Table of Contents:
- Chapter 1: Pay Attention in Relationships
- Chapter 2: How to be Authentic in a Relationship
- Chapter 3: Being Present in a Relationship
- Chapter 4: Self-respect and Establishing Boundaries in Relationships
- Chapter 5: What Language to Use in Relationships
Welcome to the second part of the Ultimate guide: Better Relationship Skills in 10 Steps. In this Guide we will explore the most important social skills to building relationships. This guide has 6 chapters and at the end of each chapter you will find practical advice you can use to improve your the quality of your relationships.
Chapter 1: Pay Attention in Relationships
First skill that can develop your social skills is attention which is an extremely important cognitive skill to nurture our brains and our relationships.
Wherever our attention goes, our mind gets engaged with it and start processing. If we do not know how to be attentive, our attention will get hold of our mind and let it wander from here to there, and eventually, you are living a life full of distractions!
Three types of attention: sustained, selective, and divisive.
Sustained attention is when you are attentive towards something for a long period of time, a type of attention that can enhance your life skills.
Selective attention is when you are selectively attentive to something and not aware of other surrounded to you, which is also helpful in many occasions.
Divisive attention is when your attention moves here and there. While is good to know how to multitask and pay attention to different things, if we practice too much of the last type of attention it usually makes us scattered and with a short attention span.
And this can be very annoying for others. How many times did you feel furious that someone couldn’t bare to pay attention to what you were saying and kept looking at their phone or something else?
We can’t speak fluently without paying attention to what we are speaking or win a debate without listening actively what others are saying.
Energy flows where attention goes therefore
The first reason why you need to be attentive is because energy flows where attention goes therefore we must be attentive to communicate effectively. As we already seen in the Ultimate Guide Part 1, communication is key in relationships and you should be clear about what you say and attentive enough to rationalize what you hear. If you hear attentively, you are listening, otherwise, it is just hearing, right?
For better communication and better relationships, you have to improve your sustained attention skills so that you can become an active listener, a good problem-solver, and an effective decision-maker.
How to improve your sustained attention skills?
The first step should be to train the mind to recognize the wandering attention. We do train our mind to have wandering attention without wanting to do so.
We wander from internal thoughts to a notification on our smartphone and we don’t even stop to think that we are feeding a habit that will be hard to break. Recognizing that we are doing it is the the starting point to change!
Training our mind through practices like mindful meditation is extremely helpful to learn how to sustain attention and by sustaining attention we will not only become more productive and feel more collected, we will improve our relationships with others and with ourselves.
Try and start by mediating a few minutes everyday when you wake up and learn how to stop your mind from wandering so much. You will notice a significant improvement in all areas of your life.
If you would like to learn about Meditation and the multiple benefits it Brings, you can Enroll in our Free Online Course below
Chapter 2: How to be Authentic in a Relationship
‘If you were to be exactly how you are now for the rest of your life, I would always love you the same.’ I said to my partner once. And I meant it.
It doesn’t mean that I don’t want my partner to change for the better, to grow, to succeed, to be happier and more fulfilled with work and life in general. It means that even if nothing of this happened and my partner was to stay exactly the same, I would be in love like I am now. And that’s because I got to see my partner’s real self.
Usually the quality of a relationship, with a partner, friend or relative is determined by how much authenticity is revealed in that relationship. By showing your authentic self you show that you Trust the other person with your deepest thoughts, fears and aspirations.
This is the core reason why you should let people – specially your partner and friends – to see you for who you really are.
Because that’s the person you are. If you want to feel a true and long lasting connection with another person, you need to feel that they love you for who you are, not for who you pretend to be or even for who you want to be.
This doesn’t mean you can’t strive to grow and improve, take care of yourself, keep fit, dress well, etc. It simply means that none of that matters in a relationship if you don’t feel you are worthy of love and respect exactly as you are.
We can have no true, meaningful connection without vulnerability.
Like we’ve learned before, we are all emotionally vulnerable any time we open ourselves up to opinion, rejection, disagreement and ridicule. Basically, to be judged.
It is hard to say “I love you” first, to go “all in” in a relationship knowing it may not work out, to initiate sex, to ask for help, to share our hopes and dreams or our fears and insecurities. It is hard to ask for someone’s opinion or share an unpopular opinion. It’s hard to communicate our dissatisfaction and frustration, it’s hard to say what we want and what we don’t.
The key point to remember that until we are willing to risk rejection, disagreement, and ridicule, we will be missing the opportunity to experience the acceptance, agreement, praise, and connection that we are striving for. We can’t have one without the other.
Start by listing down wins in your life, large and small. Make an effort to focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses. Practice positive thinking and consider daily affirmations.
Do something for someone. As we’ve seen before, the more confident you are in yourself, the easier it becomes to open up to others and the easier it will be for them to open up to you as well.
