I discovered something years ago as I swam the shark infested waters of my relationship with my sister. I’d like to share this observation with you in hopes you too, can avoid getting eaten. Before I explain what I discovered, I should give you a little information about the relationship my sister and I developed over the years. First, I must tell you she passed away this last year and it was a sad day, indeed. No matter how controversial our relationship was at times, I loved her dearly. In fact, I called her every morning before I drove to work and most everyday as I drove home.
My sister and I were very different in many ways, but the same in others. She was a liberal socialist that believed all the money should be divided evenly between everybody no matter what job you had or how hard you worked. Well, that wasn’t exactly her stance, but it’s in the ball park. On the other hand, I am a conservative capitalist that believes it is our responsibility to help those less fortunate but compensation should match effort and impact of the work done.
We also found ourselves at odds on many other things. She was adamant about women’s rights, while I liked to focus on the rights of all people: men, women, children, the elderly and the unborn. I think it goes like this: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Don’t they call it the Bill of Rights? We also disagreed on religion and government.
So what did we have in common? It’s simple. We loved each other. So since we had so much territory for disagreement, how did we talk so often with only minor problems? That’s a great question so let me explain.
You would think that we must have limited the areas that could be considered open for discussion. You would be wrong. All topics were fair game, but there were rules of engagement. First, every call started with topics that were not controversial and allowed us to warm up before we opened up. Our favorite topic was the weather. “It’s hot here today in Texas,” I would say. “Hot here in Oklahoma as well,” she would respond. You can’t get in trouble starting with the weather. We can’t control it but we can sure complain about it.
Next, she would ask about my family after which I would ask about hers. It let me practice my active listening skills. Just about now things would always turn a little more serious. So what would that be? Politics! I won’t tell you which side I would take, but you can probably guess. She saw the world in a completely different way than did I. She owned her own business in crime prevention and later was a counselor at a prison pre-release center. She was a first responder for rape victims in her town and held group sessions for pre-release inmates.
If God keeps track of the good you do, he had to get extra paper for my sister’s unselfish acts. I on the other hand, am a singer/song writer/dreamer turned businessman by necessity. A successful businessman by the way, so my view of the elephant was completely different than hers. So, to have successful discussions about anything other than the weather, we had to establish rules.
First Rule: either party had the right to call timeout. It had to be accepted by the other partner, no matter what. This usually occurred when the conversation became just too emotional and crossed over the line from helpful to hurtful.
Second Rule: the person calling time out should pick a future time to continue the conversation and that was what usually happened. However, sometimes the topic was too much for us to handle in a gentle manner and was postponed indefinitely. This happened rarely, but it did happen. Abortion was one of those topics. It was just too emotional for us to speak about without damaging our relationship.
Third Rule: when she told me about a problem she was having, I often offered advice. This almost always ended the meaningful part of the conversation. One day my wife gave me the book, MenarefromMarsandWomenarefromVenus. I wish I had read this 20 years sooner. But it wasn’t too late for me to change. So I did. When my sister would tell me about a problem she was having, I followed these rules and it worked.
⚪ Support her feeling of frustration
⚪ Assure her that she would come up with the correct answer, as she had many times before when faced with tough decisions
⚪ Only offer advice when specifically asked for advice
Fourth Rule: the red card disconnect. Here’s how it works. I want you to think of a soccer player (European football). The player is in the middle of the field surrounded by a few other players, but mostly open spaces. The game is being played fairly with no obvious fouls and you are only thinking about playing A game. Then it happens, you turn to tackle the ball away from a competitor and trip him instead. The referee is sure you did it on purpose and up comes the yellow card. You put your face in both hands, and raise them to the sky, proclaiming your innocence, but to no avail. You’re marked as an offender. You’re now being watched and many believe getting the red card is just a matter of time. Every mistake you make is magnified, with no tolerance or understanding that you’re only human.
At every turn the red card is just one misstep away. Why are they looking at you so differently than before? Because your offense has disconnected you from the mainstream. Just make the slightest mistake and you’ll be dismissed from the field of play. As an offender, you never gets the benefit of the doubt.
Now think about a relationship. When you are connected you can make a few minor missteps, but because of your connection, all is forgiven. Your words aren’t misinterpreted and you’re given the benefit of the doubt. You are, by the way, human and humans are not infallible. There is no ill intent driving the behavior and therefore no future bad behavior should be expected. But what if you already had a yellow card? What if the connection was already in jeopardy? If you and your partner or even you and your customer aren’t close, every word is suspect.
When you are disconnected, every mistake is magnified. Here’s what happens. The slightest misstep, the most innocent comment, a glance away or a shrug of the shoulders and you guessed it, the red card. You’re dismissed from the field. I know relationships that are played like this and I bet you do, too. These relationships are almost broken and just one foul away from the red card. Don’t let this happen to you.
