We tend to think of a relationship as a static thing, like a highway or a table. “Relationship” is, after all, a noun. In reality, a relationship is a process — a process of relating that is always changing. Change is not necessarily good or bad. It is simply a fact of life.
In order to have healthy relationships, we must gently point that change toward the positive. This means learning to relate better throughout each interaction.
Here are five simple relationship-building conversations you can have today with anyone in your life.
1. You’re amazing at ...
Most of the time, we assume that people know what they’re good at. We see them being master public speakers, remarkable artists, or talented comedians. We imagine that they must know this about themselves because it is so obvious to us.
While there are people out there who do know their strengths and capitalize on them, many others are in constant states of flux. They draw back the curtain of fear, pull back their shoulders, and walk into the public arena wearing nothing but authenticity and courage. If they come out to silence, their confidence wavers. If they come out to applause, their hearts swell and they march on bravely.
Never underestimate the power of a genuine compliment. This sort of statement has the power to change a life.
2. I appreciate when you've done ...
We all know what it’s like to go through a tremendous amount of effort for someone and come out feeling unappreciated. The ungrateful party is often completely oblivious to the effect she's had. None of us is ever intentionally ungrateful. We are simply busy attending to other things.
You know how it feels to be appreciated, so why not give the gift of that feeling to the people you care about? Receiving gratitude will put a smile on anyone’s face, including your own when you see the positive effect that your words have produced.
3. Can you teach me ...
When we're faced with someone more talented than us, we have two choices: stew in envy or choose to learn. Those who choose envy don’t learn, and those who choose to learn don’t envy.
Becoming a student of the people around you is also an act of respect, for yourself and for the other person. You recognize the seeds of potential in yourself, and you honor their hard work and dedication to nourishing those seeds in themselves.
4. Do you wish I did more or less ...
Communication is crucial to relationships. We do not usually ask for feedback on our own behavior, nor do we give others feedback on their behavior. That is, until there is conflict. Then, we become defensive and our communication quickly turns hostile.
When we choose to communicate in times of peace and own our emotions while doing so, we give the other person some room to make the choice to change. It is only when we feel we are without choice that we become defensive.
To start by asking for feedback is one step ahead of that. The feedback you receive will help you improve the way that you treat the other person and it will facilitate their listening to you when you speak.
If you've never done this before, it will feel scary, unnatural, and awkward at first. No matter how tempting it is to avoid the hard conversations, remember that feedback happens regardless of planning or intention. It’ll either happen in a time of calm when you’re both receptive and respectful or it’ll happen in a time of conflict when you’re both less likely to listen and much more likely to hurt each other.
5. I always brag about your ...
We all know what it’s like to be in a group of people and to speak about someone who is not there in a positive way. We often walk away from these experiences and, just like everyone else in the group, feel no need to report what just happened to the person in question.
We brag about our friends and family members to others. We tell funny stories involving friends or acquaintances. We recount the accomplishments of people we know to show others what is possible. A person can spend an entire lifetime having no idea this happened! You have the power to change that.
How about you? What are your favorite ways to build healthy relationships and connect closer to the people in your life?