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Relationship Cheat Sheet: Finding Harmony and Success in Work, Love & Family


Relationships come in all shapes and sizes. Some are easy. Others can seem downright impossible. And a whole lot of ’em simply coast along somewhere in the middle, with a few ups and downs along the way.

And while we may all may be familiar with the idea of “You get out of relationships what you put into them,” how many of us consciously stop and take stock of our relationships on a regular basis?

As a mom, wife and small business owner (who works waaaay too much), I know I’m super guilty of not stopping to take the pulse of the relationships in my life.

Who has the time?!? Too many lunchboxes to pack, dogs to walk, clothes to launder — not to mention the QUADRILLION things that need to be done to launch my SaaS (Software as a Service) platform.

Time? SO not on my side.

But how much better could our lives all be if we just took a moment to look at the relationships in our life?

To make a little tweak here… or have a little more awareness there. Maybe if we did, the limited time we do manage to carve out for our favorite people could be that much more rewarding. Enriching. Delightful!

So, in honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s a quick little Status Cheat Sheet to help us all check in on our relationships. I’ve compiled a list of the Top 5 Keys to Successful Relationships from a survey of 75+ companies with remote workers. No matter what kind of relationships you currently have in your life — romantic, family or work — these same basic principals apply.

Take a moment to think about the most important people in your life. Maybe jot down their names. And then take a quick read through the cheat sheet below. Don’t overthink it; just read the list and your thoughts will automatically drift to the people you just wrote down. Don’t try to consciously “fix” or “change” anything… just scan down the list. Let your mind wander wherever it wants as you think about your relationships with these important people.

Status Cheat Sheet: The Top 5 Key Elements to Successful Relationships

1) Communication

Open and frequent communication is cited as the number one element in successful relationships. By far! You have to give and take. Go down the old two-way street. Talk to each other.

While this may seem obvious enough, how often do we really stop and think: “Am I effectively communicating with ______ to let them know what’s going on in my life?” If you don’t let the other person know what you’re thinking, where you’re coming from, what you want from them or what your plans are (long or short term)… how can either of you succeed in the relationship? None of us are mind readers, right?

So when you stop to think about the names you jotted down, how do you feel about your interactions with them? Could you talk more? (Or, in some cases, less!) Share differently? How does the other person like to communicate? Does it differ from the way you tend to interact? Think about a time where you had a good talk with them. Why do you think this was a good interaction; what made it different from others? What was their demeanor? How did they interact? Being aware of how they perceive your communication can help you be aware of both sides of Communication Street.

2) Trust

While this may seem like another obvious key element, the reality of Trust in relationships is actually a bit deeper and less intuitive than Communication. Sure, there’s the simple binary “cheating/not-cheating” type of trust in romantic relationships. Or at work, you have the old “Trust them to get the job done!” or “They can’t be trusted and must be micromanaged” monikers that can be assigned. Those are easy.

But when thinking of your favorite people, who can you:

  • Trust to tell the truth? (Be it an unflattering sweater or a poorly conceived project, who will tell you? Do you want them to?? Why?)
  • Trust to be there for you? (From needing a ride home or talking you through a difficult time, to needing their help to stay at the office with you all weekend to finish a big project, who do you KNOW will be by your side? Can you do the same for them?)
  • Trust to do (what you think is) the right thing? And on the flip side, can they trust you to do these things? If you aren’t there for them, how can you expect them to be there for you?

Would you like to change anything about these relationship trusts? Be more of… less than… better at… something above?

If you do want to make a change, could you go back to the first Key Element, Communication, and tell that person about this change? Enlist their help, and you’ll give — and in return, get — even more trust.

3) Feedback

Being able to give and receive honest feedback is essential in any relationship. Telling people where you stand — on anything! — coupled with an honest explanation of why you feel that way, can make any good relationships stronger. Make sure you take feedback in the open spirit it was given (and if it wasn’t given with love, give THEM feedback that you don’t appreciate it!).

