Building good relationships

Good friendships and relationships require the investment of both energy and trust. The depression habit spiral and depressed thinking can deplete the supply of both of these.

Simple relationship skills

People who care about you may also find it very difficult to understand what you are feeling and why – especially when it is difficult for you to understand it yourself! A few simple, yet very effective, relationship skills can make all the difference in protecting your friendships and relationships from some of the damage caused by depression.

Listening

It can be difficult to listen properly to what is going on for others when you are feeling low yourself. However, making the effort to hear the other person’s point of view is vital to maintaining good relationships.

  • Truly listening to what someone else has to say means suspending your own views and opinions temporarily.
  • Check out whether you have properly understood by paraphrasing: “So what you’re saying is you’re worried about me and you want me to go and see someone about it?”
  • This also shows the person that you are really listening.
  • Don’t copy word for word, but stick as closely as you can to their meaning as you have understood it. This seems strange at first, but is a surprisingly effective communication tool.
  • Be aware of what is unspoken as well as what is spoken: “You’re saying that you’re all right with supporting me, but you’re also looking quite tired and stressed.”
  • Ask open rather than closed (ie. yes/no or factual) questions: “What’s going on for you?” rather than “Are you fed up with me?”
  • Summarise what the other person has said before you respond. If the other person feels like you have been open to hearing their point of view, they are more likely to be open to hearing yours too.

Honest communication

Honest communication in relationships is an extension of assertive communication. You need to be practised at knowing what you are feeling and what you need, in order to communicate it clearly and effectively.

  • Communicate using “I…” statements: “I feel worried that you”re getting fed up with me being so miserable all the time.” rather than “You must be so fed up with me!”
  • I-statements are especially useful in tense situations, because they can’t be disputed or debated, whereas you-statements often feel like accusations.
  • State clearly what you would like from the other person: “I want you to tell me when you are too busy, or are feeling overwhelmed with listening to me. I will feel more able to call on you when I need to if I know you will set clear limits.”
  • Be ready both to hear and to use the word “No”, and to negotiate and compromise. Challenge any all-or-nothing thinking!

Next: Planning a life worth living

Related

Connecting with others
Building a good support network
Depression sociology