Stoney Brook Relationship-Centered Living Series
PART THREE: 5 Habits to Practice for Positive Senior Relationships
Previously in Stoney Brook’s Relationship-Centered Living Series, we explained the fundamentals of relationship-centered living as well as the “5 Pillars of Well-Being” our team considers essential in helping the residents of our Central Texas senior living communities to flourish. Today’s installment focuses closely on Pillar #1: Relationships, likely the most paramount of the multidimensional components we’ve established.
Healthy relationships are critical for everyone, regardless of age, but they’re particularly significant for elderly people. And sadly, our golden years are also when it often becomes more challenging to cultivate them, a particular problem for those who live by themselves or in situations where interactions are sporadic, negative, or unbeneficial.
That’s why we’re outlining the five best habits for seniors, their caregivers, and others to practice in their efforts to foster positive relationships.
The Power of Positive Relationships
As we learned in the prior installment, relationships are a foundational element of well-being, and:
- They involve a sense of connection, acceptance, inclusion, kindness, and communication.
- They are identified by assumptions of good intent, respect, appreciation, seeking to understand, empathy, reciprocity, and harmony.
Both deep and informal relationships provide human interactions key to good health and longevity.
Creating and Sustaining Connections Can Be Difficult – But We Have Tips to Help
Despite the priceless value attached to great relationships, it’s common for people to feel stressed out by the obstacles they encounter, and the effort it takes, in building them. Luckily, we can tighten these bonds by strengthening our skills in this department.
By applying these top 5 relationship-building habits, we can improve our ability to relate to each other, to care best for family and friends, and to connect effectively with all the people in our relational circles.
Assumption of good intent
Practice does indeed make perfect, so find moments every day to work on these habits. Read on for our easy suggestions everyone can use, and you’ll be well on your way to life-changing, healthy relationships.
Demonstrate Respect for Yourself and OthersRespect sits at the core of each and every healthy interaction, so to foster positive relationships, people must first develop respect for themselves as well as for the people with whom they’re connecting.
Let’s dive deeper into the definition of “respect.” According to the Collins dictionary, it’s “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person (or) a personal quality or ability.” That means we should show respect and dignity to everybody, hold them in high esteem and appreciate what they all bring to the table.
“The Golden Rule” many of us have been taught, which says we should “treat others the way we want to be treated,” is a pleasant viewpoint. But we believe that to express the greatest respect, one ought to “treat others the way they want to be treated.” Rather than looking at things from just our own perspectives, we must be sensitive to others’ personal needs and preferences and take them into consideration.
1 - Communicate Capably
The Stoney Brook team examined 7 Ways To Improve Communication In Relationships, an eye-opening article on PositivePsychology.com. In it, experts state that “Nursing social relationships enhances happiness because spending time with friends or colleagues builds positive emotions – a key component of happiness (Fredrickson & Joiner, 2002).” (Written by Birgit Ohlin, MA, BBA and scientifically reviewed by Christina R. Wilson, Ph.D.)
They further state that “Interactions with people can be verbal or nonverbal – we can even connect with each other through a smile. A vital element of positive social interaction, however, is good communication.”
We recommend checking out the full article for yourself if you want to further increase your ability to identify healthy communication and understand the essentials involved. Another excellent place to begin is with the correlated, downloadable PDF titled Three Positive Communication Exercises. You’ll explore some science-based tools known to aid people in enhancing their social and communication skills.
Can’t wait to start assessing your current communication habits? Ask yourself or a senior in your life these themed questions and muse over the answers:
Good intention – Am I assuming the best of others?
Listening to understand – Do I give others my full attention and presence?
Awareness of emotion – Am I aware of the other person’s feelings in the interaction?
Clarity – Is anything getting lost in the conversation? Am I hearing things correctly and being clear in what I’m saying?
Have you tried discussing a move into an assisted living community, communicating as or to someone with memory conditions (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other forms of memory loss), or maneuvering equally tricky topics? If so, you know the particular challenges that come along with such circumstances. Fortunately, by utilizing research-backed tools and fine-tuning your tactics, you’ll experience the wonderful effects of communicating more productively.
