By: Helen LaKelly Hunt and Harville Hendrix
Communicate your regrets
Months, or even years, may have passed since you last talked with a friend, and you may have regrets for not keeping in touch. If you do, communicate your regret but do not evoke guilt on your friend about them not reaching out. Instead, share your joy that now you can restore your relationship, and you are looking forward to the next time you can be together.
Give friends grace to be themselves
Talking without criticism and listening without judgment sends an important message to your friend that you accept and honor them for who they are. Choosing not to be judgmental doesn’t equate to agreeing with someone. The difference is that when you refuse to judge, you acknowledge that they have just as much right to their beliefs as you have to yours.
Lean in towards your differences
Disagreements around our differences are inevitable in every relationship. For most people, when things get the slightest bit uncomfortable, it’s a lot easier to change the subject or shut down entirely. Instead of avoiding your differences, embrace them. Choosing to see your friend’s unique skills, experiences, and strengths can create a stronger bond and deepen your relationship.
Know your boundaries and communicate them
Setting and honoring healthy boundaries is an essential element of respect because you give your friend clarity by setting expectations. To be effective, your boundaries must be clear, which means you must know what they are before communicating them in a healthy and positive way. For example, they may involve your comfort level around physical interaction, how you prefer to be spoken to, or honoring your time. Be cautious, however, that your boundaries are flexible so you won’t become closed off or keep people at a distance.
Couple’s therapists Drs. Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt, of Dallas, have been married for more than 30 years. They have authored 10 books, including “Getting the Love You Want,” and created the Safe Conversations communication program. Visit safeconversations.com.