7 Simple Ways to Improve Relationships with Friends and Family

“The better part of one’s life consists of his friendships.” – Abraham Lincoln

Relationships are a massive part of our lives, we can’t live without them. Of course sometimes it is very hard to live with them, but in the long run they are one of the most important things in life, and yet also one of the easiest things to neglect.

Dr George King described friendship as a flower that needs to be watered by two or more people in order to survive. I think this is a brilliant metaphor. Perhaps that flower could live for a little while being watered by only one person but in the long run it will just wither and die. Rather than waiting for the other person to start watering the flower before you do, why not take the initiative and start the watering first. You might just trigger them into watering it as well.

Relationships with friends and family always go through testing times and there will always be ups and downs. Some times they will let you down and sometimes you’ll let them down. But by practicing the points below you can help strengthen those bonds so that the glitches along the way can be smoothed over more quickly.

It might be best not to try to do all of these at once. Perhaps just start by picking one or two ideas and work on them with one person and see what happens.

Keep in touch – Call/txt/email/write/meet more often. These days technology makes it so easy to keep in touch and yet we still find ourselves drifting apart. Technology can help you keep in touch but it can never replace being together in person. When I travelled overseas I emailed home regularly to friends and I was surprised at how well this managed to maintain those friendships, even over an extended period of time. This is important with the people you live with as well. Sometimes you can live in the same house yet not end up spending much time together. But whilst technology helps in many ways it can also hinder. A txt is no substitute for a face to face conversation.

Quality time – If you haven’t had quality time with someone for a while then arrange to do so. There are some friendships where you might only catch up once a month, others a few times a week. Every relationship’s different so figure out who you’re neglecting and decide how you can correct this. It can help to pick a friend and think when the last time you had a decent conversation with them was.

Remember birthdays & other dates – This is important with friends and essential with family. Some people say they aren’t fussed whether about people remembering their birthday but actually everyone appreciates it. How you remember people’s birthdays varies. Depending on how close you are it might just be a text or a phone call, or a present. I’m not too hot at remembering dates so I programme them into my mobile phone. With the really important ones I programme a reminder in a week ahead of the birthday so I’ve got time to organise a gift. These days with Facebook, Bebo etc it’s easier than ever to keep track of birthdays.

Listen more – The absolute number one way to improve a relationship is to listen more. And really listen. If you think people aren’t listening to you then chances are you aren’t listening to them either. Set the wheel in motion and listen to them first. Really try to see things from their perspective. If you want people to listen to you then listen to them first.

Look for ways to help them or make their lives better – Do a chore they normally do, give them a lift somewhere, help them carry something.

Try not to take them for granted – It’s easy to get a bit too comfortable in some relationships. We get caught up in other areas of our life and forget about some friendships then wonder why they aren’t there for us anymore. Friendships need to be maintained or they will fade away.

Open up – Tell them how great they are and how much you love having them as a friend/partner etc. Be specific, tell them what it is that you love about them and why that is such a great thing.

For more ideas check out Leo’s post on Zen Habits called The Six Greatest Gifts You Can Give Your Loved Ones.