The Reason We Have Problems with People How to Assess and Repair a Relationship

A few weeks ago I was reflecting on my inability to “get through” to a person on my team. Communication is poor, and it seems there is always searing disagreement. As I took time to reflect on this, I was reminded of a powerful principle we often ignore as leaders:

It is never the problem; it is always the relationship. It’s okay to disagree, but it’s not okay to have poor relationships.

In this article, I will share why you should shift your focus from the problem to the relationship. First I will show you how to assess your key relationships with a six question test, then I’ll give you some ideas on how to go about improving the connection.

Arguing couple

Poor Relationships = Problems

There is no question about it. It’s only a matter of time before poor relationships spiral into problematic or toxic relationships. Twitter_logo_blue Unfortunately, most of us tend to direct our focus to solving the problem. It’s only natural considering our immediate pain and discomfort stems from the issue at hand. Unfortunately, even if we fix the current situation, if the relationship is poor, there will be more problems. We must work to fix the relationship!

If you experience dissonance with someone you lead, or someone important in your life, I invite you to make a huge shift in how you go about addressing the tension. Shift your attention from the problem for a minute. In fact, for the next few minutes as you read this article, try to forget the problem completely.

Now ask yourself, “How would I assess my relationship with this person?” I can almost bet that the relationship is not stellar. First, let’s see if that is the case. Think of one person in your life that things could be better with and take this six question test to assess the strength of the relationship.

Six Questions to Test Your Relationship Strength 

We all know when a relationship is bad; we can feel it in our bones. To assess the condition of a relationship, answer these six questions by rating them with a number from 1 to 5.

1. Do we uplift each other?

1—Never
2—Rarely
3—Sometimes
4— Often
5—Always

2. Are we kind to each other?

1—Never
2—Rarely
3—Sometimes
4— Often
5—Always

2. Do we support each other’s dreams?

1—Never
2—Rarely
3—Sometimes
4— Often
5—Always

3. Do we keep negative emotions and speech in check?

1—Never
2—Rarely
3—Sometimes
4— Often
5—Always

4. Do we like to be together?

1—Never
2—Rarely
3—Sometimes
4— Often
5—Always

6. Are we comfortable with each other?

1—Never
2—Rarely
3—Sometimes
4— Often
5—Always

If the majority of your answers are scored at a 3 or less, the relationship is poor. And friend, that is the reason for your problems. Here is what you must do: Fix the relationship, not the problem. Twitter_logo_blue

We are often tempted to give up on relationships. We try. We sacrifice. We seek advice. We pray. Still nothing seems to happen. Here are some thoughts on what to do in these situations.

Fix It or Leave It (When You Can)

My motto is: Poor relationships must be fixed or ended. Twitter_logo_blue There are certain relationships we cannot (or would not want) to end, and those are primarily in our family or marriage. But many relationships around us, we can end, sometimes slowly, sometimes abruptly, and sometimes by merely putting distance between us. If I want to have a happy and effective life, my relationships with people around me cannot be poor. If they are, nothing will be done effectively. My life will be filled with heartache and drama.

I have to be clear here: I value relationships. Every one of them. I will try to fix the relationship, first by working on me, by being patient, by seeking counsel, by giving and doing my best. However, if a relationship is riddled with drama and continuous friction, I tell myself I have two choices: Fix it or leave it.

How to Fix a Relationship 

In my mind there are two main ways to fix a relationship: First, growing myself, and second practicing relationship disciplines. Both of these solutions involve me changing and being proactive.

First, I grow myself. How do I do that? Simple. I go outside of myself for knowledge and wisdom. I start with the Bible to seek God’s help and blessing. I read books, talk to mentors, listen to podcasts, read blogs, and go to seminars. In all these endeavors, I take notes and review them often, targeting the things I want to think about or apply.

Second, I develop relationship disciplines. A discipline in any area of your life is a routine of thought and action that you commit to regardless of how you feel. What are some relationship disciplines? I will give you some examples, but I encourage you to discover some for yourself and start practicing them as well.

Here are some relationships disciplines I keep. I have regular time alone with key people to create deep connections, a time that includes an invitation for feedback. If people would only practice this one discipline, there would be tremendous restoration to strained relationships. Other disciplines might include sharing in each other’s interests and passions, even when you don’t prefer those activities. Another important discipline is to keep venomous and corrosive emotions and speech under control at all times. Be intentional to have fun together, to laugh together. And one final important discipline, don’t permit one another to cross boundaries of decency (no abuse of any form is acceptable).

Having solid relationships with the key people in our lives is not optional. We should never settle for poor relationships, merely resolving or reacting to problems. May we protect our relationships—with grace, with understanding, and with love.

Your Friend,
Wes Saade MD Signature

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For Further Reading:

The Issue’s Never the Problem; It’s the Relationship
The Secret to Dealing with Conflict

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