The holidays are fast approaching. And even if you want to pretend otherwise, that means you're about to spend time with your family.

While we all experience difficulties being near our family members--even the ones we live with--it's important to remember one thing: all relationships can improve.

A few weeks ago, I was speaking to my good friend and fellow columnist Nicolas Cole about this very topic.

Nicolas Cole, the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Digital Press, a content marketing agency for businesses and brands that want to position their CEO and executives as influential thought leaders in their industry, reflected on his relationships.

"I think that appreciation is the number one way to improve relationships--I know that's been helpful for me," he said.

I know truth when I hear it. And when I heard those words leave his mouth, I knew that I had to write this article.

Because the truth is that no loving relationship--no fulfilling, meaningful, and compassionate relationship--survives without appreciation.

When you tell another person, "I appreciate you," you're reminding them of how important they are. And you're reminding yourself to stop taking them for granted.

In many long-term relationships--especially family members or loved ones--it becomes easier and easier to take them for granted. To not pause and realize how difficult and lonely it would be without their support.

It's the small things that make a lasting impact.

Your partner cooking dinner, your mother making you Christmas cookies, your father modeling work ethic, or your siblings making you laugh--each person deserves to feel appreciated. And you need to continually remind yourself that their presence and participation in your life is a gift.  

Even if it doesn't feel like it.

It's especially important to share how much you appreciate people when relationships aren't going well. And equally important to convey your gratitude when things are going well.

Most people chose to wait and show their appreciation with gifts. Materialistic holidays are great, but words on a consistent basis can make an even more significant impact for you and your loved ones.

I recommend that you tell them now. Send them a quick message. Call them.

Speak from your heart--even when your relationship is strained. Because no relationship is perfect. Every person is flawed.

Everything changes.

And relationships take work. But of all things in life, that sense of connection--of feeling understood--is something worth fighting for.

When people are confronted with the death of someone they love or are facing their own mortality, relationships are what matter most.

Because without relationships, you don't exist.

You've spent your entire life pretending to be the center of the universe. But the truth is that the very fabric of who you think you are has been stitched and sown through relationships.

As you've navigated the complex waters of interpersonal dialogues, you've co-authored the narrative of your life.

When you remove relationships, you lose a piece of yourself too. The story doesn't read the same way. One thread has been pulled and left a hole.

That's why you need to prioritize the people who are active and present in your life. Especially the people who support you--even if that support isn't conveyed in the way you'd prefer.

Because without them and their unique quirks, there is no you. There's no story about overcoming their patterns and shortcomings. No narrative of finding your true self and making different life choices.

Even though relationship are challenging, they are also important.

So instead of complaining that your partner is working too much, criticizing your family members for their poor social skills, or emotionally hiding to avoid the conflicts that inevitably arise in close relationships, start focusing on creating positive changes.

Model that positivity and appreciation to others.

If you want to improve every aspect of your relationship then start having an attitude of gratitude.

Show people that you care.

Tell them over and over again how much you value the small things they do for you. And remind yourself--even during difficult holiday moments--not to take a single second for granted. 

Published on: Dec 8, 2017