You want a guaranteed way to injure your relationships whether they be friends, family, a partner, children or in the workplace?  Here are five sure-fire-never-fail ways to do just that:

1. The Need to Be Right.
As my mentor Terry Real states, “You can be right or you can be in relationship.  Pick one.”  There is no such thing as THE truth.  There is my truth and there is your truth, but there is not THE truth .  Endless objectivity battles are just power struggles for the temporary feeding of one’s ego. In other words, kudos for me if I can convince you that I am “right.”  But in gaining a point for me, the team of the “we” – the relationship – loses the battle and takes the wounding.  Relational living means that I care to understand the truth of my partner, even if it vastly differs from my own.  Self-righteous indignation is nothing more than psychological violence.

2.  Control. 
Any act that is direct or manipulative that attempts to make me the “boss” in an egalitarian relationship is an act of control.  Not only is controlling another person an illusion, but payback is inevitable.  People do not like to be controlled.  We can invite and we can request, but we cannot control someone –  if living relationally is a value we hold.

3.  Unbridled Self-Expression.
No one has the right to open their mouths and say what they want to say when they want to say it.  We are no longer two-years old.  We are adults and adults need to be grown-up enough to have a filter.  If what I am about to say does not respect the other person and the relationship, then don’t say it … or find a way to say it in a relational fashion. 

4.  Retaliation.

Any act that is explicit or covert (passive aggressive) which seeks to even the score or make the other person feel what you feel. Often, offending the other person can feel “justified,” particularly if I was made victim first by your injury toward me. Retaliation is a perverse form of communication which leads to the destructive dynamic of “the more, the more.”  

5.   Withdrawal. 

Any act of distancing in the relationship that is motivated by resignation, retaliation or a fear of closeness.  This losing strategy differs from responsible distance-taking which I may chose to do temporarily so that I can repair and reconnect.  Withdrawal can masquerade as mature acceptance or even nobility – such as using work and child-rearing as a means to avoid my partner.   

Which of these behaviors can you identify with?