Most Important Rule: don’t let the disconnect linger or minor offenses will be perceived as flagrant fouls and the red card isn’t far behind. Fix that small disconnect now.
Next week find out how to use the dying art of the handwritten word to stay connected or reconnect.
The last stage of the disconnect is built on a foundation of unmetexpectations, promisesmadeandbroken, and wordssaidinanger. For this discussion, let’s accept that those behaviors have now become habit instead of a rare occurrence and that there has been no acceptance of responsibility and no reconciliation.
Since promisesmadeandbroken are never your fault, someone else is always responsible. It’s always someone else’s fault – your job, your parents, or even the government. But at this point you may have deluded yourself into believing it’s all your partner’s fault. You are the victim. Without accepting your mistakes as your own, change is nearly impossible. Bad behaviors are repeated again and again. Promises made and broken become the expectation in the relationship.
Because it takes promises made and fulfilled to build trust, at this point in the disconnect, there is no trust. The foundation is crumbling all around you. Think of the picture of the connected hands, all fingers intertwined. In all the other stages the hands still touch, even though they are moving apart, they are still connected. But not at this stage. The longer the relationship resides in this sad state, the less chance of reconnection.
Wordssaidinanger but never followed by a sincere apology deepen the disconnect. I didn’t call the promise broken by chance. Broken denotes that it could take a significant effort to repair. Also realize that all broken promises don’t have the same impact or leave the same scar. “Sorry I’m late for dinner. I promised I would call but I just forgot. It’s my fault. Sorry”. Yes, it’s a broken promise but forgivable and connection can be repaired.
Let me share something with you and maybe you can help me see this a different way. I always struggle with connection between forgiving and forgetting. I believe I am able to forgive, but I must be honest, I never forget. So what if forgiving must be coupled with forgetting, does that mean I am incapable of forgiving? Let’s talk about that more at a later date and I promise I will be responsible for scheduling that discussion. Now back to the disconnect.
Wordssaidinanger not followed by a sincere apology deepen the disconnect. When this behavior becomes more frequent, a new evil might appear, passive aggressive behavior. The passive aggressive person expresses their anger by cloaking it in a veil of acceptance. They rarely say what they really feel. The behavior can manifest itself in words or actions.
In many ways, passive aggressive behavior is more destructive than voicing anger directly. I saw a term once that fits this person perfectly: Afraid to Rage. No open warfare here, but casualties by subterfuge causing the divide to get wider.
But what about other broken promises? What about infidelity? What about abuse? What about behaviors that endanger the whole family? What about the words, “I never loved you?” Some behaviors create scars that can’t be healed. With the continuation of these damaging behaviors trust is just a word and not a behavior. Trust is the glue that holds it all together. All broken promises hurt, but some hurts are repairable and some just are not. You can’t always find all of Humpty Dumpty’s pieces, much less put them back together.
Now I’m going to get myself in trouble. Should I apologize ahead of time? We will see. I look at fidelity in two different ways, but with a commonality. Fidelity is a promise. Wikipedia says “Fidelity is the quality of faithfulness or loyalty.” So, fidelity is the promise of faithfulness. Companies expect fidelity from their employees and try to assure there is no misunderstanding by requiring a signed legal contract stating the acts that would constitute infidelity.
When we marry, we sign a document as well, but more important we verbally promise this fidelity. We traditionally call it a vow. To me, a vow is a promise of higher order, similar to an oath but slightly different. In old England if I were a Knight, I would swear allegiance to the King. I would take an oath. I would vow to defend the Crown. If I were a Monk during that same time, I would make my vows. This would be a transaction between the monk and God. The fidelity promise is a solemn vow to fulfill your commitment. So, of all the promises broken, this can be one of the hardest from which to recover. A promise made in front of man and God.
What about abuse? It comes in all forms – physical, verbal and emotional. It can be physical, causing injury or emotional leaving even deeper scars. I must admit to you that this behavior is one I cannot understand and probably would struggle to forgive. Many times the victim believes it is somehow their fault. They think they have brought the abuse on to themselves. This is not true. Get out and get help – right now.
Am I saying if the relationship has become this divided that there is no way back? No. Never say never. But the way back takes major commitments on both sides. It may also take significant concessions from both partners. In most cases when the disconnect is this complete, only a professional can help the couple repair the damage.
Something to remember at this point is from one of my earlier blogs, the impact of time. The longer you allow the complete disconnect to occur, the less chance there is of a reconnection. Start repairing it now.
