Relationship evaluation

Building on what is already good

The relationship evaluation structure revolves around one deceivingly simple question: “What did you like the last 6 months and what would you like more of in the next 6 months?”. This can be applied to your team or a business relationship, but my wife and I have been using this every six months for at least the last three years. It helps us get a helicopter view of what is important and where we want to go as individuals and in our relationship.

What helps here is the fact that we try and remove ourselves physically and mentally of the day to day struggles of being parents of two young children, with busy careers and personal lives.

Letter

Purpose

Time frame

Group size

5-50

Facilitation level

Comfort level participants

Materials needed

Pen and paper for taking notes.

Credits

My amazing wife Marieke.

A relationship is a work in progress

I can’t speak for all of you, but I myself noticed over the years, that building a strong bond of communication between yourself and your partner helps you prepare for whatever surprises life will throw at you. My wife and I have been together for over 10 years and our six-month-evaluation has proven to be a strong exercise to talk through all bigger things, discussions and issues.

Five Structural Elements for the Relationship evaluation

The exercise is deceivingly simple. As a facilitator, whether you use this in the relationship with your partner, a colleague or a team, the most important thing is usually to have people take the step to do the exercise for the first time.

Five structural elements

How to read the instructions

To bring some structure to tools and excercises, I borrowed the “five structural elements” from Liberating Structures. It is an easy and structured way to describe the different dimensions of an exercise.

More on the elementsHire me as facilitator
Invitation

The invitation is key here. It all revolves around one deceivingly simple question: “What did you like the last 6 months and what would you like more of in the next 6 months?”. The main thing the question achieves with us is setting a positive frame. What often will happen in relationships is that disagreements are phrased in a negative or sometimes even offensive wording ‘I came home and the house was a mess again’. For us, the question “What did you like the last 6 months and what would you like more of in the next 6 months?” naturally helps us to rephrase this annoyance into something like “Oh, when I came home Wednesday, two weeks ago, the house was so clean and in order, it  was a breathe of fresh air“. This helps to have a more positive, open discussion about things we like, rather than scolding the other for things we dislike.

How Space Is Arranged and Materials Needed

Over the years, we learned that having these sessions in the relaxed environment of a nice bar (for us, The Cobbler of Gent‘s 1898 The Post Hotel) or another place that is not home, helps to have the conversations in all openness, removed from the context of home and home chores. What often happens -especially with younger kids- is that discussions are being had either while busy taking care of the kids or other household chores or after the kids are to bed, when parents are usually tired. For many, in these contexts, it is difficult not to take feedback personally or link it to that specific moment (rather than zooming out to see the bigger picture) – another environment helps solve this.

It helps to have an environment where you can speak openly – not all bars will give you enough privacy to talk about private matters.

Sequence of Steps and Time Allocation
  1. We will usually leave our house after the children have gone to school, arriving in town around 9h30-10h00.
  2. That will be the starting point of the day. We’ll start with “what did you like the last 6 months and what would you like more of in the next 6 months?” and will take it from there. Usually for us, the bulk of the discussion will happen between 10h00 and 12h00. It sets the tone for the day, we’ll discuss key subjects and usually use the afternoon to get into more detail or discuss subjects we have touched upon in the morning but weren’t able to fully discuss.
  3. We’ll have lunch at a nice place in the city. Usually not particularly fancy, just a place with good food, that doesn’t take ages to make and that makes us both feel comfortable.
  4. After lunch, we’ll decide where to return – either we’ll return to the morning location again or switch scenery. This part of the day is usually used to get into more detail or discuss subjects we have touched upon in the morning but weren’t able to fully discuss.
  5. We’ll end the day whenever we’ll feel like it or will sometimes have drinks and dinner after. This is also a perfect moment to reflect on the day, to summarize the key agreements we made and look forward how to act on the key action points.

I imagine you can easily translate this to a team or business setting.

How Groups Are Configured

No special configuration needed.

How Participation Is Distributed

Everyone participates and has equal value. Make sure to listen with intent and let each other finish.

Additional tips and pointers
  • I tend to make notes of the key things we discussed during the day as well as the key action points. I will store them online, somewhere we’ll both be able to access them (e.g. Google Drive or Notion).

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Let me help you

I have 15+ years in changing companies to be less about ads and more about acts. I’d love to hear your story and see how I can help.

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Polle de Maagt

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