Developing good relationships is the primary reason we’re on earth.
Human contact is essential for both your mental and physical health. In fact, studies show that those with strong emotional ties are healthier and live longer than those without.
But building those bonds takes time and effort. Even if you consider yourself a good person, it can be hard to maintain relationships, especially as work and other commitments take more of your time.
As you build your squad, here’s how you can develop relationships meant to last:
Learn to listen.
You probably already think of yourself as a decent listener.
But consider this: Do you actually listen when your friend is or partner is talking? Or do you think of what you’re going to say in response? Do you really hear them? Or are you judging what they’re saying?
Hearing is easy, but listening is hard.
It’s hard to listen mindfully, without wondering how long it’ll be before you can say something. But listening is vital to developing a good relationship, no matter if it’s with a boss or the cashier at your favorite donut shop.
“I don’t necessarily have to agree with what’s being said, but acknowledgment goes a long way towards building those important relationships,” said Elle Martinez, author of Jumpstart Your Marriage & Your Money.
Listening is like meditation. It requires focusing on one singular object and bringing your mind back to that focus when it starts to drift. It’s one of the hardest skills to master, especially if you’ve spent most of your life half-heartedly paying attention to your friends.
Stay in touch.
How many relationships lose traction because one of you fails to keep in touch? Keeping track of people is hard, but it’s made so much easier now with the advent of Facebook and other forms of social media.
Try to stay in touch, even if it’s as simple as sending a text or message saying you’re thinking of them and hope they’re doing well. I even created a recurring calendar reminder to call my grandmother. I always forget to call her, so I set it for a time when I know I’ll be free. I also keep a stack of blank greeting cards handy so I can send close friends and family personal cards when it’s their birthday.
It takes little time to send them out, but means the world to get a hand-written note in the mail. Relationships are like cars. They need regular tuneups to function or they’ll die.
Bring up problems early.
I have a theory: the best friends I have are the ones I’ve had some sort of disagreement with. If I’m willing to bring up a difficult subject with you, it means we’re good friends.
But it’s never easy to bring up something with a close friend. I hate confrontation, and most people agree with me. Fortunately, every time I’ve brought something up, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of the other person. It’s always led to a closer relationship, and I’ve never regretted it.
I usually feel uncomfortable doing this in person or over the phone, so I try to write it out. I can take my time writing out my grievances and I know that I won’t say something hastily I’ll regret later. Plus, then the other person has the option to respond in print or in person.
When you have a problem you want to discuss, try bringing it up with a neutral party first. A third-person can provide a different perspective and tell you if you’re actually in the wrong. I usually discuss friend issues with my husband first, since he can tell me if I’m being unreasonable.
What most people are looking for is acknowledgment in this world. That’s why many of us seek validation through likes and hearts on social media.
Give that to your loved ones by commenting on their recent career news or by supporting their side business. Odd as it sounds, developing good relationships in today’s world includes participating on social media with them.
If your friend just started dating someone new, text her a few weeks in to ask her how it’s going. She’ll love to hear that you care about her relationship. Bring it up if you see her in person. One of the characteristics that differentiates a strong relationship from a weak one is if you bring up things that are important to your friend before they have to. That shows real commitment and dedication.
Every interaction you have, try to mention or ask something that the other person cares about. They’ll be delighted that you remember and care so much.
Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Make your people feel good and they’ll never forget it.