Creating a Life Free From Chaos

6 Tips for Cultivating Stronger Relationships

6 Tips for Cultivating Stronger RelationshipsSince the fire in January, we’ve realized how important it is to have a support system. Quite frankly, I never really viewed myself as having a lot of friends — I can be awkward and geeky, and I’m often an introverted homebody. The house fire turned our world upside down, and I was blown away by how many people — family, friends, coworkers, Scouting cohorts, work contacts, neighbors, even strangers, ran to our aid. It was eye-opening, overwhelming, and a true blessing to see God’s love in action through angels near and far. It’s made me, my husband, and even our sons take a long, hard look at how good of friends we are to those we care about too.

Having relationships and making friends is part of life. Everyone does it. However, some people are better at it than others. If you’ve found yourself having a hard time making friends, it’s time to take a deep look at yourself, your values, and how good a friend you are to others. After all, the biggest part of our lives is spent with our friends and family, and these relationships are what make us who we are. Here are six tips for cultivating stronger relationships.

1. Be a friend to have a friend.

Building supportive relationships takes time and effort. It’s important for you to treat others as you want to be treated. Pay attention to what’s going on around you, and when you see a need, rush to fill it. The “Golden Rule” is the rule to follow when it comes to friendships and supportive relationships.

2. Be who you are from Day One, and respect others for who they are.

Differences are the spice of life, so don’t try to be someone you’re not just to attract certain people into your life. The fact is, people rarely change — you can’t change others, and you can’t keep a facade up. The more you trust others to be themselves, the more they’ll trust you to do the same. That doesn’t mean you have accept illegal or immoral behavior, but you should be willing to accept some differences.

3. Believe in your friends’ capacity to be even better.

Sometimes part of being a supportive person and a good friend is to want more for your friends than they want for themselves. If your friend is in a dead-end job and longing for a change, keep your eye out for opportunities to lift her up and encourage her to improve her career. If she wants to KonMari her home but doesn’t think she can do it on her own, offer to come over on a Saturday and help her start on her closet. If one of your friends is in an abusive relationship, don’t stand by quietly. Support her and ensure she gets help and gets out of that situation.

4. Learn how to listen effectively.

We were given two ears and one mouth for a reason. We should all seek to listen twice as much as we talk. But there is a difference between just sitting there silently as opposed to truly listening. Try repeating back to people what you think they said in your own words until you get it right. Ask questions. Empathize, but don’t make every conversation all about you. And not every conversation needs your advice or for you to solve anything — sometimes all your friend needs is a kind ear.

5. Spend real, quality time with your friends.

When you foster a friendship and a real relationship with someone, spend time with them that counts. Most people don’t need that much time. Sometimes it’s just 10 minutes on the phone, other times maybe it’s meeting for coffee. Another time it might be bringing the double chocolate chip ice-cream and a movie. Put your cell phone away and be present.

6. Learn to accept criticism (and how to give it).

True, supportive relationships aren’t always completely positive. Sometimes friends need someone willing to call them on their BS. Truly supportive people can do that for each other, and allow it to be done for them, without resentment or hurt feelings.

Life is richer when you’re surrounded by friends and family. Burdens are lighter, tragedies are survivable, and good times are so much sweeter. What are your favorite tips for cultivating stronger relationships?

6 Tips for Cultivating Stronger Relationships