When people mention the word “relationship,” more times than not, it is in reference to the romantic kind. This is one of those things we automatically picture in our minds with that word; this is generally our default even though we know that there are other types of relationships.
I coach couples on their relationship to each other, I coach individuals on their relationships to their selves, I coach business owners on their relationships to their customers and clients. In most cases, my basic approach is usually the same. Sure, there are nuances. If you are really interested in expanding and deepening, however, your attention to relationships is what will facilitate that.
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and have been in and around the entertainment industry most of my life. One thing that we have all heard, and said, is that “it’s all who you know.” Many take this philosophy to mean that they need to meet as many people as possible in order to be successful. They go to every party, hang out in every hotspot and do everything possible to be connected with someone who can help them in some way.
For the most part, this does not work, because it is really all about your relationships with the people you know. Do they like you as a person? Do they trust you to deliver whatever is required? Do they “know” you in an authentic way? Most importantly, are you interested in more than what they can do for you? As a filmmaker, I have had several aspiring actors contact me upon moving here, email me saying: “I am here, hire me.” Um, no. I don’t even know you.
I recently met with faculty at a university who were looking at ways to become more inclusive and repair their relationship with the student body. While this involves more people and more working parts than a personal relationship, we all could very quickly see that the thing that was missing was creating partnership inside of their relationship. Much like a husband who says he doesn’t know what his wife wants and that wife expecting him to already have all the answers, in forming a partnership between the faculty and students, similar conversations—and commitments—would need to be in place. “What do you want and need?” “What works for you and what does not?” “How may I contribute to you today?” At the end of the day, aren’t these the questions we want to be asked by our significant others and then have delivered? In this case, the significant others are the faculty and students.
Then, there is our relationship to ourselves. In the same way that it is ridiculous for our romantic partner to expect us to know what they want and like at all times, most of us have no clue what we really like and want for ourselves. Sure, I know I like pizza, but what feels good to me? What are the things that excite me and fill me up? How do I even feel about myself? If you are anything like me, the only times you have been able to answer these questions is when asked by a therapist or inside of seminar—and only those times. It wasn’t until I was assigned this as a daily practice that I really got to know myself, and to realize that “knowing myself” was going to be an on-going process of discovery.
Why would I want to know myself? So that ultimately, I would know what I need and desire to feel more fulfilled in my life.
Why would I want to know my partner? So that I could experience a more-fulfilling relationship by knowing and delivering on her wants and needs; with her doing the same for me, because I now know what they are.
Why would I want to know the people that I work with, or could potentially work with? So that we can create on a deeper and more intimate level, producing even greater projects together.
I get that while seeing all of this through a relationship lens can sometimes seem daunting, my actual experience has been that it simplifies things quite a bit. It may initially seem more daunting, simply because we have not been taught effective relationship skills. I honestly cannot think of one thing that I learned about relationships in school, other than “survive.” Unfortunately, we have no skills, we enter romantic relationships figuring everything will just work out as long as we are with the right person, we enter professional relationships with the same mindset and do not even consider our relationship with ourselves, and so, nothing ever seems to work out. If you look at the “dating and relationship” industry, many of those books and programs are about “getting something,” or more to the point, “getting someone.”
Nobody wants to feel “gotten,” like they are some kind of trophy. At a deep level, what we really desire is to feel heard, loved and understood. If you can build all of your relationships from here, you will find them to be much more fulfilling for everyone involved. It is a much different conversation, coming from “How can I serve you and your needs,” than it is from “How can I get you to pay for my services?” Similarly, in a romantic relationship, everything is experienced differently, coming from “What can we create together” versus “How can I get my needs met?”
Circling back to my meeting at the university, the student body that feels disconnected and has their list of demands, wants to feel connected more than having that list of demands met. It is important to fulfill that list. A faculty coming from the larger viewpoint of “How can we truly serve our students,” however, will actually open up the conversations that will reveal things that would make even more of a difference to students than the list. The partnership that can be created will ensure a successful working relationship for years to come. Just like it would with a marriage.
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