Having Healthy Relationships

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One of the biggest challenges everyone faces in the workplace as well as life in general is how to have successful and rewarding relationships. While my perception is that women do a better job of this, there are some behaviours that society has hardwired into both romantic and professional relationships that make having meaningful relationships difficult or just about impossible. Women should share this article with their male counterparts.

There are certain rules about relationships that current societal norms seem to ignore. In order to have a successful relationship with your significant other, coworker, superiors of either sex, you have to be able to have truthful and honest conversations about issues, challenges and problems you are facing. Unfortunately, most relationships avoid these types of conversations like the plague, and many behaviours are calculated to distract or ignore these issues. The trick is to recognize these behaviours when they come up so you can direct the conversation to meaningful and positive ground.

The first counter productive behaviour we engage in is keeping score. This is a trick we use to control others or to rationalize our behaviour, because if you can remember some mistake someone else made (it doesn’t matter how long ago) then you have a weapon you can use to bring guilt or shame into your corner. About the only time it is productive to remember mistakes is if you have to discipline an employee. Otherwise, it is best to through that scorecard away. No romantic relationship will thrive if the past is brought up over and over again to attempt to control the other’s behaviour. The truth is our memories are rarely perfect and we normally have a distorted memory of what really happened. So what happens is an argument ensues over what happened in the past rather than address the problem you are facing in the moment. So never bring up the past unless it is a recurring problem and legitimately connected to the current issue. Forgiveness is good; forgetting is better.

Another habit that we learned from society is passive aggressive behaviour. We love to make snide remarks or drop hints instead of addressing a problem directly. We make snotty or petty comments about the other person that are calculated to upset the other person so you can step in and complain about that person’s reaction rather than talk about what is really bothering you. We all know the kind of comments I am referring to, comments designed to undermine confidence, question judgment or make a problem about the other person. When this type of behaviour happens in the workplace, it is extremely destructive and inappropriate. You have to confront the person engaging in the passive aggressive behaviour and make the conversation about what the problem really is.

Another behaviour that is counterproductive to relationships is melodrama. We over react and over emotionalize minutiae to direct the issue away from our behaviour. This also involves victimization, as the person who over dramatizes an issue is usually feeling like a victim. When we direct the attention away from us onto someone else then we don’t have to be honest about our part in the conflict. I call this pole-vaulting over mouse turds. We need to talk these people down from the ledge and get them to talk about that is really bothering them. When people’s feelings are hurt, they can easily over react and deflect the conversation away from their feelings onto the behaviour they object to.

In fact, we often blame our emotions on others. Honesty and reality requires that we take full responsibility for our emotions. We can’t control what other people do, but we can control our emotions. When people start accusing us of causing their suffering, you have to have an honest discussion about both the behaviour and the reaction. In many ways this is co-dependence. Of course, if your superior is having a bad day and you have done something to make this worse, the result may not be productive. However, if you take responsibility for your actions, it is entirely appropriate to discuss whether the emotional reaction was appropriate. Projecting the cause of our emotions onto others is always counter-productive.

The bottom line for relationships in the home and the workplace is to be honest and fearless in discussing the current issue. If we can objectively talk to the people we have relationships with about their behaviour or reactions to our behavior. This is called maturity. Do not let the other person to divert the conversation away from what the true problem is, and do not let others violate your boundaries. Boundaries are absolutely necessary at home and the workplace. Be courageous with your boundaries, be honest in your conversations and take responsibility for your behaviour.

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