Improve your relationships: How to get along with family, friends, colleagues

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Attractive and Affectionate African American Couple posing in the park.

Relationships are a cornerstone of our lives. Whether it’s a marriage, friendship, your family, or your co-workers, human nature makes us crave positive interactions, just as we do food and water. So, it makes sense that the better our relationships are, the happier and more productive we’re going to be.

The Defender has compiled some tips to help you improve your relationships in every aspect of your life.

SPOUSES

  1. Be understanding and It’s not quite good enough to simply be your partner’s sounding board, according to research from the University of California Santa Barbara. Because feeling understood, validated, and cared for by someone else is thought to improve relationships and well-being, those who actually care that their partner is stressed provide more support.
  2. Set aside intimacy time – weekly. Couples who have sex at least once a week report the greatest relationship satisfaction, according to a study by the National Marriage Project. But don’t force it. The findings don’t clarify whether having more sex makes partners happier or if happier couples simply tend to have more sex.
  3. Conduct a performance review. Marriage counselors suggest that formal check-ins could strengthen the bond between partners. Weekly meetings – one to talk about household responsibilities and another dedicated to more intimate issues – may help both partners feel more validated, respected and comfortable.
  4. Avoid “pphubbing” (partner phone snubbing), which involves glancing at a cell phone or checking notifications while in the company of a romantic partner and can have negative implications on a relationship.
  5. Do date night. Husbands and wives are more likely to report being “very happy” in their marriage when they spend “couple time” like date night. Go ahead and take a page out of your favorite romantic comedy. Also, couples who believe in soul mates and the idea that love never fades are more likely to report greater relationship satisfaction and commitment, according to the study.

CHILDREN

  1. Create a firm foundation. The closeness of the parent-child connection throughout life results from how much parents connect with their babies from the beginning. Research has shown that fathers who take a week or more off work when their babies are born have a closer relationship with their child at every stage, including as teens and college students.
  2. 2. Prioritize time with your child. Quality time is a myth. In relationships, without quantity, there’s no quality. You can’t expect a good relationship with your daughter if you spend all your time at work and she spends all her time with her friends. If we want a better relationship with our kids, we have to free up the time to make that happen.
  3. Encourageconstantly. Think of your child as a plant who is programmed by nature to grow and blossom. If you see the plant has brown leaves, you consider if it needs more light, more water, more fertilizer. You don’t criticize it and yell at it to straighten up and grow right. Kids need your encouragement to see themselves as good people who are capable of good things. If most of what comes out of your mouth is correction or criticism, they won’t feel good about themselves and won’t feel like you’re their ally.
  4. 5. Stop and listen. It’s hard to pay attention when you’re rushing to pick up dinner and get home, but if you aren’t really listening, you miss an opportunity to learn about and teach your child, and he learns that you don’t really listen so there’s not much point in talking. Be a good listener and find ways to be in proximity where you’re both potentially available, without it seeming like a demand.

PARENTS

  1. Talk to your parents as friends.If your parents still treat you like you’re 16, it may feel funny to give up your role as the child. Model your conversations with parents on those you have with friends, says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., a licensed psychotherapist and author of“It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction.” Don’t limit your conversations to gossip about family members or your personal life, she advises. Current events, work, local issues or national politics (if you share the same views) are all fair game.
  2. Keep your sense of humor.When you’re dealing with your parents, laughter can be a lifesaver, both to help you handle the stress of dealing with sometimes crotchety individuals and to help you bond together. Tell a few jokes you know they’ll enjoy, share a humorous e-mail with them or watch sitcoms together. If you can laugh together, you’re doing okay.
  3. Tell your parents what bothers you.If you love your mom and dad but they drive you batty, your resentment can eat away at your relationship. Don’t seethe silently. Communicate with gentleness and respect. If your mom keeps calling you at work, tell her that your boss is starting to notice or it’s beginning to affect your job performance. Arrange a call at a mutually convenient time.
  4. Release the guilt. Remember that you’re an adult now, perfectly capable of choosing living room carpet or a car on your own. If your parents are bent on offering you advice, smile, nod and take it in (it may actually be helpful). Focus on the fact that they have your best interests at heart. Then make your own choice without guilt. You are a mature, independent adult.

FRIENDS

  1. Focus on others. You’ll make far more friends by showing your interest rather than trying to get people interested in you. If you’re not genuinely interested in the other person, then stop trying to connect.
  2. Pay attention.Switch off your smart phone, avoid other distractions and make an effort to truly listen to the other person. By paying close attention to what they say, do, and how they interact, you’ll quickly get to know them. Little things go a long way, such as remembering someone’s preferences and what’s going on in their life.
  3. Be the friend that you would like to have.Treat your friend just as you want them to treat you. Be reliable, thoughtful, trustworthy and willing to share yourself and your time.
  4. Be forgiving.No one is perfect and every friend will make mistakes. No friendship develops smoothly so when there’s a bump in the road. Try to find a way to overcome the problem and move on. It will often deepen the bond between you.
  5. Take on new experiences.A long-term, good-enough friendship can sometimes take on the air of an in-a-rut marriage, with both of you needing a shot of adrenaline. Starting a new activity together – even just to laugh at yourselves while doing it – can deliver a jolt of novelty and the shared motivation of learning something new.

CO-WORKERS

  1. Build relationships. Devote a portion of your day toward relationship-building, even if it’s just 20 minutes. You could pop into someone’s office during lunch, reply to people’s postings on Twitter or LinkedIn, or ask a colleague out for a quick cup of coffee.
  2. Appreciate others. Everyone, from your boss to the office custodian, wants to feel that their work is appreciated. Genuinely compliment the people around you when they do something well. This will open the door to great work relationships.
  3. Focus on being positive. No one wants to be around someone who’s negative all the time. And stay away from office gossip. If you’re experiencing conflict with someone in your group, talk to them directly about the problem. Gossiping about the situation with other colleagues will only exacerbate the situation and will cause mistrust and animosity between you.
  4. Manage your boundaries. Occasionally, a friendship can start to impact our jobs, especially when a friend or colleague begins to monopolize our time.
It’s important that you’re assertive about your boundaries, and that you know how much time you can devote during the work day for social interactions.

Be honest and communicate. “When it comes to building relationships with your co-workers, be open and honest,” said Cecilia Harry, career coach and author of “10 Ways to Improve Your Relationships With Your Boss (Or Anyone).” Harry encourages people to be honest with their co-workers about having a social relationship and communicate that you want to get to know them better in order to work better as a

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