How do you reconnect after this? Maybe you don’t. But maybe there’s just one more chance. In the worst of all situations there’s always hope. Don’t be passive aggressive, say what you are feeling. When you make a mistake, own it, and then apologize quickly and sincerely. After you apologize, change your ways, discontinue the toxic behavior. This is your new mantra: Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions. Practice fidelity in all things. Don’t suffer any type of abuse.
Next week’s post, The Luck Connection asks, “How can a dime change your life?”
The second stage in the path to disconnect comes in two parts. The first is promisesbroken. We know that promises made and fulfilled strengthen a relationship. As you might guess, the opposite is also true. The second phase of disconnection begins with promisesmadeandbroken. These are the things said or done that may go unnoticed by the offender, but are a sharp sting to the recipient. Don’t fool yourself. These are small promises, but they add up. Home late from work without the promised call. Forgetting date night planned for Saturday. Not going to his baseball game because something came up.
Some philosophers tell you to think about promises as though they were a bank account. When you do what you promise, no matter how small, you put credits in the trust account. If you build your relationship the right way, the bank account always has a surplus of credits. This surplus allows you to break a few promises and still have a positive balance. You think you are doing just fine. But this is FALSE. Promises are sacred. Honor in life is everything and honor is built on the foundation of the promises made and kept. Never take a promise lightly. Not the small ones and especially the ones you make to yourself or your maker.
Trust is the foundation of all healthy relationships. Relationships between individuals, companies and countries. To be honest, I can’t think of a thing I do all day that doesn’t rely on trust. Here are some examples: I get out of bed and trust that my alarm clock was set correctly last night. I walk to the bathroom, trusting that I moved the dog’s tennis ball so I wouldn’t step on it in the dark. I trust the toothpaste I use is safe to brush my teeth. I take a hand full of vitamins and trust that the manufacturers have good quality control of the ingredients. I trust my car will start, I will get to work safely and still have a job. All that trust is built on experiences. Successful experiences, after promises were made and kept. Make a promise. Keep that promise. Build trust. A Steveism – Trustisnotgivenitisearned.
So, if the glue that holds everything together from personal relationships to countries is trust and trust is making promises and keeping them, broken promises undermine the very foundation on which our lives are built.
If promisesmadeandbroken is the first sin in this phase of disconnection then wordssaidinanger is the second. You’ve probably heard the rule about fighting fair in a relationship. Personally, I believe that fighting in a relationship is wrong. Discussing and disagreeing are natural and healthy, but to me, fighting means somebody loses. When one person loses in a relationship, you both lose.
It’s not easy, but you must learn to take responsibility for your actions. No excuses. Don’t say “I got mad because you said…” “I couldn’t come to your game because I…” You either broke a promise or did something hurtful. The operative word is you. Take responsibility for your actions. That’s what we do to grow as individuals and partners. We all make mistakes. We are human and fallible, so step up. Take responsibility.
I love what is taught in the Buddhist religion. If you have the right thoughts in your head, you will say the right things. If you say the right things you will do the right actions. Simple to say, not so easy to do. But all great things start with a beginning.
When you are wrong, you need to sincerely apologize. “I should have started earlier from work because I knew the traffic can be bad. It’s my fault I was late for your game and I’m very sorry.” “There is no excuse for me losing my temper. I am embarrassed by my actions. I’m so sorry I hurt you.”
In most cases, taking responsibility and apologizing honestly and sincerely can repair the damage. But don’t misunderstand, taking these two actions doesn’t have much value unless you also work on changing those behaviors in the future. Words are great, but right actions build trust.
How do you know you are on the right track? What helps hold you accountable? Write a mission statement. State what you believe in and how you will act on those beliefs. Before you break a promise or speak in anger, look at your mission statement. Are the words or the actions you are considering aligned with your mission statement? If not, don’t say it and don’t do it.
My mission statement is pretty simple. I want every one’s life that touches mine to be a little better because they knew me. Sounds a little Pollyanna doesn’t it? You’re right. It is. But it works. All the time? No. I’m human just like you and I make mistakes, but I always gravitate back to my mission. If you don’t have a mission statement, get one.
✔ Write a Mission Statement
✔ Live By Your Mission
✔ Make promises you intend to keep.
✔ Take promises seriously.
✔ Build trust on the back of those promises.
✔ Think before you speak.
✔ Do no harm.
✔ Take responsibility for your actions
✔ Sincerely apologize
✔Change Negative Behaviors
✔Be the Person Your Dog Thinks You Are
Wow! Don’t miss the next post dealing with passive aggressive behavior, infidelity and abuse.
