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Three Keys to Better Relationships

We all hope to have good relationships – thriving marriages and families, close friendships, and well-functioning teams at work.

Hot Springs, Ark. –  We all hope to have good relationships – thriving marriages and families, close friendships, and well-functioning teams at work.  Yet, along the way, we all encounter conflicts and disagreements despite our best efforts and intentions.  Even the healthiest relationships will occasionally fall into this category.  So, how can we resolve and heal these conflicts?  Everyone knows the things we should do to have healthy relationships – be kind, generous, and helpful are just a few.  Some of us have learned our relationship skills from watching television, reading books and articles, and by observing other people.  But, you need more than just knowledge and skills to deal with conflict.  Irving Baker once stated, “If you don’t like someone, the way he holds his spoon will make you furious; if you do like him, he can turn his plate into your lap and you won’t mind.” It’s hard to imagine that, at times, we don’t realize that we are making an inward choice between being angry and being peaceful.  Sometimes we don’t realize that our hearts are hard toward some while soft and kind toward others.  

There are several reasons why we may not use the relationship knowledge and skills that we have learned. 

  • We are creatures of habit.  We develop habits on how we relate to other people.  These habits can lead to unhealthy behavioral patterns – even in our close relationships.
  • We react out of emotions that don’t serve us well.  Oftentimes we will respond based on anger, frustration, or the need to be in control.  
  • We give new skills a half-hearted try.  There are times we stumble upon a new skill that we think would be a good idea to implement into our lives, but when we discover that it will take effort to make a change – we give up and fall back into our old behavior patterns. 
  • We expect others to change.  Sometimes when we stumble upon a new skill, instead of trying to implement it into our own lives, we think we should tell someone else that they need to implement the new skill.  Trying to change other people can increase conflict. 

Research has shown that all humans are biased, and one of our biggest problems is that we rarely see our own bias.  Can you identify with any of these?

  • Egocentrism – Focusing on your own needs can blind you to the needs of those around you.
  • Fundamental attribution bias – Excusing your own mistakes because of your circumstances, but blame others for their bad character. 
  • Naïve realism – Seeing bias in others but failing to see it in yourself. 
  • Anger – Being closed-minded to the broad picture can shut down your sense of compassion. 
  • Confirmation bias – Accepting only the information that supports what you already believe. 
  • Unreliable memories – Remembering what we want to believe rather than actual reality. 
  • Negativity bias – Being overwhelmed by the bad things and forgetting the good things. 

The solution to our bias is getting our hearts right.  Sometimes we try to deal with conflict by avoiding it, endlessly discussing it, or painfully living with it.  There is a better way.  We can approach conflict with new hearts.  Rather than choosing resentment, we can choose to see conflict as an opportunity to learn.  The University of Arkansas Research and Extension publication “Getting Our Hearts Right” has three keys that can help turn differences and conflicts into harmony and growth. 

  • Key 1:  Humility opens the heart.  Humility is recognizing the needs of other people matter, being open to others’ opinions, and admitting that you make mistakes. 
  • Key 2:  Compassion connects our hearts.  Compassion is being sensitive to the struggles and suffering of others.  Stay peaceful, recognize that your perceptions are not the whole story, and listen to and understand the feelings of others. 
  • Key 3:  Positivity inspires our hearts.  Positivity is the practice of seeing the good in people.  You can cultivate positivity by remember the good times in relationships, focusing on the good qualities in people, and learning from people who sustain positive relationships.  

If you want to improve your relationships, you must be willing to form new habits by using principles that build healthy relationships.

 For more information, contact the Garland County Extension Office at 623-6841 or 922-4703, email Jessica at jvincent@uaex.edu, or visit our website at www.uaex.edu.

 EHC Information

Are you interested in joining an existing Extension Homemakers Club? EHC is the largest volunteer organization in the state. For information on EHC call 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email jvincent@uaex.edu.

Master Gardeners

If you’re interested in becoming a Master Gardener and would like more information, you’re welcome to attend their monthly meeting on the 3rd Thursday of each month at 1pm at the Elks Lodge.  You may also call the Extension office on 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email abates@uaex.edu.

 4-H Information

We have several 4-H clubs for our Garland county youth who are 5 to 19 years old.  For more information on all the fun 4-H activities there are, call the Extension Office at 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email Linda Bates at lbates@uaex.edu.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal

By Jessica Vincent
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jessica Vincent
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
236 Woodbine Hot Springs AR 71901
(501) 623-6841
jvincent@uaex.edu

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  • The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

    The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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