Nurturing your relationships - part two

In last week’s blog, I asked the following questions: Have you watched a relationship that you are or were in deteriorate and die? Is that presently going on in your company or in your personal life? I’d bet the answer is yes for the clear majority of you. Would you like to make sure this doesn’t happen for you? Would you too like to rehabilitate a broken relationship?

If the answer to those questions is yes, there are several lessons that you must learn. Lesson #1 is that you MUST NOT run away from disappointments in your relationships. Disappointments in relationships are predictable and inevitable. The reason for this is that we always have expectations of others and sooner or later, those expectations will be unfulfilled. It’s the rare person who will just allow others to be the way they are and not want them to be different. So YOU WILL BE DISAPPOINTED.

But if you are like most, you will tend to not communicate your disappointments because of the fear of confrontation. THAT IS A BAD DECISION! The consequences of NOT communicating are ALWAYS worse than the risk associated with communicating.

Lesson #2 is that you must communicate your upsets and disappointments appropriately. Whenever you are disappointed, it is ALWAYS because the other person is not fitting your pictures. So instead of attacking them and making them wrong, communicate responsibly by saying “My expectations of you that are unfulfilled are …” or “I’m disappointed in you or our relationship in that …”

Communicate calmly, with respect and compassion. After all, there is another human being on the other side of the communication. But also be open and straight. Don’t beat around the bush.

Lesson #3 is that you must make it safe for others to communicate their upsets and disappointments with you to you. If you don’t do this and they don’t communicate, I guarantee they will eventually kill off the relationship. How do you make it safe? When people talk to you, listen with compassion. Just get their communication. Don’t respond, don’t react, don’t listen that they are making you wrong and don’t take it personally (and it is personal).

When they get done communicating, don’t justify your behavior. When people are upset, they are not interested in your justification. They just want you to hear them. Instead, just apologize. It will give them an experience of being heard and allow them to forgive you.

I am convinced, after 30+ years of working in organizations and participating in life, that the biggest challenge for all of us is keeping our relationships clean, fresh, nurturing and alive. Why? Because we haven’t learned these three lessons. I promise you that if you take this on, it will make an enormous difference in your life and in the lives of the people you are in relationship with.

Because of space limitations, I have, of necessity, discussed this in summary fashion. If you want to learn more, this process is covered in detail in Chapter 15 of Unshackled Leadership. You can order your copy at

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