Before I jump off this cliff, let me tell you I am not a professional in these matters. Although I’ve left a few broken relationships by the roadside as I motored through life (driving a bit too fast while listening to rock and roll blaring on the radio) I am not trained in marriage counseling. I guess that makes me knowledgeable by experience if not by education. I’m a student of life, educated in the classroom of experience. I have been both an observer and a participant. I have watched what worked in relationships and what failed. I began observing these scenarios at a very early age.
My childhood years had my family living in more than 20 cities by the time I was five. My dad was on an oil exploration crew so our address was either the motel we were in today or the one down the road where we’d be tomorrow. My mom said their nights were filled with loud music, dancing and lots of drinking. But somehow Dad got up the next day and did it all over again. In most of the motels there was not a baby crib so I slept in a drawer. As far as I know, they kept the drawer open!
By the age of 5, I knew that when a voice was raised over a normal level something bad was about to happen. Antagonistic tones could be loud but really soft tones were just as terrifying. These things I learned closer to the age of 10, as I sat quietly listening and wondering why. I found that anger was frightening but even worse was disappointment. Angry tones could come quickly but soon faded. The words of disappointment hung in the room like the smoke from too many cigarettes. By the time I reached junior high I realized that my parents were just staying together for me. They were committed to being parents for my sake. But don’t misunderstand, one thing I knew with certainty was that I was loved. Unconditionally loved. And knowing I was loved was enough. It was enough.
My blogs deal with the joy of connection and the pain of disconnection . I was deeply connected to both my parents but I could see their disconnection from each other. I would say I learned much in my early years by observing but I have learned even more in the 35 years I’ve been married, not by observing but by living and loving.
I have a great marriage, and it is great because we work at making it that way every day. A friend once asked, “Aren’t there just days when you can coast?” The answer is a resounding “NO.” A relationship is just like a car. When you put it in neutral, you’re going nowhere. This is true in business relationships as well as personal ones. But for this blog, let’s get personal.
To examine actions that could reconnect a relationship it’s important to know the extent of the disconnect. Let me explain my reasoning. If I think about friends’ marriages I have tried to save over the last 30 years, I am batting zero. I haven’t been able to save even one. If you were hoping I had some magic advice that could put things back together, I’m sure you’re getting a little concerned at this point. Before you give up on me let me explain my poor score. In each case the marriage was completely disconnected. The distance between them was too far and they had suffered the pain for too long. There was no way back. They were each lost in a sea of lies and disappointment. All my help accomplished was to delay the inevitable. I know this sounds hopeless and depressing, but there really is hope. Many relationships can be saved long before the final divide. Let’s focus on those.
There is a change in relationships that happens but is not part of the disconnect. It is a time of adjustment. This is not the beginning of disconnect, butrathera reversal of connectionadvocates within the relationship. Let me explain. The partner that desires the connection the most will initiate actions to keep the connection intact. These actions could be physical or verbal but they have one main purpose, to maintain closeness. Within the relationship this responsibility to be the advocate who protects and maintains the connection will change from partner to partner throughout the life of the relationship.
This positioning might look like a weakening of the bond but, in fact, is only a natural handoff of the torch. In a good relationship the intimacy leadership role gets passed back and forth many times over the span of years. This is not only healthy but desirable. A colleague once said it perfectly when asked how he and his wife achieved a long and happy marriage. “We have been married a long time because we never fell out of love at the same time. One of us was enough in love to be willing to sacrifice and work on the marriage when the other had given up.” That’s an amazing statement, isn’t it? It may very well be the most important ingredient to a long and happy marriage.
When the relationship begins to disconnect, it comes in three stages. Three conditions that weaken the connection before full disconnect occurs.
The first part of this stage is unrealisticexpectations. When a relationship begins to develop we begin to have expectations about what it could become. The extent and the type of our expectations depends on many things. One thing that seems to be the most influential is our past experience. How were we treated as a child? Did we live in a world of reality? What was that reality? Did we learn to take responsibility for our own happiness or did we grow up depending on others to satisfy our needs, and did they? What causes some people to expect more from their partner than the partner is able or willing to give? I wish I knew the answer.
Unrealisticexpectations can be evidenced everywhere. When we expect more than a person has the ability to give, we lose. The people involved feel like they failed. I disagree with those who believe failure is a motivator. I believe, in a relationship more times than not, failure is just failure. Too many times in a relationship we believe our love or caring can cause the other person to rise above their level and become more. This might be true to some extent, but how much more can they grow is the question. Again, if we are unrealistic in our expectations then we both lose. But wait a minute, what if my expectations are unrealistic but I find this amazing partner who meets them all? First, pinch yourself because you are either dreaming or you are the luckiest person I’ve ever met. For now, let’s assume there is a remote possibility that an unrealisticexpectation could be met.
