Top 10 “Basic” Relationship Skills

Getting along with people can be more complicated than it appears. If it were easy, everybody would be good at it! 

How you treat people, how they treat you, what makes it work well, and why it doesn’t work when it doesn’t is always important to consider. 

Conflict is part of human nature. 

When the challenges and stress of leadership are added to everyday relationships, conflict is heightened. 

The speed and pressure of leadership increase the potential to overlook even the most simple and basic relationship skills. That always gets a leader in trouble. 

Treating someone in a way that you would not want them to treat you is never intentional, but it is inevitable without heartfelt effort. And that effort begins with paying attention to the simple, but not always easy, basics. 

It’s easy to understand why some very gifted and intelligent leaders struggle to make progress if they falter in consistently treating people in a way that makes them feel loved, respected, and cared for.

Treating people with grace, kindness, authenticity, and trust provides a strong foundation for all meaningful relationships. And when you consistently practice the basics upon that foundation, your relationships can flourish.

What are the top ten basics? 

  • Express gratitude 
  • Smile often
  • Remember names 
  • Listen well
  • Practice generosity
  • Forgive quickly
  • Don’t criticize
  • Compliment often
  • Encourage sincerely
  • Help people

These are all doable by nearly anyone. 

So, why are these basics so often missed?  

7 unintended reasons that derail good relationships:  

1) Unintentional lazy or bad habits. 

I can remember a time when I unintentionally practiced a bad habit. 

I just got lazy. 

When I would leave the house, often in a rush, I didn’t always say goodbye, and sometimes when I got home, I didn’t say hello right away. Patti may have been upstairs or in the basement, and I was always moving fast.

No excuses. 

It’s not like our house is that big either.  It was just a bad habit, and it didn’t make Patti feel cared for. Fortunately, Patti said something, and I was back to better practices.  

You can care about someone at home or work but still fail to treat them in ways that communicate love and respect. 

Is there a bad habit that you need to correct?

2) Distracted by worry or anxiety.

Anxiety and worry are two great thieves of peace that can distract you from practicing common sense behavior in treating people well.

When your mind is cluttered or possibly consumed with worry or anxiety that robs you of peace, a\nd you have little margin left to give to others.  

I wrote a post that may be helpful to you on the topic of dealing with worry. You can read it here. 

When it comes to anxiety, sometimes counseling is needed, but a good book to start with is Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World, by Max Lucado.

3) High levels of sustained pressure and stress.

Unrelenting pressure can cause even highly relational leaders to forget the basics and not treat people like their heart says they should.

We all face stress as leaders, but significant levels of sustained stress will rob our emotional capacity and energy level of the ability to treat others as we should. 

Learning to manage stress and pressure with better life rhythms, rest, and personal soul care will make a difference in the relationships that matter most to you.

A good book on this subject is, The Emotionally Healthy Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team and The World, by Peter Scazzero.  

4) A driving desire for success, to be right, or control.

Some leaders want success so badly they are willing to risk relationships to win. The basics in relationships are forgotten, and therefore the deeper nuances of meaningful relationships are lost.

The need to be right, control, and always win, can overtake the natural desire to enjoy good relationships. 

This is not fully solved by merely practicing the top ten listed above, but they are a great place to start. 

Anyone in this situation will need honest and tough conversations with someone who cares about them and has the strength and skill to confront.

5) Insecurity.

Insecurity can consume you as a leader. It shrinks you, your leadership, and your potential. 

Anything that makes you smaller reduces your ability to put others first, treat them well, or demonstrate genuine care. 

Insecurity can do all that. 

The insecure leader loves people and genuinely wants to treat them well but falls prey to their own faulty thinking about self-worth. 

A deep biblical dive into your identity in Christ is a great place to begin overcoming insecurity. The fact that you are loved and of value is a good beginning to a strong personal foundation. 

That allows you to begin practicing the top ten list.

6) Lack of self-awareness.

I was coaching a leader who is a good guy at heart, but often bullied others by using his strong personality to get his way. 

It wasn’t intentional, but clearly a life practice. When we talked about it at length, he genuinely couldn’t see it. His self-awareness was extremely lacking. 

He would say he did practice the top ten, but those around him would say he clearly did not, or at best, not many of the ten. 

A good book that may be helpful to you or someone you are coaching is The Self-Aware Leader: Discovering Your Blind Spots to Reach Your Ministry Potential, by Terry Linhart.

7) Never learned or practiced from an early age.

If a person doesn’t learn and, more importantly, practice the basics at home with those closest to them, how do they internalize those basics, so they come naturally in their relationships? 

If the basics don’t become internal and reflexive habits at a young age, it’s easy to miss them later in life.  

But it’s never too late. 

Take another look at the Top 10 list, where are you doing well, and where could you use some improvement?  

Not sure? Ask a friend, if they love you, they’ll tell you!

Then work on it!

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