This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.

Imagine a long-term personal relationship, like a marriage, where difficult conversations are absent. It’s likely not a sustainable relationship. Concerns pile up over time, and if left unspoken, the relationship can’t benefit from the shared experience of intimacy that comes from working through them.

Real business relationships—ones based on a foundation of trust—are a lot like those personal partnerships. They require a commitment to talking about the tough stuff and a willingness to put the relationship on the table, much the same way you might put a project plan on the table. Trusted advisors, after all, are safe havens for their clients’ tough issues. And getting real means taking the leap and initiating difficult conversations for the relationship’s benefit. (Yes, that means it’s on you, not on them.) This takes both courage and skill.

Bonus: Making it Real

Think about a challenging business relationship. (If one doesn’t come immediately to mind, think about the person with whom you dread interacting, either a lot or a little.) Are certain topics being avoided? Are negative patterns being ignored? What isn’t being said that needs to be said? Write down the issues in their simplest, most raw form first—preferably in 10 words or fewer. Then think about how you might say what needs to be said.

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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).