So maybe the real issue is not unrealisticexpectations but the second part of this stage, unmetexpectations, whether unrealistic or not. These expectations may be totally reasonable but still not met. What is reasonable for one person might be completely unreasonable for another. Reasonable depends on your frame of reference. We all see the world through different glasses. Each layer of the lens is crafted by our experiences, good and bad. It can be very hard to take off those glasses. Most people believe that meeting our basic needs is the least we should expect from a relationship. But these needs might still go unmet. You’re a loving person. You’re faithful and respectful. You deserve the same in return. Is that too much to ask?
Expectations may also change as we age. This can create problems when the expectations of one partner don’t change to meet the expectations or even the ability of the other. I have a son that is 26 years old. I asked him how his relationship expectations have changed since he was a teenager. He said that when he was younger he looked for a girlfriend that was fun to be with. That’s right, just fun and not much else. At 26 his expectations are different. He said he now looks for a girl that has parental qualities. Unsure of what he meant by parental, I asked him to explain. He told me that parental means nurturing, kind, thoughtful and looking out for your best interests. Someone mature enough to hold up her end of the relationship. A woman, not a girl. Seems reasonable to me.
So what about me? What are my expectations? I still expect honesty and faithfulness, but now more than ever, I expect passion. Passion can come in many packages. It can be defined in many ways. I like what Wikipedia says, “Passion may be an eager interest in or admiration for a proposal, cause, discovery or activity or love.” Passion is the fuel that drives the soul.
Passion is the Fountain of Youth. Those that have a passion for the things life offers have the best chance to have a happy life. Life without passion is cold, dark and empty. Passion is the fire that continues to burn inside, but only if you keep adding fuel. Find something your passionate about and give yourself to it.
I don’t profess that we are all the same in our expectations, so you will find yours different than mine. We are often told that our desire naturally wanes. I don’t agree. It certainly is complicated if health becomes an issue, or if abuse, addiction, or adultery are involved. From the outside, it may look like we just give up and thus the disconnect. Passion is possible at any age. But without it, we age quicker than our years. Expectationsunmet, whether unrealistic or not, start the divide that becomes the start of the disconnect.
The first step in solving any problem is to accept a problem exists. In this case, the next step is to realize the problem may be of your own making. Begin by accepting others for what they are instead of what we expect them to be. Most of the experts agree that there are three paths to avoid or repair this disconnect from unmetexpectations.
First, make sure you’re aware of your expectations. Second, make them reasonable and third, talk about them to you partner. Try to experience life and not expect it. Experience not expectation. Let’s look at it another way. I would like to paraphrase what I remember from a movie called Parenthood. The grandmother in the family has witnessed the chaos that occurs when balancing a job, marriage, children and the world around. It gets pretty overwhelming. But she shares a story that has great insight. She says that when she was a little girl she would go to the amusement park. Bright lights and lots to do. Some children chose to ride the merry go round. But it just went around and around. What’s the fun in that? She loved the roller coaster. The ups and the downs. The thrill. The excitement.
Life is about experiencing, not sitting back observing and definitely not going around and around, seeing the same things again and again. It’s easy to start out idealistic, but no one can live up to our idealistic view of what life should be. We need to become realistic not idealistic. I would like to share with you what my wife calls a Steveism.
When I find myself feeling unhappy and dissatisfied with my life, it means I’m thinking too much about myself and not enough about others.
The second step in avoiding or handling unrealisticexpectations is communication. Talk often and talk openly to your partner. Don’t avoid the difficult topics. Put them on the table and negotiate how they can be handled. Sometimes when you explain your expectations, you might find your partner is very willing to meet those needs. They just might need to be stated another way. But you also need to be willing to compromise. A good relationship is a product of give and take. I have another Steveism that works for us.
He who has the most emotion at risk or invested in a subject should get special consideration in the decision.
Let me give you an example. When Debby and I were deciding whether to move our children to a private faith centered school or to leave them in public schools, I really wasn’t in favor of the private school for two reasons. First, the money. It seemed crazy to pay for private school when my taxes were already paying for the public schools in my area. Second, the public schools in our area were great schools. So for me they could get a good education in our public schools at a lot less cost to our family. On the other hand, my wife had a very deep feeling about this decision. For her it was an emotional decision that would change their lives. So who had the most emotion invested? She did. So you guessed it. They were transferred to the faith based school. I won’t give you all the details of the amazing things that occurred, but I will tell you that my wife was right. Let me give you another Steveism.
Trust your feelings. This is another strategy that may help soften the disappointment of unmetexpectations and therefore mitigate the damage. You might call this tactic the early warning system. The best way to explain it is to give you another personal example. My wife and I had decided that Friday night would be date night. A great dinner out somewhere followed by a romantic evening. Her heart was in the right place but the flu bug made the evening impossible. So does she wait till I get home to tell me? No. There’s a better way. She calls and tells me how much she was looking forward to our date but she feels awful. Could we postpone the date a day or two till she feels better?
