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Discerning Hidden Agendas in Relationships

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“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”
—Oscar Wilde

“I work hard to listen and say exactly what I mean. But it seems no matter what I do, we still end up arguing. The other person just won’t listen. When I bring up a point it is countered with another negative jab at me. I am reminded of when I did this and that and pretty soon we don’t even remember what the problem was that we were talking about. So why isn’t all this communication stuff working?”

Like any skill we gain competence in, communication needs to be practiced. But like any habit we put in place, it is easy to get discouraged and go back to old ways of doing things.

Too often we come to our conversations with a hidden agenda – a motive that isn’t always clear to us.

We don’t come to resolve problems, but to convince the other person they need to change.

We want the other person to see and hear and accept our point of view – we don’t really want to hear theirs. We want to be understood and accepted just as we are.

What is your motive in personal communication?

How do you approach conversation when there is a core difference of opinion or understanding?

Is there a secret vendetta that you don’t want to acknowledge because you want to believe you have the best interests of your friend at heart? If we were wounded, we often want the other to experience that too.

If conversations continue to break down, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my true motive in this conversation?
  • Am I listening honestly to hear and accept the other person’s point of view?
  • Is revenge more a part of this conversation than I want to acknowledge? Is it more important than understanding?
  • Do I want a relationship? Am I willing to do the things it takes to not only develop but maintain this relationship?

Anything worthwhile in life requires work and effort. But the benefits are indescribable.

Think about a beautiful garden that you enjoy. In order for you to continue to enjoy your garden, you must diligently pull the weeds, trim the bushes, and keep the soil moist and porous. A beautiful garden will soon become a scene of chaos unless we maintain it.

A promising relationship will soon die if do not work to keep it vital and flourishing. Without maintenance, it too will quickly dissolve into chaos. Maintenance means doing things together that are pleasant for both of you.

Maintenance also means:

  • Having discussions that explore positive and mutual interests.
  • Taking time to accurately define problems instead of simply blaming or finding fault. Related post: Problem-Solving, Step 1: Identify the Problem and Define the Conflict
  • Honestly talking about those needs that are important to you.
  • Genuinely trying to see the other person’s perspective – to understand how the other person is seeing the world. That their point of view is as valid as yours and that you both can be right.

Relationships take a commitment – a willingness to give and take – a desire to better know the other.

Within our relationships, we learn the art of give and take and the humility of knowing we are not the end-all.

We learn the strength of defining our values and principles and the motivation to live them.

Within our relationships, we find ourselves if we are honest.

But it takes effort and work. Instead of looking for that blame factor, begin to believe the best in you and the best in the other. Challenge your thinking. Relationships are too important. The more we can appreciate each other, the happier we will be.

What can you do to make relationships better?

You cannot be responsible for the other person’s sincerity or desire to have a good relationship. But you can begin by defining what it means to you and then putting that into practice and action.

Not all relationships will survive – not all relationships are of the quality that should survive. We will falter and fail but we can look at our intentions, agendas and goals and honestly do what we can to improve.

So, ask yourself, “This relationship is important because…”

Then ask, “What actions do I need to put in place to make it grow and thrive?”

We can’t change another. But our behaviors, actions, sincerity, and honesty can and will influence others.

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