8 Brain-Based Strategies that Empower Relationships

Humans are made to be connected to each other. Our brains, bodies, and hearts are not designed to live in isolation; we actually need others for our own survival. But sadly, plenty of people really struggle with having and maintaining healthy relationships.

Our brains, bodies, and hearts are not designed to live in isolation; we actually need each other for our own survival. Click To Tweet

Granted, it takes two to tango, but a lot of folks seem to lack awareness about their role in pushing people—even loved ones—away from them. One of the biggest culprits is poor relationship skills. If positive ones aren’t role-modeled during a young person’s formative years, it can be very difficult to know what’s necessary for healthy relationships in adulthood.

Healthy R-E-L-A-T-I-N-G Skills

The good news is that you (and anyone else) can incorporate my favorite brain-based plan called RELATING, which is comprised of these 8 fundamental interpersonal skills necessary for strong relationships:

R is for Responsibility: Some of you know this is my favorite word because it implies that we have an ability to respond to any situation. This means, rather than assigning blame to the other person, ask yourself what part you have in the conflict or problem and identify at least one thing you can do to make it better.

E is for Empathy: In addition to letting us feel what others feel, empathy helps us understand one another. It’s an essential part of any relationship. Put in the effort to learn what makes your partner happy (or unhappy) and try seeing things from their perspective.

L is for Listening: Clear communication is one of the keys to a satisfying relationship, but not everyone is a good listener. If you’re one of them, you can get better at it by practicing active listening. This means when you’re talking with another person, use eye contact, don’t interrupt, stay present, and ask for clarification to confirm you understand what was said.

A is for Assertiveness: Being assertive, not aggressive, means expressing your yourself in a firm yet reasonable and respectful way. It’s about stating your needs and not letting the other person manipulate or pressure you into doing something you don’t want to do, such as getting you to say “yes” when you want to say “no.”

T is for Time: For your relationship to flourish, it requires spending special time together—real physical time during which you can be present for one another without distractions. Turn off your phones and do activities you both enjoy as well as going out on dates.

I is for Inquiring: Chronic negative thinking patterns can sink a relationship, which is why it’s really important to inquire about any unhappy thoughts you have about your relationship. For example, if you regularly think, “He doesn’t want to help me,” and it upsets you, ask yourself if it’s 100% true. Find any evidence to the contrary. Also ask him if that’s really how he feels. Then together, decide if making some changes will be helpful.

N is for Noticing what you like more than what you don’t like: This is positive psychology in action, and it really works! In fact, it’s one of the secrets to having great relationships. Every time we notice more of what we like—and let the other person know—we reinforce the positives, which increases the chances for more of that kind of behavior. Research even shows that couples are less likely to get divorced if they give each other 5 times more positive comments than negative ones.

G is for Grace and forgiveness: Offering these to your partner when they have hurt you isn’t always easy, but it’s usually worth it. When we hang onto the pain someone has caused us, it actually elevates stress hormones that can adversely affect our mental and physical health. My marriage is very important to me, so when I catch myself holding a grudge against my husband about something, I open my heart to grace and forgiveness by asking myself if the issue has eternal value—will it even matter in 5 or 10 years? If not, I release it and move on.

These straightforward strategies can help you have a healthier relationship with the one you love, so share this information with that person and start practicing real RELATING together. By putting this into action, you’ll build a deeper and more meaningful connection with one another.

The extra work is so well-worth the effort!

For more inspiration, order my newest book, The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child: How Persistence, Grit, and Faith Created a Reluctant Healer.

If you’re struggling and need professional help, Amen Clinics is here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

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