Human beings as social creatures have the innate need to form relationships. Having good relationships with people has been shown to promote all round good health, be it physically, mentally or emotionally. But a healthy relationship is not always easy to come by. In reality, there are many factors that come into play in the quality of a relationship between two people. Some of these factors such as personality or cultural differences, which are beyond most individuals’ control, are not so easy to coordinate.

Even so, there are some things which one can do to foster a healthy relationship. One of the most (if not the most) key things one could do to promote a strong relationship is learning how to communicate effectively. Our ability to convey our thoughts and feelings through verbal means such as speech, and also through non-verbal means such as our body language will determine to a large extent the strength of our relationships. Only when we are able to improve these abilities will we truly be able to rip the benefits of a healthy relationship.

The following are some guidelines for promoting stronger relationships through effective communication:

Listen, don’t just hear:

At times when we have discussions with others, we may hear what they say but we do not actually listen to what they are trying to tell us. Other times, we may only listen to respond, not necessarily to understand. The ability to communicate effectively is largely dependent on our ability to listen carefully, absorb and understand what is being said before responding. This may not always come easily, as many people are pre-disposed to have pre-formulated opinions and points of views, before even hearing what the other has to say. In order to overcome this, we often must make the conscious effort to stop, think about and process what we hear before responding, particularly during serious discussions. In so doing, we send the person we are trying to connect with the message that we are paying attention and that we are attempting to see things from their perspective. In some cases, it may be necessary to summarize and paraphrase what is heard and repeat it to the other party to ascertain our level of clarity and ensure we are on the same page as them. Not only ensuring that we understand, but also conveying to the other party that we understand, not only makes our response more appropriate to the specific discussion but also makes them more receptive to it.

 Honesty is the best policy:

 People tend to pick up on insincerity quite easily, and if your aim is to build a strong accord with someone, this is probably not any way to go about it. Be sincere in the way you relate with others, approach them with honesty, always take into consideration their feelings and emotions and be open to owning up to your mistakes. The main reason for dishonesty from someone who is actually seeking a good relationship is the fear of admitting flaws and mistakes, be it personal or in others. But we must realize that we as human beings are not perfect and we will get things wrong sometimes. Our willingness to accept, learn from, and/or avoid these mistakes/flaws is what builds up the confidence to be honest with those we relate with. Not only does this promote better communication among people, but it also builds trust, which facilitates a state of mental and emotional peace, and an all-round healthier relationship.

Find the right time:

There is a time and a place for everything and being able to communicate effectively with someone includes studying the best time to do so.  This involves trying to find a time you have each other’s attention and an environment that is free of distractions, where you are both relaxed but alert and able to respond to each other with clarity. If you are both busy, agree and commit to a convenient time to speak and listen to each other’s issues. This will allow for openness and reduce possible barriers to communicating. 

Using body language:

Non-verbal communication is just as vital as verbal communication.  There are subtle or obvious gestures, movements, facial expressions and even changes in our body movements that can indicate whether or not our intentions align with our words. By becoming more aware of your body movement and how it may be read, you can use it as a means of expressing or reinforcing your intentions. If a person can see you mean what you say, they will believe you. By showing that you are paying attention and are open to appreciating what someone is saying, you make it easier for them to open up. Being able to read another person’s body language is equally as important in communicating effectively. With this ability, it becomes much easier to understand what an individual is trying to convey by simply paying attention to their body language.

Be a man (or woman) of your word:

Trust is a key part of building strong relationships, and when we constantly break promises or go against our word, we send a silent message that we cannot be trusted. Make the effort to be a person of integrity. Keep even the most trivial promises you make, and do your best not to make promises you cannot keep.

Once you make it obvious you are a person of integrity, it generally becomes easier for the other person to trust you, and usually be more willing to open up to you.

Solid relationships are built on collective efforts and individual investments which all parties involved must contribute to in order to reap the rewards. As an individual, you can only do so much, and you are not responsible for other people’s actions. Draining your energy on a person who is disregarding your best efforts to reach out could in the least effect your peace of mind and in a worst case scenario your health. If you find yourself in such a situation, the best call would be to walk away and be at peace that you tried your best.