Everyone needs interpersonal support at some point. Some may seem to need more than others, but in order to thrive, all humans require external help to some degree. You may have heard of showing encouragement by learning the love language that your partner, child, friend or coworker prefers. There are also several ways to communicate your support to other people, as well as signs to show that mutual support is present. These are the hallmarks of healthy relationships.
Listening seems like a no-brainer, but it's more difficult than you might think. It's easy to get in the habit of zoning out when people are talking, especially if you know them well. To communicate support, however, it's important to engage in active listening behaviors:
- Good eye contact
- Uninterrupted attention
- Follow-up questions
- Clarifying reflections
People who don't take the time to listen to what you have to say can probably not be depended on to support you when it counts. By contrast, those who go to great lengths to make sure they understand where you're coming from are more likely to know when and how to help. This simple exchange is a fundamental part of any healthy relationship.
When people need help, they are prone to reach out to those who have shown them compassion or concern. After all, those are the people who are more likely to understand the kind of help they need without a lot of guidance. Many folks are hesitant to add the extra task of explaining themselves when they are in dire need of assistance. They rely on solid, steady relationships.
If, however, the people you feel close to don't seem to want to help you in times of need, that may be a red flag that they are not as invested in your relationship as you are. It's OK to give them the benefit of the doubt every once in a while. After all, it's conceivable that there are external factors prohibiting them from assisting you at certain times. If it becomes a pattern, though, it may be a good idea to assess their commitment.
Another benefit of active listening is that it gives you insight into your loved ones' goals and dreams. You can encourage them when they suffer setbacks and cheer them on when they make progress. Show support by helping them make the positive changes they want to see in their lives.
You deserve the same encouragement in return. Good friends will not try to change you into what they think you should be but will honor the goals you set for yourself and do whatever they can to help you stay motivated. Neither control nor apathy is a sign of a good relationship. If the people around you don't seem to care if you succeed or are only willing to view success on their terms, consider confronting them about their lack of support and how it affects you.
Finally, supportive people communicate positive regard. Love is perpetually hopeful, and showing love means letting people know how much you delight in them. You don't have to go out of your way to be exuberant if that's not your personality, but there are many things you can do to show people you like them. It's well worth the effort when you see them become happier and more confident as a result.
Constant criticism, on the other hand, has the opposite effect. When someone acts as if nothing you do is right, it can be exhausting. It's better to seek out relationships in which you are genuinely loved for who you are.
Everyone needs to have supportive people in their lives. Learning to both recognize and give support can help you have healthier relationships.