Are you struggling to maintain positive relationships with the people you care about?
You’re not alone. As we become increasingly busy and responsibilities pile up, connecting with those around us tends to fall down on our priority list.
Before you know it, it’s been days since you and your partner enjoyed a romantic date night.
Weeks since you got a chance to catch up with your favorite coworker over lunch.
Months since you actually hung out with your friend group.
No more! Here are 10 simple things you can do if you’re looking to deepen your relationships with others.
1) Be consistent
You already know this, but it’s worth repeating: make time to connect, especially during times when everyone seems overwhelmed.
No matter how many errands you have to run and tasks you have to complete, you can still find 5 minutes to spare in a day. Use them wisely.
FaceTime your partner before going to bed and ask about their day. Call your mom to see how she’s doing. Text a friend or send a funny meme to the group chat.
“In this terrifying world, all we have are the connections that we make,” a depraved horseman once realized. Follow in his footsteps.
And if you can’t dial down the hectic, then at least…
2) Don’t miss the big stuff
Weddings. Funerals. Births. Emergencies. Celebrations.
If you care about the person, be there. Take a day off, borrow money for the flight, blow off your weekend plans.
Failing to show up for important occasions will create a rift that will be difficult to patch up, even when your loved one says it’s fine if you can’t make it.
Also, do you want in on a little secret?
Sometimes, what seems insignificant to you can be momentous to someone else.
If your unemployed friend finally scores an interview, send them a box of donuts. They’ll be grateful for the support.
3) Be vulnerable…
Regardless of how new or ancient the relationship you’re trying to improve may be, don’t be afraid to open up.
Sharing your ups and downs with someone else won’t just ease the weight on your shoulders. It will deepen the relationship too.
It can be scary. Perhaps you don’t want your bestie, colleague, or potential new friend to judge you.
The thing is, there’s a good chance the opposite will happen. The other person will appreciate your honesty and may be prompted to share some relatable experiences as well.
Before you know it, you’ve reached a whole new level of closeness – and all it required was a small dose of vulnerability.
4) …but respect boundaries
That said, sharing has its limits.
You wouldn’t confide about the most private aspects of your life to a casual acquaintance, would you?
Just like you wouldn’t expect the friend of a friend to tell you all about their messy break-up.
While being vulnerable is part of living an authentic life, assess the level of emotional intimacy in the relationship before spilling your darkest secrets. Oversharing can put off a friend or love interest, sometimes for good.
On the same note, if the other person clearly states that there are things they won’t talk about or behaviors they won’t engage in, don’t press the issue.
For example, you shouldn’t nag your prude friend to talk about their exploits between the sheets.
Insisting will put a strain on the relationship, achieving the exact opposite of what you set out to do.
5) Be curious about others
Did you know that curious people have better relationships? Being judgmental is so last year.
Instead of making assumptions about why your partner, friend, or acquaintance behaved a certain way – perhaps a way that made you upset? – simply ask them.
If you’re at an event, don’t size people up and put them in a box; introduce yourself and get to learn more about their background.
More importantly, take steps to enhance your curiosity on a daily basis. Start by asking open-ended questions and offering words of engagement during conversations (Wow!, How cool!, Tell me more, and so on).
Being curious about others fosters better relationships with loved ones and can help you make new friends. Don’t miss out on the fun!
6) Work on your listening skills
As a socially anxious person and full-time overthinker, I tend to spend a huge chunk of any given conversation stressing about what I’ll say next.
Unfortunately, this means I only half-listen to what the other person is trying to communicate.
They might feel like I’m not 100% there and can negatively impact our relationship in the process.
On the bright side, I’ve been working on becoming a more active listener for a while, and I like to think I’m getting better at it. Here are a few things that work:
- Face the other person and maintain eye contact
- Don’t check your phone every 5 minutes; it’s rude
- Pay attention to non-verbal cues like tone and body position
- Don’t interrupt and don’t jump to conclusions; let them finish their point
- Rephrase or summarize what they just said to make sure you understood
- Lean in and nod every once in a while to show that you’re engaged
More importantly: practice. The more you work on your active listening skills, the better you’ll become at giving the other person your undivided attention.
7) Show your appreciation
When someone tells you how grateful they are for your overall existence, you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Guess what? It’s time to return the favor. If you’re stingy on praise, do a 180.
Next time you go out with your partner, remind them how much they mean to you.
Have dinner with your folks and mention that they did a fine job while you were growing up. If a friend does something nice for you, thank them profusely.
You may assume that the other person already knows how grateful you are to have them in your life. That’s not always the case.
8) Remember the little things the person cares about
If there’s one thing I learned in my 35 years on this planet, it’s that it doesn’t take big gestures to cultivate rewarding relationships.
More often than not, it’s all about the little things.
Does your manager love the coffee from that cute place in your neighborhood? Pick up a cup for them whenever you have extra time on your way to work.
Did a friend say they’re looking forward to a movie that’s coming out soon? Keep an eye on the cinema schedule and surprise them with tickets when the movie premieres.
And if your memory is just as bad as mine, start writing these things down. Create a note in your phone for every person you hold dear and keep track of whatever they express interest in.
You never know when this information can come in handy.
9) Treat people with kindness
Kindness is one of the greatest (and cheapest!) gifts we can give. You don’t make yourself big by making your loved ones feel small.
Maybe your friend wasn’t short with you because they no longer value your friendship. Maybe they’re feeling overwhelmed or dealing with a problem they can’t talk about yet.
Nothing happens in a vacuum.
Don’t be rude in return. Take a deep breath, offer them a smile, and let it go. Chances are, your friend will go back to their charming self in no time.
Similarly, every person who enters your life will end up playing a role. Never look down on others, and lend a helping hand when possible. You never know which casual acquaintance can become a friend.
10) Love yourself first
Finally, it all starts with you. The more drained and unappreciated you feel, the more difficult it will be to pour energy into fostering relationships.
So, as cliché as this may sound, always love yourself first. Learn to manage your time better, take care of your health, and let toxic people go. Only care for relationships that enrich your life.
The other ones aren’t worth it.
Improving your relationships with others will have a positive effect on your mood. Plus, you’ll end up with a sturdy support network to rely on during hard times.
Relationships take work. Thankfully, the work is pleasant and worth doing.