Updated: May 17, 2021
Image Source: Unsplash
Ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists all agree that relationships are a key, if not the key, to happiness. Furthermore, it’s the quality, not quantity, of our relationships that count. How can we improve the quality of our relationships, whether it be with family, friends, colleagues, or a romantic partner? Here are the top three simple yet powerful ways:
Use their love language
Seek first to understand them deeply
Focus on each other’s strengths
1: Use Their Love Language
Author Gary Chapman explains that there are five love languages:
Words of affirmation
Acts of service
People usually have 1 or 2 primary love languages. If we want to be loving and give others happiness, then we need to know their love language and give them love in their love language. Using a love language that is not their primary one is still helpful, but not as impactful.
Words of affirmation are all about encouragement and appreciation. For example, we can tell them we believe in them, or that they will do great. When it comes to giving appreciation, we should be specific. For example, instead of just saying, “Thank you for all that you do,” it’s more impactful to say, “Thank you for making dinner with my favorite food in it. That was very thoughtful and kind.”
Physical touch refers to things like holding hands, hugs, kisses, massages, or even just being physically near each other throughout the day.
For gifts, it could be small things from a trip or from the day just to show that we were thinking about them. For example, you could bring home your partner’s favorite bread. When it comes to gifts, we need to give something thoughtful with meaning behind it. The best gifts are things people cannot buy for themselves.
For quality time, it’s about giving them your full attention. Going for a walk together and talking to each other is an example of quality time. But if one or both people are distracted on their phones, then it is not quality time anymore.
Acts of service refers to doing things for the other person to relieve their stress or to make their life easier. For example, maybe you help them do their chores because they are really busy right now. Or maybe you go do something that you don’t really like, but you’re willing to do it for them.
To learn their love language, all you need to do is just tell them the list and ask them which one they prefer most. Usually, people can identify their love language. Another option is to take the 5 Love Languages quiz here: https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/couples-quiz/
2: Seek First to Understand Them Deeply
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey, shares an encounter he had with a father that had trouble with his son:
A father once told me, “I can’t understand my kid. He just won’t listen to me at all.”
“Let me restate what you just said,” I replied. “You don’t understand your son because he won’t listen to you?”
“That’s right,” he replied.
“Let me try again,” I said. “You don’t understand your son because HE won’t listen to YOU?”
“That’s what I said,” he impatiently replied.
“I thought that to understand another person, you needed to listen to him,” I suggested.
“OH!” he said. There was a long pause. “Oh!” he said again, as the light began to dawn.
“Oh, yeah! But I do understand him. I know what he’s going through. I went through the same thing myself. I guess what I don’t understand is why he won’t listen to me.”
This man didn’t have the vaguest idea of what was really going on inside his boy’s head. He looked into his own head and thought he saw the world, including his boy.
While we may chuckle at this father, the reality is, we are all guilty of committing the same offense constantly. How often do we think we understand others the moment they start talking, and then we interrupt them and start telling them what to do? This makes people feel unheard and uncared for.
How can we help others feel heard? The most important thing is you have to WANT to understand them. If you truly have that intention, then you will naturally know what to do. Think about how important they are to you, and how much you love them. Think about how you want them to feel cared for and loved by you. Then you will naturally do the right things, such as making eye contact, listening more than speaking, and affirming them instead of judging them.
Trying to understand the other person deeply is the key to solving relationship problems. When people feel unheard, they will just keep trying to express themselves until they feel heard, or worse, until they give up on you. Remember: conflicts are inevitable in relationships, but conflicts don’t have to be a bad thing. If we seek first to understand, conflicts become something that brings people closer and makes the relationship stronger.
3: Focus on Each Other’s Strengths
Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. In fact, the same characteristic can be both a trait and a weakness. For example, being spontaneous is a good thing because it makes you fun to be around, and spontaneous people can handle change well. But it is also a weakness because spontaneous people lack the ability to plan for the future.
Often times, we are attracted to someone else for their different strengths. For example, Jay Shetty mentioned how he was first attracted to his wife Radhi for her spontaneity. At the beginning, he viewed her spontaneity as a strength because she was so fun to be around. Later, he viewed it as a weakness when she struggled to make plans for the future. He went from focusing on her strength to focusing on her weakness. Fortunately, he realized his mistake, and they worked out the problem by letting them both focus on their own strengths. Jay handled all the future planning, while Radhi took care of the day-to-day fun and excitement.
Many couples start out like Jay and Radhi. They like each other’s differences at first, but then they get annoyed at those traits because they start wanting the other person to be more like them. Then, they keep focusing on each other’s weaknesses instead of strengths, until eventually, they decide to part ways. That’s really unfortunate.
How can we focus on each other’s strengths? The most obvious way is to just write down all their strengths and all the things you appreciate about them. But what if you have trouble identifying their strengths? This is when personality tests become really useful. The two main personality tests I use to identify people’s strengths and weaknesses are 16 Personalities and The Four Tendencies.
The 16 personalities test looks at 5 personality traits:
Introverted or extraverted
Intuitive or observant
Thinking of feeling
Judging (likes to plan) or prospecting (likes to go with the flow)
Assertive or turbulent
Each trait has their own good and bad. For example, thinking types are very good at logic, but they are weak at emotions. Feeling types are good at emotions but weaker with logic. Another example, judging types are great at planning but struggle with change, while prospecting types are quick to adapt but struggle with planning. When we know the personality type of other people, we can appreciate their strengths and not demand them to change their weaknesses.
You can take the 16 Personalities Test here: https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test
You can take the Four Tendencies Test here: https://quiz.gretchenrubin.com/four-tendencies-quiz/
After you do these personality tests, you will get a result. The result tells you your objective strengths and weaknesses. Then, you should get your partner to take those personality tests and compare your different strengths and weaknesses. Then you will know how to focus on each other’s strengths and work around each other’s weaknesses instead of ignoring each other’s strengths and complaining about each other’s weaknesses.
If there’s anything worth investing in, it’s your relationships. Quality relationships make us happy and healthy, and improving relationships is not rocket science. Three simple but extremely effective ways to improve relationships are
Showing love in their love language
Seeking first to understand them deeply
Focus on each other’s strengths
These tips will surely improve any relationship, whether it be family, friends, colleagues, or romance.