Each of us is part of multiple relationships. Some of them go deeper than others. Nevertheless, all relationships end up at the point where you talk and inquire about each party in the relationship. You ask “How are you?”, “How was work?”, “What did you eat today?”, etc. You talk, but somehow you don’t really talk. You don’t touch and revisit the foundations of the relationships to check if everything is ok, to take a wider look at the bigger picture and then narrow down to the details again in the comfort of knowing that the base is stable.
It is easy to go on with the common flow of a relationship, but to really ensure the health of the interconnection you must dedicate practice and persistence.
Normally we talk about the immediate concerns, but not about the relationship itself.
We rarely talk about the difficulties, misunderstandings, feelings and grievances, looking at the general perspective.
In order to decide if something needs improving you need to start by measuring the current state of affairs. How do you do this with a relationship? Well, one way is to reassess openly what both sides feel. Get together and draw three columns on a piece of paper. Name the columns “Happy“, “Neutral” and “Sad“.
Spend a set amount of time and just write down things that make you feel happy, sad or are indifferent for you relating to the relationship. These can be things like “received an unexpected post card” under “Happy”; “never washes the dishes after eating” under “sad”, etc. You can apply this to both personal relationships, family, friends, people you live with, colleagues, clients. The answers will change depending on who you are doing the exercise with, but the results will be the same.
After you spend (for example) 30 minutes writing down things into each column (openly and restraining any judgements on what the other side writes) you can start discussing. Go through the things that are in the “Happy” column first to set the tome of the discussion. Appreciate what makes each of you happy and remember it so that you can continue doing it.
Next go through the “Neutral” and “Sad” columns. Try to open your mind and instead of taking comments personally, think of them as tasks. Think about “Why” this item in the “Sad” or “Neutral” lists exists. Look behind the words into the problems and define a list of to-dos that addresses any issues so that you can start improving on them.
In order for this to work you need to schedule it and both sides of the relationship must agree to it. Make it an absolute requirement, put the dates on the calendar and never skip a meeting. Remember – practice and persistence. Very soon you will see how your perspective on the relationship will change. You will learn to communicate and will open underlying problems, issues that can rot the foundation and end the relationship in the long run. If you think that you shouldn’t talk about the issues because they are too difficult to talk or might cause fights and misunderstandings then you are very wrong. Even if you don’t talk about problems if they exist the results of their presence will come up sooner or later. Better address them sooner when it is easier to change them. This won’t help only in the relationship you are applying the technique with, but will teach you how to look for the underlying reasons behind people’s complaints and unhappiness. This skill in turn will help you identify the same reasons within your own life.
If it is a personal or family relationship I think a good period to do the reassessment is once a month. If it is with clients maybe a weekly meeting on projects or every two weeks works well (depending on the project).
If you don’t schedule this on your calendars and commit to it seriously it won’t work and is likely to give you the feeling of failure. That’s why if both sides of the relationship are not serious about improving the health of it then better not attempt this technique.
Daily life gets to all of us. This is normal, it is human, but if we really care about a relationship we are part of we must take things into our own hands and overcome the natural inclination of going on with the flow. Look at the bigger picture, assess the health of your connection and think of the direction it is going in. If you don’t do that, then you are simply giving life the permission to make decisions on your behalf and things will develop without you having an active part in the outcome.