Relationships are so important and yet they are also so challenging. When you think about it relationships are what matter most in life because that is what people will remember. I have been doing a lot of funerals lately and am always reminded that none of know how long we have or how old we really are. That is why it is so important to make sure that we are working on the relationships in our lives. Checking our priorities to make sure we are actually putting things like family, spouse, children, friends and God at the top of the list. The real test is what we actually do, not what we say. That is where the real work comes in, putting effort into the important relationships.
Here are several principles that will improve all your relationships if applied:
- Choose your words wisely – There is great power in the tongue it can quickly cut someone down or build someone up. The way in which you talk to someone reveals a lot about the relationship. If there is sarcasm, belittling statement, swearing, name calling and no respect it shows a very unhealthy relationship. Often the way to start turning around a relationship is to change the words you are using.
- Actively Listen – This is different that just hearing what is said. To work at a relationship you need to actively listen by using good eye contact, and body language such as turning your body toward the person and giving them your full attention. It is also asking questions to clarify what the other person is saying. This is a huge key in avoiding misunderstandings which is the biggest cause of arguments.
- Resolve Conflicts – Working through conflict is vital for healthy relationships. When we have unresolved conflict it builds up under the surface of our relationship and and eventually comes back out, often in an unhealthy way. Here are a few do’s and don’ts when it come to conflict:
- Don’t bury the problem or the pain it’s causing you.
- Don’t use inflammatory remarks, sarcasm, or name-calling. Don’t generalize or exaggerate.
- Don’t let the conflict broaden to other issues.
- Never use ultimatums or threats.
- Don’t use disrespectful body language or demeaning nonverbal communication.
- Don’t interrupt, don’t raise your voice, don’t walk away or withdraw or hang up the phone in the middle of conflict.
- Do take time out to regain your composure.
- Do prepare for the confrontation before you engage in it.
- Do ask for advice on what you can do to help resolve the problem.
- Do use many encouraging and positive statements.
- When possible, reassure the person of your ongoing commitment to them and your desire to strengthen and build the relationship.
- Practice Forgiveness – Proverbs 10:12 says “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.” Anytime you get hurt, it is a great opportunity to respond with forgiveness and loving kindness. There is no act or attribute that is more pleasing to God than when we forgive one another. For any relationship to last, forgiveness must be ever present. To combat anger we must forgive.
- Fight against pride and selfishness – Those two things will cause the most damage in our relationships. To fight pride, practice humility which means thinking more about others than ourselves. It also means that we realize that we don’t know it all and that we can learn and grow. To fight selfishness we need to serve others. When we actively look to serve the people in our lives it shows our love and it also helps us to grow in character.
- Know what the other person’s love language is and speak it often – The five love languages are – Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Physical Touch and Giving Gifts.
I could keep going, but those are some of the best things we can do to improve any relationship that is important to us. Keep working at it, it is worth the effort. A healthy happy relationship will bring great joy and peace into your life.