The Issue’s Never the Problem; It’s the Relationship Nine Key Tenets for Strong Relationships
I am bewildered when people go to great lengths to describe a problem they are having with someone else. See, I’ve learned it’s never really the problem that’s the issue at stake; it’s the relationship. This is true both in life and leadership.
If two staff members come to me with a problem they have with one another, they’ll both get in trouble with me. My foregone conclusion any time there is a problem is: the relationship stinks. So allow me to share my thoughts on how to work on your relationships. I promise, if you repair your relationships, you can resolve your problems.
“It’s the relationship, Stupid.”
Political strategist and pundit, James Carville, can be crass. As a campaign strategist in the 1992 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton vs. George H.W. Bush, he coined the phrase, “It’s the economy, Stupid.” His implication being that many things can be going well for a presidential candidate, but if they are not perceived to be the best person to positively affect the national economy, then nothing else matters. They will lose.
I hate to be as crass as Carville, but I will borrow his phrase today. Many times when I hear someone complaining about a problem they have with someone else, I want to say, “It’s the relationship, Stupid.” The relationship is the only thing that matters when it comes to having problem-free interactions. If the relationship is strained, nothing else matters.
Think about it. People who have close-knit relationships never seem to have significant problems. Why? Because in the context of great relationships, people are transparent, sacrificial, and mutually respectful. They empower one another and intentionally communicate gently, even about sensitive topics. For these people, potential arguments fizzle down to conversations. They are patient with one another. They put their relationship above any issue they may have. They find ways to talk about anything and everything of importance without drama or trauma.
Nine Key Tenets for Strong Relationships
I want to spend my life learning how to improve my relationships with the people I love. Here are nine key tenets I follow for genuinely close, drama-free relationships.
- Live a godly lifestyle. The Bible gives us clear instructions on how to love others. Even more than that, it teaches us how to live. If you adopt a godly lifestyle and spend your life refining and improving it, you are naturally poised to have stronger, healthier relationships with others.
- Spend time together. Spending time with those you love teaches you who they are and what they value. It also gives you opportunity to discover how you work well together. Regularly spending time with someone you love communicates your dedication to the relationship and demonstrates how important you think it is to invest in it.
- Know yourself. Make it a lifelong ambition to learn who you are and how you operate. When you understand what triggers strong responses from you for instance, you can also learn to avoid those situations or temper your response when needed. Understand yourself so you know what you need in a relationship and what you have to offer others.
- Understand others. Understand how personalities work with and against each other. I am a big fan of Florence Littauer’s book, Personality Plus, because it not only helps the reader identify and explain their own temperament, but also how to identify and work well with other personality-types.
- Control your emotions and words. Too many relationship are ruined because people don’t have a good handle over their emotions and the venomous words that come out of their mouths. Control your emotions and words if you want to have strong relationships.
- Be transparent. We all have boundaries. We all have walls. Intimate relationships require us to let our guards down. If we desire to be truly close, both people must commit to transparency with one another. Be patient. Transparency is something we earn from someone who trusts us.
- Live in love. Love says, “I care about your wellbeing. I truly care about you as a person, not about what you can give me.” Love is a core value. It means we want what is best for the other person. I want to reach that place with everyone in my circle.
- Offer grace. Grace is powerful when offered to another. It’s like you are telling someone through your actions, “Even when you don’t deserve it, I will give you grace anyway.” Wow, the power of grace. It heals. It invigorates. It awakens the soul. When people practice grace, they are elevated to higher levels of humanity.
- Commit to growth. When both people are committed to intentional growth, the relationship is almost always smooth. Growing people are grounded in humility. They listen. They seek to understand. They talk less. They make themselves better people.
If you have problems with those around you, I encourage you to stop focusing on resolving the problems, but on improving the relationships.
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