The overuse of emojis, prevalence of heart-shaped chocolates and presence of sentimental greeting cards are just a few things that have come to symbolize the month of February, leading up to Valentine’s Day. While relationships are a big focus this month, they play an invaluable role in our lives 365 days a year and are one of the Principles of Resilience. All of our connections with others—from romantic and family relationships, to friendships and professional interactions—can shape our outlook, feelings of belongingness and ability to navigate stress. To keep your relationships strong and promote cohesion in your unit, family or community, consider these tips:
- Be a good listener. Relationships are built on a foundation of trust and support. Mutual understanding is important and can only be achieved through active listening. This is especially important during conflict resolution, when the listener is likely to be formulating a response rather than hearing what the speaker is saying. Whether you’re a leader speaking with a Sailor who has concerns about mission resource or are engaged in a debate with your spouse at home, focus your attention first on what the speaker is saying to you. Then, repeat what you think they’ve expressed in your own words. This opens the dialogue and allows the speaker to determine whether or not he or she feels understood by you (the listener), allowing for further explanation, minimizing emotionally charged responses and promoting understanding. Check out the Human Performance Resource Center’s tips on active listening for more.
- Stay connected, even when apart. “Make new friends and keep the old” may be a nursery rhyme, but preserving relationships should be a priority no matter how old you are or how far you go. If your buddy transfers to a new command, make an effort to regularly reach out to him or her throughout the transition phase and maintain that frequency in the future. It can be tough arriving to a new duty station, so a reminder that he or she still has friends in their corner can brighten rough days by preserving a sense of belonging. You can also strengthen your family and romantic relationships while navigating the separations that accompany Navy life, such as long deployments. Start a book club with your partner and/or children, where you each read the same book and schedule time to “discuss” it through email or social media. Just pulled into a scenic port? Grab a photo of your loved one and snap a picture of it in a cool setting so that you can all “experience” the place together. Explore ways to stay involved in daily life as well, such as video chat sessions to help your children with homework or a virtual date with your spouse or partner. Find more tips on connecting during deployment here.
- Communicate through the good and the bad. There is always an opportunity to maintain a positive tone in the toughest of conversations. When a shipmate does a good job, be sure to offer specific praise explaining what he or she did well and how that can contribute to mission success. Acknowledging successes, big or small, can be motivating, builds cohesion and fosters trust. Conversely, when there is room for improvement in the workplace or at home, offer direct yet constructive feedback to help steer things in the right direction. Outright criticism can breakdown communication and result in diminished quality of the task at hand, as well as your relationship. Working with your partner or shipmate to set clear expectations together can minimize the need for uncomfortable conversations down the line.
Take the time to invest in your relationships. Lean on your shipmates for support, schedule time to speak with your leaders and confide in your family members. Having a strong support network can help you stay grounded and carry you through life’s challenges. Nurturing your relationships is 1 Small ACT that can you can do to help take the stress out of what’s coming next.