Great relationships are one of the foundations of a happy and fulfilled life – both for our work and business as well as our home and personal lives. But how can we make them better?
The need for intimacy and connection is one of the basic emotional must-haves for good mental health. Enjoying connected, communicative relationships with people who understand and appreciate us helps to validate us, gives us a sense of belonging and makes life easier, more rewarding and much, much happier.
Whether we’re talking to our partner, clients, colleagues, friends, family or children, we all want to have that wonderful feeling of belonging – of being seen, heard and valued.
10 tips to help you enjoy better relationships with everyone
So how can we have better relationships? Coach Ebonie Allard shares her top ten tips to help you build and enjoy better relationships with everyone you encounter in your life.
1) Listen to your gut
Your gut always tells you the truth. That niggle you get in your belly when you meet a person that isn’t good for you? Or the easy, contented feeling you get when you trust someone? That is all GOOD information.
Practice listening to your gut, and develop your intuition. As a freelancer or business owner, experience teaches us to listen to our instincts about people. After one or two interactions with a customer or client who we had a ‘feeling’ about and who indeed turned out to be a nightmare, we usually learn to trust our gut! If you haven’t learned this lesson yet, learn it today. Trust yourself.
2) Have a physical practice
Dance, yoga, lift, swim, run, walk, jiggle – I don’t care what it is that you do, but find some way of moving your body and practice breathing and moving regularly.
I’m a bit of an evangelist about this, but probably not for the reasons you think. Having a physical practice increases your connection to self, enables embodiment, teaches respect and cultivates a relationship with your body which will impact on other areas of your life.
Feeling proud, confident and more able impacts so heavily on how you feel about yourself and how you interact with others as a result. Plus there are all those physical benefits you already know about!
3) Ask for what you need
Not everyone is a mind reader. So how do you expect people to know what you need or want if you don’t communicate it?
If you do this in a really matter of fact way, without emotional attachment, people will always respond by helping out if they can. The sooner you ask, and the less ‘baggage’ you ask with, the more likely people will do everything they can to assist.
I use a system called PIES:
- P is Physical – what are the facts/data about the situation?
- I is Intellectual – what is the story you are telling yourself about this situation?
- E is Emotional – how do you feel? Mad? Sad? Glad? Bad?
- S is Spiritual – in this context, what do you want or need (bearing in mind the other person may not give it to you if is something outside of your control).
4) Be responsible for your own feelings
In the words of the author Abraham-Hicks, “Tell everyone you know: My happiness depends on me, so you’re off the hook.” And then demonstrate it.
Be happy, no matter what other people are doing. Practice feeling good, no matter what. In time, you will not give anyone else responsibility for the way you feel – and then, you’ll love them all!
The only reason you don’t love them now is because you’re using them as your excuse to not feel good. So tell people “You are not responsible for my feelings.” The look on my clients faces when I tell them this in our sessions is priceless.
The truth is that only we are responsible for our own happiness – and when we relieve other people and situations of this responsibility we become free (we also liberate ourselves of the burden of making other people happy – something that may just be impossible).
So how can you learn to be more responsible for your own feelings? Think of situations where you maybe expect too much of someone else, and often feel disappointed or let down because they don’t deliver. And next time, try to place so much expectations on them – just accept them for who and what they are, flaws and all. You’ll find this much easier to do when your own happiness isn’t dependent on their actions.
5) Allow yourself to be vulnerable
Allowing yourself to be seen as you are, with all your imperfections, is truly inspiring and beautifully empowering! By being perfectly imperfect you are giving others permission to do so too.
True connection usually happens when you are being completely honest and open about yourself – faults and all. To truly accept yourself is not just liberating for yourself, but an incredibly attractive trait. It shows you are confident and that you like yourself enough to accept your imperfections.
When you aren’t confident enough to be vulnerable and open yourself up to others, you often become defensive instead – fearful that others may spot your flaws (which we all have) and eager to disguise them. But this defensiveness often just leads to the same in others – and sometimes even attack.
