Good relationships don’t happen by accident whether you are talking about friendship, parents and children, or marriage. People are not born with the skills required to take ties that bind and turn them into nurturing connections; they must learn those skills from counselors, respected mentors, and role models. Here are five to help you get started.
Little lies grow into bigger lies very quickly and keeping them all straight will wear on a person, creating friction and suspicion. Once trust is lost, it is very hard to regain; yet, speaking honestly about mistakes you have made promotes trust. Truthfulness requires bravery. Perhaps you made a mistake at work and received a warning which could lead to suspension. Let your spouse know so she can share your concern. Maybe you are suffering from physical or mental illness or addiction and you need help: don’t hide your fears from a friend. Let him know so he can help. Hearing from a third party about a trip to rehab or about getting fired for fighting with a colleague is bound to hurt more than hearing it from you directly.
Act courageously, with honesty, and you could prevent disaster. A loved sibling’s behavior (drunkenness in public or speeding) could result in terrible consequences such as injury, arrest, or death. If you choose not to speak the truth in a loving way and bad things happen, she will ask later why you hid the truth.
At times, however, one can be too truthful; tactless even. If you are not asked, sometimes it’s not necessary to share an honest answer. It does not hurt anyone if a friend wears colors that don’t match or gets haircut you do not like. Ask yourself: does my friend need to know what I think? There are times when you can hold your tongue. If she wants your opinion, state it gently.
Good communication starts with good listening. Many conversations are really just a volley of monologues. While the husband is speaking, his wife is thinking of what she wants to say next and vice versa. Neither has heard what the other said or the subtext which could be embedded within their conversation. Good listeners read between the lines, picking up on body language, tone of voice, and what is not said as well as what is. That’s when a parent often realizes something is wrong with her child: perhaps depression, issues with drugs, or she senses that her child really wants to tell her something.
Successful couples know they can’t have everything their own way. Each one is willing to give a little. They take turns choosing a restaurant, hear the other person’s point of view, or share child-rearing duties. They don’t have to agree on everything and might sometimes agree to disagree, but when handled with honesty and tact, even a disagreement can be healthy as long as two people actively choose to compromise much of the time.
All of the skills above are examples of respectful behavior. When individuals do not listen to one another, are dishonest, or are tactless, they are demonstrating how little they care for the other person’s feelings or needs. They reflect a selfish attitude to the relationship; that the most important thing is for things to go their way. Show respect and model what you hope to receive in return.