As a licensed marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay Area, I work to show how to improve any relationship and yet I see everyday how people mess up their relationships. They don’t do so willingly or with malice, usually people take these most important relationships for granted. It doesn’t matter what kind of relationship you have, all can rot away if not properly tended to and maintained. From couples, to siblings to parents and children, we’re all connected many ways to each other. And those connections, those relationships, need tending to. Here are some helpful tips to improve any relationship you might have.

How to Improve Any Relationship

Be Present

There’s nothing worse than sharing a difficult to express emotion with a loved one and having them gloss over it or worse, not acknowledge it at all. Listen with your ears and your body language. Nod to let them know you are engaged. Answer questions honestly and thoughtfully.

Don’t Criticize

Remember what your mother used to say? “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” That’s incredibly good advice. While it might seem that we hurt (and get hurt by) the ones we love, it’s not necessary and will eventually erode the relationship. If this person is dear to you, someone you love, then why would you want to make them feel bad? Try to accentuate the positive instead of providing criticism.

Say “I’m Sorry”

Everyone screws up, even the best and most perfect of people. When you do mess up, own it and ask for forgiveness. No matter who you messed up to – a brother, lover, friend or coworker – an “I’m sorry” can go a long way in making things right again.

Don’t Take Things So Personally

Don’t look for the worst in every conversation. Not everyone has hidden meanings when they have a conversation. Don’t assume the worst, assume the best and everyone will be the happier for it.

Assume Everyone is Doing Their Best

Most people are just trying to get through this thing called life the best they can, but sometimes they’re going to forget to signal their turn or they may be later for dinner, and they may have forgotten to return your call. Assume that people aren’t out to make you miserable and you’ll notice that most people are trying to do the best they can. If their best isn’t good enough for you, you’ll need to reevaluate your bar or the relationship.

Get Out of the House

It might seem silly to say, but getting out of our everyday environments can have a wonderful impact on our relationships – all of them. Have you ever noticed when left alone doing mundane work that you might tend to brood about past hurts, but when you’re busy you don’t think about them? Don’t give yourself the opportunity to brood. Even if you’re seeing a marriage counselor or family therapist, it’s easy to fall into being hurt from the past all over again, so be proactive and prevent it from happening. Take a walk, enjoy a sunset, go to a movie, stroll through some antique stores – just do something new. You’ll feel refreshed and the little things won’t matter much at all.

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay area and are in need of help with any of your relationships, please give me a call at (650) 400-3214.