22 Tips for Strengthening Relationships

The ULTIMATE Relationship Building Guide


In 2014 I challenged myself to write and publish a post in less than 2 hours. Oddly enough, nothing has received more views on the Decide Your Legacy website than this article on relationships titled 12 Dating & Marriage Building Activities.

Striving for perfection destroys creativity. Constraints (e.g. a 2 hour deadline) help you let go and trust yourself with tasks and relationships rather than getting stuck in your head. 

I’m challenging myself again to write and publish in less than 120 minutes. If you want to build great relationships at home and work, the tips below can help.

20 Relationship Tips

1. The 6 to 1 Rule

I first learned about this from relationships expert and researcher John Gottman. Healthy relationships have approximately 6 times more positive interactions than negative. Focus your energy on encouraging others and your relationships will to grow. 

2. Smile

A genuine smile attracts good people. Don’t hold back. If you don’t feel like smiling, try  fake it by intentionally changing your facial expression. Choosing to smile, when you don’t feel friendly, and/or choosing to engage people, when you feel like isolating, will impact your perspective positively.

3. Remember & Use First Names

I first learned this concept, and about other tips in this article, from Dale Carnegies’s classic How to Win Friends & Influence People. A person’s first name is the word they love to hear the most. Pronounce and spell it correctly and use it often.

4. Talk About THEIR Interests

Discuss what they’re interested in. If you don’t feel interested in what they like, find a way to engage them anyway. Most people find they can enjoy activities and topics they were convinced you wouldn’t like when they approach people this way. 

5. Be Honest

True honesty takes courage! The tendency to please others and say what you hope others want to hear is a very strong tendency in most. In my experience a person who is truly honest with themselves first (e.g. owning what they really think and feel) is a rare find and makes for a trusted friendship. People pleasing doesn’t build trust or respect, but a courageously honest person does, even if you disagree with them. 

6. Listen With Genuine Curiosity

Listening is hard work. Cultivating curiosity is often hard work as well. Both are essential to excel socially. The anxious tendency to formulate an answer before understanding someone is an addiction for many. Here’s an activity I give to couples that will help. 

Speaker/Listener Activity
Look over the Speaking/Listener Bookmark and read through the Speaker Listener Technique handout. Practice using this with different light-hearted topics (e.g. what happened during the day, funny experiences today, etc.). After you have gotten more comfortable with the tool on lighter topics, try it with more triggering topics. Another way to practice this skill is to pick a question as a topic from the 50 Questions pdf and discuss your answers.

7. View Conflict as an Opportunity

Two people having perceivably opposing perspectives on an important issue CAN be very positive. New ideas arise out of conflict! Take the time to grasp the others perspective before making judgments. The strongest relationships ALWAYS form through weathering storms together. 

8. Be Curious (Ask Questions)

People intuitively know when someone is genuinely interested in their life. They also know when they’re viewed as a inconvenience. Treat people as if they have tremendous value, regardless of their position or standing in life, and they’ll love you for it. Here’s an article to help you grow your curiosity on  My 20 Favorite Questions to Ask Clients

9. Open Up

Share how you feel, both the good and bad emotions. Don’t be weird about it, just remember that transparency opens the door for trust to form. When people see you as real, they’ll start to trust you. Here’s an activity I challenge most clients to engage. 

Communicate/Journal Your Feelings Activity
Once each day, write down 2 positive and 2 negative emotion you’ve felt earlier or the day before. Use a Feelings Wheel and/or my Emotions Bookmark for ideas of specific emotions. Answer the following questions about those 2 emotions and consider sharing what you wrote down with someone you trust. a. Why do I feel this way? (e.g. what happened?) b. What does this feeling tell me about myself? (e.g. unmet need, desire, etc.) 

10. Be Flexible

If you’ve done counseling or counseling with me, or heard me speak, then most likely you’ve heard me say “rigidity is the cardinal trait of all mental illness”. Flexibility is where I personally struggle the most and I’m working on it. Change, try new thing, forgive yourself for past mistakes, listen to other people’s ideas, and surprise people by your willingness to LIVE LIFE. You’ll soon realize that you’ve been missing out. Fight the tendency to want everything in order. Accept life on life’s terms. 

