I am incredibly grateful for the years of personal development work I have experienced, both as a participant and facilitator. I have spent the last 20 years taking classes, reading books, working with mentors, participating in seminars, coaching clients, and leading workshops, all in the interest of being a better man, a better partner, a better father, a better lover, a better facilitator and a better contributor to society. It has been a rewarding journey and, many times, excruciating—I’m not gonna lie. A consistent awareness that gets lost, however, is the understanding that the people around us are also individuals dealing with their own “stuff” from their own journey.
Knowledge of self is extremely important, yet I am not at all suggesting we give that exploration up to simply focus on others. What I am suggesting is this: As we grow, learn, and discover things about ourselves, that we also look for how those things may be expressed by others. By the time a couple finds me, or that I step into organizations that seek out my assistance, people are generally feeling depleted and in pure survival mode. From this place, it is almost impossible to consider the person in front of us, as we are completely focused on our needs that have not been getting met. While we may choose to “just take care of ourselves,” it is generally from a defensive and resentful position, versus one of self-love. It is one thing to lovingly take responsibility for fulfilling your own needs, instead of doing it with anger and animosity towards another; “I am just going to have to do ______ for myself since you aren’t going to.”
Our personal development journey, hopefully, gives us clarity on what is important to us, where our boundaries are, and the types of things that have us feel loved and secure. How do we use this knowledge to merge with others then?
We get to understand that each and every one of us is dealing with “something” in our lives. We have all been shaped by our past, we have all developed survival mechanisms and we all “act out” in ways that are based on these experiences. If we are willing to consider that the person reacting is doing so based on the way they are in relation to their past, then we may discover there is no reason—barring abuse—for us to be defensive. If my partner has had a long history of being talked-down-to and has developed her intellectual abilities so that she can never be out-debated, I get to recognize that engaging in debate with her would just be an unproductive, potentially hurtful approach. On the flip side, if she knows that my default is to first think that I have done something wrong, using debate strategies will only have me feel worse and drive a deeper wedge into our relationship.
This translates to organizations as well.
My parents taught school for 40 years, and for most of that time, I would hear them tell stories about how the administrators were a certain way. Administrators would say how the teachers were a certain way, and so on. Everyone believed they were right, the other was wrong. No one was willing to openly listen to the other and so the animosity just became a daily experience.
The solution, then, is to just stop it. Seriously.
When we can take a deep breath and be willing to hear each other out from a place of genuine curiosity and with an interest in a partnership, then things can shift rather quickly. In a romantic relationship, when we are not defending our position, we tend to get really interested in our partner. When this happens, we naturally begin working together toward common interests; those interests tend to include each other’s fulfillment.
Likewise, a unified organization with an interest in mutually beneficial outcomes fosters a happier and more productive work environment. Doing our own work while being interested in the work of our partner, co-worker or employees creates connection and loyalty and has the ability to take things to a whole new level.
What can you provide for yourself today? And, what are you willing to discover about your partner?
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