While we all desire friends and benefit from their advice, we may not fully understand how important supportive relationships are in our lives.
People with a supportive network are likely to worry less and to be less prone to failing in their endeavours.
A supportive friend or partner will make you feel accepted for who you are, comfortable sharing your success, concerns or uncertainties, and find the emotional relief when you need it to be able to move on.
Where relationships are concerned, it is the quality, not the quantity that matters.
From your early school years through your professional life, some relationships will prove to be valuable in the long term; others may disappear. A valuable relationship is not necessarily the one that brings you short term benefits, even though it may bring some; but the one, which you feel is in-sync with your life progression at any point in time.
You may realise that your BFF who has been encouraging you since you met in high school is no longer enthusiastic about your promotion or success. She is still your friend; you care for her, she cares for you, may even give you good advice on men and intimate relationships, but may not inspire you in your professional life anymore.
Sometimes we forget that friendships are formed by two different individuals who while deeply care for each other while living their lives and fighting their battles.
Remember helpful relationships come in various shapes and sizes. Keep your eyes open. Listen to the information you receive and be open to the individuals who give you the information. It may be a piece of advice or simply an observation in the environment you are working in, but if you listen, you will be able to put the pieces of the puzzle together and benefit from the information you received. Eventually, you may even realise that the person who helped you out is someone you connect with.
Some people will not be as encouraging, and their level of support to you may depend on multiple reasons. Some reasons will be directly related to their desires or uncertainties, and not necessarily to you. And some people just don’t have what it takes to be supportive.
To surround yourself with a supportive network, you need to understand the qualities of helpful relationships.
Keep your eyes open, find the traits of healthy relationships in your interactions and spend time with people who represent those qualities that enable a healthy relationship. On the other hand, for your benefit, try to avoid people who are unfavourable to your progression in life.
It is not going to be easy, because you may bump into unhelpful people when you least expect it, but don’t forget we all live our lives and set our priorities. The level of openness and support you experience from others will also be influenced by how one feels about himself or herself.
If you would like to learn more about managing difficult people, please click here.
Below, I share skills that people, who can build and maintain helpful relationships embody.
Good listening skills
Listening is all about giving your time and attention to another person. The time of listening is not the time to figure out what you are going to tell next, or how you will respond to a comment. It is also not the time to share wisdom or advice.
It is the time when you receive information and try your best to understand what the speaker is going through.
Your attention to your family, friend or colleague will help them focus their attention on the solution because you previously gave them the opportunity to share a frustration without being challenged or judged. Good listening skills in work may aid your progress faster and more effectively than you imagine.
When you need a listening ear, you are likely looking for someone to validate your feelings, to feel understood.
You might have already read about active listening. It is a way of listening when you try to understand not only what you heard, but the underlying emotions as well. We are not all trained psychologists or life coaches, and most of us are not mind readers, but we can try to put ourselves in our friend’s, partner’s, colleague’s shoes when she or he is sharing experiences. Active listening means you reflect back what you have heard and even what you didn’t hear, but sensed by rephrasing.
As listening is all about the speaker, it naturally means you save your judgment for later. You receive and store information and attempt to approach the situation from the speaker’s point of view.
Are you able to avoid judgment when you hear something that is in conflict with your values?
Can you rely on your friend, partner, colleague, family to do the same for you?
If you feel judged, you are unlikely to share your opinion, ideas, concerns or fears and will unlikely talk about the questions that may be arising in your life.
Remember, others, similarly to you, will need a listening ear, an understanding person, and emotional support.
Not sharing unwanted advice and avoiding being directive
People who often share with you unwanted advice or tell you what you “should” or “shouldn’t” do in their opinion may not only make you feel uncomfortable. You may feel they are directive about the way you should be dealing with the issues in your life or they even make assumptions about you.
