All of us are in the business of relationship management, whether we think of it that way or not. This is true on a professional as well as personal level. On a personal level we have relationships with our family and friends to manage. On a professional level we have the relationships with our customers and clients, staff, and vendors to manage.
While the word, “manage,” might surprise you when thinking of relationships with family and friends, in this context don’t think of managing as a business activity, but as something that requires time, attention, and forethought. It is not uncommon for otherwise successful people to manage their relationships with their professional connections better than they do the ones with their family and friends. To be truly successful requires having healthy and meaningful relationships with all of our connections, and our personal connections should be considered our most important connections. You have most likely heard the adage, “On their deathbed most people don’t wish they had spent more time at the office.” When time is running out, most people wish they had spent more time with their loved ones. But the time spent with loved ones should be good times, not times filled with conflict. How to do that is the million-dollar question. The thoughts I have about this come from experience as much as any knowledge learned from school or other resources.
In both types of connections, professional as well as personal, communicate from your dominant role. If your focus is your teenager, don’t even use the word, “relationship,” for what teenager wants to even think about having a relationship with their parent?! While some of this depends on the teenager’s age, the relationship that a parent of a teenager who will soon be leaving home should have is one of interdependence. Too many conflicts with teenagers occur because the parent is too dominant, playing an independent role, and forcing the teenager into a dependent role.
With an adult child, the role of the parent and adult child is one of independence. Unnecessary conflicts occur when the parent of an adult child communicates with or places the adult (child) in a dependent role, as happens when the parent tells the adult child what to do or how to act. I learned this valuable lesson the hard way recently. This is an example of, “Stay in your own lane!” Regardless of your good intent, avoid reverting back to a dominant parent role with your adult children.
It is also important to understand and communicate with others based upon their dominant personality, not yours. If the other person is usually assertive to aggressive, be assertive (not aggressive) with them, for if you are less assertive or aggressive, neither will work. On the other hand, if you are too direct with a less assertive person, they may misunderstand you entirely. You do not have to have a personality profile of the others to understand their dominant personality. Pay attention to their language, especially how direct or indirect are their words, and how definitively, or not, they speak, and match their language.
A third important point is to stay focused on the desired outcome of the communication, and how best to accomplish that. If your desired outcome is to have a better relationship with the other person, walk a mile in their shoes. Spend time thinking of how best to communicate the desired result, and seek mutuality whenever possible. While it is tempting when you believe that you have given more to the relationship and you want to tell them that, be clear about the fact that such a focus will likely not result in a better relationship, but even more conflict. If you are wanting to throw this relationship away because it is no longer worth it to you, if that is your focus, even then you can do so nicely. Why burn bridges? I too understand this on a personal level. And in writing this I am now clear about how to resolve the conflict with this friend and maintain the relationship, and hopefully have the friendship richer.
I write because I need to learn. In so doing, I hope that my learning is also helpful to you.