This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.

Writing about the power of reciprocity last week got me thinking about a list I created several years ago.

I first introduced the list at the end of a workshop as a way to provide a last-ditch tool for anyone who hadn’t yet found a way to break through an existing relationship issue—as in, “If all else has failed, try this.”

More and more, I’m seeing the list as a first resort, not just a last resort.

Here are my five questions to unlock any relationship issue:

  1. What haven’t I been HEARING?
  2. What haven’t I been SAYING?
  3. In what ways could I take more RISK?
  4. What do I want that I haven’t been GIVING? (This one should sound familiar.)
  5. In what ways have I not been BEING a good partner?

You’ll notice the questions all have one thing in common: “I.” They’re not about the other person. That’s not because the other person is blameless for what isn’t working in your relationship. It’s because putting all the responsibility on them renders you powerless. The only person you have any agency over is you, so you might as well start there and see what unfolds.

Let’s get real for a moment: when one of my relationships isn’t going well, I’d much rather point a finger over there. Which means this list can be a tough one to swallow.

I also know the more resistant I am to asking myself these questions, the more I need them.

Make It Real

This week, use the list. If you’re feeling particularly courageous, use it with a relationship you’ve given up on. If you’re not quite up for that, no problem, use the list with one that’s OK, just not quite what you want it to be. What do you learn?

Learn More


Read more about how self-awareness improves your ability to connect with others, or discover ways to turn blind spots into insights in Chapter 10 of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.

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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).