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Our Relationships End Up Being Tested When They’re Under Pressure

October 18, 2023

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The quality of your relationships matters!

We’ve all heard the adage, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” The sentiment applies to relationships, both personal and professional. Relationships are complex and multifaceted. They require work, nurturing, and understanding, and their true mettle can be tested when put under strain.

Maintaining good professional relationships feels like a breeze when everything runs smoothly. Celebrating successes, making small talk during breaks, and working harmoniously on projects are almost second nature. However, when the environment changes—when there’s a significant challenge to our business model or external factors exert immense pressure—that’s when we see the true character of the relationships we’ve built.

It’s common to witness the best side of people when it’s convenient for them. Like the calm waters of a still lake, everything appears perfect on the surface. However, throw a stone into that lake, create a ripple, and you’ll see reactions that might surprise you. Those tiny cracks in the relationship foundation, which might have been around for years unnoticed, start to widen under duress.

I don’t mean to imply that every relationship will crumble under pressure. Some might emerge even stronger, but recognizing which ones will thrive versus falter is crucial for our personal and professional well-being. That’s where the idea of auditing our relationships comes into play.

Auditing Your Relationships: The ABC Method

One strategy is to categorize your relationships into A, B, and C groups:

  • “A” Relationships: These are the gold standard. They are relationships where mutual respect, trust, and understanding flow freely. You can rely on these individuals, and they can depend on you, especially during times of crisis.
  • “B” Relationships: These are good, dependable relationships that might need infrequent maintenance to function well. There might be occasional misunderstandings, but they can be overcome with some level of effort.
  • “C” Relationships: These are the more challenging relationships. They can lead to regular conflicts, a lack of trust, and/or tend to be one-sided. It’s essential to recognize this dynamic and decide whether they’re worth investing more energy in or if it’s healthier to let them go.


While it’s a subjective process, and you might only sometimes categorize correctly, it’s a step in the right direction. It prompts introspection and lets you prioritize where you invest your emotional and professional energy.

Questions to Assess Your Current Relationships

To help you navigate the effectiveness of your relationships, consider the following 15 questions:

  1. Win-Win Partnership: Does this relationship feel like a true partnership where both parties benefit equally? What evidence supports this feeling?
  2. Facing Challenges: When past challenges arose, was this individual quick to offer support?
  3. Offering Assistance: Do they proactively offer help, or do you always have to ask?
  4. Safety: Do you feel emotionally and professionally safe in this relationship?
  5. Reciprocity: If they were in a tight spot, would you be the first to help? And would they do the same?
  6. Initiation: Do you always have to make the first move, or do they sometimes reach out to check on you?
  7. Communication: Are they genuinely interested in what you have to say, or do they tend to dominate your conversations?
  8. Listening Skills: Are they present and actively listening when you talk?
  9. Gossip: Do they speak ill of others behind their backs? Do you worry they do this to you when you are not around?
  10. Seeking Help: Are they willing to ask for help when needed, or do they project a know-it-all attitude?
  11. Vulnerability: Have they ever shown their vulnerable side to you? And have you felt comfortable being vulnerable with them?
  12. Confidentiality: Do you trust them to keep your secrets? Do you keep their confidence?
  13. Comfort Level: Is it easy or taxing to be around them? Does every interaction feel like work?
  14. Authenticity: Can you be your true self around them without fear of judgment? Do you feel they can show their authentic self with you?
  15. Joy: Do I enjoy spending time with this person, or is it more out of obligation or habit?


Relationships are the backbone of our personal and professional lives. They bring joy, provide support, and foster growth. However, like everything valuable, they need maintenance and occasional evaluation.

How can we ensure that our relationships, especially the ones that matter, withstand the tests of time and pressure?

  1. Open Communication: Any healthy relationship thrives on open communication. When issues arise, addressing them head-on is essential, ensuring both parties understand each other’s perspectives. This prevents minor misunderstandings from snowballing into significant disputes.
  2. Active Listening: The goal should be genuinely listening to the other party. Often, we hear to respond instead of understanding. This shift in perspective can bring about profound changes in how we relate to others.
  3. Build Trust: Trust is the bedrock of any solid relationship. It’s built over time through consistent actions. Being reliable, keeping promises, and standing by during tough times are all actions that strengthen trust.
  4. Empathy and Understanding: Walk a mile in their shoes. Before jumping to conclusions, try to see things from the other person’s viewpoint. This approach builds mutual respect and deepens the connection between individuals.
  5. Set Boundaries: Every personal or professional relationship requires boundaries. These are the unsaid rules that ensure respect and understanding. Setting clear boundaries ensures that neither party feels overwhelmed or taken advantage of.
  6. Invest Time: Like plants, relationships need nurturing. Spending quality time, having regular check-ins, and being there for significant moments can reinforce the bond.
  7. Shared Experiences: Creating shared memories through challenges or successes can help strengthen the foundation. They serve as a reminder of the good times, especially when things get rocky.
  8. Continuous Learning: As individuals, we’re continually evolving. Embracing personal growth and encouraging others to do the same ensures the relationship evolves and grows.
  9. Celebrate Wins: No matter how small, celebrating achievements and milestones together can boost morale and enhance togetherness.
  10. Seek Feedback: Periodically, ask for feedback. Understand what you can do better and where you might be faltering. This tactic not only shows that you care but also that you’re committed to making the relationship work.


Like a mighty oak, a relationship needs deep roots and a strong trunk to withstand the force of life’s storms. By understanding the components of resilience and proactively nurturing them, relationships can survive challenges and flourish amidst them. They transform from mere associations into profound bonds that provide solace, strength, and joy in life’s intricate tapestry.