7 Powerful Habits of Happier Relationships

by Henrik Edberg

“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.”
Dalai Lama

Happiness in life can come from many things.

From how meaningful you find your work to be. From a hobby you can get lost in for hours. Or from just being with the natural world around you and appreciating the light rain and slowly falling leaves of autumn.

A big part of the happiness also comes from the relationships in our lives. And from how we cultivate them and let them grow.

So today I would like to share 7 habits that have helped me to grow happier relationships – of any kind – in the past few years.

1. Treat other people as you would like to be treated.

The most basic guideline of relationships is that how you treat someone is how that person is likely to treat you too in the long run.

If you are kind and helpful they will tend to be kind and helpful to you. If you never really listen or are judgmental then you are likely to get that in return.

There will of course be exceptions. Some people will not reciprocate and treat you well even if you treat them well. And you may not get back what you give right away.

But in the long run and in most cases things tend to even out.

Just don’t make the mistake of waiting for everyone else to make a change or to take the first step. Instead, be proactive. Be the one to take the first few steps to build the relationships you want to live in and to start giving what you want to get.

2. Truly listen.

Everyone wants to feel like they are being understood.

So when you listen, don’t just wait for your turn to talk. And don’t keep your mind half-occupied with some other issue or plans for tonight.

When you listen, truly be there. With your full attention.

Two things that have helped me to become a better listener are:

  • Fully focus outward. Focus on just what is happening in front of you with your senses. Listen carefully to the other person’s voice and the tone of it, the emotions expressed in the eyes and in how he or she uses his or her body. You may still miss things but forgetting about yourself and your troubles or ideas for a while is good starting point to be really engaged and receptive to what the other person is trying to get across.
  • Tell yourself you will tell someone else about this conversation later on. Then you’ll be more alert and what is said in the conversation simply seems to stick better in my experience. Plus, curiosity and trying to truly understand by asking follow-up questions tends to come naturally.

3. Be assertive.

Being assertive, being able to ask for what you want and to say no to what you do not want in your life will not only boost your own self-esteem. It also tends to make other people respect you more and it helps you to form healthier and happier relationships.

So how can you become more assertive?

  • Improve your self-esteem. When you improve your self-esteem then a wonderful thing happens. You start to feel more deserving of good or great things in your life. And so you will start to ask for them because you believe it is natural for you to deserve them (other people may of course say no to some of those things and that is their right). And you’ll start staying no to things or behavior both from yourself and others that you do not think you deserve anymore.
  • Focus on communicating clearly. Ask for what you want or for what is on the other person’s mind. Use your words. Don’t try to mindread someone else. And don’t expect other people to be able to do such a thing to you either. It is not their responsibility to know what you need in some magical way. It is your responsibility to communicate what you want or need. Just like it is for any other person.
  • Start small. If it feels scary to ask for something big or to say no to something very important then start smaller. Say no or ask for something very small. Then work yourself up towards bigger and bigger things.

4. Remember to give the small gifts of kindness.

It is easy to forget about the small gifts of kindness in the stressed and busy everyday life.

But such a small gift can mean so much. It does matter.

Just take a minute or 30 seconds to express your genuine appreciation or gratitude for something that someone in your life does well. You’ll brighten his or her day or week.

Or leave a small and sweet note for your partner or child in a boot, hat, tea-container, underneath the pillow or in a book he or she is reading. It is a very simple and small thing but it in my experience it always brings a big smile to the recipient’s face.

And sometimes a simple and genuine thank you can have a bigger impact than you may realize.

5. Mix things up.

Taking each other for granted or winding up in a repetitive rut can in many relationships lead to boredom or to things not feeling as exciting as they used to. Just relaxing and doing the same old things you always do don’t take much effort. But it can erode the relationship.

So make sure to mix things up. And to try new things once in a while. Do not just go outside of your comfort zone in your own time. Do it when you spend time with a partner or a friend too.

Try a new sport, hobby or restaurant. Go to an event that sounds intriguing and like something new. Go away for a weekend to some place you wouldn’t expect the two of you to go.

6. Have human standards.

I often mention that one of the best ways to stop being a perfectionist and to be happier is to set human standards yourself. Instead of inhuman standards that no-one can live up to really.

This is a good tip for finding more happiness with other people too.

Having perfectionistic standards for your partner, friend or co-worker can lead to a lot of conflicts that could have been prevented. It can even over time lead to the end of a relationship.

People will stumble and make mistakes. They will not always have a good day or perform at their absolute best. They will have flaws.

Sure, some things may need to change in the other person for you to keep being in the relationship. And some missteps could of course lead to the end of the two of you.

But many things that are smaller than that and that can cause irritation or arguments pretty much every week can be greatly reduced with everyone in your life simply by having human standards both for yourself and for others.

