We recently surpassed the 1-year mark of the Covid-19 pandemic, and for many people, the past year has brought feelings of loneliness and isolation. Thankfully, it seems we are arriving at a new phase in our national recovery, so I wanted to share my Top 5 tips for maintaining or re-building positive communication strategies for more productive interactions and healthier relationships. I encourage you to use this as an opportunity to connect (or re-connect) in a meaningful way with the important people in your life— even if it’s been a little while.
1 – Value the other person
To fully connect with someone, they must know they are important to you, even if it is only for that one interaction. For the sake of your relationship, make an effort to demonstrate through your words and actions that you value them. You can show your value by being a good listener, validating and acknowledging their feelings, and making sure that your words and actions are aligned.
2 – Notice how the other person responds to you. How do they feel in the relationship?
A big part of connecting with another person in any setting, is noticing how they feel during interactions, and in the relationship. For example: if they feel intimidated or unhappy, they will disconnect and not feel comfortable interacting with you. Pay attention to how they respond to you and what’s going on between the two of you during interactions.
3 – Set a positive framework for dealing with tension
If you notice tension building or a disagreement starting, don’t ignore it and hope it will go away. Use Step #1 of my communication model, The Relationship Protocol®, and say: “I want us to get along. Can we talk about what’s going on?” This allows for more open conversation, and it leads to the other person feeling less defensive. Step #1 encourages you to say those words out loud to the other person. When we state our intentions directly and sincerely, it cuts through all of the emotional clutter. The messaging is: “You are important to me, and we don’t have to engage in this argument, conflict, etc.” It lets everyone off the hook and it can immediately change the trajectory of a conversation.
4 – Be KIND!
I believe that kindness should be a ‘given’ in all of our interactions, because it builds trust and creates a safety net for the relationship. “I am going to be kind, not mean or sarcastic” is Step #2 of The Relationship Protocol model. This step is critical to having and maintaining healthy relationships. Think about this: if the other person doesn’t experience you as kind, they won’t fully trust you. Trust is a requirement in any relationship, whether you’re engaging with a customer or your spouse. Intimacy and vulnerability occur when we feel that the other person “has our back.” On the other hand, as soon as trust is broken due to an unkind word or act, the other person will immediately retreat, feeling that the connection might not be safe. Kindness brings hope to struggling relationships, and it enables trust to build over time. Don’t underestimate the power of a kind gesture.
5 – Don’t worry about “Winning.”
When it comes to important relationships, you can’t make interactions about winning and losing. If you are more focused on being right or winning an argument, you are most likely not connecting with the other person and their experience. For whatever reason, their feelings become irrelevant to you in that moment. In order to have a successful interaction, you must pay attention to yourself, the other person, and the energy between you. That’s what being relational is all about. In the end, you don’t have to agree, but to connect with the other person, it can’t only be about winning; instead, notice and care about their experience during the interaction.
Take a moment to think about these tips before you interact with anyone at work or home. They will support your efforts for having better interactions and healthier long-lasting relationships.
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