They see you making a choice and you’re not choosing them. Here’s how to have the conversation without a fight or guilt trip.
“Do you have to?”
For many entrepreneurs, managers, and executives, these are fighting words. They are the almost inevitable response you hear when you tell your spouse, partner, child, or friend that you can’t do what they want you to because you have to work.
Even if you tell them, they don’t really believe that you don’t have a choice. They see you making a choice and you’re not choosing them. They attack, nag, or pick a fight and you respond with angry defensiveness or silence because you’ve had this fight before and nothing good comes from it.
It’s possible to have this conversation without the usual fight and subsequent guilt trip.
Don’t Avoid the Conversation.
Once you know that your work is going to interfere with family time, couple time, or a scheduled event or social gathering, say so. Your tendency might be to keep the peace as long as possible by not mentioning it until it comes up but that avoidance only adds fuel to an already hot conversation. It shows respect for both the person and the event when you inform people that you’ll have to miss something. You’re showing that you are aware of them and of what’s important to them.
Tell the Person What You Want Them to Think.
Your impulse might be to say as few words as possible so that the conversation can end quickly. When you only offer a few words, your loved ones will likely assume that you don’t really care about missing an event or something that is important to them.
- Be prepared to really open up.
- Explain your genuine regret about lost time together. It’s totally ok if you’re not upset about missing the event.
- Be clear about missing the person.
- Don’t expect your person to care about your boss’ deadline or your coworkers counting on you. In that instance, all they’ll hear is that you care more about those people’s feelings than theirs.
Try explaining the reason why working is so important to you. What is your big goal? What are you hoping this time will accomplish? What is your dream? Why is this time away an investment in your future?
Try saying something like: “I really think I have a chance this month to increase my numbers by at least 20%. I haven’t met that goal yet and I have been trying so hard. I hate missing time with you this weekend but I really want a chance at nailing this thing at work. I hope you can understand that.” Your loved one will hear your emotional reason for why success is important to you and they are much more likely to buy in and agree to a compromise when you speak from the heart instead of offering cold logistics or your boss’ expectations.
Validate the disappointment without belittling the event or excuse making.
The word “just” is the nemesis of relationships in this crucial moment. Don’t try getting away with “It’s just a birthday party” or “We just saw them last month.” All anyone hears when you say that is your insistence that your priorities are more important than theirs. That well may be true but you certainly don’t have to say so!
Validate their disappointment and share your genuine disappointment, too. If you’re honestly glad to be shirking that responsibility, don’t pretend that you’re not but acknowledge how your not being there likely makes it harder for your person. You can also acknowledge the cost of time together and express disappointment in that.
Try to offer a Plan B or prioritize scheduling the next time you will spend time together.
You can show people they are important to you by making sure they see you scheduling them into your life, just as you do your work responsibilities. If you’re missing your child’s last soccer game of the season, make sure to schedule when the two of you are going out for a celebratory ice cream or when you’ll be able to see the video/pictures someone took of the game.
Offering this reassurance goes a long way the next time you have to have this hard talk. They’ll know they can count on you for making up the time, whenever possible.
Follow-up after the event to see how it was.
Your inclination might be to dodge any mention of the event after you missed it given the tension it caused. However, if you ask how it was, you are reinforcing your interest in theperson and what’s important to them.
Appreciate times when your work responsibilities are understood by your family and friends.
If your family sees that you notice when they’ve given you a get out of jail free card for missing an obligation, they’ll see that their support is a part of your success and they’ll see their role in your happiness.
Professional success does not have to come at the cost of your personal relationships.
You’ll always have to make compromises in order to be successful but your relationships don’t have to be one of them. If you take care of your relationships, they’ll take care of you.
Still Stuck? Need help getting started? Check out Heather’s free guide: How to be Successful and Happy.
Also by Heather Gray
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