Blog » Handling ‘Difficult’ Relationships

entrytitleHandling ‘Difficult’ Relationshipsentrytitle

Sometimes it can seem like an uphill battle to keep all of the people in our lives happy. Spending time and with a partner or best friend might be joyous, but often, when it comes to ‘perfectionist’ mother, ‘pushy’ business colleague, ‘interfering’ aunt or ‘demanding’ father, we are faced with a real challenge.

Assuming you want to keep these people in your life, here are some tips that I’ve found can help develop a relationship that works:
We all know the stereotypical mother/daughter telephone call. It goes on for hours – much of which characterised by the mother talking continuously while the daughter holds the phone away from her ear because she thinks she might as well not be there.
This kind of one-way conversation often happens because people have no-one who actually listens to them – they keep talking because they just want to be heard. In this situation, and in all our dealings with others, active listening is transformational. So, next time, stop for a second before you roll your eyes. Breathe, forget everything else and engage your ears. Listen really hard. Pay attention to the speaker. We can often be too busy formulating what we want to say next to really hear what someone’s saying. If you feel a response rising up, breathe again and listen even harder.
Be honest but don’t push their buttons:
Don’t fake it or lie. It might seem like the easy thing to do, but your sense of discord over the untruth will cloud any hope of moving the relationship to a better place.
If challenged, check your initial desire to respond by breathing. Feel your connection to the ground and take a moment before you open your mouth – think about how you want to respond, bearing in mind the relationship you want to create with this person.
Be honest, but don’t focus on the things that you know will push their buttons. It seems like an easy win, but like something I read on facebook this week – you don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to. If you give the same old response you’ll get the same old thing, and you’re looking for something new, right?
I’ve used that word a lot in the last couple of paragraphs and that’s because it’s mighty important.
Give yourself just a second to curb your instinctive reaction and allow something else to step in its place. That’s all that’s needed to turn something around. Breathing is under-rated – it connects us with our body, our values and, in turn, our true selves.
Find the common ground
The key to joy in a relationship is the common ground.
What do you both have in common? These don’t have to be huge things – little things work wonders! Perhaps you and your work colleague both love cats? Well, talk about the stupid thing your cat did earlier. Maybe you used to watch Sci-Fi movies with your father as a kid – go hire one for the weekend. Do you and your Aunt both love baking bread? Find a new recipe, copy it and send it through the post with a note.
Little things, teased out with thought can build huge bridges.
Nurture a shared vision.
Relationships flourish with a shared vision.
You may not have the same idea for your future as your mother, but perhaps there is something in there that you both envisage and can be nurtured. Maybe it’s that you want a family? Maybe it’s that you want to move out to the countryside? Maybe it’s simply that you want to be happy? Whenever you get the chance, reinforce that shared vision with words and actions. A truly calm, well-intentioned statement of, ‘I’m doing this because I want to be happy’ speaks to the depths of a person whose heart-felt wish for you is for you to be happy.
There’s a lot here. So, my coaching challenge to you is to pick one relationship that you will consciously work on over the next few weeks. Think about how your life interacts with theirs, what you have in common and what your shared vision might be. Then, the next time you interact with that person really listen to them, be honest but gentle and remember to breathe!

2 responses to “Handling ‘Difficult’ Relationships”

  1. Amanda Clay

    So great Allison! This is really helpful for me. Especially: “you don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to.” Yes!

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