Frustrated by the way your relationships are going? Feeling like you’re always at odds with someone at home or at work? Here are a handful of tips you can use to revitalize your relationships and improve your interactions with others.
- Look for the positives and focus on the other person’s strengths. For example, you might start by noticing how well your spouse manages his or her job, commitments at home, balance between free time and family time, or anything else. As you observe him or her, begin commenting about what you’ve seen like this: “You do a really good job with __________” or “I’m impressed that you were able to accomplish _________ today.” John Gottman says the magic ratio is 5 positive interactions for every 1 that is negative. In order to compensate for the inevitable bumps along the way, make a concerted effort to recognize the positive qualities of those around you each and every day.
- Employ active listening skills. Active listening initially includes paying attention, withholding judgment and reflecting the other person’s words by repeating them back to him or her. This is especially important—and challenging—when there is conflict. As you take the time to slow down and focus on your co-worker’s point of view, you may find yourself less focused on making your case and more willing to reach a mutually beneficial solution. If you want additional information on this topic, look here: https://www.ccl.org/multimedia/podcast/the-big-6-an-active-listening-skill-set/
- Take care of yourself. As you are able, focus on eating well, getting enough sleep, drinking water throughout the day, exercising, and managing your stress. This will have a positive impact on yourself and everyone around you. If you need help remembering to do these things, enlist some support partners. You might also use an app like Wunderlist to organize your goals and set reminders.
- Look for common interests and seek to engage in those whenever possible. When you think of your relationships, consider whether there are any favorite activities, interests, or even favorite foods that could bring you and the people you love together. For example, you might consider setting up weekly, bi-weekly or monthly dates to spend time with each of your children. Enlist their help to come up with ideas of things they’d like to do or explore with you, and work your way through the list you compose.
- Before you speak, consider the things you often say. If you are frequently at odds with someone in your life, think about the phrases you find yourself repeating to that person. Perhaps you need to change what you are saying so your family member can really hear the message. For example, if you find that you are constantly telling your dad that he’s embarrassing you in some way, maybe you could tell him some things you appreciate about him (see #1) and then give him a few tips about what he could say or do when he’s around your friends.
These five tips may seem simple, but will require a concerted effort on your part. If it seems overwhelming to implement all five at once, start with the one that seems the most likely to create positive change and work your way through the rest as you are able. Though you may encounter resistance at first, you will soon notice small differences in the relational atmosphere. If you or someone in your life would benefit from the help of a trained therapist as you work to improve your relationships, please call our office at 215.491.1119.
Dr. Lorna Jansen is a psychology resident at the Center for Neuropsychology and Counseling in Warrington, PA. She provides therapy, academic coaching and assessment for children and adolescents who struggle with academic demands, anxiety, depression, and ADHD. Additionally, Dr. Jansen works with adults who are navigating life transitions, including college, marriage, divorce, and parenting.