From transactional to transformative: how to build authentic relationships

From transactional to transformative: how to build authentic relationships

Most of us know somebody who is transactional in their relationships with others, whether it be someone at work, at home or in our social circle. It might even be you. Some might argue that being transactional is the only way to meet targets at work or protect yourself from being taken advantage of. In this article, leadership and confidence coach Helen Robinett explains why any relationship that focuses on getting rather than giving is toxic and how to build authentic, transformative relationships instead.


May 29, 2023

6 mins read

Have you ever felt like someone was being transactional with you in a relationship? Here’s what you likely already know about these kinds of relationships. They are based on need and the expectation of reciprocation. It’s when someone strives to get more out of the deal, and their focus is on individual gain rather than what they can give. They want a strong return on investment. It’s a relationship that often results in one person winning and the other losing. 

The problems caused by transactional relationships

When one or more people strive to create a transactional relationship, the outcome is problematic in multiple ways. Here are a few of the problems transactional relationships typically cause.

  • Partnership and teamwork are non-existent – Each person’s conflicting goals make it impossible to work together to achieve an effective outcome. 

  • It encourages point scoring – Transactional relationships foster a competitive environment that sets people up to score points or fail.

  • Resentment sets in because one or both parties want to get a better deal If both parties in a relationship are striving for a better deal, they will each be on the lookout to catch the other person off guard. And when one feels like they are giving more than they get, resentment sets in, and it may feel like a toxic tug of war.

  • Trust is lacking or broken – There is a sense of shallowness about someone who is transactional in the way they relate to others, and the relationship appears fake and insincere. The other party knows they cannot trust them. These relationships fail to build trust long term. 

Are we limited to being transactional?

Transactional relationships are often played out in the corporate world and are also common in the political landscape. This leads us to wonder: can successful business deals only be created when we operate in a transactional manner? Is fighting for a better way a lost cause? And should we stop being naive and focus on protecting ourselves in a cruel world? 

I would argue that transactional relationships have no place in either personal relationships or in business, where we are seeking to build sustainable relationships with our stakeholders, staff, colleagues and clients. However, it takes courage to show up in an authentic way. But the risk is worth it because swapping transactional relationships for authenticity ultimately builds trust.  

The power of transformative relationships

As human beings, we are capable of so much more than operating in a transactional, ‘what’s-in-it-for-me?’ manner. Why? Because we care and have the desire to connect and form relationships based on trust and understanding. I believe that at our core, we want to form transformative relationships as opposed to transactional ones so that we can grow and produce better results for all.

So what is a transformative relationship? It’s a relationship based on trust, integrity, authenticity and vulnerability. When you build a transformative relationship, you invite people to engage fully with their heads and hearts. It sends a message that you invest in those around you and that you care about them and trust them: a powerful message to send potential clients and employees. Doing so also generates trust in you.

How you are being is key to building transformative relationships

To change the way you relate to others, it is critical to understand yourself and how you are being first. This is where the Being FrameworkTM plays an important role. The framework supports us to understand and articulate the parts or qualities – known as Aspects of Being – that make up human beings within the scope of leadership, performance and effectiveness. It also helps us understand and discover the missing pieces of the puzzle, making us more self-aware and aware of others. One of the Being Framework’s primary objectives is to support us to relate to awareness and thinking as opposed to purely introducing a particular belief or opinion. In this way, the framework also encourages and supports authentic awareness and critical thinking, both important factors when building transformative relationships

The Being Profile® is the official assessment tool associated with the Being Framework. It accurately measures an individual’s relationship with 31 Aspects of Being, providing them with a ‘health’ score for each one. Here are three Aspects of Being that are particularly important to have a healthy relationship with in order to build connected, transformative relationships with others and their distinctions according to the Being Framework.

Vulnerability impacts how you relate to the concerns you have with respect to how you are being perceived or thought of in different situations. It is how you are being when confronted or exposed to perceived threats, ridicule, attacks or harm (emotional or physical). Vulnerability is not being weak, agreeable or submissive. It is when you embrace your imperfections. It is considered the quality of being with your authentic self without obsessive concern over the impression you make. 

Awareness is the state of being intentionally conscious of your consciousness. It is how you relate to what you know and understand as well as what you don’t know and don't understand. It is always intentional and directed at something. It is to know and understand yourself, others and the world around you and the impact you have on the world and others.

Authenticity is how you relate to the reality of matters in life. It is the extent to which you are accurate and rigorous in perceiving what is real and what is not. Authenticity is paramount for you to carefully consider that your conception of reality – including your beliefs and opinions – is congruent with how things are. When you are being authentic, you are compelled to express your Unique Being – what is there for you to express – while being consistent with who you say you are for others and who you say you are for yourself.

A coaching client's journey from transactional to transformative relationships

One of my coaching clients was transactional in both his personal and work relationships. A Being Profile assessment revealed he had an unhealthy relationship with awareness, integrity, vulnerability and authenticity. This discovery supported him to understand that when his marriage failed several years prior, he shut down a part of himself and decided that to stay safe, all future relationships – personal and professional – would be transactional. This decision impacted his career and personal life for the next 15 years. 

Access to the Being Profile offered him a new level of awareness, and he could see what he had sacrificed in his life. He was lonely and craved the richness of authentic relationships. However, he had no idea how to achieve that until I supported him to understand that he would need to transition from a transactional to a transformative style of relationship building. My client’s unhealthy relationship with authenticity was evident in his perception of his marriage ending and what he made that mean about him. It impacted his career as one employer after another let him go. Instead of looking within, he blamed the employer every time. He simply could not see the reality of the situation. His life is very different today after transforming his relationship with awareness, authenticity and vulnerability. He enjoys the richness of having healthy relationships at work and in his personal life. This has given him immense peace of mind. 

Relationships that work in life are based on authenticity, vulnerability and awareness. The old corporate transactional relationships are a thing of the past; one could argue they never worked in the first place. Fortunately, businesses these days seem to be moving towards a preference for relationships that are transformative for all parties and stakeholders. If you are curious about how you might take the next step towards transforming how you build relationships and would like some support, I invite you to connect with me here.

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