Research is clear that if we want to stay healthy and to thrive we need to develop and maintain strong relationships. According to the Mayo Clinic, adults with strong relationships live longer than their peers who have less vital relationships.
In addition, adults with a healthy support system have a reduced risk for high blood pressure, unhealthy body mass index and depression. Some studies have shown that positive support systems may also decrease cardiovascular disease and cancer.
If that isn’t enough, relationships also give us a support system for the day-to-day challenges of life, and in world crises like we’ve been facing for the last two years.
Our relationships can also give us a sense of purpose and belonging. They provide us with fellow travelers as we seek fun and adventure, whether we are at home or on vacation.
Some people are naturally good at relationship building. They have a large circle of friends and family and have many close contacts. They regularly seek out friends and enjoy spending time with them.
Others, like me, are more introverted and enjoy spending time alone. They likely have very few close relationships and don’t actively seek to engage with new people. There is nothing wrong with spending time alone, but being a loner may ultimately be a disadvantage as we age.
I spent many years focused on my work, and my friendships suffered from lack of time and attention. My relationships were largely focused on my husband and children. As my children grew up and moved away, and I left my full-time job, I felt the desire for more friendships and closer bonds with people.
It was not easy for me to seek people out, but at the risk of loneliness, I persevered. I invited old friends for coffee or lunch. I started purposely talking with people in my neighborhood. I joined a book club.
I even found myself starting to invest in casual acquaintances by noticing and acknowledging people such as the clerk at the grocery store and the women at the registration desk at my gym.
In the process, I discovered several things I was doing that helped me get to know others and deepen those relationships. As a person who often sees the big picture and loves to find patterns, I was seeing a pattern in my relationship building.
While this may seem like common sense to some, it became very obvious to me that we let people know we value them through our words and actions.
Here are three simple phrases that have helped me to deepen my relationships:
In a world full of technological distractions and necessities, “tell me more” shows that you are paying attention. You are interested and invested in what the other person has to say, even if it’s over an online connection.
These words let the speaker know that you are listening. They say, “I hear you,” and “I’m interested.” They tell the person that you think they have something of value to offer and that they are important to you. Just three little words can offer a lot of affirmation.
Saying ‘thank you’ is a common courtesy we are taught by our parents and grandparents. I’ve always said ‘thank you’, and you probably have as well. However, I have found that when it’s said in the right way and at the right time, it has even more meaning.
When said sincerely, looking someone in the eye, “thank you” also means, “I see you.” It says, “I acknowledge what you have done.”
I started to say a sincere thank you when my husband did a household chore. I really did appreciate his effort.
I took time to thank the person who was handling an insurance claim for us. She was kind, helpful and thorough, and I truly appreciated her effort. Besides saying ‘thank you’, I also told her what I appreciated and why. She seemed touched. In her line of work, she probably doesn’t get a lot of thanks.
As a bonus, making her feel good made me feel good. Gratitude is as good for the giver as for the receiver. I write more thank you notes now, and I get as much or more out of it than the people I send them to.
We all want to be seen and acknowledged. We want to be appreciated. It is easy to take people for granted. A heartfelt “thank you” is more than just words; it validates someone’s actions. It also makes the world a little kinder.
“You are so kind; you always remember my birthday.”
“You are so considerate, I noticed how you treated that waiter.”
“You are such an amazing piano player.”
“You are funny and you make me laugh.”
“You are doing a great job handling a tough client.”
“You are doing the right thing by not arguing.”
“You are figuring it out. “
“You are raising inquisitive and curious children.”
“You are making me smile right now.”
“You are ready for this job.”
You are… ____________ fill in the blank with something specific and positive you have observed or know about a person.
When you tell someone that you notice who they are, you are acknowledging that you know them. You can acknowledge that you believe in them, that you trust them or that you understand them. You can give them a boost of confidence by validating their actions or their decisions.
We all have a deep desire to be known. We also have a deep desire to be loved. When you see people’s positive traits and acknowledge them, it is a way to show love. There are many ways to express love that start with the phrase “You are…”
“You are my rock.”
“You are my sunshine.”
“You are my world.”
“You are important to me.”
Deep down, we are all seeking to be heard, understood, known and loved. By choosing words that matter, we can help people get their basic needs met and strengthen our relationships in the process.
Have you used any of these phrases successfully? What do you say that helps build your relationships? I would love to hear your ideas in the comments below.