At some point, we have all asked ourselves this question: is my relationship healthy? In relationships, we crave the security of knowing that our actions are positive and beneficial. Relationships are so complex and unique, there isn’t a “one size fits all” quiz that will determine if your relationship is flourishing or withering.
Although there isn’t a single answer for how to have a perfect relationship, there are some key traits that exist in every healthy interaction. Remember that there is no such thing as a relationship that doesn’t face challenges at some point, but there is always room for improvement through interpersonal relationship skills.
What are interpersonal relationship skills? They are the ways we exchange information and create emotional bonds with others. You can have an interpersonal relationships with your friends, parents, partner, neighbors and strangers, and the same skills will help you with them all.
When you’re learning how to improve interpersonal relationships, there are a few key areas to focus on. Even for positive and affirming relationships, there is room for growth in these specific skills. They are listening, honest, engaging with discomfort, apologizing, communicating and expressing gratitude.
1. Develop listening skills
Naturally, we’re all talkers. Talking about ourselves feels good and is psychologically healthy. However, there’s always a balance to strike. If all we do is talk about ourselves, we’ll quickly run out of listeners, and that isn’t a great move on how to improve interpersonal relationships.
Listening to others shows mutual care and respect. Remember that if you invest in others’ lives and truly listen, they’ll do the same for you.
Here’s a good measure to check whether you are dominating conversations: do you make more comments about your own experience and opinions, or do you ask more questions about the other’s life? A healthy conversation will be a balance of the two, with each person sharing for about the same amount of time.
2. Be honest
If you were to ask one of your friends to list what he or she believes are the characteristics of a healthy relationship, honesty would likely be in the top five requirements. Even the most wonderful character traits can’t make up for a relationship that lacks honesty, because it affects every part of a relationship.
Honesty doesn’t just mean telling the truth when someone asks you a question. Honesty often involves sharing the details of your life you’d rather keep hidden. It takes courage to own up to your secrets and mistakes, but the people who support you can handle hearing the hard news and want to be there for you. Being honest with your loved ones gives them the opportunity to help you if you need it, and creates a valuable sense of trust.
3. Be OK with disagreements
You will never find someone who agrees with you on everything. Even if the disagreement is over ice cream flavors or sports teams, you’re bound to come across differences of opinion so it’s important to be comfortable with them. Sometimes others’ beliefs will be more challenging to bear, but practice with open conversations and engaging with the discomfort can help. Over time, you might realize these differences add depth to your life that you wouldn’t have if you only spent time with people who agree with you.
Just like honesty, this one is tricky. Apologizing can be incredibly painful and often requires the courage to bring something heavy up on your own. Despite the difficulty, becoming comfortable with apologizing helps reap major recognition in your relationship. Owning up to your mistakes, big or small, show that you care enough about your interactions to mend things and acknowledge your own flaws. Although it’s easier to blame others (and others may deserve to share the blame) it’s important to only own your role and opportunities for improvement. If your apology contains excuses or highlights the actions of others, it will come across as insincere.
One of the best interpersonal relationship skills that we often forget is to tell our loved ones about what is going on in our life. Assume that people want to hear about your experiences, both the good and the bad.
Don’t just communicate with people, but communicate regularly. Sharing even small details from daily life with people builds much stronger bonds than speaking only occasionally, or after major events. If you need to, schedule phone calls with friends and family members or make plans for a weekly visit. Communication builds community and that is one of your best supports when you’re working on mental health goals.
6. Express gratitude for your relationships
You may think it goes without saying that you appreciate your friends, but voicing it aloud is one of the best ways to show gratitude. If you’re not sure what to say, a simple “I just want you to know that I value our relationship” or “I’m glad you’re in my life” will go a long way.
Everyone yearns to be reminded of their worth and every healthy relationship should make someone feel more important, not less. Sharing your appreciation for someone will also make them more likely to return the favor. Validation that you matter can boost your mood on tough days.
Get professional mental health help today
Relationships are one of the most complicated and difficult parts of our lives – but they’re also one of the most rewarding. When facing mental health challenges, having a support system is essential in learning to thrive despite life’s trials. The time and care you put into your interpersonal relationship skills will be well worth the benefits of the healthy bonds that are created.
If you’re serious about pursuing freedom and managing mental health issues, The Light Program is ready to help. Call now to learn even more about the services we offer and pursue treatment for a wide variety of mental health concerns and disorders.