8 principles to successful relationships

Tam Johnston

How do you relate?


Relationships in differing contexts of our lives; love them, dread them, crave them, nurture them, run from them….. whatever you think of them, you relate!

_DSC0730Relationships are fundamental human interactions that exist on a daily basis, the results of which impact hugely upon how we feel about our lives and ourselves. Without any exposure to relating with others in our lives, we’d be deprived of the source of the majority of our human needs.
So what is it about our relationships with others that creates such highs and lows, conflicts or consensus? Well … it’s complicated!
Frankly, it’s bound to be. The complexities of being human with our needs, desires and uniqueness creates an interaction with others that to me is like leaves dancing in the wind.  If relating to others didn’t involve some effort, understanding, flexibility, space and mutual respect then would we appreciate the rewards we find in a special relationship so much? Would we gain such an insight into the complexities of others and ourselves that allows us to grow, adapt and find happiness? I believe not.
Relating to others brings with it friendship, unconditional love, admiration, support, understanding, significance, companionship, passion, fun, excitement – the list could go on forever. It can also bring its fair share of frustration, misunderstanding, anger, hurt and pain, some of the natural fall out emotions when relationships break down.

Yet the principles of relating successfully to others share similarities whatever the nature of the relationship. I’ll share with you the most common fundamentals that can bond and break down any type of relationship that can help you adapt the way you relate for more equal and satisfying relationships, be it at work, with family, partners or friends.

All relationships share likenesses, whether they are at work or at home, yet we often relate differently in different situations and with different people. By becoming aware of what all relationships have in common, as well as acknowledging how we all differ, we can choose to communicate more effectively with everyone, creating an interaction where your needs, wants and styles are united with theirs. You may read the following principles with a particular relationship in mind; it is equally applicable to use it to consider how you relate to people generally and what effect that has.

Successful Relationships ~ 8 principles

best-of-thail-and-laos-(187  1) Gain a strong sense of self

Let’s start with the most important aspect… you! If you have a strong sense of who you are, self-belief and an awareness of what’s important to you, you are in a far more solid position to communicate, compromise and relate flexibly with others without fears of losing yourself or compromising who you are. So appreciate who you are and what you represent so you can remain true to yourself.

Additionally, understand what is within your control. If you are expecting to control others with your behaviours, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and issues within any relationship. Know that you can only control yourself and the way you interact with others, that way, you have the choice to adjust how you relate to reach a result that means you are both happy.

2) Share and accept each other’s values and beliefs

What is important to you and the other person(s)? Family? Freedom? Security? Health? Achieving? Loyalty? Outstanding customer service? Space?…….

Our values are deep rooted within us and make up a huge part of who we are, so what someone else considers important IS important to them, the same as your values are equally important to you. The more your values are aligned with the other persons and you share similar beliefs, the closer the bond tends to be. Yet recognising that something means a lot to the other person, even if it is less important to you, and by providing space and respect for that value, demonstrates both that THEY and your relationship are important to you, and that you have the flexibility to respect them for who they are. It is not necessary to agree on everything, but by giving the other person space and acceptance to have their views and abide by what is important to them you are sharing other core values like significance, honesty and acceptance.

3) Communicate in a style that works

We all have different preferences when it comes to how we wish to be communicated with and how we instinctively communicate with others. This can create interesting conversations where we can literally be talking another language to each other even though we’re speaking English. You will have noticed it before; someone you are talking to just isn’t getting what you are describing until you draw them a diagram or ‘show’ them what you mean. With others you may need to find a way to relate it to an experience where they can feel what you mean.

People tend to process information differently, and as such, prefer and process easier with one of the following communication styles: visual, auditory, kinaesthetic (sensory feelings or emotions) or by talking it over in their head and gaining an understanding of things. Suffice to say, if you get a sense that the way you are communicating with someone isn’t working, try something else. I frequently hear people describe issues with their partner where they tell them daily that they love them, yet the partner is not hearing them, they need to be ‘shown’, or be given affection such as hugs in order to feel loved.
So, if you are talking something through with them and they need you to walk them though it, you’re going to have a much harder time getting your message across! If they need to make sense of something and you are drawing them a diagram of the big vision, notice their signals of frustration and tell them step-by-step until they understand!

So start getting a sense for how other people prefer to be communicated with and adapt accordingly, you will be amazed by the ease at which you can suddenly communicate. The same applies for you. Notice what works for you and when you know, you can ask others to adapt to your style, for example “Do you have a picture/diagram of that, that you can show me”, or “Can I just do that with you now, so I can get a feel of it”.

