Got a Messy Relationship? Here’s How to Fix It in Three Simple Steps

Got a Messy Relationship? Here’s How to Fix It in Three Simple Steps

by Shaunti Feldhahn

You know that colleague or family member who drives you nuts? The one who second-guesses everything you do, is super-sensitive, and doesn’t return urgent emails for help?

No, wait, that would be my colleague! You probably have a different relationship that drives you nuts. Your grumpy step-father or passive-aggressive sister. A daughter with an Olympic level skill in eye-rolling. Or perhaps it is your spouse, as your marriage has slid from happy to hurting.

Or maybe it isn’t a bad relationship, but a good one … and you want it to be great.

Well, I’ve got great news. I’m a social researcher; and after years of study on what we call the 30-Day Kindness Challenge, we found three actions anyone can do to transform any relationship. Because targeted kindness is a superpower that will soften any heart.

Including our own!

Here’s what you do. Pick the person with whom you want a better relationship. For 30 days, you will:

  1. Say nothing negative about your person—either to them or about them to someone else. If you must provide negative feedback (for example, to discipline a child or correct a subordinate’s mistake), be constructive and encouraging without a negative tone.
  1. Every day, find one thing you can sincerely praise or affirm about your person and tell them, and tell someone else.
  1. Every day, do one small act of kindness or generosity for them.

That’s it! So simple. And yet in our research for The Kindness Challenge, 89% of relationships improved!

What does this look like in practice? Well, suppose you and your husband have been irritated with one another for months. Now every parenting decision is a battle, and your feelings are regularly hurt.

During the 30-Day Kindness Challenge, you resist the urge to ask “Why did you let the kids stay up so late!?” And you completely stop yourself from venting about it with your girlfriends at work. (This is just for thirty days, remember!) Instead, you’re looking for things to praise. So you notice it was really nice of him to come home early to get the boys to football practice. You thank him for it – and then you tell your girlfriends at work about that nice thing he did.

You’re also looking for that little act of generosity to do each day. So when he’s super tired after work, instead of getting annoyed that he’s not helping with dinner preparation you sincerely say, “I’ve got this. You go watch the game for a few minutes.”

Trust me: Starting this process will show us a whole lot about what needs to change. Not just in the other person: but in us. You will see just how negative you have been, in ways you never realized before. (In The Kindness Challenge, I outline the seven distinct types of negativity we found in the research, ranging from exasperation to overt criticism to suspicion. I strongly recommend you find out your negativity patterns, so you can watch for them!)

One Small Win: But as you go, you will also see something amazing: you will see your feelings changing. You’ll start appreciating the other person more. You’ll see their defenses lowering. And you may see enjoyment and positivity in the relationship you haven’t seen in years. An effort toward kindness won’t solve every problem – especially the big ones like addiction – but it will make them easier to solve.

I hope you will sign up for the 30-Day Kindness Challenge! Get a group of friends to do it together. Be a part of a movement of kindness in our culture – and in yourself!

Shaunti Feldhahn
messy relationship is a social researcher, speaker and best-selling author of books such as For Women Only. She thinks Kathi Lipp – and anyone who loves Kathi – rocks the world. She hopes all of you will go rock the world with kindness.

5 Ways to Make Your Home a Haven

5 Ways to Make Your Home a Haven


Burning a candle is a sure fire way (See what I did there?) to create a warm and inviting atmosphere in your home.  But that is just one example of the outward atmosphere. We need to think about the heart of a home in order to really make it a haven. Here are five other ways to make your home a haven.

1. By reading together.

The most haven -producing thing I did as a mommy is simply to read to my kids. I even read to my child when he was a teenager!

2. By weeping and rejoicing at the right times.

We are to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. When a child has a difficult day, scoop her up into your arms and cry aongside. When she makes a great choice, jump up and down and celebrate with ice cream.

We’ve lost the importance of outdoor play. Even if it means walking to the park with your kids or swimming alongside them, dare to move beyond the our walls of your home to venture out to see God’s creation.

4. By limiting media.

Steer your children away from mindless interaction with the TV or video games. Set limits and stick to them. Dare to believe your children are creative, innovative kids who can create instead of idly recreate. {click to tweet}

5. By letting kindness reign.

Determine to treat your children and spouse with the same kindness that you would give a stranger that you are trying to impress. Remember it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. What makes us think anything different would evoke our children’s repentance?


What is your favorite way to make your  home a haven?