Happy people tend to have fulfilling friendships. While we must not count on others for our self-worth, we do benefit from building healthy relationships with others.
Here are five ways to build healthy relationships.
There is a reason that God gave us two ears and one mouth. Listening to others strengthens relationships because it says that they matter to us.
In the early days of my marriage, after attending a social event my husband and I would return home talking about the people we had met there. He would always share all the things he had learned about various people, some of whom I thought I knew well. When I asked him how he learned so much about people in just a few hours time, he said “While you’re busy talking, I’m listening.”
People enjoy talking about themselves, so if you just listen you will learn about them and make them feel valued in the process.
2. Give it time
Building healthy relationships takes time. While we can often get a good feeling about someone on first meeting them, deep and strong relationships require many interactions over time.
We’ve grown accustomed to fast food, fast transportation and fast communication. Developing a strong friendship is not typically done fast. Avoid rushing to “best friend” status, and work at creating long-lasting relationships that grow over time.
3. Set and respect boundaries
While I was attending a networking meeting recently a new member entered the room. When I reached to shake her hand, she put her hands together in prayer-like position, bowed, and explained that she doesn’t like shaking hands. For each new person she met she explained her unwillingness to shake hands.
For this member, a clear boundary was drawn.
While you may not have the same boundary she had, you certainly have limits to what type of touching, behavior or even conversation you allow in your presence.
Some people are happy to welcome surprise visitors to their home, but I prefer visitors to call first.
Other people are happy to meet you at a restaurant for meals, but don’t like having entertaining people at home.
Then there are people who require that you leave your shoes at the door before entering their home.
Setting your own and respecting the boundaries of others gives us comfort by letting us know what to expect. People who are unable or unwilling to respect your boundaries have no place in your circle of friends.
4. Stay in touch.
Most people spend at least half of their waking hours at work, commuting and completing other day to day tasks.
It’s easy for time to pass by without talking to and visiting with friends you enjoy. If you want to maintain your own happiness, it’s essential that you stay in touch with valued relations.
You can stay in touch in person by visiting and enjoying activities together. But you can also stay in touch using the many forms of communication available to us. The important thing here is to make it a priority to make occasional contact to ensure strong healthy relationships.
5. Give mutual support.
Keep healthy relationships by not only lending a listening ear, but also being of assistance when needed.
One friend was recently laid off from her job. I immediately put her in touch with a number of contacts who may be able to help her. Each time I see an announcement of a job fair or other employment opportunity I email it to her.
A healthy relationship is one where you care about what matters to the other person and give your support when possible.
Sometimes your support may involve holding someone’s hand when they are grieving or another time volunteering to help them with an overwhelming task.
The measure and extent of support varies by situations, of course, but healthy strong relationships are strengthened when you give mutual support.
These five ways to build relationships only work when they are reciprocated. Trying to build a relationship with someone who isn’t equally willing to do these five things is like building only half a bridge. Without the cooperation, participation and involvement of the other person, you essentially have no relationship at all.