How to heal the sick relationship epidemic
We’re in the midst of a sick relationship epidemic. The rise in sarcasm, rudeness, putdowns, violence, divorce, child abuse, sex trafficking, domestic terrorism, business closures, and the demonization of anyone who doesn’t think the way you do is undeniable. It’s scary and it’s sick.
To make matters worse, almost no one has ever received any formal relationship training. And that’s crazy. You need a license to cut hair or pour concrete, but you don’t need a license to raise kids or lead a team. It’s no wonder that so many relationships fail.
The good news is we’ve been researching relationships for decades. Relationship success is no longer a mystery. We know what works and doesn’t work. It’s just a matter of getting people to learn and apply these skills. Let me share ten of them with
► 1. Respect differences.
In the midst of our sick relationship epidemic, I wish every nasty Facebook post, Twitter tweet, Instagram image, and protest or riot signage was also required to carry an additional message. It would say:
It’s okay to have an opinion.
It’s okay to disagree with someone’s opinion.
It’s not okay to humiliate them because they don’t think the same way you do.
Show some respect.
After all, the research is abundantly clear. Differences are the source of positive power … when they’re acknowledged, respected, and utilized. The best solutions come out of robust discussion between a variety of people with a variety of talents, not from any attempt to shut up the so-called “other side.”
When it comes to your team, it’s counterproductive to waste your time trying to pound the differences out of the other person, trying to make them think and act just like you. Instead, use your differences as the starting point for more innovative solutions.
When it comes to your primary relationship, respect the differences. It will do wonders for your relationship.
As marriage therapists Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott say, “You’ll always find exceptions to the rule, but research and experience consistently point to a fundamental and powerful distinction between the sexes: Men focus on achievement; women focus on relationships. It sounds overly simplistic and it probably is. But remembering this general rule can save every couple wear and tear on their marriage and strengthen their bond.”
► 2. Have realistic expectations.
The Parrotts go on to say, “Before marriage, we don’t expect life to be all sunshine and roses, but we seem to expect marriage to be that way. Debunking the myth of eternal romance will do more than just about anything to help you build a lifelong, happy marriage.”
The same is true in corporate teams. Teams are just another way of getting things done. They are not the magic pill to solving all your problems at work. So expect your team to have some problems and realize that you will need to exercise some patience and skill to get to the outcomes you want.
► 3. Get an accurate perception
You’ve got to see the other person in your relationships for who they really are. Because it’s almost impossible to have a real-ationship with your fantasized version of someone.
Right now it’s especially evident in the political world. About half of the country sees one of the candidates as the incarnation of evil while the other half sees one of the candidates as the epitome of incompetence. Neither perception is accurate or helpful. And both perceptions will lead to disappointing if not destructive outcomes.
On a more personal level, the most dramatic loss experienced in a new marriage is the idealized image the two partners have of one another. Sooner or later, reality will hit the two people squarely in the face: that they did not marry the person they thought they did.
That’s why author John Fisher advises, “The success of a marriage comes not in finding the ‘right’ person, but in the ability of both partners to adjust to the real person they inevitably realize they married.”
Similarly, if you’re on a team at work, take some time to get to know each other. The more you understand each other’s strengths, use those strengths, and work around their weaknesses, the more effective your team relationships will be.
► 4. Engage in meaningful communication
Many couples think they know each other intimately, when in reality they live on a very superficial level. They talk on a functional level, talking about such things as “I’ll be home at five … or … Let’s have spaghetti for dinner.” And, if they’re not careful, they may very well drift apart.
Meaningful communication, on the other hand, is sprinkled with Brave Questions.
In other words, you ask questions that go deeper and go beyond everyday mundane conversation. Your questions could range from past regrets, to future dreams, to things you want to learn, places you want to go, feelings you are struggling with, and a thousand other topics you might never have explored.
Of course, this skill of “meaningful communication” applies to work teams as well. The team that takes time to ask questions, to listen, to get to know one another almost always produces more than the team that ignores this crucial step.
► 5. Remain goal focused
Chances are, at the beginning of every one of your personal or professional relationships, you had some goal for that relationship in the back of your mind. It might have ranged from having a life-long partner to working with someone who will challenge you to be your best.
Unfortunately, life gets in the way and people lose sight of their goals. Eventually they might even think, “How did we get here? … or … This is not what I signed up for.”
To prevent that from happening, you need to talk to your spouse, partner, friends, family members, team members, and your customers once in a while. You need to ask them the Brave Questions of “What is our goal for this relationship? How are we doing on that goal? And what changes do we have to make so we’re moving in the right direction?”
If you’re like most people, you’ve never asked or discussed those goal-focused questions. But if you’re like the few people who do so, you will experience an amazing strengthening of your relationship.
At the beginning of this Tuesday Tip, I said there are ten skills that will turn our sick relationship epidemic around. I just gave you five of them. You’ll get the next five skills in next week’s Tuesday Tip.
