Relationships are like flowers - most can benefit from a little TLC, said Charlotte Shoup Olsen, Kansas State University Research and Extension family systems specialist.
"When building a relationship, it's natural to want to impress - or please - the other person," Olsen said.
"As the comfort level in the relationship grows, however, people may step back and begin taking the relationship for granted," she said. When that happens, a couple - or close friends, for that matter - may begin distancing themselves from each other and become more like roommates, sharing parallel lives as they grow apart.
To nurture personal and professional relationships, Olsen offered the following tips:
- Be respectful, even when you disagree. Conflict is inevitable in any relationship, but often more easily resolved when both parties are willing to share responsibility and consider a compromise. If angry, allow time to cool down. Speak softly when bringing up an issue, as a soothing tone of voice can diffuse anger and keep a disagreement from escalating.
- Express admiration or fondness and offer a compliment, such as "I appreciate your apology" or "Thanks for filling up the car with gas."
- Be on the lookout for cues and capitalize on them. Hereï¿½s an example: In the middle of a dry, mild winter, a spouse announces that he has just watered the trees and shrubs. Using the announcement as a cue to nurture their relationship, his wife might respond: "Thatï¿½s great. I read an article in the paper that recommended watering to reduce the danger of fire in dry conditions."
A response such as "You must be crazy ... itï¿½s winter!" or "Did you bring in the paper?" can disappoint the person who thinks he or she is doing a good deed, and create distance between the couple.
Listening for cues also can prompt partners, friends, family members or co-workers to engage each other. If one person offers a new idea in the midst of a discussion, the other can follow up with "I never thought about that ..." and then ask him or her to tell more.
- Celebrate personal traditions, such as a birthday or anniversary, an evening out that replicates a first date, or party after completing an annual project around the house or at work.
- Don't assume that you should rush forward to solve a partnerï¿½s or friendï¿½s problems. Set aside your own agenda, be attentive and listen intently. Make eye contact, nod or offer an "Uh-huh" occasionally, but donï¿½t offer advice unless you're asked.
- Share your hopes and dreams AND honor the hopes and dreams of others.
More information on managing relationships successfully is available at county and district K-State Research and Extension offices and on Extensionï¿½s Web site: www.oznet.ksu.edu.