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In the Spotlight

Relationships Matter!

By Richard Harvey, Ph.D.
Program Manager, Health Promotion
National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

We like to be with and around other people, and it often gives us good feelings. Close satisfying relationships with others gives us good feelings. Positive relationships also help us be physically and mentally healthier, and have a better quality of life! These relationships may also help us recover faster from injuries and diseases. So how can we have relationships that make us feel good and help to keep us healthy? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Seek out contact with others

    • Make an effort to be around other people

    • Spend some quality time with your family or others with whom you are close

    • Participate in events or meetings related to your hobby

    • Join clubs or groups that share your interests

    • Join in with groups at church

    • Do volunteer work in your community

    • Exercise with others at the YMCA or other exercise facility

    Groups of people are everywhere. You do not have to be lonely.

  2. Start a conversation

    • Take advantage of opportunities to talk with others

    • Share your opinions or experiences when you get a chance

    • Be willing to start a conversation

    • When you are not able to make contact in person, there is always the telephone and e-mail

    • Ask others about their experiences or opinions, such as during or after a meeting or gathering

      • Ask or make a comment about sports events

      • Ask about the other person's occupation, children, or other personal experiences

      • Begin with, "What did you think about the presentation (or sermon, or food, or the show, or what somebody said, etc)?"

      • Another example, "Since we are at a car show, I'm interested in what you know about Model A Fords. Can you get parts for a car that old?"

    People form relationships by communicating, so communicate.

  3. Do things with others

    • Invite others to your home for dinner, or go out together to have coffee

    • Suggest getting together with friends or family to do something everyone would enjoy

    Doing things with others builds relationships.

  4. Be sincere and honest

    • Just "be yourself"

    • Allow people to know the real you

    • Others like openness in a person

    People enjoy others who are sincere and honest.

  5. Consider how others might feel

    • Try to imagine how the other person you are talking with might feel about what you are saying

      • Choose your words by imagining how you would feel in that situation

    • Say things in a way that will not offend others

      • If what you are about to say might be hurtful, do not say it

    • Let others know you heard them by commenting on their joy, pain, sorrow, or ideas

      • You could say something like, "I know that must be hard for you. I imagine I might feel the same way."

      • "I really like that idea!"

      • "You sure sound happy about that."

    Most people get along with each other based on how they feel.

  6. Communicate your thoughts, ideas, needs, and feelings

    • Honestly (but thoughtfully) talk with your spouse, family members, or close friends about your feelings, needs, and thoughts

    • Share both positive and negative feelings and thoughts

    • Say things in a way that respects the feelings of others

    • Avoid laying blame

      • Use "I" instead of "you"

      • Being blamed makes people angry

    • If you object to something, say it in a pleasant manner

      • It sounds much less insulting

      • It is much less likely to provoke anger

      • It is more likely to result in solving the problem

      • Instead of saying "You always leave your clothes on the floor!" try saying, "I really do not like it when I see your clothes on the floor. How can we change that?" or "What can we work out?"

    You build close good-feeling relationships by sharing thoughts, ideas, needs, beliefs, feelings, and so on.

  7. Be willing to compromise

    • Be willing to meet in the middle

    • If you can not agree to compromise, agree to disagree

    People do not always agree on things. In order to get along with others, it is often best to meet halfway.

  8. Help others

    • Be willing to help

    • Clearly let others know you are willing to help

    Most people appreciate having someone offer help. Helping another person or organization can make you feel good.

  9. Give praise

    • Give praise when someone deserves it

    • Tell a person they have a nice quality about them

    • Compliment a person when they do something you like

    People love compliments and respond positively.

These nine tips can help you on your journey to build or strengthen close satisfying relationships with others. The benefits of doing this include better health, faster healing, and an improved quality of life.

Read More

VA Caregiver Support

How can I improve communications in my family? (American Academy of Pediatrics)

Improving Relationships (After Deployment)

Caregiving and Sibling Relationships: Challenges and Opportunities (Family Caregiver Alliance)

Spirituality and Stress Relief: Make the Connection (Mayo Clinic)

Updated January 30, 2009