What makes this work? It’s what she says next. “I’m disappointed to postpone our date, but you deserve my A game. Thanks for understanding, I’m really looking forward to being together. Would Saturday night work?” Because she was the one who must postpone the date, she is responsible for setting the new date and time.
So how did I feel after her comment? I felt loved, wanted and even more, desired and isn’t that what I really wanted anyway? My wife and I have a name for this. We call it giving goodphone. More on that later!
Steve Haberly Thenextblogwillexplorethesecondstagedisconnect, Promises Broken – Words Said in Anger
If you read the first of my blogs you learned that almost everything of any value comes from and depends on connection. You may also have realized when the connection is broken, all can be lost. I hate to be melodramatic, but I really do mean ALL.
In the second blog I wrote about some of the rules that govern our attempt to reconnect. Understanding these rules helps us understand why reconnection is so difficult. Disconnection inrelationshipsis common and in many cases, permanent. Remember the salesman who became disconnected from his customer and eventually lost that account? In this blog I want to address the need for connection in our personal life and the tragedy of disconnect.
You may be familiar with the term “bar bet.” It is the bet we make with a friend or even a stranger in a social environment. It’s usually on some trivial fact. Maybe it’s who won the 1945 World Series or the first Super Bowl or which team will win the game being shown on the bar television. Many times the person who initiates the bet already knows the outcome, so I guess you could say it’s really a trick. Not very serious, just for fun and maybe a beer.
So, I’ll make you a bet just for fun. I’ll bet I can sit at a table in a restaurant and after 10 minutes tell you which couples are connected and the ones that aren’t. Here’s how I’ll do it. First, look at their eyes. The eyes are windows to the soul and surely to the heart. People that are connected make eye contact with the person or people they are with.
People that sit together, but are disconnected, tend to look around the room often past the other person. They may even continuously look at their smart phone or watch. They know if they make eye contact it may elicit an emotion or even a confrontation. That confrontation might bring up their disconnect and the struggle that would be necessary to reconnect is too much, just too much. So as my Grandfather used to say “Let sleeping dogs lie.”
Next, I look at their hands. If you lay your hand on the table at dinner with your hand open, palm up, you are asking to connect. Palm down means you are less sure that the feeling will be returned, so a palm down has less emotional risk if it gets rejected. But hands closed mean I am not willing to connect and I will not respond in a positive manner if you reach out to me. I am closed.
Next, look at their faces. Partners that are connected practice active listening. When one person is talking, the other is not only hearing the words but also feeling the emotion behind the words. That’s a form of active listening. I’m into your story, sad or happy. I want to experience it too, even if it’s after the fact. People who are not connected tend to show no facial emotion other than boredom.
Next, look at the other body language. Arms crossed often indicates disapproval but also possibly disconnect. Sitting forward in your chair signals a desire to connect while sitting back may signal lack of interest.
The ultimate goal of many relationships is happiness. When people are happy they often smile. So look at the faces at the tables and measure the smiles.
Now, think about the couples you have known over the last 10 years. First, consider those whose marriage ended in divorce. Think about the signs of the growing disconnect before they finally gave up. But what about the friends you have that are still together. Are there signs of disconnection? All you have to do is listen and watch. You’ll recognize the disease. The disconnect between people we love and care about is tragic. Our disconnect and our inability to repair the damage turns friends and lovers into strangers. Strangers in our own house and even in our own bed.
So when does this start? Disconnection at a personal level starts when we find ourselves thinking more about ourselves then we do about others.The selfish person lives a life of loneliness because true connection is nearly impossible. Today more than ever in our history, we live in a disconnected society of lonely people and misplaced trust. Look around you for those that are connected, but don’t be surprised what you find.
Next week’s blog defines the level of the disconnect and what can lead to a turn around and a reconnect. Don’t watch your relationship dissolve before your eyes. Don’t wait until the damage is permanent. Be proactive.
My daughter sat down with me several years ago and wanted to talk about the future. “What should I be when I grow up?”
I said, “You can be whatever you want to be. You could be a doctor, lawyer or even an Indian Chief.
She laughed and said “Dad, I’m serious.”
“Sweetheart, all I want is for you to be happy.”
“I want to be happy,too, but my friend Susan wants to be a dentist. She has her career path all planned out.”
So I asked my daughter to describe her ideal job.
“Something where I work with people. A job where I can make a difference. Something where I can be happy, but still make a lot of money”.
I said, “What about sales?”
