opportunities to innovate and create advances in sales, product design, hiring strategies, or communication. But I want to talk about breakdowns here, as opportunities to transform your relationships, not just for the “aha” moment or to remove the spotlight of discomfort, but to create a bond that transcends time and circumstances.
Breakdowns in a relationship reveal the truth of who you are, what you think, and what you value.
When you have a breakdown in a relationship, you get to find out if the connection is sustainable. It mystifies me a little when people who have been together for a long time, say they never disagree or have an argument. It’s hard for me to imagine unless they somehow have created a world to avoid conflict. I don’t doubt what people tell me, yet it doesn’t seem real that you would always think just like someone else.
The Latin origin of the word argues, argumentum, means to make clear. You may be very good at making things clear, but not great at leaving room for the other person to express their clarity. Then, instead of a breakthrough, you create a protracted contest of winning and losing arguments.
Can you have a different view, misunderstanding, or even a breakdown in behavior and still sit down, talk about it, tell the truth, and resolve the issues? Instead of a disruption signaling the end, it can be the breakthrough opportunity that’s needed to strengthen the relationship.
I was coaching two people who were arguing about whether they should relocate or not. After listening for a while, I asked them two questions: “What do you want?” and “What experience are you looking for?” By acknowledging the breakdown in their communication in a non-judgmental environment, they could ask these questions of each other and tell the truth of how they felt and what they wanted. I asked them to listen to each other. And also to consider ideas from their mate as possible.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy to listen. When you ask someone to tell you the truth, they’ll only continue if you don’t make what they say wrong. Sometimes you might have to sleep on it and resume your conversation the next day. Listening is key to breakthroughs in a relationship.
I believe that everyone is 100% accountable for what shows up in their relationships. Blame undermines countless relationships. 100% accountability stops the blaming and starts the process of looking into the breakdown, as well as into each other’s eyes and hearts. It will set you free to think and talk through what’s happening. If you don’t want to talk about it, think about the guy on the road from Bob Dylan’s song, “I wish there was something you would do or say, but we never did too much talking anyway.”
These lyrics remind me that communication is communion, and without it, you only have the conversation with yourself until it’s too late to shift the course of events.
Taking 100% accountability is essential.
Accountability gives you a window to see your role precisely the way it is. It’s freeing. When these two folks took 100% accountability, they stopped blaming each other for how they felt, and instead started thinking through the decisions in front of them as a team.
The simple act of eliminating blame gave them the perspective they needed to put the issues on the table and, together, look for the breakthrough in their thinking that would allow them to solve the problem. The conversation soon turned to common ground. At the heart of the matter was their deep love of family, security, and being together more of the time, versus commuting and only seeing each other on weekends.
They decided it was worth the risk to relocate, even though it meant a dip in their income. Years later, they have no regrets. The breakthrough? They not only got their time back, but they’re also living the lifestyle they love and are complete with the decisions they made.
My husband and I have a question we ask of each other after making tough decisions. “Are we together on this, through thick and thin, lose or win, up or down, smile or frown?” If either of us can’t give an unqualified yes, we go back to the drawing board.
When you turn your relationship breakdowns into breakthroughs, there is a deepening of connection and appreciation, creating an unbreakable bond. Your arguments evolve into conversations that bring awareness, forgiveness, and gratitude.
Keep these seven ideas in mind as you travel the path of your relationships. Commit to practice. Try on one idea a day and witness what happens. If you practice with those people who are closest to you, and they practice with the people they are close to, you transform your relationships and change the world, one person at a time.
Transform your relationships using these six practices when there is conflict:
1) Declare the breakdown. Identify the problem to solve. Look into the issues as a team. Then brainstorm all possible solutions without discounting any.
2) Ask questions. Adjust your tone of voice. Be defenseless. Let the ideas speak for themselves. Ask without attachment to any outcome.
3) Take 100% accountability. No blame. I know this is easy to say and harder to do. Get over it as quickly as you can. Victims ask, why me? Accountable people see their role in what happened and ask what’s possible.
4) Be with the other person, just the way they are. Be quick to love and slow to judge. Judgment shadows what you see in front of you. Move out of the shadow so you can see and be seen.
5) Create perspective. Get rid of any self-limiting stories that say you’re not effective in conflict. A useful view is an exploration. What does the breakdown hide? What does the breakdown reveal?
6) Take Action. Breakthroughs bring completion. It is a breakthrough in your thoughts, words, and actions. Shift your focus from what you already know to what can be discovered or revealed, and then take action with those new insights in mind.
May your day be peaceful and productive.
Paulette Sun Davis