5 Practices of Resilient Relationships

practices of resilient relationships

3. Sharing power

Sharing power means practicing equality and refraining from domination or control. In sharing power, we make space for each other. When everyone has space, when everyone has a voice, we build a solid foundation of resilience when conflict arises. When someone feels they don’t have a voice or that power has been taken from them, it’s like adding gasoline to a fire.

Especially when we believe we are right, it can be hard to think about the consequences of the ways we use power. Saying true things without care for the person or concern for the relationship is not the true spirit of sharing power. In failing to share power, we risk our credibility and trust. Sharing power means inspiring, not controlling; persuading, not punishing.

Sharing power is extremely hard, especially for those of us who have been granted a lot of privilege and have been taught that we should automatically have more power than others. But resilient relationships can only happen if everyone has an equal seat at the table.

4. Disagreeing well

Relationships are resilient when they can hold the weight of conflict and impasse. Instead of running away from disagreement, we must learn the art of healthy disagreement.

What is “disagreeing well?” It means—after showing up, seeing and being seen, and after sharing power—that we engage each other on tough issues in ways that make us stronger, together.

Disagreeing well means:

Suspending the desire to resolve.

It’s quite understandable to want the people we care about to agree with us. But if we want resilient relationships, we need to focus on the stability and long-term health of the relationship before forcing agreement or resolution.

Related: 4 Ways To Strengthen A Resilient Mindset Amidst Adversity

Asking great questions.

People who forge resilient relationships understand the value of asking great questions. Work like archeologists, carefully digging up meaning and nuance, handling anything they find with great care. This ensures they are understanding the complexity of someone’s view, so that when they disagree they can speak accurately and with care.

Banishing shame.

When we let ourselves make mistakes and change our minds without shame, we further reduce anxiety and animosity. No one likes to operate in a gotcha! environment. Except for extreme circumstances, consider that it’s much more effective to leave shame at the door. Focus on calling in (educating), not calling out (shaming or embarrassing).

5 Practices of Resilient Relationships
5 Practices of Resilient Relationships

Inviting others to sharpen us.

A great conversation partner can disagree with us on just about anything under the sun, but they will challenge us and sharpen us in positive ways. When we seek to challenge those around us, and when we allow others to challenge us, we open the door to seeing, learning, and teaching things that we would otherwise miss out on.

Telling the truth.

Resilient relationships give us the confidence to tell the truth because we know the relationship is sturdy enough to handle honesty. Truth-telling is one of the highest and important values of true friendship, and it’s important when we are disagreeing with someone that we co-create an environment where everyone can say what they really think and feel.

Saying “thank you.”

When someone takes the time to disagree with us in healthy ways, they are giving us a gift. They could have called us names, or walked away, but here they are: sticking it out with us, even if the conversation is hard or uncomfortable. Express gratitude for those who disagree with us in healthy ways, because healthy disagreement is a mark of resilience.

Disagreeing well is one of the most important skills we can learn in the pursuit of resilient relationships. While it may not be realistic to expect everyone to always agree, it is realistic to protect our relationships when we disagree.

Related: 7 “Love-Saving” Words You Can Use For Handling Conflict

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Melody Stanford Martin

Melody Stanford Martin is a social ethicist and communications expert, author of Brave Talk: Building Resilient Relationships in the Face of Conflict (Broadleaf Books, 2020), Founder of Brave Talk Project, Founder & CEO of Cambridge Creative Group, and a regular contributor to Psychology Today. Melody’s work focuses on rhetorical innovation, courageous community engagement, and out-of-the-box thinking to solve social problems.View Author posts