One of the biggest keys to happiness is having strong interpersonal relationships. I believe that relationships are key to leading a fulfilling and contented life. Like anything worth having in life, they take some work to develop and perpetuate.

In this article, I will discuss how to maintain a strong interpersonal relationship.

Developing Interpersonal Relationships

In the spirit of clarity, it’s a good idea to take a quick look at the definition of interpersonal relationships. In short, an interpersonal relationship is a strong or close association or acquaintance between two or more people that can last from a brief time period to an ongoing one. This can extend from family to friends, to work associates, to neighbors, or clubs and on and on. It can be a relationship in any context or situation.

For instance, I’ve had strong short lived relationships with people I’ve worked with on a project as well as one for 50 years with my brother. My two best friends and I live in different cities but, we get together several times a year and have a great time. I have a mentor I worked with over a decade ago I still stay in touch with because we get along so well. All of these are examples of strong interpersonal relationships.

We will briefly touch on developing interpersonal relationships. Best way to approach it is to be a friend or a good partner as the situation warrants. For instance, if you are on a new team at work, ensure you are a good person to work with. Do your part and help others as needed. Be a contributor who is also willing to help out when needed. As a friend, you simply follow the age old piece of advice “to have a friend, you must first be a friend”.

If you are on a board or association, it should be something you are interested in helping out with. That want-to-help attitude will put you with like minded individuals who you’ll probably hit it off with. The main thing to remember is great interpersonal relationships can get formed any place or situation where you interact with other people. Put a little effort into getting along with others and you’d be amazed at how that pays off.

How to Maintain Powerful Interpersonal Relationships

Now, let’s get into the part of how to maintain strong interpersonal relationships. Once you’ve gotten a solid relationship started here’s some ways you can maintain it.

1. Be Open

Any strong relationship needs to have the willingness to be open. This means the ability and desire to share what you’re thinking and your feelings about different subjects.

It really makes a lot of sense if you think about it. When you are open and willing to share, it shows the other person that you care about the relationship; that you are wanting to create a close connection by being truthful and receptive to the other person’s thoughts and feelings.

Think about some of the conversations you’ve had over the years. When you are speaking to someone who always seems to hold things close to the vest and shares very little information, it’s difficult to know what they are truly thinking or feeling. This creates a sense of distance from that person. On the other hand, when you interact with someone who is open with how they feel and interactive with you, it feels much closer. It feels like they care enough and are willing to share thoughts, ideas, and their feelings with you. This creates a much stronger bond.

2. Show Empathy

Here’s a saying you may have heard before:

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. People will never forget how you made them feel.”

Pretty powerful stuff. One of the deepest human desires is to feel understood. When you show empathy towards someone else, you are showing that you care enough to understand how they feel. And that goes a really long way in maintaining strong relationships.

Remember to show empathy whenever the opportunity presents itself in your relationships. This helps all of us feel more supported, understood, and most importantly, connected.

3. Be Respectful

It goes without saying that in order to help build and maintain strong relationships, you will need to be respectful — respectful of the other person’s time, opinion, feelings, and so on. This is vitally important in one on one relationships such as a marriage or close friendship.

The same really holds true in close relationships that involve a group type dynamic. If you are on a team at work, things will go so much better and the friendships will develop stronger if you are respectful to the others in the group. One of the biggest reasons, besides being the right thing to do, is you want others to be respectful to your time and opinions as well. It helps develop the sense of bonding and trust.

Work towards being respectful of others in general and certainly in tighter relationships.

4. Be Available

Giving your time is like giving a gift. Time is the one thing we all have the same amount of — same 24 hours in a day, same amount of days in a week, etc. How you choose to spend that time says a lot about you. And being available to someone shows that you value them enough to spend your time with them. That is absolutely huge.

Being giving of your time shows the other person that you care enough about them and the relationship to share your most valuable commodity. Being available to someone will do wonders for maintaining strong personal relationships.

One of my best male relationships goes back to my high school days. We were good friends then and decent friends during college. It was post college and into career time when we became really good friends. And that lasted for quite a while until we had families. And we did pretty good for a while after that. He’s always been great at staying in touch and getting together periodically. Somewhere in there, I wasn’t a very good friend and did not make equal effort of being available of my time. And it very nearly cost me one of my best friendships. I righted the ship and have made equal time and trips to his city to see him and his family. It’s really important to be available and give your time to support these types of connections.

5. Establish Boundaries

Boundaries are critical for healthy relationships. A boundary is a belief, or way of life, or conviction that you have. It involves your beliefs, values, and limits. It’s important to be clear to other people in your life, especially the strong interpersonal relationships, about what your boundaries are. It helps to create self-esteem and respect in the relationship. It’s basically showing others what you stand for and what you will and won’t allow in your life. A couple of quick examples for context are probably helpful here:

In a marriage, one spouse makes it clear to their partner that financial responsibility is very important to them. Maybe they had to start working at an early age and were responsible for all of their own costs once they turned 18. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that they make it clear to their partner that it’s important to them. And the other partner is into gambling, and gambling so much that leads to financial irresponsibility. At some point, there’s going to be a hard conversation about the direction of the marriage.

In a work group, one of the members makes it clear that watching their son’s soccer games on Wednesdays at 6 is very important. He is willing to work late any other day of the week except Wednesdays. He has established a boundary. His team members and manager hear him and understand him, and ask him to stay late from time to time but not Wednesday’s. There is a healthy, well established boundary.

6. Be a Good Listener

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again any chance I get. Something most people tend to forget is that listening is half of all communication. And when we get really good at listening, it becomes more than half of our communication. That’s because being a good listener will do wonders for your strong relationships.

Showing that you are actively listening will help boost the other persons self esteem because it shows that you truly care about what they are saying; that makes them feel important. It shows that you seek to understand and that it’s important to you to know how the other person is feeling about something.

It’s like the silent form of flattery to the person you are interacting with. It makes them feel supported and probably most importantly, valued.

You can learn how to be a better listener in this guide: How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)

7. Okay to Disagree

It is so beneficial to strong interpersonal relationships to know that it’s okay to disagree. We are all different and have different feelings and opinions. Strong relationships actually thrive on some disagreement and conflict. The alternative is not speaking up when you disagree with something and stuffing it inside.

And you know what happens if you stuff your feelings and opinions and feelings inside for a long time? Resentment. And smoldering resentment will eventually explode in a way that’s not good for anyone.

I have a strong relationship with both of my daughters. We also tend to disagree or outright argue a fair amount. And that’s fine. I tell both of them all the time that I don’t always like them but, I always love them. And they can say the same about me and that’s great. Having the ability to disagree with the other person fosters a much more open relationship where everyone feels comfortable sharing how they think and feel.

8. Be Appreciative

This one makes a lot of sense. Showing you are appreciative of another person in a good relationship only makes the relationship stronger.

We all like to feel appreciated and understood. When someone thanks you for something you did or said, it makes you feel good. You feel good because it’s nice to know that your efforts not only make someone feel better or supported but also that they noticed it. And this will certainly help to maintain your strong interpersonal relationships.

Final Thoughts

Never forget how important having strong and close relationships are to leading a happy and fulfilling life. It’s far too easy to get caught up our day to day actions of life and put relationships on the back burner.

We’ve looked at 8 great ways that will help you to maintain your strong interpersonal relationships. Take a look at these and see which ones might be helpful to you in your various partnerships. Use as needed to maintain one of the most important aspects of our lives.

More About Effective Communication

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