Your Personal Connections: 7 Tips for Building Meaningful Relationships in Your Life!

By Lorie Rosenberg

The other day I went out to breakfast with my husband Ron, and while we were enjoying our meal we noticed a couple at a table across from us. They were sitting next to each other and were doing something I see a lot now. And it wasn't smooching or holding hands, or even talking and communicating with each other.  In fact, it was quite the opposite!

They had their phones in their hands and were madly texting to someone. Frankly it didn't even seem like they were aware of the person sitting next to them. I chuckled to myself because this behavior is the norm these days.

It seems as if people have their phones surgically attached to their hands, and they seem more interested in their communications on the phone than what's happening in real life. Their phone demands more of their time and attention than the people they're with...which I believe is a pretty sad commentary on life today.

Eating in a restaurant should be a time to talk and interact with the people you're with. And therein lies a major problem nowadays. It seems as if relationships are more about how many Facebook or LinkedIn friends you have, rather than about building a close network of individuals you can count on and who will go above and beyond to help you when the need arises.

There's an old saying that you can't pick your family, but you can pick your friends. And that gives you an enormous opportunity to choose friends, peers, colleagues, and mentors who are supportive of your needs and with whom you can enjoy mutually satisfying and rewarding relationships.

But there's a lot more to building these types of relationships than you might imagine. You can't just expect them to happen, or will them to happen. It takes time, effort...and a commitment to nurturing a relationship, to give of yourself and be there for the other person.

7 Tips for Building More Enriching and Rewarding Relationships

Relationships are about give and take. They're about understanding the people in your life, even if they're different from you or have varying viewpoints. They're about being supportive when it's important for you to do so or laughing together when it's just about having some fun.

Here are some ways you can build lasting and rewarding relationships:

1. Actively Listen

It's important to be a good listener. In conversations, many people are either speaking...or waiting to speak...never truly listening to what the other person is saying. They've already figured out what they want to say, even before the other person has finished speaking.

To truly listen, you have to tune out everything around you, turn off your phone, and actively participate in the conversation. This allows you to keep track of what is being said and what the person is trying to convey to you. It's a good idea to ask questions that reflect back what the person has said and show that you are intently listening to them. And it's particularly important that you try not to top what the other person has said, but rather, show you understand them implicitly and acknowledge their thoughts and feelings.

It's frustrating when you tell somebody a problem that you're having and they say something like, "You think that's bad, well I..." When this happens, it seems as if they don't really care about your concerns or even acknowledge your feelings.

2. Give of Your Time

To build lasting relationships, you need to spend time with other people, doing activities, sharing similar hobbies or interests, working on projects, or just having some fun time together socializing. I've found that I've been able to build lasting relationships with people I've worked out with at the gym and with people that I shared similar common interests such as painting, biking, and tennis.

Ron and I have also developed close personal friendships by having couples over to our home for dinner. And you know they are true friends when they reciprocate and invite you to their house as well.

3. Demonstrate Understanding

Building lasting relationships is about being honest with the people you're friends with, and showing them your true self. It's about being understanding when they make mistakes or when they say something you don't agree with. It's trying to realize their best intention, and if they somehow hurt you, offer them the opportunity to make amends. You also may find that sometimes you just need to let the comment go because you know they really didn't intend to make you feel bad.  Many times people don't always understand the impact of their words, and you need to consider what their intention was and if it needs to be addressed.

4. Be Present in the Moment

When you're spending time with someone, be present in the moment. Remove distractions such as your phone, television, etc., and devote your time to the other person. Getting to know people takes time and the more you listen, observe and participate, the better you'll understand and appreciate them for who they are.

5. Do the Little Things That Count

A small gesture or token of your appreciation goes a long way to building lasting relationships. People are pleased when you thank them, both verbally and with a thank you note. They appreciate when you phone them out of the blue, send them information they might be interested in, give them a small gift, or help them in some way. People are grateful and feel indebted to you when they believe you have thought of them in a special way or helped them out when they needed it.

6. Realize How You Make People Feel

When you're with people, understand how you make them feel. Do you make them feel special? Do they feel as if you care about them? It's important to understand how you interact with people and what messages you are actually sending them, both verbally and with your actions.

If you're the one constantly talking, you may be sending the message that you don't care about what they think. If you don't share of yourself, then you may be sending the message that this relationship is not important to you.

Are you engaged in the conversation or are you distracted by everything around you - which sends the message that you're really not interested or care about their needs? It's critical to assess your communication skills to determine if your messages are being conveyed accurately and not misconstrued by the people you're talking to.

7. Find Similar Core Values

When building your relationships, look for people with whom you share common core values. That doesn't mean that you agree on everything. But it does mean that you believe in the same underlying principles that guide your life. These are the same values you instill in your children and that you live by. When you share similar values, you'll find that you have many of the same goals and objectives and will be able to enjoy interesting and satisfying conversations.

Understanding the Importance of Relationships

Relationships are the key to living healthy, satisfying lives. It has been found that people with strong social relationships are 50% less likely to die prematurely. The support of a close friend or loved one can dramatically reduce the negative emotional and physical effects of stress in your normal, everyday life. People who have a group of friends surrounding them are generally more satisfied with their personal health than those people who are isolated and lack friends. It has been found that loneliness and isolation contribute to depression, decreased immune function, and higher blood pressure. That's why it's so important to build satisfying and rewarding relationships in your life.

Take an Inventory of Current Relationships

Relationships are beneficial to your life, but you also need to be aware of those relationships that are destructive to you, both physically and emotionally. It can sometimes feel as if these people actually suck the life force out of you. They leave you tired and drained.

You've been around people like this. They constantly talk about themselves and all of their problems. They complain about everything but never do anything to rectify their situation. They're never satisfied or positive about any aspect of their lives, and they continually dump their problems on YOU!

Even when it's your turn to get the support you need from an issue you're having, they brush your problems aside because they believe that theirs are worse than yours, and therefore you never get the acknowledgment and support you need.

Now if this person is your boss, there's not much you can do but try to minimize your daily interactions as much as possible and use other modes of communication such as email and text to get the information you need without the constant negative feedback.

If it's a relationship you have control over, decide if it's time to dissolve the relationship and move on to people who support your needs and make you feel good.

You Are the Average of Your Friends

Jim Rohn has a very important quote that everyone should take to heart, "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with."

Take a look at your close relationships. Are they people who nurture you, who encourage you to achieve your goals, who stand by you when you need support, who cheer you up when you're depressed, and who would sacrifice of themselves time and again... just because you're their friend?

These are the types of people you want in your circle of friends, and who you will invest the time and effort needed to establish and build these relationships. They are people who will be your guiding force to help you build a successful career and a happy life!