How to build a better relationship?

Several skills are involved in building relationships that are satisfying and nurturing. You must be prepared to make some effort to keep them going. Relationships, in order to be sustaining, must have certain elements like honesty, loyalty, trust and understanding. One essential requirement for this process is learning to understand the needs of others and to realize and assert your own needs within the relationship.

Supportive listening

One way to learn about another person’s need is with supportive listening. This is an attentive, non judgemental activity where you invite another to express his or her needs in a clear-cut fashion. It is only after you know what the other person wants that you can move to meet those needs. Otherwise, you are just guessing and may choose the wrong need, this diminishing the relationship. An understanding of the other person’s thoughts and feelings gives you the power to communicate successfully. Supportive listening is designed to promote understanding and empathy, nor to be an advice-giving session.

Voicing needs

Often, people have difficulty asking for what they need. They feel guilty, or they negatively assume that they will not get their needs met anyway. If you are one of those people, think about this: everyone who is speaking up has the same odds for getting their needs met as you, so why not jump in and be direct with people? The unasked questions or the withheld request has undone many relationships. What you need matters; not voicing your needs will ensure they are not met.

Another important aspect of voicing needs is that even if you are told “no”, that doesn’t necessarily mean “no” forever. You have the right to ask if a situation is negotiable or if your need could be met at a later date. You might only have to wait a while in order to have your need met. It is easier to live with delayed gratification, if you know you will get what you want at a later date.

Handling conflicting needs

Sometimes we have different views on what is important. These conflicts help us learn more about each other.

When these occasions occur, these conflicts must be addressed immediately so that frustration does not build up. To resolve needs in opposition, you must find some common ground.

Sometimes surfacing a conflict helps to get it out in the open for discussion. Caring confrontation about a problem and determining a resolution that will work for all are necessary to sustaining relationships.

If the goal is to preserve the relationship, then surfacing issues is important. Ignoring the anxiety and growing dissatisfaction produced by conflicting needs is not a caring or supportive act.

One difficulty that enters into relationship conflict, and in some cases actually contributes to an unwillingness to address need conflicts, is the fear of rejection. This fear may be the result of excess baggage brought into adulthood from a non nurturing, negative childhood. Children who feel as if their parents did not really care for their needs grow up to be adults who worry that the ones they love won’t love them back. This may be especially true in any statements of need conflict, even if tactfully offered, were squashed or belittled.

Rethinking rejection

Everyone has fears of rejection. The truth is, not everyone has to like you for you to have satisfying relationships. Remember also that what may seem at first like rejection may not actually be that at all.

Sometimes, though, you will come across people who just do not wish to be in a relationship with you as badly as you wish to be involved with them. This could be the result of incompatible goals, differing relationship needs, or even non-meshing life schedules – some people are work oriented rather than people or relationship oriented. Other people could be so preoccupied with their own problems that they don’t even think in terms of “like” or “dislike”.

Adapted from

McKee, S.L. and Walters, B.L., 2002. Transition management: A practical approach to personal and professional development. Prentice Hall.

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