14 Ways To Level Up Your Relationship Competency

Relational competency, in case you're curious, is a person's ability to effectively navigate and manage interpersonal relationships.

happy couple outside l.v.l, vivilavaa, and hobo_018 / Getty Images Signature via Canva

Relationship competency is a fundamental aspect of human interactions that plays a pivotal role in the success and satisfaction of our connections with others. At the heart of this concept lie the teachings and insights of renowned therapists Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt and Dr. Harville Hendrix.

Their groundbreaking work in the field of couples therapy has revolutionized the way we understand and navigate the intricacies of romantic relationships. Through their development of Imago Relationship Therapy, Helen and Harville have provided couples with valuable tools to foster deeper connections, resolve conflicts, and achieve greater emotional intimacy.


Though this may seem intimidating we've compiled a list of tips to help you become the best you can be with your partner.

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What is Relational Competency?

You're probably thinking "What the heck is relational competency?" Well, you wouldn't be the first. 


Relational competency refers to a person's ability to effectively navigate and manage interpersonal relationships. It encompasses a range of skills and qualities, such as communication, empathy, active listening, conflict resolution, and emotional intelligence.

Individuals with strong relational competency can build and maintain healthy, meaningful connections with others, whether in romantic partnerships, friendships, family dynamics, or professional interactions. Developing relational competency is crucial for fostering positive relationships and enhancing overall well-being.

14 Powerful Ways To Maintain And Build Relational Competency

1. Create a safe space before you talk.

Before you start talking, make sure the place where you're talking is friendly and not scary or intimidating. This setting makes it easy for people to share what's on their minds without being afraid of getting in trouble or being judged.

You should listen carefully, try to understand how the other person feels, and be open to what they're saying. When you do this, you build trust, have better conversations, and solve problems in a nicer way. 


Example: “You are wonderful.”  “I am wonderful.”  “We are wonderful.”

2. Show appreciation.

In a relationship, showing appreciation means letting your partner know that you value and are thankful for them. It involves expressing gratitude for the things they do, and it can be as simple as saying "thank you" for their efforts or acknowledging their positive qualities.

When you show appreciation in a relationship, it strengthens the emotional connection between you and your partner, fosters a sense of mutual respect and love, and contributes to a healthier and happier partnership.

Example: “One thing I appreciate about you is…”


3. Ask permission before talking.

This may seem odd, but it's one of the most beneficial things you can do for your relationship. It's a way of respecting the other person's time and emotional space.

When you ask permission, you give them the opportunity to choose when they are most comfortable and available to engage in the conversation.

Asking for permission also promotes a sense of agency and autonomy in the conversation. It conveys that you value their input and are open to finding a mutually convenient time to address the issue. In both personal and professional relationships, this approach can lead to more productive and respectful dialogues, ultimately fostering healthier and more positive interactions.

Example: “Is now a good time to talk about….”


4. Make non-verbal contact.

Non-verbal contact helps convey your attentiveness and calmness. It sets a positive tone for the conversation and lets the other person know you are fully present and ready to listen. These can be anything from holding your partners hand to positioning yourself to face them.

Use your body language to show that you are open and alert for the conversation.

Example: Make eye contact and take a deep breath before speaking.

5. Use speaker responsibility (i.e. "I" Statements).

Using "I" statements (also known as speaker responsibility) helps express your thoughts and emotions without blaming or accusing the other person.  This approach shifts the focus from blaming the other person to sharing your own perspective, which can lead to more constructive and empathetic conversations.


These statements allow us to express our emotions, take responsibility, encourage empathy, clarify our intentions, and even promote problem-solving. 

using "I" statements in your communication toolkit can improve the quality of your relationships, as it encourages open and honest expression while minimizing defensiveness and conflict. It fosters an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding, making it easier to navigate complex conversations and build stronger connections with others.

Example: “I think….” “I feel….” “I want….”

6. Listen carefully and do accurate mirroring.

Accurate mirroring involves paraphrasing what the other person said to ensure you understood them correctly. For instance, you might say, "If I got you right, you're concerned about the project's timeline?" This practice demonstrates active listening and promotes mutual understanding.


When you engage in mirroring, you take the time to carefully listen to the other person's statements. You aim to grasp not only the surface content of their words but also the underlying emotions, concerns, and intentions they may be conveying. This deep level of attentiveness helps you connect with them on a more meaningful level.

