3 Keys to Building Better Relationships

3 Keys to Building Better Relationships

We live in a day and age where people are struggling to build healthy relationships.  This appears to be getting worse as new generations emerge.  Some have blamed the rise of the digital world where a majority of interactions are online through twitter and facebook.  Others point to isolation brought about through COVID lockdowns.  Society seems to be more divided than ever and appear to be inept at relating to one another.  

Meaningful relationships are critical for society.  We are essentially relational people.  Through relationships we learn what we value, get affirmation, develop understanding, get things done, and solve problems.  When we fail to relate to one another in a healthy way, we tear up the very fabric of society.  We see this not just in politics, but in communities, churches, families, and friendships.  The good news is that the ability to build better relationships can be taught and learned.

I want to share with you three keys to building better relationships.  These three keys have the capacity to change the way people interact with one another.  Your relationships can be improved in a substantial way as you apply them daily.  


The first key to unlock better relationships is to approach people with curiosity and interest in the other person rather than focusing on yourself and your own needs and desires.  When we change the focus from self to others, we demonstrate the value you have in relating to them.  When we are self-consumed and are focused on ourselves and what is important to us, we shut down communication and are likely to fail to have meaningful interactions.  Effectively relating to others requires knowing what is important to other people.  This is the starting point of healthy relationships.  By doing this you will learn to communicate more effectively and avoid being drawn into unnecessary conflict.  

The one skill that is necessary to focus on the other person is to have empathy.  Empathy is a necessary precursor to intimacy, trust, and belonging.  When you have empathy, you can respond in ways that are helpful to them.  You can anticipate the needs of the other person.  There are three kinds of empathy that are helpful to explore:

  1. Cognitive Empathy:  Cognitive empathy is the ability to know what others are thinking.  The best way to discover what others are thinking is to be inquisitive.  Explore how others are thinking and believing by asking questions and listening well.  
  2. Emotional Empathy:  Emotional empathy is knowing what others are feeling.  We discover how others are feeling by listening “beneath the surface”.  This requires watching body language.  Listening beyond the words being used, to listening to what is being communicated by facial expressions and the changing positions of the body give clues to how people are feeling about your interactions.  Connecting to these emotions is critical to relational interactions.
  3. Compassionate Empathy:  Compassionate empathy is taking the right action based on what the person needs in the relationship.  This is about how you respond to the relationship.  It is about what you do as a result of what you learn in cognitive and emotional empathy.  

Growing empathy in these three ways will enable us to focus on the other person and build healthier relationships.  If one is focused on self rather than the other person, one is likely to be perceived as self-absorbed, needy, and closed minded.   


We all have preferences for how we like to communicate.  If you can learn how to recognize this and adapt your communication style to the preferences of others, you will be more successful in your relationships.  The very same communication might be received or rejected simply because the style is not delivered in a way that it can be accepted.  

Core Strengths is a great help in learning how to communicate in different styles.  Some people like very direct communication.  Saying it plainly and not beating around the bush will connect with some people.  For others they would prefer indirect communication that is soft.  It may require reading “between the lines” but it will be received better because even hard things will be less offensive.  Still others want communication that is filled with facts and evidence.  Without tacts and evidence, the communication will be received with suspicion or unjustified opinions.  

Be careful about how your strengths influence how you communicate.  I tend to communicate briefly and to the point because my strength of Quick to Act.  I’m in a hurry to get into action and I often fail to communicate with details.  I can also be rather direct, especially when I am triggered in conflict.  By thinking through my communication based on what the other person needs rather than my own preferences, I will be more effective in my relationships. 


If we were all strong in empathy, we would have a lot less conflict.  There will be times when other people will fail to empathize with you in the ways discussed above and will trigger conflict in you.  They may make a statement that hits you as insensitive, inaccurate, or comes across arrogantly.  Each of us interprets other people’s communication differently so these triggers are not universal.  Know your own triggers well.  Understand that not everyone knows your triggers or why they trigger you.  Be careful not to react in your own conflict sequence when this happens.  Facebook is a good example of watching this triggering happen.  One person says something and it triggers another into conflict.  The result is often a series of escalating explosions.  This can all be avoided if we know what triggers us and why.

We must also become aware of unresolved conflict in our lives.  Sometimes conflict leaves us with scars and wounds.  When something happens that feels similar, that old wound experiences pain beyond what the situation would normally be.  Getting healing around those wounds go a long way to helping current relationships.  Know your wounds and the impact on your sensitivities to others.  Be careful to not project past pain onto unexpecting people.  

You don’t have to take the bait when you are triggered.  You can choose how you want to respond.  You don’t have to go into your conflict mode.  Empathy will help you here.  Use the skills discussed above to grow in empathy and communicate more effectively.  

We live in an imperfect world with people that are imperfect.  We all act immature at times and lack empathy for others.  Our ability to navigate these difficult situations are largely determined by our maturity in Christ.  When our needs are fully met in Christ, we are likely to respond in love and compassion to others, even when they are imperfect.  Living for the benefit of others is the fruit of grasping the fulness of the Gospel for ourselves.  

If you would like to offer a relationship transformation workshop for your church or organization, please reach out to Consentia Group.  They would love to share with you the multiple possibilities of building a healthy relational culture were relationships thrive.  Call 231-846-8472

Bruce Terpstra

Our President, Dr. Bruce Terpstra, has 36 years of pastoral ministry experience. He is a veteran of 17 years in denominational leadership and developed more than 70 new churches in the New York metro area and has given oversight to almost 400 pastors. He holds a doctorate in Leadership Development and is also the founder of 3KeyCoaching and the author of Three Passions of the Soul.