How to heal the sick relationship epidemic (Part 2)
Ever felt like something was missing from your life? Or your job?
If you’re like most people, the answer is certainly yes. Something seems to be missing some of the time.
But do you know what that is? What’s missing? Author Robert Brault provides a very good answer. He says, “When something is missing in your life, it usually turns out to be someone.”
Or to put it in my terms, it usually turns out to be that one of your relationships is less than effective. Whether it is that irritating coworker who never listens, a partner who never takes any initiative, or a service provider that doesn’t follow through, there’s something missing in each of those relationships.
However, you have the power to put a little magic into all of your personal or professional relationships by using ten skills. Last week I gave you the first five. Let’s go on to the next five skills.
► 6. Bring a positive attitude.
Few things are more contagious and powerful than attitudes. And the attitude you bring to your marriage or your team will have a HUGE impact on the results you get.
As the world’s leading authority on attitudes, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale declared, “There is a basic law that like attracts like. Negative thinking definitely attracts negative results. Conversely, if a person habitually thinks optimistically and hopefully, his positive thinking sets in motion creative forces, and success …instead of eluding him … flows toward him.”
► 7. Spend significant time together.
In today’s COVID-scared, riot-infested world, you will never build better, healthier, more effective, more cooperative relationships with anyone by throwing insults, putdowns, and bricks at those with whom you disagree. You build relationships at home, at work, and on the streets by spending time together.
And that’s not easy. After all, everybody’s busy. But when you take time, magic happens.
One of my clients, AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical company, knows about that. After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, most of the conventions pulled out of the city … which only lead to further financial devastation. But not AstraZeneca.
As Rick Reid told me, “After noticing neighborhoods and buildings in disarray, I noticed the eyes of the local people. Many looked tired and some seemed almost without hope. As I and my fellow coworkers began to work in their neighborhoods and struck up conversations with the locals, their faces changed from despair to glimmers of brightness. Many workers, waiters, housekeepers, and musicians came up to us and thanked us for coming. It was our presence there … it was our time spent with them … that seemed to signal the beginning of a return to normal.”
Rick has a lesson for all of us. If you want your relationship to work, if you want your team to succeed, then there’s no substitute for time. You’ve got to spend time with each other and on each other.
► 8. Build your friendship.
I saw a sign a while ago that read, “Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me either. Just pretty much leave me alone.”
Of course I chuckled, but I also thought how tragic if someone actually believed the sign.
The research says that happy marriages and effective teams are composed of people who have mastered the art of friendship. And like friends, the people in those relationships don’t leave or give up when the going gets tough. They encourage one another as well as hold each other accountable.
To make sure you’re on track with this, just ask yourself one question. Before you say or do anything to someone, ask yourself “Is that the way a really good friend would handle this?” If yes, go ahead. But if your answer is no, for God’s sake shut up or don’t do it.
► 9. Have some fun together.
All relationships take a tremendous amount of work. Even the best ones. If there is no fun to balance out the work, spouses, partners, and teammates begin to lose their motivation, energy and commitment.
And as you know, you don’t want that to happen. After all, it’s a lot easier to keep a fire burning than it is to start a new one.
And the less time you have for fun, the more you need it. As author William Feather (1889-1981) wrote, “Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn’t stop to enjoy it.”
► 10. Forgive each other.
Small, sick, insecure, unhealthy, hateful, destructive people are unwilling or incapable of forgiveness. When they don’t get their way, they strike out, trying to hurt, destroy, get back or get even with the offending party. They do the very opposite of relationship building.
Healthy people practice forgiveness instead. They build bridges instead of walls. When they hurt someone, they have no trouble in saying, “I’m sorry … I was wrong … Please forgive me”.
And when they get hurt, when the offending party reaches out to them in hopes of reconciliation, healthy people don’t hold grudges. They say, “Of course, I forgive you. Let’s talk about where we go from here.”
Of course, some of you will say, “I can’t forgive him for how he hurt my feelings … I’ll never forgive her for how she sabotaged me at work … and … I can’t let that person off the hook after all he did.”
If that sounds like you, you’ve got it all backwards. Forgiveness is not about letting the other person off the hook. It’s not about excusing the other person’s misbehavior. It’s about setting yourself free. It’s about letting go of your bitterness so you can go on with your life.
Final Thought: Relationships are not a matter of luck. They are the result of hard work. But you have the power to make any of your relationships more magical when you apply the ten skills we just discussed.
How to beat down the stress that is beating you down
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We may be living in one of the most stressful times in our lives. Some people are working an insane number of hours while millions of others have no work. Our economy is hurting badly and the lives of many people have been sacrificed to COVID-19.
So if you’re feeling more stress than usual, you’re normal. The trouble is you may have too much stress and too few stress-relieving weapons in your arsenal. As a result, you may be wearing down at work as well as at home. And one thing is for sure; you can’t be effective if you’re a victim of stress.
