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Navigating Tricky Relationships

Relationships are tricky. And the quality of our relationships significantly influences how happy/satisfied we feel at any given time. But sometimes it feels like “you can’t live with them, but you can’t live without them”! Mixed with the tensions of political differences—especially during a presidential election year—even the fondest of relationships can erupt. When trying to navigate differences in perspective among family and friends during this holiday season, it helps to focus on what you can control about relationships: your assumptions.

To empower yourself with boundaries, a new perspective, and an action plan, start by exploring both negative assumptions and positive assumptions about a specific tricky relationship in your life. Really immerse yourself in the negative assumption first; DON’T sugarcoat anything, or look for a silver lining. Then, play around in the positive assumption. Finally, choose which assumption is most useful for you. (Remove yourself from judgment: there’s no “right” answer!)

Are you ready to begin? First, choose a relationship you want to shift. (Make sure it’s a relationship you actually want to change!) Then, grab a notebook, and answer these questions:

Negative Assumption Cycle:

1) What is your negative assumption about the other person? Be honest.

2) When you hold this assumption about this person, what action(s) are you likely to take?

3) When this person experiences your action toward them, what assumptions might they make?

4) When the other person holds this assumption about you, what action(s) might they take?

5) How does their action reinforce your original assumption about them?

—PAUSE to reflect: What insights are you realizing right now?—

Positive Assumption Cycle

6) Just for the sake of argument, flip your original assumption 180%: What is this positive assumption about the other person?

7) When you hold this assumption about this person, what action(s) are you likely to take?

8) When this person experiences your action toward them, what assumptions might they make?

9) When the other person holds this assumption about you, what action(s) might they take?

10) How does their action reinforce your original assumption about them?

Boundaries/Action Plan

11) How do you want to proceed with this relationship?

12) It takes two people to make either cycle work. What’s your side of the plan?

NOTE: not all relationships are worth your time and energy to try to improve. Think of how investing in this relationship will affect (or continue to affect) your health. What boundaries do you need to put in place to stay safe within challenging relationships?

What did you learn about yourself through exploring assumptions in relationships? Let me know at recharge.coach@gmail.com.

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