Only when the dynamics of defence and attack are removed is there space for quality, meaningful connection. So next time you speak to someone, be frank about your weaknesses (and your strengths). You may be surprised at how they respond. Instead of judging or thinking bad of you, they may just open up and confess their own worries or faults. And in that shared honesty, stronger, more genuine personal and professional bonds are built.
6) Learn to really listen
Listening may seem a simple skill, but it’s an often under-used one. Often in conversations we’re not really listening to the other person speak – we’re waiting for them to finish so we can talk.
Sometimes we think we are showing that we are listening by relaying a similar experience or sharing our interpretation of what the other person has said. And there are occasions where this is the perfect response. But sometimes, all of us just want to be heard – without being fixed, or advised or normalised.
So practice listening to others – and asking them to ‘just’ listen to you too if that’s what you need.
It’s easy to judge someone else, but taking the time to put yourself in their shoes and imagine what life or a particular situation might be like for them, will make your interactions with them much easier. And this means thinking about how things may be for them, and maybe even asking questions and listening to the answers.
When we take the time to understand someone’s needs and wants, we are much better placed to deliver them. And this can help us not just to enjoy more rewarding relationships with friends, family, colleagues and clients – but also help us become more professionally successful too.
After all, if you know what your manager, client or customer is struggling with, you are better-placed to help them. This will help you gain better contracts at work (and maybe even promotions), deliver more successful freelance work and earn more repeat business.
8) Have compassion
It’s important to remember that we are all just doing our best. We don’t know what someone’s story or current situation is – that grumpy man you just spoke to on the phone may have lost his wife this morning. Or may be battling physical or mental ill-health.
So try to be patient with other people. If someone is truly unpleasant to deal with, be polite and fair, and just make a mental note not to work with them again if you can help it. Or minimise your interactions and the impact they have on your life.
There may be times too when you are tired and short with people, or just having a rotten day. And you’ll be grateful for a friend or client overlooking a snappy response, or your children forgiving you for overreacting to something minor.
Try to practice that same understanding and patience with others too. Not only will it make immediate situations easier to deal with, but in the long term people will appreciate your patience, enjoy their interactions with you more, and be more drawn to you (professionally and personally).
9) Don’t try to manipulate others
Remember you have control of your thoughts, your actions, your behaviour and your beliefs, and try not to manipulate those of others – it’s a waste of your energy and it destroys connection.
Think back to tip number four – you are responsible for your feelings. When you accept this, you don’t need to place that burden on others, and manipulate them to fulfill your emotional needs.
Giving others the freedom to make their own decisions, and then deal with any consequences they may have on you is not just empowering for yourself, but gives others a freedom they will respect and enjoy.
How often have you encountered someone who manipulated you into doing, saying or thinking something that wasn’t your first choice? How did it make you feel? Did you want to spend more time with that person as a result, or would you try to avoid dealing with them again if you could?
If we make others feel happy and confident, they’ll choose to spend more time with us – whether they’re friends, family, colleagues or customers. And we can help to do that by respecting them enough to let them say and do what they need, without manipulating them.
In order to give others the attention, patience and energy they deserve, we need to have it ourselves! And yet all too often we’re frazzled – spreading ourselves too thinly between work and our family responsibilities. And that’s when we make poor decisions and find ourselves being unreasonably impatient and unsympathetic to others (and snapping at the kids!).
So try to take the time each day to just sit quietly for a while – even if it’s just for five or ten minutes. Learn to be comfortable with silence. This is you connecting with yourself, the earth, everything – after all we’re all one, just energy and funny little particles.
By spending time clearing the day and the societal ADHD before connecting with your friends, partner, clients, colleagues and kids, you will be able to give them the full attention they so deserve.
Reap the rewards better relationships bring
While there may be times you need to bite your tongue, or be patient with a tricky person, making the effort to enjoy better relationships pays dividends.
Your work life, freelance career and business will improve, and you can feel happier, more fulfilled and empowered.