“Dad, I don’t want to sell things. Sales doesn’t seem like a very noble profession to me. Talking people into buying things that they may not even need, seems a little shady.”
I thought for a moment and replied, “What if I told you that every profession and every job has one thing in common? Every job is a sales job, and I can prove it.”A great example is teaching, perhaps the most noble profession of all. The future of our country and the world are in the hands of our children and our children are in the hands of our teachers. Often times in this economy both parents must work full time to make ends meet. This results in our children spending more time with their teachers than their parents. Because of this, it is our teachers who shape the way our children see the world.
I was a teacher once and it was the best job I ever had. I taught 9th grade Science to kids who were not interested in facts as mundane as the age of the Grand Canyon. Although my lesson plans were fact filled, the students found them to be stale and boring. In my second year I came to a great realization, I had to sell Science to them. I needed to make it interesting and exciting because I was in competition for their attention. I became a seller of knowledge. Once I realized that, my classes became fun for the students and for me as well. The key was selling, selling them the magic of Science.
We come in contact with “salesmen” every day. Your doctor sells you on the belief medication he prescribes will cure your ills. Your mechanic sells you a tune up that will save you money on fuel. Your dentist sells you teeth whitening that will improve your smile. The teller at the bank sells you their credit card, proclaiming it is better than the card offered by the bank next door. And so on and so on. I can’t think of a profession that doesn’t at some level involve the presenting of an idea. That is sales. Sales is when you convince someone, including yourself, to do something. So don’t fool yourself. Everybody is selling something!Opportunities to sell happen every day. I remember an interesting opportunity shortly after getting married. Debby worked for a very prestigious Dallas real estate firm. The female agents never went anywhere without their clothes perfect, their nails painted, and their hair combed just so. They were the epitome of sophistication and grace.Then came the softball tournament. A variety of companies organized teams to raise money for a local charity. Debby talked the realtors into signing up to represent their company and their profession. It was a typical summer day in Dallas, Texas. As my grandfather used to say “100 degrees in the shade.” The ladies looked great. Outfits were color coordinated and varied from walking shorts to Capri pants, worn over panty hose of course.After two innings I could see their makeup beginning to melt and mascara ring their eyes. Then, in the third inning, it happened. A line drive straight at my third baseman. There was no time to react. The ball hit her just below the right eye where the skin is the thinnest and the check bone creates a hard under surface. She put her hands up to her face and bowed her head. When she looked up, there was blood everywhere. I called time out and rushed to the field. Both teams were speechless as they watched me help her back to the dugout. My pitcher broke the silence, “Coach, you didn’t tell us we could get hurt!” It was true, I had never mentioned the risk.
Finally, the game ended and the ladies headed toward their cars, hot, sweaty, and dirtier than they’d ever been. I stopped them, “Ladies, great game. You won!”
My team captain grinned, “Yay! Now it’s time to go soak in a hot bath.”
I smiled and said, “That sounds great, but since we won, you have another game in one hour.” They were in shock. I guess I hadn’t explained what single elimination meant. You play till you lose.
It was a day I will always remember. We won the next game and the one after that. Midway through the championship game I could see they were totally exhausted, but somehow they played even harder than before. As I walked through the dugout offering water, my shortstop said, “I don’t need a drink. Just pour it on my head!” So I did as asked. SPLASH.I wish I could tell you we won the tournament, but I can’t. We lost by one lousy run. I coached sports for many years after that, but have never been as proud of my team as I was that day. That team was a perfect example of courage and grace under fire.
Long story, I know, but the point is that day I was not just a coach, I was a salesman. I sold them the idea they could play through the heat, the pain, and sometimes the fear. I painted the dream and made them want it as much as I did. If that’s not sales, I don’t know what is.
Now that you realize all jobs are really sales jobs, it is time to improve your selling skills so you can be successful at any job. There is only one logical place to start. Connection.
My next blog will show you that the same skills necessary to connect in business relationships are just as important to have a personal relationships. Want to know why your relationship isn’t working? I’m willing to bet it’s because you are not connected.
We can talk later about why the dog growls at you when you come home, why your kids won’t talk to you and why your partner is thinking about leaving you. Right now, let’s talk about why your business success is waning and your commission checks aren’t enough to pay for your next Starbucks latte.
What happened? You were a star and the salesman everybody voted “Most Likely to Get Rich.” You picked up the sales model quickly and your product knowledge was most impressive. You knew that organization was critical so you became the poster child for knowing where to go and when to be there.
In this tough economy the water was full of sharks and each one seemed to be circling your best prospects. But no worries, you had the confidence that came with your over developed ego. At least that’s what your ex-wife said. But then, you never really understood what she meant by that, did you?
