How to Maintain Interpersonal Relationships

A group of friends meeting up and hugging and smiling with each other before going to a café together.

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Human beings are social by nature. The connections we build with others are critical to social, emotional, and physical health. Knowing how to maintain interpersonal relationships can help you build a support system that provides strength as you cope with life’s challenges.

This article discusses things you can do to maintain strong interpersonal relationships with loved ones, friends, colleagues, and others in your life. It also covers why these relationships are so important and what you can do when they do end.

What Is an Interpersonal Relationship?

An interpersonal relationship is a social connection or affiliation between two or more people. Interpersonal relationships can include your partner, loved ones, close friends, acquaintances, co-workers, and many others who make up the social connections in your life.

Be Open

In order to form and maintain strong bonds with others, there needs to be a mutual give-and-take when it comes to sharing information with one another. People need to open up to you, but you also have to be willing to let others in and share details about your experiences, emotions, and opinions.

After all, it is through this mutual sharing that you get to know each other. This process, known as self-disclosure, forges bonds and deepens intimacy between people.

Consider how you might feel if someone you care about did not share important information with you about things that are happening in their life. You might be left feeling that they don’t trust you or that they don’t consider you a close friend. 

Letting others in isn’t always easy. By sharing, you are showing them that you trust and care for them—and giving them the opportunity to show the same care in return.

In order to maintain interpersonal relationships, work on learning to be open with the people in your life. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Look for opportunities where you can let people get to know the “real” you.

Maintain Boundaries

Being open doesn’t mean you should give others unlimited access to your thoughts, feelings, or time. Healthy boundaries are also a vital foundation of any strong relationship. It is important not only to establish these boundaries but to enforce them as well.

A boundary can be defined as what you are willing to accept in a relationship. These boundaries represent your values, expectations, and limitations.

A boundary in your interpersonal relationships might look like having limits on when you spend time together or expectations for when you will be there for one another. It can also involve how much you are willing to share about yourself emotionally, physically, and even digitally.

These boundaries are important in your relationships with other people, but they’re also important for your relationship with yourself.

It’s important that others respect your boundaries, but it is just as important for you to respect theirs. Respecting these boundaries shows that you care about each other’s values, goals, emotions, and needs.

Listen

Good communication is essential in any relationship, but it’s important to remember that communicating well involves being able to listen.

Active listening involves being engaged with what your conversation partner is saying. You're not just being quiet and letting them say their piece—you’re reflecting on their words, paraphrasing what they have said to show you are listening, and asking questions you may have. 

Listening shows that you care. It shows that you are involved in the other person’s life and interested in what they have to say.

Listening is a great way to learn more about the other person. It also allows you to offer support and emotional validation, which can go a long way toward making the other person value you as a friend and confidant.

Tips for Active Listening

  • Don’t interrupt
  • Avoid voicing opinions or judgments
  • Maintain good eye contact
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Paraphrase what the other person has said

Show Respect

To maintain interpersonal relationships, you should also show respect for others. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything they say or do what they want to do. However, It does mean you should show that you value their feelings, opinions, time, and interests.

When showing respect in interpersonal relationships, you should:

  • Avoid disparaging the things they enjoy
  • Keep the commitments you’ve made to them
  • Show up on time
  • Be mindful of their feelings
  • Listen to them, even when you disagree

Be Empathetic

Empathy involves being able to put yourself in another person’s shoes and feel what they feel. It means you see things from their perspective and feel their pain as if it was your own.

Interpersonal relationships benefit from empathy in many ways. When you show that you feel what someone else is feeling, it helps the other person gain a sense of belonging. It helps others feel understood, and that understanding serves as a foundation for trust and closeness in a relationship.

Research also suggests that in addition to strengthening relationships, empathy also fosters kindness, cooperation, and helping behaviors and improves mental health.

Other Tips

  • Earn and be worthy of trust
  • Make an effort to show you care
  • Improve your listening skills
  • Share things about yourself
  • Accept feedback
  • Be honest
  • Validate their feelings

Why Relationships Matter

Research has found that interpersonal relationships can have a number of important benefits for physical and psychological health. Some of these include:

When you have strong interpersonal relationships, you may feel more motivated to engage in behaviors that are good for your health. Research has found that people who participate more in social relationships are also more likely to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking.

When Relationships End

Not all relationships are healthy, and sometimes you might need to let go of a toxic or painful relationship. In addition, some relationships are limited in duration simply by the nature of the connection—your relationship with a coworker, healthcare professional, or teacher, for example, may end based on various transitions in your life.

Other relationships may end for various reasons, including a breakup, divorce, a move, or death. Remember that it is normal to feel a range of emotions when a relationship ends, including sadness, anger, or grief.

If you are struggling after the loss of an interpersonal relationship, consider talking to your healthcare provider or therapist.

A Word From Verywell

Being able to maintain strong interpersonal relationships plays a critical role in both your physical and emotional well-being. Think about the qualities that you value the most in your relationships— such as trust, respect, friendship, kindness, and honestly—and work on showing others those same virtues.

While it can be easy to get caught up in the busyness of everyday life, make it a habit to spend time cultivating and protecting your relationships with the people who matter the most. A little time, attention, and effort can ensure that you are giving people the support they need and that you get the same support in return.

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