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How to Overcome Any Relationship Challenge in 5 Steps

“Every solution to every problem is simple. It’s the distance between the two where the mystery lies.” – D. Landy

Marriage is hard.

(Don’t worry, I’ll be making my point quickly before I get into trouble with my bride.)

Parenting is also hard.

Being intentional as an adult child, good friend, courteous neighbor, helpful coworker, visionary leader or humble servant are all challenging roles.

In fact, every worthy relationship is certain to endure periods of tension. Even relationships with those we care for deeply can erode because of busyness, emotional or physical distance, simple misunderstandings, repeated let-downs, accidental slights or perceived deliberate affronts. Over time, the gulf can appear too great to bridge.

As a speaker, I inspire individuals within business units to come together, work through differences, clarify roles, reconnect as a team and move forward. I share five questions to begin the journey forward, together. These questions, and their honest answers, permit the rebirth of collaboration within previously hostile business units, families, friendships and communities.

5 Questions to Reconnect at Work and at Home

1. If this meeting was extremely successful, what would I want to achieve? Start with the end in mind. You’re investing time, taking a risk and ready to move past the status quo to something better. Paint a clear picture of what ‘better’ looks like. Clearly state what you want to get from the meeting and listen as others share their vision of success, too.

Relationships seldom thrive if they’re based on one side winning and another side losing. Aim for the win-win. [Tweet this.] | [Share on Facebook.]

2. When things were better: What were we doing and how did we interact and feel? Often when we try to reconcile differences, there’s a lot of blame-shifting: “I hate when you…. You never…. I’m the only one that…” Statements like these don’t advance the conversation.

Instead, celebrate what success once looked like. How did the team operate? What did you talk about on those dates? How did it feel when the tension wasn’t in the room? What were you able to accomplish? Being reminded of how it once was can provide hope of what it can become again.

3. What changed that lead us to where we are today? Halfway through, you get the chance to finger point and let them have it! My encouragement, though, is to begin by pointing first to the mirror. Own your piece of it. Admit your missteps that lead to the distance before telling someone else about theirs. You might acknowledge “I started working too much… I didn’t get the project submitted on time… I lost track of what we were trying to do…”

After conceding where you fell short, it’s safe to call out areas where they might improve, too. The objective isn’t to prove who is right, but to acknowledge honestly where it went wrong.

4. What could a super healthy, engaged relationship achieve? What am I willing to do to bring about the desired change? Sharing the vision of the long-term success of the project, team or family is essential in enduring adversity that creeps into every relationship. Knowing the why – the big goal – provides energy to strive forward.

To get where we want to go, we must own our piece of what went wrong, what can go right in the future, and what we’ll commit to going forward. Own not only the grandiose vision of possibility, but your role in living into it.

5. In order to bring about the desired change so we can move forward, together, I am asking that you… :

Many of the heartaches we deal with in relationship are from lack of clear expectations and communication. We thought they meant one thing, but they actually meant something else; they thought we said something, and we intended something else.

State clearly what you hope for, what you expect and why it matters. While unmet expectations are the genesis of most conflict, clearly articulated expectations are the foundation of great achievement.

(Recently, I interviewed Jeff Goins for the Live Inspired podcast. Jeff is a bestselling author and leads a large community of creatives collaborating to produce something beautiful and make a difference in doing it. He shared a remarkable story of people unifying with a common purpose, the profound effect it had on his life and what it means for you in yours. Listen to the amazing conversation here.)

My friend, if you ever read the paper, watch the news, or check your social media feed, you’re hit with bad news. The problems we face individually and collectively are increasing in complexity, frequency and intensity. It also seems the willingness of various factions to come together for open, honest dialogue is close to nonexistent.

Every solution to every problem is simple and it’s already in the room. From complex issues facing nations to intimate challenges facing relationships, I’m convinced that the questions above and the honest answers to them can stoke reconciliation within distant family members, reunion with old friends, and rebirth in divided communities.

We just have to be willing to ask (and answer) them.

This is your day. Live Inspired.

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