Published: Oct. 3, 2018

Whether it’s with a friend, family member or significant other, our relationships can be a supportive and meaningful aspect of our lives. While they can be a source of fun and happiness, we all have to put in effort and time to keep these relationships working well. Consider these tips for strengthening current and new relationships.

two students sit on a bench on campus, talkingKnow and stick to your values

Our values are the aspects of our lives we believe to be most important. Our values generally determine our priorities and influence our actions. When our actions and our lives generally align with our values, we feel pleased and satisfied; and, when they don’t, we can feel sad, stressed or conflicted.

While the people we have relationships with don’t necessarily need to have the same values as us, it is important the relationship supports our values. While we often need to compromise to keep our relationships working well, these compromises should still be true to our values. Compromising at the cost of our values can put us in an unhealthy place that doesn’t feel quite right.

Get reasonable and honest with expectations

Each of us has a variety of needs and we often look to our relationships to help fill those needs. Sometimes we expect others to support us in ways that are unrealistic or in ways of which the other person simply isn’t aware. By understanding our own expectations and reflecting on how we communicate our needs, we can avoid being let down and find the kinds of relationships we’re looking for.

Listen to hear, not to respond

Effective communication is more than just hearing and understanding the words someone says. While the who, where, what and when are important, understanding the why is vital. We understand the why when we really focus on being an active listener.

When a friend tells us about their busy day, we may respond by telling them all the things we also have going on or we may jump in with ideas to fix the problem. If we focus on being an active listener by keeping the conversation focused on what they’re saying and refraining from immediately offering solutions, we might see that our friend just wants to feel heard and supported. Active listening allows us to take a step back and be the kind of friend we’d like to have.

When we think about our relationships with others, sometimes we need to start by examining ourselves. When we know what we expect to get out of a relationship, we have a much better idea of what’s going to work in that relationship and what won’t. Effective and open communication helps both people feel like they’re on the same page and allows each person to ask for what they need while staying true to their values.