Example: “If I got you, you said….”

7. Do an accuracy check before you respond. 

In any conversation, people bring their unique perspectives, experiences, and emotions which can sometimes lead to misunderstandings or misinterpretations of what is being said. When you take a moment to confirm your understanding before responding, you engage in a proactive step to ensure that both you and the other person are on the same page.

Doing so clarifies any potential misunderstandings while keeping the conversation on track which can be beneficial for all parties involved.


Example: “Did I get that….”

RELATED: 10 Little Communication Tricks That'll Lead To A Much Deeper Love

8. Show curiosity.

Demonstrating curiosity about the current topic keeps the discussion focused and engaging. This encourages the other person to provide additional insights and details.

It's not very fulfilling when you have a partner who constantly changes subjects, is it? Or pivots to another topic because they show no interest in what you are saying? 

Remember to keep the focus on the current topic, not some other topic.

Example: Ask “Is there more about that?”

9. Validate the other person's point of view.

Validation is a way of showing that you accept and respect what someone else is thinking and feeling, even if you don't necessarily agree with them. It's like saying, "I see where you're coming from, especially when I consider your past experiences. It makes sense that you feel this way."


By validating their perspective, you're letting them know that their thoughts and emotions are valid and reasonable given their unique life experiences.

This simple act of validation goes a long way in building trust and empathy in your relationship, as it demonstrates your willingness to understand and accept their point of view without judgment or criticism.

Example: “You make sense, and what makes sense is, that given …. (your experience), you feel or think….”

10. Express empathy, not sympathy.

Rather than offering sympathy, which can sometimes come across as expressing pity or feeling sorry for someone, it's more meaningful to show empathy. Empathy involves making an effort to truly grasp the emotions the other person is experiencing. It shows genuine concern for their feelings and a willingness to connect with them on an emotional level.


Expressing empathy is like stepping into their shoes and trying to see the situation from their perspective. It's an acknowledgment that you're attuned to their emotional state and are there to support and understand them, rather than merely offering sympathy from a distance.

Doing this actually fosters a stronger sense of connection and trust in your relationship.

Example: “I can imagine, with that you might have felt/be feeling….”/ “Is that your feeling?”/ "Do you have other feelings?”

11. Acknowledge feeling cared for.

Expressing your feelings of being cared for is a valuable practice in any relationship, be it with a partner, friend, or family member. It serves to reinforce positive behaviors and interactions, fostering a deeper emotional connection.


Sharing how you felt cared for reinforces the positive aspects of your relationship and encourages a cycle of kindness and consideration. It's a way of saying, "Your actions matter to me, and they contribute to our bond."

This practice, when integrated into your interactions, can lead to a more loving, supportive, and fulfilling relationships with the people you care about.

Example: “I feel/felt cared about when you (said/did) ….”


12. Make requests instead of complaints.

When it comes to addressing concerns or problems in a relationship or communication, making specific requests proves to be a much more effective approach compared to expressing complaints. This helps guide the conversation away from defensiveness and more towards solutions and clarity.

Using specific requests as a communication strategy promotes problem-solving, respect, and cooperation in relationships and interactions.

Example: Instead of “you are late….(whatever frustrated you)”, say: “I would like you to….(describe a specific and repeatable behavior).”

13. Imagine the future you can create.

Talking about your hopes and dreams for the future in different parts of life, like relationships, jobs, or personal aspirations, can encourage positive conversations. It can also create a connection between you and your partner because you are sharing some of your most vulnerable parts... your dreams, your hopes, and your passions. These are all things that make you who you are and the things that, at its core, give you purpose.


You can also end by inquiring about theirs.

Example: “Is now a good time to share my vision about….(our relationship (intimate/business/professional, etc.), current day, business, children, health, career?”/ “What I see is….”/ “What do you see?”

14. Express gratitude.

Demonstrating gratitude is a way to convey your appreciation for someone's active involvement in the conversation. Simple expressions of thanks carry the power to cultivate a positive and harmonious ambiance within the exchange.

This small yet meaningful gesture serves as a testament to the value you place on their input, creating a more inclusive and mutually respectful interaction.


Example: “Thanks for sharing.”/  “Thanks for listening.”

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Deauna Roane is an associate editor for YourTango who covers pop culture, lifestyle, astrology, and relationship topics. She's had bylines in Emerson College's literary magazine, Generic, and MSN.