7 Secrets to Revving Up Any Relationship
by Anita Agers Brooks
In your personal life, relationships affect your happiness and overall sense of well-being. In your professional life, success is dependent on not only who you know but how well you get along with co-workers, higher-ups, customers, vendors, and/or clients. So, it’s no stretch to say relationships should be a priority focus for all of us.
Personally, my marriage of over thirty years has taught me more than anything else about how to maintain healthier relationships. There’s nothing like sharing a house, a bed, and a bathroom, to see the biblical truth of Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend,” (NLT). Admittedly, in our three decades as man and wife, we haven’t always treated each other as friends, but we have certainly sharpened each other. And we’re both the better and more in love today for it.
Professionally, as a business/life coach and international speaker, I work with people in various roles and positions. It doesn’t matter if I’m assisting a leader or a front-line staffer, one of the biggest challenges people ask me to help with originates from relationships. Whether I’m speaking at a national conference or at a women’s event, when I leave the stage, many attendees approach with similar forms of a whispered concern. “How do I make things better with the people in my life?”
And I’ve certainly realized how much our personal and professional worlds cross lines with each other. Work affects home and home affects work. So, no matter which world you’re currently operating in, the same seven secrets will prove beneficial in revving up all your relationships.
Give what you’d like to receive. In the morning. Mid-afternoon. At the end of the day. In person. On the phone. During a video conference. Across the table. Wherever you interact with other human beings, start paying attention to how you come across. Do you sound interested or checked out? Are you grateful or grumpy? Is your demeaner approachable or antagonistic? Are you showing consideration for them, or do you bring everything back to you?
First, analyze yourself in light of how you would feel if you were on the receiving end of your behaviors. If you can imagine the slightest discomfort, fear, anxiety, intimidation, or confusion, then it’s time to reevaluate your manners and mannerisms. A shift in how you treat others will eventually generate a happier response from everyone you share a relationship with.
Listen twice as much as you speak. Most people today are desperate to be heard, and yet, few receive the gift of knowing others care about their thoughts, ideas, and concerns. If you develop yourself as a great listener, you will automatically set yourself apart from today’s crowd of interrupters.
Stop yourself when you are tempted to “fix” with words or want to tell the other person what they are thinking—versus hearing what they have to say. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason, and when you use them respectively in that ratio, you’ll soon see all your relationships deepen and flourish.
Keep your word. When I first read, “It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it,” Ecclesiastes 5:5 (NLT), it changed my life. I immediately considered how I felt when others told me they were going to do something but didn’t follow through. It helped me see the value in making it a habit to keep my word.
I began a practice of keeping my promises, whether I used the word “promise” or not. If I told someone I was going to do something, I did it. No excuses. No justifications. No opting out. When people can trust you, relationships move to a much higher level.
Schedule things to look forward to. The human spirit needs hope, anticipation, and happy expectation, in order to deal with the problems, adversities, and challenges life throws its way. This is true at home and at work.
Put refreshing activities, events, or simple down-time on your calendar. Remember to keep your word, and make sure when appropriate, play is included in your plans. Show the people you love your care through your memory-making efforts. Enhance professional connections through team-bonding exercises. Every healthy relationship needs an occasional uplift and enhancement, to maximize the benefits it brings.
Use PDA (Public Displays of Appreciation) lavishly. Both personally and professionally, people are hungry for appreciation. Most hear 100-1 more criticisms to recognition.
You can always find something to express gratitude for—when you look. If the person you want to acknowledge is more introverted in nature, then slip them a note or invite them to lunch, for a one-on-one opportunity to say “thanks.” If the individual is more of a social butterfly, seek ways to give them credit on public forums or in front of their community peeps. But regardless of personality, or preference of appreciation communication, every relationship flourishes when parties feel as if their contributions matter.
Send consistent messages of encouragement. Every human being is going through a difficulty, or soon will, though they don’t know it yet. A fitting word to remind them they are not alone can go a long way to helping someone get through. Just don’t make the mistake of trying to “fix” or “cheer” them when their soul is heavy.
People need permission to feel what they need to feel, and they want someone to support them while they do. The heart of my book, Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over, is to help those in a hurting or challenging place, and to teach others how to respond effectively. Consistent and periodic messages of hope work, as long as what you say is genuine and not peppered with feel-good fluff.
Sometimes, a simple spirit lift is all a person needs. Whether via text, email, social media posts, or good old-fashioned, hand-written notes, remind people that they are important to you. But take your message a step further and tell them specifically why. Don’t use flattery that smacks of inauthenticity, nor overdo, so the meaning behind your words is watered down. And remember this is more about who they are as a person, versus communicating appreciation for what they do. There’s no better way for revving up relationships than to boost someone’s morale.
Forgive yourself. When we carry a cloud of guilt and shame over our heads, we are not good company. According to Matthew 22:36-40, God’s greatest command is that we love Him with our whole hearts, souls, and minds, and then to love each other as ourselves. But it’s hard to love others when we don’t first love the person who greets us in the mirror.
Many people don’t realize that chronic relationship problems are often rooted in a blindness or unwillingness to forgive themselves—for real or perceived historical wrongs. In the second chapter of my new book, Exceedingly: Spiritual Strategies for Living on Purpose, with Purpose, and for an Abundant Purpose, I share the story of my own struggle with this issue.
I finally realized that if God is willing to forgive me, then I must be willing to forgive myself. Otherwise, I am setting myself above my Creator, in essence, saying I know better than Him. This epiphany helped me release my guilt and shame into the hands of Jesus. For me, it’s not enough to believe in Him, I must also believe Him—taking Him at His Word. This includes His promise to forgive me and set me free from past sin. When we’re released from emotional bondage, we’re loosed to rev up our relationships in amazing ways.
We all need healthy relationships with other people, otherwise, life becomes boring, dull, mundane, or even worse. A relationship in turmoil guarantees emotional stress for us. A lack of relationship fulfillment leads to loneliness, even when you’re in a crowded room. But now you know how to change all of that.
I believe in business, as in life and love, it’s never too late for a fresh start with fresh faith. And if you go to my website (anitabrooks.com) and sign up, I’ll give you my free 5 Fresh Starts for the Living document, so you can add those tips to your relationship rev up today. (Here’s a hint, it starts with you.)
From all my life experiences, this is what I know: if you invest yourself in making a fresh start and practice the seven secrets I’ve shared, over time you will see vast improvements in all your human interactions. It likely won’t happen instantaneously, but the magic comes with persistence. Your success, happiness, and overall sense of well-being will come from compounding interest in other people—and that’s something to get revved up over.
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