Think about a real relationship challenge you are having right now. Write down the disagreement that is getting in between the two of you. Describe the problem in a few sentences. If you are a sales leader, the problem could be a sales representative who missed your sales target due to a lack of discipline in following the sales process. If you are in a personal relationship, the issue may be how much time you spend together as a couple and the fact that one of you wants more time than the other is willing to give. If you are frustrated at work, the relationship issue may be based on a recent change in leadership and the fact that you have no relationship with the incoming leader. You know your problems well and you generously speak about them with anyone who will listen and that strategy will not help the relationship improve.
It is time to replace your negativity from yesterday with your positivity from this moment forward.
With your problem written down, place it into one of three time frames: The past, the present, or the future. Almost 100% of the time, the issue you are both frustrated with is an issue that has already taken place and is now permanently stuck in the past. No matter your problem or frustration, you are casting judgement today on a behaviour or action that took place yesterday while desiring a different behaviour or action to influence the relationship tomorrow. The way you are choosing to criticize the past from an isolated position is contributing to your frustration.
You are adding salt to the wound as you focus squarely on the problem that has already taken place.
While your criticism may be valid, you are trying to undo the past. You are trying do something that is impossible. History cannot be changed. In addition, you are placing blame on someone or something outside of yourself and your control. They too can not go backwards and change what has already taken place. You are contributing to the negative feelings and preventing your relationship from moving forward. The gears are locked in. The brakes are on. Your relationship is starting to deteriorate. You are choosing to infect the innocence of today with yesterday’s poison. How is this working for both of you?
All relationships have challenges and experience ups and downs. Whether personally or professionally, we all have faults and make mistakes. You can reflect on your past and quickly recall your own relationship experiences. You know where you have cast blame, made excuses, and myopically focussed on trying to re-write history. Are you ready to free yourself from yesterday? Are you ready for a new strategy? Consider taking a fresh approach, starting today, and redirect your energy towards the future with your relationship intact, so that the next time you experience some friction, you will be able to handle it together.
In preparation for a fresh approach, consider the following facts.
- It takes two people, things, material, or forces with opposing energy/direction for friction to be experienced.
- Anything that you have experienced is already in the past.
- While the past is impossible to change, the future can still be modified.
- To modify the future, you need to take action today.
- Relationships are dynamic and most things that constantly move require some form of lubrication.
You may be asking yourself, what is relationship oil, who needs to apply it, where do we find it, and how much do we add? All great questions and all great signals that you are ready to proceed.
Relationship oil is any valuable and constructive thought, word, behaviour, and/or ingredient that can be added to reduce the friction that is causing your relationship stress. There is no such thing as one oil that solves all issues. There are many ingredients that can be utilized to make relationship oil and each quart that is created is of the custom variety. Some elements of the oil may include doses of vulnerability, courage, and truth. Other qualities such as listening, speaking, and other forms of emotionally intelligent communication are also useful elements that you can add to your recipe. A simple oil ingredient may be found in the words “I am sorry”, “I forgive you” and “It’s my fault”. It will take some experimenting, trial and error, but be confident that you will find your ingredients when you choose to search together.
As you search for what it will take to reduce the friction, will you need to search for two types of oil for each individual issue. One oil is applied by you and a different oil is applied by the person you are in relationship with. As you search, do not look far. In most cases, the person you are in relationship with holds the recipe for the exact oil that they need. As the search continues, remember to not do it alone. If only one person is seeking change, resentment and imbalance can quickly seep in. Blame, anger, and frustration will continue to be present if only one oil is applied.
Relationship oil is found when judgement is suspended, curiosity is explored, and a common vision for the future is shared.
Before the oil can be applied, both of you must choose to take responsibility for your respective half of the relationship. Your 50% can include taking 100% accountability for your contribution to the friction. You must find the courage to hold yourself accountable for your past actions or lack of action. Your 50% may include finding the ability to forgive, to free your teammate from the prison you are holding them in, and to accept that nothing in the world (including you) is perfect. Your 50% may include holding yourself accountable for your part in the dysfunction, taking authentic ownership for your contributing role, vulnerability, and speaking your truth about how you allowed the friction to continue and how you have failed to effectively and efficiently communicate how your relationship was impacted.
Relationship oil does not change the past, does not turn a wrong into a right, and it does not excuse anyone from anything.
Relationship oil is not a magic potion that can somehow alter the past. Try to apply it there and you will fail. Turn your focus towards the future and apply the oil when the moment presents itself. The relationship will be ready the moment two people take responsibility for the past, make a choice to collaborate together in the present, and choose new and appropriate actions towards a common goal in the future. Relationship oil is best utilized to encourage and support new actions and behaviours.
You can’t change the past. You can’t change someone else. You can’t reverse a previous action or result. But you can change you. Be the first to apply the oil and you will experience the personal and professional relationships that you desire. When you change for the better, the relationship will change for the better as well, either in unison or soon there after. You have the power to improve your relationships now and in the future. You both do. We all do.