Embracing vulnerability and accepting your true self does not mean you should share everything with everyone. You can, and should, be selective in what you share and with whom. You need to be reasonably confident that the person you’re talking with will be respectful and validating, and you’ll want to keep things appropriate for the situation. Pay attention because loving yourself is also protecting yourself.
Take Away Thoughts
So go ahead and share a less-than-perfect part of yourself. Share an embarrassing story. Tell you partner or friend how you’re feeling. Ask for their help. The risk is well worth the reward!
Chapter 3: Being Present in a Relationship
We’ve already seen how important it is to be present (In Part 1 of this Guide) in our relationships and to fully engage with our partner or friend when we are spending time together or having a conversation and how this is often hard to accomplish.
The multi-tasking, the stress, the things that make our mind wander and worry, make it really hard to create that connection. Yet no matter how chaotic and out of your control your day is, no matter how stressful your job or life becomes, being present can become a safe haven. It can change your life and improve your relationships and it is easier than you think!
There are many things preventing us from having a peaceful day. Work, the internet, our own brain, social media and other digital distractions, children, household tasks, needless interruptions.
How to be Present in Relationships?
We must start by acknowledging that even though a lot of these are external factors, the perception of the events is internal, it is in our mind and therefore it is within our power to change how we think.
The method for being present is simple and it is the practice that matters the most. Most people don’t learn to be present because they don’t practice, not because it is too complicated to do it.
When we practice something regularly, we become better at it until we are good. It becomes coded in our brains, more a mode of being rather than a task. Practice, practice, practice and being present will become natural.
Whatever you are doing, right now, learn to focus completely on doing that one thing. Pay attention to every aspect of what you’re doing, to your body, to the sensations, to your thoughts. Do this once, then do it again and don’t worry about how many times you must do it, just do it now.
When you do that during a conversation or a moment with someone, you will be present for them, you will be fully there and they will know that they have your undivided attention.
Above all, be joyful in whatever you’re doing, be grateful that you’re able to do that task, have that conversation, share that activity. Appreciate every little movement, sensation and sound of the task or activity, every word of the conversation. You will enjoy it much more and so will be anyone who spends that time with you.
Start doing it today with whatever mundane task or mundane conversation you are having and feel the difference. It will become much easier to do it whenever you want and you will be rewarded with more meaningful time with yourself and with the ones you care about.
Chapter 4: Self-respect and Establishing Boundaries in Relationships
It is important to learn how to be a better partner or friend – how to be empathic, selfless, kind, vulnerable, present and loving.
But not all people will be naturally respecting and some people might take advantage of you and your generosity and good intentions so it is important to know how to set boundaries.
For many of us, setting boundaries doesn’t come naturally. Perhaps you have a hard time standing up for yourself or you keep agreeing to do things that you really don’t want to do. Perhaps you tolerate rude comments or pushy people because you can’t handle conflict and are afraid to speak your mind.
Creating stronger boundaries is one of the best ways to improve our lives and relationships. In this lesson you will learn how to stand up for yourself, set personal boundaries and free yourself from trying to please people who don’t deserve your dedication.
How to set boundaries
The first step in learning to set boundaries is self-awareness. Pay close attention to the situations when you lose energy, feel a knot in your stomach, or are generally upset.
Identify where you need more space, self-respect, energy or personal power. Identify what people and circumstances are continuously breaking your peace of mind that require setting boundaries.
Set simple but firm boundaries with a graceful or neutral tone. This might feel uncomfortable at first, but as you start taking care of yourself and validating your own feelings and needs, the personal power you gain will make it easier. Vent any strong emotions with your partner before having your boundary conversation.
Use simple and direct language. By explaining the reason why certain boundaries needs to be set to your partner you will reinforce this boundary it’s less likely to be repeated in the future.
For example: I have to ask you to stop doing ……………. because it makes me feel bad or uncomfortable.
Too often, we neglect to stand up for themselves by avoiding confrontation. Ask yourself these questions: “How much of this is true about me?”, “How much of this is about the other person?”, “What do I need to do to regain my personal power or stand up for myself?”
Also, if your partner or anyone else offends you, it may be necessary to let them know in order to protect and strengthen your internal boundaries.
Managing Guilt in Relationships
Guilt might also be standing in your way of saying no to the things you don’t want to do. To overcome guilt, you have to be ready to make tough choices to change your lifestyle. You might feel guilty by making yourself a priority but please, face this head on and see it as a sign that you are on the right track.
If necessary, tell people in your life that your priorities have changed and that you are taking care of your needs now. If you feel your own resistance to focusing on yourself, remember, when you put yourself first, you are then fully available to others without resentment or anger.
Take away Thoughts
Remember, by setting boundaries respecting and loving yourself, you will do it for others in a healthier and more sustainable way. So start by asking if you feel like you have been attending to your own needs and making sure others respect you or if you are neglecting yourself and therefore need to change.
Chapter 5: What Language to Use in Relationships
Words are powerful tools. They can be healers and they can be weapons. They are often our primary tool for communication and like any tool, they can be used to help or harm.
