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The humanKIND Blog

A Note From a Rebel: A Healthy Relationship Rule That Even *I* Follow

All relationships take work. Some more than others.

So, if you're putting in the work to build healthy relationships, then it's time to spit and shake hands on it. It's time to ensure both of your needs are clear and heard by making agreements.


"Rules" confine, "agreements" build trust

I fell on the word “agreements” years ago given that I have problems with authority. I don’t care to be pressured, as I’m sure you don’t either. I start to itch and a bead of sweat rolls down my back. I’ve never been one for rules just for rules' sake, but I do understand a certain order is needed to control all the humanness floating around out there. Through my years of coaching, I have worked with pairs and groups of people and evolved from asking them to agree on “rules of engagement” to asking them to “make agreements.” Sometimes the simple word choice makes all the difference.

An agreement says that both parties are willing to respect the statement. They have AGREED that it’s fair, realistic, and healthy.


Honor the relationship and look forward

When making agreements, you are honoring the work that’s occurred (ideally by you both) thus far and ensuring you are aligned on expectations for the future. You don’t have to be in conflict to make agreements. They’ve been helpful in my own life as well as my clients in all types of relationships.

This also applies to both personal and professional relationships.

Some couples have relied on formal contracts, while Psychology Today recommends communication and putting things on the table as two of the most important elements of effective relationships.

In business relationships, you may be able to get away with a little more formality if you feel it’s needed. Forbes believes that clearly defining outcomes is one of the five ways to transform business relationships. I believe it works for clients and coworkers alike. Boundaries that come from agreements can also help in the way others’ are perceiving the relationship – positively or negatively.


Aim high and make agreements that work

When making agreements, it’s good to talk through specifics to ensure you are on the same track. “What would that look like?” is a phrase I often ask my clients. It helps everyone paint a more vivid picture of what success looks like.

There are numerous scenarios where agreements can be helpful. In keeping with our theme of healthy work relationships, let’s practice there. Your agreements should be personal to the situation, but here are a few examples that I’ve seen work well:

  • We agree to consult each other before moving forward with _________ (type of decision, project, etc).

  • We agree to assume the best intent from each other and to speak to each other first when there is a concern.

  • We agree that our roles have some cross-over and we’ll work to ensure that is productive. We also agree to honor and support the work the work that is uniquely ours.


Practice and patience

Enjoy the practice. It really is just that – a practice. Something that, when done more often, you’ll get better at and gain confidence. Your patience will be worked a bit as you test out strategies, learn how to approach different people and become a powerful storyteller. If all goes well, you will positively affect the relationship while also becoming a stronger, more well-rounded human.


Peace and Progress,

Anna Oakes


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