However, over the years I’ve learned dozens of quick and easy, powerful stress-busting techniques and I’m teaching them to my clients these days. Let me share five of them with you today.
I’ll warn you that these strategies may seem a bit soft or too touchy-feely for you. They may be outside your comfort zone. No problem. Just pick one or two of them to use when the stress is starting to weigh you down.
► 1. Change your thoughts. Think peace
To a large extent, your stress is controlled by your thoughts. The more you think, “I can’t take much more of this… I’ve had it… or… That’s not fair,” the more stress you’ll have. You’ve got to stop thinking those thoughts.
If you’re feeling too much stress, sit back, close your eyes, and picture the serenity that comes after a storm. Imagine that the turmoil within you has passed. All that remains is stillness. Try this exercise whenever you feel tense, nervous, and upset. You’ll be amazed at the calmness you can create.
► 2. Take time for quietness.
Of course, you may think you’ve got too much to do to stop and be quiet for a few minutes. But you will pay a price if you don’t.
Novelist Robert Louis Stevenson said: “Extreme busyness…is a symptom of deficient vitality.” Physicist Blaise Pascal said: “One of the ways in which man brings the most trouble upon himself is by his inability to be still.”
You know how you feel after a good night’s sleep. You feel stronger and more able to meet the day. Taking time for quietness during the day enables you to restore your vitality and energy. You’ll begin to understand what is happening. You’ll think more rationally, and your tension will diminish.
If you’re not doing this at present, I’d suggest you start with five or ten minutes a day. Find a private place and just sit there quietly. Don’t try to solve any of your problems. Don’t try to focus on anything. Don’t even focus on thoughts of peace as I suggested above. This is a different exercise with a different purpose. Just experience the calmness of silence and the quietness will work as a pressure releaser.
F.Y.I. Besides taking time for quietness, as point 2 indicates, you should also take time for self-empowering, stress-busting, continuing education. Enrollment for my next virtual 5-week Champion Edge Master Class starting in September is now open. Register now and save $100. Every Thursday, September 3-October 8 2020 5:00-6:30 pm Eastern (4 pm Central, 3 pm Mountain, 2 pm Pacific)
► 3. Behave with deliberate patience.
Yes, I know that patience isn’t always easy. I remember a golfer who had trouble sinking his ball. The ball just wouldn’t go where he wanted it to go. Finally, after many strokes, he got the ball in the cup. Then with a look of hatred, he took the ball out, placed it on the ground and pounded it into the earth with his club. I don’t know how his game went after that, but I can’t believe that his lack of patience served him very well. If nothing else, he lost the respect of the onlookers, not to mention his own self-respect.
However, you can become patient by simply acting that way. The mind-body connection is tremendously powerful. When you start moving a bit more slowly, a bit more deliberately and less erratically, your whole body and mind take on an aura of calmness and control. Certainly there are times when you must move quickly, but for the most part, don’t.
► 4. Refuse to worry.
There’s a lot of research that says worrying actually increases the chances of bad things happening. If you worry a lot about getting sick, you’ll probably get sick more often. If you worry about getting into a car accident, your uptightness will make you a poorer driver who has more accidents.
The way to refuse worry is to replace it with a counteracting force. Whenever a worry pops into your mind and starts to give you stress, replace the worry with a powerful positive sentence. Your mind can’t have two thoughts at once and positive thoughts, held long enough, always overcome negative thoughts.
John Evan Jones, a newspaperman, told a story about his experiences in London during the bombings of World War II. He had a maiden aunt who was a strong, resolute, religious woman who lived alone.
After each bombing raid, John would visit his aunt to see that she was all right. He noticed that on the wall she kept a motto which read, “Don’t worry, it may never happen.”
One night it did happen. A bomb fell close to the house knocking out every window and smashing all her fine china. Rushing to look in on her, John found her calmly sweeping up. Still hung on the wall was her motto.
“What will you do with your motto now?” he asked. “Oh my,” she responded. “I forgot to turn it over.” She did, and on the reverse side it said, “We can take it.”
► 5. Picture success.
When you vividly picture a desired goal or an answer to a problem you will eventually reach your goal or solve your problem. Even before that, however, your picture will give you hope and renewed energy – which in turn reduces your stress.
This was the method used by Henry Royce, the creator of the Rolls Royce automobile. Henry dreamed of the day when people could drive a car without the constant threat of breaking down.
It was an incredible challenge for Royce, but in his mind he had the image of a completely reliable car. To that end, he manufactured a “bumping machine” that was like driving a car over railroad tracks at 60 miles per hour. Parts broke, pieces fell off, frames bent, and rear axles gave way. As each weakness was revealed, Royce used his ingenuity to make corrections.
Finally, the day came when Royce’s car could run the equivalent of 250,000 miles without the failure of a single part. Royce had achieved his goal. The image he had formed of a reliable car became a reality.