Updated: Oct 29, 2021
Written by Chua Peh Siang & Faith Tan
What exactly are interpersonal relationships and why are they important to us?
Interpersonal relationships are connections between 2 or more people based on love, camaraderie, or even regular social interactions. They often develop in various contexts such as with family, friends, colleagues and with significant others. Interpersonal relationships define a person’s thoughts, actions and feelings. They can even provide a sense of belonging and identity. It is crucial to acknowledge how important these relationships are and how they intertwine with our mental and physical health. In this blogpost, we aim to share how you can initiate, strengthen and maintain these relationships with valuable inputs from the Singapore Counselling Centre (SCC).
The current pandemic has left many of us cooped up in our own houses, leaving us feeling tired, frustrated and stifled. What was once a safe haven has now become an inescapable cycle. This may lead to tensions at home, especially since we tend to let our guard down at home. According to SCC, it is common for couples to have difficulties balancing personal time, household responsibilities and work. This may be more challenging for parents who have to set aside time to spend with their children. Extended periods of close proximity, coupled with the lack of healthy communication, can lead to tense relationships.
If you are facing the above situations, fret not! Here are some tips to help you navigate through your current situation:
Always plan in advance. Allocate duties and chores early so that everyone in the household is clear on what they need to do. Rooms and devices can also be allocated in advance according to everyone’s needs.
SCC also highlights the importance of communicating your need for space. For example, if you require half an hour off every evening for a run, or some alone time to yourself, do share that with your family members.
In the situation where there is tension, offering repair attempts can help to de-escalate situations and allow both parties to talk through them in a calm and civilised manner. A repair attempt can come in the form of a hug or even a simple phrase like “I appreciate you.”
Adults struggle with friendships too. Amidst the demands of work and other commitments in life, many friendships gently fade into nonexistence. Yet, without close friends, loneliness sets in, and this is felt especially when life gets tough or when there’s good news to share but no one to share them with. Without the support of friends, facing other relationship issues could leave us feeling vulnerable as though we are alone on a tiny boat at sea. If you find yourself unable to name friends who would ride the waves with you, it may be worth considering ways to build stronger friendships. This can be done through letting your guard down and initiating deeper conversations. Here are some tips from SCC on how you can build close, supportive relationships:
Make time and be creative. Find mutually enjoyable activities beyond a convenient meal or coffee. Remember that relationships are deepened through shared positive memories and experiences, and these take time and intentionality.
When having conversations, remember to listen and show genuine interest in the person’s experiences. We feel appreciated and valued when people take the time to listen to us share our experiences, and this is the same for the people around us!
For working adults, a large portion of our lives are spent at work. This means that relationships with colleagues undoubtedly play a major role in our personal wellbeing. According to the SCC, conflicts in collegial relationships stem from differing opinions, values and beliefs, as well as different working and communication styles. This can be worked through with clear and tactful communication. When communicating, choose your words carefully and determine the appropriate time to speak.
Another common workplace struggle the SCC highlighted is the regulation of personal boundaries when it comes to self-disclosure or workload. As everyone has differing emotional and productive capacities, this could lead to mismatches in expectations which can result in discomfort and conflict. To set up healthy boundaries, it is important to clearly communicate what and how much you are willing to take on.
If you’re facing a stressful situation at work, remember that it is alright to take a break or go for a walk. You can also try deep breathing techniques.
Relationships should value-add to our lives but what if the relationship you’re in brings more dissatisfaction than joy? SCC shares some rules of thumb that you can consider if you’re in such a situation.
Give yourself space to acknowledge how you feel about the person. Evaluate your thoughts and check if there are objective facts or occurrences that support your opinions towards this person. It is also useful to check for evidence that may say otherwise.
Check your opinions with a trusted friend or mentor. These people are good avenues for you to rant and seek support from. At the same time, they can also keep in check your opinions. They may offer differing opinions to the way you see things.
Make an effort to communicate with the person in question and meet the person in the middle.
If the individual continues his/her behaviour, try your best to limit interactions with this person.
3 Golden Tips for Healthy Relationships
Different types of relationships may require different ways to navigate them. However, SCC shares 3 golden tips that apply regardless of the type of relationship:
Be present and engage in active listening. Active listening includes paying attention and showing interest. Do not interrupt the person and ask more open-ended questions to facilitate sharing.
Communicate tactfully instead of bottling up your feelings, stonewalling or exploding on the person. It is useful to remember that most people do not know what we are thinking unless we verbalise our thoughts. Bottling up emotions can cause you to be unhappy while the other party continues being unaware of how their actions affect you. Stonewalling or giving a cold shoulder deprives the person of improving the relationships. Exploding on the person can also lead to hurtful and intense exchanges that can have long-lasting effects.
Take responsibility for your own mistakes. An apology can go a long way. It helps to validate how the other person is feeling as a result of our actions.
SCC would like to remind us:
“The pandemic season has been difficult on everyone. Individuals going through a rough patch in their relationships should know that they are not alone. However, with every conflict lies either an opportunity for deeper understanding and growth, but also a possibility for further hurt and division. We need to be mindful of the things we say and do towards each other. While we are struggling with our own problems, remember that your friends, families and colleagues are also dealing with issues of their own. Patience and compassion goes a long way.”
We would like to give special thanks to Singapore Counselling Centre for offering their insights to us! This post would certainly not be possible without their valuable sharing. You can find out more about what they do here.
We hope this post has been useful in helping you to understand ways to build, improve and strengthen relationships. Why not try some of the tips you’ve read about today? Give it a go and let us know how it goes!