This guest article from PsychCentral was written by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
All relationships — especially the ones near and dear to you — take work. But many of us get so wrapped up in our inner worlds and busy lives that we neglect everyone from our partners to our close friends.
According to Christina Steinorth, MFT, a psychotherapist and author of Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships, “Relationships don’t magically take care of themselves — as with most living organisms, they need nurturing.”
Throughout the years, in her private practice, Steinorth has seen the same problems plague all relationships. She identified poor communication and poor conflict resolution skills as the most common concerns.
In fact, she called poor conflict resolution skills “the kiss of death,” for even the best relationships. “If you assassinate your partner’s character every time you have an argument and hold grudges from one argument to the next, I can pretty much promise you that your relationship will end up a sad state of affairs.”
And these skills are just as relevant and essential for your family, friends, boss and co-workers. Below, Steinorth offered 10 pointers for improving any relationship.
1. Listen intently.
There’s a difference between hearing a person and truly listening to them. Listening is a skill, which requires many elements, such as making eye contact and observing the person’s body language, Steinorth said.
It also includes giving the person your undivided attention. This might go without saying, but in our plugged-in world, distraction is merely an electronic device away. That’s why Steinorth suggested powering down all your tech tools while having a heart-to-heart, or really any talk.
She also suggested spouses carve out 10 minutes each morning and night to talk and connect. “It can make a world of difference in your relationship.”
2. Practice small acts of kindness.
“Act loving even when you don’t feel like it, because people will always remember the way you make them feel,” Steinorth said. She encouraged readers to be thoughtful and compassionate. For instance, you can rub your spouse’s shoulders or take your close friend to lunch.
3. Avoid second-guessing what people say.
Most of us tend to respond to other people’s thoughts and feelings from our perspective, Steinorth said. But “If you want to take your communication skills from good to great, one of the best things you can do is actually listen to another person and believe they mean, feel and want exactly what they just said…”
Because if no one means what they say, then how can any person be trusted? she said. “Don’t substitute your own thoughts, feelings or judgments for what is being said to you.”
4. Be mindful about when to approach people.