Most relationships have more in common than they have differences. What I mean by that is underneath the specifics of a relationship, be it romantic, parent/child, friendship, co-worker, boss/employee, etc., there are many similarities. If you expect any relationship to be healthy it has to be based on mutual respect.

Respect is such a foundational aspect because the truth is, we WILL see things differently than whoever we’re in a relationship with at certain times. And when we do, how will it be handled? If there is a level of respect at the core, then it can be talked out, perhaps agree to disagree, perhaps do the job as the boss wants even though the employee disagrees because at the end of the day it’s their role to make the final decision. If both sides are showing each other respect, it’s not about winning or losing in an attempt to gain power or control. It’s simply about dealing with the situation at hand understanding that different people will have different viewpoints and coming to a conclusion that takes both sides into consideration without any personal attacks as the ultimate goal.

Now that we’ve taken a look at what our goal is and why, we can take a look at how to shift a relationship that’s not there.

Something to keep in mind at the beginning is to do your best to set the other person at ease so they don’t feel attacked. This can be tricky because there’s probably a fair amount of frustration pent up from past experiences. Both sides are most likely feeling this in their own way even if it doesn’t look like it on the surface. Generally, when a conversation starts, the other side is looking for two things: clarity on what their stance is and evidence/counterpoints to prove their side. So disengaging the defensiveness is the first thing that needs to be addressed or no ground will be made.

An excellent way to begin is by stating what you want out of the conversation. Letting the person know that the two of you getting along (in whatever capacity is appropriate for the relationship), is of primary importance to you. It’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong, it’s about you two finding common ground to have a respectful relationship so that both your lives can be more pleasurable.

You could then ask them what they would like to see happen in the relationship first, to show them the respect you’re looking to receive. Be the change you wish to see. Try to meet them where they are first and then you can voice what you’re looking for.

When voicing what you’re looking for, make it about you. Act from self-love. An example would be: when we’re talking and I’m unable to finish a sentence, I feel that I’m not being respected. I’d like for us to both be able to finish our points so that we can both be heard and both feel respected. Could we agree that when the other one is talking we’ll let them finish before responding? And if we start getting upset, either one of us should be able to ask for a break so that the conversation doesn’t get heated because nothing get solved once the conversation gets heated. Would this work for you? Do you have any ideas of how we could implement these changes?

Of course this is just a sample, the words would probably have to be changed for certain situations but you get the point. It’s an open, relaxed, two-way conversation about developing strategies to communicate and respect each other more efficiently. If that is the goal and it’s agreed upon, you can both walk towards it. Most often people don’t want to argue or have a dysfunctional relationship any more than you do so tremendous ground can be made. If someone isn’t interested in having a mutually respectful relationship then you have to decide if you want to remain in that relationship.

The other thing I wanted to touch on is boundaries. Once the information of what we need and preferably what the other person needs is communicated, then we have to reinforce it until it becomes the new way of being. If lines are crossed we can’t take the mentality of “well, I’ll just give them a break because it’s new and they probably didn’t mean it”. We are habitual beings and if we are to create new habits, we need awareness. So once a conversation or behavior takes a bad turn, it needs to be stopped immediately and either re-routed, corrected, or a break needs to be taken to reset and then it can be addressed again later when tempers settle down. But whatever changes you’re making need to be reinforced.

This is the basics of a large topic. There is a lot of emotion around relationships which brings in a lot of cloudiness. Often times it’s best to talk these things out with a neutral party. Not a close friend that’s going to tell you: “you’re right, screw them…just tell them like it is and if they don’t like it, tough”. That is a bad tactic, it only ensures more controversy because the energy of the statement itself is one-sided and filled with controversy. Even if on some level you are right, it’s not the approach that works.

Please let me know if you need help navigating this topic. Most relationships are worth saving and even the ones that aren’t, it’s worth trying so that you can have a clear conscience when it’s time to let go of it. It’s no fun second-guessing things, so when you’ve gotten help, tried to make it work and it still doesn’t, you can move on knowing you tried what you could.