14 Ways to Master Healthy Relationships
Discord at work or at home? Trapped in professional or personal love/hate relationships?
Don't worry, you are not alone! As an Elite Life coach, business owner, friend, spouse, and consultant, I am well aware of dysfunctional relationships. Dysfunction is all around us; at home, in our workplaces, and in our communities. But why?
How can we have highly-educated, well-trained employees and colleagues yet can’t gain cohesiveness, buy-in, or desired outcomes? How can we go from a job we are passionate about… to a state of dreading going to work? How can we go from volunteering for an organization we truly believe in… to needing to back away from rampant toxicity? Most heartbreaking of all, how can we go from being in a really happy, healthy relationship… to not even wanting to be around that person anymore?
What went wrong? Who's to blame? Where's the breakdown?
The answer, I believe, is that over 90% of the dysfunction in relationships comes from our inability to communicate effectively. Effective communication is a vital skillset, but most of us have never been trained in it. Without the necessary communication skills compass, vital for success, we try to navigate our professional and personal worlds, running into trouble far too often. Learning and incorporating the elements of healthy communication can really make a positive difference in all areas of our lives. From creating high functioning teams, to employee engagement, to a happier home life, effective communication pays dividends.
“Foundations must be built on courage, vulnerability, honesty and self-work.”
How do we stop being part of the problem and become part of the solution?
In honor of Valentine’s Day, the great relationship holiday, and February being Heart Awareness Month, to begin charting your relationship solutions I share with you the effective communications compass of the Fourteen Pillars to Building and Sustaining Healthy Relationships. Keep in mind that the pillar foundations must be built on courage, vulnerability, honesty and self-work. Set the foundation, add the pillars, and your relationships will withstand the storms of life. As you develop these skills, you will be seen as a leader worthy of emulating.
The Fourteen Pillars of Healthy Relationships
1. Define – Learn how each party defines a relationship. Some variance is to be expected, but starkly contrasting values and convictions may render two parties incompatible.
2. Trust – Healthy relationships are built on trust. Trust is not required immediately and all at once, but rather it is earned bit by bit. Remember that you must trust and be trustworthy. Respect confidences, and don’t practice entrapment.
3. Boundaries – Setting, and respecting, boundaries is a crucial element of building trust. Boundaries should be comparable to maintain balance, and they may shift over time as the relationship develops. Boundaries may often include topics that are not up for discussion, such as business, religion, politics, family, or personal history.
4. Feedback – Giving and receiving feedback with emotional intelligence is vital to a relationship’s health. Learn to give and receive feedback in ways that will move the conversation and relationship forward. Don’t provide or respond to feedback during an emotional response. Take time to reflect without defensiveness or assigned motive, and then respond with I feel and I hear statements. Commit to calm and safe dialogue, and take a break if emotions run high again.
5. Think – Careless words can spill out quickly, but they may have long-lasting consequences. Being thoughtful with your words paves the way for productive dialogue. Before you speak, type, or post, use the THINK principle: Is it true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, kind?
6. Ask – Others can only meet your needs when you ask for support. Opening yourself up for help encourages trust, and it helps the other person get to know how to care for you. In mutually supportive relationships, the parties begin to understand each other’s needs intuitively, and receiving the right kind of help truly lifts your burdens.
7. Apologize – Own your mistakes, admit them without excuse, apologize, and ask for forgiveness. If you’ve built trust, it’s okay to explore the circumstances that brought you to the mistake, but only do this for your own self-work. Never engage in blame-shifting.
8. Forgive – While forgiving doesn’t always mean forgetting, letting go of the anger does mean giving yourself the gift of peace. Continue forgiving for as long as you find you are holding onto anger or hurt. If you say you’ve forgiven, don’t bring up the issue later.
9. Self-Talk – A healthy relationship with yourself is the best relationship you can ever have. If your self-talk is critical and negative, you can’t expect to have healthy relationships with others. Practice positive self-talk, acknowledge and celebrate your own achievements, and engage in pursuits you enjoy. Turn your inner critic into a cheerleader for growth.
10. Empathy – Meet people where they are in their journey and seek to understand them in that space. Healthy relationships are built on exploring another’s perspective with respect and curiosity. Listen without judgment or competition and recognize that not every situation needs to be fixed. When support or advice is wanted, maintain empathy to choose wise and thoughtful words.
11. Listen – Practice listening to understand, not to respond. We are often so focused on getting our point across and not wanting to forget it that we interrupt or forget to listen at all. Absorb the other party’s thoughts and ideas for more productive discussion.
12. Attend – Acknowledge the importance of your relationship with your attention. When communicating, ask questions to make sure you understand, and invite people to share more deeply. Attend physically by making an effort to spend time together, showing up at important events, and keeping commitments.
13. Support – Give as well as you receive. Others may find it difficult to ask for help, so pay attention to non-verbal cues and offer support. Offer specific help with room for alternatives, and always fill the most tangible or practical needs when possible. Often, helping with simple things is much more appreciated than elaborate gestures.
14. Self-Awareness – Assess your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your habits and preferences. By getting to know yourself, you’ll strengthen your ability to relate to others, share perspective, and be objective.
By mindfully pursuing healthy relationships, we set the stage for more productive and rewarding experiences both professionally and personally. Think of one or two people right now with whom you’d like to make a deeper connection and begin applying these pillars. You’ll be amazed at what can happen when we set out to build strong, enduring relationships.
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