Healthy Relationships: Helpful Tips for Creating Supportive Relationships

“Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the Earth.” Archimedes

Healthy relationshipsHaving supportive relationships in life cannot be underestimated.  People who have healthy relationships are likely to worry less and to be less prone to falling into deep depressions.  Remember, that where the relationships are concerned, it’s the quality, not the quantity that matters the most.

Having even one close relationship where one can feel at ease, accepted for who they are, comfortable sharing their innermost fears and concerns can move mountains in terms of the emotional relief that provides.  As Archimedes, one of the greatest mathematicians of all times wrote, “Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the Earth.”

Engaging in caring relationships is critical to our emotional health and well-being.  However, not all relationships are created equal: some people just don’t have what it takes to be supportive. In order to surround yourself with supportive people, the first step is to begin to identify the qualities of healthy relationships, spend time with people who embody those qualities, and, as much as possible, avoid people who are detrimental to your well-being.

Below are some considerations on how to tell which relationships are more supportive and how to cultivate some of these qualities in you.

1. Good Listener

When you talk to your friend about something you are going through—a crisis or problem— are they able to listen?  Are you able to share your experience or vent your frustration about a situation without them offering advice?  You are likely looking for someone to validate your feelings, to feel understood and empathized with.

2. Non-Judgmental

When you are sharing something that’s in conflict with your own values, is your friend able to avoid judgment?  Are they able to remember that other people are not them and take care not to impose their values on you?  Remember, everybody’s doing the best they can at any given moment. If you feel judged by someone, you are unlikely to talk about the dilemmas that may be arising in your life, and that’s the time when you especially need emotional support.

3. Avoid “shoulding” people

It’s best to refrain from people who tell you what you “should” or “shouldn’t” do. If you’re in a relationship with someone who has a habit of telling you what you should and shouldn’t do, that’s a red flag. Instead of listening, this person is making assumptions about you or about the way you should be living your life.

4. Empathy

Empathy is the act of putting yourself in another person’s shoes. It’s a trait you’ll want to develop in yourself and a quality you can be looking for in others. If you tell someone something painful, recounting a personal crisis you went through, or a difficult situation you once faced, are they able to show compassion? The simple statement “I’m really sorry you had to go through that” can be the most supportive approach.

5. Emotional Maturity

Look for emotional maturity in your relationships. Here’s an example. Say you’ve made plans with a friend to go out, but you have to cancel because you got sick. A supportive friend may be disappointed, but will understand. They might even offer to pick up some chicken soup or a movie for you. But, if your friend gets angry, it’s a tip-off that you’re not dealing with a supportive and emotionally mature person. On the flip side, a friend who frequently cancels planned engagements without giving you a good reason, may also be immature and irresponsible, and will make you feel unsupported.

6. Develop Effective Communication Skills

You’ll encounter occasional conflicts with any friend. Those conflicts present you with an opportunity to develop effective communication skills. Try to own your feelings and avoid blaming others; at the same time, communicate what you need from another person.  In supportive relationships both people are able to step back, re-evaluate their actions and discuss the conflict without blaming and judging each other.

7. Emotional Honesty

Emotional honesty, which involves the willingness to be vulnerable, is central to supportive relationships. For example, let’s say a friend says something hurtful to you: “You look like you’ve put on weight,” or “I saw your ex-boyfriend last night with his new girlfriend and he looked really happy.” It’s important to tell that person how you feel. You might say: “I’m having a reaction to what you just said. It may not have been your intention, but I found what you said hurtful.” Vulnerability is a sign of authenticity; it makes the relationship feel real. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable shows other people that you care enough about them and the relationship to share who you really are, and you’re inviting them to be who they really are. In healthy relationships the other person usually responds with being vulnerable on their side.

8. Know When to Let Go

Every relationship hits bumps along the way, which is when effective communication becomes especially important. It helps you find out whether you can effectively work through a conflict and negotiate your differences with someone else. However, sometimes a person may lack the maturity to provide supportive relationships.  Sometimes, people change and their values are no longer the same.  If you feel that your relationship with someone is stressful, you feel judged and misunderstood by them and your attempts to repair conflicts are not working, it’s OK to let go of the relationship.  Just because you used to be friends with someone, does not mean you have to be in close contact with them if the relationship is no longer supportive of who you are today and the values you’ve developed. You can say: “I don’t think we’re a good fit as friends.” Or “I think our values or lifestyles are just too different to support a friendship.” The better you know yourself, the easier it is to assess whether people are a good fit as part of your support system.

If you would like help with creating healthy relationships, please call me, Dr. Maya, on (818) 809-9519 for a free 10-minute phone consultation.

photo credit: HAMED MASOUMI


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