And over time, it can make a big difference in how relaxed, open and happy a relationship can be.

7. Focus on solutions, instead of arguing on and on.

Just like in your own personal life, getting stuck in thinking too much about whys and what ifs can be quite destructive. Such thoughts going around in circles rarely leads to much except making issues bigger and scarier than they actually are and to feeling paralyzed or unnecessarily angry or irritated.

So be assertive instead. If there is an issue then communicate what the two of you are thinking instead of assuming or trying to mindread each other.

Find understanding by truly listening to what you hear and by trying to see things from the other person’s viewpoint by asking yourself:

How would I see this situation we are in if I were in his or her shoes?

Then focus on solutions together. Yes, one of you – or the both of you – may have made a mistake but it has already been done and you don’t have a time-machine. So don’t focus on replaying it in your mind over and over or on arguing about it for too long.

Try to move on to focusing on finding and taking action on a solution together. Instead of getting stuck in inaction on separate flanks.

Ask yourselves:

  • How can we solve this?
  • What is one small and practical step we can take today to move forward with this solution?

Focus on what WE can do. Instead of focusing all your energy and thoughts on ME vs YOU and turning a beginning conflict into a fight that benefits no-one really.

It will help both you and the other person and your relationship.

Image by alexisnyal (license).

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SJ Scott October 9, 2013 at 4:54 pm


Great tips here for happiness and better relationships.

I specifically like #6. I think that far too often people can be their own worst critics. If you are constantly down on yourself, and do not have a love for yourself, it becomes that much harder for others to care for you back.

You need to be reasonable with yourself and set goals that can be achieved, so that you feel better when you succeed. THEN build more goals and build on them. All in all it will make you happier and that will bleed over into the personal relationships.

Henrik Edberg October 10, 2013 at 4:42 pm

That is very true, thank you for adding your thoughts on self-criticism and how it can affect our relationships!

Ragnar October 9, 2013 at 8:08 pm

This is great advice. I think the one that is most often overlooked is focusing on solutions. It is so easy to get stuck arguing with someone over some pointless matter. Teach yourself to be the one that compromises, or even agrees, and you’ll save a lot of time throughout your life!

Henrik Edberg October 10, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Thank you very much, Ragnar! I agree, it is not always easy to focus on solutions but it can make a life a lot easier and happier.

Thom Soule October 9, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Hi Henrik,
I love this tip for being a better listener: Tell yourself you will tell someone else about this conversation later on.
I’ve never heard that before, and I think it’s a wonderful mindset to cultivate.
Listening well is such a rare and wonderful quality to possess, and is certainly one of the cornerstones to enhancing relationships of any kind.
Thanks for the great reminder!

Henrik Edberg October 10, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Glad you like that tip, Thom. I hope it will be as helpful for you as it has been for me.

Anonymous October 9, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Thank you for ur advice,#1 is very nice idea which most people don’t excercise

Henrik Edberg October 10, 2013 at 4:45 pm

You’re welcome!

Anders Hasselstrøm October 9, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Dear Henrik,

Once again thanks for sharing an inspiring post. I apply most of the advice in my life and I have experienced how much it can benefit you. I love the idea of “Random Acts of Kindness” and I’m trying to be aware of situations every time they arise :-)

Anders Hasselstrøm

Henrik Edberg October 10, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Thank you, Anders! It is good to hear that these things have worked well for you too.

Jenn October 9, 2013 at 10:05 pm

As always, I enjoyed your article.
When I read #4, it reminds me of my children – who are now grown. When they were young I often put little notes in their lunch bags or notebooks saying I love them or something to make them smile. I still send them little messages by text and I love it when they message me back!
It’s such a small effort to brighten someone’s day.

Henrik Edberg October 10, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Thank you for sharing how you have used the small note idea, Jenn. I and many of the other readers will appreciate those tips.

Anonymous October 9, 2013 at 10:47 pm

Hi Henrik
Whatever you have mentioned is excellent but as you also
mentioned that ” there will of course be exceptions” as per my experience I treat very well but most of them never reciprocate the same way hence I become depressed all the time. I cannot tell anyone nobody seems to understand my feelings.

Bob Tewsley October 10, 2013 at 11:13 am

Hei Henrik,

Very good post. We teach what you preach so I agree that we have it within our power and consciousness to create a Happy Relationship by doing practical and mindful things. Have a great week, Bob

Henrik Edberg October 10, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Thank you very much, Bob!

Henrik Edberg October 10, 2013 at 4:49 pm

I would recommend to try to not focus too much on those exceptions, but to instead try to spend more of your time and effort on people who will give back.

SueA October 9, 2013 at 11:47 pm

Amen to all of these, Henrik. I really like #3, being assertive is a lot different than being demanding. Realizing that other people are not mind readers is definitely a helpful realization in claiming responsibility in a relationship.