If you feel that you can’t provide honest feedback to someone, ask yourself why. Is the relationship one-sided? Have you just been doing the same job, with the same boss, same coworkers, for so long that you don’t even think about Feedback anymore? If so, open up and have that discussion.

When one of your favorite people tells you something you don’t like, what do you normally do? How do you react? Does it change depending on who’s giving the Feedback? Do you like that you react that way? Do you feel like you can provide honest feedback to them? If no, why?

Taking the time to give and receive open, honest and caring feedback can make any relationship stronger. Can you think of anyone on your list that you’d like to give or get different feedback from? What can you do about that?

4) Staying Motivated

Wanting to be in any relationship is paramount to its success. If you don’t want to be there, there will be dozens — hundreds! — of reasons/excuses you’ll find to, well, not be there. Because if your kid is going through an annoying stage or your spouse is working to within an inch of their life because of a deadline or your coworker is at the tail end of a bad relationship that you’ve heard WAY too much about, it’s hard to want to be around them, right?

But when you find something — anything, big or small — that you DO enjoy about them at this point in their life, you could be more motivated to maintain the relationship.

What’s something they used to do that you might encourage them to do again? Can you pinpoint the thing that’s temporarily annoying you? What’s something that doesn’t entail that annoyance? Instead of going out for drinks with Sad Coworker crying in her beer, try going to an exercise class. No complaining through all that huffing and puffing! Or if your teenager is BEYOND annoying with his smacked-ass friends, do things without them every once in a while.

Finding a way to motivate yourself is vital when working remotely. It’s human nature to pick up on feelings from our family members, friends, or co-workers. But when you are working with a team remotely, this motivation must come more from within. If you can find a personal motivation, even if it may seem totally unrelated to the task at hand, it can keep you going without the in-person connection to your team. (Or! You can just come into Groundwork and grab some motivation from the awesome coworkers here! Okay, sorry. Shameless plug over. :P)

5) Flexibility

Over time, things change in both personal and business relationships — sometimes through outside forces or circumstances, sometimes from within. That’s just life. But it’s the Flexibility of being able to do what’s necessary for the health of your relationship that can allow it to ultimately succeed — or fail. Being able to adapt as a family or team can turn what may initially seem like problems into opportunities to succeed. Necessity is the mother of all invention, right? So maybe a looming deadline with NO possible way to meet it becomes an opportunity to streamline and improve — but only if you’re willing to make the tweaks necessary.

Flexibility is really another form of Give and Take. Are both sides of your relationship okay with change? Not everyone can go with the flow or take it as it comes. But when push comes to shove and you REALLY need them to make it work, can they? Are they willing to try?  How about you? Can you bend to what they want/need?

In the relationship, does one side always give and the other always take? Is this okay with you (and them)? If you don’t like it, what can you do to be more flexible? (Or less.) How did this relationship become this way? Has it always been? Do either of you stay rigid to the detriment of the other? If so, how do you react?

If they go out of their way to change, do you take the time out to thank them? Let them know what it means to you? Or do you take them for granted, making them less likely to do things for you again?

Okay. Phew! You made it. Great job!

Betcha thought those questions were never gonna end, huh? But it’ll all be worth it. Why?

By simply taking those few minutes to think about the important people in your life and how you interact with them, you just made a difference in your relationships.

By just becoming conscious of these key elements for success, you just tuned up your relationships. Watch; sometime soon you’ll be coasting along and something will happen and you’ll remember what you thought/felt here. And it will make a difference.

Remember, just like an old Coney Island rollercoaster cart, if you coast along in your relationships thinking everything will just be fine, the ups and downs can get a lot bumpier over time. And no one wants their relationships to derail, right?

So come back and use this Status Cheat Sheet every now and then to keep your relationships tuned up and on a smooth, enjoyable track.

Happy Successful Relationship Day!

Noi Sabal