Key Habits for Nurturing Relationships
December—the season of relationships. Whether secular or spiritual, people crave connection this time of year. Many see this season, above all others, as a time to receive love—then pass it along.
Likewise, in this season of connection, broken relationships are felt more deeply.
Whether enjoying positive relationships or trying to improve one that is strained, three key habits nurture healthy relationships. These help you go deeper in the good relationships and bring healing for the broken ones.
We offer these as our Christmas gift to you in hopes that you can build or rebuild relationships that bring joy.
“One of the sincerest forms of respect is to actually listen to what another has to say.” Bryan McGill.
Humans long to be known–to be heard and understood. Couples struggle in marriage most often because they feel disconnected from the person who promised to love and cherish them forever. That breach is created when one–or both–spouses stop listening.
People often confuse listening with preparing a response. To genuinely listen–we stop our own thoughts and focus on truly understanding what the other person wants to share. This is harder than it sounds.
Our brains think 4 times faster than others talk. Which means that, while we are waiting for the other person to get their message out, our brain is busy looking for something to do. We fill this gap by developing our own point. But, in the process, we miss key elements of what the other person is saying.
A good technique for ensuring we are listening is to respond first with, “What I hear you saying is ___.”
This response cues the person speaking that you are genuinely trying to listen—a huge step in repairing strained relationships. It also creates the opportunity for the speaker to clarify any misunderstanding. Finally, by repeating the words, we process the message more deeply—leading to a more thoughtful response.
Second, we adopt the habit of affirming the other person for who they are. Strained relationships hurt others. Hurting people often feel unimportant and pull away. Offering explicit appreciation for the other person’s thoughts and feelings demonstrate that you consider their desires and goals important. This builds connection.
Affirmation begins with basic manners:
- look each other in the eye
- keep the tone calm, respectful, and engaging—even when disagreeing. The tone you would use with a boss or key client.
As you adopt these patterns, even strained relationships begin to flourish.
Affirming also often includes listening for the underlying message rather than just the spoken words.
If, for example, the other person begins every discussion of a proposed plan with lists past failures, perhaps the real message is, “How can I trust this plan after having been let down so often?”
Rather than explaining away past failures or dismissing the concern, affirming recognizes the reality behind the fear. You begin to heal the hurt by specifically addressing their concern. “I know I didn’t follow through before. What steps can I take to show I will follow through on this?”
Consciously listening for and responding to the underlying message helps the other person feel “known” and affirmed, while building a foundation for trust.
Underlying all these—treat others with honor. Beyond basic respect, honor fundamentally changes how we see and interact with others. Honor flows from genuinely believing in the unique, inherent worth of every person. As you intentionally create an environment that communicates, “You matter. Your ideas matter. Your goals matter,” the focus almost magically builds bridges of connection. As others experience the security of being honored, they become more willing to connect. And your relationships blossom.
God’s gift of relationship through His Son was the first and best Christmas gift. The foundation of this season of joy. We hope these keys enable you to experience that joy as you build nurturing relationships with others.
If you would like more support in growing healthy relationships at work and home, call 317-344-9740 or email Tess@TheResolutionCenterIndy.com. We look forward to serving you.