3 students walking together near the Leeds business school

Our lives are built on relationships: significant others, roommates, family, friends, coworkers. Regardless of what kind of relationships we have, making an effort can go a long way in creating a lasting bond. Here are 4 tips to help you build better relationships. 

1: Take your time

College is often hailed as the place where you finally find “your people”. However, you may also feel pressured to find them as quickly as possible. While it may seem like you need to identify a core group of friends right away, the truth is, lasting relationships can take time. If you haven’t found a group of close friends yet, that’s normal! Take your time, and get to know the people around you. You may be surprised who you find.

2: Allow yourself to rely on more than one relationship

Each of us has unique needs, and we often look to our relationships to fill them. While it would be nice to have an all-in-one person to go to, it’s more likely that different people will fulfill our needs differently. For instance, you may have a friend that is a great confidant, a classmate you really like to study with, a family member who you enjoy talking to on the phone or a person who is great for coffee dates. Allow people to show up for you in different ways, and be open to different kinds of relationships with a variety of people. Even if they don’t turn out to be your best friend for life, having people to go to for different things can help expand your circle and give you more shoulders to lean on in tough times.

3: Know your non-negotiables

Take some time to think about your values: what you believe, expect, cherish and prioritize in life. Explore ways that you can align yourself and your relationships to those values. Remember that your life and relationships may not always align exactly, and it’s important to understand that other people may not have the same values as you. That’s okay! 

Knowing your values can help you to know where you stand and when you need to draw the line on what matters most. Small compromises are a given in any relationship, but you should be careful not to compromise yourself or your core values for the sake of any relationship.

For instance, if you are in recovery or choosing to be substance-free, but your close friends often urge you to party with them, it may be time to take a step back and evaluate the dynamics of your relationship. It can be helpful to share your values with those closest to you and let them know where you stand. Communicating and sharing your values with the people around you lets them know what is important to you and what your boundaries are. 

4: Listen first, speak second

Don’t worry, we’re all guilty of it: listening just enough so that we can formulate our own response. While we may be able to get away with this in the short term, it’s important to really listen to each other in relationships, especially if we want them to be long-lasting.

Try taking a step back to really listen to the people in your life. Ask questions and clarify what you hear. Show interest in the things they’re saying and invite them to share more. Giving people our undivided attention helps us become better communicators and makes them feel heard. When it’s your turn to speak, ask for them to do the same for you. It may take some practice, but it’ll be well worth it in the end.  

Resources for navigating relationships

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