If you were asked to picture a successful life, you would probably picture experiences, things or professional milestones. Maybe success is a C-Suite office, or a paid-for home.
While these may be benchmarks of success, they don’t get to the reasons behind the accomplishment. They are the symptoms, not the root cause, of getting ahead.
The truth is that success in life is largely dependent on strong relationships. An open line of communication with colleagues and supervisors can lead to success at work. A strong foundation of trust can lead to success in your personal relationships. In the end, your bonds with people are what matter.
So how can you improve your professional and personal relationships? By applying relationship psychology to your interactions with those around you. Here’s how.
Absolutely No Absolute Language
It’s easy to fall into the trap of tagging relationships with absolutes. Do you hear yourself saying, “You always leave this work to me” or “You’re never willing to acknowledge my contributions”?
This type of absolute language closes the door to hope at the expense of the other person’s feelings. There’s no way out. Instead, talk about the issue at hand — not generalizations about past or future behavior. See yourselves as a team who need to work through the problem together, not as adversaries.
Activate Your Active Listening
You might be hearing your partner’s voice, but are you actually listening? Probably not. Even if you hear every word, you most likely are not remembering or understanding the underlying message.
Relationship psychology experts recommend a technique called active listening. This involves not only paying attention, but also demonstrating your attentiveness through body language and offering reflective feedback. You can say, “So it sounds like what you are saying is…” and repeat back to your partner the message you’ve received.
Active listening also involves proactively inquiring when one or more points are unclear. Don’t interrupt or interject, just listen and respond with honesty and kindness.
Be Willing to Sacrifice
In today’s society, we pride ourselves on personal autonomy. But giving of yourself — whether emotionally, professionally or otherwise — can make your relationship stronger. One study showed that those who sacrifice in personal relationships are more likely to be happy as long as they don’t resent their partner for not sacrificing in turn.
Say your partner gets an awesome promotion at work, but you know it means you’ll have to do most of the heavy lifting at home with the kids and pets. You’re willing to do it, because you know it will have long-term benefits for your family and will fulfill your partner. Great! But in a month, if you start making comments under your breath, it can spell serious trouble for your relationship. So be honest, weigh the options and be open to sacrifice.
Speak Your Partner’s Love Language
A key part of relationship psychology is knowing how to speak to, and interact with, your partner most effectively. Some people call these preferred methods of communication “love languages.”
Love languages are the ways you express and communicate your love. Maybe you prefer spending one-on-one time together as the sole object of attention, or maybe actions speak louder than words, and you prefer acts of service to express affection. Physical touch and words of affirmation are other common love languages.
Knowing your partner’s love language can help you to direct your energy more efficiently. Why spend a day dedicated to quality time when your partner really needs words of affirmation?
Recognizing Failure to Launch
Sometimes, the biggest mistake people make is staying in a relationship too long. They let inertia and habit carry them months and years into a relationship they know in their head and heart isn’t the right one.
What does this have to do with forming stronger bonds? Staying in a mediocre or even failing relationship is preventing you from bonding with another partner — one who’s committed to a healthy, happy future. So, if your current relationship could be filed under “failure to launch,” now is the time to use the ejector seat.
You don’t need to be a professional to use relationship psychology in your personal life. This wisdom can help you form stronger bonds and become more successful at home and at work.
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