When we connect with other human beings, we have a choice. We can either create vertical or horizontal relationships.
Vertical relationships are marked by hierarchy. One person is perceived as better than the other. You might see these relationships at work, in families, and even friendships.
When we step into the world of vertical relationships, we automatically go into a mode of judging. We think: “Is this person better than us?” or “How might I please this superior?” We begin to cloud our thoughts and actions with a biased filter.
In contrast, when we approach every person we meet through the lens of horizontal relationships, we are treating them like a peer. We start conversations more openly and honestly. We’re not stuck in our own heads thinking about the other person’s agenda. We’re not there to please or impose our authority.
Building horizontal relationships is about recognizing the human-ness in each other. None of us are the same but we’re all equal. If we can treat all of our relationships in life – with our neighbours, friends, bosses, colleagues, strangers – as horizontal relationships, our lives change. We stop comparing ourselves with others and focus on the relationship with them.
The challenge is how we can adopt new habits that can help us lean into relationships that way. One way is to remind ourselves of some of our best relationships – are they vertical or horizontal? The best relationships are ones that are likely horizontal. They’re ones in which we feel a sense of togetherness, collaboration, and trust. It’s very difficult to build a relationships of trust when one person supposedly wields more power than the other.