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.
25 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 ones. Focus your energy on encouraging others and your relationships will grow.
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.
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 other’s 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 an 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 in.
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 things, forgive yourself for past mistakes, listen to other people’s ideas, and surprise people with 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, and 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 prayer 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 the 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 of comfort.
“I believe that you can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” -Zig Ziglar
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.
You can’t strengthen relationships with people you don’t spend time with and invest in. Consistently interact with people you want to get closer to. This can be done over the phone, via Zoom, by text, email, and old-school letter writing.
24. Grow Yourself
People gravitate toward confident and passionate people. Taking time to develop your skills, hobbies, and passions will draw healthy people your way. Don’t fall into the trap of feeling compelled to sacrifice a significant personal pursuit to help someone else grow.
25. Talk with an Expert
A professional can help you find insist into your relationship blind sports. Find a mentor or licensed mental health professional you trust to provide insight into obstacles that might be sabotaging your relationships.
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.