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In a world of increasing digital connection and physical separation, it’s important to prioritize your relationships with others. As a result, good partnerships provide many unique benefits in various spheres of life.
As with all great things, it takes time and energy to cultivate good, strong relationships. In business, strong interpersonal skills will result in networking opportunities, customer satisfaction, successful negotiations, and unparalleled leadership. In romantic or platonic relationships, one can foster deeper feelings of connection, authenticity, empathy, compassion, and an overall sense of happiness and well-being.
But how do you build and maintain good partnerships?
Related: The Relationship Economy and 10 Ways to Improve Your Professional Relationships
1. Be responsive
According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, responsiveness is one of the key elements to building a relationship where the other person feels understood, valued and validated. It is one of the determining factors for the duration of romantic relationships, the duration of employees in a workplace, and the loyalty of customers to a business. Responsiveness is more than just being kind, however —it’s a real show of empathy in difficult or busy times.
To become more responsive, you need to equip your communication toolkit with understanding, validation, and attention.
Related: 5 Tips for Effective Workplace Communication
2. Active Listening
A big part of being a good partner, whether in a professional or romantic situation, is being able to listen. In turn, listening will allow you to build authentic relationships where you have come to know the individual or understood their perspectives or goals. As Harvard Business Review explains, most people operate from an inside listening perspective. They focus on their thoughts and priorities while the other person is speaking, even without fully realizing it.
Fortunately, it is possible to learn to be an active listener. According to Boston University, this involves listening to both the content and the feelings in another’s speech.
3. Ask questions
Many people feel that asking questions makes them appear uninformed, when in fact the opposite is true. Asking questions can bring more clarity to a situation, accuracy to decisions, and precision to tasks. In a business scenario, this can ensure employees view others in positions of authority as leaders, striving to understand the workforce and engage with the work at hand.
Asking questions can also mean that others feel heard and understood, which is essential for building and maintaining a good relationship. By asking questions, you’ll let others know that you care more about the situation and the person than your ego and opinions.
4. Build Trust
In addition to interpersonal communication skills, certain elements must be built consistently over time between people, contributing to lasting partnerships. One of the most important factors is trust, created from credibility, reliability and intimacy
In a business scenario, it can be easy to distinguish who is credible. A management leader who has the skills to effectively organize, delegate, and motivate their team will be given these tasks. Naturally, they will also be more credible and trustworthy if they are reliable. Reliability is the ability to perform tasks consistently. Likewise, in romantic and family relationships, reliability helps maintain trust between the parties.
Additionally, intimacy refers to the understanding that trust must be earned over time.
5. Develop mutual respect
If there is a lack of respect between people, relationships can never be built or maintained on authentic foundations. The Harvard Business Review notes that a large portion of the workforce views respect as very important and impactful, while simultaneously reporting feeling disrespected at work. Likewise, as Psychology Today theorizes, mutual respect may be even more crucial to a strong romantic relationship or friendship than love itself.
There are two types of respect: due respect and earned respect. Due respect is the belief that everyone is inherently valuable and therefore deserves respect for that alone. Adopting the mindset that you naturally owe each other respect is a great way to lay a solid foundation for a relationship. In addition, it will allow assumptions, stereotypes and judgments to be set aside. As a result, you open yourself up to experience and learn from different types of people.
On the other hand, earned respect is the belief that people deserve respect based on merit. It is important to recognize or reward people who meet or exceed expectations; in a partnership, it can set the precedent that impressive work or care is recognized and appreciated. In general, a relationship should have a healthy dose of each type of respect and should be tailored to the specific relationship.
6. Resolve conflicts intelligently
Although conflict is generally seen as a detrimental or threatening factor in relationships, the important thing is how the disagreement is addressed and resolved. It is said that the way a person reacts in a tense situation will show how they perceive the other individual and how they value their relationship. If you respond with active listening, understanding, and a genuine willingness to compromise, the bond between you and another person will grow stronger.
Related: 6 Strategies for Resolving Workplace Conflict