Most relationships have their ups and downs but some relationships seem to have more downs than ups. Some of our toughest relationships are with those who are closest to us, like our family. When disagreements occur, it's easy to give up and say things like "It's not worth talking to my sister/brother," or "My parents and I just don't get along." While it might be truly difficult to have a good relationship with some individuals, it may not be impossible. Examine your ability to improve the relationship. Use these steps to build a bridge, not a wall.

  1. When talking to this person, use your best communication skills.
  2. Take control of your actions. Ask yourself: "What changes can I make to help this situation?" Remember we can't control the actions of others, but we have power over our own choices. We can choose to develop a more positive approach to life, including this relationship.
  3. Do a personal check. Could it be that you are talking too loudly and it is being perceived as aggressive? Could it be that your body posture seems to indicate that you are annoyed even though you don't feel this way? Approach difficult relationships with mindfulness. Use a softer tone and a neutral body position.
  4. Handle your conflicts directly rather than passive aggressively. This means identifying what your feelings are about a situation and offering solutions instead of avoiding the person or walling them off.
  5. Acknowledge your feelings. Being angry or annoyed does not make you a bad person. No emotion is good or bad, it just is. What you choose to do with your emotions can improve or hinder the relationship. When you feel yourself becoming angry, take a deep breath and stay calm. When you are calm, it's much easier to listen to the other person's point of view.
  6. When possible, give yourself time to process your interactions. Take a time out. Look at the big picture. Does the conflict that you are having right now make a difference in the long run or did it just create a negative feeling that you need to let go?
  7. Try to find points from the other person's perspective that you can agree with.
  8. Ask the other person to explain any reason behind their opinions that you don't understand; often knowing the details can lead to common ground.
  9. Challenge yourself to grow. Find someone who communicates well and in a manner that you admire. Work towards being more like this mentor.

Remember, change in a relationship does not happen overnight, it is something that you must continuously work toward. Have hope. If you keep working on the things that you can control, the other person may recognize your effort. As a result, over time you will likely be able to build a bridge over your differences.