Building and Maintaining Healthy Relationships

By: Kate Ristow, Volunteer

Humans have always existed as social beings. Our world is constantly surrounding and influencing us with interactions and communications with others. Building relations within these interactions and striving to create rapport with our peers is human nature. We find comfort in being understood and accepted while working to eliminate the discomfort that comes with the unfamiliar. Having positive interactions and relationships with others provides us with a sense of connection,support, happiness and purpose.

Positive and meaningful relationships require ongoing maintenance as well as a firm foundation to build off of. Lasting relationships are concreted within a mutual appreciation and respect of and for the other person. Relaying these qualities can become difficult and frustrating at times. Practicing and being mindful of the blocks that form this foundation can help you stay present within a relationship while mutually continuing to foster the relationship as well as take care of yourself.

  1. Acknowledge, accept and celebrate differences: Everyone comes from a different background with different lived experiences. It is easy to get caught up in assuming your life and background as the norm, what seems obvious to you may not be the case for others. Reminding yourself that people have many different perceptions of the world and to approach people with an open mind and a willingness to learn and celebrate who they are.
  2. Communication skills: Having clear and open lines of communication is a crucial part of taking care of yourself and the other person within a forming or current relationship. When discussing conflict,desires or needs within a relationship it is important to speak effectively and directly and avoid being vague in your communication.
  3. Listen effectively: Listening is a large part of effective communication. People feel valued and supported when they are heard.Focusing on and clarifying what the other person is saying actively shows your listening and interest in their thoughts, feelings and opinions.
  4. Give people your time: We live in a world that is controlled by technology and the idea of constantly getting ahead. Being present in the time that you spend with people gives them a sense of value and importance.

While the relationships within our lives serve as predominant support networks and as a sense of security and happiness, no relationship is immune to the external strain and pressures of changes and conflict. Changes happening in an individual's life outside of the relationship consequently affect the relationship itself. It is unrealistic to assume that the relationships in life are unaffected by external forces. Conflict is an inevitable part of life, including within relationships. How you choose to cope and deal with conflict, if done effectively, can strengthen your relationships.

  1. Timing: The timing of resolving conflicts counts, it is a good idea to give yourself and your peer time to cool off to avoid saying or doing anything you may not mean that could be hurtful in the heat of the moment.
  2. Open communication: Having clear and open lines of communication in the face of adversity and conflict are critical in expressing your frustration and resolution. Present your ideas in a clear and accurate way to avoid a miscommunication or misunderstanding between yourself and your peer.
  3. Active listening: Active listening is a key factor within successful communication, showing your peer that you are hearing and responding to their frustrations as well. To actively listen avoid interrupting your peer and formulating your rebuttal while they are speaking. Try to clarify any areas of their statements that do not make sense to you.
  4. Agreeing to disagree: Successfully resolving and working through conflict serves to strengthen relationships, however, resolving and agree on all conflicts and points of view is an unrealistic expectation. It is okay to agree to disagree on things and move forward, this will help to avoid this being a recurring source of conflict or tension.