When you started selling, you built a pretty big territory. A few customers bought your products in the beginning and you thought selling was easy. What you learned later was they just wanted something new and different and you happened to walk through the door at the right time.
However, you could never get the big orders no matter how hard you pitched them. Things were beginning to get desperate. The commission draw the company started you on was about to fade away just like your savings account and your new girlfriend! You were sure you could replace her, but the money was becoming a real issue. So you gave in. You watched all the YouTube videos showing expert after expert proclaiming their approach as the most successful in the market. You spent the next month using every trick in the trade. Call after call. New prospects. Old prospects. Even some that were only suspects and not really prospects! You swore if you heard “no” one more time you would change your name to “no” so when a prospect said “no” you could say “Yes, that’s me. My name is No, what can I do for you?”
Don’t waste any more time looking in the wrong place for the answers, here’s what you have to do. Go ask somebody who knows why people buy. Ask a customer. Contact some of the customers you lost and ask them why they bought from somebody else. Embarrassing yes, but at this point you really need to know why they chose your competitor. Was it lower price, cutting edge technology, or an incentive too hard to pass up?
Now, look at the current customers who buy a variety of products from other vendors. Since your connection with them is still good, ask them why they chose one company over another. What makes the difference between the winners and the losers?
You might expect a long explanation, but I’ve found that with each customer the answer came back the same. “TRUST.” Trust is the foundation of most decisions to buy. Trust is the fuel that drives business. It doesn’t matter how good the product sounds, without trust it’s only words. Words won’t make an airbag deploy safely or a vaccine cure a disease. Trust is not just one thing. It’s everything. Trust sounds simple, but where do you get some? How do you go from being an outsider to becoming an insider? You were a master of manipulation. You don’t need trust if you’re a master of manipulation, so you thought. But manipulation brought you to where you are now. Nowhere.
Where do you find trust? If you went back to those same customers you would probably hear that trust is built one promise at a time. Trust is keeping promises made. Trust is the result of listening to and understanding your customer’s needs. Trust is gained when you solve their problem first and worry about making a profit second.
You began to understand the power of trust and that it felt good; good somewhere deep inside. However, there was another word that the customers said when they mentioned trust. A word that you had heard before, but not in any YouTube you watched or any book you read. The word was connection . The salesmen and women that were held in highest esteem were trusted because they seemed to connect with the prospect and they were connected because they were trusted. Trusted and connected. Connected and trusted.
Successful sales people connect with the customer and through this connection theybuild trust. Selling the benefits of a product falls on deaf ears unless there is trust. Earning trust is the product of connection. Isn’t that what your ex-wife always said? “You don’t get it. We just aren’t connected. “
Maybe without connection you don’t get the order. You just don’t get it. What if the magic you have been looking for was there all the time but you had been listening to the wrong experts. The experts are the customers. The customers are really the only ones that know why they buy.
Ask the customer.
Thenext blog will give you specifics on how to build a connection with your prospects and customers.
In my first blog I explained connection . Now it is time to explore the disconnect, because a disconnect may result in loss of relationships, both business and personal. Understanding the disconnect is vital before attempting to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Yes, vital, but not simple by any means. There are four concepts I feel come into play when disconnection occurs.
First, the difficulty in repairing connection is directly proportional to the amount of time that has passed since the disconnect. The longer you have been lost, the harder it is to find your way back.
Second, the desire to reconnect is inversely proportional to the amount of time that has passed since the disconnect. If you have been disconnected too long, the desire to reconnect fades.
Third, and maybe most important, is the amount of effort required to reconnect is greater than the amount of gain received from the reconnection. It just doesn’t seem worth the effort. I have observed many marriages over the years where it is so obvious when they have reached the final realization, “It’s just not worth fixing.” The same is true in business.
Fourth, the amount of time that elapses before you react and attempt a reconnect is a direct indicator to the other person about how much you value the relationship.
Let me give you an example:
You and the customer have had a great relationship in the past and he always seems glad to see you during your regular calls at his location. This time his assistant says he is really busy and can’t see you. Next month you become really busy yourself and don’t get by his building to update him on the project progress.
The month after, you find yourself sitting in the waiting room while he meets with someone else. After what seems like forever, the assistant sends you in. You sit down and decision maker immediately looks at his watch and says he only has a few minutes. You say you understand and most of what you wanted to say can wait until next month.
Next, when you ask to see the manager, you are greeted by the purchaser who informs you that your contract is not being extended and the remainder of the project is being bid out. When you get back to your car you ask yourself, “How long ago did I first feel the relationship changing? Why didn’t I react?”
The amount of time that was allowed to pass has a direct effect on your desire to reconnect.
A disconnect ignored for too long is a connection forever broken.