5 Tips for Improving ANY Relationship in Your Life

By David Arrell on February 24, 2024


Relationships are the central part of what it means to be human, and the nature of our relationships have a tremendous impact on the quality of our life as a whole. Relationships are of both fundamental and significant importance, occupying a central niche of where our most basic needs and deepest meanings can be found.

Given the above, it's no wonder that much of my experience over the past 20+ years of Leadership Training & Development and 1-on-1 Coaching has centered on supporting teams and individuals in their efforts to improve the quality of their relationships with those around them. From parenting and partnership on the home front to CEOs and Entrepreneurs in the Start Up space, relationship improvement has been by far the largest theme that runs throughout my clients' various priorities and concerns. Relationship dynamics underly and inform all manner of surface topics - conflict resolution, feedback & accountability, marriage & dating, the list goes on - and getting better at managing your half of those dynamics can powerfully improve everything built upon them.

Here below are 5 tips for improving any relationship in your life, and they all link to individual blog posts where I've unpacked them more thoroughly if you want to read a bit more about them.

1) Take ownership of your role in the relationship dynamic and intentionally decide to step up and become a "Leader IN" the relationship. And to be clear, I don't mean THE Leader OF the relationship. You're not "The Boss" or fully in charge of anything here! But you definitely have a lot of responsibility to manage your half of the deal with as much skill, wisdom, and grace as you can muster. At the end of the day, your effectiveness as a Leader IN the relationship will substantially contribute to improving the relationship dynamics on its own, and will often invite the other person to step up their engagement as well. A true win, win, win deal!

2) Honor and nourish what I call your Sacred Individuality. As the saying goes, "you can't pour from an empty cup," and you certainly can't meaningfully contribute your gifts to a relationship if you're under-resourced in any and all of the ways that sustain you. So, make it a point to identify the activities that nurture your roots, that pique your interests, that support your individual growth and development, that help the best version of you come forth and shine. Your brightness helps others shine forth in theirs!

3) View the relationship through the lens of Collaboration - a spirit of willful engagement with the challenges in front of you. The growth mindset of collaboration includes an attitude of appreciation and an openness and curiosity about your partner's perspective, interests, and feelings. Perhaps most importantly, collaboration offers a stance of space & grace that allows both of you to be a little messy and less than perfect from time to time. Relationships are a constant dance of flex & flow and give & take. A spirit of collaboration provides a larger context to support and contain all these dynamic energies and route them back into strengthening the relationship.

4) Move invisible hopes & expectations up and out into the visible space of Shared Agreements. The more clarity here, the better. Who's going to do what when where and how? What's fair, reasonable, and constructive? Where are our respective boundaries, what are our needs, and how do we communicate them with respect and appreciation for our partner's concerns and interests? More empowering than following somebody else's "rules," and more aligned with the first 3 tips above.

5) Gain clarity on how the Responsible TO vs Responsible FOR distinction is relevant for each of your relationships, and respond accordingly. Responsibility is a word bandied about all the time when it comes to the unwritten rules, roles, and requirements of what it means to be in a relationship. However, the responsibility you have FOR your children or FOR your team's performance is very, very different than the responsibility you have TO your partner, friend, colleague, or even supervisor. Your responsibility - your "ability to respond" - often hinges on how you understand the TO vs FOR dynamics being in play in each relationship, and your relationships will indeed improve to the degree to you can respond FROM the proper appreciation of your role in it.

Hopefully, these tips above help you feel more empowered, more engaged, and more grounded in your personal integrity and its authentic embodiment in the world. For more direct support in your relationship improvement efforts, whatever they may be, please consider booking an Expert Session conversation with me here.

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