• Relationships aren't always easy, but the numerous benefits of having close relationships is surely worth the effort

  • Dr Patapia Tzotzoli shares 3 tips for improving your existing relationships

  • If relationships are something that you struggle with, we have therapists available to support you here

We all have relationships that we find difficult. Might be members of our family, friends, colleagues or just people we get to meet occasionally, or any combination of the above. Below are three simple suggestions we could implement right away to help us improve the quality of our interactions with people we struggle with.

1. Communication skills 

There are ways we can communicate more effectively.

First, we can prepare ourselves for a more efficient interaction with others. We can do this by reminding ourselves that there are different communication styles between people and when we come across them, it is important to make space for them. How? By mindfully breathing and allowing others to take their time and share their thoughts with us.

When they do, it is important we try to really listen to them. To do this more effectively we can use a technique to ground ourselves to the present moment by focusing on our physical presence. We can do this by holding our hands together, crossing our fingers or placing our feet firmly on the floor. The goal is to notice how that feels like and that physical sensation will anchor us to the present. This way it is easier to pay attention to what is being said to us. 

Alternatively, we can simply stand up and walk around or just take a walk with the other person. Movement activates the thinking parts of our brain and this in return help us tune in better with the other person.

Another way to improve our communication with others is to cultivate our ability to express ourselves. It is important to be able to share with others what we are experiencing and what our needs are. We can do this by using kind speech to explain what is hurting us; we can achieve this with “I” statements and avoid sentences starting with “you” which can sound accusatory.

When we have said or wronged the other person it is imperative that we own up and apologise. Without offering any excuses or blame others, we can express our regret, share that we understand the impact our behaviour had, reassure them that this behaviour will not be repeated and offer or ask of a way to make up to them.

Finally, we should always communicate our appreciation to the other person. We can do this by mentioning their positive attributes and what we value in our relationship with them. This way we declare our gratefulness for who they are and what they do for us. By sharing this with others we create a safe space between us, and this helps strengthen our relationship with them. This effectively facilitates any future communication between us.

2. Hugging meditation

A very effective way to improve our relationship with others doesn’t even involve words. We can use a hug, a physical interaction. When we mindfully hug with others, we allow our hearts to connect and we do not feel separate beings anymore thus reconciliation, healing, understanding, and happiness is more achievable.

We can practice hugging meditation with anyone we want to improve our communication and relationship with either in real life or simply by closing our eyes and visualising the following actions.

We can take a breath and visualise us in 200 years from now. Then we can enjoy a few deep conscious breaths and bring ourselves fully in the present moment. This little mental exercise preps us to appreciate that life is precious and enable us to cherish this moment of life we now actually have. We can open our arms and begin hugging or imagine that we do so. Whilst breathing in and out we can bring our awareness to this very moment and notice that we are happy. We can shift our awareness to the presence of the other person and that they are also happy. We can finally shift our attention to both of us being here together right now and feel deep gratitude and happiness because of this. We can then release the other person or imagine we do and express to them our thanks and appreciation for the shared feeling and realisations we created through our hug.

This technique helps us replace the negative feelings we have for the other person with positive ones. Therefore, the next time we interact with them we are in a better position to communication with kindness and patience.

3. Nurture self

Our relationship with other people can improve significantly the more we are working towards a healthier relationship with ourselves. How we think about and treat ourselves eventually extends to how we think about and treat others. Thus, it is important to view different parts of ourselves (body, mood, behaviour, performance) and respond to us, and our needs in a compassionate and nurturing way.

One way of going about it is by aiming to achieve and maintain mental health balance by encouraging ourselves to do certain things every day. For example, we can remind ourselves what we are grateful of, set our intention for the day, aim to eat healthy, drink water and exercise, plan our work activities for the day as well as make time to connect with others and connect with ourselves by checking in and notice how we feel. Over time, the healthy relationship we build with ourselves help us relate to others from a more secure and healthy position and enable us to interact with them consciously and composed and thus, with more kindness, compassion, and open mindedness.

Dr Patapia Tzotzoli is a verified Welldoing psychologist in West London and online


Further reading

10 meaningful ways to show your partner you love them

How to successfully communicate with your parents as an adult

What is intimacy anyway?

Love is love: on friendship

Why can't I stop thinking about someone I barely dated?