Five ways to build authentic relationships

How to be known and really get to know others

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I’ve learnt from my own experience that building authentic relationships takes courage and risk: the risk of being hurt, rejected or misunderstood. But I do know now that investing in authentic relationships is one of the most rewarding adventures we can ever undertake.

Here are five things you can do, to get started:

1. Work out your priorities. Do you find yourself spending time on the urgent at the expense of the important? Psychologists reckon that we can only maintain 10-15 close relationships at any one time. Any more and we are in danger of overloading. Decide which are your most important relationships and ask yourself whether they are getting enough of your attention.

2. Practise being a good listener. When you really listen to another person, you offer them a great gift. It demonstrates that you want to understand them better. If someone tells you something important, try to refrain from interrupting, giving advice or bringing the topic back to ‘you’.

3. Get emotionally naked. Deep connection with others requires vulnerability. It means allowing someone to get to know what is really going on inside of you – your hopes, dreams, fears, feelings and desires. To do that you will need to find people you can trust and who will trust you.

4. Say the last ten per cent. Whether it is telling someone how they’ve hurt us, showing our appreciation or confronting someone over a problem – it helps to say what we mean and mean what we say. People aren’t mind readers. Instead of expecting others to guess what we are thinking, we need to tell them. That means including the most important and final ten per cent - the bit so many of us shy away from expressing.

5. Take responsibility for your actions. When relationships go wrong, it can be tempting to blame the other person and to focus on all the ways that they need to change. The truth is we cannot make another person change, but we can alter our own reactions and behaviour. It only takes one to change the dynamic in a relationship.

I would love to hear how easy or difficult you find relating authentically and what has helped in your life. Please do leave a comment and let me know.

Sarah Abell is a transformative coach and the author of Inside Out – How to have authentic relationships with everyone in your life (Hodder and Stoughton).

You can follow Sarah on Twitter @nakedhedgehogs

Sarah Abell

How to live, love and lead authentically,

My passion for authentic relationships came out of my own failure to relate well in my early twenties and what I’ve been learning about true connection ever since. What do I do? Good question and one I always find a bit tricky to answer. In a nutshell I help people to live, love and lead authentically. You can find out more at I have written, coached and spoken on relationships and authentic living to thousands of people. I was the Agony Aunt for The Daily Telegraph and I'm the author of "Inside Out - How to have authentic relationships with everyone in your life" (Hodder 2011). I have given two TEDx talks on authentic relationships and I write the Life Lab experiment on Love for Psychologies. I have been married to David for twelve years and we have one son, who is six. We live in Bristol.


Go to the profile of Ellen Rowlands
almost 6 years ago
Great advice, thanks.