Relationships… not easy.
Recently I had a friend tell me that I have a way of making new people feel welcomed. I can tell you that I’m not always great at these things or connecting with people.
However, this is something I really care about.
Because I know how it feels to be ignored while good friends chat away. I don’t want to be that way to another person. I know how it feels to not be included because they have enough friends already, or maybe my different way of living makes it harder to connect with me.
I know how it feels for people to give up on getting to know me because they don’t know what to talk about beyond the relationship-builder for most women my age: “Do you have kids?” (“Nope” …makes awkward excuse to end conversation. THANK YOU if you’ve never done that!)
But I also know what it feels like to have someone take the time to get to know me. To ask about the way I’ve lived and the things I’ve gone through. To hear my story and hopes for the future. To get to know my passions and my heart. To really care about who I am. This is pure treasure. To those that do this: I see you. I notice.
It’s beautiful in friendship, but even more beautiful when it’s family. When we don’t take for granted those relationships, but seek after the other person’s ever-changing heart to know who they are. This is where solid relationships come from.
Length of time knowing someone doesn’t make the difference. We can “know” someone our whole lives, and still not have a clue as to who they truly are or how to have a good relationship with them. There are also beautiful moments of connecting with someone who really gets our heart, making it feel like we’ve been lifelong friends.
Sure, we can’t be close to everyone, but I think we can always improve in relationships… no matter the type. Because they are hard.
In a world of broken marriages, growing that relationship is worth the effort.
In a world of catty workplaces and power trips, knowing how to connect with a wide variety of people makes a difference.
In a world of friendship break-ups and family distancing, how do we stand strong together?
The theme of my CD is true love in relationships of all kinds. (In case you missed it, I’M RECORDING!!!) So, naturally I’ve been thinking about it, studying Scripture, observing others, and growing in relationships. Of course my social work and ministry degrees/experience help my understanding as well. 🙂
We can all use relationship/friendship tune-ups, no matter how good at them we are. So here are seven things I’ve seen improve relationships of all kinds.
You’re not good enough
and I’m not good enough
but love can make a way
7 Tips for Better Relationships
The key to being a better spouse, friend, family member, co-worker, etc., is learning how to love better. Usually if a relationship is bad, some healing and growth needs to take place. Genuine connection helps with this process as much as with building new relationships.
- Ask Questions: Good questions are the hidden treasure of good relationships of all kinds (close or not). People like to feel known and cared about. “Tell me more” is almost always a good response. Be a friend. Get to know them better… they’ll respond and connect better with you. Let them share their stories honestly. Good questions are extra helpful for introverted background-voiced people like me that don’t tend to run conversations in big groups.
- Listen: Tune in to their words, tone, and body language; care about their preferences, history, and emotions. Seek first to understand (without responding).
- Learn: Figure out how they feel loved (5 love languages: touch (careful), gifts, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service) and do it!
- Offer Grace and Mercy: This can range from forgiving them for ways they’ve hurt you (whether or not the close relationship should continue), to offering to meet needs. Be specific: “Can I make you a meal tonight?” “Can I help you clean?”
- Be Responsive: Respond to their words. Respond to texts. (HEY 21st century people — let’s do better at this!) Speaking of phones, let’s put our phones down so we can engage with the people right in front of us! (Thanks to my cousin Kara [Fashion expert/blogger Kara Beck Style] for that addition to this post!) Overall, let’s respond to efforts to connect in person. This shows you value the person, even if you don’t intend on being their best friend.
- Empathize: Laugh with those who laugh, rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn. Don’t squash their excitement of something new, with your experience of difficulty. Don’t use silver-lining/”at least” talk in hard times; be sad with them and amplify their ways of feeling hope.
- Value: Help them keep their dignity. No matter if their physical, social, intellectual, etc abilities are lacking, don’t patronize or look down on them. Do everything in your power to listen to them, empower them, and value them as an individual.