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3 Proactive Steps to Navigate Relational Tension

God created us for relationships. He designed us to navigate this journey of life, together. There is nothing that breathes life into you more than when your relationships are thriving.  

What we all understand, is that no matter the type of relationship, at some point, they hit points of tension. If you are married (or have been), have kids, been employed, or own your own business, you know how difficult relationships can be.  

In a season where a relationship is struggling, be proactive.

In a season where you just aren’t seeing eye-to-eye, don’t back away.

In a season where friction is surrounding every conversation, embrace the tension.

These three steps will help you embrace the tension and help lead the relationship back to a season of health.


The first thing you must do is Lean In to the tension.  This is extremely difficult to do.  Most of the time, when tension arises, you want to back off and ignore it.  All this does is allow the tension to intensify between you and that person.  The reality is that most of that tension is within you. The other person doesn’t even realize what is happening. And if you don't Lean In, separation is formed - distance is created - and tension intensifies.

What should you do?

Make that phone call and schedule a time to connect. Resist the urge to send a text message or any other digital connection. It is impossible to do steps 2 and 3 without being personally present with the other person.


If you are like me, this is the hardest step. I know, step #1 might feel like the hardest step, but listening takes a tremendous amount of self-control. There is a desire within you to be right and voice how right you are to the other person. There is a drive to win the argument, conversation, or debate. (You can decide what to call it.) There is a determination that sits right below the surface that is demanding for your voice to be loud and recognized. And please know, I am not referring to your physical voice.

What should you do?

Ask question after question after question. Seek to understand what the other person is saying - not just the words on the surface, but what is not being said. Resist the urge to leverage all of your talking points to get your point across. If your goal is to win the discussion, then you aren't leaning in. If your goal is to share all of your points, then you are not listening.

I have made a habit, as I Lean In and Listen, to write three characters at the top of my notebook: S 2 S. What does S 2 S stand for? I'm glad you asked. S: Slow; 2: To; S: Speak. This phrase comes straight from Jesus' brother, James. He wrote, "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. (James 1:19-20)

It is a simple reminder to listen first. And the more you commit to listening, the more you will continue to lean in.


One of the greatest attributes of a leader is the commitment to be a life-long learner. No one has it all figured out. There isn't one person that has all the right answers. A spirit that is willing to learn in all situations, no matter the circumstances, is a trait of a humble leader.

What should you do?

Here are several important questions that you should consider.

  • What did you not see? There just might be a perspective or insight that you didn't see. Intentionally pursue to grasp where the other person is.

  • What do you need to own? You might only own 5% of the tension, but own 100% of that 5%.

  • What could you have done differently? Just asking yourself this question will help you, personally, grow. There is always something that you could have done differently or said in a better way.

Go for it and try these three steps out! See how it helps you navigate the tension that creeps up in your relationships.


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