Building Healthy Relationships

I realized many years ago that we are defined by our relationships. You can actually trace your successes and failures to the relationships in your life.
Maybe up until now your relationships have not been as positive, rewarding, and productive as you’d like them to be. That’s okay, because you can learn how to build better relationships and increase your relational potential. You can actually cultivate healthy, stronger, long-term relationships that enable and encourage you to move forward in your life and career.
Here are some suggestions that you can apply to your life to move you forward towards healthier and mutually beneficial relationships…

1> Care about people every day
You cannot increase your people capacity unless you value people and care about them. If you don’t like people, don’t respect them, and don’t believe they have value, it stands as a barrier to building healthy relationships with others. You cannot secretly look down on others and build them up at the same time. However, if you truly care about people, it shows. And it makes the development of positive and healthy relationships possible.
2> Make yourself more valuable in your relationships
What’s the fastest way to make a relationship better? Make yourself better so that you have more to give within the relationships you are developing. That requires an abundance mind-set. That’s the belief that there’s more than enough for everyone and people always have the potential to find or create more.
Try improving yourself and your situation with the purpose of giving to others and see what happens. As you give, I guarantee that your ability to give more will increase. It will motivate you to give more of your thoughts, time, assets, relationships, influence, and giftedness.
I ask a lot of questions to discover how I can better add value to others. There is no better way to show people you value them than by asking for their opinion. Communicating is about adding value to people, not adding value to yourself. The more you know about people and the more you improve yourself, the more you can make a difference in the lives of others. You can give more value to others, and that increases your relational capacity.
3> Put yourself in their world
Are you familiar with the saying, “It’s lonely at the top”? I don’t like it. It is a sign of disconnection. If you are a leader and you have been taught not to be friends with those who follow then it will be lonely at the top because it means no one is following you. In seminary I was taught that as the pastor I needed to not make friends within the congregation and that I must remain ‘somewhat separate’ so as to be better able to counsel and direct people. That simply is not good advice. Leaders and others who have self-isolated from others need to get off their mountain or out of their ivory tower, go to where people are, and spend time with them. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Make yourself available to the people in your life. And be alert to ways you can go to them when they need it. Sometimes you don’t even need to say a word. Just be there. Just let others know what they mean to you.
4> Focus your relationships on benefiting others, not yourself.
To build great relationships, you need to want more for people than you want from people. The people who want more for others and give more than they take in a relationship are pluses. The ones who want and take more than they give are minuses. That’s simple relational math. You need to determine that you want to be a plus with people. You should decide to make five relational deposits for every relational withdrawal you make from a relationship. That’s a great goal and will mean that you are building healthy, long-term relationships.
You should never take any relationship for granted. You never want to assume that a relationship gives you privileges that are not yours. Assumption is a killer in relationships. It needs to be replaced by awareness. If you want to increase your relational capacity, you must be continually aware that relationships never stay the same. They never stay alive on their own. They need attention and need to be cultivated. And you have to keep being intentional about adding value to continue being a plus in another person’s life.
5> Be a consistent friend in your relationships
I believe the ability to be a good friend is something that is often undervalued and overlooked today. Good relationships are built on consistency. Relationships that are volatile and continually up and down are not easy. They provide no relational “rest.” There is nothing pleasant about being in relationships that are continually high-maintenance. You can’t be good friends with people when someone has to walk on eggshells or when any conversation could be misinterpreted and lead to the end of the relationship.
We must be dependable and consistent. We must be trustworthy. Our friends must know that they can depend on us. How? These tips have helped many over the years:
A> Believe the best about people. Try to see people as they could be, not necessarily as they are. When you believe the best of people, you don’t feel the need to correct them or try to fix them. Believing the best of others is always the right thing to do, even if it means you may not always be right. People are more apt to change when another person believes in them than when people don’t believe in them.
B> Don’t allow other people’s behaviour to control you. Too often people allow the actions of others to impact their own attitudes and emotions. They let others’ inconsistency make them inconsistent. But you need to understand that when that happens, you’ve allowed it. As humans we have the capacity to create and control our own attitudes and emotions. We need to make that choice for ourselves every day. Otherwise, people will control us.
C> Place high value on relationships, even in difficult situations. Dealing with people is sometimes difficult. But even in the midst of difficulties we should make sure to do the right thing for the person and for ourselves relationally. At times you may simply need to end the relationship and walk away. Do so graciously and always leave the door open for the other person to reenter the relationship should they eventually choose to do so.
D> Unconditionally love people. Unconditional love is the greatest gift we can give another person. It allows someone to feel secure, be vulnerable, sense their worth, and discover who they really are. I believe that all people long to have a consistent friend who loves them, believes in them, and is continually there for them no matter the circumstances. If you are willing to be that kind of person for others, not only will it expand your people capacity, it will  also give you a more satisfying life.
You may be thinking, I can’t do this with everyone, because some people are just difficult. That’s true — for all of us. In the end, our goal should be to treat others better than they treat us, to add value to them in a greater capacity than maybe they expect.
6> Create great memories for people. 
It has been my experience and observation that most people do not maximize the experiences they have in life. To do so, two things are essential: intentionally on the front end of the experience and reflection on the back end. So, anytime you can help people to do those things, the experience becomes special for them, and it often creates a positive memory for them.
Most of us have traditions and memories associated with special days, but I want to challenge you to make memories out of everyday experiences. Every time you are with people, ask yourself these questions:
What can I say that will affirm those with me?
What questions can I ask that they will find interesting to discuss?
What can we do that will be different and fun?
What do I know that they would want to know?
Do I have a secret of my own that I can tell them?
All of these can lead to great memories. Many little things done repeatedly with high intention are better than big things done only occasionally. You can make big or small moments special for others, but you have to be intentional about it.
7> Move toward the relationships you desire in your life
Put yourself in a position to meet and spend time with the right people. I always want to spend time with people who know more than I do, and whenever I’m with someone I respect and have gotten to know, I ask them, “What do you know that I should know?” That question has given me a greater return in life than any other. The greatest way to know whom you should know is to ask someone who knows you.
I want to encourage you to be intentional and show initiative by moving toward the relationships you desire in life. If you wait for the right people to meet you, you won’t meet the right people.
Whom do you know who knows someone you should know? You may be only one person away from the next big things that you need in your life. You may be thinking, I’n not a people person. If that’s true, ask people with strong relational skills to help you. Let them complement and complete you. You can draw people to you by saying to them, “I need you.”
The more you value people, put yourself into their world, seek to add value to them, and be their friend, the better your life will be. Not only that, but doing these things will increase your people capacity, improve your potential, and improve your life. Just remember, helping people is always worth the effort.