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Five keys to better relationships

Updated on March 15, 2008



We develop relationships with those that are a part of our lives. It can be your spouse/significant other, friends, co-workers or employee/employers. The keys to better relationships works no matter the type of relationship. If you want to improve any or all your relationship, start using these keys.

The foundation for all good relationships is good communication. And the basis for good communication is active listening. Most people never really learn how to listen.

Have you ever been on the phone with someone and could hear them clicking away on their keyboard? Or shuffling papers? How did it make you feel? Not listened to. Like something was more important than what you had to say.

When you listen, listen with your full attention.

Don't break in while the person is still talking. Let them finish.

Listen to what they say, not just the words.

When you listen actively, with your full attention, the other person feels heard and understood. They feel like you care. The bond will grow and strengthen the more you utilize active listening.

Assuming and guessing

Quit assuming you know what someone else is thinking. You don't. Not fully anyway. Learn to ask your partner in the relationship about their wants, needs and feelings. Do not assume that you know.

If your partner is always guessing what is going on with you, gently tell them that it is much better to ask than to guess. Because most of the time your guess will not be accurate. Take the guess work out. Assumptions are often incorrect and lead to miscommunication. They can seriously damage a relationship.

Focus on the good

Our brains are trained to filter out most of the information that comes our way. We have a system (the reticular activation system) that filters out those things that has no bearing on our lives. You have probably heard the example about how you never notice a particular make, model and color of a car until you acquire one. Then you see them everywhere.

Well the same system works the same way in our relationships. If we get focused on the negative things a person does, we tend just to see the negative. And since we do not focus on the good, the negative looms much larger. If you want to have good, positive, healthy relationships, learn to focus on the positive.

When you disagree

It is highly unlikely that you will ever have any relationship where there are not some disagreements. It is bound to happen. The way you handle disagreements will have a major impact on the quality of the relationship. What we normally do is equate the disagreement with the person. And we attack the person.

You cannot expect everyone to be, do and think just like you do. Accept that people are different. Thank goodness. If everyone were exactly the same, it would be a dull world. But when these bumps happen, realize you can dislike or disagree with their actions or their beliefs. But do not attack the person. Limit your disagreement to the action. You will improve your relationships dramatically.

Quit trying to transform your partner

We have this natural tendency to think that the way we act and think is the best way there possibly is. And therefore by extension, we try to transform our relationship partners to our way of thinking or doing. It won't work. So don't waste your time and energy trying. It won't work and it tends to sour the relationship.

Learn to accept a person as they are. You don't want anyone trying to change you so what gives you the right to try and change someone else? If you and your relationship partner are so far apart that the relationship is not worth trying to salvage, recognize that. But quit trying to change the other person.


All relationships are in a sense partnerships. If you are going to have a healthy relationship, you need to understand that the relationship needs to be balanced. There must be give and take. One person does not get to set the rules, make the decisions or control everything in the relationship. Become aware of the dynamics of all your relationships. If you are trying to control the relationship, change your attitude. Make it more a sharing relationship.

If you are in a relationship where someone is trying to control the relationship, try to guide them to a more positive role. If they won't, then you must question the value of the relationship.

To recap the keys to better relationships:

Learn to listen

Eliminate assuming and guessing what the other person is thinking

Focus on the good

Dislike the action, not the person

Quit trying to change the other person


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