Three Qualities that Improve Every Relationship

Three Qualities that Improve Every Relationship


I’ve hired many people … and fired only a few.

My best co-workers thrived because of three key character qualities. The disappointing ones struggled because they lacked the very same qualities.

I’ve noticed an identical dynamic in friendships, marriages and ministries, all of which either thrived or withered to the degree that people cultivated humility, teachability and flexibility.

Humility is the quality of having a modest view of one’s own importance, rank or abilities. It includes a recognition that you don’t have all the answers, that you may be wrong at times and that others may have better insights, wisdom and abilities in certain areas than you do (see Prov. 15:33; Prov. 18:12; Prov. 22:4; Phil. 2:3-4).

Teachability is the quality of being able, willing and eager to learn from others. It includes an appreciation for the gifts, abilities and experiences of others and a recognition that you can benefit and grow by listening to and learning from them (see Prov. 13:1; Prov. 15:22; Prov. 15:31; Prov. 19:20).

Flexibilty is the quality of being able to easily modify your own opinions, goals and actions. It includes the ability to adapt to new information, change course, compromise on non-moral issues, and value other’s interests as highly as your own (see Prov. 22:3; 1 Sam. 25:32-35; Phil. 2:3-4; Matt. 21:32; Luke 22:42).

These three qualities are mutually supporting. The more you exercise any one of them, the easier and more natural it becomes to exercise the others.

Warning Signs

What does it look like when people are not humble, teachable and flexible?

  • They are blind to their limitations and puffed up about their abilities.
  • They love to draw attention to themselves.
  • They don’t take notes, ask questions, read books with differing views or enjoy learning from others.
  • They resent and resist advice and correction.
  • They quickly point out flaws or failures of others.
  • They refuse to admit when they’re wrong.
  • They blame others rather than taking responsibility for problems.
  • They resist moving out of their comfort zone, personally, relationally and vocationally.
  • They stubbornly hold to questionable opinions, goals and practices.

As a result, their friendships are typically shallow and fragile, their marriages are unfulfilling and often fail, and they experience little growth or satisfaction in their careers.

Positive signs

What does it look like when you are steadily cultivating humility, teachability and flexibility?

  • You are aware of and honest about both your strengths and limitations.
  • You actually enjoy affirming and praising others.
  • You take notes when others are speaking, ask questions that reveal your limitations, have a hunger for reading books that expose you to new perspectives, and truly enjoy learning from others.
  • You are comfortable seeking advice and receive correction without becoming defensive.
  • You charitably cover over others’ mistakes and failures.
  • You’re quick to admit when you’re wrong or mistaken.
  • You take responsibility for your contribution to a problem before addressing what others have done.
  • You are willing to stretch yourself by exploring new ideas, accepting new responsibilities and developing new skills.
  • You are able to change opinions, goals and practices as you acquire new information and grow in wisdom.

As you continue to develop and practice these qualities, every relationship and activity in your life will benefit.

Your friends will love sharing the ups and downs of their lives with you. Your marriage can become the safest and most enjoyable and secure relationship you could imagine. And your career can follow a steady upward course as you constantly learn from your co-workers and find joy in advancing their goals as much as your own.

Humility … teachability … flexibility. Three qualities that can improve every relationship in your life.

– Ken Sande

Reflection Questions

  1. How do the qualities of humility, teachability and flexibility mutually reinforce and support one another?
  2. How do these three qualities contribute to better friendships?
  3. Why are these three qualities essential to a fulfilling and durable marriage?
  4. How do these three qualities contribute to better job performance and career advancement?

Permission to distribute: Please feel free to download, print, or electronically share this message in its entirety for non-commercial purposes with as many people as you like.

© 2017 Ken Sande

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19 Responses to "Three Qualities that Improve Every Relationship"
  1. Humility, Teachability, Flexibility are apparent in the people we like to be with. Humility is valued by others as the person who has humility is interested in a different viewpoint from their own and realize the best solutions are when you have input from different sources. People with teachability are interested in learning about many different topics and are by nature curious. Flexibility–not being rigid in your thoughts and actions reduces stress and these people are willing to adapt to new information that may change actions. People that you enjoy working with have all three of these traits–we need more of this!

  2. It is always very nice to come across people to that can accept and change when they have an opportunity and also the willingness to move forward in their careers and personal life.

  3. I believe that without having humility,teachability,an flexibility there’s no balance. humility is the same to me like being humble,being greatful for things, that goes into talking about teachability if your not a person that is willing to listen before talking it gives a person the enable to comprehend or to understand…being teachable is like having the means to understand an evaluate an situation whether big or small,which now plays into being able to being flexable having flexibility is being able to understand others an listen without judgement.

  4. Definitely see these attributes in a successful marriage. Surprisingly, if I think about it, flexibility is the one that many marriages lack. You are always “rolling with the punches” in a marriage.

  5. I believe the three attributes: flexibility, teachability, and humility are all equal important in all relationships because they aid and assist us in changes, growth and awareness of self.

  6. They have impacted my life tremendously to be able to make wise decisions in my personal and professional life. I often remind myself that the decisions that I make do not only impact me but others around me.

  7. Being Humble is something that is instilled into you as a child. Yes there are some situations in our adult life that will cause us to be humble, yet sometimes there is hurt before we learn the actual lesson.

  8. Humility, Teachability and Flexibility. Relationships eb and flow and without the humility to frequently check in with the other person, and learn from them, honoring what gifts and perspectives they contribute, then we can’t relate to the extent that we need to for the relationship to flourish. My biggest struggle is being flexible….like it work last time, why doesn’t it still work? Being flexible to adapt to the other person in their challenges is huge in maintaining a positive trajectory in a relationship.

  9. Humility, Teachability and Flexability benefits everyone in the work place and at home.
    You’ll have a great relationship with others if you internalize and practice these characteristics.
    You will definately be a happier person.
    Life is harder when you do not possess these traits in your character.

  10. Humility, flexibility and teachability are vital in all walks. Being surrounded by people who demonstrate these qualities and striving to be a person with these qualities will foster a healthy environment for the here and now and for future perpetuation of that health in generations to come. Living by example speaks volumes those around us (at home, in the workplace and in social situations).

  11. These three qualities are “must haves” if you want to succeed in your personal and professional life.

  12. This blog post really hit home. I have been working on adding more humility to my life for several years now and I have a long way to go. I really appreciated your description of what it looks like to be humble, teachable, and flexible. Though it is easy to lie to yourself about not having those qualities, when you look at the descriptions, they can really shed a light on some areas that seriously need some work. I also appreciated all of the Bible verses to support those qualities. Thank you!

  13. When operating within the principles of humility, teachability and flexibility
    we have the ability to change opinions. This is a powerful concept for
    leaders to embrace for bringing about necessary change in an organization.
    Embracing our personal need/responsibility for humility will allow us to address needed change
    and still respect the people that we asking to change.

  14. These three qualities, when embraced, will even allow leaders to change the opinions of others.
    With humility we can challenge opinions of those around us and ask team to embrace needed changes.

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