Welcome to our In Relationship blog series. We’ve recently written about how we prioritize relationship-building over productivity. In this series, we’re doing a deep dive into what it actually means to be in relationship with others. How do you know when it’s happening, when it’s working, and how it’s supposed to look and feel? And what’s the purpose? We’ll start today with how you know you’re in a relationship with someone that goes beyond the surface.
We see positive working relationships all the time, which makes it pleasant and even fun to work together. But we can’t mistake getting along for being in relationship. Getting along means we’re generally at ease together, we can joke around, and we know about each other’s lives. If we have this kind of work environment, we consider ourselves lucky. And we are. We just can’t settle for getting along.
When just getting along is our goal, we can’t withstand any perceived threats to the positive and the pleasant. We become unable to tolerate disagreement or conflict, being confronted for unintentionally offending someone, or being asked to hold ourselves or others accountable.
To ensure we all get along, we obey our internal censor who says, Don’t bring this up because they mean well, because I don’t want to make them upset, because I don’t want things to be awkward, because I don’t want to have a fight, because I don’t want to ruin our work together. And then, because we don’t have open dialogue, we end up making assumptions.
In relationship, however, we’re able to get along and acknowledge a tension in the relationship. We’re able to express our feelings about our work and the relationship itself. We’re able to bring up uncertainties, to ask for what we need, to ask for something to change, to ask for something to stop. Saying these things means you’re in relationship. Hearing these things from others while being responsible for naming and processing your own feelings, means you’re in a relationship. Trusting each other to say and hear the hard, uncomfortable things without engaging in the dysfunctions of blame or silence is what it means to be in relationship.
Here’s the irony: being in relationship means it’s not going to be pleasant all the time. That kind of ease and perfection doesn’t exist in any relationship. In a real relationship, the good and the bad are welcomed and worked through. Which is to say, our full selves are welcome.