How do you connect or communicate with someone that seems hard to reach? Are you having a hard time getting one of your children or a spouse to open up to you? Maybe they are pushing you away or putting up a wall. Perhaps it’s a new relationship that you are hoping to build trust and closeness. These relationship tips can help you make better connections in your marriage, with your children, your friends, anyone you would like to connect with better. Many of these ideas came from a conference at BYU given by Hank Smith. I have added my own tips and expanded on his suggestions.
1. Walk beside them instead of pulling them in your direction or telling them what they can improve on. Unsolicited advice will always be seen as criticism. If you feel something needs to change, approach it with a “Let’s fix this together” attitude.
2. Trust needs to be developed before you can give advice or expect a person to be open to your feedback. This goes for people you don’t know, as well as your teenager or spouse. After trust is established, people are more open to feedback because they know you have the best intentions and care about them.
3. To develop trust, start with frequent, personal, positive, and low-risk interactions. Spend time getting to know the person for who they are without being judgmental. Talk often and do fun, low key activities together. If trust has wavered in a personal relationship, evaluate if you are really spending time together strengthening your relationship or if the only time you talk is to discuss problems or stressful situations.
5. When giving feedback or discussing a problem, don’t tear down what they have/are/love. They will naturally defend themselves and reject your input. Everyone needs to feel accepted.
6. Be a compassionate listener. What kind of listener are you? There’s five levels of listening.
- Level 5 (worst): What you hear doesn’t register. You don’t really hear it.
- Level 4: You ignore what you are hearing. In one ear and out the other.
- Level 3: Casual Listening–you are trying to listen but are busy and distracted doing something else at the same time. This is probably the most common way we listen.
- Level 2: Active Listening–You listen without distraction and give responses and feedback when requested.
- Level 1: Compassionate Listening–This is the hardest level to attain. It takes energy and focus. You start to see things how that person sees it and feel how they feel. You put down your own agenda and get out of “fix-it” mode.
7. Seek to Understand. Stephen M.R. Covey said, “Generally, as long as a person is communicating with high emotion, he or she does not yet feel understood.” (The Speed of Trust) Compassionate listening will lead to understanding. Remember that just because you are trying to understand does not mean you have to agree. Try not to personalize their emotions, just listen and seek to understand.
8. Remember you cannot control anyone except yourself. Give those you love someone to follow that they trust and is a good example. Be their cheerleader in the good things they are doing in their lives.
9. Be a grateful person. Show gratitude for the little things that people do for you. Gratitude opens doors and softens hearts.
10. Serve them. Find little or even big ways to serve without being asked. Make their bed, wash their car, do the dishes, bring them a meal if they are sick. Be there when they need someone to talk to.
Source: Hank Smith, BYU Education Week 2015. https://www.facebook.com/hanksmithcds