Constancy and consistency are rare in relationships, whether at work, in families or among friends. As we grow and change, it makes sense that some relationships might no longer fit so well. Letting go of those that no longer serve us could be the answer. But when we want or need relationships, we can renegotiate boundaries or ground rules.

At work, for instance, you may not have the option of abandoning a relationship that isn’t working well. In a family or friendship, a sense of history and love keeps you bound, but you want to shift the ways you relate. A conversation of renewal can help.

Here is an outline of a conversation based on two people who have a history of being indirect — or even untruthful — about how they really feel, which has eroded trust. When having this conversation, authentically choosing goodwill and connection is foundational.

* Be clear about the purpose of the conversation: “I want to talk with you about some difficulties (or changes I’d like to see) in our relationship. Are you willing?”
* Name the issue: “My experience is we don’t feel comfortable telling each other the truth.”
* Ask for their views of the issue and your contribution: “How do you see the situation? What have I contributed to the lack of trust between us?”
* Extend understanding and own your contribution: “You’re right. I haven’t always been honest for fear of losing the relationship. In addition, sometimes I have told you one thing, and then talked to others about how I really feel.”
* Frame choices about how to proceed: “The way I see it, we can continue this way or make conscious changes to create trust in our relationship. That’s what I would like. What choices do you see?”
* State your intention to make it work: “I am committing to tell you the truth as I see it, and to hear the truth from you without getting defensive or combative.”
* Ask for agreement and commitment: “Are you willing to make a similar commitment? Are there other commitments you see we should be making here?”
* Talk about future steps or another conversation: “My intention is to start changing today. But I’d like to keep this conversation going. How would you like to proceed?”

Changes won’t happen overnight — and forgiveness and letting go of the past are essential. But this conversation is a great start for living out your intentions authentically. It will create relationships you can believe in with the people who are important to you.


Written by Maren and Jamie Showkeir

Owners of henning-showkeir & associates, inc., and co-authors of Authentic Conversations: Moving from Manipulation to Truth and Commitment.