#7 is so true, focusing on solutions instead of getting stuck in an endless negative spiral sounds so refreshing.

Being kind makes such a huge difference for both parties. Gives life such a brand new “look and feel”.

Thanks for the great post!

Jonathan October 10, 2013 at 1:17 am

I like these tips. Particularly #2. If we do more listening in this fast paced world we will make a great difference. It’s a special grace we must pray for and pursue!

Larry Hochman October 10, 2013 at 2:05 am

Great stuff, Henrik. Yes…it’s important to solution oriented, and listen and be assertive. The underpinnings of all of that is Emotional Maturity. It takes a lot of trial and error before we can get to that place. So I’d only add to your excellent advice…get good at laughing at your screw up’s, and that of your partner…they’re part of the growing process. Rock on! :)

Kara October 10, 2013 at 2:40 am

What great tips. I thought all were great especially setting human standards and focusing on solutions. People get caught up with what is wrong with where I work but no one comes up with alternatives.

Abdul Rasul October 10, 2013 at 4:35 am

It’s very good and really helpful to me to apply in daily life.

Franklin Chen October 10, 2013 at 4:36 am

Thank you for the tips. I appreciate your gentle and specific suggestions.

subhash yadav October 10, 2013 at 7:16 am

Hi Henrik ,
I completely agree with the point that most of us struck to an issue and repeatedly keep on arguing without any solution. I think this is because of a THE ego one has ,that I am not smaller than the front person . This is clear here that it is the negative approach driven by ego that prevents us from having a compromising situation . Having self respect is the most valued thing one can have. But if this self respect is above the human standards (as stated in the good article) then this very self respect turns into ego ,which in turn acts as a supply of fuel for pointless on going arguments. this is fatal in any relationship . So a switch over from this negative approach to positive approach is needed. I need this switch over currently .Kindly write practical guidelines on this topic.

Amit Ghadage October 10, 2013 at 7:17 am

Hi Henrik,
I liked your tips. The thing we know but the special reminders are required regularly to follow them in our life.

Thanks and keep sharing…..

Amit Ghadage

Tariq Mashhadi October 10, 2013 at 7:21 am

Fine. I like no 2 and no 7 in particular.
A good listener is an excellent problem solver and getting rid of ME and YOU is really a great solution.

mangar October 10, 2013 at 10:20 am

I really love #7 focus on solution than arguing on and on, because it waste energy and deepen conflict or hatred and above all being assertive had made me very happy and I will strive to work on this two important tips and share it with the rest.Thank you so much for sharing it with me.

manoj Pandey October 10, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Thank you for the tips specifically like no 7. I appreciate your gentle and specific suggestions.

Manoj Pandey

neha sharma October 10, 2013 at 4:11 pm

very very nice article I completely agree with you

Anthony October 10, 2013 at 6:19 pm

I especially enjoyed #6, it gave me insight on how to better treat myself and the important people in my life. I’ll put these tips to good practice, and thank you for sharing this wonderful wisdom, Henrik!

Dismus Moon October 10, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Hi Henrik, thnx so much for the awesome tips. It’s well put, especially # 1&2. That’s something I’ve always applied in ma day to day life & the results are just amazing. Keep up the great work.

Deborah October 10, 2013 at 10:51 pm

I totally agree!

Focus on the solution! Is the best way to find one! :)
Good communication is essential! It is absurd to think how many relationships are ruined just because in some situations we avoid to speak clearly. Often resentment keeps on growing and can deteriorate the relationship!

In addition, showing appreciation like being careful, affectionate and sympathetic, makes the other person feel really loved.

And questions are everything.
The famous question “how can I?” is magical.

Thanks for sharing this article!

Love, Deborah

Sebastian October 11, 2013 at 3:12 am

I really like the advice of telling someone else the conversation you just had. This will surely ensure that you pay attention to your conversation to remember as many important details as possible.

You could even use those same details you remembered to bring back the conversation with the person you talked to. This will show that person that you were truly listening and I’m sure he/she will appreciate that immensely.

Mian Azizur Rahman October 11, 2013 at 5:38 am

A good article on happiness and relationship.Thank you for so many good tips.

Anonymous October 11, 2013 at 7:38 am

Really like those tips. Very helpful indeed. Thank you.

Dejene October 11, 2013 at 11:04 am

Hi Henrik
I always liked what always post for me.especially all your tips is advantages for all leaders,teachers etc
I wait more &more from you.

Dan Erickson October 11, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Great post. I especially like your points about listening and being human. I teach communication courses including public speaking, and these are two concepts I focus on in my courses. Most of us are poor listeners. And perfectionism will get no one nowhere.

Jacqueline Kane Babbitt October 11, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Hello Henrik,
I enjoyed your article. Thank you for your insights and wisdom.

