Amber Allen

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The relationships we have with others impact different aspects of our lives, according to Amber Allen, a human development specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

We have relationships with our children, significant others, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and anyone we interact with daily. Those relationships impact our families, neighborhoods, communities, coworkers, schools, churches, organizations, and our health.

"The good news is that friendships reduce the risk of mortality or developing certain diseases and can speed recovery in those who become ill. Simply reaching out to lonely people can jump-start the process of getting them to engage with neighbors and peers," said Allen.

Research shows that we form relationships for three reasons: we like someone, we have something to offer the other person, or because we have shared goals. 

"It doesn't make sense to form relationships just to get people to do work for you. That won't work because people will feel used," said Allen. "Community builders approach relationships with integrity. We form relationships because we genuinely like someone, because we have something to offer that person, or because we share some common goal."


Here are a few best practices and ideas that research has shown to help develop positive relationships with those we regularly see. 

Building a relationship is a process that takes time and generally happens one at a time. "Fortunately or unfortunately, there are no short cuts," said Allen.

Be friendly and make a connection. "This may seem self-evident, but a friendly word or smile can make someone's day and try to find something in common," said Allen. 

Ask people questions about themselves. "People love to talk about themselves and about what they think. So ask people about themselves and then take the time to listen," said Allen.

Tell people about yourself. Allen says, "People won't trust you unless you are willing to trust them."

Go and engage with people where they are.  If you want to make friends, you have to go where the people are at, like picnics, conferences, events, fundraisers, parties, playgrounds, bowling alleys, little league games, bake sales, church, etc. "At a minimum in your neighborhood, learn and use the names of your immediate neighbors," said Allen.

Accept people the way they are. "You don't have to agree with them all the time to form a relationship with them," said Allen.

Assume other people want to form relationships too. "Underneath the crabbiest looking person is often a lonely soul hoping someone will make a crack in their shell," said Allen.

Overcome your fear of rejection. Most of us suffer from a fear of rejection, and one way we can work through this is knowing we are not alone in this fear.

Be persistent because it takes time to build trust and develop a relationship. 

Invite people to get involved with activities. "People want to become part of something bigger than themselves. Many people are looking for an opportunity to meet other people who share common goals. At the worst, people will be flattered that you invited them to join," said Allen.

Enjoy people. If you genuinely enjoy people, others will be attracted to your attitude. People will more likely want to be around you.

Allen notes that building and sustaining relationships can be challenging. But, developing positive relationships with those around us can make ripple effects for positive community change.


University of Missouri Extension is at the forefront of a national movement that recognizes the importance of neighboring in community development. As community leaders and advocates, we encourage friends to learn the names of all their neighbors, build relationships with their neighbors through common interests and shared experiences, and sustain compassionate and caring practices of neighborly love. 

To learn more about our "Becoming an Engaged Neighbor" program, or for more on the impact of neighboring, go online to or contact David Burton by email at or telephone at (417) 881-8909.

For more information on the topic of positive and healthy relationships, contact MU Extension Human Development Specialist Amber Allen in Greene County by email at or telephone (417) 881-8909.

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