So we are close to starting to write “2020” on all communications that require a date. Without getting into the perennially useless new year resolutions, what are you looking forward to doing better in your relationships? This does not only refer to romantic ones, but also to family, friends and colleagues. The oft-used slogan has been “New year, new you.” I prefer to look forward to improving the connections I already have while being open to new ones.

A recent blog in Scientific American (Blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/which-personality-traits-are-most-predictive-of-well-being) discusses which aspects of our personality contributes most to a sense of well-being. The well-known theory suggests high extraversion and low neuroticism. This blog goes beyond that and posits that of the 11 dimensions of well-being, one that is relevant to today’s topic is having warm and trusting interpersonal relationships. So how can we improve our own mental health while we look to improve our connections with those we care about?

To start, it is important to take inventory and look at ourselves: Who makes me feel good about myself? Who do I make happy? Who adds to the richness of my days and how do I reciprocate? Who makes me think and stimulates my intellectual curiosity? How do I contribute to their joy and experiences? Enthusiasm and low withdrawal make one a person other people want to befriend. Compassion is a personality trait that makes the world a kinder place. Do I have these qualities and do the people around me also possess them?

There are many self-help books on how to deal with a difficult person in your world. The problem is, especially in close intimate relationships, we find out about our partner’s foibles after a while. Everyone puts their best foot forward at the beginning. Over the years, I have come to see that it takes anywhere from six to 12 months for those troublesome traits to emerge, when we begin to relax. What then? If you can’t accept the behavior, do you leave? Everyone has boundaries that once crossed, the damage is too deep to accept although some continue to stay in the situation while accumulating anger and resentments. The better way to examine what is causing conflicts is to put the issues on the table and work together to resolve them. Why do most people resist this? I think that confrontation is not easy for some; we don’t teach how to discuss any issue fairly even if it is highly emotional, and for some, avoidance is the pattern.

I would encourage us all to take a good look at what we ourselves contribute to any relationship, good or bad, not rationalize our way of dealing with them, and look to make life more joyful, more compassionate and just fun for all involved. Here is wishing everyone a happy and healthy holiday season.

Author Profile

Janan Broadbent, PhD
Janan Broadbent, PhD
As a psychologist in private practice since 1979, Janan Broadbent, Ph. D. offers individual, couples, group and family therapy, in addition to conducting workshops on topics such as stress management, communication skills and assertiveness. She writes about current issues relevant to relationship building and conflict resolution in LGBTQ and minority populations, with emphasis on health, fitness and education.

Born in Turkey, Dr. Broadbent earned her undergraduate degree in psychology in 1965. At that time, first as a Fulbright Scholar, then as a CENTO Fellow, she received her master's and doctorate degrees in psychology and education from the University of California at Los Angeles. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in psychology at St.Mary's College of Maryland, Mt. Vernon College in Washington, D. C., Johns Hopkins University and the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore. From 1981 to 1988, she was also the Director of Counseling at Notre Dame College.
While in graduate school, Dr. Broadbent worked for the Voice of America radio program, writing and recording materials on the cross-cultural college experience. She has been interviewed on various news programs on TV and has received media training.
Dr. Broadbent is a member of the American Psychological Association and has served as the chair for the Public Affairs Board and as a member of the Executive Council of the Maryland Psychological Association.
Dr. Broadbent's office is located at:
Village of Cross Keys, 120 West Quadrangle, 2 Hamill Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21210-1847 phone: 410-825-5577