I would like to add a couple more if I may.

8. Fall in Love. Find new ways to mend the bridge to self. Make it a habit of saying; “I love you” in the mirror. Believe it. If this action is not currently possible, find new ways. Stretch your imagination and your heart to believe it is possible.

9. Know that you are not alone. You are surrounding by all that you believe, all that you love, your wishes, hopes and dreams and an infinite pool of loving universal matter. You matter.

“I love you” is our new mantra.

With Love,
Jacqueline Kane Babbitt
inventor, The Self Esteem Pill™

nirmal October 12, 2013 at 11:09 am

hi henrik,
really a nice post.this will certainly help people to develop and maintain the relationship in meaningful way in their life.healthy and fructuos tips.keep me always posted with your invaluable articles.

Edith October 12, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Thank you so much for sharing your positive tips ! It’s a real pleasure to read you ! thank you !

Tharcy October 12, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Yeap Henrik,
i highly appreciate ur tip4, very helpful in our daily life especialy 4r our lovers keep on going!!

Don (@breatheoptimism) October 13, 2013 at 2:41 am

It’s so important to listen and so few of us know how to do so. As the other person is talking, we think of stories we can tell based on what they are saying, instead of really hearing the words they are using. I still fall victim to this, but I try my best to push through when I catch myself passively listening.

Jane L October 13, 2013 at 6:41 am

These are some really, really helpful tips.

I myself am living up to most of the pointers you have provided. Not only so, I shared most of such ways to friends, colleagues and family members.

Though at times, it is true that there are exceptional people that just wouldn’t reciprocate. During the first few times that I experienced so, I must admit that I do re-consider my intentions. Why would I need to continue being the good one while others doesn’t seem to care.

But as I pursue on, because I know I just couldn’t allow one bad apple to spoil the entire garden, I continue to walk the talk despite so.

Now, I am much more contented and happier because I know that I have done the right thing.

north hills October 13, 2013 at 1:47 pm

superb blog

Raheel Farooq October 13, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Great thoughts, Henrik. Great discussions in the comments section. If that’s not totally crazy, I’m too going to write about the same on my blog today.
Thanks for the inspiration! ;)

Sharon October 13, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Thanks for excellent suggestions on happier relationship. Since you offered, I will share these on my blog (November) and will, of course, give you credit and recommend your Positivity blog. I enjoy it alot. Thanks

Ryan Biddulph October 14, 2013 at 9:44 am

Hi Henrik,

All are wonderful tips. I am big on being human and setting human standards. Doing otherwise results in failure, misery and anger. Be easy on yourself. Push yourself a bit, but do it from a high energy space.

By far, this is one of my worst blocks to happy relationships, and happiness in general. I am improving in this department though.

Thanks for sharing.

Jan Koch October 14, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Hey Henrik,
I found your site via Henri Juntilla’s Wakeupcloud.com and I’ll definitely visit your blog regularly now :-)

Just today I made the decision to quit my job and to start working full-time for my Internet business. I think this post you’ve written is not only for happier relationships but could serve as general resource to live a happier life in general :-)

Thanks for sharing those tips and I’m looking forward to read more from you!

Best regards from Germany,

elise October 15, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Hi Henrik,

You have such a wonderful and positive site here and I love that your blogs are written from your experiences but give practical advice for your readers. I really liked you point on #Small acts of kindness in this blog, as I am a firm believer in owing your contribution to the world. I have a happiness website that is all about sharing light & love through being you and honouring what you can give to others & the world by being yourself. I just recently had a guest blogger talk about her experiences with volunteering where she talks about making a difference in even the small ways to add value to other # JoinTheHappinessMovement http://elisebradfield.com/

Abbi Heilig October 15, 2013 at 10:50 pm

I have “The Positivity Blog” as my home page and have for quite some time now. I am always appreciative of always opening up my browser to find a loving and inspirational entry from you. Thank you for your continued posts. Spreading love and gratitude is the only way!

Rajesh Jain October 16, 2013 at 2:07 pm

superb write up ….if applied in life , life can be changed a lot .

Lynsey October 20, 2013 at 12:31 am

Great tips…keep up the good work!! :-)

AJ Walton October 21, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Have you read “How to Win Friends and Influence People”? It sounds like you’ve mastered the spirit of the book when you talk about *really* listening.

I think that’s the best thing we can give someone – our undivided, caring attention.

kapil October 27, 2013 at 1:05 pm

very good tips.i am working on them.working well by repeating them like reciting god’s name

socratezonline November 11, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Give more, expect less.
Often our expectations of others lead to disappointment. In my experience it’s better to focus on giving. Of course, it’s important to surround yourself with people who influence you in a positive way. If that’s not the case, then giving becomes draining.

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