While considerate advice shared with you in a way that makes you feel respected will be helpful and aid the solution of a specific problem and a move forward with your life, thoughtless “wisdom” may just make you more concerned or uncertain in your abilities.
Open and capable to understand other’s emotions and show compassion
Empathy is a word we often hear and sometimes don’t understand its depth. We may think feeling sorry for someone else in a bad situation is empathy; when in reality it is sympathy.
Empathy is our natural ability unless we have a difficulty feeling empathy, to share feelings or experiences with another person by imagining what it would be like to be in the other person’s shoes.
Empathy is an ability you can, and you’ll want to develop in yourself and a trait you may be looking for in your friends, family, working environment, and in other people wherever you go.
When you are going through difficulties or a painful experience, you would like to feel supported, even if the support is as much as hearing your friend telling you they are sorry what you have to go through.
Expressing true feelings
Willingness to be vulnerable and open to others’ opinion and feedback is key to supportive relationships.
Receiving feedback, especially when it doesn’t seem to be positive to you may not be a pleasant experience, even if it is delivered in a respectful way. In such cases, taking your time to understand what the feedback means and how you can benefit from it, will help you take off the edge.
In occasions when you feel a feedback was shared with you in a hurtful way it is important to openly and respectfully express the way how you feel.
You have the opportunity to explain that you understand the feedback, and are aware the intention of the speaker was not to hurt you, but you found what he or she said harsh or unkind. Even better to explain what you feel using specific words.
Showing you are vulnerable is a sign of authenticity; it gives you the confidence and that you stand up for yourself and provides the other party with the opportunity to rethink what has been shared.
Allowing yourself to show your vulnerability shows people that you care both about them and the relationship
Able to understand and manage own emotions
While empathy is about understanding other’s emotions, emotional maturity is about understanding yourself, your emotions. It requires self-awareness and continuous learning of your inner life.
As you would expect empathy from people around you, you would like to have relationships with people with higher emotional maturity
Let’s say you were about to go to the cinema with your friend, who is very enthusiastic about you going out together, but on the day you feel miserable and the flu coming. You call it a day and tell you can’t join, but wish her or him a good time.A friend, who is supportive, will understand what is happening to you, they might feel a bit down, because they have to go alone or find someone else to go along, but they will understand.
Effective communications skills developed day by day
We live in a world where communication is a natural part of life, surrounds us wherever we go, and without good communication skills it is more difficult to be successful.
We communicate with our words, the tone of our speech and our full body. Situations may they be good or less pleasant present themselves as good opportunities to develop or communication skills.
Imagine that you have to persuade a colleague of yours to help you with your project, or your boss to recognise your good performance and give you a promotion. All these require specific communications skill which you can develop and with the right tools you can move your career forward.
If you would like to learn more about communication techniques, please click here
Take responsibility for your own development and feelings. No one else can do more for you than you can do for yourself. If others see and hear that you take responsibility, they will realise that you communicate what you need without blaming others.
In your relationships, you may want to surround yourself with people, who can step back, see things from your point of view as well, able to re-evaluate their actions and discuss matters in a non-judgemental way.
Know When to Let Go
Some friendships and relationships last a life long or for many years, in other cases you realise the relationship has run its course.
While every relationship hits bumps now and then, those are the times when supportive behaviour and good communications skills come handy.
You know you are in a supportive environment when you can effectively work out a misunderstanding or even a conflict and can discuss differences in a constructive way, so at the end of the conversation, both parties leave with a good feeling.
Don’t take it granted. Even if you feel you are in a particularly good relationship, expect that people may change their opinions, their priorities, and views.
If you feel judged and misunderstood for a longer period, and your attempts to repair conflicts are not working anymore, it is probably time to learn to let go.
Being friends with someone doesn’t mean you have to be in close contact with them if the relationship is no longer supportive of who you are today.
The better you know yourself, the easier it will be to assess whether people and your relationships are a good fit.
If you would like to get tools to learn more about yourself, please click here.