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How to: Improve interpersonal relationships Featured

Written by Deborah Tan

interpersonalWritten by Deborah Tan

Strong interpersonal relationships are essential in leading a happy and meaningful life. For many individuals, having strong relationships with family, friends and the community gives us pleasure and makes us healthier. According to Harvard Health Watch, studies have shown that people who have great relationships are happier, healthier and live longer.

To help you become a happier person,

here are eight ways you could work on improving your relationships – and even yourself. Follow these suggestions and you’ll find that life is a lot easier, you’re a lot more happier.


#1. Open your ears and listen with an open mind


Listening is vital to conflict resolution. Says Rachel Naomi Remen, Professor at the Oster Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco: “The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen.”

When resolving conflicts, it is critical to pay attention to what the speaker has to say and focus on the words he or she uses in order to understand what is being said. Pay attention to the points being made, instead of mentally preparing your response. When resolving a conflict, active listening helps you find out the root cause of the problem and or what’s upsetting someone. Do not be quick to respond; instead, nod and sincerely say “I understand” to show the receiving party that you are not just listening but also showing care and concern.

For a start, consider listening to what others’ have to say and try thinking from their perspective. Also, listen with one goal in mind: to understand the other person’s point of view.


#2. Be honest with yourself


Honesty is the best policy. When resolving conflicts, it’s good to be honest about how you feel and why you’re feeling this way. Being honest and open about one’s feelings brings people closer and helps to build and or re-build trust and understanding in the process.

For conflict affected parties, being honest not only helps to resolve the misunderstanding, but also strengthens the relationship, thereby minimizing future conflicts.

This brings us to our next point: not giving others’ the cold shoulder.


#3. Avoid giving the cold shoulder

No news is good news…but giving others’ the silent treatment can ruin a relationship. New York therapist Jane Greer calls silent treatment the “equivalent of a deadly emotional assassination.”

Similarly, Tina Gilbertson, counsellor and author of the tome ‘Constructive Wallowing: How to beat bad feelings by letting yourself have them’ says: “The silent treatment’s caused by a combination of hurt feelings and an unwillingness to talk about them.”

“It’s easy to think of the silent person as holding the power in the situation, but he/she often feels small and powerless. He/she really has no idea what to do and or say and withdraws.”

Although it is emotionally easy to let the matter rest, avoid doing so lest the issue stews for too long and this might lead to future misunderstandings. More often than not, when simple issues are left unresolved, they snowball into an irreparable hurt as the resentment builds.

#4. Don’t play the blame game


Every relationship goes through turbulent times and it takes two people to resolve the differences. Part of resolving conflicts is about how differences are resolved.

In most disagreements, there’s no clear definition on who’s right and or wrong. Hence, it’s helpful for both parties to take a step back and refrain from putting the blame on each other. Instead, focus on the objective: resolving the conflict.

Depending on the nature of the conflict, an apology or words of appreciation/gratitude can diffuse tension faster than anything else.


#5. Put yourself in people’s shoes  


Most disagreements are caused by a lack of understanding of the other party’s perspective. Sometimes it helps to put yourself in the other party’s shoes in order to see from their perspective. Doing so helps the other party feel that you sincerely care for them.  


#6. Be polite, be kind


There’s a popular biblical saying that goes, “Do what you want others to do unto you.” If you want the other party to respect your wishes, think about what you should say to get the response you want. As a rule of thumb, when resolving conflicts, enter a negotiation with an open mind and listen to what the other party(ies) have to say. And think before you talk – or you might regret what you say.

The bottom-line? Think before you talk.


#7. Watch how you react


If you find yourself getting defensive, angry or fearful during a conversation and or discussion with a family member, relative and or friend, it might be a good idea to introspectively evaluate why are feeling that way. And on the spot. Ask yourself, “Did somebody do something to hurt you in the past?”, “What triggered those unhappy or bitter feelings?”, “Are your responses and reactions linked to insecurity?” Being more self-aware can give a better perspective about why you react a certain way to certain topics and can help you to respond more objectively.


#8. Be gracious


Graciousness is an art worth mastering and it takes plenty of practice to become skilled at smiling at someone whose ideas you don’t agree with and carry on a conversation. The Oxford English Dictionary defines being gracious as “courteous, kind and pleasant, especially towards someone of lower social status.”

So, what exactly does that mean?

To simply put, the art of graciousness is about how you make people around you feel. If you want people around you to feel good, be good to them.

For a start, listen to what people have to say. Try analysing the person’s message and decipher his/her reasons for telling you why. Don’t be too quick to answer; you don’t want to be caught in a sticky situation where you will be asked to explain yourself and or take sides.

Conflict resolution isn’t always easy but with careful care and consideration, resolving conflicts can be done.

Furthermore, living together as a family means spending plenty of time with different characters under one roof and that alone can cause tensions to rise in the event of a disagreement. Looking on the bright side, it takes a lot of hard work to improve interpersonal relationships – but that can be done so long as you believe it to be true.