Five Things You Can Do to Improve Your Relationships Now

Thursday, May 31, 2018 @ 1:49 PM

When individuals seek counseling their relationships are often directly or indirectly affected by the issues they are facing. Counseling can help by providing an objective point of view and tools to help build communication and understanding between people, but you don't have to wait to make some immediate changes that will begin to improve your relationships now. Here are some tips that can help:

1. Learn to listen non-judgmentally. You cannot force another person to change but many people try to. The more you push the more they resist. You might even be able to compel the other person to change, for you, for someone else, or for a secondary gain (such avoiding a breakup) but the truth is, lasting change will only come from an internal transformation.

The renowned psychologist Carl Rogers founder of the "person centered approach" to understanding personality, proposed that all individuals have a concept of the person they should be, what he called the “ideal self”. Given the right environment they will grow toward that “ideal self”. In the wrong environment, that "ideal" is something that they see as continually out of reach.

When a individual doesn't feel valued by others they tend to devalue themselves as well. They can become defensive and resistant to change. That does not suggest that they need others to approve of their behavior, but rather that others listen and try to understand their perspective.

Rogers believed that most people know what they need to change, but the truth often hurts, which is why they tend to push back when pressured. When someone feels valued as a person they are more likely to accept the possibility of change without being pressured.

2. Don’t spend the time another person is speaking formulating your response: Just try listening. If you’re thinking of what you’re going to say next, you’re not really listening. Sometimes, especially during a heated conversation, there is a tendency to ignore what others are saying and focus on why they are saying it, even going after their motivation (“why are you bringing this up now?).

Reacting this way is essentially ignoring the message and attacking the messenger. Thus, healthy communication ends and a conversation becomes a battle of words, with each party defending themselves and attacking the other. At this point the whole point of the conversation may be lost. “What were we talking about actually?”

Show that you are listening by “reflecting”, restating what the other person said in your own words: “What you are saying then is that you feel unappreciated?”.

3. Not every statement requires a response. Don’t “one up” others with your similar or more terrible experience. Learn to be comfortable with silence. Silence gives power to a person’s words. It can encourage the other person to continue talking or go deeper. It can also give power to hurtful words when they are directed toward you. Silence can be more effective at demonstrating that word hurt than than a verbal retort that hits back.

4. Speak using “I” statements. Statements prefaced by "You" tend to be confrontational and critical. For example, “You don't care about me” is more confrontational than “It feels to me as if you don't care". The first assumes the other person is uncaring. The second is a personal statement. There is a difference. You statements tend to be attacks and cause defensiveness. I statements are more effective at keeping communication open and resolving issues.

5. Share power. This doesn’t require much explanation. A healthy relationship involves sharing power. People who continually demand their way usually end up in frequent unsuccessful relationships.