In this chapter we will go through words and phrases that even when used with good intentions, can produce a negative effect on the ones who hear them. We will also look at the best alternatives for a stronger and more positive communication.
The first enemy is the ‘But’. When we use it to connect two phrases in a sentence, “but” will effectively dismiss the first phrase altogether.
You can be giving praise, showing understanding, or validating, but when you throw a ‘but’ it can instantly undo all your hard work. If someone compliments you on something such as “I really like your jeans but..” you will soon forget the compliment and focus on what will come next, assuming it’s something negative because ‘but’ introduces a contrast.
But what if the person said “I really like your jeans, and…” You still don’t know what comes next, but you do know that she likes your jeans and there’s no sign that what comes next is something negative.
Make an effort to replace “but” with “and,” and you’ll be amazed at how it frees you up to speak candidly while maintaining trust and safety in the conversation.
Another common mistake people make during difficult conversations is making direct “you” statements such as “You’re wrong.” or “This is your fault.” or “You make me feel bad”.
These statements can feel accusatory and aggressive and abrasive. Let’s see what happens if you use ‘”I” instead of “You”. “I disagree.”, “I feel like this may actually be your fault.” or “I feel bad when you do this.” sound very different.
This way you are emphasizing the fact that you are sharing your opinion, your perspective, and it doesn’t feel accusatory anymore. You are taking responsibility and that makes others more at ease even if when it comes to admit a fault.
Absolutes are another not so silent relationship killer. Terms such as “always,” “never,” or “constantly,” are tempting to use when we want to criticise an habit or tendency but it’s unlikely that someone “never” does something the same way that is unlikely that they “always” do it.
The exaggeration can cut through the conversation right off. This type of observation can be softened by replacing the absolute term with a non-absolute. “You always do this,” is more realistically “you do this often.” and this can actually open a reasonable conversation that aims to get to terms with a solution to the problem.
Take Away Thoughts
Focus on making these changes into your dialogues with your partner or friends and you will notice the improvement in their responses. Again, practice, practice, practice – and it will become a good habit!
Chapter 6: Showing Appreciation and Gratitude in Relationships
Showing appreciation is crucial for any successful relationship. Everyone wants to feel appreciated and valued for who they are and for their efforts.
Life is hard enough, the world brings us down in a regular basis so we expect to find comfort in the fact that the people we love, think that we are special – and make sure we know that.
There are many ways of showing appreciation – gestures – and they all communicate the same. Some are harder, some are easier but we should remember them all.
Simple Communication Tips for Healthy Relationships
Saying ‘Thank You’ easiest way to building a relationship
Not only is it free, it is also the easiest gesture. Only two words! Showing gratitude to someone is a powerful way of making them feel relevant and see their actions and efforts noticed.
It might be the simplest thing such as thanking your partner for cooking dinner, for cleaning, for putting up with you when you were in a bad mood. Remember to always thank people for the nice things they do, and not take them for granted.
Complimenting your loved ones
We all like to be complemented on our work, our achievements and our looks. Again, it’s such a simple thing to do and it has such a positive effect on someone else’s day.
You don’t have to deliver fake compliments for the sake of compliment, that is wrong and will only make people not trust your judgement, but there’s always something worth complimenting.
Some people – because they are too insecure and therefore suspicious – don’t like compliments or don’t know how to react to them. You should of course respect this and avoid complimenting them too much because there are other ways of showing appreciation that they might respond better to.
Remembering little details
Remember details about someone, such as their birthday or their favourite food/film/book is important and it shows that you care enough to remember.
Not all of us have a good memory and sometimes forgetting details about the people we love doesn’t mean we don’t care, but it’s worth making the effort and writing them down if you think you will forget. It will always be a pleasant surprise for them.
Giving a gift as appreciation
Giving a gift doesn’t have to be expensive and it doesn’t have to be reserved for special occasions like birthdays and Christmas. This depends on your partner or friend’s personality, but I personally believe that useful and tailored gifts are always the best and they don’t have to be expensive.
Your partner or friend will appreciate if you notice that they were running out of their perfume/after-shave and that you promptly replaced it.
Offering help in a relationship
Offering help is a very valuable gift as you are giving the gift of time. This is very precious. We are not always very keen on asking for help, we are embarrassed and think we are bothering people.
So it’s awesome when someone notices that we need help and offers it without we having to ask. If you can take notice of times when your partner of friend is struggling with something that you can help with, you will be giving them a very impactful gift and they will feel appreciated and cared for.
What gesture of appreciation could you make today?
In the end, you must enjoy the journey that is your relationship. Life is all about relationships. Family relationships, friendships, work relationships, and romantic relationships.
Human connection is what ultimately brings energy and meaning to life and it is as messy as it is beautiful. Your relationships should bring joy to your life. They will be hard at points and they will take work but It will be worth it. Lift each other, love each other, serve each other, and enjoy each step along this shared way.