Our relationships are complex phenomena that we can struggle to understand, especially when they fall out of balance. While I recommend one-on-one relationship coaching to sort through deep and specific problems, there are some universal practical techniques that can be used to improve any kind of relationship. This can be between two partners, friends, a parent and a child or two colleagues.

In this three part series on improving relationships, I’m going to walk you through three effective ways to understand what may be impacting your relationships and how to use this understanding to improve them. The first method is to understand how each of us experience the world differently based on which of our senses affect us the most. There are some who interact with the world primarily from a visual point of view, others from an auditory perspective and some other who use a kinesthetic viewpoint of life and how things feel.

To explain this further – consider an example.

A couple has arrived home from work, they’ve had a long, hard day and both just want to relax. One of them (let’s say the wife) wants to have a nice, tidy environment in order to be able to relax. So she immediately goes around tidying up the house.

Now the other partner (say the husband) sits down on the couch, stretches out his muscles and relaxes into the feeling of comfort offered by the couch. The wife turns to the husband and says “Get off your lazy arse and help me tidy up this place!” The husband says “Can’t we just relax first and then work?”

But the wife just scrunches up her face and explains how she just can’t relax until everything is neat. You may have found yourself in a similar situation before. What’s probably going on here is that the wife has a visual representation system and so it is important to her to see things neat and tidy. The husband on the other hand, probably has a kinesthetic representation system so it matters more to him that things feel good and comfortable even if they may not look good.

Let’s take this a step further. The wife finishes tidying up, gets some biscuits and sits down on the couch. As she eats them, she ends up dropping some crumbs. The husband indignantly turns to her and says, “For God’s sake, please stop dropping those crumbs all over the couch!”. His kinesthetic senses are now upset because he can feel the crumbs under him as he sits and may feel it on his hands when they rest on the couch.

The third common sensory type is the auditory representation system. People who have such a system are likely to get really bothered by screeching noises or ticking clocks and especially soothed by nice words or good music.

Now, if you think about the people in your life, you will start to identify which representation system is dominant within them. Once you do this, you can try to help them be surrounded by the kind of environment in which they can feel their best. Just by making a few small conscious changes, you will notice your relationships improve.