4) Accept differences in personality style

Similarly to the way we process information differently by pictures, feelings, sounds etc., we also perceive the world and the information around us differently. Some of us like all the details, yet others want the big picture. Some people live by the rules, others consider they are there to be broken and look for other options. Fitting in and comparing things with similar experiences are common for some people whereby others look for the differences and are great at troubleshooting, but perhaps less helpful when you need to get something done and they are pointing out all the pitfalls!

These differences (and many more) are what help make us unique from each other and are natural preferences that we all have. People are not being different from you on purpose, or to make your life more challenging; it’s just the way they are, just as you are to them!

The more we can come to recognise how others see (or hear, feel or make sense) of the world differently, the better we can accept and find even better ways to relate.

5) Get to know and manage expectations

What are the unsaid boundaries within your relationship? What are your expectations of each other? It goes without saying that what we expect from each other goes a long way towards whether we are happily surprised by the person or bitterly disappointed. Equally, if we don’t know what the others expectations are of us, how on earth can we ever be sure whether we are fulfilling them. Expectations occur within different timeframes, meaning that some are immediate or short term, such as getting a project finished or a partner chipping in to help cook the dinner you’ve both had hard day at work. We also have far more long-term expectations like what you expect out of a partner, parent, or friend, whether you expect to have children, or how your boss will assist you with your career pathway,

These can be better defined by becoming clear about your and the other person’s roles and the underlying rules that make up the relationship. What are the boundaries and what do you both want and expect?
If these expectations are not discussed or made extremely apparent, we operate in the dangerous territory of assumptions.

6)  Avoid mind reading, guessing and crystal balls…. just ask!

Assumptions, we all make them; each and every one of us secretly carries a crystal ball in our back pocket that we use regularly to guess what someone is thinking, why they did something or what they want! How often does that end up being incorrect? So by being more explicit about wants, feelings and thoughts in a relationship makes it easier for both people to meet that requirement rather than guessing incorrectly.

Similarly, people fall in the trap of telling people what they did wrong, what they don’t want – leading to conflict or withdrawal within a relationship, assuming that the other person knows what you want instead (if, in fact you know yourself!). Give that other person an opportunity to do right by you; tell them what you want/need instead.

So if you are reaching for that crystal ball when relating to others, put in back in your pocket and just ask them. If you are truly unable to do that, walk in their shoes as them for a bit, you stand a closer chance of guessing right!

7) Ensure a well balanced relationship with mutual contribution Relationships3

Have you had relationships or friendships where you are putting in all the legwork and eventually come out emotionally drained? It may take you a while to notice it as rescuing others can be enticing for a while! It brings with it a sense of being needed, belonging, significance…. you can fill in the gaps. Yet over the long-term your needs are not being met unless the roles reverse intermittently or there is a more harmonious balance.

The best and most successful relationships are based upon mutual contribution for it to be worthwhile to both parties long-term.

8) Who are you together? Make it greater than the both of you!

When you consider the result of your partnership, what comes out of it? Who is that entity that is the two of you combined? Are you the on the same side, sharing in your collective successes and pulling together when need be? Are you greater than the sum of the two parts?

Take time to recognise the strengths that your partnership brings. When you are together, that’s like what?

By finding a way to collectively explore expectations, needs, wishes, values, beliefs, roles, responsibilities and a unified identity in all differing relationships, you will create a bond and unity that develops into a third entity, the sum of both your parts. When you consider how many differing relationships we have within various contexts of our lives, the chemistry we create with others and all the differing entities we are part of world is quite remarkable. It is that, that connects us to others and the world!

Whether these principles are used to enhance one relationship, or to affect how you relate to people generally; used well they will enhance your sense of self, your individual needs and happiness and that of everyone you are in contact with.

I wish you happy and successful relating!

Time to notice the magic!

Spot what works! We are all unique individuals and as combined entities.  The basis of what works in one relationship is worth applying to another with the readiness to adapt and enhance the details of it according to the feedback you are getting.

Remember I said at the start that we act differently with different people and different circumstances? If there are people who you have a fantastic relationship with, and others that are well, less fantastic, then take some time consider what the difference is in the ‘fantastic’ relationship. Consider it from the perspective of yourself, the other person and lastly as a fly on the wall for a minute and take a good objective look at both of you. What makes how you relate to each other FANTASTIC?

Got it? Now consider the ‘less fantastic’ relationship. What can you use from your observations and insights to relate better? What are the differences? For example,  do you share the same values, is there a high level of mutual respect and understanding? Are you clear of each other’s roles? Do you recognise each other’s needs for individuality and how that enhances the relationship?

Now, what needs to happen (by you, them and collectively) in order for you to relate like this in your ‘less fantastic’ relationship?

Compelled to comment on what you’ve read? We’d love to hear your comments and feedback below. Feel free to share with anyone you know that you feel will benefit!

If you need any further help with relationship issues or want to know more please get in touch. We’d be delighted to hear from you.

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