Building Positive Relationships

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How can I build positive social relationships?

*Adapted from a teaching tool created by L’Arche Toronto and originally inspired by the program “James Stanfield Circles.”

Everyone wants a fulfilling social life. For most people, figuring out how to have meaningful relationships can be difficult. It is important to understand yourself before you begin connecting with others. Click here for some questions to help you with that process.

Here are a few things to think about when building different kinds of relationships in your life.

It is important to treat all people with respect and dignity. Although we are all individuals, you might have more in common with others than you think. For example, every person wants: LAJAC-hands

  • To love and to be loved
  • To be independent
  • To have fun
  • To be productive
  • To dream

Where can I meet people?

Social, recreational and work-related activities are a great way to meet people who are also looking to meet friends. These may include:

  • Your school about-01
  • A sports class
  • Where you volunteer
  • A social group you attend
  • Where you work
  • Places that are close to where you live
  • Your day program
  • Your religious community
  • Other community activities, like sporting events, concerts, or going to the theater

What makes someone a friend? 

Real friends are interested in each other’s lives. They share their thoughts and feelings with each other. In a healthy relationship, friends need to know how:

  • To forgive each other when they disagree
  • To care for each other when bad things happen or someone is sad
  • To be happy for each other when good things happen

Usually, friends are:

  • Trustworthy
  • Supportive
  • Honest, even if the answer to a question is “no”
  • Respectful, even when they disagree
  • Helpful when the other is in need

How can I let someone know I like them?

Everyone involved in a relationship must agree on how to express their thoughts and feelings. People often give signals to each other with their voice, eyes, or body language. This is called non-verbal communication. Click here for more information.

For example, you might shake hands with someone who is a friend, but you might hug a family member or someone else you are very close to. If you are uncertain about how to express your feelings for someone, you should ask your caregiver or other responsible adult for advice.

How can I get to know someone better?

An important part of any relationship is open and honest communication. Each person should work on doing this. Staying in touch is a shared responsibility. It is important for friends to put in equal amounts of effort.

Here are some ways to keep in touch:

  • Phone
  • Text messaging
  • E-mail
  • Online social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
  • Instant messaging or Video Chatting (Skype or FaceTime)
  • Letters and cards

Some suggestions for good communication with another person:

  • Make sure you have an updated phone number or e-mail address
  • Remember to ask how a person is doing and about what is new with them
  • Pay attention to what he or she says and ask questions about what is being discussed
  • Wait for the other person to finish speaking before you begin speaking
  • Try to ask for updates about things that have been shared in the past
  • Talk about things that are new in your life
  • Understand that not everyone is able to talk, text or write every day
  • Suggest choosing a regular time to talk that works for both of you

Click here for some tips about online safety.


Intimate Relationships

Some people date and some people don’t. You have to decide which option is right for you. You can change your mind at any time. Someone you date should have all the qualities you find in your other friends, except that you also have romantic feelings for that person.

What is “Going on a Date”?

“Going on a date” can mean different things to different people. Two people who are dating are getting to know each other on a deeper level. A date can be going out together with a group of people, other couples, or just alone with your friend. You might feel less pressure if you go out with others at first. That way, if you decide you don’t want to be with the person you are dating, there are other people around.

People have different expectations

You and the other person may have different ideas about what it means to be dating. Maybe one of you is ready to share a kiss but the other isn’t. One of you might like to call each other “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” and the other person might not. It is important to be caring and respectful of each other at all times. Most of all, it’s important to be open and honest with your partner about what you are feeling, and be kind and respectful of what he or she might be feeling.

What if I don’t want to date someone anymore?

Be polite, but be honest and tell them in a clear way. Do not send mixed messages. Do not spend time alone with them anymore. If they do not listen to what you say and insist on what they want, tell them “No” again.

Talk to someone you trust if you are confused or not sure what to do.

Click on the links below for resources on developing and maintaining healthy relationships with family, friends, co-workers, or significant others.

Autism Speaks – Recognizing and preventing abuse

Boston Children’s Hospital’s Young Men’s Health Site

Center for Young Women’s Health

Easter Seals – Read individual stories and get expert advice about love, dating and relationships.

Impact – Feature Issue on Sexuality and People with Intellectual, Developmental and Other Disabilities.

I Wanna Know – Information about sexual health, sexually-transmitted infections, STDs and health issues.

JQ International –   Builds and strengthens a community that supports a healthy mixture of LGBTQ and Jewish identities.

Life after IEPs– Learning to avoid sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Love is Respect – Information about dating and intimacy.


To talk with someone about building and keeping friendships, click here to be connected with  an LAJAC Case Manager or Intake Specialist.

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