Yesterday I went to have a cuppa and a catch up with a friend of mine who was having a really tough time.
Her business partner had announced she was jacking it in and planned to vamoose in just 8 weeks time (I’m not entirely sure that’s even possible!). She did this over text as she was about to depart on a plane for her holidays and explained that she had to do this in this way…and now… to alleviate her anxiety that would have otherwise spoilt her holiday. Charming!
I’m sure you can imagine how my friend felt – dropped from a great height and left holding the baby is the under statement of the century!
So, we spent a good hour talking things through. There was so much more baggage and bollocks that came out as we talked about this relationship, but that’s not the thing here. See, every relationship has it’s baggage and bollocks! What’s important is how we navigate and wade through the proverbial treacle so that we grow as a person throughout that experience and not fall foul to the twat trap!
I casually coached my friend out of the bomb site and into the sunshine of the future by holding the space for her and empathising as best I could (which happened to be a fair amount as it goes seeing as though I have also been through an identical situation), coaxing her out of the emotion of it all – something that her close family have been unable to do because naturally they’re too emotionally attached, invested and protective of her – and into the rational space where she could make some assertive choices about what she wanted for herself and what was important about the way that she handled this situation.
So, here are the main lessons that we drew out together:
- Have a good old rant in a safe and trusted space to get all the emotion out. NEVER bury emotion. We want to get to a point where we can be rational but the emotion must be experienced somehow.
- Step out of the weeds and into the rainbows – what I mean by this is not getting bogged down in the intricacies of what has already happened. Instead, go big picture about the future and what it is you WANT.
- NEVER lower yourself and REACT to a non face to face interaction in a non face to face way – it’s destined for carnage! Press pause, walk away, breathe, return & request a face to face conversation to resolve the matter.
- Step 3 means you’ll need to GET COMFORTABLE WITH THE UNCOMFORTABLE. As Brené Brown says in her book, Daring Greatly, “You must step into the arena and make yourself truly vulnerable” as she recites Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship in a Republic”
- Be ready in that interaction to considerately LISTEN FIRST. “First seek to understand then be understood’ – the words of Stephen Covey in his 7 Habits. Here you will learn. Here you will be present. Here you will be self-aware. Here you will be able to let go of the baggage & bollocks.
- Work out explicitly what your boundaries are and be prepared to articulate them succinctly & clearly and own them courageously and assertively. Be super clear on what you will and won’t accept both as behaviour and any outcomes.
- Resist the temptation for a character assassination when it gets uncomfortable, heated or you disagree. Accept that this will likely happen and give any feedback that’s important at a behavioural level. I say if it’s important because if you want to give feedback because you’re pissed off or want to get something off your chest then forget it – you’re a chump and you should go have a word with yourself.
- If it’s you who wants to drop the bombshell then make sure you do it with consideration and courage, they’re the two ingredients of assertiveness. And do it face to face. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES IS A TEXT MESSAGE ACCEPTABLE.
- It is also not ok to offload and dump your anxiety onto someone else so that you can relax and have a nice holiday. Be honest and upfront. Own your situation and your circumstances and make decisions with the other person at the heart of what you do. Demonstrate respect. They should not hear about your underhand plans for the future from a client! Oh.. and telling lies is WRONG, just incase you missed that one as a kid???
- Finally, when you do get together to talk, work hard to use this tricky time as an opportunity to deepen and strengthen your relationship – that’s the success measure. If it goes tits up then you’ve failed – it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose as there’s no place for competition when it comes to assertiveness.