Weekly Blog

Relationships… The Closer They Are, The More Challenging They Can Be

Relationships Can Be Tough

I don’t know about you, but the closer I am to someone, the more challenging the relationship can be. I’m not talking about the good times. They’re easy for everyone. I’m referring to times of conflict or potential disagreement, where you don’t believe the other person is considering or has made the right decision.

My theory is that we fear the risk of loss. We care for and depend on those closest to us, whether family or friends. We don’t want to hurt them. We don’t want to create disagreement or conflict because we don’t want to lose them. So out of fear of saying something wrong, we don’t say anything, or we don’t convey our true feelings, or what we say comes across the wrong way.

This has certainly been true in my life, whether it be with my brothers, close friends, our kids, and even my wife. If I’m truthful, I’ve not communicated what or how I should many times in my life. Because of expectations that are most often unspoken, things don’t always come out the right way. Because of the closeness, assumptions are made and feelings are easily hurt. There’s a tension that doesn’t exist when folks aren’t so close.

Things are Different When Relationships are More Distant

I’ve been working within organizations for 33 years. Over that period of time, I’ve experienced plenty of issues that require resolution. Ironically, most never really reach the level of conflict, which I attribute to addressing them proactively and professionally.

I often say that if I were the husband and father that I am the business manager and coach, my family would be a lot better off. That statement stems from my approach in those roles and has proved to really help me not only in the work world, but at home. What I’ve learned is:

  1. Don’t assume malice; instead understand that the other person has the best intentions and as such, isn’t trying to hurt you, others, or themselves
  2. Let them know how much you care early in the conversation
  3. Share with them your discomfort with the discussion. Related to this one and #2 above, you might say something like, “I care for you more than you know. I don’t want to hurt you, nor risk losing you. As a result, I’m nervous about the conversation I think we need to have. I really hope I can convey what I’m thinking with you understanding my heart”. Obviously make this your own.
  4. Don’t make assumptions. You wouldn’t with a stranger or coworker. You shouldn’t with someone close to you. You’ve probably heard, “to assume is to make an ass out of you (u) and me”.
  5. You can say anything as long as you say it softly. Although not absolutely true, it is pretty true. Tone is so important. Sharing is always better than telling and way better than scolding. Yelling is obviously unacceptable and unproductive.
  6. Truly listen for understanding. Don’t be so invested in JUST getting your points across, but listen to understand the other person and his/her struggles, objectives, and ideas.
  7. Don’t be overly invested in the outcome. We all have our own lives to live. We need to make decisions for ourselves, while others need to make their own decisions. We can try to charitably influence, but we shouldn’t own the outcome. We can’t be relying on others for our own peace and joy (topics for many future blogs)

Interestingly, at work I see it as my mission to help people solve their own problems. I help by asking questions as opposed to imposing my view, whereas I want to solve the problems of those closest to me. Or more specifically, I want them to solve their problems the way I want them solved. You see the distinction? The problem? The preferred way? I have, which is why I try to follow 1-7 today.

I sincerely hope the above helps you. I know that these things have helped me over the years. Please share your thoughts with me via email at

May God Bless you on your journey to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Mark Joseph