Kinds of Relationships and Why They Matter

Relationships are critical to the quality of conversations and engagements we have, conversations and engagements we have, and can largely determine many things including the quality of our success, performance, opportunities, career decisions, quality of our lives and more.

By Senthiyl S S G, Director (Consulting), Arbinger Singapore/Malaysia | January 16, 2020

It will be hard to find a leader, coach or colleague not talking about the importance of relationships.

After all relationships are critical to the quality of conversations and engagements we have, and can largely determine many things including the quality of our success, performance, opportunities, career decisions, quality of our lives and more.

With so much at stake, have we ever wondered what kind of relationships we have with the people at home, people at work and people generally?

Generally, we categorize relationships into 2 types: the good relationships and the not so good ones.

However, this way of categorizing relationships doesn’t truly capture the genuine nature of relationships we have with different people. In fact, it may be creating an illusion that some of the relationships are actually good, when in fact they are suspect.

I am going to suggest that they are basically 4 ways to be in relationship.

  1. Genuine Caring Relationships
  2. Vehicular Relationships
  3. Irrelevancy Relationships
  4. Obstacle Relationships

1. Genuine Caring Relationships

When we are in a genuine caring relationship, there is a sense of care and concern for each other, because we see others as people just like us, who have comparable needs, goals, burdens and so on. When in this form of relationship, our conversations are honest and open, and there is little to hide from each other and little needs to be hidden. There is no need to wear a mask and project a persona of ourselves, and therefore we are able to share our deeper authentic thoughts and feelings about issues.

Questions that can give away Genuine Caring Relationships.

  • In whose presence do I feel safe and am able to be myself?
  • Who am I willing to listen to and take their views and thoughts seriously because I know they only have my concern?

2. Vehicular Relationships

Vehicular relationships often masquerade as genuine caring relationships. But what gives away a vehicular relationship is how we “indulge” and/or “avoid” others, instead of doing the right thing for the benefit of that individual. When in this type of relationship, we are sensitive to what others want and what they will be offended by. Our approach in this type of relationship is largely to do and say things that will keep the other person happy, or not unhappy. As a result of this approach, honesty is impossible. Our agenda in these kinds of relationships, is primarily driven by what we need and want. However, because our efforts are in the space of making others happy and/or not offended, it can delude us into thinking that we actually care for them, and we are doing things out of our concern or love for them. Our behavior masks our self-focus.

Questions that can give away Vehicular Relationships.

  • Is there someone that I allow to do more for me than I should?
  • Is there someone with whom I avoid having discussions that are required?
  • Is there someone I do more for than I should?

3. Irrelevancy Relationships

Irrelevancy relationships are usually subtle and under the radar. They are rarely noticed and most people seem to be oblivious to this type of relationship.

As my children were growing up, the responsibility of helping them with homework and exams were with my spouse.

I found myself easily saying to myself and my spouse that she is better placed to do this. She after all is a teacher and is better at it. I travel a lot and I am not as good as her in this area.

I’ve now come to realize the indifference I had towards supporting my spouse in her effort with our children’s studies, was a sign that I was having an irrelevancy relationship with my spouse and my children. They didn’t matter. Their needs and worries didn’t matter in this area.

Questions that can give away Irrelevancy Relationships.

  • Where in my life do I struggle or fail to engage?
  • Where in my life, and toward whom, am I blind?

4. Obstacle Relationships

Obstacle relationships are easily recognized. In this type of relationship, we will find ourselves criticizing, blaming, avoiding, coping, leaving the people we dislike or find challenging. We are easily offended by them and often retort in a similar fashion.

Obstacle relationships undermine our effectiveness in accomplishing what we desire, distort our views of others in future situations, and sabotage our ability to grow and learn from others. In organizations, this kind of dislike also spreads, turning a healthy working environment to toxicity.

Questions that can give away Obstacle Relationships.

  • Who do I sometimes feel bothered by?
  • Do I feel even a slight bit of satisfaction when a particular person is struggling or when something bad happens to that person?

Whether in a vehicular relationship, an irrelevancy relationship or an obstacle relationship, we lose the ability to truly see the other as who they are. We fail to see them simply as people just like us, and instead, categorize them according to their value for us, and see them as objects.

Considering the 4 types of relationships, it will be helpful to ask ourselves a few questions: (1) what kind of relationships do we have at home and at work, (2) what kind of relationships do we have with the people we interact with most and (3) what kind of relationships are we nurturing on social media.

Because, after all, the kind of relationships we have, determines what we invite into our lives and I dare say, is the greatest asset we possess!

Build deeper, stronger and more meaningful relationships. Check out Developing and Implementing an Outward Mindset.