7 Habits to Happier Relationships

Our theme for April 2017, here at Fresh Air Fridays, is happy relationships. I think you can improve the quality of your relationships if you have a genuine desire to do so. 

By increasing your awareness of the people around you and taking a look at the seven steps, I think you’ll be able to make a positive change.

1. Nobody makes you feel anything!

When I ask a group of people if anyone has ever made them angry or frustrated almost everyone says yes. The fact is, that’s what they think, but it’s not the truth.

When someone says or does something, we react to it based on our interpretation of what they’ve done. It’s not the other person who has made us cross, it’s the conclusions we come to that makes us feel the way we do. Understanding this helps us to realise that we can choose to feel differently

2. Tell a better story

Everything in our head is simply a story, so we can tell it however we choose. If our interpretation has created a story that doesn’t help us, we can always create another story.

The fact someone ignored me when I walked past them earlier doesn’t have to mean that I’ve upset them, it could simply be that they were worried about something and too absorbed to notice me.

3. Fill your own tank

Don’t run on empty; don’t spend your life doing things for other people without taking care of yourself.

It’s important to take responsibility for having your own needs met, and to look after your own health and happiness – without any expectation that others will take care of you. Make time for the things you love and make sure you are looking after you.

I used to expect my husband to be a mind reader and know what I needed him to do for me. Now I look after myself I am much better able to enjoy being with him. As the late Jim Rohn used to say: “Will you look after you for me, if I look after me for you?”

If you make time for the things that make you happy, you’ll have so much more to give to others.

4. Commit 100% but have no expectation of the other person

Relationships take commitment. If you have a relationship you really want to work you need to commit 100%. There’s no point saying you will do 50% and hoping the other person will do 50% – they may, but they may not and that’s out of your control.

What you can control though is how you show up, what you do and say. Don’t do it with any expectation of the other person doing anything differently. Don’t think “if I do this, then they will do that”, do what you choose to do because that is what you choose to do. Whatever you commit to, do it with joy.

5. The art of listening

Listening seems such an obvious and simple thing to do. But, we so often have conversations where we are already thinking about our response as the other person is still speaking, or waiting for them to finish speaking so we can make a point, or tell them we know exactly how they feel. If you really stop and think about it, how often do you really listen, without agenda, or interruption?

It’s a real gift to listen to another person, perhaps repeating back what you think you heard and checking in with them; perhaps asking a question to get real clarity on what they’ve said. It has a significant impact and the person who has been heard often feels very connected to the listener. As Stephen Covey would say: “Seek first to understand and then to be understood.”

6. Ask without expectation

When you’ve really listened to the other person, don’t be afraid to ask if you have a request, but don’t have an expectation that the other person will agree. 

If you ask without expectation the other person can give an honest answer. For example, a request to cook dinner could be responded to with either “I’d love to” or “I’m sorry but I don’t feel comfortable doing that”. If you’ve asked without expectation neither response will upset you.

7. Respect/admire, Appreciate, be Grateful (RAG)

It’s important, especially through tough times in a relationship, to be able to keep an awareness of what you’re grateful for and what you appreciate, respect and admire about the other person. It can sometimes be useful to go away and write these things down to remind yourself of the positive qualities of this person.

Having an increased awareness, noticing three things you appreciate about the people you interact with and finding opportunities to actively sharing your appreciation really helps to cement relationships.

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written by

Ruth Steggles