The 3 Most Important Ways to Strengthen Relationships

Want to strengthen your relationships with others? Improve your life using these three tips to improve your relationships with friends, coworkers, and family.

Man and woman holding hands on a swing set, learn how to strengthen relationships

Relationships take work, but the rewards of a healthy one are innumerable. The difference between someone who knows how to maintain and strengthen relationships and someone who has a track record of losing friends and family comes down to a few key factors. Knowing what these key factors are will determine how happy you are in your interpersonal relationships.

1. APOLOGIZE. Apologizing can be tough. Saying you’re sorry is difficult because it requires the humility to admit you’re wrong, and most of us hate admitting that we make mistakes. The truth is that you’re guaranteed to do something wrong in your lifetime, and apologizing can help you move on from those mistakes. The key to apologizing is honesty and accepting blame, so when you apologize, keep it simple yet meaningful. Say, “I’m sorry I made fun of the necklace you’re wearing. It hurt your feelings and it was rude of me.” Don’t follow it up with a qualification like, “I’m sorry I made fun of the necklace you’re wearing; it’s just that it’s super ugly.” Nope—acknowledge the mistake you made and apologize. Don’t make it awkward, just make it honest. 

Related: Cultivate some happiness

2. FORGIVE. There will likely be thousands of instances in your life when friends, coworkers, or family will offend you. Sometimes they’ll apologize to you and sometimes they won’t. Another great way to strengthen relationships is to forgive those who have offended you whether they have apologized or not. Allowing resentment to percolate poisons relationships and can ultimately kill them. There’s even evidence that forgiving others can improve your mental and your physical health. Just like apologizing, forgiving others gets easier the more often you do it. You’ll find that forgiving people you know makes it easier to forgive people you don’t know, like that guy in the truck who cut you off or the cashier who messed up your order. You’ll carry with you a greater sense of peace.

3. LISTEN. You can’t develop relationships with people around you if you don’t listen to them, and that includes both verbal and nonverbal communication. Truly listening is one of the greatest gifts you can give, especially in an age where we walk around with our thumbs on our phones, trying to text and listen at the same time. Put the phone down and be present for those around you. It’s a great idea to practice active listening skills like maintaining eye contact and acknowledging what was said. Listening denotes respect, so those around you feel loved and appreciated. Another benefit to listening is that you’ll understand people better, which will naturally lead to developing greater empathy. You’ll be less annoyed, more tuned in, and people will gravitate to you more naturally.

Related: The Power of Being Grateful

Life is really about the experiences we have and the relationships we foster with those around us. Yes, people can be frustrating, but when you commit yourself to be better at forgiving, apologizing, and listening, you’ll find that you’re able to maintain and strengthen relationships while cultivating a more meaningful life. And that’s definitely worth the effort.

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