Help With Relationships

Counselling offers many great tools to help navigate challenging relationships. Whether it’s learning better listening skills, learning to express your needs and wishes or setting healthy boundaries, you can learn how to cope better in challenging relationships. That might be siblings, parents, partners or co-workers.

Listening Skills 101

When we get defensive, we shut off our listening skills. Some people retreat into themselves, ignore, walk away or avoid. Others go on the aggressive and attack with insults or accusations. Neither of these strategies really help. When we can stay present and really listen to the other person without absorbing any hurt or insult, we are more likely to understand the other person and what they are asking for without jumping to a defensive stance. See if you can remain curious about what the other person is saying to you. Often when they see you are really listening, their tone will change and the conversation will shift.


Understanding some basic guidelines for respectful communication can be essential for maintaining or building important relationships. What is your pattern? Are your feelings hurt immediately by the other person’s comments? Are you interrupting? Maybe intense feelings take over and you later regret what you said. We can get defensive when we think the other person is going to say something hurtful. Do you jump forward in your mind to what you think they’ll say? Did you give them a chance to speak their point of view, without eye-rolling, tsking or turning away? In healthy relationships, there’s a give and take, a back and forth. If this is missing in your relationships, there are many skills you can learn to not only hear out the other person, but get the chance to say what you need and want, in a way that will be heard.

Setting Healthy Boundaries

It’s really important to know and be able to say what is acceptable for you and what is not. When someone acts in a way that makes you feel violated or taken advantage of, you might feel like a doormat or worse. Sometimes it’s not clear to us in the moment how and when a boundary has been violated. It’s the feeling we have afterwards that tells us, that was not okay. Although many of us have trouble being firm with others about our boundaries, because we want to please them, is it worth it to give up your values and feel like a doormat? People pleasers lose their sense of identity when they repeatedly give way to the wishes and demands of others while ignoring their own needs and values. Practicing setting boundaries with your counsellor can really help set you up for success.

Best friends forever. That’s a relationship we all want. If you don’t have that now, it’s time to figure out why. While you’re doing that, build enough kindness for yourself that you have some to share. It’s never too late. Join me and we’ll figure out what you need to be on a path to improving your relationships.