2 - Bye-Bye, Conflict – Decide to Harmonize
Fascinatingly, seniors seem to have a head start over people of later generations in experiencing harmony, rather than conflict, in their relationships. Better with Age: Social Relationships Across Adulthood, a thought-provoking research study shared by the National Library of Medicine, asserts that, “Older adults report better quality ties with their children, more positive marriages, closer friendships, and an overall greater proportion of positive versus problem-ridden relationships than do middle-aged or young adults (Fingerman, Hay, & Birditt, 2004; Rook, 1984; 2003).
We found ample reasons within this study as to why seniors enjoy such a nice advantage. In particular, according to this study, researchers highlight the fact that they tend to engage in tension-reducing techniques. Here are a handful of the behaviors that can help:
Giving others the benefit of the doubt
Making efforts to avoid conflict
Practicing forgiveness instead of blame
Structuring social circles to include only relationships that are most meaningful and rewarding
Remember, too, how time flies – and with a senior, there’s an extra emphasis on making every day count. Older people and their social partners may choose to boost harmony and positive interactions, instead of struggling with conflict.
As the study states, “As the time left to spend with a social partner narrows, people may recognize this diminished horizon and focus increasingly on emotional harmony as opposed to other non-emotional goals (e.g., seeking information) in the relationship.”
3 - Take the Path of Empathy
If you’re working on healthy relationships, we can’t say enough how imperative it is to incorporate empathy. “Empathy,” as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, means “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.”
Prominent research professor, author, and speaker, Brené Brown, frequently calls attention to the impact of empathy. For example, she writes, “Empathy is a strange and powerful thing. There is no script. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of ‘You’re not alone.’” (Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead)
Can’t quite tell the difference between empathy and sympathy? We recommend watching this short video inspired by Brown’s findings. It illustrates the distinctions and also how comprehending, developing, and demonstrating empathy can enrich every relationship you’re in.
At Stoney Brook, we encourage practicing empathy to really ease the difficulties faced by people who are attempting to understand or describe the full picture of the aging experience.
4 - Be Inclined to Assume the Good Intent of Others
It’s not always in our nature to view other people’s intentions in an optimistic light – but doing so can strengthen our relationships. What does the assumption of good intent entail? We should make up our minds to trust that everyone is doing the best they can, working and doing things to the highest of their abilities, with the information and resources at hand.
We point to the “12 Blocks to Listening,” shared by the Cleveland Clinic Canada, for anyone looking to hone their listening skills. This tool guides us in how to identify common listening blocks so that we can then work on removing them and begin to genuinely understand the intent behind others’ words.
Additional ways we can practice assuming good intent are the following:
Engage in active listening.
Create or maintain a positive mindset.
Assume the other person has the best outcome in mind.
Stay away from the negative tone.
Don’t jump to conclusions.
Give others grace.
Naturally, we can’t snap our fingers and instantly develop new habits. But by consistently applying the tips we’ve discussed above, you’ll start noticing healthier relationships and their fabulous, uplifting effects on your own life and that of your family members, friends, and other personal connections.
Keep an eye on our blog for the next installments of our Relationship-Centered Living Series. You’ll become even more familiar with the importance of positive relationships, especially for seniors, and the ways relationship-centered living can boost their complete well-being.
Trust a Central Texas Senior Living Leader
Now’s the time to find out how a senior living option in your area could be your ideal choice and provide the many benefits of a “village” environment. An expert in assisted living and memory care, Stoney Brook designed its senior living communities to help residents flourish. Through a fun, sociable environment, and ample, stimulating activities, you or your loved one can age well – and savor each day to its absolute fullest.
Schedule a complimentary visit to meet us in person and understand our relationship-centered approach firsthand. Plus, discover more from Stoney Brook’s free, insightful resources, all devoted to helping seniors and their caregivers. Subscribe to our blog.