- Show mutual respect
A sure way to sabotage or harm a perfectly good relationship is to disrespect the other and perhaps the most important element of a healthy relationship is mutual respect. We are all individual beings with our own unique version of what is right and wrong or what is important and what isn’t. So accept that in a relationship the feelings, desires, opinions and values of the other are important to them even if they aren’t for you. Showing respect for others in this way also shows them how they can respect your differences also and together you can find the common ground to build the relationship on.
- Follow the two ears, one mouth principal
There is a native Indian proverb that states ‘the great spirit gave us two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak”. Communication is at the centre of every relationship and great communication starts with great listening. So practice really listening in conversations and discussions by staying focused on what the other is saying. If you are just waiting for someone’s mouth to stop moving so you can speak you aren’t really listening. Aim to really hear what the other is saying and be curious as to their perspective rather than just trying to convince them that your perspective is the right one
- Create healthy boundaries
Whatever the relationship there are three elements to the relationship – you, the other and the relationship between the two of you. In any relationship there will be aspects of you that stay private and that do not belong in the relationship and there will be aspects of you that you want to share with them.
Think of this as a boundary fence with your neighbour. When you both know and agree on the boundary of your property and establish it with a sturdy fence or wall your neighbour knows exactly where his property ends and where yours begins. You can have a common ground like the front garden where you chat but you respect each others privacy by not crossing the boundary of your back garden.
The first step is to get clarity on your boundaries in a relationship, then to clearly communicate them and then to enforce your boundaries if and when needed.
- Don’t make assumptions
As simple as this may sound it is actually incredibly hard to do and requires consistent effort because human beings are assumption making machines. We cannot help but internalise what someone else is communicating and then make sense of it through our own filters. When our assumptions work well in a relationship we can give someone a simple wink or nod and they can know exactly what you mean.
On the flip side of this we can also make assumptions that are completely inaccurate and can cause all sorts of trouble. So remember if you are not sure what a person meant or inferred, simply ask more questions to find out until you have clarity.
- Get good at resolving conflict
Conflict of some sort is almost inevitable in any longer term relationship so what is usually more important than the conflict itself is how you and the other go about resolving conflict. Working to resolve the smaller conflicts one at a time rather than just ignoring them or putting up with it can build a really important mechanism to then deal maturely and effectively with bigger issues if and when they surface.
Pick a good time to bring up a conflict that is bothering you with someone and communicate assertively but respectfully. Make sure you express yourself clearly and let the other know what the problem is for you, how it is affecting you and that your intention is simply to resolve the issue. Frame this as a win-win scenario so that the other can realise it is also in their interest to resolve the conflict. Remember to show mutual respect and if the conflict is not resolved in that discussion try and get some agreements in place that you can build on next time.