What’s the quality of your relationships?

Everyone I know cares about the quality of their relationships, whether at work, at home, or in between. We all depend upon the people who are in our lives, and they depend on us. There is literally nothing we can do without some form of involvement from others. I can’t even get my trash and recycling out of the neighborhood without the involvement of my wife, one of our two sons, and the two fellows who drive the truck.

As for the big stuff–like educating children, making big stuff happen at work, enjoying our friendships, and contributing to the larger community–these require high quality relationships. But what exactly does high quality entail? And are there gradations of quality? Exploring these questions with the managers I coach led me to create a five-point rating scale for relationship health that I made public for the first time in my book. Here it is:

  1. Toxic—neither of you can be in the room with the other without feeling ill.
  2. Negative—when you’re around each other, it isn’t relaxing and can feel unpleasant.
  3. Neutral/Respectful—no warm fuzzies but also no ill will.
  4. Positive—you enjoy each other and have a mutual respect.
  5. Great Vibe—being around each other is easy and effortless. Your conversations “flow” and fill you with positive energy.

Consider several relationships that are pivotal to your success and happiness. How would you rate each today–candidly? What would you like this rating to be in the future?

Master difficult conversations

Learn my best tips for staying cool under pressure and elevating your leadership in complex times.


In the book, I write about the importance of moving every relationship one step in a positive direction and ensuring that all relationships are at least Neutral/Respectful. I playfully call this Neutralizing Enemies. Some folks reacted strongly to this since it evokes violence–and I get their point–but I’m trying to provoke, and this is my best summary so far. I welcome other ways of describing this that are both clear and compelling.