for why a man is behaving a certain way – it is usually the simplest explanation, and they really can’t grasp certain things. Just cut them some slack from time to time and know that they really are trying hard, their brains are just not wired the same way.
21. For both same sex and heterosexual couples: pick your battles and let your partner win from time to time
No matter what your sexual preference or relationship status – if you are in it for the long term you’ll need to realize that you will at times get the short end of the stick. Swallowing pride and gracefully losing of an argument and admitting that you were wrong – even if you are objectively right – as well as saying sorry for getting mad for clearly being wronged are both necessary sacrifices that you have to make to keep the peace.
One of you might end up doing this most of the time, while the other only occasionally does it, but as long as it’s just the little things and you are generally happy, it doesn’t really matter.
22. One roommate/partner will take on the lion’s share of the work in some areas, and that’s OK
Speaking of getting the short end of the stick, when it comes to things like keeping the house clean, preparing meals, trips to the store, ironing or fixing things around the home, one partner or roommate will be more capable or have a greater attention to detail than the other.
It will quickly become apparent who is neat and tidy, who is the handyman and who is a bit of a slob, but can fix the computer, etc. Let everyone do the lion’s share of the work in an area they are good at and that they find natural, instead of trying to divide all chores and tasks right down the middle.
23. Don’t nag people, preach or give them unwanted lessons
If you want something done, just tell people that. If you are displeased with something, tell them about it. Just don’t preach or insist that things be done the exact same way you do it, just because you are used to it and there is no logical or tactical reason not to do it any other way. Be concise when expressing your displeasure and don’t take up a confrontational tone right off the bat.
24. Never make rash decisions or start conversations when you are feeling angry or moody
Never go to bed angry with your partner, never make a phone call or start a conversation when angry or moody and never make any serious decisions until you have cooled down – live by these rules and you will do a lot less dumb things that you end up regretting.
25. Do some traveling and experience other cultures
You can go on a trip with friends, your lover, your family or a combination of any or all of these. Being able to enjoy yourselves free of stress and your usual obligations, all while experiencing a whole new culture will help strengthen and revitalize your relationship, and you may learn some things about each other you never knew before.
None of this is all that difficult to grasp, but some points may be difficult for people to accept and they will definitely be very difficult to implement. It takes a whole lot of devotion and patience, but if you stay focused and try to follow these rules every single day, your life will slowly change for the better and you will become much happier.
Featured photo credit: Padlock/ Moyan Brenn via flickr.com