Maintaining personal relationships

Building healthy intimate relationships and high performing teams

Even when there are no major stressors occurring in our intimate relationships, they are still susceptible to the little rough spots of everyday life. In addition, neglect can starve a good relationship into nothing. There is no way around the fact that we are not perfect in our relationships. No two (or more) people can live together in eternal bliss. Knowing how to build and maintain a healthy relationship is a key ingredient in successful transitions. Consider the following guidelines:

Quiet the ego

When we allow our ego to dictate what we want from relationships, we make issues all about our needs and neglect to see that the other person’s needs are equally important. We manipulate, coerce and browbeat others into meeting our needs. When ego rules, intelligent, rational thinking goes out the window.

In intimate relationships, the choices we make as individuals must be examined for their effects on those close to us. Ego, being a very strong force in the personality, can lead one down a destructive path if allowed to get out of control. Healthy relationships balance ego with empathy, my need and your need too. This then becomes a win-win proposition for everyone.

Identify expectations

If expectations are hidden, unspoken for whatever reason, the other person cannot know about them. Verbalising and clarifying all expectations allows the relationship to boom in the light of awareness. Withholding your expectations can only harm the relationship.

Unmet expectations are great sources of hurt and discord. Identifying our own expectations to the point of being able to verbalise them is more difficult than it may seem. However, uncovering and voicing these expectations allows people to stay in close relationships.

Learn from mistakes

When we ignore consequences and fail to learn from them, we make the same mistakes again and again. The cure for repeating past mistakes is growth. The steps to ongoing growth are:

1. Recognise the patterns or similarities in situations that yield undesirable outcomes.

2. Ask yourself what outcome or situation with loved ones you want to create.

3. Backtrack to determine what behaviour of yours contributed to the negative outcome.

4. Focus on the specific behaviour to establish a new pattern. New behaviours evoke new responses.

This process can be very enlightening. Tracking down negative reactions helps you learn from the past. It gives you the potential to learn and create positive responses that are more in line with your goals of maintaining a healthy relationship.

Practice empathy

Developing the skill of empathy means that we think of what it is like to walk in the shoes of others. We not only observe what the other might need or think, but we directly ask what those needs and thoughts are. By asking questions we can begin the process of negotiation that will lead to a balance between our needs being met and the other person’s needs being met.

Empathy, though, is more than negotiating in an intimate relationship. It is both allowing and resecting the other person’s feelings or viewpoints if they are different from yours.

Accept responsibility

If we are to be in a relationship with others, we must become responsible for our part in making it good. This is an opportunity for personal growth, learning how to balance your needs and helping them grow to a mature and healthy level. One person alone cannot be responsible for a relationship. Both (or all) parties must accept responsibility for developing and improving the closeness and empathy that are so much a part of intimacy.

Operate from “now” thinking

Many of the relationships that have problems are ones that have at their core unmet childhood needs or conflicts that are transferred into the grown-up world. These unresolved issues reside in our unconscious and cause us to do things that we might never do if we thought carefully.

If this occurs at a level outside our logical awareness, how then can we make good choices in our relationships? The answer lies in our ability to:

- Behave in a “now” manner

- Think rather than let our unconscious programming take over

- Ask for help from rational adults around us

“Now” thinking is using our intelligence to direct us in our relationships. It means that we do not have to act on every feeling we have. We can, instead, think, “is this feeling coming from the ‘now’ me or is it welling up from the ‘then’ me?”. Taking time to ask that question will help free from the damage that can be done by making unconscious choices that could be bad for you.

Follow the rules

No one ever goes into a relationship knowing all the answers. It is your responsibility to seek out necessary knowledge. You are also not a static individual, you are forever in progress. So are the people you will be involved with. So that your relationships grow and mature, take a look at a few basic relationship rules that will keep you going in the right direction.

1. Respect each other’s needs.

2. Accept another’s odd habits or differing beliefs.

3. Ensure safety in physical, emotional and sexual intimacy.

4. Affirm by saying: “Yes, I am with you; I believe what you are saying has value,” or, “I liked the way you handled that argument with kids today.”

5. Listened with focused attention.

6. Be open about ambitions, dreams, fears and concerns.

7. Preserve closeness by making plans for clan and quiet time together.

8. Be persistent in applying good relationship skills: working conflicts until they are resolved, not just silenced; regularly affirming something about your child, spouse, lover, or intimate friend; expressing confidence in the growth and potential of the relationship and the people in it; demonstrating with words and actions your love for them and an appreciation of their love for you. Finally, be persistent in striving to improve the ease and level of connectedness with those dear to you.

High performing teams

Many tasks in your career area require the use of teams. Today, more and more companies are depending on groups of employees from different departments to work together as a team to complete projects or reach certain goals for the organisation. Often these people have no prior association with each other, yet they are expected to establish communication, trust, mutual support and high degree of interdependence. Characteristics of the most productive teams are as follows:

Team members

- Share common purpose of goal

- Build relationships based on trust and respect

- Balance task and process

- Plan thoroughly before acting

- Involve members in clear problem solving and decision making procedures

- Respect and understand each other’s diversity

- Value synergism and interdependence

- Emphasize and support team goals

- Reward individual performance that supports the team

- Communicate effectively

- Practice effective dialogue instead of debate

- Identify and resolve group conflicts

- Very levels and intensity of work

- Provide a balance between work and home

- Critique, regularly and consistently, the way they work as a team

- Practice continuous improvement

The best teams know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, they trust individual team members’ commitments to deadlines and performance levels and genuinely understand, like and respect those on the team.

However, not all teams are like this. Many responsibilities of your job are now labeled as projects and are carried out by teams made up of people with multiple reporting structures. Team members may have a manager to whom they report for performance and salary reviews or promotions. In addition, they may be responsible for several teams, each of which has a manager somewhere up the ladder who is responsible for the overall performance of the team.

Adapted from

McKee, S.L. and Walters, B.L., 2002. Transition management: A practical approach to personal and professional development. Prentice Hall.

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