11. Take a Risk

By taking a risk, I mean doing something where you are vulnerable and could get rejected. Try something new. Ask a colleague out to lunch, share with someone what you appreciate about them, tell that special person you like them, open up about how you feel when you normally hold back. Play a new game or take a day off. 

12. Don’t Take it Personally

Remember that most people are not trying to intentionally annoy and irritate you. Sure, relationships are tough, but try and give people the benefit of the doubt. Grow some thicker skin. A favorite fun read on this topic is called Rhinoceros Success. It’s a book I try and read every couple of years. 

13. Don’t Criticize & Complain

Criticism is often driven by self protection. Bite your tongue regardless of the temptation to be critical. Your mind (e.g. psych) can be filled with lies to protect you from getting hurt. Even if you don’t know someone well, point out what you admire, appreciate, and are thankful for about them. Here’s a helpful article on the topic called How To Be Less Critical & More Encouraging

14. Help Them Succeed

People are used to having others around them who doubt them. This may sound pretty harsh, but it’s common to want to look for ways to feel superior. Insecurity is much more common than healthy self-confidence. Find out what someone’s goals are and do what you can to help them succeed. Check out 18 Ways to Build Self Confidence for ways to build security within. 

15. Share Your Personal Goals

It’s great to let people know what you’re striving for in life. Don’t boast and brag, just be open. If you hope to pay off your student loan debt in 2 years, letting others know you might inspire them to do the same. If you want to lost 20 pounds by Christmas, take a risk and tell someone. Other goal driven people will be drawn to you!

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16. Support Their Personal Goals

If you have an idea of what someone else is striving for, help them succeed the best you can. This is one of the best things you can ever do in life. Help others and you’re helping yourself. Wish the worst for others, by letting your ego suck you into jealousy, and you lose big. 

“A rising tide lifts all ships” – JFK

17. Pray for Them (i.e. Wish them the best)

Whether you believe God answers pray or not, hoping for the best for someone will start the process of changing your outlook for them. Relax for a few minutes and meditate on all you appreciate about someone. 

18. Let Go of the Outcome

Often the best outcome is more likely than the worst outcome. Choose to focus on best possible outcome. When you let go, sure you can get hurt, but you also allow the miracles to happen. 

19. Be Yourself

You can only be yourself if you are honest with yourself. Having the courage to be yourself starts with loving and accepting YOU. Identify the traits you love in yourself and intentionally choose to let other people see those traits. If you need help identifying your positive qualities, ask a close friend to help. Use the worksheet that goes along with this article A transformational Self Confidence Building Activity as a resource. 

20. Pet Their Dog (or cat)

Not kidding here! People love their animals. If they are passionate about their snake or their daughter’s pet rats, take the time to get to know more about the pets. Prove to them that they are more important to you than your own level comfort. 

21. See Rejection as an Opportunity

When I started Decide Your Legacy in 2012, I had the attitude that rejection was a step in the direction of success. This attitude, gave me the confidence to take risks, meet new people, and do things where I could fail. The willingness to experience rejection, and not take it so personally, helped me succeed. 

22. Maintain Boundaries

No respect is built when you say “yes” when you KNOW you want to say “no”. Respond to boundary violations with consequences (physical distance, verbal & sometimes legal). Sometimes you don’t really care, but when it’s clear you don’t want something, make sure you express yourself. Good people are drawn to others who love themselves. Good people are attracted to those with healthy boundaries. 

Take Action

These are some simple and, for the most part, fun ways to strengthen relationships. Incorporate one each day, or even each week, and experience the positive impact. If you like my style, go through my online coaching course Tune Up For Life by yourself or with a friend or spouse. Transform your relationships by learning about having a healthy perspective, loving yourself better, living with balance, living out your core values and life purpose, goal setting, developing healthy habits, and more.

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